Open Chronicles Something not so Wicked

A roleplay open for anyone to join
Character Biography
In a puddle of rainwater about two inches deep, was a day-old corpse.

And not just any, but that of a knight, an actual titled and landed Lady. It was writ on the garb and features, kempt and unblemished save for a little scar at her cheek from some previous scrap. What had hit her this time, hadn’t the opportunity to heal into a mere reminder.

On the back of her head was a great red gash, blood soaking a length of dirt road brown hair. On her temple was another such mark, if more diminutive in size. The full suit of plate on her yet shone, pale as it mirrored the cloudy morning sky above, reflections crisp on the polished metal wherein it wasn’t dappled with mud. Through it, Aarno met eyes with the Elder that stood behind him, watching.

“ Fell off the roof, huh? “ He asked, not even bothering to veil his disbelief, look bouncing at the eaves of the little cottage that rose in the middle of the small yard. There were others around it, but this was in immediate vicinity and the only one with a ladder.

“ It is what they say. “ The Elder responded, correcting the crimson shawl on her shoulders, arms crossing tighter for warmth. Next to her stood a younger woman, her dark eyes bouncing betwixt the two of them intently. Their breaths steamed in the cold air, the kind that stood still yet chilled through all garments. Aarno gave a hum and rose, turning to face them.

“ Who? “
“ Everyone. “
“ Right. “ He gave an unimpressed nod, voice reduced to a mutter. Communities like this were a bunch of tight-lipped, conniving little bitches to maneuver.

“ Any trustworthy witnesses? “ Despite a genuine attempt, he couldn’t will the impatience out of his voice entire. This pleased the Elder none.

“ I thought you lot would’ve told me that. “
“ I’m no Loch knight. “
“ Well, that’s disappointing. “ Though nigh dwarven in stature, the Elder yet somehow managed to stare him down with judgement. “ We’ve dealt with Syr Theros before and he— “
“ Wasn’t available, presently. “ He cut in, flashing sharp teeth in a grin, arms spread as he gave a mock bow. “ So you’ve me and my company instead. Painful, I realize. “

There was a pause, the lady at the elder woman’s side nudging for her attention and gesturing fast, signing. They exchanged as such for a second, The Elder's face keeping its tense expression. He understood none of it, nor was he going to ask out of spite.

“ Where’s her helm? “ He started again, look refreshing on the perished.
“ Didn’t have one. When we found her, anyway. And I’ve had the scene guarded ever since, lest she be looted and disposed of. “

Some sense, then. Aarno bobbed his head and turned in a click of mail, hands on his hips. There were some people loitering beyond the woven fence, watching without shame. He felt their stare bear down, collectively hoping he’d fail in whatever his kind was here to do. What exactly was it, anyway, beyond figuring out the obvious — a course of events.

The Elder suspected a murder in stead of an accident, that much was clear. But what did she really want out of this and why?

“ What do you want from us, good Elder? Plain, please. “ He questioned, trying with a tad more calm reverence in his voice, posture relaxing. She blinked, brows knit into a frown.

“ Find who done it, obviously. “
“ Why? “
“ What do you mean why— “
“ Told me yourself she was a ripe bastard, waiting for comeuppance. Could easily roll the blame on us — The Order. The Lord, her master, wouldn’t think twice about it. “

“ Syr Latva— “ She pinched the bridge of her nose, exhaling a cloud with the utmost exasperation.

“ Unlike some— “ Her hands entwined into a little bundle that she pressed to her chest. “ I am not comfortable with having murderers wander, undiscovered and unpunished, within my community. Understood? “

He couldn't help but snort at that, tossing his head with amusement.

“ Quite. “
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Amelia had been surprised at the brusque summons from Aarno this morning. She had never really spoken with the gruff Knight, let alone worked with him. But his stoic countenance suited her tastes just fine if their quiet walk to this hamlet meant anything.

A group of children played a short distance away, seemingly unaffected by the somber scene. They laughed and chased each other, oblivious to the gravity of the situation. Amelia herself stood just beyond Aarno's shoulder, far enough away where the Elder would be less likely to draw her into conversation. So it was that as her Knight and the Elder spoke, the squire took the opportunity to scan the faces of the onlookers with keen analysis. She knew from some of her studies that in circumstances like these, it was often the case that the perpetrator was present during the initial investigation, lurking in plain sight among the curious crowd. Reveling in the fallout of their actions, or trying to glean information to stay one step ahead of authorities. She mentally cataloged the faces, taking note of the expressions they wore—curiosity, concern, suspicion, and even indifference.

