Open Chronicles A Festival of the Lights

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Helena

Captain of Dawn
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"Alright squires, crack on! Master Murk will need those pillars ready as soon as able! Hurry now, imbue your magicks, and make ready for the show!" Helena called out with emberic joy in her voice that came easy and true. Easier still in hopes of merriment and cheer.

All around helpful hands rushed in cooperative work, as all played their part to put on a good show. A few squires made ready for the main event, while others served food and drink. Bards played songs and lead dances, and revelers mingled about. Folk shared stories, and whispers, and laughs. Old faces were found, and new faces appreciated. Hands were held, and kisses given, and wide smiles and rosy cheeks bloomed all around.

It was a time to forget. A time to remember. A time to make new memories while sharing some old.

The darkness would be there come morrow, and the lights and the laughs would be here tonight.

This day. This night. It was for recovery. For the imbibement of the body and soul. To drink, to eat, to share in the revelry of light put on display by every manner of mage and squire and adventurer that had but a touch of the arcane gift. All so that those who partook, in celebration, in this moment of brief and warm reprieve could cherish, and share. Memories of the past, the wants of today, and the dreams of the future, beneath the lights of all gathered around, and the big show that was surely to come.
 
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It was the showing of the lights, and through the Monastery there was joy, and mirth, and appreciation of the time that had been gifted to one and all to relax and reflect upon the year. Upon the faces of the people was relief of another year successfully navigated, through it's darkness, through it's light, brought together by the faith that at the end of it all, there was each other and the sincere goodly thought each had for the other. A time to remember dearly departed friends and family, a time to remember how much growth had occurred within the year of struggles and victories, and sometimes, defeats too teach the people of Anathaeum much as to the meaning of the experience of life. The sound of laughter could be heard on the wind, of excitement and gatherings of the people before delicious foods that were being served by cheery rosy faced people who did bid the common and distinguished alike to enjoy what sundries were on offer.

One such person was Dal, who in this moment was chewing on roasted chestnuts with a measure of calm contentedness. He cronched on the things loudly, and wondered where his friend Lysanthir was, and if he still appreciated the dagger he bought him. From one small deed of kindness that Lysanthir had offered him had a flower bloomed of the appreciation of what kind of life one could lead with squires. He thought on previous winters, and how this one was a far brighter and warmer occasion than he had ever known.

Another person was Montbank, who was turning over his shoulders from the new armour plates that allowed him more comfort as he moved, a gift from Rulgak which had filled him with good cheer. He was at home as the snow did fall, and his orange eyes did peer at the carnival games. He picked up a ball and blundered a shot, and laughed at himself such a missed shot. He looked to the sky and smiled, for there was much to look forward to this event, and his eyes, after all, saw much in that night sky.

A new comer to the land, was one Renly Drakenweald, who had gifted the Monastery with his presence and presents. He had brought two dwarves, Sanni and Pan, who carried with them a great mountain of gifts, which Lord Renly passed out, great boxes of green and red wrapping. They were given out to whoever might meet him with a warmth that came from a very sincere place in his heart. And there was so much more to give still, for the presents had been prepared all year. When one had the title 'The Magnanimous' every solstice was an opportunity to spread that title's obligation to the merriment of more and more. And so he did.

Valborast Valcheck stood with pipe in hand and was offered a box of snuff powder from the librarian Parshen, who held a book to scribe the occasion's illusions in arcane dipped quill. Valborast did take the gift and say a few curt words of thanks, and quickly snorted it. It made his eyes water and he did nod sagely. For this tobacco product could certainly be used in the library, unlike his pipe. Parshen gripped Valborast's shoulder in solidarity for the moment of understanding and left Valborast to his musings.

Abalon Shallows was admiring the gardening that Adjantis was proudly beaming over, remarking to the other about the way that it had been pruned. The wyld and the domain of death getting on nicely with one another, the ranger of the wylds' delicate green thumb comparing notes with the death pursuant's own hobbies with bonsai trees. Abalon produced a hip flask, and reassured the other that it was just ginger beer, non-alcoholic, and Adjantis did smack his lips with satisfaction at the warmth of the concoction and shook hands with the pale skinned pursuant.

All the while, one man did affix his cloak of numerous depictions of his illusionary art, and say to himself in solemn pleased tone at the grand occasion, “What a splendid night to have a vision of light, let us go into the night, and cast across the shield in delight!”

He breathed deep and gathered his things, and double checked that all was in accord. This was no small thing to do, but he did so gladly, for the arts were his passion, and nights such as this were truly the highlight of his career. He bounded into the streets, and did spy some magi who were practicing their light magic. He remained still himself and watched with contented smile at those who he had begun to know."You know, I do like it here," he said to himself quietly, and was open to make new friends this auspicious occasion before the light displays were made manifest via the devices known as anamnesic stones.

"Little miracles of thought and memory, to fuel the illusion that I will make so merrily. Of course, this would be easier with my Bubkiss around," he thought with a twinge of sadness, but did not last long. For there was much mirth in the air, and Murk knew it had to be this way, for both their sakes.
 
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"...Everything ended, everything extinguished.
With all my cares untwined,
Among the lilies finding oblivion."


Baise gave one last pluck of the strings of his lute to sound out the base chord of the soft song. He was enjoying entertaining one small corner of the grounds where people were sitting and eating.

