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Long Roads Ahead (Back to Square One)

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On 5/13/2019 at 10:32 AM, Jotnotes said:

"It's a bit of a niche trade," She explained easily. "It's not something that can just be taught, really." She racked her brain for a way to explain it properly, without giving away the game. "It's a bit like learning how to write a novel, I guess. You need to have an understanding of the language, how it works and plays off itself, and apply that in certain, critical ways."

When Priscilla suddenly slammed her dagger into the table, Aaric jumped in his seat in shock; almost spilling his ale over himself. He managed to regain his balance and looked over to Little Miss Crossbow as she dragged the blade across the table, etching it into a pattern that the wayfarer seemed to recognize but could not put his finger on. Turning his gaze towards her expression, he could see she was in some semi-trance like state. There was definitely something that was making her do this. When she was done, she sheathed her dagger and seemed to relax. 

On 5/13/2019 at 10:32 AM, Jotnotes said:

"I...uh...I etch runes for a living. And then I fit them into stuff, to enchant it. So like...swords? Armor? Tools? That stuff." She brushed some debris from the table. 

"Sorry about that."

 

21 hours ago, Venus Sprite said:

"That would be... incredible," she said. "I would be the most... revered person in all of the Torata tribe! Please," she reached around the knife and grabbed Priscilla's delicate little hand, engulfing it in her warm paws half way to the lady's elbow. "You have to teach me!"

As Torie gushed over Pricilla's demonstration. The wayfarer raised his mug to keep his hardened expression from being seen by the other table mates. This sort of magic was a skill seen only in persons few and far between. And it was for this very reason that they were much sought after by powerful or influential individuals. Strutter had taught him about the different types of magic others used and runes were one of them. Some used them as a conduit for offensive or defensive spells, but the true artists of rune crafting were best known for enchanting equipment with them. Even minor runic enchantments on equipment were valuable assets to a normal footsoldier. Equip them to an army however... The force multiplication for a hundred men would be able to tip the scales in one's favor. It was a wonder that no one had managed to try and offer her sponsorship in return for serving solely for their own armies and interests. Perhaps she wasn't well known yet. If word of her abilities became publicly known, there would be no end to the parties who wish to claim her abilities for their own. Luckily enough, the tavern had become more boisterous overtime so no one had overheard their conversation.

"You know, a quick way to make a pretty Merlin would be to advertise your skills to a local Lord or Baron." Aaric leant over and lowered his voice. "Heck, I'm pretty sure any person of influence would be willing to sponsor your tools, equipment and salary for life to enchant their soldier's weapons and armor. But I'm sure you're above that right? You better keep your rune crafting and enchanting skills on the down low if you want to practice as a freelancer. If anyone finds out, they're gonna try really hard to employ you. If you reject them... well you can trust me when I say that lords, barons and the like are not above using underhanded means to get what they want."

Aaric's expression melted into a gentle smile, giving Priscilla a playful wink. "But you don't have to worry about that. I'm pretty sure Torie and I are more than willing to protect you from those sleazy bastards." 

 

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She stared down at the rune. 

Did carving it into the table ease the anxiety she felt? Did it ease the floating runes that plagued her vision?

...Not really. But, it did feel relaxing to look at it. She focused on it for a short while, and tried to come at ease with herself. Easy breaths in, easy breaths out.

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Torie's eyes were wide and her mouth slack in awe. Her tongue started to roll out, but she slurped it back up before it hit the table. "That would be... incredible," she said. "I would be the most... revered person in all of the Torata tribe! Please," she reached around the knife and grabbed Priscilla's delicate little hand, engulfing it in her warm paws half way to the lady's elbow. "You have to teach me!"

Priscilla's hand was totally trapped by Torie's paw, and the tigress helped her snap out of her reverie. She took a bit--more than a bit, a minute, even--to try and figure out exactly what the tigress wanted.

"W-well!" Priscilla griped a bit, trying to move. "It's a little...little harder than that, actually." She squirmed, and pulled her hand free. Now she had no choice but to talk about it, she supposed.

"The way I learned was through my dad," She explained. She put the knife away again. The scars on the table were probably not going to be easy to fill in; Odds are they'd need to leave before the barkeep decided to charge them. 

"My dad was a runesmith before I was. He was really good at it, too." She continued. She thought about his work, his craft, and the popularity of his shop. They'd never been a big business, but they'd always been popular. "The best, I'd say." She added.

"Dad had this strange object that he gave to me when I was little. It was kind of like a telescope, but there were all sorts of runes etched into the lens. There were a lot of them; one after another, like a kaleidoscope. We took it out one night, and he held it to the sky for me to look at the stars through. The runes were burned into my eyes after weeks of doing this, y'see." Now, she had to explain another problem she was having. She gestured towards her eyes. 

"They're floating around in there, even now. Little scratches in them and stuff like that. I guess, this helped me get really talented at runesmithing, really fast." 

That was to say, Priscilla had no idea how you'd learn to etch runes without one of those instruments. Priscilla had never run across one since she was little, and her father didn't have any spares. She'd been very lucky, to have learned when she did.

"If I had to guess?" She mused. "Maybe, maybe there's a book out there, that can break down how to inscribe them. Or," She added with a rueful sigh, "Maybe I can try to explain it to you, sometime. But we'd need tools, we'd need materials, and we'd need a workshop. I've got none of that, right now."

20 hours ago, Vetanoob said:

"You know, a quick way to make a pretty Merlin would be to advertise your skills to a local Lord or Baron." Aaric leant over and lowered his voice. "Heck, I'm pretty sure any person of influence would be willing to sponsor your tools, equipment and salary for life to enchant their soldier's weapons and armor. But I'm sure you're above that right? You better keep your rune crafting and enchanting skills on the down low if you want to practice as a freelancer. If anyone finds out, they're gonna try really hard to employ you. If you reject them... well you can trust me when I say that lords, barons and the like are not above using underhanded means to get what they want."

She stared holes into Arric, before looking back at the table she'd scarred up. 

"My craft is the only part of my father I have left." She replied. "Before everything went wrong, and I ended up...decommissioned, I had my own little shop. It was small and portable, and could be pulled along by pretty much any beast of burden. I was free, I explored the world, and I practiced what I loved. Selling my arts to somebody with money would be like..." She struggled for a comparison. "...it would be like giving up my former life, for a life of service. I've had offers before; I've never taken any of them seriously."

