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Tavern, Day 2, The Lord Steward Departs
The thought of dinner made Semina’s mouth salivate like no other. She was so wrapped up in the days events, she barely ate breakfast. Her constant training is always making her hungry even though her order has strict rules on food proportions. “Dinner sounds great Tarvin, will there be any meat tonight?” she asks. If there is, she will take more then her fill this time in preparation of the journey. This is one of her many behaviors the Order of Iskgard were always willing to overlook.

Semina now looks towards Thraim and the rest of the group. “My name is Semina, and I am but a simple monk of the Order of Iskgard” she says. “I am here to offer my fighting skills, amongst other things, and hope you find me worthy of your company.”

Thraim turns towards Semina and says, "a pleasure to meet you as well, Mistress Semina. I sincerely hope that you find my company worthy as well."

"Naren. I cast arcane spells, focusing on tactics. Although not trained in them, I have a knack for nasty tricks." He pauses. "I prefer to use things other than spells to accomplish a task. Spells are limited in number. Flaming oil and caltrops are cheap."

Sander regarded the group, then spoke.
"Sander Lightwalker. I am an experienced cleric, as some of you may already know. Fear not though," he brushed his cloak aside to reveal plate armor and a mace hanging at his side, "I can take care of myself."

Well, it seems to be a well-rounded group thus far. I certainly like the way Naren thinks, and it sounds like he's seen some action. Good, I don't like working with greenhorn wizards, Thraim thought to himself as he puffed on his cigar.

"You're right about oil and caltrops. I use a few nasty tricks myself, and as I said I work with traps as well. I'm pleased to meet you," Thraim says to Naren.

Turning to Sander, Thraim nods in acknowledgment of his gesture and says, "and you well Sander. It's good to know that we have an experienced priest and healer with us."

Squinting her eyes, and giving a devilish disapproving grin, Semina reacts to Thraim and Naren "I hope your nasty little tricks come in handy when we are in real need of them, otherwise I think it best to behave as the Duke of Cynosure has requested" she smiles.

Still waiting for dinner, and others to join in the conversation, Semina asks "Have all of you acquired steeds?" pausing "If not I noticed some horses for sell near the stables."

"I'm quite sure the Duke of Cynosure doesn't care how we might happen to kill monsters invading his lands." Naren says dryly.

'Thraim chuckles at Semina's remark and says to her, "oh, don't worry about that. Yes, I have a riding horse and pack horse in the stables."

Looking in Naren's direction once again, Semina remembers quite clearly why things turned sour between them. "You're right Naren, I am sure the Duke doesn't care what monsters we obliterate. Except, I was under the impression we weren't a strike force." she said coldly.

Now turning from away from Naren, so her face didn't give way to the hurt she felt, Semina decided to look for Tavin, and get dinner over with. There will be plenty of time to get acquainted with the others during their journey.

Naren was once again left with the feeling of not quite connecting with another's viewpoint...Or, more specifically, one other person's viewpoint.

It was...Quite uncomfortable.

Why would someone care if monsters died?

Kagan-Zur watches and listens as the others confer.

Figuring it time to speak up, he says. "I've served most of my life as scout and spy in the service of the great lady Morrigan." And he draws out a silver holy symbol from under his tunic, on it is depicted two crossed spears.

"The girl has the right of it," he says. "Our primary mission is observation and the gathering of information. There well might the call for engagements, but we should do so with discretion, engaging only when necessary or when it is to our advantage to do so, to act otherwise would be counter productive to our mission, not to mention disobeying our orders."

Snorri snorts at all the self-effacing talk from his new companions.

"I'm Snorri Steelskin and i bust heads. You'll be glad of my company before the end, i assure you."

He gives the cleric a sly glance, "and don't be shy of your appreciation."

He then raises his mug, "A toast! A toast to our companions and our commission!" Not waiting for anyone else, Snorri necks the tankard of ale in one, then belches appreciatively before looking dolefully at his now empty mug.

"Anyone else?" he asks innocently.

"I can surely attest to Sander's abilities as a healer," Slinger said as he nodded towards his old acquaintance.
He continued, "He patched me up once when I had run afoul of some, ahem, 'ruffians' north of here. I've never seen him swing his mace, but I feel much better knowing he'll be with us in this task."
He paused for a bit while he retrieved his snuff box, "I sold the poor steed that helped me flee from those thugs when I was in need of some spell components, but I will make sure I have transportation before we set forth."

