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As the moon shone in the black sky, critters of the night scurried over cobblestone and snow. They left their tracks for the observant to see, though it didn't truly matter. They were small, and built for the darkness. Tracks wouldn't spell their demise, for the knowledge of hiding spots and useful shadows was embedded in their very DNA. From one such vantage point, a cat viewed the tavern doors with its blank gaze. It lay on a stone wall, black coat lending to its comfort in the night. It watched the lamps at the doors flicker with the wind as they did every night. It watched travelers wander in and out as they did every night. Its lazy eyes sifted from the doors just as they opened once again, this time yielding a party of four. In the front was a foreign creature, her skin a radiant blue and her demeanor bookish. In the snow her tail traced a path telling of her journey. It snaked and dragged after her like an indigo whip. Behind this being stood a man far taller. He wore a scorched longcoat, cuffed at the forearms to give space to two battered steel gauntlets. His right hand clutched a tall spear which glittered in the moonlight. His left hand held a lamp whose soft orange gold did little to combat the dark. On this man's face was a mask of stone, weary but resolute. Behind him was another man, smaller but definitely meaner. With a sword at his side, a scowl on his bearded face, and a guarded gaze he followed begrudgingly. Who were these people? Leaving so late was rare, as the Tavern had rooms, but perhaps there was a reason... Impressive thinking for a cat. Perhaps this cat wasn't just a cat. Ah, one more. An older man who walked with his back bent low as if he carried a weight. He ventured into the cold with little protection but he held a lamp and a map in each hand. He gestured for the group to follow him to the side of the Tavern and follow him they did. The cat rose from its lounging and slinked closer. It kept to the shadows, perfectly balanced on this wrecked stone wall that it had been resting on. What exactly was this? Hain cursed as the cold night air blasted the group as soon as the doors opened. He'd forgotten how cold it'd been. The Tavern had been so welcoming, the heat so forgiving. With much effort he repelled the urge to go back, instead following Beat to the side of the Tavern. It was away from the path, and also away from prying eyes. The meeting was so clandestine, which went against everything that Hain was, though he understood the need. With his back against the wall, Beat regarded the group with wide eyes. "So you'll help me? It's not just my family, you see. It's everyone around here. You'd be helping a lot of folks." The lamplight shook in the man's grasp, casting shadows to and fro. Hain's own hand was as steady as his voice when he spoke: "I'm ready to help, stranger. They are too. Tell us everything." Beat's face rose at the reply. It was as if they'd just given him some grand gift, and the display lent Hain more resolve. "Like I said," the man began, "there's a cult around here. They come every now and then and recruit from us, and they're very persuasive. I remember bring my wife one night. She got to talkin' to some woman, and I'd thought the conversation was real interestin' since they talked all night until closing." He stopped and peered into the darkness. Hain turned to look but he could see nothing. "I don't know what that woman told her," Beat continued slowly, "but the next day all Palri could talk about was destiny. Stories about fate and some big journey. She told our kids, our neighbors, and anyone who would listen. Now, I'm a simple man. I like seein' my wife happy and it'd been a while since she was so passionate about anything. I... I should've put a stop to it. Put some sense into her. Something." His voice began to shake and he avoided Hain's gaze. "One night she was just gone. I came home from the Tavern and she was gone. The kids were gone with her. Oh, they'd loved the stories. All I gave them was the stories about the crazy things happening in the Tavern, but those don't give quite the same feeling of awe as what the cult gives. Their Pa just couldn't compete." He abruptly switched his tone, revealing an undercurrent of anger that Hain had only slightly sensed before. The lamp trembled with that fury, but the words continued. "That's what they do, you see," Beat spat. "They fill your head with lies. They show you a few tricks and they take your soul in exchange. Palri and the kids went missing a week ago. I told some tavern men the story and they promised to get them back, but they returned two days later with nothing." The wind howled in Hain's ears, chilling him through his coat. Snow crunched under his boots as he shifted. "No, that's not true. They came back with a cultist, and helped him spread more lies. They'd been brainwashed." Hain frowned. What kind of force were they going up against? Mages, he guessed. A second later, Beat confirmed this. "The cult is led by a man named Vryn. He's nothing special from what I hear, but he's got four mages under his thumb that could scare men into a new religion. I've been talking to a few people and I know that there's a pyromancer, hydromancer, earth caster, and wind specialist. They're mighty strong, but I'm guessin' they're brainwashed too. You might be able to use that, I dunno. "Regardless, from the information I've got there's something big going on. The Journey that my wife had been yappin' about. It's big and it's bad. They've got so many members now, and it looks like Vryn wants to kill them all for some fucking ceremony. He wants to kill my family!" Beat's voice rose against the silence of the night, echoing off abandoned homes and hitting Hain deeply in his soul. He had a question for the man, but he was almost afraid to ask. Still, he went for it. "Beat," Hain whispered, "could you tell me why you were gathering all of this information? What were you planning on doing with it?" Without hesitation the tavern worker looked at them and answered: "I was gonna go to those woods myself and get my family back." That would've been suicide. Gods, the desperation was clear in the man's face. "I'm guessing that's what the maps for, then?" "Aye," Beat brandished the map and gave it to Yuel. "They're holed up in the woods west of here. There's a path leading into it, but the actual glade is off trail. They've marked a tree, so you should know when to diverge." He hesitated. "Please help us. The ceremony is tomorrow night. I don't want anyone to die because of Vryn and his lies. They believe they're going off to some sanctuary. I don't think don't know that they're gonna die. These are good people and they don't deserve this." Hain nodded and gripped his spear tightly. He looked to Liam and Yuel, eyebrow raised and eyes softening. "What do you say? Are you two ready to move out tonight? If we do I'm thinking we'd get there just in time to stop a mass suicide." @Blackguard @Godspell
