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#12848010 Nov 11, 2016 at 03:16 PM · Edited over 1 year ago
Guild Leader
1158 Posts
Chapter 1 - October 15, 2016


Loren Michael, having finally cleared a highly technical area of dragon minions yet again, steps onto a platform to leave so he can go home. Something about the platform feels a bit off, but before he can jump off to figure out if something’s wrong, he is teleported out to a completely unrecognizable location. All he can see below him is water in all directions, as far as he can see… Except for a large ship underneath him, not far from where he should land. He starts to panic a little bit and frantically looks around again to see if there’s any land nearby, and when he sees nothing else he decides to start screaming to get the attention of people on the ship so he can hope to be rescued when he lands in the water.


Lomiel and Vidar are in the belly of the ship, they had just finished eating a meal. Lomiel says to Vidar, “Hey short stack, you wanna go see what the clouds looks like today?” Vidar was looking pretty green, as he had never been on a ship before this trip, and knew that Lomiel was probably just worried about him booting all over the ship again. Without hesitation, the stocky dwarf agrees and assumes the position, finding his usual place along the railing, and prepares for the inevitable. Lomiel notices, as they make their way up, that there were some other people rushing up the stairs behind them with something big in front of them. Stepping aside for them to pass by, Lomiel looks upward toward the sky and notices that the clouds are not the only thing she sees. They start to hear some yelling and suddenly there’s a big splash over the side of the ship. Lomiel grabs a rope and prepares to toss it overboard toward the human splashing in the water, but, despite the added flourish as she threw the rope, it pretty much just flops overboard. Luckily one of the sailors nearby takes over and tosses a life preserver overboard to land right next to the person bobbing in the water next to the ship.


Once on board the ship, Loren gets a chance to ask the only things on his mind, “Where are we? Where are we going?” and the only thing he hears is that they are heading to a port he’s never heard of called Toron - a place he’s never heard of. For the rest of the night (and the rest of the trip) he keeps asking people on the ship if they’ve heard of Lion’s Arch, Cantha, Elona… any other port he could think of, but no one seems to know anything about his home lands. Noticing all of these interesting questions about far-away places, Lomiel just tags along with Loren and is just fascinated with everything he says. Vidar, meanwhile, just sits back and settles in as his stomach calms back down to prepare for his next meal.


-----





Karnium and Ekaterin, though they had never met before, happened to be traveling down a road toward Toron together. “So, are you headed to this town or are you just passing through?” asks Ekaterin in an attempt to strike up some conversation. Karnium, looking up a bit at her traveling companion, replies that she is “just coming to town to see what it’s about.” Ekaterin, having no real plans, gives a fairly vague answer, as she has no solid plans at this point. Karnium sees an excellent opportunity to invite her new-found human friend to the pub when they arrive in town.
As they approach the gates of the city, they start to intermingle with farmers and merchants who are tending to their crops and wares, noticing city guards keeping a watch on the crowd. They found a tavern called The Prancing Pony and decided to settle in for a meal and an ale or two… or five, maybe. Entering the tavern, many people turn their heads and take note of the newcomers. There’s no hostility, but people seem to be taking stock of the human monk and dwarven cleric who have just wandered into their little watering hole. The barkeep comes over and offers them some lunch. Karnium offers to pay for a plate for each of them. As they sit and start to relax, a large man in gorgeous armor stands in the doorway, helmet at his side, looks around and starts to walk over to their table with an air of importance. “New in town?” the man asks. Karnium, without hesitation, says “aye, sir, I am.” Ekaterin stands up aside the table and asks “Why do you want to know?” The man looks straight down at Ekaterin and explains, “I am the Captain. I don’t want trouble in my town. That’s why I want to know.”

“Won’t find any trouble here,” replies Ekaterin.

“Not here for trouble, just looking to see what’s about,” adds Karnium.

The captain continues to ask them if they are looking for work. Not wanting to jump into anything too quickly, the travelers simply go about their meal but not before asking where they can find him later if they decide to help out.


-----



Azriel, having traveled for some time now, finally approached Toron from the South, hoping to find a way to make some money to get by for a little while. As he approaches, he notices the city seems pretty quiet. The guard keeping watch over the gate starts to interrogate Azriel, asking him what he’s doing here. Azriel looks around, trying to figure out if the guard is talking to him or not. He decides to ignore the guard and continue toward the gate. Suddenly, the guard steps directly into his path and asks again, “What are you doing here?” Not missing a beat, Azriel stops and looks straight up at the guard and says, “I’m just traveling through.”

“Little short to be traveling by yourself, don’t you think?”

“I can handle myself,” Azriel responds, firmly.

The guard steps aside and allows Azriel to continue into the city and doesn’t seem to give him a second thought. Seems obvious the guards are just there to make sure people know they’re being watched.

