Fire and Darkness

Emerging from the Dark Ages, humanity is slowly, painfully, beginning to rebuild western civilization. In south Germany, in the region of Lorraine, secrets of faith and sorcery is about to come to light that will shape human history for centuries to come.

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Trapturtle's picture

Lady Aais, I'm afraid the news is dire.

[Though she already knew that. From the moment the courier entered the room, he had the look of a man who'd seen something terrible. He took a moment to catch his breath before he continued.]

There is a sickness in the surrounding villages, like nothing I've ever seen before. The people are beginning to believe that God is punishing them, they are beginning to panic.

[Having delivered his message, the man bows and leaves the small audience chamber, leaving the room in an uneasy silence for several seconds.]

The people are scared. You've done well as a ruler, treated them with respect, but I'm not sure you'll be able to save them from this.

[Sitting in the chair traditionally filled by the lord's adviser is the Fox of Lorraine himself. The last few years as an outlaw hadn't been to kind to Yannic. Covered in scars from countless battles and assasiniation attempts, he looked so different than he did just a few years earlier when he was still Jörn of Münster.]

I know how much it means to you, but I just don't know what you can do for those poor people.

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Trapturtle's picture

It had been three days since Rahman Al-Rahman had passed a village, and it appeared that the omens were correct. Death was everywhere. Along the road he must have passed dozens of unmarked graves. Every settlement he passed, there was suffering and dying. Briefly he had flashbacks to Baghdad, but he pushed through them to stay focused on his mission.

Though Rahman know this was different. It wasn't an army of bloodthirsty invaders who was responsible for the pain and suffering, in fact, the Brotherhood of the Pharos had no idea what was causing the plague. Though they knew that the problem was spiritual in nature, so they dispatched Al-Rahman to investigate further.

From the top of the hill he can see a small village centered around a church. It's hard to see what's going on from where he's standing, but there appears to be a crowd gathering outside the large brick building.

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Trapturtle's picture

Sister Eligia! They're coming back. There are more of them this time.

[The message is accompanied by a frantic pounding at Eligia's door. Opening the door, she sees Sister Agatha, tears streaming down her face.]

Those men from the village, they think that we're witches, that we cursed them. They're demanding that we lift the curse or else they'll kill us! God, they're going to kill us. Sis... Sister Minna tried to stop them, but they hit her she was bleeding. You've got to help!

[This was unexpected news. For years the Sisterhood of the Earth had a good relationship with the neighboring villages, mostly keeping to themselves, occasionally trading for things they couldn't make themselves. However the recent illness that was spreading across the countryside was making people desperate, and naturally they started looking for someone to blame.]

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DarkMoonINC's picture

On your marks, get set... CARDS! Combat.
Rolled 3d12. Result: 7, 7, 9 = 23.
Magic
Rolled 1d12. Result: 7 = 7.
Influence
Rolled 2d12. Result: 10, 5 = 15.
Stuff too numerous for one word
Rolled 2d12. Result: 4, 4 = 8.

Aalis de Lorraine

Combat: 
EYA, EYA, SY
Magic: 
EYA
Influence: 
SYA,EYB
Else: 
NB,NB

Aaris nods softly to the courier.

"It's difficult to calm a herd when lightning strikes. Even if it's come nowhere near." she sighs, standing up. "Yannic, I was never really a leader and you know. A leader is one with aspirations to become something more than their equals. I am still one of them, really, just with a larger stick and a louder voice."

Aalis' laughter is deep. Her voice has never been extremely masculine, not baritone, but no one has mistaken it for a high pitch of young girls. She has a raspy voice, like Vesna Dedić or Aliona Doletskaya. It changed at puberty, but hasn't descended much since. Her feet hesitantly move towards the door.

"We must ride. Even if we are only a presence, what nerves we calm are all we can."

Aaris pulls her hair back out of her eyes. She didn't like to cut it because something about losing her hair felt like it defeminized her. And she was manly enough as it was, her critics already pricked and prodded at her gender image. They were quiet on her ability to kill wicked men, though.

Yet the cursed hairs would break loose into her eyes no matter what she did.

She touches the door, heaving a full sigh from insider her gut to the ceiling. "I'll let my love know to keep safe, my son and husband are growing familiar to my absence." she pauses, turning to Yannic with a smile. "We cannot resist our calling, can we my old friend? To raise arms to protect the feeble."