[FONT="Papyrus;">Dinner consists of coney stew and hard bread, roast beef and fried potatoes, and salted pork with beet soup. Tarvin serves each of you as much as you wish, listening to your stories with a keen interest.

The ale and wine soothe the remnants of the long journey here, providing the means for a night of good sleep, ere the road before you opens to adventure once again.

"Eat, my friends, and drink your fill," Tarvin announces from behind the bar. "This is your last night in our village for the time being, and we want you to take good memories away with you!"

He leaves you to your business, occasionally bringing another plate of food, or filling a tankard with drink.

Semina finishes gorging herself on roast beef and fried potatoes. She feels she will burst if one more morsel in placed in her mouth. As she senses the guilt creeping upon her from her over-indulgence, she partakes of one last drink and begins to stand. “I bid you a good night, my lords” she utters “I will greet you again at first light.”

Excusing herself and walking towards the stairs, Semina takes one last glance at her fellow companions. 'I should find a moment tomorrow to apologize to Naren for my cold demeanor' she ponders to herself, and heads to bed.

Naren, meanwhile, spent about a half hour thinking about the short 'conversation', sorting through viewpoints.

It wasn't something he was particularly good at, but it did help him sleep.

Heathcliffe, having finished gorging himself on foodstuffs, reclaims his most comfortable bed on the stable loft.

Sander had picked at his food through dinner, preoccupied by thoughts of their impending mission. He rises from his seat and, with a wave to Slinger, ascends the stairs towards his room.
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Tavern, Day 2, The Lord Steward's Offer
The Lord Steward’s comments begin to dance around in Semina’s head. ‘Bands of humanoids joining together, driving force behind them, and seek out information’ she contemplates to herself. Never mind the gold, or land offered for finishing the job, she has no need for it. ‘Something heavy is brewing for humanoids to make a coherent army ‘she processes once more.

Eyeing her potential companions, Semina takes the first bite. “I’m in, and I offer to carry one set of the documents.” she says. Satisfied she has made the right decision; Semina sits back and awaits further inquires from other party members.

"I am provisionally in, Lord Steward. I wish to read the documents first. I do not expect problems, but I find that clarity is important." Naren states in a matter-of-fact way.

"Well", Heathcliffe beams at the thought of all that gold, "I am happy to oblige!"

Lurking at the edges of the gathering, Kagan-Zur, quietly watched the proceedings. Reconnaissance missions were one his fields of expertise, briefly he wondered how others would fair or even if they would accept, regardless he knew he was in.

Thraim stands up and smooths his beard before saying in a firm voice, "I, Thraim Glorerg, accept Duke Tsovas' generous offer Lord Steward."

Sander considered the Steward's speech gravely. He was worried not off his own safety, but of the path taking up arms again may force him down. The memories of his days in worship of darks beings were still fresh in his mind, the malevolent prayers he had used so often still familiar to him. Would he, in the heat of combat, fall back on such evils?

Finally, after what seemed an eternity to Sander, though likely only a few moments in reality, he looked at the Steward.
"Count me in."

Snorri watches and listens quietly - making note of his prospective companions reactions. He belches loudly, then stands.

"Scouting mission or not, this expedition will need expert fighters. I am such a one. Therefore i accept the commission. I will take my reward as the award of land mentioned. However, i request that this award be made to the Steelskin clan of Smoulder Mountain. Consider me their representative in this matter. It is our hope that much trade can be undertaken between us. Having an enclave would greatly benefit that endeavour. If this is agreeable, i too, as a representative of clan Steelskin will carry one of the letters of marque."
The document reads as follows:

"Very good!', exclaims the Lord Steward. "With such staunch defenders as these, Cynosure has nothing to worry of!"

He rolls out a map that is more detailed than the travel maps provided to you and describes the best route to your destination.

"From Ardendale, here, you can take the Trade Route overland. About two days west, it turns north, but there is a lesser trail that continues westward, and heads south," hes says, pointing at various locations. "As you can see, the Trollspire mountains to the south have a front that stretches close to the area, which is where we think they are recruiting some other humanoids besides the eponymous trolls. While this range exists outside of our borders, it has always been in our interest to keep an eye on activities there, but we have never been able to get a very accurate accounting of the trolls. Of course, it doesn't take too many to cause great havoc."