Azriel starts walking through the city, past a few merchant stalls once in a while, getting busier as he gets closer to the center of the city. Azriel glances at the shops as he walks by them. He notices a lady standing along the main street who has flowing black hair, daggers at her side, and even though she’s caught his attention he gets the feeling that she’s someone he should probably stay clear of her if possible. He steers himself to the side of the street to find somewhere he can blend in and keep watching this mysterious rogue lady. She browses through some antique wares, carefully inspecting the things she picks up. Azriel notices that, as she does this, she stares intently at a metal wristband while holding an item before deciding to put them back down and pick up the next item. After observing this a few times, Azriel watches as she moves away from the vendors and makes her way toward a nearby side alley. Intrigued with her, Azriel makes his way across the street and toward the alley as nonchalantly as possible. Luckily, no one seems to pay him any mind. When he gets there, he sees she’s already turned the corner and started to make her way down a side street. He starts to follow, noticing that she’s made her way around every corner toward a far wall where there are hardly any people around, and starts looking at her wristband again. Azriel makes his way toward her again, doing his best to hide behind various tables and barrels on his way. He stumbles over one of the crates a little bit, but is amazingly able to turn his stumble into a graceful flip, landing somewhat gently in the middle of the crowd without injury. Unfortunately, his acrobatic feat attracted the attention of nearby shoppers as well as the rogue he was following. Turning her attention from her bracelet, she asks him, “Who are you? What are you doing there?”

“I uh, was just seeing if there were any more antique shops back here since you were, uh, such an expert at them,” Azriel responds.

Her eyes narrow as she asks, “What do you mean, ‘expert’?”

“Well, you were looking at all those fancy vases and statues, but it looked like you could tell they were fake, even though they looked really valuable,” he tried to explain, innocently.

She decides that there was no harm in the boy’s interest, knowing she was pretty distracted while shopping. She suddenly takes a lunge, swoops past him, and lands 15 feet away on the other side of Azriel. She picks up a gun that Azriel recognizes as his own. He whips around and shouts, “Hey, that’s mine!” She takes a glance at her wristband and tosses the gun back onto the ground, “You’re lucky that doesn’t work, or it wouldn’t be yours for much longer.”

Azriel scoops up his gun, and with an annoyed look on his face replies, “It was mine no matter what you wanted.”

“I don’t know about that. Pretty sure I could keep it if I wanted to. Just be thankful it doesn’t work,” she remarks, as she walks confidently past the boy, as if she’s done with him.

Still intrigued with the lady, Azriel decides to turn around and follow her as she walks away. . She slows her pace, knowing that she was still being followed, so she rounds another corner into an alley with a dead end.

When Azriel arrives in the alley, she begins to interrogate him, “Why are you still following me?”

“What are you doing back here?”

“That was not the question that I asked,” she replies, a bit annoyed.

“But it’s the question I asked.”

“You make it sound like I care about your questions. Why are you following me?” she insists.

Azriel takes out the handgun that she had inspected earlier, innocently turning it over in his hands as he spoke, “what are you looking for in all these different things?”

She looks back at the boy, draws her daggers, and says, “if you really want to know, why don’t you try using that thing?”

Azriel raises the gun in his right hand, points it at her and pulls the trigger. As he does so, projectile burning hands come flying from the gun, but they hit the wall behind her as she easily ducks out of the way.

“What’s your reason for being in town? Cause if you’ve got the skills that I think you do, I could use your help.”

“Well, I’d be more helpful if this was working,” Azriel stammers, looking over the gun, “It’s not really working now for some reason. It was working before!” He stops suddenly, looks up at her with a blank face and asks, “What do you need help with?”

“There’s an item I’m looking for in the city here, and I might need a little help acquiring it.”

“Why do you want it?”

“Let’s just say it’s better that I have it than someone else,” she says, convincingly.

“So, someone else has it?”

“At this point in time, yes. It could be very dangerous if they are able to keep it.”

The boy’s ears perk up at the word. “What kind of dangerous?”

“You see this city around us? It would be nothing but flat land if it actually did what it’s intended to do. That kind of dangerous.”

“And what are you gonna do with it?” Azriel asks, suspiciously.

“I’ll make sure it never hurts anyone. Ever.”

“And how could you find this?”

“I’ve got my ways.”

“Is it with that wristband?”

“What wristband, what are you talking about? This bracer that I’m wearing?” she says, motioning toward her wrist as though the item on her wrist is just a normal piece of jewelry.

The boy doesn’t let up, “yeah, the metal one you look at every time you hold an item.”

“It’s a bracer,” she pauses, “It’s got a nice reflection. I can see what’s going on behind me when I look in it.”

The boy, only somewhat convinced, agrees to help her find the item. She tells him that she knows where it is, and that she’ll pay him for his help. “Let’s head toward the docks, maybe we can find a couple more people to help us.”

“Count me in, I’m right behind you,” Azriel says as they start to head toward the docks.


-----



It’s been about a week since the ship left port on its way to Toron, so when it pulled up to the dock, Luli Sprocket was relieved that she didn’t have to be cooped up with her tiger, Frankincense, anymore. Luckily, she’s fairly petite as gnomes go, so it wasn’t terribly cramped. Nonetheless, it was time to get back onto land. As she starts to coax Frankincense toward the docks, her fellow gnome traveler, Poxz, tries his best to play just one more trick on her and tries to make a big splash to help “encourage” the tiger to make his way down the ramp a bit faster. Luckily, all it does is look like a bunch of bubbles popped up to the surface. Poxz gives a good chuckle anyway, and follows Luli on his way toward the market.

Luli’s first order of business is haggling for a nice meal for Frankincense, and goes straight to one of the fish vendors by the docks. She starts to look around in her bag as the merchant attempts to work out a deal with her, but while doing so she has Frankincense give a growl at the man. “If you want to have a hungry tiger in your face, that’s up to you.”