Jude was sat at a table, surrounded by other guests of the knights, looking distinctly bored. He had been forced to hear the song over and over as Baise practised on the road.

The song had described a woman waiting in the night. She headed out into the darkness guided only by the light within, met her lover and becomes one with him, in a state of mystical union leaving her cares abandoned among the lilies.

It wasn't sad but the slow love song was not uplifting. That had been the point. When his thumb and fingers danced across the strings, they sounded out the opening notes of a popular melody of the time.

Baise danced as he started to play, but this time he did not sing. He could only split his concentration so many ways. As Baise played another and let it ring out he waved his right hand up the length of the lute.

A flash of sparks darted from his hand up into the air. They lingered above, flashing and popping as he continued to play. Baise grinned to himself as he continued. He had studied magic across the corners of Arethil and thought a few lights of his own would not go amiss.


He wasn't here to entertain. There was a memory from before Jude's time. One he had only ever been able to explain. He wanted it encased in glass so that Jude could see it for the first time.
 
"Lori dearest, it seems that my meade mug is empty again!"

"Oh Thodun, leave her alone."

Whenever her parents were around, Lorinna was 21 going on 16. She had told the squires around her how terrible they were. She had told them how awful they would have been had they seen her cleaning carriages with the other trainees.

They were of course fairly reasonable people. Her father, however, was enjoying himself greatly. The daughter who had most frequently spoken back to him during her difficult years under strict orders to politely serve him food and drink.

"But of course," Lorinna said through the backs of her teeth. "Can I fetch you anything else?"

Lord Astarel's eyes lit up. "I think that will be all for now, squire," he said. His wife elbow him in the ribs. "Ouch."

Her mother was a small and dainty creature. Her father was into his fifties now, wore a thick beard and had lost some of his weight. However, it was clear to anyone that he must have been a powerful and handsome young man. He still stood several inches clear of six feet. It was a source of great dissapointment that all his sons had taken after their mother.
 
It was impossible to figure out that this little canine was the Eternum's most beloved ambassador. Clandestinely or perhaps with a lot of ruckus, depending on the type of person she was passing by; Lillian with her tail wagging high, would make her way slaloming between people.
Where do you even find a molosser-type cattle-wrangler dog in a monastery? Suppose it didn't matter, might have as well found its way through the gardens and an open gate.
While the place appeared to get quite hectic when much magic was abound, the canine retreated under a table, taking a sniff of each foot...perhaps a lick and maybe she even stole a loose slipper.
Once out on the other end, the merriment could begin.

She greeted each person with a rear and a 'boof' with her deep voice that might as well scare off a wolf if it didn't come from such a pleasant face. Oh hey, are those a pair of dwarves? Lilian didn't even need to rear up to go eye to eye.
She definitely was in the mood to solicit pets and scratches from random strangers.
 
Three weeks ago, in the vardo wagon that served as an office for one Levoy de Gaufres...

Levoy de Gaufres always said that this time of year was very special. He always said it with a wistful sigh in his voice and a stack of coins in front of him. The head of the de Gaufres & Co. catering company called that specialness 'the spirit of the season'. Pim had never actually seen this spirit, but she had drawn the reasonable conclusion that it was some sort of fae prankster going around fiddling with people's usual humor. That seemed the only logical explanation for how the most serious warrior would suddenly start frolicking in the snow like a child and somber wizards would use their spells for fun rather than 'furthering the world's knowledge of the occult.' And people starting acting very strangely shy around mistletoe, for some reason.

Pim rather liked this spirit: it seemed to bring out the tallfolk's inner halfling, so to speak. If she ever found the spirit, she decided she'd personally thank it for all of its mischief.

At the moment, the devious seasonal spirit had infected Levoy with a bout of cheerful humming as he counted the money they'd made at the last party. Pim glanced all around his desk, hoping as always to catch the miscreant, to no avail. Pim's cousin, Gremory, cleared his throat to let their boss know they'd answered his summons.

"Gremory. Pim," Levoy said in his impersonal way of greeting. "You remember the Knights of Anathaeum? They helped us get our cart unstuck from that awful road several months ago."

"How could I forget? They thought we were smuggling contraband goods," Gremory replied with a chuckle. They hadn't been of course - but it was a good thing they hadn't met any such arms of the law on their way to cater one particular vampiric party. It would have been very difficult to explain how they'd come across that amount of live bats.

Levoy had finished counting his stack of coins and pushed them gently aside. "They want to hire us to cater some event they're holding in three weeks. Of course, I told them we'd be delighted to cater their party."

Startled, Gremory and Pim glanced at each other in a rare moment of conjoined thought.

"But..." Gremory started.

"It's Gobsnaggel..." Pim finished.

The thin caterer waved one hand dismissively. "Yes, yes, you've told me of your weird seasonal customs. Think, though - you'll get extra pay, which means you can buy your own Gobs-whatever party! And this is a chance to get- "

Gremory sighed. "Our foot in the door?" Levoy always said this sort of thing when it came to new clients of the influential variety. Gremory knew he didn't really have a choice in the matter. As the sous chef, the success of the company was as much his responsibility as it was Levoy's.

"We can always celebrate Gobsnaggel ourselves, and we can go back home after the job," he told Pim hopefully. She frowned. It was awfully difficult to have the bake-offs, the knitting competitions, the war of snow-based projectiles and especially the great hillslide hullabaloo with only two of them.

