Quest Rogue's Hollow

Xyrdithas

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In the waning hours of the day as the sun descended on the far-off horizon, a cool evening breeze blew in from the east. With it, a thick cover of cloud yielding a gentle rain rolled across the sky. In a shallow and open valley, set on the eastern banks of a great river flowing south, the flickering lights of a town along Falwoods outskirts offered sanctuary as the low booms of thunder bellowed in the distance. The clicking of hooves on stone joined with the sound of rain, and from beneath his dripping hood Eren lifted his eyes to see. The town’s gates were still some ways off, and with what light remained he could see the scattered remains of a larger settlement all around. To the north he could see the road cresting a tall hill and there where the river began to fall stood a large decrepit looking tower overlooking all the valley. To the south was another road leading to where the trees and the waters met, and there stood several buildings on their own built alongside and cantilevered over the river.

Eren had been here in the past and in those days, there was a prosperous and diverse culture here and the town did indeed stretch out much farther, more like a fledgling city. But rarely do things stay the same, and it would seem this place had suffered from times ability to enact change. No doubt plundered by bandit and barbarian alike, its people have become obviously wary of the outside, encasing what still stands in a single fortified wooden wall complete with several watchtowers, eastern and northern gatehouses, and uncovered barbicans. The southern end was far less impressive, guarded by only a singular gate with minimal reinforcement. The West was protected by the river, the only crossing being located just outside the northern gate.

As he came upon the eastern gate, the large wooden doors clad in iron swung open to him revealing a contingent of about two dozen soldiers set before him, and several men patrolling atop the battlements with crossbows. A second gate resembling the first, remained closed at their backs.

You there!” a voice rasped out from the upper gatehouse, his speech broken and his tone harsh, “what brings you?!

Eren whispered something beneath his breath which brought the dark coloured horse he rode to a halt between the open doors. There, they passively waited and watched the clamouring before them as the soldiers lazily formed rank. The elf cast upon them an almost scornful gaze – judging by how they were behaving even he alone would have little trouble dispatching such a... beleaguered group.

I seek lodging, and stable for my steed,” he replied in like tone, “would you leave me out in such a state?

Whoever it was shouting from the fortifications above went silent, then finally spouted “And what kind are ya?

He was unmoved; he too had a discomfort for certain company but still he hoped that surely, they were still friendly to the elves here. With a brush of his hand he removed his covering to reveal pointed ears reaching out from beneath flaxen locks. He looked upward in the direction of their supposed captain who was hidden from view, but one could only suspect that he had been watching. After a moment he heard a quick, grumbling chuckle and then a wooden shudder abruptly slapped open to one side. Peering down at him, a rather homely looking man with half a shaved head and a gnarled smoking pipe popped his head out and looked intently at the elf.

From atop his horse Eren gestured in a friendly manner, spreading his arms and offering open palms.

I bring no evil with me,” he proclaimed.

The man studied him quietly for a few moments, his head dripping wet from sticking out in the now intensified rainfall.

Enter in elf-kind, but beware,” the guard captain said, his tone now almost sombre, “evil may yet find you here.

Then the shutter abruptly slammed closed and with a shout the inner gate opened and the men in his path moved aside. After a brief discussion with a couple of the guards regarding his transport, they granted him passage and Eren began to proceed as the gates closed behind him leaving the captain and his band of misfits free to frolic in the rain. Along the cobble street lined with buildings of wood and stone, he found himself well guarded from the windswept downpour and though a storm was well on it’s way he couldn’t help but notice that years ago even on a night such as this there was a calm vibrancy, but now it felt stagnant and dull. Another curiosity was that the town had seemingly forgotten its name – he had seen no signs, no indication anywhere. In tandem with the looming thunderstorm there was a darkness here that made him uneasy, and the added whistling and slamming of the increasing winds only heightened the anxiety.

The town square was set near the southern part of town, right alongside a sharp bank in the river. He knew of a suitable inn that was situated close-by. As Eren drew near, the sound of several people speaking loudly over the roaring crackles of fire echoed through the street and soon, carried to him by the twisting winds the odour of burning flesh touched his nose. Apparently, his horse had also caught the scent, causing him to halt and huff in protest. The elf snarled in disgust by what may lie ahead, though there was no alarm or sign of immediate panic, so with a little coaxing he and his steed cautiously carried on.

He emerged out into the square from between two closely set structures on the north eastern end. From there, he observed dozens of people standing by a series of heaped carts and wagons blazing alongside the river. Some were well burned, and a few had yet to be set. He quietly watched them for a few moments; at the far end a handful of men wearily piled long rolled bundles atop the remaining carts until finally they too were set ablaze. After determining it at least seemed safe he dismounted and with his horse in tow started forward, catching the attention of a nearby bystander who seemed gleeful about his arrival.

M'lord!” the man cried as he hurried toward the elf, “M'lord thank Astra you've come!

Eren stopped dead and looked at the man. He didn’t look impoverished but he was terribly dirty, soaked of course, and shook violently from either the cold or from the hysteria that was evident in his eyes. Eren could only surmise that he possibly appeared to this man as some kind of saviour, or holy champion perhaps. However, Eren was neither of these, and his last visit here was long before any of these humans would have been even thought of – there was no way he’d be recognized.

You praise Astra that I have come,” he looked over toward the flames as they whipped out over the waters, “and why do you believe I come?"

Why for this accursed ailment, M’lord? Be the work of devils I say,” the man eagerly he replied.

Eren’s looked back to the weary man, who stared at him with tear-filled eyes.

I am no healer,” admitted Eren, his eyes cast down before looking back to the burning wagons, “neither the priestly sort.