He looks down at the tiger, unimpressed. “I deal with worse things with these hungry peasant kids strolling around. I’m here to make a buck. I’ll trade up, but I ain’t giving nothing for free.”

Luli looks over what the merchant’s got available. Some of the fish are still very fresh, some are a bit older. She starts to look for a decent snack for Frankincense without spending too much gold right away. “What’ll three gold get me?”

The merchant takes out a fair amount of very fresh fish, “this should take care of you pretty good.”

Luli agrees to the trade, and tosses one of the fish to Frankincense as the merchant packs up the other two for her. “Good doing business with ya. Good luck out there.”

“Yeah, don’t get eaten by any whales or whatnot,” Luli says as she walks away.


-----



Azriel, wandering closer to the docks with his new employer, asks her, “What’s your name, by the way?”

The rogue stops, looks at him and says, “Viola.”

He continues to follow her, though she seems distracted, perhaps by the new ship that has just come into port. She looks over to the boy, “Go take your own time. We’ll meet just north of here at sundown.” She turns her head to motion toward a storage warehouse. “Just in there, and then I’ll tell you what we’re doing.”

Azriel backs away slowly and makes his way toward a tiger he noticed that had come off the ship.


-----



Now that Frankincense is fed, Luli turns her attention to the rest of the crowd around the docks and notices a younger boy whose gaze seems to be fixated on her pet. She also notices Poxz standing off to the side a bit, watching the crowd, maybe looking for someone to play a trick on.
Poxz notices a woman with long, black hair curiously examining some items at a booth selling antiques, but she doesn’t really look like someone who’d react well to his tricks, so he just continues to watch the crowd.

Azriel, now much closer to the tiger, squats down in front of the tiger a good arm’s length away. “Do you want to get eaten? That’s how you get eaten,” she warns.

“Why do you have a tiger? Is this your tiger?” he asks.

Luli leans against Frankincense, “Yeah, this is my tiger. What of it?”

“Did you put a tiger on a boat?” he asks, skeptically.

“I have to travel.” Luli answers, annoyed.

“But tigers don’t go on boats,” he replies.

“Tigers swim. Can’t swim across an ocean,” she starts to explain, defensively.

“What’s the tiger’s name?”

“What’s your name?” Luli retorts.

“Uh, what’s your name?” Azriel replies back.

“Are we really going to play this game?”

“I asked first.”

“You asked what my tiger’s name was.”

“Yeah, and unless it’s gonna answer it for me, could you tell me?”

“Eventually he’s gonna get bored and try to eat your face. I can just stand here and let that happen.”

Pocz’s ears perk up a bit at the exchange when he hears Luli’s agitated voice in the distance.

Azriel continues, “Well, it’s clear you’ve trained your tiger to be around people. I don’t think it’s that threatening.”

“Well, that’s only because I haven’t said the word.” Luli tries to explain.

Out of nowhere, Poxz is suddenly in Luli’s face again, “What’s the word? What’s the word? Can you tell ME the word?” Poxz spins around to face Azriel and continues, “Hi, I’m Poxz, what’s your name?” and stares at the boy intently.

Azriel is thrown off guard at the gnome’s sudden presence… and even moreso that he asked these questions and didn’t wait for a response! “My name is Azriel.”

“Boy, that’s uh. That’s deep. I’m gonna call you Azzy.”

Azriel takes it in stride, and immediately goes back to asking questions. “Are you two related?” he asks Poxz, about him and Luli.

“I don’t know.” Poxz answers quickly, “What do you think, sister?”

“No.” Luli interjects with a sigh.

“You’re brother and sister?”

“No!” Luli insists.

“Yes!”

“No!” Luli insists again.

“How could you not know?”

“Oh, don’t worry about it, she’s got amnesia.” Poxz tries to explain.

“No! NO! NO!” Luli says, many times, often interrupting Poxz’s answers.

“She forgets things!”

Azriel continues asking questions, “Oh, did you come here together then?”

“That’s why she’s not telling you the tiger’s name, she doesn’t know it! She can’t remember it!”

“Oh. What’s the tiger’s name then?” Azriel asks Poxz.

“Harold.” Poxz says confidently.

“NO!” screams a frustrated Luli. “His name is Frankincense, you asshole.”

“Oh, oh,” says Poxz, “that’s what it was yesterday.”

Luli gives out a huge, frustrated sigh.

“Isn’t that a spice?” asks Azriel.

“Eh, sometimes.” Poxz answers.

“Come on, we’re leaving.” says Luli, clearly tired of the exchange.

Not skipping a beat, Azriel asks, “Where are you going?”

“Somewhere else.” says Luli, exasperated at this point.

“What’s going on?” Viola asks as she approaches the group. “I didn’t expect you to actually make trouble.”

“Oh! More people!” says Poxz.

“Is this one yours? Please take him.” Luli says to Viola.

Azriel stands up and declares, “I’m no one’s.”

Luli looks at Azriel, “That’s lovely,” looks back at Viola, “Is that one yours?”

“Mine what?”

“Child, spouse, I don’t know.”

“No, no. He’s going to help me with something.” explained Viola.

“Then control your employee, please.”

“My employees do what they want. As long as they listen to what I tell them to do, that’s all they need to do.”

Azriel interjects, “Hey, I’m not listening to you, I’m just… following you.”

Viola looks to Azriel, “That could be considered a form of listening.”