He pauses for a minute, apparently considering the implications, then continues: "The fens begin here," he says, pointing again, "and quickly turn into the stinking bogs that circle the Haarken swamp, named for the adventurer who tried to build his keep there as claim to the land. This acts as a natural barrier in our efforts to monitor the foothills and Trollspires." he traces a route marked on the map. "The road runs along the northern edge, and about three quarters through, there is a small rise with a hollow that our patrols sometimes use. You should be able to make that camp by nightfall of the third day, from whence you can follow the swamp trails directly in, or continue southwest and circumnavigate the bogs." The Lord Steward stands up and begins rolling the map.

"Well, now, you all may want to be careful around Haarken swamp. Rumours call the place haunted." interjects Tarvin.

"Begging your leave, my good Tarvin," the Lord Steward replies, almost deferentially, "but those are stories the goodwives tell children to keep them from wandering off."

"May as be, Lord Steward, may as be. I know merchants have planned their travels so as to avoid being in that area before Selune makes her journey into the sky," Tarvin states. "But they tend to be a superstitious lot as well. I don't think our heroic band will have any problems." he finishes with a wink.

"As Tarvin says, it would be wise to employ caution around that area. Haunted or not, there are creatures in there that operate better by the pale light of the moon than we do in bright sunshine." Lord Steward concludes. "At any rate, that is where the Duke's counsel ends. Your travel maps have some details across the border; known trails, easily recognized landmarks and the like. There may be other paths to take, but I would caution against such. The swamps are treacherous, and to not take lightly to the inexperienced."

The map rolled and replaced in his personal belongings, Lord Steward motions to the Sergeant by the door, who quickly moves to gather the belongings and take them outside.

"Very well, then, adventurers. Allow me to extend the appreciation of the Duchy of Cynosure once again, and our hopes that we can welcome you back as heroes, or if not, that we can bear the honour of your final resting place. I would advise you all to sup early, and get your rest tonight." he tells you, pulling on gloves and cloak, "I will be awaiting you at the edge of town at first light. My men and I can see you as far as the northern road to Kilvarn, where we must part company, as we have other business to attend."

Dressed for riding, the Steward turns to leave. "We ride swiftly, but not enough to exhaust your horses. Time is of the essence, but it will do no one any good if your horses cannot carry you back from your reconnaissance. Your maps are marked with patrol camps along the way, but if you use them, keep the letters of marque at hand. We do still have active patrols, and they regularly have to roust travellers." You hear the sounds of his horse snorting outside the door, and stamping its feet.

"My charger grows restless, so I bid you good afternoon. I will see you at the West Gate tomorrow at first light, and may the gods watch over you!". The door closes behind the Lord Steward, and you hear him climb into the saddle and ride off towards the barracks.

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Tavern, Day 1, After Breakfast and the rest of the day.
Semina)Semina pays attention toTavin once more as he addresses the group, and walks over towards his wife. “Will you please direct me to a room?” she asks. Lowering her voice even more, “I will need one of those fine locks your husband speaks of.” Of course she will not store anything of value to her in the room, but some of her stuff she might put extra security on. Besides her thief training has taught her well on how to secure and hide items of importance.

Not wanting to waist idle time with chit chat, Semina wants to be on her way towards town. ‘Icerick must be starving by now,’ thinking to herself, ‘I must buy some grains and apples to feed him tonight at the local stable.’

Kagan-Zur has remained in his shadowed corner continuing to slowly eat his gruel impassively, but the more observant amongst you might get the inkling that he's been methodical watching the room while listening in on the various conversations.
After Tavin makes mention of the locks, Kagan-Zur also approaches Tavin's wife, flashing both her and Semina, a brief, slightly unnerving, snageltoothed smile.
"I'll take a room, a corner one with a window if possible," he says, in a hoarse staccato. "One of those locks, too." Again there is that flash of a crooked smile.

A little startled by Kagan-Zur’s quick approach, Semina steps back a little. Always on her guard and wary of strangers, she fondles the handle of the hand axe hidden under her robe. When she realizes the half-orc means no harm, she takes her hand off the axe, and extends it as an offer of greetings.

“My name is Semina of the order of Iskgard, and it is my pleasure to meet you.” Wondering if the half-orc will take her hand, Semina’s thoughts are preoccupied with how other races intrigue her. Studying other races and cultures is the very hobby she throws her self into. As she waits for his response to her greeting, she looks toward Tavin’s wife, “A corner room for me as well, if there are any left?”

Kagan-Zur tenses as Semina's hand comes up and he just barely checks his own hand from flying to the hilt of his broadsword as he realizes the gesture is one of friendship.
His red eyes meet hers, then go back to her extended hand.
"Kagan-Zur" he says, shaking her hand. "Pleasure's mine."