She opens the door, and as she moves to find her Handmaiden Fabrienne she leaves him with "We make an effort, that's what we do for these poor people."

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Forge's picture

Combat
Rolled 2d12. Result: 8, 12 = 20.
Magic
Rolled 3d12. Result: 11, 12, 5 = 28.
Influence
Rolled 2d12. Result: 1, 9 = 10.
Everything Else
Rolled 1d12. Result: 3 = 3.

Rahman Al-Rahman

Combat: 
SYB,HY
Magic: 
HYB,HY,EYB
Influence: 
EYA,SY
Else: 
N

{Prudence and discretion.}

His cover has been useful so far; he introduces himself as Abed Al-Abed in the towns he passes by, and though by choice he is not rich, he has enough coin to buy himself some privacy when it's needed. When prodded, he adds that he is a travelling merchant from Damascus, here to survey potential trade routes for spices and myrrh. This time, he fears, it will be different.

People are looking for something to blame, as they are wont to. He has seen these dynamics before, sometimes the result of lost crops, or sudden illness, or the loss of a bridge or even a fishing vessel: people look for signs of divine disapproval, poor people, seeking comfort in the thought that if only they had appeased the Gods this or that way, then tragedy would have not befallen them. The Gods laugh like the river laughs at pebbles thrown in it, this Rahman knows. But he has given up trying to explain it to the masses. It is enough for him to know it, and for Pharos to treasure it, because then it means it is known forever.

And this, the immortality of knowledge, is the only consolation he has to the heavy awareness of his own impending mortality.

{I need a local...}

Thinking such, Rahman creates a servitor which has been useful to him so far in these lands: a tall, strong woman named "Amandine". Amandine is unusually tall and muscular, and has long auburn hair. She is a puppet, of course, no different from a ventriloquist doll, and through any distance he sees through her eyes, feels with her hands and hears with her ears. He also speak with her mouth...

"Excuse me [says Amandine to the first villager they find as she and Rahman slowly ascend together the small hill towards the town] my employer and I are looking for a place to stay the night. [Amandine's has a slight Basque accent, which may help put the locals at ease] Is there an inn you could recommend? What is the word around town?"

The second question, Rahman knows, is always the most important one, and it would not be answered as eagerly if it was him instead of Amandine who said it. Polite, he keeps his silence as he manipulates Amandine to obtain some information.

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Trapturtle's picture

You take after your father.

[Yannic chuckles a bit to himself.]

He was a great man, and he still managed to be a good one. And if we're very lucky little Michka will take after her mother the same way.

[He had been staying with Aalis for the last few days. This was unusual since they to avoid contact whenever possible and communicate through messenger, lest someone connect them with their past lives, but this time he was insistent. She suspected he had something on his mind for the entire visit, though he never brought up anything unusual.]

I'll go get the horses ready, you should speak with your family before you leave. I'm sure they will miss you very much.

[With that he takes his leave and heads for the stables. The manor is fairly modest for her standing, still it is comfortable.]

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Trapturtle's picture

[From the outside, it just seemed that a tall woman simply appeared out of this air, like magic. However for Al-Rahman, it was like making a painting or a sculpture. He consciously created every aspect of this incredibly realistic simulacra. He poured a little bit of his soul into his creation, allowing him to see the world through her eyes.]

[He arrives in town almost completely unnoticed. Most of the town seems to be part of the large crowd that has appeared around the church. Rahman and his "translator" manage to find an older man, his skin tan and his hands calloused from a lifetime of hard work in the hot sun.]

Sure miss, there's an inn at the edge of town, it's not much but it's a place to stay. The way things are you won't have trouble getting a room. Though I wouldn't stay here long, most people around here aren't feeling too friendly towards outsiders these days.

There's a fellow who just came to town yesterday.

[He gestures towards the crowd.]

He's telling folks that he's got some kind of miracle cure. Says he'll keep them safe if they do what he says, and they believe him. I guess I can't blame them, they're scared, looking for hope. Guess I can't blame them. Hope's all these people have.