“Sounds like a follower to me,” adds Poxz.

“I’m not a follower!” insists Azriel.

“Are you a leader?” asks Poxz.

“No...:”

“Bored now.” says Poxz, suddenly uninterested in Azriel.

“So what are you two here for?” asks Viola of Poxz and Luli.

“Oh, looking for ways to make money, have fun.” answers Poxz.

“Really?” Viola takes a moment. “How’d you like to come and help me out with a small job I need to do?”

Poxz flips his coin, looks at it and agrees.

“And you, tiger lady?”

“My name is Luli.”

“Could be some nice coin involved for it if you guys help me out.”

“Does it involve ships? Because I’m sick and tired of ships.”

“No, it doesn’t involve ships.”

“Good. Then I guess I could use a job.”

“Does it involve spiders?” injects Poxz.

“I don’t think so, but -” she starts.

“Does it involve giants?” Poxz interrupts.

“-you should be prepared for anything.” finishes Viola.

“Do you ever smile?” Poxz asks

Viola grins a bit, “What do you think?”

Poxz grimaces a bit, “Ugh, let’s not do that again.”

“Ok, meet me by that storage place later tonight.” Viola motions toward the same storage warehouse that she had showed Azriel earlier. “I’ll see you later.” she says, as she starts to wander away from the docks again.


-----



Karnium and Ekaterin, as they ate their lunch, got better acquainted with each other and decided to go and find the captain to inquire about some work once they were finished with their lunch and a few ales. As they slowly (and carefully) make their way out of the tavern, they stumble a bit and realize that they had been sitting there for a bit longer than they thought they were. Ekaterin throws her arm around Karnium as she stumbles a bit, and they reorient themselves toward their goal.

“Where are we goin’ again?” asks the slightly drunken dwarf.

“Ummm, shiny armor, right? Outside somewhere?” guesses Ekaterin.

“Yes, I think it was… towards the people with pointy things. Let’s head that way.”

“Yeah, shiny people with pointy things.”

As they leave the tavern, they see the “shiny people with pointy things” standing outside of the entrance to something.

“Top of the mornin’ to ya gents and ladies, I can’t really tell, but… good mornin’!” slurs Karnium.

“Can we help you?” asked one of the guards.

“Yeah, we’re looking for another lad with shiny clothing like you got. Another gentleman, quite large, you seen one about?”

The guards look at each other and back at Karnium, “You’ve just described half the city.”

“Oh, I’m remembering. He said what he was!” said Ekaterin, suddenly.

“Oh! What was he?”

“Uh… Something big. Not an admiral… Uh…”

“Was he a chef?”

“No, nope. Uh… Swords! But he wouldn’t be workin’ the desk. Captain! It was the captain!”

“Oh, he’s driving a ship!” exclaimed the dwarf.

“Yeah!”

The guards get a concerned look on their faces as they watch you, and one of them starts to walk off, “Just wait here.” and leaves the other guard to keep an eye on their new friends.

Looking at the remaining guard, Karnium asks, “You’re a lad, right?”

“My name’s John.”

“Hi John, I’m Karnium. This here’s Ekaterin.”

“It’s… it’s a pleasure to meet you,” John replies, unsure of their motives.

“T’was a fine tavern you had at the beginning of town, good sir.”

“Yes, yes I’m sure it probably was.” John says as he starts to back away slowly toward the wall of the building.

“Aren’t you feelin’ well?”

“Oh, I’m fine, I just need to be… over here,” motions John, toward the building.

“Oh, ok, we’ll just wait for your friend, then.”

Karnium starts to realize that maybe the reason why John is backing away is because they do seem to smell quite pungently of alcohol. She tries to play it off, “oh, it’s just a natural fragrance,” as John goes to cover his nose a bit.

“I’m feeling a little queasy,” says Ekaterin as she starts to lurch a bit.

“Why don’t we find a nice alley for you. Come this way…”

Ekaterin falls over as she continues to make her way to the side of the building. “Perhaps we should get some water for ya,” Karnium says as she notices the guard poking his head around the corner.

“Oh, did I not see a fountain?” Ekaterin asked.

“Are you okay?” asked John, after watching for a few seconds.

“Aye, could you direct us to some water? I think she needs a fresh drink.”

John leaves for a few minutes and returns with a bucket of water, which Ekaterin promptly pours over her head. “Well, whatever works I guess,” says Karnium.

Not long after that, the Captain returns with the other guard. As the two emerged from the alley, he asked them, “So, you thought about the offer, then?”

“Aye, I we might be interested, what say you Ekaterin?”

“What’s it pay?”

“We’ll say, 30 gold. Each.”

“My, that’s a mighty handsome reward.”

“What’s the job?”

The Captain goes on to explain that they’ve gotten reports that someone is going to try to steal an artifact that is going to be transported to the capital, and it’s supposed to happen tonight. They need some people to help make sure that the theft doesn’t happen. He also offers some well-trained guards who will help with the task. Looking the guards over, Karnium seems pretty confident that the guards will be good enough help for the task ahead of them.

“I feel they won’t trip us up too much. So where is this theft supposedly being taken?” she asks.

“In a small area inside the barracks here, I’ll take you,” responds the Captain.







