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The Consequences of Belief (Artifact Upgrade)

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In the as of yet unnamed range of mountains and hills within the Scudder Forests, south of Aligoria, there lied a certain cave. The entrance to this cave was at the edge of a well-concealed clearing. A white horse was grazing in this clearing- a horse obviously bred and trained for war, but one contented and obviously well-cared for nonetheless. Spread throughout were three fenced off-areas- one containing a garden of various fruits and vegetables, one with four goats, and one with four chickens. A hideout that could very well sustain one person with a sell-able surplus, two or three at a stretch.

Inside the cave, a certain knight by the name of Cerik Windshade sat at a surprisingly ornate table. Various treasures were arranged around the cave, with one area sticking out in particular: a velvet-covered shelf holding a small sphere that glowed gold, and a monocle that was framed in titanium but otherwise did not stand out. To the naked eye, these likely seemed like nothing special, interesting baubles at best. But these two things, artifacts of Terrenus- Fracture- Lagrimosa, yes that was it... ahem. They each held great power, though perhaps somewhat uneven between the two of them.

But back to Cerik. The wandering knight pored over the documents laid out on the table before him. Reports, fliers for various tasks that needed doing, other such things provided by trusted contacts. He read through the last of them and let out a deep sigh. He talked to the silent air around him.

"Nothing worth riding out for. Either they'd most likely be taken care of by the time I arrived, or the tasks as written are rather shady."

Words fading into empty air, as it usually happened. But this time, something was different. That golden sphere flashed brightly for a moment- and an elegant, feminine voice echoed throughout the cave.

"O gallant knight... if nothing else have thee to do... then seek ye greater power..."

"What? Who are you, and what the hell are you on about?"

The voice's tone changed as it began to speak again. It became... indignant?

"... Alright, enough of that mysticism. It very quickly grows tiresome. Cerik, do you recall the cultists whom you slew to lay claim to the Desert's Eye? I am a being born forth of their belief, intrinsically tied to that artifact. A powerful spirit... perhaps even a goddess."

Cerik recalled the conversation he had had with the woman known as the Mistress. About religion, about he would follow divinity only if they could have an amenable arrangement between them, one that would not exploit him only to later cast him aside. He hadn't once thought that such an entity would be before him so soon. He thought swiftly, coming to a decisive conclusion.

"Whatever you are... I think we might have a bright future together. Does that count as a pun? But if we are to work together, then what should I call you? And what do you mean about seeking power?"

"Oh. I was... expecting more resistance, to be truthful. But very well! You may call me Amura. As for seeking power, I speak of that monocle on the shelf! It is powerful, yes, but it pales in comparison to the Desert's Eye! It holds more potential power within, and I have an idea of how to unseal it. To do so, we must venture to a nearby mountain in this range, where you can undertake a trial to unseal that power... but first, you will need at least one companion. Go now, to the closest tavern, and seek a companion there!"

Cerik raised an eyebrow, but still turned toward the map pinned to the wall and examined it.

"Closest would be... in Aligoria."

He rubbed his chin thoughtfully.

"Well, I suppose I couldn't avoid venturing there forever. With luck, I should be able to find someone and avoid any undue attention that might come my way."


A while later, The False Ship tavern in Aligoria had a new patron enter. A towering man in full plate armor, a white cloak being the only thing keeping off the light drizzle outside. This knight took a side table in the tavern- not so brazen as a center table, and not so conspicuously attention-avoiding as a corner table. He ordered a strong drink, and began to drink as his gaze scanned over the tavern's other patrons. Searching for somebody who might stand out, perhaps, or someone who might react to his searching gaze. He hadn't reached out to anybody beforehand this time, so there was more of an element of chance involved than with his previous venture to secure the Desert's Eye.

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Falling out of her bed after a rather restless night of sleep the rather young pyromancer awakens with a bit of a shock as her faithful cat companion meows loudly at her. She had little plans for the day as she fumbles around adjusting her clothes and getting to her feet. She couldn't really remember how she ended up in the town our why she was there but she supposed adventure would always find its way to her. After adjusting her clothes clothes and strapping her rapier to her side the cat jumps up on the bed before leaping up on the women's shoulder.