"Please?" Gremory pleaded. Pim didn't think that was very fair of him, but she wasn't going to say no.

Well, maybe she'd finally catch this 'spirit of the season' this year.
 
To say that Lilette was nervous would be an understatement. In truth, she could hardly contain the anxiety that would see her shudder long before the cold would. Outwardly however, one would never know the true extent. Her true nature was, for now, hidden beneath the vestments of nunnery and behind a decidedly stoic face. Pale like the snow around them or more often described as fine porcelain, housing a pair of silver-green eyes that looked observant as always.

Those eyes would peer from beneath the veil as she approached the Astenvale Monastery, with as much curiosity and dread as hope. Hope that these Knights would not trouble her and that a memory stone could be hers. It would be so heartwarming to see Godfrey again...

And of course, she brought gifts in kind; A backpack filled with bottled wine that she helped brew herself during her stay at the celestialist priory in Vel Anir. Brewed with the sweetest and grapes and a few techniques of the elven kind. All secured in a little rack she had built for the backpack with this very occasion in mind. It had been a long trip, but her ingenuity had saved all but one bottle! Hopefully it would all make this little pilgrimage worth it.


And at last, she entered the monastery, eyes wide and lips pursed in astonishment! A festival of this scale had not graced those silver eyes since she was a child by human standards, and practically a baby by elven. The bard filled her hidden ears with song and a great dog with deep howl, all while the clattering and cheer of knights and commoner alike would do the same.

For the moment, she just... stood there. Taking it all in, unsure where to go or who to hand over her wine.

"Mayhaps I had once forgotten how to live?"
 
The Knights of Anathaeum were well aware that many folk (though the merriment and feasting was still welcome) had only gathered at their door for one thing. The memory stones, those enchanted bits of amber that could encase a memory long past the lifetime of the mortal who carried it.

And those travelers would not be disappointed. The material was rare, but the knights had collected a good sum of the stuff this year, and it was looking like there would be plenty to go around. In an unassuming-looking stall in the main square of the monastery grounds, shelves full of the precious stuff were put on display, and a small crowd was constantly circulating round as folks picked out the pieces that they would want. A few knights and squires milled about as guards - though there wasn't much motivation to steal the enchanted stones, seeing as they were being given out freely.

Amongst the knights of stature, was Syr Guernot. The kivren was not known for his enchanting work nor his handicraft. He might've be an odd fit to oversee the distribution of the ananembic amber, but well... he was the most personable Pursuant of Flame that the Order had to offer. The warmth of his patience seemed endless as he guided commoner and noble alike through the process of imbuing the stones, making sure their precious memories were properly stored.



For some, the process was a frustratingly simple ritual.

Syr Edelbert, Pursuant of Death, held an ochre-colored gem in his hand against the light of a nearby lantern. It glowed in a regular way as he complained about its apparent lack of magical ability. He had failed to imbue a memory into the stone, just moments ago.

"Guernot, this one appears to be a dud," Edelbert called out to his Dawn partner.

Guernot came over and took up the stone. "Hm, looks fine to me," he said as he inspected it. "Must be thinking too hard about it."

"I thought you said one had to focus--"

"Yeah, yeah, but not with your head. All you Loch Louts ever do is think, think, think... that won't work on a memory stone. You've got to feel it with your HEART!"

To prove his point, Guernot pressed the piece of amber against the spot where his heart would be and and closed his eyes. After a few seconds, the amber glowed with a crystalline fire, surging orange and red. Opening his eyes, Guernot moved the memory stone to shine against the wall. Projected there was a black gauntlet-ed hand grasping a wooden bowl, offering its contents to someone who could not be seen. The bowl was filled with a handful of ripe red raspberries. Were it not for the texture of the plaster wall and the wavering nature of the light, it was such a clean rendering that one felt like they could reach out and pluck a raspberry from the bowl.

Syr Edelbert raised an eyebrow at the mundane projection. "What's that supposed to be?"

"It's the first gift you ever gave me."

"Ah," the death knight responded, smoothing out his usually cold squint with a soft smile. "I don't remember doing that."

"'Course you don't, because you use your head too much." Someone else called the Flame Knight over then, and he left to see who else might need help, that memory still grasped in his hand.
 
Valborast would feel a light tap on the shoulder, and upon turning would see a familiar figure holding two cups of something that steamed in the colder weather.

"Cider?" she offers, though not rushing the man as he was still recovering from the gift Parshen had given him, and amusement seemed written all over her face at that. Seluria was dressed quite differently than she usually would be for missions- now having dressed in something a bit closer to the Monastery 'off duty' standard in a dark robe and a veil over her hair, rather than the mirror-cloth robes, veils, and mask she was commonly seen in on missions. And it revealed one particular feature that many rarely got to see; cloudy red eyes almost like a pair of rubies that contrasted starkly with her pale complexion.


Seluria.jpg

Valborast Valchek
 
Snow was falling from the sky, coating the ground and the trees in a serene blanket of white, It was a wonderful time of year, and the snowfall made an ideal canvas for the illumination of light and magic of the ongoing festival. It was a time of year Osuin had long looked forward to. Gifts had already been opened, and they'd been as thoughtful as ever. Thus far, he'd training weights, several books and a new tankard, which he had already filled with fine ale available at the festival.