The Captain explains that the artifact is located in the north center room, and that they only have to make sure it is secure for tonight. He takes them to see the artifact so they know what they’re guarding. It is small, cylindrical, and has a small marking on the side that resembles an upside-down exclamation point or a person. “Scholars at the capital want to take a look at this, so we just need to keep it safe until we can get it there.”

“Is there a particular reason why it’s in a central room?” asks Ekaterin.

“It’s just where we happened to place it,” sighed the Captain, “we really could have placed it anywhere, to be honest. That’s why you can move it if you feel this is a bad location for it.”

“I’m not sure there’s a good one,” adds Karnium, “it’s not a terribly secure building.”

“Yeah, that’s why we need the extra help. And unfortunately, with things happening at night, everybody needs sleep, eh? So half of us will probably be asleep. And so we need the extra help.”

“I’ll sleep when I’m dead. Or when I’m drunk enough. Either one.”

“Yeah, I used to think that way. Then I became a guard. Now I just want to sleep all the time. But, pay’s in it for you. Like I said, this is important. The capital does want to get a hold of this so they can have their scholars look at it and find out what this is, because nobody has ever found one of these before.”

“Well alright then, what sort of trouble are you expecting?”

“We don’t know. All we heard is that somebody was going to try and steal this. We have a personal guarantee from one of the archaeological directors at the capital who’s in town right now that somebody is going to be trying to take this so he can’t transport it to the capital.”

“I’m a bit curious. We here for the job now, or we show up tonight?” asked Karnium.

“As long as you don’t come in the exact same condition you’re in now, I think you’re pretty safe. You got a few hours to walk it off, so I’m sure you’ll be-”

“Well what condition are you referring to? I’m fine.”

“I’m feeling better!” added Ekaterin.

“Might want to take a bath beforehand, though.”

“Ah, well maybe the stink will scare off your intruders.”

“More likely, it’ll make all my guards pass out.”

“There’s no need to be rude!”

Changing the subject, Ekaterin pointed out that she thinks she’d like the artifact moved. The Captain said they’d take care of its movement closer to the evening, and directed them to the bathhouse behind the barracks. When Karnium asked, he agreed to do his best to arrange a meeting with the archaeologist so they could ask some questions and get a better idea of what they might be dealing with tonight. The Captain wanders off and leaves the two of them to clean up and get ready for the evening.


-----



Night finally falls. Azriel, Poxz and Luli gather by the storehouse and go inside to meet Viola. She’s standing in the far corner with a single lamp lit, illuminating the area. She’s looking over a small piece of paper in her hands. Pocxs runs over and tries to see the paper, “Whatcha got? Whatcha got? Whatcha got?” he asks, trying his best to see the paper.

Viola tries her best to calm him, “Just hang back a little bit. This is all or your guys anyways.” She pulls open a map, “this is the building where the artifact is being held. We need to get in there and get it out.”

“Ah, so we’re taking something?” asks Luli.

“Yeah. It’s an old artifact. It’s something that could have very dangerous consequences if not dealt with.”

“Dangerous to us?”

“Dangerous to everyone.”

“So we need to get it out there and I need to take care of it.”

“What does that entail?” asks Azriel.

“That’s where I need you guys to come in. I need you guys to see if we can figure out a way to get in and get out with the artifact without causing any issues.”

“What’s this thing do?” asks Poxz.

“I can’t tell you much more than, it would be very dangerous.”

“What’s it called?” asks Luli.

“What color is it?” Poxz chimes in.

“It doesn’t have a name that you know of, that you would understand, but it is a cylindrical object.”

“Does it have a name? Harold?”

“You can name it whatever you want.”

“Alright guys, let’s get Harold”

Azriel listens intently as the gnomes ask their questions.

“Wait, who has this thing now?”

“Right now, it’s being held by the town guards.” says Viola.

“Oh, good.”

“How much are we getting for it?” asks Luli.

“I’ll give you 30 gold a piece, how does that sound?”

“Depends on the difficulty, but, for now, fair.”

“The building itself doesn’t look like it’s too hard to get in and out of. We just need to watch and pay attention. The guards are alert, but at night they tend to slack off a little bit and there’s far fewer of them.” explains Viola.

“If this thing’s so dangerous, why is it bad that the guards have it?” Poxz asks, skeptical of her motives.

“There is someone who’s trying to take it from them.”

“Like, you?” Poxz asks sarcastically.

“That ISN’T me. And unfortunately, they have my personal credentials, so I had to resort to other means to get a hold of it.”

“So, your sister? Sibling? Co-worker?” asks Luli.

“Not quite, but they have access to it, unfortunately.”

Azriel finally chimes in, “So what are YOU going to do with it?” and tries to get a read on Viola to figure out what her motives might be.

She looks him in the eyes and says, “I’m going to destroy it.”

Azriel doesn’t move.

“So, we have to find a way to get in here, get this item out. From my own recognizance, it sounds like they may have found a couple people to help them out this evening, so there might be a little bit more than just standard guards. That being said, I’m going in with you guys too, so it’s not like you’re going in blind.”

“How kind.” says Luli.

“So, which way do you think we should do this?”

Poxz looks around the room to maybe find some rats to talk to to maybe find out if they know of a way into the barracks where the artifact is. The only helpful clues that the rats could offer was to go in through the roof, since the guards don’t patrol that. The barred windows are too small, the sewer grates are a possibility.

Azriel asks Viola, “How heavy is the cylinder? Can I slip it in my pocket?”