The man continued to stare, then nodded in silent acceptance as he too turned to look toward the fire mournfully. Together they stood there in silence for a moment, until Eren grew sufficiently tired of the evening’s weather and turned toward the inn. As he approached the building to the north end of the square a tall elf robed in white came from within and stood on the covered porch which encircled the structure. Eren looked up at the elf to see him beckoning to someone inside, and a shorter fellow came forth quickly and offered to escort his horse.

After relinquishing him graciously, Eren ascended the steps onto the elevated enclosure to meet this other elf. Coming to stand before him, he nodded his head respectfully to the apparent host.

My thanks, I did not expect such a reception.

Please, my brother,” said the white elf, gesturing his hand toward the door leading in, “join me inside and warm yourself.

He led Eren into a long, and wide building whose main floor was divided in two sections. The first which he stepped into was a small pub with a short bar directly ahead and several tables in a sunken room barred with wooden railing to his left. To the right, just beyond another table and a subtle divide in the space was what looked more like a library with books lining its walls as well as finer, more lounge-worthy furniture available. On the far wall stood a great fireplace of stone and it, along with the entire interior, was ornately decorated with relics of numerous cultures. Placed near the divide on the southern wall was a grand set of stairs which led both up and down. Earlier, he’d noticed the inn was three stories tall, but he could only imagine the state of the lower level, any possible windows hidden from view. There were several entrances all leading out onto the porch which encased the entire southern wall and wrapped around the east, save for one doorway on the north side which led to another separate porch, whose only other access was where it wrapped around the west side over the river, directly out into the square adjacent to the main entrance.

The kind host had offered lodging at no expense for his first night, saying he often did so for travellers when the weather turned sour. Not only this but upon entering his room on the second floor he found dry clothing folded and awaiting him atop a tightly made bed. This sight was a delight to him since he was thoroughly drenched, and he hurriedly disrobed and hung his belongings over a grated opening in the floor where heat from the fire below rose up. He returned to the main floor much more comfortable - wearing dry leather boots, black canvas trousers laced at the hips and partway down the leg over grey hose, a short light coloured linen undertunic with cuffed, bag shaped sleeves and a dark brown short sleeved jerkin laced up the centre, fitted with a lightweight hood overtop. Across the room by the northern door stood the tall elf holding two steaming mugs, who motioned for Eren to follow him out. He obliged and was handed a hot mug of tea which smelled sweet to him. He gave his thanks and drank, and the tall elf too drank before speaking.

Forgive me, my name is Ril'thilian, and you are most welcome to my establishment. But if I may ask...” he bowed his head courteously, “when shall the rest of your force arrive? I sent word to Fal'Addas some time ago.

Eren stared blankly at Ril'thilian for a time until their eyes again met. He couldn’t help feeling an uncertainty welling inside him like an open pit, like there was something he was missing. He thought back to the interaction he had shared with the town guards but couldn’t place any obvious connection.

I know nothing of which you speak friend. I have travelled here from much farther East, and I’ve done so alone.

Ril'thilian seemed distraught but not terribly so, and with the shake of his head started toward the western end where the burning wagons once again came into view.

Once casting his eyes toward the fire, adding to an exasperated sigh he uttered “I fear then that my outreach may have fallen short...
 

Edmund Adelard

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The downpour had trapped him in this strange town. Edmund was meant to travel to Vel Anir in order to receive a package for a man back in Elbion. He had no idea what the package contained and despite being a sellsword, he took the job solely for the gracious amount of coins it would leave him with. Yet Edmund sighed. He was not well suited for the type of work that kept him waiting.

He was lucky to have found the inn he sat in now. Edmund had taken a carriage since he was short coin for this month and couldn't afford a horse. Some knight he was. But the tea was comforting and while he did prefer a drink with a more masculine taste, it would suffice.

Edmund had left his belongings in the room the elven man had so kindly let him stay in free for a night. He felt naked without his sword by his side and the book that lay in his lap wasn't doing much to distract him. It was a tale about a jealous prince, something Edmund had heard thousands of times over back in his forgotten home in the Blightlands. His late king's mother would tell them both the stories of the countless jealous princes when they were children. Edmund didn't want to hear these tales anymore.

WIth a heavy sigh, he wrapped a hand around the cover of the book and gently shut it. When he reached for his mug, he found that it was still too hot for his liking. Edmund prefered cold drinks. So he sighed again and pushed himself up from his chair to return the book to its shelf.

The book slid into its place and Edmund let a finger trail down its spine. He was tired. Going back to retrieve his mug, he decided it was time for him to retire for the night, but a figure in the corner of his eyes caught his attention.

Edmund had seen his fair share of mysterious men. He himself was growing closer each day to becoming one of them. An untold past, an unseeable future, and the ever present aura of guilt. It was all routine at this point in his life. But this man was more than just a mystery. He was a shadow. A shadow dressed in layers of armor. It was a kind of protection Edmund could recognize with just a single glance. There were many men who wore it.
 
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Fèlen

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Wooden shoes knocked back and forth as slate eyes watched the road beneath the cart pass by. In her left hand, she held an incredibly thick stem, the growth stretching above her with a large leaf sprouting from the top, protecting Fèlen from the downpour. She had caught a ride on a small trading cart, loaded with wooden crates intent on making coin. When she had approached the merchant he had agreed as long as she didn't have any specific request as to location. As a wayward traveler, she had agreed. Now she sat on the back of his cart amidst his wares, her feet dangling over the edge.

Water spilled from the clouds above, her leaf assuring that her delicate crest would not get drenched, however, her slender legs were exposed. Her attire was colored a deep plum, flowing fabric cinching at her ankles, waist, and neck. The overcast droplets could not soak into her garments, the threads refusing to dampen as the water simply rolled away. Her free hand cupped outside her cover, allowing the life-giving liquid to gather. A soft smile touched plump lips, thankful for the water that would feed the land.

Their cart came to a bumpy stop outside the large wall, the merchant taking a moment to exchange words with the guards before they were allowed within. She gave a small wave and bright smile to those standing at the gates, regardless of any warnings he might have provided on their way in.