She straightened up, and looked at the table. They were all done eating, more or less, and now Priscilla felt it was a good time to stop talking. She produced the last of her coin, and got to her feet. She strutted over to the counter, and handed the barkeep the entirety of it. 

"Keep the rest of it; for the table, and a nice tip for you and our waitress." She requested politely. She wasn't selling the rogue bandit thing very well anymore. She turned to the party, shrugged, a bit helplessly.

"We should be going. We're going to need bounties if we're going to start making progress."

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Fleeing the bar (and the fact that Priscilla probably didn't give the barkeep enough to pay for a new table, on top of all the food they'd ordered), Priscilla dragged her three companions out into the warm sunlight of the afternoon. It was shaping into a rather hot day, and the sun radiating off the pavement was growing intense. Priscilla paused, and felt the warm sun on her face, and the smell of the nearby markets, not to mention the noises and the gentle milling of passerby. Somewhere overhead, the sun was blotted out as a magnificent-looking creature landed elsewhere. It was white as snow, and covered in fluffy feathers, but resembled a dragon more than it did a bird. Other flying beasts were taking off and landing all the time, but their sounds were mostly muted. It was a fantastic element of Vdara. It was a rarity on Genesaris; Priscilla had fond memories of coming here as a child, back before her mother ran off with their wealth.

She shepherded the party through the marketplace, back the way she'd come through in the first place. As they were swallowed up by floating banners and merchant stands, the sun was stifled out, and the gentle mulling of the distant crowds became a long, persistent roar. She did her best to keep the party together, and kept them moving forward as she made her way towards the last billboard she saw, somewhere past the crossbow bolts.

The market was a bustling hive of exotic and local goods and cuisine, and the smells and sound mingled with the crowd's noise. It was always a treat to get engulfed into the sheer chaos of it all, Priscilla reflected benignly. She loved coming into marketplaces, and seeing the crafts for sale, seeing what unique designs people brought for scrutiny and admiration. She felt a small pang of longing on that reflection, and she buried it by looking beyond the market to the larger buildings close by. Of note, there were a few close by guilds and static shops, where the products for sale didn't change, but had money and investments behind them. Priscilla had neither, and as a result, she wasn't stuck here. 

Close by, she spied a fairly obvious-looking fence, masquerading as a clothing store. She wasn't a thief herself, but she knew what to look for. There were three subtle markings on the swinging sign labeled 'Ambles'; One long scratch, indicating that there was launderer available, a heart-shaped varnish stain that indicated that they offered hit contracts, and a lock, drawn in charcoal on the sign. That lock meant they sold contraband as well, if you knew what to ask for. Priscilla didn't really have the gold to check it out, however. Otherwise, she might've considered seeing if they had any rare supplies on sale.

Also of note was a brewery. Not the mead and ale variety, but a potions and reagents place, from the looks of things. 'The Tattered Cape', they called it. She didn't really think it fit the direction the store wanted to go in, but she wasn't running a business herself, anymore, so she didn't care all that much. 

Other vendors close by were hawking all sorts of goods, from neat little trinkets and windup tools, made in far-off smithies, to a dye vendor that offered, among other things, clothing and hair dyes. Priscilla felt her hair for a moment, and silently vied for her old hair color back. The purple-haired runesmith was a much better look, than the brown-haired woman who killed things for a living.

She looked at the bounty board, and went through them. They had to jockey with dozens of other adventurers, thugs and bounty hunters to read the lists, however. It turned out that there were plenty of jobs to do, and much of them offered pretty good coin. She reviewed what was available in silence. Of note, four requests stood out to her.

The first, a request from a nearby village, was penned by an elderly old man looking to make a pilgrimmage. He didn't specify where or why, but was paying a decent wage for adventurers to make sure he got there safely, and without hurting himself. To Priscilla, the job seemed rather easy, and the money wasn't bad. However, this job paid the least of all the jobs on display.

Another involved some pretty eerie content. The local guard posted up a request, hoping to get someone to investigate a potential kidnapping ring within the city walls. From the information given, the culprits were secretive and hard to find, but were also merciless when confronted by the guards. To minimize any more murders, the guard had simply relegated the work to foolhardy adventurers. Priscilla had a bad feeling about this particular offer, but the money was quite nice.

Someone else, still, was looking for help slaying, or moving, a family of troublesome Salamanders, that had taken residence in a nearby coal mine. That didn't really sound that bad.

And, lastly, there was a fence contract. Priscilla recognized it right away. It detailed 'laundry duty', and referred potential takers to the store she'd spied earlier. It promised really good money, too.

Priscilla gnawed her lip. It was a good offer, the money on that contract. However, she didn't think she could let the party take that one. It might involve something dangerous, and certainly something criminal.

 

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On 5/17/2019 at 1:59 PM, Jotnotes said:

"If I had to guess?" She mused. "Maybe, maybe there's a book out there, that can break down how to inscribe them. Or," She added with a rueful sigh, "Maybe I can try to explain it to you, sometime. But we'd need tools, we'd need materials, and we'd need a workshop. I've got none of that, right now."

Torie had been holding her breath for this moment, for a glimmer of hope or a hint that maybe something would be possible.

"So we get you tools and materials and a workshop by doing odd jobs, and you'll teach me?" she said. "Or at least try to teach me. I'm not expecting a miracle. But please, at least see what I can do!"

On 5/17/2019 at 1:59 PM, Jotnotes said:

"We should be going. We're going to need bounties if we're going to start making progress."

Torie grimaced, biting her bottom lip with long white teeth. So she wasn't going to get an answer to this straight away. She had to be careful - appear too eager, or desperate, and it was sure to scare the little lady off. "Alright. Well," she said, glancing around, and spied her still-steaming washbasin full of offal sitting next to her pillows and belongings. "I'm going to finish my meal... my other meal."

With that she pushed herself away from the table and buried her nose in the food.

6 hours ago, Jotnotes said:

Priscilla dragged her three companions out into the warm sunlight of the afternoon...

Torie yawned and stretched, feeling a little worse for having bolted down her meal so quickly. She was wearing her harness and followed the others at a pace that was best described as leisurely, and worse described as glacial. Even Priscilla's excitement and energy wasn't enough to impart much speed onto the tigress, and the little lady soon pulled a short ways ahead. Torie didn't mind. She had her smell, and could catch her if needed.