“It’s not that heavy, it’s something anyone could carry. It might not be as easy to run with it, might have to walk with it. Definitely wouldn’t fit in a pocket.”

The group continued to toss around some ideas.

“Anything else about the extra help?” Azriel asked Viola.

“Just that they’re two drunks.”

Discussion of plans continued. Azriel was certain that he could at least be a distraction if he were to walk up to the guards and pretend that he was looking for his father. At the very least, he could act as a distraction when they go to toss him out. They eventually decide to split up a little bit to check out the perimeter and the windows.


-----



Meanwhile, the guard Captain finally makes his way to meet up with Karnium and Ekaterin with some bad news. Unfortunately the archaeologist is tied up talking to the Lord to finalize plans for the transportation of the artifact in the morning and won’t be able to come and talk with them tonight.

Ekaterin jumps right into moving the artifact to a more secure location to ensure its safety. “I insist that we move the artifact. You have it in probably the worst possible location in this building as far as I can tell.”

“Do you have suggestions for where it might work better?” asked the Captain.

“Yes, I would like it in the front of the building, where anybody approaching the building is more likely to be visible. I would like it in the corner because then I’m protected on two sides and only have one entrance into the building and one entrance by a window. So, either of the front corners would suit me much better.” explained Ekaterin.

The guard agreed, “ Tell you what, why don’t you pick one of those and that where we’ll move it to.” Ekaterin chooses the southwestern corner of the building. “Ok, we’ll get it moved right now,” as he grabs a guard and barks orders to have the artifact moved. Ekaterin and Karnium insist on escorting it until it gets to the new room. On the way there, the girls figure out which of them will be in charge of guarding the door and the other, the window. As the guard makes his way over, Ekaterin notices he’s stumbling a bit. When asked the guard explains that he’s tired and that the shifts are changing soon. There will be a fresh set of guards with them overnight.

“What are the patrol routes and how many guards are going to be with us?” Ekaterin asks the guard.

“There will be four separate groups patrolling, with two guards each. Takes roughly 15 minutes to do a full patrol. Things should be kept pretty safe with them patrolling around. If the two of you are right here, I don’t see any problems.”

“Aye, well we’ll make sure your faith’s well placed.” Karnium chimes in.

“Good, that’s what I like to hear. We’ll get the shift swap done and we’ll see you in the morning.” The guard says as he wanders off to prepare the next round of guards for their shift.

As the new guards take their places, Karnium wonders out loud if it would be good for morale if she set the tone for the night crew with a song from the old mountains. Ekaterin trades places with the dwarf so she can prepare for the evening in meditation by the window. None of guards were familiar with such songs, but someone did request "Free Bird", so Karnium broke out into song as she looked around for a lute.


-----



Azriel, Poxz and Luli, having made it to the corner of the outer barracks compound wall, take a look around at the fresh set of guards. They saw Viola dash toward the wall, run straight up it and over, and vanishes. The guards don’t seem to notice her, but they are paying close attention to the people mingling in the streets.

Luli, looking at Poxz, asks if he can jump. Poxz, unsure of where she is going with this question. Before he could give a firm enough “no,” Luli touches his shoulder and casts “Jump” on both him and Frankincense. In no time at all, all three of them are on the roof, leaving Azriel on the ground to distract the guards. Azriel quickly walks up to the gate and starts talking to the guards.

“Is this the barracks?” he asks them.

“Of course it is. What rock have you been living under?” the guard replied, clearly exhausted and not amused with his job at the moment.

“Oh, I was a traveler with the two drunks who came in earlier today and I was wondering if they’re still here or not.” Azriel says, searching for more information.

“Two drunks?” the guard responds, “They said they were traveling together with nobody else, but yeah they’re still here.”

“Well that’s not true, I’m with them too. You know who they are?”

“I don’t know who they are, they’re just some dwarf and human.”

“Yeah, and they like to drink. They’re definitely with me, in my party. If they’re still here, can I bring them home? We’re supposed to set out tonight.” Azriel bluffs.

“Well, I can’t let you in, but I’ll go and grab one of them and get them to come out here.” the guard says before wandering into the building, leaving the second guard behind.


-----



“I’m as free as a bird now…” Karnium continued singing, even though about an hour has passed.

The song came to an abrupt end as the guard from the gate asked her about a third traveling companion who was asking about them outside. Karnium and Ekaterin look at each other a bit puzzled and spoke briefly, only to have Karnium turn back to the guard to say, “No, we don’t know this person.”

“Alright, that’s why I figured I’d check,” said the guard as he turned to go back, “Keep up the good work.”

Ekaterin turned to Karnium, “Something is a little odd here.”

“I agree. Why would anyone be lookin’ for us?”

“How about we switch our positions back? I am well prepared and ready for anything that comes our way.”

Karnium agrees, “I think that’s a good plan. I shall see what’s about at the window.”

The two get ready for the rest of the watch that they have ahead of them for the night.