[FONT="Papyrus"]Tavin's wife waits patiently for the exchange of greetings, then slides two heavy locks towards Semina and Kagan-Zur.
"I am Nadia Usraa, and if you need anything, please let me know." She glides out from behind the counter and pauses halfway to the stairs, ready to show the pair up to their rooms.[/FONT]

Kagan-Zur holds out a hand out in a ladies first sort of gesture, and (providing Semina takes his offer) will following along behind.

Semina turns back towards Kagan-Zur and gives him an encouraging smile to his gesture. “Nice name,” she says, “have a splendid afternoon, and maybe I will catch you later?” Semina then begins to follows Tavin’s wife Nadia to her room.

The door is open, and Semina listens to last minute details on what is expected for the rooms. She walks into the room, and closes the door behind her. Immediately she begins to glance under the bed, and in the closet looking for a place to conceal her belongings. Finding a loose floor board, Semina picks it up and notices enough room to stash unimportant stuff like her bed roll and back pack. Semina secures her valuables to her belt pouch, and shelters other items under her robe.

She then locks the door and heads down stairs towards Nadia, leaning towards the counter, “How much for that room again?” she says, “Also, do you know the closest merchant that might have apples and grain for horses?”

(Slinger, from previous)
"How about you?" he asked, "the motley crew suit your tastes?"

Sander looked over towards Naren.
"I look forward to working with one as logical and impartial as Naren is reputed to be. As for the others... the orc, there's something familiar about him, not about his person, but about his creed. I am wary of him. As for the others, i'm ambivalent."

Naren, meanwhile, was not watching Semina. He was reading a book. It did not matter that she was so eminently distracting. A good conversationalist. Occasionally walking away...

(Semina, from previous)
She then locks the door and heads down stairs towards Nadia, leaning towards the counter, “How much for that room again?” she says, “Also, do you know the closest merchant that might have apples and grain for horses?”

[FONT="Papyrus;">"The rooms are taken care of, there is no need to worry of that. If you want feed for your horse, we have some available, or you can go down to Nogle's, just past the paddocks where the travelling merchants keep their wagons," Nadia leans in conspiratorially, "you can't mistake the smell". She smiles briefly and wishes you a good day before returning to the business of running the inn.

Once in his room, Kagan-Zur will also thoroughly investigate his things, with special care given to looking for secret doors from which a unscrupulous innkeeper might waylay a sleeping guest. Once that is done he will lock or bar the door from the inside, check out and investigate the view from the window. Then using his ring to turn invisible he will sneak out the window and carefully investigate the town.

(From Previous)
She smiles briefly and wishes you a good day before returning to the business of running the inn.

"Thank you for the information," Semina says "I need the walk anyways." Looking over the tavern once more, and its occupants she decides to head out the door. A little hike ought to clear her mind, and a remote place is needed for practicing her Dokuen chi.

Winding her way down down the dirt road, Semina picks up the scent of merchants horses just as Nadia described it, and finds Nogle's place. His store is overflowing with apples of every color, and other hearty food Icerick would love. ' The darn creature eats better then I do' she laughs to herself. She picks up four apples and 6 days worth of grain rations for Icerick. He can feed at the stable until we are either hired by the duke, or turned away.

Semina finds a hidden pathway behind the village which seems to lead to a clearing. 'Perfect' noting how wonderful it was to finally be alone. She sets down her satchels of food and begins her chi meditations.

(Sinjin, cut scene)
Gnolls, goblins, orcs... why did I make that bet with Larast about checking on incursions along the forests border. One toss of a coin, and letting him use his coin, to far into my cups that night serves me right I suppose. Even worse to be set out with this self possesed female Ranger who thinks it will all work out because were right and its our forest, idiots abound and I seem to find them most often. I need to find a better crowd of drinking companions.

"Come on Ada.. daylights wasting I want to set camp off from this road aways, to many people travelling of late".

Humans have an outpost further East <never much cared for humans really there ok a bit unpredictable even for my tastes>. Ardendale, even in their namings they fall short, a stink pit hole with delusions of grandeur constant odors of what they call "cooking" more likely boiled rat and shoe leather. Stoneworked walls and fortifications made from uncut rock and clay suitable for keeping wild beasts out and not much else. They seem to be everywhere now, youd think after 200 years they would have at least learned to cook properly.