This was not the sort of town she had expected to come upon. There was a desperation that hung in the air, seeped within the very buildings, whispering from the wood. A stench wafted from deeper within, one the falling rain could not wash away.

"There's an inn near the markets, I'll be dropping off my load and then heading back." The experienced merchant called back to the half-nymph. He had to raise his voice over the rain, encouraging her to simply remain silent and allow him to assume that she had heard him. Once the cart came to a halt she hopped down, offering her help with the goods to which the merchant declined. She was a delicate woman, after all.

She gave a final smile to him before following his guidance towards the inn. She left the monstrous leaf outdoors, finding a suitable patch of mud to thrust it into and allow it to take root before she pushed open the door and entered, her sterling hair only slightly damp from the brief exposure.

"Greetings." She proclaimed with a generous smile as she approached the bar.
 

Huang Tien

黄天
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45
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Bio
"I come from a family of teachers, and I believe ideas matter; the good ones deserve reverence, and the bad ones, defiance."
-Nancy Gibbs


A peculiarly dressed stranger in yellow...whom was currently sitting at the counter right in front of the windows...his eyes were covered by his wide-brim strawhat, but it was clear he was looking down In front of him were a number of things; the most obvious of the lot being a tea pot and a handless teacup, half empty, but still steaming from the heat. Right in front of the stranger was a piece of parchment...and in his hand, was a brush...as the man had appeared to be doing some sort of "painting"...painting various pictures in a column...with black ink from a stone ink palette...meanwhile, resting next to him was what appeared to be some sort of staff, resting against the wall immediately next to the window.

It was clear that this man was a stranger to this land, if his clothing themselves did not make him stand out, it was the colors he wore...of course, in a tavern such as this, stranger of his caliber were expected...

The story behind went as such: This rather particular man had seemingly wandered in out of nowhere, almost startling so, considering the present circumstance. Aside from his rather...foreign...dress...the man seemed of very little interest, as he spent the day wandering the markets for most of the day...come the afternoon, he had plopped himself against some building or another, which given the raggedy way he was dressed, had many assuming that he was some sort of beggar...or gypsy...or a crazy person...as passersby would occasionally hear some sort of gibberish uttered from his mouth...yet there he stayed...sitting up in a crisscross, his staff leaned against the building...with one hand held out vertically to the ground...the stranger might have stayed like the for the entire night, as even when it rained, this man did not seem to respond...it was only at the insistence of the kind innkeeper, coming out and offering him a place to stay, did he snap out of this statue like state...and with a word of thanks, would follow him in.

However, to make matters more interesting...when the man was offered the room immediately, he politely denied...least for the moment...as he opted to stay in the common area of the commons...however, he did ask the owner if he couldn't pay him to boil some water in his teapot...a strange request to pay for...least that's what the innkeeper had thought, but refused the money, offering to do the deed for free...earning some kind words of thanks from the strangers...

Fact was, this all happened not but a few moments ago...but ever since he had received is tea pot of hot water, he stranger in yellow had been seated in the exact same position...seemingly not even noticing who came or left...to focused on his...pictures...
 

Xyrdithas

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From where Eren stood he could not see around the building, but despite the blowing winds he could hear the racket of horse and carriage arriving out front. Though it was dark on this side, the light of the fires in the square illuminated Ril’thilian’s now contented expression. The sight of whomever was out front was perhaps what he had been waiting for.

...but at least some things are as they should be. If you’ll excuse me for a moment.

Ril’thilian bowed his head and then moved to speak with the new arrival. Alone, Eren stepped back inside the door and started toward the “library,” just when yet another stranger entered in. As his eyes darted to see, he beheld the likes of which he did not expect in such a time and place; a rather striking young lady in dress which he could tell was of interesting quality. There was something about her, perhaps her seemingly cheerful demeanour, but something he couldn’t quite place caused him to feel uncomfortable, almost jealous. After a moment he realized that his mind had been racing. In fact, he had been staring.

Just then, the shorter fellow from earlier rushed past him and out the door, shattering his focus - or rather lack thereof. Realizing his state, he quickly composed himself and offered a somewhat awkward greeting to Fèlen before retreating toward one of the bookcases, locking eyes with Edmund as he turned. He nodded to him somewhat hastily as he moved passed, feeling somewhat embarrassed with his lack of tact. Arriving in front of the rows of literature he reached out without aim and slipped one of the uncounted books out from its place. It felt warm in his hand. As he flipped through the pages, he didn’t pay much attention to the text, instead found himself wondering how much longer Ril’thilian would be – he had some questions for him.


Meanwhile


Ril’thilian descended the porch down into the rain and met with the merchant. Though the rain was about him he seemed unbothered, unlike the salesman who held his old tattered hood over his head while they exchanged words over the still strong winds.

Thank you for coming,” he looked over to see some of the men leaving their posts around the fires to funnel toward and into the inn, “as you can see, some people have been expecting you!

Just then, some randomly sprouted growth stood right beside him briefly caught his attention. How wonderful…he thought.

The merchant man nodded to him, his expression stern, “when I had heard what had happened, the least I could do was my job!

Ril’thilian and he continued to exchange words for a few moments until out of the corner of his eye the elf caught the guard captain amongst the men, followed closely by two others heading inside. Panicked, he rushed to complete his exchange of payment with the man while his helper began unloading the goods. Beverages of the stronger sort, as well as some other things.

As he turned, Ril’thilian hollered to the captain, “Thorgauld! I’ve warned you before!

Quiet, elf-scum! I’ll tolerate only so much from you!” the captain turned and spat, “you know who I’m here for don’t you! He’s in here isn’t he?

Ril’thilian scowled, “don’t be a fool, he’s been here but a day! What sense can you make of this?