Along the way, there was even a dog that had managed to wander in and mingle among the revellers, flitting from one to another in apparent search of attention. Osuin was hardly one to deny her, and stopped to kneel down and give Lillian a good scritch before continuing on. A lute-plucked song played on in the corner where revellers were seated and drinking. Delicious food was abundant as well, catered by Pim and de Gaufres & Co.

Many travellers were headed toward the monastery, where they'd receive their memory stones, made possible by the dutiful work of the squires. Osuin had remembered his part in the process, many years ago. Thankfully, his part in the preparations were done with, and the time for relaxation and merriment had come. Taking an empty seat, he sat with his beer to enjoy the scene.

The song was not quite mirthful, but it was an enjoyable listen. Osuin took another swig from his newly gifted tankard while he took a moment to enjoy the atmosphere of the festival, and the company of those around to share it with.
 
"Here you go," Hector said to one of the small children in attendance of the festival, handing him a stag, carved from wood.

"Woah, thanks mister!" the young girl beamed as she took up the crowned figure. She held it carefully and wide eyed, for young as she was, she could see it was a finely made thing.

Hector smiled, a big bag of things slung over his shoulder, which he jostled and shift. "It even moves," he said as he bobbed the head with a careful finger. The stag bent its head low, from a joint fashioned into its neck.


"Oh! Yonny is going to be so jealous he is!" she said and seemed to jitter with excitement. She moved the head back up, then played with its legs some before she had the creature prance about the air with a giggle and a laugh.

Hector smirked, and nod. "Have fun now," he said as music filled the air and magic traced and sparked all about as mages and spell weavers put on their shows. Spells sparked high in the sky, as pixies danced and brilliant birds blew on by in shimmering light. The crowed oohed and cheered as the magicks sizzled and popped.

He saw a boy who looked a tad bored, and he approached the child. "Fancy yourself a wolf, or fox?" he asked the boy with kind smile. "Hmm, no," he said as he slung the bag from his shoulder and put his hand in, things thunked and clunked and he pulled out a wooden bird, large with sharp beak and keen eyes. "A raven, I think," he said and offered it to the lad, and set it down before him. "Cunning and all too clever," he winked. "I hope you do enjoy yourself, young one," Hector said, and headed off.

Should the boy tap the raven's tail, it would set to mechanical motion, bobbing its head and spreading its wings proud.

He had handed out more than a handfull of the things, to any child that looked in need of some goodly cheer. But he was hungry, and could use a good drink after having worked the early shift at the anemnesic amber booth, and he was on his way to get himself some drink, and a helping of meat pie.
 
From the light tap on his shoulder did Valborast shift his shoulder to glance behind him, still bleary eyed from his experience with the snuff powder. Perhaps it was some childish prank his gut told him, and while Valborast entertained the worst sense of charity towards circumstance in his imagination, he was pleasantly surprised by the visage he saw. A colleague out of her usual uniform, so much a difference that he scarcely recognised her. He gave a small double take as he afforded himself an extra glance to recognise the Seer. He had a deep respect of those who worked within the Loch, for his own studies in the field had been somewhat lacking in the desired weight of skill he so desired. While the mind was something he was able to guard, and carry the current of magic through, his speciality was working with blood, not the cool cleansing liquid that was so expertly used to provide cleansing by the star seer herself.

I almost didn't recognise you there,” Valborast admitted, turning upon his heel with an elegance and grace that was supremely controlled. It came from years of handling the knife and sword with swiftness that required proper footwork to remain unbloodied. And even then, had there been wounds received over the years that had left the parchment of his skin in tatters in places. Lessons learned each time from each cut received, more so than the ones delivered.

I'll have some cider. I've always appreciated the fruits of the orchard, sunlight born, and this, this is no time for exception. Thank you kindly Seer.”

He left pause in speech as he accepted the cup which did steam and warm his lithe fingers which did curl around the cup as a spider might walk across it's web, delicately and with long deliberate gait.

The occasion provided such pleasantries, both in conversation and in sustenance. Valborast was forced to admit to himself that it was a refreshing change of pace in comparison to his scribing, a solitary pursuit done by candlelight. Well, solitary except for the cat and Parshen. But such people were familiar faces that were co-conspirators in the arts of the library, and never during their work time was a drink offered. Valborast was a solitary sort, and self sustaining, relying on his own wits and engines of creativity. The thought of someone providing him a drink during the long hours was terribly saccarine to the knight. Yet now, face to face with such a consideration...

Are you competing for the show tonight? The parlour tricks need to be shut down with something impressive, and if anyone can do such a thing, it's you I'm certain,” Valborast said. He was a proud creature, but with such pride did he recognise the skill in others he wished to attain one day, like a mirror of ambition that did cast duel reflection, the object of ambition, and his own lionized self.
 
The small lightshows had stopped as Baise's concentration was instead split between playing a complicated riff on the lute and watching the squire approaching Jude.

They were safe here and the boy had a remarkable knack for surviving danger, but Baise still watched protectively.

When he saw Jude's eyes light up as the toy raven spread its wings he mentally switched back to preparing another spell. As a chord rang out, he tapped the body of the lute to a rhythm, but actually made an orc an symbol.

He strummed again, three fingers and thumb alternate picking the strings of his lute as the magic built. On the final note he turned the lute to the sky and a plume of purple sparks erupted upwards. They flared once in a wave of golden flashes and went dark just as the final chord faded.