"Okay, Nyx... I think its time we head out... Maybe stop at the tavern for a drink or two. I could use something after that dream."

stepping out of the room she makes her way out of the inn and into the streets. She looked a bit out of place what with the cat on her shoulder and her rather strange colored hair but she didn't pay any gazes much mind as she wondered the streets looking for a place to grab a drink and hopefully get her a bit more awake. After what seemed like an hour or two to her she stumbles upon a place called The False Ship and makes her way inside. 

She doesn't pay much mind to where she takes a seat and winds up taking a spot at an empty table not far from the corner. A bit out of the way of glances but not so much hidden. She orders herself a glass of wine at first skipping out on food. by the time her drink arrives she notices a... Paladin, she wasn't to sure but she would guess that based on armor color alone, walk in to the bar and take a seat. She found it rather strange given that she didn't think they'd visit bars to entirely often but she waits a bit and keeps an eye on him not making it to obvious. What she could tell though was he clearly was looking for something. 

Being the ever curious person she was she smiles a bit and slowly gets up from her seat before making her way over to the table. She takes a seat at the table with him while saying. "I hope this seat isn't taken. My name is Maria. You seem to be looking for something. Maybe I can help?"

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"I hope this seat isn't taken."

Cerik turned with a slight start as a woman's voice came to him from across the table. He had been focused on scanning another portion of the bar just a moment before, so he had been taken a bit off-guard. Nevertheless, he offered her a smile and nodded in response.

"Hmm? Oh, not at all. I don't mind the company."

"My name is Maria. You seem to be looking for something. Maybe I can help?"

The knight's grin seemed to widen for a moment, and he took a quick glance around the bar before returning his gaze toward Maria.

"Well, Maria... are my intentions really so obvious? Mmm, but you're right, I am indeed looking for something. I find myself facing a trial of a sort, one that apparently requires me to bring another person along, but will result in a great reward when undertaken. At least for me, that is. So I came to this tavern with finding such a person in mind. If you're up to such a task, I can offer you gold in exchange for your aid. Or alternatively, whatever else you may fancy that is within my means. Ask, and I will do my utmost in order to provide. Since, well, the reward for the trial is, in the end, really only beneficial to myself. It's only right to offer an equivalent reward for a task that would otherwise offer nothing except the experience."

With that said, Cerik turned away and dug into a coin pouch at his belt, pulling out two shining gold coins and setting them onto the table. He motioned a waitress over before turning back towards Maria.

"And that's that. If you're in, and don't have anything pressing to attend to beforehand, then how about we get on our way?"

The waitress came by and took the coins as Cerik stood up, then turned and made his way toward the door of the tavern.

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"Well... I've seen an adventurer or two in my travels and we all have that look when searching for a party." She returns with a smile. She happily hears him out after taking her seat at the table. Seemed rather mysterious to her as he didn't elaborate on the trial or tell her what it entailed, but never the less she was interested in the offer as it sounded full of adventure and she had nothing better to spend her time on. Seeing him pull the gold out and suggest getting a start on the adventure if she was in she gives a nod and finishes her drink. 

"Sounds like a delightful adventure all around. I can't see a real reason to decline the invitation." With that she places a coin on the table after he gets up and follows after him. She rather liked the idea of jumping straight into the trial. Typically she found most parties wanted to gear up so it was a nice change of pace for her "I suppose I should add that if the adventure goes well enough coin should be fine... Though, I suppose I should first ask what this trial is? Trails for knights are usually solo affairs are they not? I don't happen to know many knights so I may be out of the loop." There wasn't much that would scare her off an adventure so she had felt fine agreeing to a quest with out all the details.

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"Coin will suit you just fine, then? That's the simplest course, and I don't begrudge you for it at all. Gotta keep ourselves clothed, fed, and all of that, right?"

Cerik took a moment to let out a light chuckle, as he mulled over the rest of Maria's words. He lapsed into silence for a few moments as he exited from the tavern and approached his horse, an obviously well-groomed and noble white steed.

"Yeah, oftentimes a knight's trial is something he or she undertakes alone. Though, those trials tend to be structured through a more formal organization, such as an order of knights. I don't belong to one of those, at least not anymore. A sordid matter leading into banishment in my distant past... Anyways! This particular trial, I was informed by the entity guiding me to undertake the trial that I would have to pick up a companion in order to do so. And the trial's purpose is rather simple, though I will confess I am not aware of the form this trial will end up taking. The trial's purpose is to unlock the latent power of an artifact I hold in my possession, that being the Dead-Eye Monocle."