Snarling at the elf, captain Thorgauld – from the eastern gate – drew his sword which cued his immediate companions to do the same and then he turned to boot in the front entrance. The door swung to the side with a loud slam, causing the half dozen or so guards who had entered prior to go silent. Some, the drink just inches from the lips sat perfectly still as their captain’s heavy footfalls thumped across the floor. He stopped about halfway between the door and the bar. As he began to speak, he lifted his sword and pointed it toward Huang Tien, whose back was to him.

You,” he hollered loudly, his voice harsh and rough, “I’ve heard all I need; how you've come here casting your spells in the streets, coming here to finish what’s been started I'll wager!

Just then Ril’thilian followed in and hollered back to Thorgauld in protest, muted and kept at a distance by the shouting guardsmen the captain had in tow, seemingly powerless to stop them.
 

Edmund Adelard

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The mysterious man had locked eyes with him. It was strange, feeling that connection, that understanding with a person he had never seen before. Edmund watched as he took a book off the shelf and began reading through it. It was curious. The man's eyes wandered over the words, but never read anything. He seemed to be waiting.

Whatever it was he was waiting for, Edmund would gladly take part.

Edmund went to grab his still steaming mug of tea and took a sip, but didn't sit back down. The liquid burned the back of his throat and as it did, the knight twisted his face into one of slight pain. It was a dramatic reaction, but he decided to go back to his room. Whatever it was that awaited him, it required his sword.

The stairs creaked awkwardly under his weight and he ascended them. It was a comforting sound. It gave the place personality. Edmund reached his room shortly after and set his mug on the table next to the door. His sword lay in wait on his bed, which was made with delicate precision.

Edmund reached for his sword. It was on the large side, the blade being a bit longer than half his height. A strap was sewn to the sheath and the knight caressed the handle sweetly before swinging the blade over his shoulder. He quickly adjusted it so that it fit snugly against his back.

Next to where the sword once laid, a belt with four pouches rested. Edmund took it and fastened it around his waist, but underneath his cloak. He checked that each pouch was still full of its contents. The first contained small vials of strange concoctions which soothed pain. The second contained blocks of coal to help him with his magic. He found it hard to conjure a flame without them. The third held his money bag and the fourth was home to a ring. Just a single ring. It was his late king's and Edmund carried it with him wherever he go.

Satisfied with his appearance, he took one last sip of tea, swallowing it harshly, and turned to rejoin the strange man on the floor below.
 
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Fèlen

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Blue opal eyes followed Fèlen's entrance, though she was not immediately aware. She happily sat at the bar, ordering a warm drink before twirling around on the stool to gather her surroundings. She had been followed in shortly by a group of guards, their nightly ale finally arriving with the merchant she had hitched a ride from. Silveresque orbs continued, pausing a the strange man in canary-hued cloth, eagerly maintaining focus on his paint. She moved on, another man begrudgingly drinking his tea, steam roiling almost angrily out of the cup. Finally, her sight caught with one who had his own trained intently on her.

She blinked, pale lashes fluttering from the motion in surprise before another smile pulled at her peached lips. She lifted her hand in a light wave to return his greeting before his attention turned to that of the books. By now her drink had made an appearance with its own cloud of angry steam. She inhaled the sweet, smokey scent before giving it a light blow and taking a sip. It burned as it journeyed down her throat, though that was not only due to the temperature. She abandoned her perch to approach Eren.

"Do you kno-!" A faint yelp interrupted her soft lilt as the door crashed open. She looked on, eyes wide from the barbarity of the captain's entrance. An accusatory sword pointed towards the painter, though Fèlen shrunk back. She had learned a lesson in minding her own from her time in Vel Anir.
 

Huang Tien

黄天
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45
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"Please, honorable sir...there are other patrons in this establishment, and it be rude to disrupt their evening..." The stranger spoke, at first not looking at the captain, as he placed his brush down and reached for his tea cup. "...I have no plans on going anywhere, so we can settle this in a civilized fashion...so please, bring your voice down for the sake of curtsy..."

The stranger would take a sip out of his handless tea cup before continuing,

"Now, what is your quarrel with me?...Ah yes, accusing me of a crime, naturally...but, out of sheer curiosity...what is it exactly am I being charged of? And what kind of "evidence" do you have to bear against my...alleged arcane activities, so to say?" The stranger tilted his hat to the side, making eye contact with this captain. "Is it the fact that I am not of local origins? Or is it is because I spoke a language beyond your comprehension? Or perhaps this..." The stranger reached over to grab the parchment he had been writing on, fanning it out to show the captain. "...my writings, of the same language that you still have no knowledge of?...truly, I can see why this settlement has entrusted the law into your hands..."

The stranger would proceed to gently lay his work back down on the table, spreading it out to it's original position.

"If I had to judge...you are that certain type of fellow whom believes that any form of correlations equates to causation...hm, if I would to say that these words on this paper made the sun rise and fall, you would probably believe it..." The stranger picked up his teacup once again, shaking his head a little in the process. "...such rigidness in your thinking...probably gotten more then one innocent soul in this town thrown into a jail cell...never mind those you probably have let free to roam...I truly pity the people under your...I hesitate to say "protection", but for a lack of a better term...I suppose that'll just have to do."
 

Xyrdithas

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As Erën’s eyes danced aimlessly over the pages he’d fled into his thoughts remained elsewhere. He had grown far too curious with the happenings outside to really invest his attention in the words he “read”. No one had spoken much about what burned by the river, and what plagued him was why no one was very forth giving. That man in the square revealed very little to him, and it was unlike simple townsfolk to be so withheld about these things - at least in his experience.

A voice fell upon his ears and amid his thoughts the words did not quite compute, especially following the rather abrupt interruption, and his eyes shot up to see the captain come crashing in. Tea in one hand and tome in the other he drew slightly closer to Fèlen, unsure exactly of how he would take any action should he need to. He watched on as the captain and the strange man began their harsh exchange. The captain seemed unable to get a word in as the stranger bludgeoned his ego, and it was an almost humorous display as he grew increasingly irritated – apparently quite startlingly so to his nearby henchmen.