Moving off into the trees at the northern side of the road I find an old campsite with a decent fire ring "Ada collect some wood please Ill start dinner". Fortunatly Ada did manage to get us a nice fat rabbit on our journey through the forest. I found a nice patch of tubers near an abandoned farmstead as well. Placing my precious spices and cooking utensils to the side I start to prep our dinner.

Semina begins to walk back towards the Inn, after a successful chi session. Well rested, and her mind in good frame, she decides to stop by the stable to feed Icerick. She cuts an apple in two for him, makes sure all provisions are in order and briefs him on the events of the day. Observing that Icerick has been watered, fed and groomed, Semina realizes she is bit hungry herself and walks into the Inn. She makes out the same mysterious individuals from before including Naren, which she flashes a quick smile too.

Semina walks over to Nadia and asks “Would you mind bring up some broth, bread and hot water to my room for dinner?” She has decided to stay in her room the rest of the night, and most of tomorrow, until the Lord Steward is about to arrive. Taking one final look at the crowd, her eyes keep wandering towards Naren. ‘Oh great, here I go again’

Naren finds himself smiling automatically. Most distressing.

After a relaxing night by the fire, Heathcliffe swiftly retires outside and catches a brisk sleep in the stable loft.

About an hour later, Naren put his current book in the bag and walks up to Nadia. "Your husband has an interesting method of dealing with conflicts." he comments, without preamble. "A room, a large lock and a small lock, if you have one, please."

"He is accustomed to dealing with conflict. You could even say that is why we are here in Ardendale." Nadia replies. "Your locks, and may the gods watch over your sleep."

(Naren)Naren pays, commenting "Only the reliable ones, thanks." With that comment, he leaves to go to sleep.

An hour into 'A Short Treatise of the Ethics of Magic Use and the Many Quandaries and Concerns Therein, Revised Edition, Vol. 1 of 32, Introduction', he falls asleep.

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Chapter IX: Strange Bedfellows
The party set out from Ashwood village headed for Tir Amarion, Tristan's home. Unfortunately, the weather would not be on their side. For days the rain came down, hampering their journey. This was not made any easier by Gaelen's suggestion that they stay off main roads to avoid the Beysib.

Some luck would befall them, however. Because of the rain, they were pushed off their trail and came upon a smoldering village. After a quick scouting, it was found to be crawling with Beysib! Balthasar wasted no time, slipping in to get at the disciple in charge.

Galen and the rest soon followed suit and easily dispatched of the pillagers. They found no survivors in the town, only a pile of burning carcasses and a wagon of loot. Keeping the disciple alive, Balthasar and Garr interrogated him for information. They discovered this was a slaving expedition; not part of the main army. Slaves were gathered as a tribute to the Yssge warlord, Thalstagg, for providing aid in the war.

Gaelen picked up the trail of slave carts and suggested a cut-off point. The party split from Tristan, Tilly, and Kafen; heading off to rescue the slaves. The prince and his companions continued towards Tir Amarion.

Riding hard and using Galen's expert knowledge, they quickly caught up to the caravan and setup an ambush. Unfortunately, it was they who were surprised; the caravan was led by a Medusa mounted upon a fell beast, the Wyvern! It took to the sky and assaulted the party, but Gaelen proved to be too much a match for it, placing nearly a dozen arrows in it's chest, stomach, and face before slaying it. The Medusa proved to be made of sterner stuff.

Garr charged the caravan leading the party in melee. He squared off against the warlord Garash, proving his primal might was superior to the snake's skills.

After the battle, the party discovered this was not the first tribute to Thalstagg, but part of an agreement for aid. Unfortunately, they had more pressing matters to attend, and helped the slaves journey to Tir Amarion.

There the party met with warm welcome. Lady Sara was relieved to see her former lover freed of his demonic bonds. Prince Kafen, however, was not in a joyous mood.

He had word from Ranke. His brother, the emperor, had lost favor with the lightbringers new commander, Alec Stillwater. Lord Stillwater's son took remaining lightbringers and fortified his keep. Lady Blayne and Lord Garibaldi have allied with him. This rift also caused tension amongst other landed lords, who have also pulled their forces from Ranke. The capitol now laid in dire straits.

Kafen had a plan, however. Gain the aid of the new Lord Stillwater and retake Sanctuary. At the very least, this cut off supplies to the Beysib army. The party agreed, and pledged their loyalty to Kafen... Not to the empire...
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Was I drunk in the slave ...
Was I drunk in the slave pits and missed something, or was I just drunk and don't remember what we fought.
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