Baise gave a deep bow, quite pleased with how that had gone. There would be far greater light shows taking place later in the day, but Baise was doing some simple entertainment for a few tables at a time.

He sat down next to Jude, putting his hate down on the table for any tips.

WWithout looking up from the toy raven, Jude said: "Was better when you did it yesterday."
 
Fresh from the oven, six perfect pies sat upon the table, their savory fillings sending curls of steam through venting holes cut into flaky crusts. Perfect - except for something that Pim couldn't quite put her finger on. So she glared at them suspiciously as if they were naughty children she expected would fess up to breaking Aunt Gertrude's priceless vase at any moment. Usually Pim had all of the intuition of a feather pillow, but when it came to pies her feather pillow became razor sharp. She could tell by smell alone if the pie was cooked enough. She could tell by texture what the ratio of filling-to-gravy was. She could tell by sight that something wasn't right here.

"Has one of your pies committed a serious offense? You look as though you're interrogating them!" Gremory joked as he came around to inspect her work.

"There's just something... off about something..." she mumbled without taking her eyes off of the pastries. She tried to further explain the weird intuition she was getting; that somehow, one of the pies was not quite the same as when she had lovingly assembled it and put it in the oven, but Gremory only shrugged helplessly.

Gremory leaned over and took a critiquing sniff of the food. "They smell excellent. They have good presentation. I'm sure they're great, Pim. Now why don't I cut them for you and you can bring them out to the guests? Maybe you just need a little break from the kitchen."

"Maybe if I-" she took up her trusty spoon and reached out to take a sample, only to get slapped down by Gremory.

"You know there is to be no tasting of the food without the head chef's express permission," he said sharply, re-affirming his sacred duty of sous chef.

Pim chuffed in defiance but could find no reason to debate it further. She just watched Gremory slice the pies and place them on small plates with the eye of a sleuth looking for a murder weapon; but the pies didn't explode nor did any suspicious parcels fall out as he divided them.

The hosts had provided a set of coated wood trays carved with beautiful forest images. Pim took up one that had a scene of running wolves and covered it with the pie plates before heading out into the celebration.

"Meat pies! Who wants a meat pie? I've got chicken, beef, lamb, fish..." she called out, trying to be heard above the music and merriment. She thought maybe she might have seen at least one familiar face, but at her height she couldn't see over anybody to tell.

She first came to a woman dressed in a habit who was watching the festivities. Having not seen a habit before, Pim thought it a strange robe.

"Hello, friend! Pie?"

Lilette Black-Briar
 
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Hello, friend! Pie?

"Hm-?" Lilette turned, lost in thought and blinking in confusion at the empty air until looking down slightly. There stood the halfling Pim , a manner of creature she hadn't seen before now on account of her isolated youth.

Her silver-green eyes widened a little and silver brows raised, almost indistinguishable from her porcelain-like face. "O-oh!" but still that face softened.

She took a whiff and smiled gently, thinking back on the pies her mother made long ago. She couldn't tell which pie was giving off what smell, but she now she was eager to try them even despite her newfound diet.

Finally, she would look back up, or rather, less... downward, at the halfling now that her choice had been made.

"I shall take lamb, I think. Many thanks!"

She smiled even more warmly now, though not the grin she wanted. It was a careful smile, attempting to hide her fangs in the corners though genuine.

After a moment however, she looked as if revelation had struck her, and she hurriedly removed the canvass backpack from her shoulders and opened it for the halfling to see. Inside were several bottles of dark red glass houses inside a special rack for travel. There was one bottle missing, and if one were to look carefully, some broken glass in the bottom still. Actually the bottom was stained a little in a reddish tone with a slight purple tinge.

"I-I bring wine from my priory in Vel Anir. brewed by these very hands in elven fashion for thy festival. If you are of the kitchen staff, take them if it please?"
 
Lorraina Night had the spring in her step of someone who'd just been told she couldn't bring her flask of spirits into a venue, and had promptly knocked back the entire thing as the festival staff watched. It was fine, don't look at her like that, the flask hadn't been full.

How the bard-turned-pirate had arrived at a Monastery of all places was shockingly uncomplicated. Previously, she had been in Belgrath with her first mate doing a spot of trading, and then heard about the festival and that the knights there would possibly be giving out enchanted items as bloody party favors. She had heroically volunteered to go and see what she could bring back.

Rainie, as Lorraina was called, found herself watching another bard perform with fuzzy delight. And he was skilled with magic! That was certainly impressive. Rainie herself had only just started coming into her magical abilities, having gone over two decades thinking she had no talent for it. But, as it turned out, having hunches about magical items and even sensing magical energy without even trying wasn't normal!

She watched as Baise finished his performance and went to sit down next to a brooding teenaged boy, leaving his hat on the table for tips. With a smile on her face, she headed over to the table and flicked a silver off her thumb and into the hat. She managed to just catch what the child was saying.

"I thought it was quite good," She argued with clear amusement. "However, I'll take over for the time being." She sent the dark haired bard a wink and went to find a spot to play.

Upon securing a spot to play, Rainie placed her tricorne hat upside down at her feet. Then she removed her lute, which was strapped across her back, and plucked at it a bit. Ah, that string was offkey, just a little twist and.... there, that was better. Now, what to play...