-----



Poxz and Luli had just landed in the shadows by the training grounds of the barracks compound. The main barracks are about 30 feet away, with torches illuminating the front of the building. They notice Viola in the distance, running to the back end of the barracks. No patrols seem to be making their way around right now. Poxz moves toward the building as stealthily as possible to see if he can get to the building to jump onto the roof. He hit a few sticks and twigs on the way, but managed to get to eastern wall of the building without attracting any unwanted attention. Unfortunately, once he got to the wall, he noticed that it’s 30 feet tall - much taller than he thought it might be. He tries to jump to see if Luli’s spell is still active, but unfortunately he can’t get quite high enough to grab the roof. He signals back to Luli to follow him and Viola to the back end of the building. She has Frankincense take a leap to quickly catch up to the others but the tiger gets caught up in his feet a bit and lands a bit short. Luckily the guards didn’t notice anything.

“That was a really funny jump with your tiger there, but perhaps we should hurry up a bit.”

“Did you get a look at the roof?”

“It’s made out of bricks, lots of bricks,” Poxz notes as they make their way around the back of the building together.


-----



The gate guard returns to Azriel. “I don’t think these are the right drunks that you’re looking for. They said they’ve never seen anybody like you before, ever. They were traveling alone before they got to town.”

“What? They’re drunk." insists Azriel.

“Well, they seem pretty sober to me.”

“Maybe they just don’t remember.”

“Well, I can’t claim whether they remember or not. As far as I’m concerned, you weren’t here, you’re not hired. I can’t let you in.”

“Well can you have one of them come out? They’ll recognize me if they see me!”

“They said they don’t know anybody else here, and they’re staying where they are.”

“This is ridiculous” Azriel protests and walks off to the east along the outer wall. The guard seemed to pay no mind to where he was going.

Having arrived close to where the others might have scaled the wall, Azriel looks around for anything he can use to join the rest of the group. He notices a few cracks in the mortar that he might be able to use to climb up. Taking a look around for anyone else in the area, he starts to climb up the wall. He gets up and over the wall with little trouble, ending up in the same shadowy area on the outside of the training grounds with just enough time to notice Poxz and Luli making their way around the corner of the building. He tries to sneak up to the side of the building, making a bit of noise on his way. Azriel hears one of the guards at the door say, “I think I heard something,” and looks around for a place to hide. His only option is to try to hide behind some training dummies about 15 feet back toward the outer wall. As he’s making his way to the dummy, a guard’s light starts around the corner and lands on the dummies, as though the guard might have seen something but wasn’t sure what.

Poxz, watching from the rear of the building, whispers a “good luck” for Azriel as they continue after Viola to catch up. Viola is halfway up the back of the building, climbing a rope that she had tossed up onto the roof. Poxz, thinking ahead, takes a look at the windows to get an idea of whether or not they would be able to escape out of them. The windows are barred, but the metal on some of them seems to be a bit fatigued, possibly able to be broken. Taking a look around, Luli casts detect magic to perhaps try to get an idea of where things are. Aside from herself, Poxz and what might be Azriel, she sees no other sign of magic in the area. As they take a minute to decide whether or not to break into one of the windows, Luli wiggles Viola’s rope to unhinge it and ends up with a clawed grappling hook.

“Oh, should we just… go to the pub?” Poxz asks. “This is getting kinda hard.”


-----



The guard, approaching the training grounds with his lantern, continues his search through the dummies. He’s worked his way up to be to the north of Azriel, between him and the others. Azriel, running out of time, starts looking around at the dummies, trying to figure out what they are made out of. Luckily, the dummies are made of straw. Azriel lights one of the dummies on fire to distract the guard away from the others. Unfortunately, the guard doesn’t notice the fire right away. Azriel circles around the dummies to keep as much space between him and the guard as possible. As Azriel goes to move, the guard shines his lantern right on him and notices the fire at the same time. Azriel shouts, “Fire!” as the guard runs to get a water bucket. Azriel runs north, managing to light one more dummy on the way to meet up with Luli and Poxz.


-----



From inside the barracks, Karnium and Ekaterin start hearing shouts of “Fire!” from the guards. Looking out the window, they see a few training dummies burning in the near distance, spreading to other dummies.

“I think our potential thieves have created a distraction,” Karnium says to Ekaterin.

“I would agree.”

The guards start to scramble toward the fire to try to put it out. They are left with only a few guards to help watch over the artifact. “I suspect they’ll be coming soon,” says Karnium as she gets out her warhammer and loosens her wrists to prepare. She turns her gaze, again, to the window to keep watch. Ekaterin notices and alerts Karnium to some movement in the hallway that doesn’t appear to be any of the guards patrolling. They switch positions for a moment and Karnium sees a blur moving around the northeast end of the building. She focuses again on the movement and listens closely to see if she can distinguish any other movement, but was unable to see anything other than the same blur moving toward another room. Ekaterin stands with the dwarf at the door, preparing for the figure to make its way around to them and making a plan for when it arrives.


-----



Poxz and Luli are discussing a trip to the pub as Azriel approaches, having lit a rapidly spreading fire at this point. “I think we should go around the west side of the building, cause I started a lot of fire. We should go while the guards are trying to put the fire out.”

“Maybe we can get in the front while the guards are putting out fires.” Poxz suggests.

“They’re probably racing out the front, though, to put out the fire.” adds Luli.

“Well, we gotta go quick. Might as well find out.” says Azriel.