Erën listened while the exchange so far remained non-violent, but his eyes moved to the entranceway. He looked on as Ril’thilian, apparently having swayed the guards somehow, entered unhindered. The local elf seemed to have a sudden air of authority about him - which was not terribly peculiar for his kind - but in the way the people were responding was what was peculiar. The guards looked almost happy to oblige him, a far cry from how they had been behaving just moments ago.

Suddenly, a great crash of thunder roared around them and the wind took a vicious turn; the entire building seemed the groan against its strength and the room grew dark. Fuelled by the startling sound, the captain’s composure completely dissolved as he began toward Huang Tien with no intention of arresting him. This caused several of the guards to stand and protest at their captain’s beyond irrational behaviour. Erën looked back to see as the captain opened his mouth to shout at the men but was eerily silent. Then, one hand covered his mouth as he began to cough and heave, and his sword fell to the floor beside him as his other grasped at his chest.

The soldiers watched on in shock as their captain fell to his knees while the fit overtook him, and Ril’thilian moved leisurely to his side and hovered over him almost cruelly,

“I’d warned you not to go captain,” the elf mournfully uttered, almost whispering, “and now the vile sick has found its way into you, as it will with all those who went with you as I had for-told.”

Ril’thilian continued to stand motionless over the man as he now began to spew blood from his mouth. It was horrible and caused the air to grow thick with its stench – it smelled worse than rotted death. The soldiers looked on in horror, frozen by what they saw. Ril’thilian shook his head in dismay and looked around at all those who watched on, casting an apologetic look especially to Huang Tien before he motioned for the men the captain had arrived with to come close.

“Please my friends, if you would,” his tone still heavy with grief, “he has little time left.”
 

Huang Tien

黄天
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The crash of the thunder would catch the attention of the stranger, as he first looked up to observe the dust falling off the ceiling, before looking outside just in time to see the flash of the lightening. The stranger didn't say anything, as he took a sip of his cup, watching as the water pelted onto the window stile...seemingly unconcerned with the individual, whom up until a minute ago, had wanted to throw himself into a jail cell.

It was only at the sound of the sword hitting the ground, did the stranger turn his eyes and witness the captain's fall.With one hand, the stranger caught the captain as he fell, before placing his tea down with the other and bringing it forth to assist the other hand in gently lowering the captain onto his knees.

"Easy now..." The stranger said, as he fell upon his own knees in support of the captain, one hand rubbing his back and the other was acting as a grip for the captain. The stranger hardly flinched, even as the captain began to hurl blood, although he took care not to get any of the blood onto himself...the stranger's expression hardly shifted, for anyone whom was observing...as he continued to rub the captain's back, addressing the elf that was standing over both of them without even looking up, "There, there...no need for any of that...death is not somthing to be relished...life is not cheap..."

The stranger began to mutter somthing, before he himself began to glow a lightish color that illuminated the bleakish background of the tavern. The stranger would then close his eyes, as if he was sensing somthing within the captain...

"Indeed...unfortunate..." The stranger said, opening his eyes, looking at the captain's diminishing state. "...well...the least we could do is make his last moments in this realms as painless as possible."

The man's glow seemed to in effect the captain, administering what might have been considered to be a bumming affect on the pain receptacles...applying to the captain's mind an affect that caused his brain to drift into a nonreactive trance...as whatever he had was beginning to take a affect on his body...

"I suppose it's safe to say you know somthing of this?...Since you seem to be familiar with the...captain's, movements." The stranger spoke, continuing his...technique, as he looked up to meet the eyes of the elf.

 
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Fèlen

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The shock had almost caused her to spill her drink, the mug now cradled close to protect any of the liquid from escaping. Her gaze flickered to Erën, his form moving closer either in chivalry or his own defense, she wasn't entirely sure which.

She listened on as the canary-clad man defended himself, his words polite and factual, though insulting and belittling all the same. The elf pressed a hand swiftly against her lips, faltering a laugh that wanted to breathe, taken aback by the stranger's boldness. It was only a moment later that an elf strode through the wounded doorway, entering in a much calmer fashion than the captain before him. It was after his entrance that the humor came to a halt.

Thunder rumbled around them, causing the nymph to jump faintly and fumble with her mug once more. Her brows furrowed as she looked around warily, wondering just what kind of town she had wandered into as she mimicked Erën and absently moved closer to him. She stiffened as killer intent filled Thorgauld's eyes, all for naught as he stopped short. Usually, the halfling was the first to act when others were in need, but there was something holding her back as the captain fell to his knees, his blood splattering against the floor as the stranger moved from his seat to catch the ill captain. Her nose scrunched at the stench but her eyes were unmoving on Ril'thilian. It was all wrong. From how the elf simply looked down at the injured man to how everyone else simply looked on, as if it were not out of the norm. Even as the stranger began to glow, she could not help but feel like a spectator, looking on in hopes of answers, but unwilling to interrupt.
 

Edmund Adelard

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As Edmund descended the stairs, he took light notice of the crackle of thunder from outside. His mind was wandering and when his mind wandered, his focus was completely separate from the world around him. He should have noticed the thunder. He should have taken it as a sign for the sight that would meet him at the bottom of the staircase,

A man was curled onto the ground, a small pool of blood beside him. His lips were tainted crimson and the sounds heaving from his chest were utterly disturbing. Something was happening and once Edmund caught the sight of it, his mind stopped wandering. His mind was now focused entirely on the man on the floor.

The elven man who had made eye contact with him earlier was there. He recognized at least one face. There were so many that were strangers to him in this town that he shouldn't even be in.There was a new man, one he hadn't seen before leaving to his room that hovered over the bloody man. His hand over the hilt of his sword, Edmund strode across the floor and to the man's side.