To make matters worse the marketplace was full of distractions that delighted the senses, particularly her nose. Foods of all sorts pulled her attention this way and that, to the point she stopped every few paces to sniff. People always gave her plenty of space. Even on all fours she was as tall as an average human woman, several feet long and a few feet wide to boot. She leaned over to delicately sniff some skewers sizzling in a pot, only for the owner to turn and raise his hands as if to shoo her away. He changed his mind at the last minute. She gave him a smile, tossed him a coin from the pouch under her neck, then pointed to a braised turkey he had all folded up at the front of his shop.

She ate it in one bite, without even waiting for him to pick it up.

"Now, where did they get to?" she said out loud, scanning the crowd for her companions. With a mouth full of herbs her nose was harder to use, and she couldn't see very far through the crowd. So with a grunt she raised herself up on her hind legs.

Someone screamed, and there was the sound of crashing pottery as a middle-aged lady startled at the rearing tigress, now almost twelve feet tall. Torie ignored her.

Ah, there they were, crowding around with other adventuring sorts, looking at the notice board. Carefully, so as not to squash anyone, she lowered herself back to all fours and continued waddling on her way, the stripes on her flabby flanks doing a merry dance as her rear legs did an awkward waddle and her enormous belly.

"Excuse me. EXCUSE ME," she said when they got to the crowd, and the adventurers parted like an honor guard for her. Torie's natural speech was deep and loud, and unless she was careful it was easily interpreted as a roar. Several hands went to weapons but when they saw her, their faces ranged from further shock to laughter.

But nobody drew their weapons.

She studied the board, quickly realising it was a list of jobs. That was it? That's how one got into the adventuring life? It seemed too easy. Torie could read several languages, but none so well as her own. She came up beside Priscilla and read along with her for a few moments.

"Ooh, this one!" Torie said, pointing to a leaflet with a paw so big, it was unclear which leaflet she was actually pointing to. "Salamanders are delicious, especially in a pot with herbs and whale blubber. I can show you some cooking from my homeland!" She turned, grinning broadly at her two companions. "And they have a whole family! That'll save me money on food as well. A win-win for everyone! Hah... if I knew people were going to pay me to catch my own dinner I would have become an adventurer years ago!"

She studied the board a little longer. "Or maybe we should do this one at first," she said, pointing at the notice that mentioned laundry duty. "We don't even need to leave the city for that, and for washing someone's clothes it pays a lot!"

She turned to Aaric. "Why would anyone pay that much for laundry duty? Oh, maybe it's an giant dragon with incontinence issues... yeck." She poked out her tongue.

 

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Aaric left the tavern excitedly with the rest of the newfound party. This was going to be exciting! His first adventure all by himself without his master and new companions to boot! It was only after they exited the tavern that he suddenly remembered that the coin he gave the barkeep as bribe-payment for an extra night's stay was wasted. He was so focused on packing his things that it totally slipped his mind! But he couldn't turn back now... So he settled for comically sobbing over his wasted coin. Coin that could have been used on more important stuff like food. 

As Priscilla led them through the marketplace, Aaric decided to bring up the rear and cover them from above the rooftops. With his wall climbing and parkour skills, the wayfarer deftly made his way onto the tops of the shop-houses without rousing much attention to himself. This was where he was most comfortable since being inside bustling crowds made him a little claustrophobic... Plus it was hard to tell who was going to try and stab them in the back with everyone bumping into him every now and then. With a bird's eye view, he could track his fellow party members as well as look out for any shady individuals who might want to try anything funny. 

As he trailed the group, he thought about Priscilla's situation. She definitely seemed to have experienced alot of pain and suffering. To lose her entirely livelihood to the point where she had to risk partying with people she never knew; people who might have took advantage of her if she wasn't careful... He was just glad everyone at the table were more or less nice people. There was strength in numbers, but even more strength in mutual trust. 

He could tell that Torie was going to be a great companion. Even if she was a little naive and a stickler for doing things the right way... Morally at least. Aaric was no hero but he wasn't averse to helping others in need. He just hoped that the Tigress was enough of a survivalist to prioritize the whole party's safety, unlike others he had seen who had gotten themselves killed trying to live by their code of death-before-dishonor. Hopefully it wouldn't come to that. Torie was too nice of a person and he enjoyed good company!

He was surprised when he saw the crossbow girl lingering her gaze longer at the disguised fence. Then again, he shouldn't be surprised since she had to struggle to survive in a world like theirs. Aaric himself was very familiar with these kinds of black market shops. He frequented them together with his teacher during their travels, most recently to find materials and ingredients to create his many varieties of wristbolt ammunition; things only Adventurers of his type he would use. If anything, if they really had to visit one as a party, he would have to step up and ensure they weren't being ripped off of any overpriced goods on their shelves. 

When they neared the bounty board, Aaric dropped down from his perch and onto the ground... Right next to the same middle-aged lady that dropped her pottery earlier, shocking her again and causing her to fall onto her behind. 

"Sorry!" Aaric apologised profusely as she threw curses and insults at him. He made his way through the opening that Torie made and looked over Priscilla's shoulder a she scanned the types of work available. There were certainly too many to go through each one individually, but that is to Torie the more interesting ones were identified. When she mentioned the salamander quest it piqued his interest too. He didn't eat salamanders before, but if Torie said they were delicious how could he refuse? 

19 hours ago, Venus Sprite said:

She studied the board a little longer. "Or maybe we should do this one at first," she said, pointing at the notice that mentioned laundry duty. "We don't even need to leave the city for that, and for washing someone's clothes it pays a lot!"

She turned to Aaric. "Why would anyone pay that much for laundry duty? Oh, maybe it's an giant dragon with incontinence issues... yeck." She poked out her tongue.

 Now that drew a tad more attention than he was comfortable with, especially since she said it out loud enough for the nearby adventuring denizens to hear. Some looked appalled, others snickered, a few green-horn looking individuals had curious expressions on their face. But most kept their neutral expressions up... Probably in an attempt to not incur the wrath of a Tigress in the middle of a busy place.