Well, she was in the Spine! May as well go with something familiar. She began playing a song about a dragon, arrows hewn from black yew, and fletched with feathers from a beast of fur and feather, a weapon strong enough to take down a great, mythical (at the time) beast. The first chorus swelled, and three balls of light shimmered into being and began to dance around her form as she sang.

During the second refrain, the bard spotted a dog wandering about, and her lavender eyes lit with anticipatory joy. Ooh, she was going to pet that dog, mark her words. Just as soon as she finished this song...
 
FAR AFIELD FROM THE ASTENVALE MONASTERY

Vardan coughed - a wet, hacking noise, practically retching. He shook violently with every phantom expulsion. Eventually the episode subsided, and he rubbed a bony forearm across his teeth as if to wipe away spittle… Though obviously nothing had been produced.​
He was observed by Melgan the squire, a scrawny lad with flaxen hair who should have now been used to these peculiarities. Melgan was for now primarily concerned with the cold, gripping himself to keep from shuddering. But he still had the presence of mind to ask questions.​
You don’t have any lungs. Why are you coughing?”​
Hnnh. When I yet lived, the cold air disturbed my constitution.”​
But you don’t live,” Melgan very keenly observed, frowning at the lich, “You haven’t got a constitution to upset.”​
Vardan hacked again, and tapped his brow. “Much of our experiences are purely mental. They persist, even should our vessels be discarded...”​
Melgan took the opportunity to glance away, scanning the dead trees and snow-covered undergrowth. Not that he anticipated seeing anyone else. He was just one lowly squire. They’d be far too busy with that festival to see what he was getting up to.​
It was just - you could only look at a talking, coughing skeleton so long before you had to rest your eyes on something else. He made eye-contact with his horse, tied to a tree a few yards off. The nag huffed and quickly looked elsewhere. Melgan felt, for some reason, judged. Great.​
He cleared his throat. “You mentioned having something for me…?”​
Yes, hnnnh,” Vardan brushed snow off his shoulders and reached into the folds of his robes. After some searching, he withdrew what looked like a vial of ink. “Thou made mention of a ‘wishing well’ on the monastery grounds. Empty the contents of this vial into it.”​
Melgan came closer and took the vial, giving Vardan a skeptical look before more examining the contents. The substance moved slowly when swirled. Viscous. Like honey.​
What is this? Poison? I told you no one drinks from that well.”​
Hah!” Vardan gave a short bark of laughter so abrupt it got Melgan to flinch, “Nothing so crude.”​
Melgan noted with some discomfort that the glass of the vial wasn’t cold. Not warm. Just tepid. “Some kind of curse? To hurt people?”​
There was a growing concern in his voice. Not only would trying to kill or maim people from that well be an exercise in futility - they’d hang Melgan for his part in any such foul play if he were found out.​
Vardan cocked his head one way, sensing the squire's trepidation, “Thy imagination is a meager thing, squire. There will be no violence, so quiet thy fearful mind. Hnh. A rich payment shall find thee soon enough. Fix thy thoughts on that. Soon thou mayest make good on thy intent to depart for kinder climes.”​
Right. Soon he’d have enough saved up to leave the Anathaeum behind for good. Get himself to Alliria and study something else - magic maybe - instead of risking his neck fighting monsters for dirt farmers.​
Melgan’s thoughts were cut short when Vardan started coughing again. He frowned at the lich. “I’m doing this, taking the gold, and then getting out of here.”​
Nnh. Yes, as is thy prerogative,” Vardan replied, wiping his mouth again, impatient but not disproving.​
No surprises. Just this… Last thing. Alright?”​
He wasn’t sure why he was saying any of this. What would Vardan say? ‘Oh, yes, actually I was planning on just killing you when you got back. But now I won’t, since you guessed.’​
Vardan fixed his empty sockets on Melgan and suddenly the air felt several degrees colder.​
I have given thee more than fair recompense thus far. Hnnnmgh! The Rosewyn Dynasty recognizes and rewards its leal servants.”​
Melgan nervously shuffled a few steps back. “I, um... Right.” He paused. And then, momentarily forgetting himself, added, “Sometimes I worry you’re the only one in this dynasty you always mention.”​
Vardan said nothing for several moments. Something in that silence told Melgan that the old skeleton was seriously considering ripping out his tongue.​
Instead, Vardan gave a low, disaffected grunt and gingerly sat himself down in the snow. “Avaunt, Melgan. Return hither when it is done.”​
Vardan gathered several armfuls of snow to his chest, laid down, and pulled it the rest of the way over himself. Imperfectly buried, but comfortable enough for this old cadaver.​
Melgan did not stay to watch.​
 
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A smile crept upon the Seer's lips as it took the Blood Knight a moment to recognize her, and then a faint laugh escaped her when he did. "I suppose that is a sign I should take leave for rest more often." she noted. It was rare enough for her to be back in the Monastery as it was after her introduction to the ranks of Dusk. A lot of the time she was off on missions to cleanse putrid water sources or areas riddled with plague. Less so missions that required open conflict.