@Kairon @Greenmntman Starting Location: On the road, roughly 3 miles south from the Tavern of Legend Evening, about 6:30pm Evening was setting in, and the sky was a beautiful watercolor of fiery reds, yellows and purples. The dirt road was cold, near frozen under their feet as they walked; it was worn from use at least, and the ground wasn't torn up too much from passing horses or herded cattle. There was a wooded area in the distance, marking the edge of farmland and scorched battlefields. The smell of death on the air was noticeable, but not unbearable and luckily for the group the cold air was crisp, not muggy or charged with the indication of a storm. Aster Highglenn found herself in the company of three strange people she'd met and subsequently grouped up with back at the Tavern, and though she held some trust in their abilities she couldn't say she personally felt exactly safe around them. But she'd be spending the next day, or perhaps the next few days with them as they hunted this bear. Her stomach rumbled and the faun resisted a groan; the scratches on her face stung in the freezing air, and she'd even forgotten to eat before they left. She wasn't even buzzed enough to feel loose and confident. "Can we make camp soon? I see a wooded area up ahead, it might be a good spot to wait for the bear." Aster suggested, glancing back at the other three,
@Syxanthie Round 'em up! Location: Yard in front of Tavern of Legend Day 1, night It was already dark outside and the only nearby source of light remaining were the lanterns standing on dimly lit yard in front of Tavern of Legend. Somewhere in the distance one could hear villagers heading towards the tavern to grab a drink and rest after the long day of work. Chatter and laughter used to be merrier back in more carefree times but despite all the evil that fell upon them, locals managed somehow to move on with their lives. The air smelled with wild thyme and other common herbs smashed by the boots of wary travellers roaming the path all day long. Chilly wind moved the branches of tall silverleaf poplars stretching across the path. Even in the darkness it was still possible to see that most of the tree crowns were heavily infected with mistletoe. Suddenly the tavern doors opened when three characters with drinks in their hands left tavern and stopped under branchy linden dwarfing a shack beneath. For a moment all of them were focused on contents of their glasses, but after a while man wearing fisherman coat spoke up. Allright, listen up. I don't know how much do you know about recent events around here so I will start from the very beginning. After the the battle with the Lich-asshole-Lord and his army of smelly corpses, as you can imagine, tavern and neighbouring villages suffered many losses, people and goods alike. In order to rebuild we needed resources and for us only way to get them were by trade. Only thanks to her, ol' lady reputation out in the world - Zell pointed with his thumb at the tavern behind his back - merchants were interested in taking a risk and coming to this shithole. And why you ask?! - Zell barked and poured himself another one with such a verve, that he managed to spill a bit of bourbon on Ben and Bleidd listening to his story. Ben started to think that despite Zells attitude towards them he enjoyed having an audience. ...I'll tell you why! - Zell remained completely oblivious to the fact, that his audience wished only that he cuts to the chase already - Because such grim circumstances always attract vultures, oh, yes and it was the case here as well. Not long after the battle was over we had all sorts of these "guests" - Zell spat with contempt - raiders, looters, bandits and other vermin. Not only they desecrated our dead and plundered empty houses, like there were supposed to be any riches, but they also hunted for caravans, these assholes! These bastards knew that after the battle we had no means to protect them. Or so they were thinking. They. Were. Wrong. - Zell raised his voice waving his finger maniacally. Ben could hardly hide yawning. Their main mistake was to underestimate us. When news of first attacked caravan reached us we organised militia from what was left of us and we hit them hard. Idiots weren't even trying to hide. They were camping near the main trading route. It was glorious, no casualties on our side. We cut their heads of and put them on the pikes as an example for... Alright, alright, I'll stop you right there. - Ben cut in - Tell us only what we need to know, we don't have whole night. Zell spat again - I was going to, stop interrupting! So, what was I...? Ah, the thing is, that we always managed to repel looters ourselves. It was always just a bunch of idiots that hoped for some easy money. And after we rebuild there is nothing to loot out there! So we thought we no longer have to worry about the bandits, at least not more than usual. But then these guys came. Zell was lost in thought for a moment and then he continued in somewhat more serious manner - Yeah, these bandits are different. They are fast, hit hard and what is worst they are smart. They never attack at day, always wait till caravan falls asleep. They leave no tracks either. Luckily they are not up for killing... mostly. We had few nasty injuries but it was all so far... except for the last time. Poor Timwald... - Zell made a brake with a painful expression. So... would you look into it for me? For us? I'm not asking you kill them, nor catch them. Any help, even information about their whereabouts could prove useful for us and it would be generously rewarded. Pay will be better if you get the bastards of course. (OOC: So after a little [2 months?] brake we manage to start! In case somebody would be interested in joining please write a PM to me or to @Syxanthie so we can discuss how to smoothly add your character to the story. Just keep in mind that pace of this thread maybe quite slow [1 post a week at best i guess])