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Forge's picture

Rahman Al-Rahman

Combat: 
SYB,HY
Magic: 
HYB,HY,EYB
Influence: 
EYA,SY
Else: 
N

Amandine nods to the old man, grateful for the information. "We're only passing through sir, and hope is a horrible thing to buy or sell. God be with you". She nods a good-bye, and turns to help Rahman with the steps -in reality Rahman absolutely needs no help and could probably jump the stairs three by three, but it helps establish Amandine's personality.

She is a good doll, he appreciates her. Sometimes he wonders -if he had a daughter, would she looks like her? Sometimes he chats with her, which is a little sad. To anyone observing it looks like a perfectly normal conversation -there is laughter: hers loud and bright, his restrained and mischievous. There is sincere eye contact, Amandine can hold a hand to her heart and look Rahman in the eye; she can show surprise, she can show interest, anticipation, charm. To anyone looking, she looks like she has a soul. But she hasn't it. It's just an old man talking to himself, to try to stave off his terminal case of loneliness.

But that's neither here nor there. For now, Rahman, helped by Amdandine, climbs up the slope towards the town's main street, approaching the crowd around what he assumes to be a snake-oil salesman. Amandine got her head chopped clean off once, in Lombardy. Betters hers than his. They laughed about it later, by the river, when he restored it.

Rahman tries to focus on the moment. He approaches, carefully, as if helped by Amandine every step of the way, to see and hear what this man promising cures is all about -and more than that, to understand what the disease around him is all about. This plague, he suspects, it's the real reason Pharos sent him this far from base.

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DarkMoonINC's picture

Aalis walks through her garden. She didn't have any fancy belongings, nothing specific was rare or worth coin. Her home prided itself on structure and utility opposed to luxury. Her father and many lord's she'd held council with in her 17 years of life collected rare and expensive things, decorated their exotic and elaborate homes with this or that. Below her a system of tunnels held many of the Le Renard's secrets, one of the entrances hidden in her garden. But not a secret down there or the obvious in this dwelling spoke of noble birth. Things were as plain as the commoner and that really stuck a chore with the villagers around.

This garden was the one thing she asked for. A fountain had been recovered, at the time it was a wrecked relic of Roman design. They'd cleaned the filthy thing, rebuilt it, and designed a suspended aqueduct on a mound of dirt. It was good exercise for her. Every morning bright and early she carried a dozen buckets from the the pond up to the top of the mound, filling the aqueduct. Through the day the channels used gravity to pull the water down and several tiny sprays of water arced up from the clay built fountain, landing back into the pond. So brutally simple and yet the villagers around remained fascinated.

Her family never asked why she did it, it was a soothing ritual Aalis took up when she was unable to leave, in times the local duchy kept her homebound. Fabrienne could tell when she was home just by it the fountain had run dry or not. Atop the mound overlooking the garden was one third of a statue of Neptune, what time had not worn away.

The garden itself consisted of maintained flowers, which were Fabrienne's hobby. Michka was stalking a grasshopper and as his mother came into view he smiled and wobbled to hug her. Fabrienne turned from her Lilacs. Before a word is uttered, Aalis scoops her head in one hand, planting a kiss behind an earlobe. Fabrienne blushed and hugged her back.

"I ride with the sun." Aalis says. Fabrienne gets the sad and disheartened look she always gets. "Do not fear my love. There is trouble for my people and I must see if I can help them or if they at least just need my presence to calm their worries."

"Mama!" Michka laughs and returns to finding the grasshopper.

The flowing gown decorated in expensive silk appears, Damiano may not be very wealthy but he likes expensive robes. Aalis and him smile to one another as she takes his hands. They hold fingers and smile to each other, their body language compassionate but not as intimate. "My lord, I will ride to deal with a problem."

Damiano's voice was described as angelic and before the two met he'd sung in the church choir after sermons. He moved delicately, Aalis oft chided him as being like a startled fawn in the woods. But he is grateful for her. He was born a farmer's son and he'd been studying as a scholar under a priest for years, dreaming of a royal life. His connections to the community made him a strong ally, as he had friends in the church still. Aalis loathed the church and would never be home when priests came to visit him. But he had enough skeletons I his closet and he and Fabrienne had come to a very close understanding, protecting one another. She dispelled rumors of his secret life and he hers. Aalis had many secrets of her own and she left the two of them in charge of things as duty kept her away often, her husband and her lover stood steadfast in protecting Aalis's good name.