Dipping her head slightly in a more proper greeting as Valborast turned, Seluria's gaze quietly flicked over what few tell tale strokes of fate's pen had been written upon his flesh that she could see. "As harsh as life may be, we fight to ensure that not only the innocents may enjoy the next come of dawn and dusk, but so that we may as well." Passing the cup over, she ensured it was firmly in his grasp before gently letting go and humming thoughtfully at his vocalized preference toward the sun's fruits. "Very few things bloom and fruit by nightfall. I can't say I've had the pleasure of trying more than maybe one or two things sourced from such. I tend to lean towards sweeter things myself though." She admits, tapping her finger against her own cup.

At his askance of if she was to compete, however, a faint blush creeped into the Seer's face and she laughed again, her eyes crinkling slightly at the corners. "I would hate to spoil another's fun, despite your compliments. But I do have something in mind for a little later." A flicker of something like wariness and mischief alike both flit across her gaze, like a daughter about to bring her lover home to her parents to introduce them. "I know there is a lot of curiosity and wariness from some of the older Knights as to the nature of my magic. The same can actually be said of the Loch spirits and the Stars in regards to them...so, I am hoping to...I guess allow others to see as I see."

Valborast Valchek
 
I sing better when I’m drunk!” Noa protested as Ne, whether rightly or wrongly (although Noa was adamant that it was wrongly), knocked over her glass of a certain spirit made from the strong, heavy feet of orcs. Something about this fruit and orc women crushing them until there was nothing but juice. Plus, the orc feet added extra flavor! Smelled a bit foul but it complimented the notes of red plum and black currant and—

Oh, who was Noa kidding? She didn’t care about taste or smell and color, especially not color. She only went for the stuff that got her piss-drunk and this was the stuff.

Ne growled in obvious exasperation, nudging Noa away from the table before she could try pouring herself another glass.

Damnit, Ne, you know I get stage fright if I’m not a steady tipsy!” Ne chuffed. “I am not lying. I get… nervous sometimes when I have all eyes on me.” Noa paused, letting Ne scold her for a moment before loudly interjecting, “WELL IF I CAN’T DRINK A LITTLE THEN I’M NOT GOING!” And with that, Ne knocked their charge over right onto their butt, snarling into their face while the blind woman looked blankly at the large albino tiger. Her cloudy gaze didn’t meat the blue gaze of Ne, and Noa huffed, crossing her arms over her chest.

One glass and I’ll get my ass moving.” Noa said, not backing away despite the large beast growling at her. His tail flicked back and forth, and then with a huff Ne got off of Noa. The blind knight used her furry friend to lift herself up, a hand resting on Ne’s head. “And I’m bringing my pipe. Gonna make one heck of a show for those kiddos.” Noa said, using the tiger’s sight to pour herself another glass. She drank quickly and slammed the glass down, satisfied, and collected what was needed before she could leave.

Alright, pipe: check. Sanshin: check. Keys? Oh, wait, don’t need that. Right. Let’s go, Ne. The people demand a star!” Noa laughed heartily at her poor sense of humor as Ne rolled their limpid blue eyes, shaking it’s furry head before leading Noa to the Festival of Lights.
 
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The harshness of life. Valborast always had that truth within him, and found his own caustic responses to things to be almost entirely justified. But then Valborast often confused humility with humiliation. His capacity for self examination was made always with the shadows of his peers across him, imagined slights, precarious conclusions, and prepared insult that he would rarely bring to bear. For success was the greatest form of revenge he knew, and strived in every endeavour to justify his own self worth. Many called his attitude arrogant. But there were skills that Valborast was well versed in, and for all his cynical bluster, he had saved the lives of his comrades on more than one occasion on the operating table.

He viewed such deeds as to afford himself to have a sharper tongue than most. Yet, in recent memory, he had brought it less and less to bear, instead remaining silent, biding his time, bidding his own self to ascend to greater heights of accomplishment. Be it with knife, the loch, the blade Riven, or his own scribing of his experiences with the vampire, he had much pride of his own self, and sought to advance his position within his field almost at every opportunity.

Today was an exception. The warmth of the cider reminded him that he was of flesh and blood. That his mind wasn't just a separate entity. That he could, if he wanted, get drunk. Something he rarely did, for he knew his own temper became looser in grip for virtue of his caustic opinion. Scathing opinion that was a weapon unto itself. Again, he resisted a quip that came to mind at the mention of blossoming in the dark, that he might have self aggrandized before his very soul had been driven into component parts. Riven itself was safe and away from him. And perhaps it was for this reason that Valborast, in good cheer from the gift of cider and pleasant conversation from someone so well accomplished as Seluria, did smile softly from a growing appreciation of her company.

The phrase 'I would hate to spoil another's fun' was completely contrary to his own position however, and set them apart from one another in this moment. Valborast sipped the cider and felt the warmth he lacked in his attitude towards his fellow man. But the conversation turned to the nature of Seluria's magic. There was a position he did understand. He became in small part comforted by another speaking of such a thing, and softened his eyes from their usual judgements that were quick to spread like wildfire.

I hear you on that one,” Valborast said and drank deeper now. He could appreciated the tang of the apple juice that was mixed with the cider to ensure that it was a refreshing drink. Valborast suspected that the drink he held had gold in the title. Or if it didn't, it should, he decided.

I'm sure you'll do well at making them see. I shall watch with most interest. And as to things that blossom in the dark, it requires some ingenuity. Depends if you have to protect something from the light as you harness it. Sunlight does not nourish everyone. And must be directed appropriately and with proper focus and intensity to ensure it is not blinding, fatiguing, or, well.”