He paused to dig into the pouch on his belt, pulling out the monocle in question and holding it in his hand for Maria to view. It was a simple lens of glass, in a frame of titanium. But... there was this aura behind it. An aura of power, a fair bit beyond that of your typical enchanted object. After letting her get a good view of it, he took it and slipped it under his helm, and over his eye. Then, he climbed onto the back of his horse, who let out a curious whinny as she looked at Maria. Cerik let out a grin from where he sat.

"Can't tell if she likes you, or just caught the scent of apples on you. Either way, this here is Stormfire. My horse, and also my most constant companion on the long, winding roads. ... I think she only puts up with me because I fuel her apple addiction, but oh well."

Stormfire tossed her head and directed a glare up at Cerik, and he laughed and patted her head before resuming speaking.

"If you have your own mount, or another means of transportation that will keep up with Stormfire, then I'll wait here for you to fetch that before we get on our way. Or, if you don't? Stormfire is big and strong, she can very well carry the both of us with ease. In any case, as soon as you're ready, we'll head down the road south, and approach the mountains where the trial awaits."

As the knight finished speaking, a spectral woman appeared over his shoulder, smiling down at him. He wasn't aware if Maria had any of the spirit's presence, but he decided not to dwell on it as he flicked his gaze upwards for a moment. The spirit spoke after a moment's silence.

"I see that you have found a companion for your upcoming trial. Well done. I'll give you further details of what needs to be done when you reach the trial site. As for the journey there... there should be little issue. But remain vigilant, for there has been rumors of increased centaur presence in the Scudder Forests- as well as a string of incidents involving a rogue Hellmauler reported in the area you're heading toward."

Cerik gave Amura a silent nod, turning his gaze towards the road ahead while he awaited Maria's actions. Stormfire, meanwhile... directed what seemed to be a jealous glare at the spirit above her master's shoulder. Hopefully that wouldn't lead into anything bad in the future.

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"Yes you do and travel doesn't treat clothing that well." She adds with a bit of a laugh. She followed him to his horse and soon realized he was going horse back. She had never actually met anyone who traveled by horse. She herself wasn't entirely used to riding a horse. Before she can pose the problem though she is caught off guard by the man answering her other question and inquiry. She found him being discharged or banished a bit interesting but he seemed fine enough that she raised no real question on it. However his manner of acquiring the quest was a bit interesting. 

"I am sorry to hear of your banishment." She says with a rather saddened tone. "Although I can't see a reason to banish someone like you at the moment I'm sure there's a good reason for whatever you did." She adds with a sweet smile mostly for the standard before returning to the topic at hand. "Ah so we will learn of our trails as we go then. I suppose guiding entities tend to be rather vague on these things..."

As Cerik pulled the monocle out and showed it to her she gave it a fair look. The aura seemed a bit off to her for something of its power so she understood the idea to strengthen it and it seemed like a good base to her as she didn't often see things using titanium. Even if she wasn't a smith herself she knew enough and could tell great work when she had seen it. As the knight puts it away and gets on his horse she nods and notices the horse whine a bit. She offers her own pat and does a bit to show she means no harm as she replies. "I do not have my own mount. I found them strangely rare in parties and I'm not the best rider. So thanks for the offer. Think I'll take you up on it."

She takes her pack off and opens it a bit for her pet Nyx to climb into for safety before putting it back on and carefully climbing on behind him. As he looks over his shoulder she is a bit confused. She had no real sensitivity to spirits nor did she know any real magic for interacting with them. She doesn't say much on it simply getting in a position to not fall off before letting him know she is ready.

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Cerik let out a chuckle for a moment in response to Maria's statement about guiding entities.

"Life would be a bit easier, and maybe even better, if those guiding entities would be less cryptic. But oh well, that's how the cookie crumbles."

He also noted her comment about the rarity of mounts in parties, mulling over it while not offering a verbal response. There were some parties that preferred the feel of a swaying deck beneath them, and others that liked to ride in the sky in airships- but were riders truly so rare? Well, perhaps that was just her personal experience, since Cerik hadn't found riders in adventuring parties that uncommon. Not common, but not super rare either. Simply a difference in experiences, perhaps.

Soon enough, the two of them were on their way out of Aligoria and headed toward the mountains where the trial would be held. It wasn't much longer before the knight broke the silence that had settled between them.