Among the onlookers, she spotted a tall man with a weathered face and a scruffy beard, his eyes darting around nervously. He seemed out of place, and his furtive glances piqued her interest. There was also a woman in the crowd, her features obscured by a hood, but her intense gaze fixed on the proceedings was hard to miss. Just two threads amongst many that she and the other members of the Order who had arrived would have to work together to weave into a clear picture.

As Aarno and the Elder exchanged words, Amelia quietly made her way closer to the fallen knight's body. The sight was not pleasant, but she knew that in the grim details lay the clues they needed. She crouched down beside the lifeless form, her gaze drawn to the injuries that marred the once-proud knight.

The red gash on the back of the knight's head was evident, blood matting her dark hair. Amelia carefully parted the strands to examine the wound, her brow furrowing as she noted the signs of blunt-force trauma. It was a brutal blow, one that could have easily incapacitated her. Was this just from the ground? Had her body been moved?

Then, her attention shifted to the smaller mark on the temple—an unusual, clean slice. Amelia couldn't immediately place the origin of such a wound. It was as if the knight had been struck with a sharp, precise instrument. Her mind raced with questions.

In an effort to avoid moving the body unnecessarily, Amelia's curiosity drove her to lean down and examine the knight's right hand, twisted and partially trapped beneath her body. It was there that she saw the crumbled soggy edges of a piece of paper trapped within her clawed hand. She could see already that some of the ink had bled from the rain.

The squire's heart lurched and she inhaled sharply. A clue, perhaps? She cast a quick, worried glance toward Aarno, her brown eyes filled with unspoken questions, reluctant to say anything amongst mixed company that might affect their investigation, for they did not yet know who they could trust.

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"Where's her helm? Didn't have one." Bollocks! Squatting down opposite Amelia, Syr Faramund fought and succeeded in keeping his disbelief in check. Every self-respecting knight wore a helmet, pugnacious or not. And what had she been doing up on the roof anyway? Searching for flying pigs?

She had more hope of spotting them than they did getting a straight answer out of this lot.

With an indignant huff, the big dawnling set to inspecting the body for clues. Much like Amelia, he noted the head wounds, filed them away for later. The plate the deadun wore was brand-spanking-new, and damn near spotless despite the muddy -and slightly bloody- end she had met with. So, taken by surprise, then.

And the paper in her hand? Could be a clue. Could be the killer misleading them.

Fara was fairly certain she had been killed. From the way the tight-lipped villagers were staring o'er their ealdorwoman's shoulder, perhaps they were all in it together. Funny, thought the dawnling, but no, I don't think so. Still, a possibility. The crime scene had been walked over by many a curious fool in the aftermath of the knight's death, and in so doing the fools had scuppered his chances of picking up a trail.

The corpse's pockets proved empty, her flesh pallid and cold.

The elder's guards couldn't guard jack shit, apparently.

Shame. Standing, his face a mask of indifference, Faramund turned to give Aarno a subtle, sly look, as if to say, keep digging.

Aarno Amelia Hawthorne
Behind him was a shift, clink of mail and huff of a thick cloak drawing him to glance past his shoulder. He met eyes with Faramund, not entirely sure whether he liked the man’s expression, not least for how much it conflicted with Amelia’s respective countenance. Had she noticed something — or was this just her general aghast response to inspecting the recently deceased?

For the lot of their sakes, he sure hoped it was the former.

Saying nothing, he nodded to the both of them and sprung back to movement, footfalls breaking the maddening silence. He was positively marching, alerting the two chickens that’d been roaming the yard by nearly walking over them on his way. The birds made a horrible racket, fleeing with a flap of wings and whole lot of clucking, which appeared to bother him none. He didn’t stop until he reached the ladder, which remained leaning against the edge of the roof at the other end of the cottage.

“ Suppose she used this to get on the roof? “ He asked, gesturing at it. The Elder, whom had been watching him and the two other investigators in turn like any which hound, turned on her heel to face him proper and approached a couple steps. Just so she need not yell.
“ How else? “
“ Was it here, on this spot, before the incident? “
“ How should I know? “ The old woman shrugged, tassels of her shawl bouncing. The girl that had been left behind, trailing at her shoulder like any which shadow, gave a little shake of the head. Aarno’s stare fell away at the ground, expression neutral.