"Don't get caught with any young men while I'm gone." Aalis grins, turning to leave. He shoots her a puckered grimace and wishes her safe.

As Aalis heads towards the stables to prepare her horse, she scoops up her one year old son and carries him in a circle around the garden, held as if he was flying, his squeals of delight a humming vibration, before leaving him clutching Fabrienne''s dress.

Aalis breathes deeply, knowing like every time this may be the last moment she spends with them. A burden she bears herself with every day. She is peculiar, her love Fabrienne is as well unorthodox, her legal husband an outlier masquerading as a popular fellow. They stick together, these oddities, knowing the majority of society may not understand each of them individually. But the villagers understood a family, no matter how many rumors spread.

As Aalis leaves the calming sanctuary of her garden she is twirling a dagger in her hand as a nervous habit.

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Trapturtle's picture

You are hard working people, you give the land your sweat and your blood and in return you are rewarded with death and disease. And who will save you from your plight? Your lord, who's promised you loyalty in exchange for your servitude? No! Your god? No, your prayers for help have gone unanswered as your children die in their beds.

[Rahman is now close enough to see the man, his face is gaunt and his eyes shallow. His hair is grey, but he speaks with great energy despite his age. Rahmon has traveled a long way in his pursuit of knowledge, he has met many men and learned a great many things, though perhaps the most important was learning to read people. He notices that this man speaks well, and his hand are not callused. Traits of someone born to wealth, he would recognize it in any culture.]

Yet there is still hope! The League will protect you from marauders as well as plague. Come. I will show you proof so that you can see with your own eyes. Bring me one who is ill, I shall cure them. Come, don't be afraid.

[A young woman steps forward, she pulls up the sleeves to show her fingers have already begun to rot. He takes her up on the pedestal and raises her arms up for all to see.]

This remedy is a centuries old, perfected by monks in a distant land.

[He produces a small vial of dark green liquid which he holds up for the crowd to see. Taking the woman's hand, he covers them in the liquid. With a look of disbelief, she holds her hands in front of her. The scabs fall off as the color begins to return to her fingers. There is audible gasp from the crowd.]

Now who among you is in favor of continuing to serve the lord who left you to die?

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Forge's picture

Rahman Al-Rahman

Combat: 
SYB,HY
Magic: 
HYB,HY,EYB
Influence: 
EYA,SY
Else: 
N

Rahman is impressed. It could have been a trick, of course. The old sick woman could have been pretending -the rot could have been fake; it would not be the first time. But the old man, whoever he is, is taking a great risk doing this, standing there, promising a cure at a time like this, in a place like this, to people grief-stricken and volatile like this. Either it's not fake, or he has an amazing and fireproof escape plan. Perhaps backup? Backup.

{We are being watched [comes the thought, intrusive]}

Instinctively, Rahman uses all four of his eyes -two real and two on Amandine- to quickly scan the surroundings -the rooftops, the alleys. Who watches from the shadows, who observes, who has a stake in turning this crowd against their lords and gods? Rahman thinks of rival powers in the area -the man mentioned the "League". Is it the Hansa? That would make sense -the Hansa would want this town too, like so many other towns they hold, to submit and become part of their vast trade network. He suspects the local authorities would be wary to surrender power -even of the mercantile kind- and thus having the populace turned against them pre-emptively would be useful -great leverage. As all things it merits study and consideration.

"I want one sir, please! [says Amandine to the old man, loud enough to be heard] I will pay for this medicine, name your price!"

Amandine of course, at nearly 6 feet in height is almost supernaturally tall for the middle ages, and just as muscular as she is beautiful. Why would someone like her need medicine? "It's for my charge [she adds] old age has bent his back, and he can hardly walk up the stairs."

Not entirely a ruse. Deep down, even if he won't consciously admit it, Rahman has a flicker of hope that the medicine is in fact real and the answer to his long, long quest to vanquish the ravages of age and mortality. But for the short term, he tells himself, he just needs a sample to study alchemically, once they make it to the inn.

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Trapturtle's picture

The garden is always beautiful this time of year, the flowers are blooming for the last time before they are swept away by the cold, harsh winter. It has always acted like a sanctuary, a place where Aalis and her unorthodox family doesn't need to worry about judgement or condemnation from the outside world. It's just the four of them, no one else.