"Well, Maria, you must be at least a bit curious as to why I was banished. And it's a matter of public record in the kingdom of Marcygate anyways, so it's not like a dark secret I dare not utter. So, what could lead to the banishment of a seemingly model knight like myself? The answer to that is simple, to a sad extent. I hold strongly to the oaths I make, for oaths are one of the things that set humans apart from animals. If we break oaths at the drop of a hat, then how much better are we than vicious beasts?... Anyways, on the day of my banishment, I broke the greatest oath I had made at the time. By my own hand, the liege lord I had sworn service to, my king, was slain. He was being controlled like a puppet by an evil wizard, so at the time, it seemed like the only right course of action. Yet..."

He paused for a moment.

"I still wonder if it was the only proper way? The king was still alive. Killing the wizard first might have broken him free from his enchantment, or if not, I would have been able to acquire aid, or research myself how to break him free from his curse."

He fell into a melancholy silence, then. There was a determination in his gaze when he finally turned and looked back at Maria.

"... But whether it was wrong, or right still, never again. I am stronger now, strong enough to not be forced into choosing between breaking an oath or losing everything through inaction."

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Maria was a bit surprised as Cerik broke the silence by offering up the story of his banishment.  She did have to admit she was curious but she didn't want to be rude and ask... "I do admit I am a bit curious. I imagine most would be but I would think it rude to ask." When he goes into his little speech on oaths it gets her to think a bit. She had never thought so strongly of them but then again it was a difference in upbringing. She wasn't raised in as much of a civilized way. Mostly growing up in villages and learning to fend for herself in the wilds. When he gets to the king her interest is peaked a bit more. She starts to feel a bit bad for him as being labeled an Oathbreaker for doing what seemed right was likely extremely demoralizing to someone...

She stayed quite for a moment as she had no real idea how to respond to it. He had a point in the curse or spell could have been broken but she wasn't there to see the whole thing play out. Was that really an option at the time? "I can't really speak on the circumstances but things happen how they happen. You did your best in the moment and that's all anyone can ever ask. People criticize everything you do even if it was right... but... that's just my opinion on the matter and I'm sure this isn't the first time you've heard that nor the last you'll hear it." She says trying to offer some comfort.

"It is nice to hear your determination not to let it happen again. That's an admirable quality to have." The smile soon fades from her face as she thinks for a moment before speaking again. "If it makes you feel better my past isn't exactly the cleanest thing either. I had to leave my village when I was fairly young because I lost control of my magic. I spent a lot of my younger years just learning to control my magic better so I didn't hurt more people with it." She knew the situations were different but she thought that maybe it would help them connect a bit.

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Cerik responded to Maria's mention of leaving her village with a jovial and musing tone.

"When you think about it, would somebody with a clean past and a happy home to return to really want to be out here like we are? Not saying there's not anybody out there like that, of course, just thinking that the kind of work us adventuring types undertake tend to be a bigger draw to those of us with less to lose."

He paused for a moment, his tone shifting to one more normal and less bemused as he resumed speaking.

"Oh, and thank you for your kind words. I would have greatly appreciated such words back at the time, as opposed to the whispers and thinly-veiled scorn I received instead. But they'll do just as well now, I suppose."

He turned away then, looking at the road ahead as he guided Stormfire toward their destination. They were skirting the outskirts of the Scudder Forests south of Aligoria now, en-route to the mountains where the end of this trip would be. Keeping Amura's previous warnings in mind, he scanned the area-

and froze as he spotted a blood-chillingly familiar sight. A dog-like creature was a short distance ahead of them, low along the ground and sniffing as if on the trail of something. A hellhound, covered with black flames that twisted and writhed over the beast's body and limbs.

"A Hellmauler... I fought one of these things prior to my banishment. A creature created by the entity known as the Shadow King. That particular one was a favorite act in the local circus, ironically enough. The dark wizard that corrupted my king brought the beast under its control as well, in his lust for power. My best friend and brother in arms died in order for us to bring down the beast. Maria, if you have an idea of how we can successfully sneak past it, I'm all ears. Or, if you're feeling particularly bold, perhaps we can work out a plan to take it by surprise and strike before it can muster a response."

As he finished speaking, the knight drew his sword: the blade covered in a silver sheen, it's guard shaped like bird's wings, and a grip of black leather. A knight's blade, through and through.