"What's happening?" Edmund simply said.

He wondered how it was hell could have broken loose in such a short amount of time. He also knew that he was now wrapped up in it.
 

Xyrdithas

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Erën’s eyes flashed over to the stairwell as Edmund returned to the main floor having retrieved his proper attire, which the elf thought had been a wise decision – one he himself should perhaps soon imitate.

“Come,” he beckoned to the young knight as he came close, “and we shall see.”

He moved toward the gathering, and the soldiers also drew near to help...deal with their dying captain. He watched on with an inquisitive eye - there was something about what ailed the captain that seemed unnatural, or at least very strange. His eyes grew wide as Huang’s aura became visible about him, unsure at first of what intention this unusual traveller had.


Thorgauld's head wobbled around as his body slowly began to ease, and his movements became little more than twitches. Then, an abrupt and unsettling focus came to his bloodshot eyes as they peered directly, almost desperately into the eyes of the man he’d just moments ago meant to harm. Bloodied tears welled, and in a silent plea his eyes shot toward Ril'thilian with a boiling rage that embraced his soul just one final time.


“Speak quickly, innkeeper.” Erën seconded Huang's presumption of the older elf, “We all seek answers,” Erën’s expression now grim, he eyed Ril’thilian warily as he set the book and his cup down on the table nearest him.


Ril’thilian opened his mouth to respond but was silenced by the sounds of terrified townsfolk ringing out into the air, and it was apparent that it had only now become audible over the storm. Looking out, it would seem the prior gusts had somehow been enough to quell the fires outside and had darkened their surroundings.

Panicked and winded, the merchant man who had arrived earlier came rushing in and slammed the door shut behind him. He sank down with his back to the exit, cupping his hands as he fought back his terrified sobs.

“By the gods...” his voice trembled, and then his eyes shot up with a sudden realization, “the...the doors!”
 

Huang Tien

黄天
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The stranger watched as the captain breath his last, lowering his head...his eyes once again becoming hidden under the wide brim of his straw hat...as if he felt the life of the man leave his body...the aura retracting from the captain and returning to the stranger...before annulling itself, and the man had returned back to his prior state.

At the very least, the stranger was able to give the captain a painless death...least he could do under the circumstances.

"My friend....I fear the answers we seek may be upon us sooner then we expected..." The stranger said to no one in particular, as he stood back up. The man would then reach out with on hand and grabbing the staff that rested next to the doorway, bring it close to his body, as if ready to use it at a give notice. The man's eyes first glanced about the room...from the soldiers to the women to the side of the room...all the way back to the two elves standing among the ruckus...finally finding their way upon the merchant. Even with the given scenario, the stranger remained calm, his expression hardly changing since the merchant's entrance. "Ready yeself...just in case."
 
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Fèlen

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Wrong. She had felt it since entering the town. The wood and growth trying to warn her as she passed the gates, the smell in the air stinging her nostrils with a unique stench that whispered of death. It was all wrong and she had failed to listen. The halfing had yet to move from her spot, stationary as an unhindered fear gripped her.

Her blood ran with the very life of nature, able to give and quell that of anything that grew. She knew it thoroughly and intimately, the very urge of it running deeply within her veins. Undeath was the opposite, giving false life to a vessel. Cursed and utterly wrong.

Her mug shattered against the floor as she finally gained control, blood weeping from the captain's lifeless eyes.
"S-stay away from him!" She called out in warning, her arm reaching out and finding purchase on the bookcase, supporting her weak legs as fear wrought her form. Her steely eyes turned to Ril'thilian, assuming he was aware of the happenings in the town. Anger mounted within her, fueled by fear. Porcelain, delicate, and slight, the half-nymph crossed the floors towards the innkeeper, grasping at garments with a strength only known to those practiced in arts of defense as she gritted her teeth at him.
"Why the hell are you still allowing people in this town?!" The disease would spread, consume as many living as it possibly could until there were none left to infect.

Her attention was turned as the merchant sprinted in through the doorway, shaken with the same fear that chilled her bones. She released the elf, glaring at the floorboards.
"I'll secure the entrances.." She spat, cursing her poor luck as she headed towards the doors, allowing Ril'thilian to explain and deal with the captain whilst she began encouraging the wood to harden itself and grow tight within their frames before moving on towards the windows.
 

Edmund Adelard

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Edmund was hopelessly lost. The bloodied man eventually fell dead and Edmund looked up at the strange elf who seemed to set off this bizarre string of events. He was the innkeeper. Xyrdithas had asked him for answers and Edmund couldn't have thought of a better question to ask after a man died from coughing up too much blood.

The silvery woman made a fus, but Edmund was too focused on the dead body. He missed her barricading the doors. The body seemed to captivate him. The sight of it was so familiar, like a passing memory. Perhaps that's what it was.

He recalled that one night. The one night he regretted more than anything he's ever experienced. The night he couldn't save anyone except himself. Edmund remembered the sights of headless bodies piling up higher and higher with every minute. He remembered seeing his brothers in arms dropping dead after being beaten and used. He remembered seeing the man he trusted most fall to his knees and his head thrown to the sky after a booming cheer was given.

He remembered seeing the dead man lying next to him when it all happened. The captian must have been that dead man for he looked just like him in this moment.

Edmund's knees gave way and he couldn't help but grab onto the elven man next to him to save himself.

"Sorry about that," he coughed, suddenly brought back to reality.
 
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Xyrdithas

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The wind howled, slamming shutters and unlatched doors with erratic gusts that whirled through the town. The darkness outside was relieved only by the light of the storm as it grew brighter. Though the lightning carried on the thunder diminished for a time and noiseless flashes revealed tremendous smoke and steam billowing across the square, diverted by the gusts and directed straight into the streets. But in the intermittent glow from the sky, masked in the unveiling winds – they were there.