The wayfarer quickly and gently pulled Torie aside to a less crowded area then leant in and whispered into her ear. "Um... Torie? That contract might look legal. But 'laundry' is actually a code for some pretty fishy stuff. Most likely illegal, black market-ish stuff. The fact that we won't know exactly what the task entails until we accept it and meet the client is exactly what makes it bad... And rewarding at the same time. Any adventurer with enough experience would know what it means. But no one except the most skilled and daring people actually take it." 

Ending his explanation, Aaric quickly strode over to Priscilla's side. "Personally, Chief, I'm all for taking any contract you want. But let me just say I don't think Torie or the Mister ex-knight would sit well with the fence contract after what I explained to her. Let's just stick to the more legal ones first." He muttered. 

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Torie and Aaric caught up, and muscled their way through the  small crowd of adventurers to look over the board with them. Priscilla had her own theories on what they should take a shot at first, but wanted them to look things over first, and figure out what appealed to them. Around them, a few laughs were had as the Tigress approached, with her throaty purr and commanding voice slicing through the gentle murr of the crowd. 

On 5/18/2019 at 4:42 AM, Venus Sprite said:

"Excuse me. EXCUSE ME," she said when they got to the crowd, and the adventurers parted like an honor guard for her.

Aaric was noticeably absent, and Priscilla looked around quickly, trying to figure out where he'd gone. She couldn't find him in the milling crowds, and worried that they'd lost him. It was a pretty busy day at the market, certainly. Had he wandered off without them? She continued to look around for him, trying to spot him, while Torie investigated the board. Eventually, the tigress caught her attention, and she stopped looking around, forced to listen.

On 5/18/2019 at 4:42 AM, Venus Sprite said:

"Ooh, this one!" Torie said, pointing to a leaflet with a paw so big, it was unclear which leaflet she was actually pointing to. "Salamanders are delicious, especially in a pot with herbs and whale blubber. I can show you some cooking from my homeland!" She turned, grinning broadly at her two companions. "And they have a whole family! That'll save me money on food as well. A win-win for everyone! Hah... if I knew people were going to pay me to catch my own dinner I would have become an adventurer years ago!"

Priscilla reviewed the request...eventually. Once Torie cleared up which one she was pointing at, she caught on a lot faster, but floundered at first. The request did seem a little straightforward, certainly. However, Priscilla supposed that if the work was so easy, someone else would have taken it. How many salamanders were they talking about? Were they actual salamanders, or something else? Priscilla figured it was a fairly neutral job, regardless, and it was unobjectionable, for sure.

On 5/18/2019 at 4:42 AM, Venus Sprite said:

She studied the board a little longer. "Or maybe we should do this one at first," she said, pointing at the notice that mentioned laundry duty. "We don't even need to leave the city for that, and for washing someone's clothes it pays a lot!"

She turned to Aaric. "Why would anyone pay that much for laundry duty? Oh, maybe it's an giant dragon with incontinence issues... yeck." She poked out her tongue.

Priscilla's stifled laughter wasn't aimed at the second comment, but she hoped it would come off like that. It shouldn't have surprised her that the tigress wasn't familiar with the request, but to have her ask about it so loudly was a problem for Priscilla. For one, discussing it in an open air conversation was a very strict taboo--you didn't want to expose a fence, lest they were listening. 

However, Priscilla didn't have to discuss anything, because Aaric dropped from a rooftop to intervene--startling a middle-aged woman.

On 5/19/2019 at 12:18 AM, Vetanoob said:

"Sorry!" Aaric apologised profusely as she threw curses and insults at him.

 

On 5/19/2019 at 12:18 AM, Vetanoob said:

Now that drew a tad more attention than he was comfortable with, especially since she said it out loud enough for the nearby adventuring denizens to hear. Some looked appalled, others snickered, a few green-horn looking individuals had curious expressions on their face. But most kept their neutral expressions up... Probably in an attempt to not incur the wrath of a Tigress in the middle of a busy place.

The wayfarer quickly and gently pulled Torie aside to a less crowded area then leant in and whispered into her ear. "Um... Torie? That contract might look legal. But 'laundry' is actually a code for some pretty fishy stuff. Most likely illegal, black market-ish stuff. The fact that we won't know exactly what the task entails until we accept it and meet the client is exactly what makes it bad... And rewarding at the same time. Any adventurer with enough experience would know what it means. But no one except the most skilled and daring people actually take it." 

Ending his explanation, Aaric quickly strode over to Priscilla's side. "Personally, Chief, I'm all for taking any contract you want. But let me just say I don't think Torie or the Mister ex-knight would sit well with the fence contract after what I explained to her. Let's just stick to the more legal ones first." He muttered. 

Priscilla was impressed. Aaric was pretty young--to be familiar with fences and contraband at such a young age was particularly striking, especially given how hard it was for her to learn about the contraband on her own. Also very interesting was how he deferred to her--to 'Chief'--also caught her off guard. She looked at the crowd around her--they were watching, but trying not to--and Priscilla decided then and there to exercise her control a bit--and keep up her charade of a tough pirate, for just a little longer.

"We have too much dirty laundry to deal with as is." She replied honestly. Priscilla stepped forward and grabbed a different leaflet--the one on the Salamanders. She passed it to Aaric for him to look over instead, and ignored the Fence paper.

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On ‎5‎/‎19‎/‎2019 at 4:18 PM, Vetanoob said:

The wayfarer quickly and gently pulled Torie aside to a less crowded area then leant in and whispered into her ear. "Um... Torie? That contract might look legal. But 'laundry' is actually a code for some pretty fishy stuff. Most likely illegal, black market-ish stuff. The fact that we won't know exactly what the task entails until we accept it and meet the client is exactly what makes it bad... And rewarding at the same time. Any adventurer with enough experience would know what it means. But no one except the most skilled and daring people actually take it."

Fishy... black market... illegal. Ah! There was a term she understood. To Aaric she said, "I don't mind illegal, so long as it's not wrong. You know. In some societies slavery is fine but it's still wrong. So is killing babies. Did you know in southern Terrenus there's a tribe that throws their babies off cliffs? That's so wrong. But tribal law permits it!" She stopped then, but Aaric's face seemed unusually serious. "So... no dirty laundry then...?"

Perhaps it was the bad sort of illegal.

10 hours ago, Jotnotes said:

"We have too much dirty laundry to deal with as is." She replied honestly. Priscilla stepped forward and grabbed a different leaflet--the one on the Salamanders. She passed it to Aaric for him to look over instead, and ignored the Fence paper.