Yannic is waiting for her at the stables her two fastest horses saddled up and prepared for the journey. They were a gift from the Duke of Lorraine to Aalis on her wedding day. They are fastest breed in the known world trained by the finest trainers. It was a shame that Damiano didn't care for riding, in fact he held a great disdain for the "filthy beasts" after an accident in his childhood.

In truth, the land afforded her by the Duke wasn't very large. riding from one end to the other doesn't take more than a day, depending of the weather. However it proved to be much more difficult than expected. The roads were infested with bandits and woods were occupied by a coven of "witches" that occasionally stirs up trouble with the locals. In spite of all this Aalis has managed to keep the peace, clean up the roads, and settle all the petty disputes before they boil over. Her subjects respect her and her enemies know better than to cause trouble.

Today the roads are fairly busy. With the harvest season coming to an end, the farmers are trying to trade their excess crops for the goods they'll need to survive the winter. Everyone who she meets, gives her a small bow before continuing on their way. As the small cobbled building begin to appear in the distance, Yonnic speaks for the first time all trip.

You should go on alone. As much as I'd like to accompany you, it's probably best if we're not directly associated. Besides, I have to check on with my men. Look, your father was like a brother to me, if you ever need anything. Send me a message, I am at your command.

[He gives her a kiss on the forehead and departs into the woods to meet with his men.]

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Trapturtle's picture

Looking around the village it's not hard to spot something out of place. At the end of the town, a few hundred feet from the gathered crowd is a covered wagon. It's well crafted, nicer than anything you usually seem in a small villages like this. Standing beside it are a pair of men, probably guards judging by the swords on their belts. They wait patiently by the cart, watching the speech from a distance. Rahman's suspicions are confirmed as he notices the plain red banner waiving above the cart, the symbol of the Hanseatic League. They're a group of merchant guilds, greedy, but mostly harmless, at least until a few years back when they started dabbling in the occult. According to the Brotherhood of the Pharos, the League has spent nearly endless time and coin into acquiring ancient relics from Rome, and the Germanic tribes.

Many of the crowd cry out for the cure after they see it's effects, though Amandine towers over all of them, she gathers the attention of the man. He waits for a moment before replying.

I am sorry miss, but this balm was made for a singular purpose, it can cure the warts and rot, but unfortunately it will not sooth a bad back or heal old bones. However will check my remedies, see if I can offer him aid.

Now, [He turns his attention back to the crowd.] I have a few vials of the cure with me. Pledge your village to Hansa and I will promise you protection from bandits as well as more of the potion when I return, if you require it. Who speaks for your village?

[A man from the village steps forward, he's more than happy to sign the document the man produces. The man then grabs a few more of the vials and distributes it to the crowd. Despite the crowd and the hysteria, it looks like there are only a handful of actual plague victims. The handful of cure looks like enough to stave off the plague for now. Contract in hand, the man heads back to his cart.(And if he isn't stopped by Al-Rahman) He hitches up a pair of horses and heads down the road, in the direction of the inn.]

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Forge's picture

Rahman Al-Rahman

Combat: 
SYB,HY
Magic: 
HYB,HY,EYB
Influence: 
EYA,SY
Else: 
N

Amandine returns to Rahman, and very gently begins to guide him through the crowd until they reach the open cobblestone street. They too go for the inn -Rahman thinks it's fortuitous that the salesman is going there too.

{Hansa...}

Rahman does not necessarily dislike the Hansa: they are cunning -if ambitious, occasionally ruthless, but whom among the powerful isn't, in this savage world? And undeniably the cities where the Hansa installs a Kontor eventually do prosper -some citizens more than others, of course.

If only they knew what Hansa does in the realm of the supernatural...

"Come, child... let's get these old bones some rest, ah?"

....

Rahman wants a quiet room in the inn -in the second floor so he has a good view of the street, and so the fumes of his alchemical devices do not alarm the passerbys in the first floor. He has enough coin to be there for a long time, if needed -Pharos is not attached to material possessions, and so they do not resent giving him what resources he needs, within reason. And reason, well, reason is everything.