He shrugged and abandoned his sentence in favour of listening.

Seluria Estel'Narqua
 
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Hector moved about the crowd, an easy smile spread across his face. It was good to see so many people visiting the Monastery.

For most of the year, it was just they and theirs. Knights of the Order, sworn and prospective. But this was different.

People from far and wide had gathered about. Accepted their gifts, and partook in the festivities. Course, people showed up for the Broofest too, and Hector smiled as he thought back on that. How Only two had made it past the third tankard. How Faramund, The Mund himself, was knocked out early, and how Abri had well, made it farther than anyone really thought she would. A rowdy affair. The last shakes of life before the coming of cold winter. Where much life slept, and more life died.

Yet. Here they were. Amidst the cold and the snow, with not but company and life warm around them. A few creatures of the undead were sure to roam about. Syr Mordred himself was an undead soul who'd hung on to more than his share of sanity. Stayed in his armor most the time. Though he wasn't much for spectacles and get togethers. Preferred to tend the garden and feed Pickles. And Hector was sure he had seen Master Faetherwind floating somewhere about.

Hard to tell really, with all the magick that sparked and shimmered about. Didn't stop his stomach from growling though, or his want for something hot and spiced to drink down.

He shift the bag of toys he had slung over his shoulder, as the weight was digging in some. Weren't so heavy on their own, but all those pieces of wood, run through with metal wire and nails made them that much heavier.

Syr Josai was at the drink station, bright smile worn across her face, though he hardly recognized her without her wide hat. He picked up a cider, and saw Lorina nearby.

"Parent's aren't working you too hard I hope?" He asked the noble-born squire from behind his cup, and smiled some.

He saw a tray of pies that seemed to be floating about, and he blinked. He looked down, and saw the Halfling Artificer he had met some months ago. "Mistress Pim?" he asked himself with some confusion. What was she doing here, scrunched brow and pursed lips wanted to ask.
 
I thought it was quite good, She argued with clear amusement. However, Ill take over for the time being. She sent the dark haired bard a wink and went to find a spot to play.

"See, she liked it," Baise told his son.

He might have started up a conversation with the rather fetching young woman but it seemed that she was next to perform. He watched her carefully as she walked away.

"Dad!" Jude laughed.

Baise laughed and pulled an innocent face, poking out his tongue as his son. He travelled far and wide with Jude, but being a single father did not exclude him from enjoying conversation, flirting and the occasional moonlight tryst.

"Merely appreciating another artist. See, she's really very good too. I wonder if she would enjoy a duet."

"Dad!"

"Oh eat your food, that one wasn't even an innuendo!"
 
Parents arent working you too hard I hope? He asked the noble-born squire from behind his cup, and smiled some.

Lorinna shot Hector a glare that could have pierced chainmail.

"Yeah you hide behind that."

Lorinna took a breath. She gave him that look for his comment but the truth was that she wanted someone to complain to. Lori had her circle of gossip mongers even within the order. Plain old Hector was not a member of that circle, but in the moment he would do.

"He could at least leave it alone for a bit," he started unloading. "Karys - that's one of my sisters by the way - has been writing me all these stories about all the grand balls she's been attending and the suitors and the music and he can't even leave it alone when I have to serve his drinks..."

Hector was going to come to regret the comment, but not in the way he expected.
 
"Ah- that may be where we differ despite both being of Dusk! I have hardly any experience with the underground. My place has always been above it- following the cycles between sun and moon and star. Perhaps sometime you can educate me on that later?" There was a hint of a teasing challenge in Seluria's voice as she said the last, given he spoke with such familiarity. Taking another sip of the cider, its cup clasped in both hands, she turned her gaze away from the Blood Knight for a moment as the general rabble and noise rose a bit, and then faded somewhat, like the waves in the ocean.

"I wonder how this place used to look, many seasons ago...when the walls stood high against the threats of the world and our numbers were greater than we are now..." She murmurs, glancing back to Valborast again and humming softly. "Yet, I think the Knights still felt the same as they do now, and we just glorify the past. What say you of it?"

Valborast Valchek
 
Rainie finished her set with a shower of purple, red and blue sparks and a bow. Smiling wide, she took her hat and emptied it into her embroidered knapsack with a satisfying jingle. With a wave, she dismissed the dancing lights around her and began the hunt. The quarry she sought? Well, it should be obvious.

She tracked down the cattle dog with a deftness only dog people possessed. "Hello, beauty!" She greeted the dog gleefully, offering her hand to sniff before going straight for the ears. "Aren't you sweet? Oh, just look at you. What a darling!" Happily ruffling Lillian's fur, Rainie's smile nearly split her face in two. Satisfied, she straightened and gave the friendly dog a final few pats on the back. "Go on and get some table scraps, you've earned it!"

With that, the pirate wandered away, back towards the part of courtyard she'd performed at. She was curious about where to get one of the memory stones... She supposed she could ask one of the people wandering about in armor, but, well, they were a little intimidating. Her gaze roved over the crowd, and spotted the dark haired bard again. With an internal shrug, she figured she could at least ask a fellow bard easily enough.

"Hello again!" She chirped when she got close to his table. She sent a smile towards the child beside him before looking back to the bard. "Apologies if I'm bothering you, good sir, but could I ask you a question?" She tilted her head, and a loose curl of red hair tumbled over one shoulder.

Lillian Dog Baise