Torie hadn't kept track of which one Priscilla had grabbed, and raised her nose to check it as she passed it to Aaric. "Ohhhhh. Salamanders!" She licked her chops and smiled toothily. "Good idea! We should buy some whale fat before we leave. And a cauldron. That way we can cook on the spot, as soon as we catch them. Oh, and I need some thyme and some coriander too! And I wonder if they have snow-peek?" She squinted, scanning the different stalls to spy some that might have the right ingredients.

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5 hours ago, Venus Sprite said:

"I don't mind illegal, so long as it's not wrong. You know. In some societies slavery is fine but it's still wrong. So is killing babies. Did you know in southern Terrenus there's a tribe that throws their babies off cliffs? That's so wrong. But tribal law permits it!" She stopped then, but Aaric's face seemed unusually serious. "So... no dirty laundry then...?"

16 hours ago, Jotnotes said:

"We have too much dirty laundry to deal with as is." She replied honestly. Priscilla stepped forward and grabbed a different leaflet--the one on the Salamanders. She passed it to Aaric for him to look over instead, and ignored the Fence paper.

5 hours ago, Venus Sprite said:

Torie hadn't kept track of which one Priscilla had grabbed, and raised her nose to check it as she passed it to Aaric. "Ohhhhh. Salamanders!" She licked her chops and smiled toothily. "Good idea! We should buy some whale fat before we leave. And a cauldron. That way we can cook on the spot, as soon as we catch them. Oh, and I need some thyme and some coriander too! And I wonder if they have snow-peek?" She squinted, scanning the different stalls to spy some that might have the right ingredients.

Aaric sighed in relief as he skimmed through the request. He was glad Priscilla decided against the fence contract. If he was honest with himself, fence contracts rarely turned out well for any party unless they were really good and really knew what they were getting into. The wayfarer looked into Torie's large, beady eyes and his expression softened. She may have travelled all the way from Terrenus, but she was still naive about the darker side of adventuring. It reminded him so much of himself when he was younger... by the gods he wished he could just turn back time to when he was still that enthusiastic, ignorant little boy. 

"The problem with fence contracts" The wayfarer explained gently for both of his companions, they had to know just in case. "is that they could ask for... Well, almost anything really. Like I said, you won't know what's the actual work these fences require until you meet them. Even worse, chances are they wouldn't even tell you what they want you to do is until you agree to do it first. And if you do and then try to back out just because you don't want to do it or agree with their methods, they'll most likely try to kill you lest you blab to the authorities. Even if you have the stomach to go through with their request, always assume there's something they're not telling you. More often then not you'll get killed trying to complete the task and the fence could just find some other unlucky bastard to do it. If you managed to complete the task, you might not make it out alive to see the money. If you managed to survive the entire ordeal? You can be damn sure they'll try to pull something funny to pay less than what they promised, pay you nothing at all, or worse... try to kill you the moment you try to collect. If you want to take a fence contract, always be prepared for anything. Always."

With his explanation finished, he was suddenly aware that his empty hand was balled up into a tight fist. Any tighter and he swore he would have drawn blood. Shaking his head, he put up a smile and tried to get rid of the now, awkward atmosphere. "So no dirty laundry this time, Torie. At least not until we've got some experience together under our belts. Sorry."

"But let's not linger on such thoughts!" He continued cheerfully as he rummaged through his rather large backpack and showing off his items. "You're in luck Torie! And as it happens, when you're a wayfarer on the road for years, you learn a thing or two about cooking out in the field. I may not have a cauldron, but I do have a pot which should serve us well enough. I've got thyme, coriander and some rosemary too! I don't have whale oil though... neither do I know what snow-peek is. But I'm sure you'll be able to find some for us, eh?" 

 

 

Edited by Vetanoob

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13 hours ago, Vetanoob said:

"The problem with fence contracts" The wayfarer explained gently for both of his companions, they had to know just in case. "is that they could ask for... Well, almost anything really. Like I said, you won't know what's the actual work these fences require until you meet them. Even worse, chances are they wouldn't even tell you what they want you to do is until you agree to do it first. And if you do and then try to back out just because you don't want to do it or agree with their methods, they'll most likely try to kill you lest you blab to the authorities. Even if you have the stomach to go through with their request, always assume there's something they're not telling you. More often then not you'll get killed trying to complete the task and the fence could just find some other unlucky bastard to do it. If you managed to complete the task, you might not make it out alive to see the money. If you managed to survive the entire ordeal? You can be damn sure they'll try to pull something funny to pay less than what they promised, pay you nothing at all, or worse... try to kill you the moment you try to collect. If you want to take a fence contract, always be prepared for anything. Always."

It was a little macabre to hear just how much Aaric knew about taking on fencing jobs. She wasn't precisely clean, herself, but she'd never had to take a contract herself. Typically she would sell a few things to fences, some of her own designs, and never really heard about what happened to them afterward. If anyone ever used her equipment for a felony, she'd never heard about it. That was another boon about her mobile shop; she could pick up and leave right away, if need be. She wasn't even tied down by the law, usually.

She glanced back at the parchment. It was a shame, really. The money they'd earn from that contract might have been blood money, but it would have been very good blood money. It would've shortened their efforts considerably, for sure. By the looks of the contract they took, Priscilla's custom cart and her tools were likely six or so salamander hunts away from being a reality. Her companions seemed eager to go hunt salamanders, however, and so Priscilla reread the pamphlet, and figured out where they needed to go. Reading it over wasn't terribly helpful, but at least it named the farm the salamanders could be found near. She turned back to her companions, still eagerly chattering about food. 

19 hours ago, Venus Sprite said:

Torie hadn't kept track of which one Priscilla had grabbed, and raised her nose to check it as she passed it to Aaric. "Ohhhhh. Salamanders!" She licked her chops and smiled toothily. "Good idea! We should buy some whale fat before we leave. And a cauldron. That way we can cook on the spot, as soon as we catch them. Oh, and I need some thyme and some coriander too! And I wonder if they have snow-peek?" She squinted, scanning the different stalls to spy some that might have the right ingredients.

 

13 hours ago, Vetanoob said:

"But let's not linger on such thoughts!" He continued cheerfully as he rummaged through his rather large backpack and showing off his items. "You're in luck Torie! And as it happens, when you're a wayfarer on the road for years, you learn a thing or two about cooking out in the field. I may not have a cauldron, but I do have a pot which should serve us well enough. I've got thyme, coriander and some rosemary too! I don't have whale oil though... neither do I know what snow-peek is. But I'm sure you'll be able to find some for us, eh?