"We'll have to get our hands on a sample of that substance, dear Amandine [says Rahman to a puppet who already knows exactly what he was going to say anyway. Rahman still talks to her, even though it's like talking to himself, because... well, it's what he always does. In the privacy of their inn room he doesn't feel vulnerable nor spied upon] I suspect they are staying in this same inn -didn't they head in this direction? Why don't you go downstairs and see if you can strike a conversation, yes? Maybe a handshake... [by which Rahman means that other feared Pharos ability, the Absorb Knowledge -but Amandine already knows this. Because she is just Rahman's puppet].

The puppet, with a smile and a nod, opens the door and heads downstairs.

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DarkMoonINC's picture

Aalis de Lorraine

Combat: 
EYA, EYA, SY
Magic: 
EYA
Influence: 
SYA,EYB
Else: 
NB,NB

"I would feel safer to have my own knights accompany me." Aalis mutters in anguish. She sees Yannic off and continues pushing ahead, muttering to herself "We have been unable to find ones who we can trust or don't fall upon the enemies blades. Remember Eric, the kid with the pinched ear? Ran right into a bandit sword, poor bastard. I can't fathom why the men I get don't survive well like me and you, Yannic." she's alone as she mutters, the building coming into shouting distance. "Peasants here are weak, like weeds. I need a bodyguard who can withstand the test."

She pulls up to the building, reassuring the horse. Eyes darting to assess the situation. Never one to be caught off guard, every situation for her feels like an ambush. Even Yannic rolls his eyes at her about it.

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Trapturtle's picture

The inn is a simple two story wooden structure. It's a small family business, the old man behind the counter was courteous, in the larger common room his daughters run around delivering food and drink to the handful of customers. A small place like this is probably built to serve merchants and farmers traveling between the smaller villages and the larger cities. Before heading up to his room, he spots the two mercenaries who were guarding the Hansa wagon earlier, sharing a meal. Their employer is nowhere to be seen.

Later on, Amandine heads down to the common room to find the men still there. They appear to be having an argument, though they're keeping their voices down. They're so absorbed in their conversation, they don't seem to notice Amandine setting down in the adjacent table, close enough to hear parts of their conversation.

You've seen what he does, it's not natural. I don't know if I can keep doing this. I was raised going going to church, and sooner or later the lords gonna catch up with us.

Is that so? Before I got his job I was starving, this is the best paying work I've ever had. I might have been dead without it. Look, don't ruin this for us, unless you want to go back to stealing from farmers to survive.

Both of them order another glass of Ale and they continue their discussion.

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Trapturtle's picture

The town is nearly silent. While normally there it's buzzing with activity, the children running around, the women fetching water from the well. Today it seems like a ghost town. It's later in the evening, the farmers should be returning from the fields around this time, but looking across the surrounding farmland, it's also empty. As she continues to look around, the doors of all the houses are closed, though most seem to have a thin wisp of smoke coming from the chimneys.

M'lord?

Turning to look, she sees an old woman peering out from a window in one of the dwellings.

What are you doing here? You must get inside. It's not safe.

She opens the door to her small hut and ushers Aalis in. Sitting around a small fire are two small children, huddling together. One is a young girl, around six years old, the other a boy, a few years older. They look terrified.

I apologize M'lord. I mean no disrespect, but you couldn't stay out there. People have been disappearing, first it was the tanner's son, then the miller's wife, then the smith's daughter. It's the work of the devil, pastor says to stay in our houses, wait and pray that God delivers us from this curse.

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Forge's picture

Rahman Al-Rahman

Combat: 
SYB,HY
Magic: 
HYB,HY,EYB
Influence: 
EYA,SY
Else: 
N

Rahman considers, two of his eyes focused on installing his Al-anbiq, and two more -those on Amandine- on stirring the cup of soup before her, while she listens intently.

Clearly these two guards are thugs, used to as they were, to robbing others. Hurting them would not disrupt the balance of justice, if he were to chose that path. But it would also antagonize their Hansa patron, and Rahman has been given no reason to make a new enemy -not yet- least of all if the cures he peddles actually do work, and do help people.

Is it possible, Rahman wonders, that the Hansa engineered the disease as well as the cure in a ploy to ultimately flip the town's allegiance? That would be dishonorable. More information is required, more consideration, more patience.