“ Whose ladder is it? “
“ Communal. “ Spoken in a snap, impatient.
“ Hmh. Who made it? “
“ How is that in any way relevant? “
“ Oh, it isn’t. “ He shrugged, resting a hand on one of the ladder steps lazily. “ Lets say— I’m just looking to buy one. Mayhaps. “

By the time he was finished, the Elder’s expression had gained a certain — venomous edge. All daggers, but naught else slipping from a particularly constipated state of weary she sported on her face like a mask.

“ You are fast making a great fool of yourself, man— “
“ Squire Hawthorne— “ Aarno lofted his chin and elevated his voice just a little, to have it heard over the Elder’s hissing.

“ Would you consider yourself nigh equal in stature to the deceased? “ He asked, stare bouncing betwixt his two companions. “ Or at the very least — a smidge below. “

Faramund Amelia Hawthorne
Dead. Of course she was dead.

Peering over the heads of several grubby villagers, Dez watched the scene unfolding in quiet horror. These three were clearly Order members, were there more already in the hamlet? Naturally, now they showed up, when just two days prior-

Hell. The woman had just locked eyes with him, he was sure. He fought the impulse to turn and run, instead looking away, like any commoner would do when a knight in plate met their gaze. Shuffling his cold feet, the seconds felt like hours. Finally, he glanced back up. She had gone to crouch beside the fallen. Time to go.

Wandering away from the gaggle as calmly as his thundering heart would allow, Desmonthenes attempted to take stock of his situation. Three days prior: he'd arrived in town and told the tavernkeeper he was looking for a certain knight.

Two days prior: he'd asked a passing lady-knight if she might be the one known as Syr Theros, whom he was looking for. She had become extraordinarily belligerent while assuring him she was not, and anyway how dare a dirty no-account like him stop a lady like her with questions?

Just last night: Dez had been out in the dark streets, sword in hand, blood on the blade, reacquainting himself with some old friends he knew from the backstreets of Alliria, whom he'd happened to spot staggering out of an alehouse.

Now: the lady-knight from before had been found dead. He was a stranger, come into town days ago, looking for a knight, quarreling with the victim publicly the day before the murder. ON TOP OF ALL THIS, despite his raggedy clothes and scraggly beard (he really needed a shave,) there was a full suit of slightly famous red half-plate armor hidden in his rented room, along with a longsword that still smelled of blood, on account of him having been out murdering vagabonds the night previous.

A look over one shoulder, then the other. And then Dez quickened his pace, very nearly running down the street.

If there was one thing suspicious villagers liked to do, it was blame all their troubles on an outsider. He needed to get out of town fast, before someone came to the very obvious (and very wrong,) conclusion.

Aarno & Amelia Hawthorne & Faramund
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Nodding to Faramund, Amelia carefully extracted the paper from the lady Knight's hand, trying to avoid mangling it any further than its present condition. She stood and began to open the damp parchment when Syr Aarno's words snapped her attention back to him.

"Yes, Syr, I would?" She answered with a confused tone, her eyes distracted by tracking the hastened steps of a bedraggled looking man from the crowd. She didn't think much of it, until he glanced back at them a second time.

Now uneasy, she quickly looked down and read the paper. The nape of her neck flared hot with alarm upon digesting the intent of that single word, scrolled in rageful sweeps of a pen.

LEAVE. It said.

Slightly panicked, all she could get out was a rushed whisper to the Dawnling beside her, her hand clutching his forearm as she directed him with her eyes. "Faramund, that man..."

Aarno Faramund TheScarletDastard
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Amelia's grip was stronger than the dawnling expected. Surprisingly so. Looking down at the hand gripping his forearm, Faramund gave the squire all of three seconds to correct herself. When that didn't happen, he placed a reassuring hand on hers. Squeezed.

'... Is walking away, yes.'

He wasn't the only one, either. Many of the villagers, men and women alike, had begun to trickle away. Murders were a common enough occurrence around here, it would seem. That, or the ealdorwoman was about to tear Syr Aarno a new asshole, and the villagers, wise to her ways, did not wish to hang around long enough to see how things ended.

Frankly, neither did Faramund.

'Right!' Removing Amelia's hand from his arm, the big dawnling brought his own together in an almighty clap. 'I'm off for a pint! See you two later, maybe.' With a smile and a wink for the ealdorwoman -who was looking mighty aghast for some odd reason- Faramund strolled off in search of the local taverna. As it so happened, the village only had one. The dawnling was no regular.

But he had a nose like a bloodhound, and the eyes of a hawk. Nothing and no-one could evade him for long. Vagabonds included. 'Now, who lit a fire under his ass, I wonder?'