They had good chemistry, she noticed. It was nice, knowing she could rely on them both to look out after another. Their friend had grown quiet and dark some time ago--he was mostly a ghost at this point--but the party still looked lively and eager. Around them, other adventurers were still milling about. Priscilla watched a handful of same-aged young men snatch up one of the lesser contracts quickly. A short figure wearing a tall hat picked up the fence contract and fled with the flier, quickly walking down the street towards the fence. She watched the figure walk out of sight, then snapped out of it.

"Okay, if you two want to do some shopping, go right ahead." Priscilla told the duo. She let her gaze drift over to the fence front again. "I'm gonna go check around for a few things, then we'll meet in front of the gates. We'll head out, get rid of the salamanders, and be back right away." 

 

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On 5/22/2019 at 11:44 PM, Vetanoob said:

I may not have a cauldron, but I do have a pot which should serve us well enough. I've got thyme, coriander and some rosemary too! I don't have whale oil though... neither do I know what snow-peek is. But I'm sure you'll be able to find some for us, eh?" 

Torie turned her nose up at the pot. Even if it was full it would barely constitute a mouthful. "We'll need something bigger than that. Especially if we're going to cook a whole family of salamanders. But the herbs are good! I'll go get us a cauldron, and I'll look for some snow-peek too. Pity it won't be peeking out of any snow! That's what it does in my homeland, you see. That's how it got its name."

On 5/23/2019 at 1:24 PM, Jotnotes said:

"Okay, if you two want to do some shopping, go right ahead." Priscilla told the duo. She let her gaze drift over to the fence front again. "I'm gonna go check around for a few things, then we'll meet in front of the gates. We'll head out, get rid of the salamanders, and be back right away." 

Torie didn't need a second invitation, but turned about - nearly knocking over a passing elf in the process - and headed for the stalls.

First she looked for snow-peek, but sadly, with all the herbs on display she couldn't find anything that remotely resembled the small black leaves that grew in the tundra of her homeland. She did find some other leaves which were longer and smelled almost the same, so bought those instead. Hopefully they'd do just as well in the stew.

Next she headed to a forge right by the markets with a large amount of pots, pans and cooking utensils on display. She picked out a cast iron cauldron that was small enough to travel with and large enough to feed herself and her friends all at once. It occurred to her that it was probably large enough to fit both Priscilla and Aaric at the same time, if they got sick of walking. The smith wrapped a towel around its metal handle and Torie bit down on it, carrying it beneath her chin. She arrived at the gates moments afterwards wearing an excited grin. "I foumd a calbron!" she mumbled around the handle in her jaws.

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Aaric chuckled as the tigress turned and made her way into the marketplace to get her goods. He turned to Priscilla and gave her a playful wink before jogging into a nearby alleyway and climbing up onto the rooftops out of the general public’s view. Finally away from prying eyes, Aaric took up a stern expression as he dashed back towards the fence shop they passed earlier. He had noticed the look Priscilla gave. It was easy to tell that she really wanted to take up the more lucrative fence contract instead of hunting Salamanders. Aaric felt a little guilty afterwards when Torie seemed willing to at least check out the fence’s request. But the wayfarer had to make sure they didn’t take it. The risks were too high.

Now that he knew Torie would at least be alright with taking the job as long as it wasn’t against her morals, Aaric decided to visit the fence and hopefully track down the shorty-tall-hat person who took the request. If he was lucky, he would be able to eavesdrop on the meeting and get the details of the job. Hopefully, the unlucky sod would get killed and they would be free to take it up with some foreknowledge of what they could expect.

With that plan in mind, the wayfarer sped towards the fence and quickly dove onto his stomach, leopard-crawling towards the edge and peeking out behind it. He was in luck, as he spotted his target just as he or she entered the shop. Dropping his stuff and pushing it to the corner of the rood, he checked if the building he was on had any roof access. Seeing none and ensuring his backpack wouldn’t be stolen, he jumped across the rooftops until he landed on the top of the fence shop.

4bc21cc72d373b762e018f888a69428a.jpg
 

From Aaric’s own experience, discussions over the laundry contract usually took place in one of the upper levels for privacy instead of the shop front for obvious reasons. Taking out a grappling bolt and a roll of wire, he attached both items to his wrist bolt, lodged the bolt into a sturdy piece of wood and gently slid down the side of the shop which faced an abandoned alley. The building was three stories tall so he stopped at the third floor window and tried to peek inside, but he couldn’t see anything. The window was blocked by a curtain. That didn’t stop him, however.

Fishing into his utility belt, he pulled out a rubbery looking tube which had metal ends. One end was fixed with a tapered metal cylinder which he stuck into his ear, the other had a trumpet-like head which he held in his hand and pressed against the glass. Fabricating it from discarded parts, Aaric used it to eavesdrop on conversations from inside buildings or from around corners where he couldn’t expose himself too much. Hearing nothing but silence for a minute, he gave up and slid down further to the second storey window.

This time, muffled sounds could be heard from inside. Quickly placing the head gently on top of the window pane, he strained his ears to catch as much as he could.

“Really? That’s all I need to do?” Said a gruff voice. Aaric immediately recognizing it as the adventurer who took the quest.

“Yes. And the client will reward you substantially.” Another voice rasped. Most probably the fence in charge. Aaric thought. “Get it done and it’s two Merlins. The client will throw in a rune-enchanted buckler too if you finish the job extra quick.”

“Rune-enchanted buckler?”

Rune-enchanted buckler? Aaric echoed in his mind.

“Magical protection and physical reinforcement.” The fence explained. “The client is a woman, deals with runes and enchants them onto weapons and equipment. Wife of some nameless noble… Shouldn’t matter to you anyway. Get it done and maybe I’ll see you again. Heheh!”

Aaric’s expression hardened. This rune crafter and enchanter was definitely not Priscilla. The fact that there could be another one nearby would definitely be of interest to her. He would have to inform her about this development later. As slowly as he could he kept his eavesdropping device, clambered his way back to the rooftop without rousing any attention and leapt away.