Poxz casts Ghost Sounds and Dancing Light on the roof to make it look and sound like the fire has spread to the barracks. As they move away toward the west side of the compound, they hear shouts from the guards that the fire has moved to the back of the building. The guards continue to scramble toward the fire with buckets, doing all they can to put it out. All but one remaining guard patrol inside the building have gone to help. Luli looks to Frankincense and asks the tiger to use its smell to try to determine where there are any remaining people inside the building. The tiger tells Luli that there are about 5 people inside but it’s too smoky to tell where anyone is. Luli passes along the information, adding, “Let’s try not to set everyone on fire. Just, you know, the people we don’t like,” as she glares at Azriel.

“We should go in before the guards come back around… or the front of the building gets caught on fire.” Azriel says, sheepishly.

The group moves toward the front southwest corner of the building and then inside. The light from the fire is illuminating the front rooms and hallways. They take a look around a bit. Azriel looks around a bit but because of the smoke he’s not able to see much.

Ekarium, keeping watch out the door, notices a small head poking around the corner toward the room with the artifact.

“There’s a fire!” yells Azriel.

Ekarium doesn’t budge, staying in the doorway to guard the artifact.

Azriel runs up to Ekarium to try to get her to leave the building, “There’s a fire! We gotta get out!”

Ekaterin doesn’t budge, staying in the doorway to guard the artifact.

Azriel runs up to Ekaterin to try to get her to leave the building, “The building’s filling with smoke! There’s a fire! We gotta get out! Lock the doors and help put the fire out!”

Ekaterin, very serious about guarding the room, takes a chance at kicking Azriel out of her way. Just as she kicks in his direction, Azriel ducks and rolls under her leg and pops back up right in her face, determined to convince her to get out of the building. The monk continues to try to grapple the boy with no success.

Just then, Luli, outside the window, casts Ghost Sounds of children screaming outside to help lure the rest of the guards out of the building. Karnium wavers in her duties, wanting to go and help the children outside. She suggests to Ekaterin that they abandon their post to go help with the fire. The sound of children screaming gets louder as Poxz also casts Ghost Sound in the same area. Karnium insists that they leave to help, but Ekaterin remains steadfast in her duties.

While the two are debating whether or not to remain with the artifact or move it and help with the fire, they see a figure appear in the hallway, moving very fast through the smoke. Azriel recognizes the figure as Viola, moving faster than anything he’d ever seen. Azriel draws his handgun, unsure of what will happen next.

Sharei tries to deal a flurry of blows to Viola, but somehow she’s moving too fast to get a hit. She doesn’t even have time to try to grapple. Karnium takes a swing to try to stop Viola from getting closer to the artifact. She only scrapes Viola’s arm as she zips past, slowing her down a bit but too late to stop Viola from leaving the room. In a turn of events, Azriel also tries to take a shot at the swift Viola, but because of Viola’s unusually fast movement, he ends up aiming his handgun at Ekaterin. Ekaterin, seeing a gun suddenly pointed at her, dodges out of the way.

Luli turns to Poxz while all this is going on, “So, which pub did you want to go to?”

The women who were guarding both try to grapple Viola one last time as she makes her way out of the room. Karnium manages to get a hand on Viola’s collar, but Ekaterin fumbles as she tries to get a hand on Viola and causes Karnium to lose her grip. Viola rolls out of their reach and makes her way out of the barracks. Ekaterin and Karnium, a bit shocked and appalled at what just happened, get up and stumble out of the building, only to find that the fire isn’t as bad as it looked from where they were inside.

Luli, with Frankincense, and Poxz see Viola making a run for it and start to follow her.

The guards are finally able to get the (not really too bad) fire under control as Viola, the gnomes and now Azriel are running toward the docks. Karnium and Ekaterin, stepping outside of the barracks, see the 4 of them running away and they decide to run after them.


[center]-----{/center]


As their ship nears the docks, Lomiel casts Prestidigitation and cleans up herself, Loren and Vidar. They all could use it after spending a few days on the ship. As the ship pulls in, they see a large glow from the town, and they start unloading their gear and get ready to disembark. Once setting foot on dry land, Loren realizes that the magic he knew before is different here. He isn’t sure how, but know’s there’s something different about the land he just arrived in.

Suddenly, the three traveling companions see a woman carrying a canister running by as quickly as she can, with two gnomes and a kid fast in tow… and two more people running behind them.

Lomiel waves to greet them and tries to introduce herself, “Hello! My name is Lomiel, master bard and these are my two compani-” but gets cut off as Viola runs straight past her.

Lomiel seems a bit annoyed but shakes it off and tries again as the gnomes rush past, “Hello! My name is Lomiel, master bard and-” getting cut off again, though one of the gnomes did seem to shout “hello!” behind him as he zoomed past.

Now clearly very annoyed with the rudeness of the townsfolk, Lomiel tries one more time to introduce herself, but not before turning and casting a spell on the docks, making them very slick with grease. Karnium and Ekaterin hit the grease full speed, slide a few feet and land flat on their asses as they slide down the dock, noticing three figures who had just disembarked as they make their way past.


Lomiel walks over slowly and introduces herself a third time:

“Hello. My name is Lomiel, master bard. Pleased to meet you.”


Loren chuckles a bit, amused with the lengths to which his new friend went to introduce himself to the townsfolk. Karnium is entirely speechless as she starts mussing with the grease in her beard, and Ekaterin is doing everything she can to not reach out and start pummeling the overly friendly bard. Meanwhile, the first half of the group that ran by made it past the docks and around some small back alleys to a random house just to the southwest of the docks, where they finally rested up with the canister that Viola snatched from the barracks.
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