For one, the thuggish guards aren't doing their job very well if they left their charge out of sight. And where, exactly, is their master? Perhaps one question can answer the other.

Amandine returns the now empty cup of soup to one of the inn's owner's daughters, with a smile. Then she goes outside -'for a walk' she says.

As soon as she finds an empty alley where she knows she isn't being seen, she gets down to business. First, she has to dispose of the soup -her servitor body isn't fit for digestion. This is accomplished easily enough by opening a little hatch to a compartment in her belly. She feels better without that filthy liquid sloshing around. Or does she? Does he, Rahman? Up in the inn's bedroom the old scholar amuses himself again with the question of whether his puppets can be said to be sentient-by-proxy. If a Servitor has feelings, does she therefore have soul? As always he sends the query to the back of his mind to be dealt with some other time.

It is time for Amandine to assume a more useful form. That of a black cat, will do. Her shape, as a puppet, is merely a manifestation of Rahman's mind, and with some concentration, like a master painter, he unmakes one canvas and raises another. A sleek black cat stands where Amandine used to stand, and careful not to stain its paws with the still-warm soup that rolls down the cobblestones, the elegant animal goes to the Hansa man's wagon, gracefully hops on a wheel, then on the conductor's bench, and begins sensing the air for protection wards, or in their absence, for a way to get inside and see what's in it...

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Trapturtle's picture

Nothing seems to be special about the wagon at first glance. Nothing out of the ordinary to draw attention, unless you know what to look for. Etched all over the cart are old Germanic runes. Studying the runes from a distance, Rahman is able to determine that it's an alarm of some sort. Getting any closer or trying to open the cart would likely inform the owner about his actions, assuming they haven't already been activated.

Looking around, he notices a light on in the window directly above the cart. Could this be a coincidence? It would be logical for the man to stay close by in case someone tried to steal his wares, though there is no proof. Counting the windows, he can figure out the room is just a few doors down from where Rahman is staying. Suddenly the light goes out.

A few minutes later there is a commotion from inside the Inn, three men exit the building. The puppet immediately recognizes them as the Hansa merchant and his bodyguards.

I don't care if it's late! Hitch up the horses now. This place won't be safe for much longer, it's coming this way.

Hastily the guards prepare the wagon for travel, while the merchant opens up the back of the wagon and checks his goods. Staying far enough away to avoid notice, the puppet can get a glimpse into the wagon, it appears to be filled with plants and vials.

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Forge's picture

Rahman Al-Rahman

Combat: 
SYB,HY
Magic: 
HYB,HY,EYB
Influence: 
EYA,SY
Else: 
N

A long time ago, when he was younger, Rahman would have congratulated himself on the prudence of checking for markings first -runes, wards, protections and alarms. But these days he realizes these are merely table stakes -ignore them at your own peril, or rather those who did never lived this long.

Furthermore, on second thought it should have been obvious that if the bodyguards were downstairs their master was probably upstairs -within sight of the wagon through the window, and within the protection of the hired muscle guarding the way in. But that hardly matters now as the mysterious man begins a hasty retreat.

Hastily uninstalling the al-ambiq is the hardest choice Rahman has to make. The second hardest is to plan for a discreet retreat -one that doesn't alarm the hosts and causes suspicion.

In the few minutes he has available he quickly draws a parchment and writes in it: "Amandine, I'm off to the forest to find medicinal plants. Please bring me my bag, I am by the third stream we found yesterday. -R."

He leaves that note posted on the inside of the door -it won't be discovered until at least two more days when the Inn hosts come in to collect their due. He leaves a few coins on the desk -Rahman is an honest back to those who are honest. But for now his plan is to make the townsfolk think he merely disappeared into the forest -a sadly too common occurrence these days. And that Amandine took his baggage.

All that: the hasty re-packing of the al-ambiq, the note, the coins... all just so that the old man could meet a black cat in the dark alley by the inn, still stained with soup.

{C'mon, Zibd! We must follow that wagon!}

Zibd, of course, is the name of the black mare horse who other times goes by the name of Amandine, and merely minutes ago was just a black cat. Complete with harness, the old beduin hops on the new make-believe creature and steadies himself for a night trip, discreetly following the distant lights of the wagon and soon leaving the town -as well as whatever horrible fate is due to befell it- behind.

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