Later in front of the gates...

ac23a9bf87c26289c8360c4b0c1f4a5c.jpg

Aaric leapt down onto the ground in front of the gates, just in time for his eyes to almost pop out of their sockets at the sight of Torie arriving with a humongous cauldron in hand.

19 hours ago, Venus Sprite said:

"I foumd a calbron!" she mumbled around the handle in her jaws.

"That's... a really big cauldron." The wayfarer exclaimed as he looked around for any sight of the crossbow girl. "You sure you're comfortable with carrying that in your jaws the whole time? I could tie it to your harness if you want." 

He wasn't going to talk about what he overheard in a middle of a busy street of all places. Once they were out of sight and earshot, then he would do so. This was something both Priscilla and Torie was going to need to hear.

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On 5/25/2019 at 4:27 AM, Venus Sprite said:

Torie didn't need a second invitation, but turned about - nearly knocking over a passing elf in the process - and headed for the stalls.

Priscilla watched the Tigress swing wide--and saunter back into the market. Unlike most folk in a crowd, she never really disappeared, as people either got out of her way, or got bowled over. Thankfully, most folks gave her a fair berth, and Priscilla stopped watching her, mostly content to leave her alone. 

Aaric winked at her and jogged off in his own direction, and Priscilla waited a beat or two before moving on herself. She quickly adjusted her jacket, and moved along. She passed very close-by the fence, but didn't go in. She'd thought about it, but decided against entering. The tigress, for one, probably wouldn't have an issue finding out that she was hiding it from them, and once again Priscilla recalled that for all her bluff and bluster, she wasn't a murderer or fighter, really. She was, all told, just a merchant.

Instead, she just wandered the stalls for a while, uninterested and uninvolved with the majority of happenings around her. With the rest of her rather meager wallet absent, and nothing in the way of money, she couldn't really stop to check anything out. What could she possibly find, anyway?

So, when she got sick of looking through the stalls, Priscilla made her way to where she was to meet her companions. 

They'd beat her there, somehow, and Priscilla bit her lip, trying to avoid laughing at the massive cauldron the Tigress had found. It was big enough for a person or two, and yet Tori carried it along easily, as if it weight nothing. She approached her and Aaric, and gave a grin and a nod at the large pot.

"Well! I suppose it's been a good day of shopping, then!" She observed politely. Arric seemed a little less than encumbered, so she figured he hadn't found much to suit him. She recounted them again, and realized something was missing. 

"I don't suppose either of you have seen the other guy?" She pointed out his absence. It bothered her, a lot. Without him, they were down an extra body, to put it in less than humane terms. She also worried about what had become of him. Was he okay? Or had he been harmed?

Either way, they didn't have time to look around. Priscilla looked at the bounty again, and addressed the party.

"Alright, so the farm we're going to isn't far off, if we had transportation." She explained to them both. "However...I gave the rest of my money to the barkeep, so I can't afford us a coach, so...we're walking."

She gave a pause, and then added, a little sheepishly. "The good news is that it's only an hour's walk, so that's good. And most of it is downhill." She offered a weak smile.

"So..." She sighed. "Let's get walking, I suppose."


The party began walking, but it didn't take long for something to happen while they were out and about. The trio, walking along the side of the road, soon heard the telltale sound of a coach riding down behind them. Priscilla glanced back at the cart first, and mindfully stepped off the road as the wagon thundered past.

They were far from the walls of Vdara now, and the stone and brick road had been replaced by well-worn dirt paths that cut through the lush environments. The coach that swept past didn't slow for them, but actually seemed to speed up. She didn't catch the driver--and that's because there wasn't just one, but a small flock of drivers.

The coach was riddled with arrows--the dents in its frame burned brown by their impact, somehow, and scratches and bumps decorated the vehicle. The creatures driving the carriage were heavily injured--both of the large, flightless birds appeared severely wounded, but still running strong, until one of them finally collapsed. This action dragged the other one down, and the coach flipped, skidded across the ground, and slammed into a tree. It stopped.

It didn't take Priscilla much time to rush on over towards the coach, but she slowed down as she drew near. Whomever was inside the coach was moving around, and while she might have been inclined to help them, there were a lot of folks moving around. They also appeared to be quite restless, and did she see a flash of scales within? 

She drew her crossbow, and watched to see what would happen, waiting for...something, she supposed.

Once her companions had drawn near enough to her, she lowered her weapon, and looked at them both, dubious.

"I don't think those are the original drivers." She told them. As if to prove her point, the roof of the coach was finally rended open, and a quintet of creatures spilled out. They were all approximately four feet tall from the looks of things, and appeared in various tones of brown, gold, blue and red. Their scales were dull, so they didn't stand out much. They were also quite filthy, dressed in...prisoner's garbs? They were tattered, unkempt clothes, but they all looked roughly the same, but none of them wore shackles or chains of any kind.

The kobolds staggered around, looking at the cart, the road, and each other. They quickly fell into an argument and didn't notice any of the onlookers.

"So..." Priscilla fidgeted, a little awkward. She was supposed to come up with a plan of some kind, but nothing came to mind. They didn't seem all that dangerous--they were just loud. But the cart was banged up and the creatures keeping it going were both dead, or injured. Did the kobolds do that?

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Having refused Aaric’s assistance, Torie struggled along the road under the weight of her cauldron and her enormous body. She had wanted to get a cart, and could have paid for it herself, but Priscilla had charged off down the road and Aaric had followed. Torie had tried to book a cart quickly but now huffed and puffed as she waddled away from the walls of V’dara.

Once the cart had thundered past and overturned, she waddled up besides Priscilla in time to see the kobolds spill out.

“Uh-oh,” she said, and placed the cauldron down, raising a paw to rub the muscles in her neck. The kobolds barely seemed interested in them at all, and for a moment she pondered simply going around them, but getting much closer and startling them probably wasn’t a good idea.

So instead, she kept her distance and roared as loud as she could.

It was deafening, long like rolling thunder. A flock of birds lifted up from distant trees, and the sound echoed back from the hills.

The kobolds were, at last, all still, fixed in various poses as if frozen in place.

“What’s happened here?” Torie said, but rather than answering all the creatures jumped back onto the side of the upturned cart, crouching and snarling defensively. Torie simply sat on her haunches, generating a small cloud of dust with the landing of her ample behind, stomach leaning heavily in the dirt. She raised a paw, claws retracted, and said in a more gentle tone, “Peace. What’s wrong?”