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"I never thought of it but I suppose you are right." Maria says with a bit of a laugh to her tone. "I don't tend to see many people coming from happy home or a clean past." When his tone shifts she gives a smile and slight nod. "Your welcome. It is the most I can offer now. " As they travel and the creature enters Ceriks sight and he makes mention of it, Maria scans the land before she notices it. She had never seen one before so she was glad for the mini history lesson on it. She wondered what the shadow king was though she makes a note to do some research or learn some of the history of this place before she heads her own way after this adventure. She found the fact the creature was used in the circus though rather funny.

She wasn't normally the one to vote for stealth but she had a feeling fire wouldn't work to well against it... "It looks like it might be searching for something so if we wait long enough it might pass... As I mentioned earlier I'm a pyromancer so I don't imagine fire will hurt it to much." Noticing he drew his sword she similarly draws her own: The blade having a rather dull shine to it, a circular guard and an almost scorched looking grip. After having drawed it she keeps her eye on the creature to make sure it doesn't start heading for them. She wondered what it was even searching for...

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Cerik nodded his assent to Maria's proposal.

"Hmm. Searching for something, you say? Well, I agree that it would probably be most prudent to wait for it to pass and see what it does."

He too wondered what the beast might be searching for. Could it be him? No, though he had once crossed blades with the dark knight named Gormaric, he had not otherwise crossed Aligoria in any manner. As well, Gormaric had not held any grudge over the matter (in fact there had been obvious respect for Cerik's skill there), and rumors said that he was now in the depths of dark Yh'mi and leading Aligorian operations there. Cerik thought that he might go there himself after this, the Order was said to be in need of whatever help they could get.

But in the here and now, Cerik watched the Hellmauler intently. If it was searching for something, what for? His gaze followed the creature's trail. There was a mound that it seemed to be approaching. The coloration, size, general shape... a dead horse? Perhaps just one loose from its pack, intent on its next meal. But the hair on the back of the knight's neck stood up, and there was the subtle, creeping feeling of dread. The mound arose. It was no dead horse, but a living centaur serving as bait for a trap. Cerik whipped around to see a group of centaurs charge from the woods behind them, whooping and hollering. So it seemed that the two of them were caught in the crossfire.

The knight braced for impact, turning Stormfire around so that he was in front and would take any incoming blows. The first centaur passed by and struck... he attempted to parry the blow, but was instead knocked off of the horse and onto the ground by an unexpectedly potent force behind the blow. Stormfire reacted quickly, moving to the side to take Maria out of the reach of the charging centaurs. A drawn-out groan and slow movement showed that Cerik wasn't dead or heavily wounded, just winded after having been unseated by that blow.

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Maria watched with Cerik wandering much of the same as him but she didn't focus much on scanning the area for signs instead choosing to watch it in case it's attention turned to them. She imagined the thing was likely fairly fast on its feet so being caught off guard wasn't something she wanted to happen. Though... This proved to be a bad call as she hears the loud noises of the centaurs. That would likely prove harmful to their plans of stealth as she now looks to the creature likely starting to notice the loud noises as well.

The first strick comes and while she was quick on her feet she wasn't used to being on a horse in combat so her reflex's proved slower then Ceriks as he turned the horse and takes the blow for her before the horse itself moves he away from the second. Looking to him with a rather worried and quick glance she notes that he appears fine. "Well... There goes the quite approach I suppose." She says with a slight laugh before hoping of the horse herself and helping Cerik up and reading herself for the next charge. She was a bit worried about the other problem in the area but the fight in front of her seemed like a more pressing matter.

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From his position on the ground, Cerik managed to pull himself up into a position of crouching with one knee on the ground. He drew forth a crossbow from his back, a weapon previously concealed by his white cloak. It was a well-crafted piece, one obviously made with great skill and care. Whether this knight was simply loaded with gold, or just took exquisite care of his equipment? That was up to Maria to decide for herself. In any case, the knight loaded a bolt onto the crossbow, and took aim at the centaur that had struck him. Maria might have noticed the sunlight from above glinting briefly from something beneath Cerik's helmet, before he released the bolt and sent it spinning forth through the air. The bolt struck with astounding precision, piercing the centaur's heart and bringing it to a sudden halt as it collapsed to the ground and its fellow centaurs continued their advance toward the Hellmauler. There were three centaurs now after the hellhound wreathed in black flames, two that had came from behind them and the one that had served as bait. 