They advanced from the river, their movements slow and cumbersome. Though their silhouettes were barely visible it looked as though they writhed as they moved, each step almost more difficult than the last. What was more is though they looked like the shadows of men they had begun to take a different shape, an uncertain and agonizing form that was currently difficult to discern from inside – but what was apparent is they had seemingly no interest in the inn set on the northern side of the square, and instead they appeared to be veering south. Through the walls and over the winds it was impossible to tell, but it almost sounded as like they were crying for help.

Erën watched in surprise as Fèlen closed on the innkeeper with authority, clasping onto him with force like an ox. The innkeeper was clearly shaken, and speechless to say the least. He bumbled a few words but was… yes, terrified of Fèlen – at least in that moment. He’d seemed so sure of himself just a moment ago, even condescending. And though Erën did not know the captain, it seemed unfair to treat him in such a way. It was evident to him that something had done its work on Thorgauld very quickly. Their interaction had not gone terribly, no worse than to be expected really and he had behaved quite differently, more thoughtful.

But then, in keeping with this blasted town’s record of impetuousness, another someone came bursting through the door. Erën’s eyes flashed with anger as he turned toward the door but faded as he saw the man enter in such a state of distress. Though still irritated, he maintained his ill expression as he watched the merchant begin to break down. It was a terrible thing to see a Man cry, it looked awful and it sounded horrible. Even in this the elves still had more grace.

He looked back to Huang and nodded as he uttered his warning – it was time to reclaim his gear. And while he had no knowledge of whatever prompted the merchant's fear, he did feel some relief from Fèlen’s efforts to seal it out for the time being. The grasp of Edmund’s hand on his shoulder startled him, and he reacted quickly to catch him, fortunately unnecessarily. As Edmund again stood tall, Erën’s hand fell now upon his shoulder.

“Are you well friend? I fear we may well-” Erën was interrupted by another of the merchant’s outbursts. He shouted, and was now actually pointing at one of them, or both perhaps, he couldn’t really tell.

“Ahhh! He… You… no... no you’re not him… but you’re wearing-” his voice was still shaky, even worse now with the sudden jolt of false fear, “but his… his face!” he ran his hand down the left side of his face, as if trying to describe something, “there was something wrong with him! Growing off of him!” the merchant man’s face became pale, and his eyes went wide as the shock's hold tightened, “he… his voice… my carriage! he took… I couldn’t… I couldn’t even move I was so… his face!! By the gods… those people… oh no they'll…” The merchant man buried his face in his arms and continued to mumble on, screaming at times.


Ril’thilian had indeed been shaken by Fèlen’s outburst. He had not even yet been introduced to her yet, having missed her to converse with the merchant upon her arrival. He tried to speak in defence but found himself at a loss, completely taken aback by her unexpected fury having wrote her off as a terrified bystander. But thankfully, the merchant’s cries removed her hold of him, and he was clearly relieved despite the implied horror outside.

His demeanour toward the merchant was far different than with Thorgauld. He approached much more like he had to everyone else, with a seemingly genuine kindness. He lowered himself to his side, and beckoned to the bartender, who all this time had stood there drying a single glass with his eyes fixed ahead. This roused him, and he hurried over avoiding the mess laying in the middle of the floor and shuffling through the men. The soldiers were all petrified, first by what had transpired and then Fèlen’s proclamation. Between staring at Thorgauld, glancing at Huang, and looking around at each other they accomplished very little, uncertain of… everything.

Knelt by the door beside the merchant offering words of comfort, the acuity of his elven ears perceived through the storm - barely. Once the bartender had come to take the man to a table - to no avail - Ril'thilian stood and looked out the nearest window, but the storm had no light for him. He watched for a moment then turned back to the others in the room, all looking at him for answers.

“The man he speaks of… I believe it to be him who has brought this...curse. Be wary. If it... if they pierce you, ye shall suffer like Thorgauld.” He looked down at him, looking almost sincere in his sorrow, "we'd argued much he and I, but in the end he would not hear my words for his damned...I told him not to go. Even this, I had foretold."
 

Xyrdithas

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“He came here less than a month ago, and he certainly seemed like anyone else... He came to the gates pleading for entry I’m told, saying he was in desperate need tree fellers. And the captain…” The elf snickered, “that man thought he knew people so well at a glance.”

He sighed and examined the state of his establishment, looking around at the mess of spilt blood and ale. He frowned down at the merchant who seemed reluctant to move and gestured for the bartender to find something to deal with Thorgauld's body, feeling it needed to at least be covered. Indeed, the young lady seemed to have a perceptive eye, the body should not be touched... A wry smile crept faintly across his lips, and he made his way to the bar where he began to help himself to more tea.

“I allowed him in and offered him the same I did to each of you this evening – more-so for his lessened state than rain. He seemed lost…” Ril’thilian’s face dropped a bit, “… but he found his journeymen in here that night, and they’d left together shortly after daybreak the following day.”

“He’d rallied a small party of them together and left, but... only one of them returned. He came rushing here in fact, looking for the captain. Though Thorgauld didn’t care much for me he did enjoy his ale – and I was his only source,” he looked down into the sunken room and looked toward the far corner where a table with two chairs was set, “I’d heard (the logger)Girrel’s whole tale. He spoke about a strange smoke when they fell their trees and how when the men breathed it, they coughed and grew sick. Girrel was tending their camp and was spared of the smoke but watched on in horror as his friends – and even the stranger – were shortly after… changed.

“He claimed the other men started bickering, and then began to fight and… grew violent. Girrel fled at the sight of their gore, but he claimed that they chased after him immediately and only vanished after he outran them… I interrupted and questioned the young man, surprisingly to Thorgauld’s silent approval. He told me that they’d loaded some of their splendour into his wagon before things turned sour, and he had left it south at the mills...”