One of the kobolds with skin of shiny blue scales, said, “Cart fall down. On side,” and then stopped as if that were sufficient.

Torie snorted in amusement, then added, “Yes, I know, but what are you running from? Why are you here?”

With that the kobolds eyed her suspiciously, then formed a huddle and started chittering again, though much less noisily than before. Still there was always one that was keeping an eye on the three adventurers.

“Maybe we should just go around,” Torie said to her two companions. “Give them a wide berth. Kobolds are clever but not very smart sometimes, and they might try some-”

“You!” One of them said, pointing at the tigress, “Four legs. Get in harness. Pull cart.”

Torie blinked.

“I’m not pulling your cart,” she said, a little insulted. “If anything you should be pulling it for me! Phah, the nerve,” she said in a lower tone, turning her head away and raising her chin in disgust.

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Priscilla flinched, but relaxed quickly once Torie's roaring fit was over. She was suitably impressed at how loud the Tigress could be. She'd set the cauldron down, and just split the sky with a single sound like it was nothing. She stayed silent, and let the Tigress speak her peace.

20 hours ago, Venus Sprite said:

What’s happened here?” Torie said, but rather than answering all the creatures jumped back onto the side of the upturned cart, crouching and snarling defensively. Torie simply sat on her haunches, generating a small cloud of dust with the landing of her ample behind, stomach leaning heavily in the dirt. She raised a paw, claws retracted, and said in a more gentle tone, “Peace. What’s wrong?”

 

20 hours ago, Venus Sprite said:

One of the kobolds with skin of shiny blue scales, said, “Cart fall down. On side,” and then stopped as if that were sufficient.

 

Torie snorted in amusement, then added, “Yes, I know, but what are you running from? Why are you here?”

 

With that the kobolds eyed her suspiciously, then formed a huddle and started chittering again, though much less noisily than before. Still there was always one that was keeping an eye on the three adventurers.

"Huh. Usually they use less words with strangers." Priscilla noted aloud. It was a bit of a rude overgeneralization, but accurate to her own experiences. Torie turned around, and spoke to her and Aaric.

20 hours ago, Venus Sprite said:

“Maybe we should just go around,” Torie said to her two companions. “Give them a wide berth. Kobolds are clever but not very smart sometimes, and they might try some-”

 

20 hours ago, Venus Sprite said:

“You!” One of them said, pointing at the tigress,

Uh oh. Priscilla reached for her crossbow. The party turned to look at the kobolds again, who were very ominously pointing at...Torie.

20 hours ago, Venus Sprite said:

“Four legs. Get in harness. Pull cart.”

Priscilla was glad that the tigress was looking elsewhere, because Priscilla failed to stifle a grin. She did manage to refrain from laughing, thankfully, but only barely. The idea of the posh, round tigress pulling something like a cart was undeniably funny, and sort of reminded her of another person averse to manual labor. In this case, however, there was the added, delicious humor of Torie being a literal animal-morph.

22 hours ago, Venus Sprite said:

Torie blinked.

 

“I’m not pulling your cart,” she said, a little insulted. “If anything you should be pulling it for me! Phah, the nerve,” she said in a lower tone, turning her head away and raising her chin in disgust.

Priscilla couldn't stifle a laugh anymore. Something about her attitude--the sheer sass of how she'd said it! Her laughter bubbled up, a light, happy noise that almost didn't belong to her anymore. It drew a good bit of attention, certainly; even the kobold looked her way. Somehow, that made the circumstances even funnier, and she laughed even harder! Soon, Priscilla was giggling, tittering and almost crying as she laughed at the absurdity of herself, and the situation they found themselves in.

It took her a bit to get over it, but when she did, she wiped tears from her eyes, and looked around a bit.

"I'm sorry, it's just...I'm over it, now."

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Aaric was most impressed with Torie's roar. It really was more threatening than he realised compared to pure tigers. Perhaps changelings were able to channel their focus into their actions and abilities better than the instinct-driven organisms? The wayfarer thought. He shuffled the thought to the back of his mind to write down later. Right now though, they were facing kobolds and Aaric dropped his normally cheerful and goofy facade. 

He had met kobolds before in his travels with strutter, and suffice to say they were beings that could not be taken lightly. They were known to be mischievous, calculating and arrogant. But they were also resentful and easily angered... especially if they thought they were being insulted or disrespected. The fact that they were trying to order Torie to be their beast of burden didn't help their cause all that much, however funny he too thought it was. 

When Torie rebutted their demand, he could see the kobolds tense and their expressions turning from sneers into frowns. When Priscilla laughed her heart out the scaly quintet started to snarl and growl, moving their hands towards their shovels, pickaxes and whatever instruments at hand. Most likely they took offense and thought they were being mocked and belittled by the group in front of them. 

Ah crud...

1 hour ago, Jotnotes said:

It took her a bit to get over it, but when she did, she wiped tears from her eyes, and looked around a bit.

"I'm sorry, it's just...I'm over it, now."

"Grrr.... you mock us! Unforgivable! Surround! Attack!" One kobold commanded, looking slightly larger than the rest. 

Spoiler

 

As their attackers rushed to surround them, Aaric smirked. Their revenge for their hurt pride would be their downfall. It was broad daylight where they could see all five of them clearly and their numbers were hardly outnumbering; Aaric surmised he could even take on two of them at once if they were careful. Aaric pulled Torie and Priscilla together so the three of them stood back to back. 

"They'll try using their small stature and speed to their advantage. Don't let them overrun you and don't worry about me. I can match their speed with my own" Aaric explained calmly as he kept a watchful eye on the advancing creatures."Torie, you can engage them as long as you force them to keep their distance. Priscilla, you're our ranged member. Take them out one by one while we keep them busy."

"One more thing left to decide, chief." The wayfarer turned to crossbow girl. "I can kill them... Or I could also put them all to sleep. I've got enough tranquilizer darts to put them down for a good twelve hours judging from their size... though they might be a waste. However, it's your call."

The former assassin's wrist bow clicked as he cocked the device. Then pulled out two bolts, carrying one inbetween each of his fingers; one with a normal bodkin head, the other with a terribly large needle and syringe that held an emerald green fluid. 

 "So what do you say, chief? Kill? Or Incapacitate?"

Edited by Vetanoob

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