Cerik analyzed the situation with a slight frown, and then turned toward Maria.

"Well... while they're occupied with each other, we can probably ride past them without issue."

He made a gesture with his left hand, and Stormfire moved forward to allow the knight to climb back onto the saddle. He leaned down and offered a hand toward Maria, to help her up if so needed. When she was back upon the horse, the knight would speak again.

"The affairs of Aligoria are certainly strange ones... but this situation is already well in hand. Let us go."

He directed these last words over his shoulder. just in front of the trees there, there was a figure in a black hooded cloak that muttered something upon realizing that the knight had been aware of their presence. They shot a glare at him before dashing off toward the melee between the Hellmauler and the centaurs. Cerik sent Stormfire galloping past this battle, pointing the horse down the somewhat rough and less-traveled road that would take them to their destination.

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Maria was a bit shocked to see Cerik produce a crossbow of such quality! She couldn't tell how it was kept in such great shape but she had to guess he just maintained it that well. He certainly seemed the type that might take pride in his gear. It almost made her feel somewhat shameful as her sword didn't look as well maintained mostly due to lack of knowledge on improving or fixing her sword. More impressive though was the shot he made. It looked rather easy to him and with the situation as it stood she was glad to have a competent ally on the adventure... She felt out shinned a bit though as she didn't get to do much before he makes the comment on riding past while they have their focus drawn elsewhere.

"That seems like a good idea. If we can avoid a fight then we probably should avoid it." She takes his hand, sheathes her blade, and climbs up on the horse with him.

As he mentions the figure, she turns her gaze and notices it as well. She wasn't to sure what exactly the figure was up to nor did she bother herself much with political stuff. She liked to just stick to her adventures and only ever bothered to dive much into things beyond her mission if it felt needed. "Seems like it is then I suppose..." As they raced off she turned her eye back to the centaurs and the Hellmauler mostly readying her hand in case something broke off from the fight to stop them. She didn't want to be surprised by something again...

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"That seems like a good idea. If we can avoid a fight then we probably should avoid it."

Cerik nodded his agreement with Maria's statement, comment as Stormfire took them past the conflict without any of the involved parties breaking off in pursuit. When they were clear of any potential danger, the knight visibly relaxed and quipped over his shoulder without turning around.

"Mind you, I'm not involved with the affairs of that mysterious kingdom of Aligoria in any direct way. I just have some idea of what they're up to since I've had my base of operations, which you could even call my home, in this area for a good while before they suddenly sprang up, practically overnight even. There was apparently some kind of civil war that caused shifts in power in various locales around the continent? But that hasn't made much difference for an adventurer like me, honestly..."

He trailed off into silence. The knight obviously had something on his mind, and he mulled over for it a time before speaking up again a distance down the road.

"If I can learn more of Aligoria's goals and motivations, and if I find them good... I actually might want to become a 'true knight' once more, one in service to a worthy liege. The spirit of adventure, the allure of the open road, and all of that? It has begin to fade in luster, started to lose it's allure to me. I am feeling the desire to have more stable work to speak, to have an oath and a code to adhere to once more that is not solely my own."

He paused for a moment.

"Maria, have you ever thought of what you'd like to do if you weren't here? As in, if you weren't out adventuring and all of that?"

Cerik would wait patiently for her response, an expression of curiosity visible upon his face. Was it just sheer curiosity, or was there some other motive behind the knight's question? In either case, it would be hard to tell.

A short time after this conversation was over, the duo would find themselves at the base of a good-sized mountain. It was no towering monstrosity of one that looked oh so daunting to even begin to climb, but it was a respectable formation nonetheless. Stormfire came to a full stop, and the spirit Amura materialized in front of the duo- fully visible to Maria this time if she hadn't been before, and addressing the both of them at once.

"Sir Cerik, and Lady Maria, who has elected to follow this knight in his trial... you have reached the mountain that is your destination. The site of the trial itself is up the mountain, though you will not have to make the climb all the way to peak itself. Your first task, so to speak, is to scale this mountain to reach the site of the trial proper. Once there, I will lay out the remainder of the tasks that must be undertaken. Best of luck to you both..."

After this proclamation, Cerik was quick to slide out of the saddle and onto the ground before, and start to search his pack and Stormfire's saddlebags in obvious search of something.

"I have a rope somewhere in here, do I not? And a grappling hook to attach to the end of it?"

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