Ril’thilian stopped to sip from his tea and watched Thorgauld as the bartender covered his body with a large, dark sheet. Around them the wind persisted, and the building creaked and groaned against the great force. Ril’thilian’s eyes then locked with Erën’s as a deep roaring rumble of thunder caused the very ground to tremble.

“… The tree be cursed I say, afflicted with something that was never meant to leave from where it stood. But Girrel, he came back. I warned Thorgauld of what I thought and that this was not… his… to deal with. But he would not heed me, and he even discarded Girrel as crazy and locked him away before setting out after the men he’d ‘left behind’. But by the time he’d even made it to the mill…not only had many men there been slain, but some still dying appeared to be changing where they lay, and four strange beasts had appeared and slew many of Thorgauld’s men. And in the struggle, he and several of the others were pierced by some strange thing and yet had not died or changed...until now. I had intended all the bodies destroyed but it would seem...” his eyes looked now out the window again where the fires’ light had long since departed.

Erën’s visage had grown eerily dark, as though a shadow had slipped in around him. This tale tore at him and reminded him of the sorrows befallen his people and inside his soul writhed as he remembered the emptiness he felt – the silence. His eyes wavered, and he looked away from Ril’thilian to the nearby window into blackness while he thought. It was hard to fathom this; he had never known anyone to venture into Mal’Esia Aeraesar so candidly and attempt such a thing. Many years ago, it would not be so unimaginable and though likely frowned upon was far from impossible, but now… his lands were torched by the flames of evil and not only the wood had turned strange. But it would seem it was so.

“If it is as I believe, this curse is indeed not of these lands and is unnatural and evil, and if it should spread… well we thought it contained by our magics, our efforts, or just by its nature, we knew not. It would seem we were wrong, and what will happen next is...”

He stopped, remembering when he and the others of his caste had returned home to find it in ruin, and what had been lying in wait for them there. Before Erën could elaborate, from beneath its covering with a terrible and frightening sound Thorgauld's body began to shake and squirm where it lay. A hand shot up, and before their eyes his skin became as scorched bark, and his fingers grew out like the limbs of thorny trees, and they drooped and swayed like loose vines as his body jarred about in place, continuing to bellow all the while. Then the other limb was abruptly revealed in similar condition followed by the rest of Thorgaulds body which rose to its feet to reveal that it had been completely changed, and small vines wriggled about his whole form. It stood for a moment, and then screamed out again as its once limp tendrils now sprang to life and stretched out to grab at any and all who stood close.

“...unimaginable!”
 
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Fèlen

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Alive but dead. The contradiction of the curse chilled her bones, arms wrapping around herself as Ril'thilian continued to explain, leaving the windows once they were secured. This nature was angry and warped by evil magic. Bloodthirsty. It had been a subtle nag when she entered, but now the moan of it was impossible for her to ignore.

Her previous fussing proved to be well-founded, the dead body reanimating into something organic yet unnatural. It was unlike risen corpses she had viewed before, their bodies intertwined with growth, causing her severe discomfort. It appeared she and the merchant were the only ones so shaken by this development. The body rose, causing the halfling to stagger back at its bellow.

Her jaw tightened with fear, stepping forward despite its cling. She was reluctant to reach towards it even with her magic, her abilities to manipulate nature intimate. She did not want to feel the truth of the creature more than she already could, but she was unable to ignore its violence. Her allurement reached towards it, intent on forcing it back to the ground, subdued so that it could not harm the others.

"What are we supposed to do now?" Her gaze shifted to Erën, who spoke of knowing the curse that afflicted the town, doing her best to keep her voice even.
 
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Xyrdithas

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The beast had lashed out angrily, managing to wrap its tendrils around many who stood by, Erën being among them. He’d drawn his arms up in defense and was grabbed and yanked, but he and the others all held their ground, planting their feet firmly against its pull – it was not alone strong enough for them all. But almost as quickly as it had attacked, its strength faded and Erën along with a few others managed to free themselves of its grasp.

“Fire!” Ril’thilian called out, grabbing a lantern which hung from the wall and stormed forward, “move aside!”

He hesitated only for a moment to let people move or otherwise shield themselves, then he hurled the lantern upon the subdued beast before retreating away.

Erën moved away, as did the many guards who had freed themselves. The others still bound turned and shielded their faces, but as the glass shattered and the oil coated the newborn monster it recoiled and pulled at them. Guardsmen hollered and jumped to save their comrades, and some drew swords and hacked at the now writhing creature’s limbs. It seemed planted in place, unable to move from where it now knelt.

The freed men then backed away and watched their former captain burn before their eyes, its movements becoming slow and laboured. Some looked on with anger, others with pale eyes, but none of them could bring themselves to move at the sight.

Erën frowned a deep frown as he watched on. He too was shaken, but not so much as to be unsure. This was the proper course with these types of creatures. They had to be burned, or they would simply regrow lost limbs or otherwise. Only ash could be their end.

Be then, one final and terrifying scream came forth – it sounded with such clarity as to cut through all the noise and all the storm, even out into the streets. Erën even reached at his ear with a wince, and then his eyes grew wide. He darted for the stairs – he needed his weaponry for what was to come.

“Prepare yourselves! Ril’thilian, we may need to get them all out of here!”

He ascended the stairs quickly and vanished into his room. The creature had been reduced to a smoldering mass in the center of the room very quickly, leaving it nothing more than a husk. The guards meanwhile tried their best to shake off what had just happened and prove themselves useful for something. Some stomped out some wayward flame which sought to claim the rest of the structure, others with swords drawn found themselves gathering tables and chairs for added barricades around windows and doors.

It would not take Erën very long to reclaim his items, but all the while the creatures which had once been moving south turned their attention north to the Rogue’s Hollow and approached… and not as slowly as when they had first appeared.
 
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