TheScarletDastard Aarno Amelia Hawthorne
Frustrated, she blew a stray lock of hair from her face and rolled her eyes at Faramund's back.

Men. Amelia thought to herself. What Syr Darthinian sees in him, I will fail to ever understand.

Swallowing her annoyance, Amelia walked over to Aarno. Intent on suggesting that they find a secluded and dry place to store the lady Knight's body while they investigated further.

Faramund Aarno TheScarletDastard
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His eyes narrowed at the distracted nature of the response, head keeling to signify carefully paid attention as he regarded Amelia from a distance.

Was something amiss, of a sudden? Meaning, beyond the baseline of fuckery that belongst to a knight’s presumed murder in the countryside. Grim curiousity mounting, Aarno traced the squire’s look into the crowd, watching for something — anything of note. Whatever so particularly spooky as to unnerve the possibly only competent person in this entire yard.

Before they collectively had the time to be further consumed by a strange, tragicomic sort of pause, a clap of the hands cut its throat. Faramund. He watched the man exclaim, a silence upon him not so much for puzzlement as the lack of it. They were fellow sworn, equal, so beyond him was it to concern himself with the man’s choice of trajectory. Feigned or otherwise.

That there should’ve been doubt over which it was, that little pang of distrust he felt nagging at the back his head, would ultimately be a problem belongs to none other than the man himself. The one fast walking away, presently.

“ Maybe, indeed. “ I’ll leave you here first chance I get, Faramund. He responded in a mutter, watching the man go. It took all in his power to not break into a smirk as the Elder puffed with outrage into the Dawnling’s wake, her face finally exhibiting something else than boredom.

“ What insolence. “ She huffed, the girl next to her watching the two remaining investigators with interest, a palm suppressing the amusement on her lips.

“ Truly. Does put the entire Order to shame at times, he does. The world needs have balance, no? “ Aarno straightened in a shrug of the shoulders, attention bouncing to Amelia that’d approached. He’d been the mind to prove some point with the ladder, all proper like, but since he was fresh out of patience and whatever quality one needed to be generally arsed to do things as such—

Why bother — the thing had murder written all over it, even if she did fall. And the days are getting shorter, this time of year.

“ Speak your mind, squire Hawthorne. “ He stated and turned halfly to face her, meeting eyes.

Amelia Hawthorne Faramund TheScarletDastard
The morning sun shifted the timbre of its song as Dez hurried down the street; the muted glow began to crescendo into a blaze. Squinting, the young man felt a headache coming on. He'd been fighting late into the night, hardly had a few hours rest, and now was fearing investigation for murder. Oh, for simpler days. Leading rowdy drunken choruses for coin. Winking at serving girls. Washing dishes.

Blinking in the daylight, bumping pedestrians in the street as they passed, he reached his destination. The tavern door gave way to a heavy lean, and Dez did his best to shake off the daze and the memories. He had to get away from the Order's investigation. He'd gather his things from his room, close his account with the tavern owner-

But the owner was not behind the bar. He was nowhere to be seen. The big dining room was empty. And strewn about the dining room tables were his belongings. His armor heaped. His lute cracked. His purse and scabbard empty.

This was going to hurt.

They were on him the next second, leaping from either side of the doorway to pull him inside, throwing him to the floor. The voices began in the same moment. "Hold 'im down." "The door, bar the door." "Not so tough on the ground, is he?" "If he screams, just run him through."

Several knees were pinning his back, the back of his head, pressing his face into a wooden floor so unwashed it might as well have been made of dirt. From the voices and the weight, Dez thought maybe five people? Six? Someone gave him a good kick in the side, and he grunted in surprise and pain.

"Let him look up. I wanna see his face."

The pressure came up off his head, in time for a cold point to rest under his chin. The blade was familiar. "Who would've thought, after all this time, I'd be the one to find you."

Dez did his best to crane his neck up at the unremarkable goon holding his longsword. "I'm sorry, who're you?"

The second kick to his ribs, while perhaps lacking originality, hurt even more than the first. It came from another unseen attacker, while the one with Dez's sword just grinned cruelly. "Nay lad, that's my question. The Golden One is offering a small fortune for proof of your death, but for your name? He'd give me and every man here a new life."

A chuckle and a cheer from the assembled thugs. The speaker leaned in close, his stink wafting over Dez. "See, he wants your family. Your people. Wants 'em strung up in front of you so he can kill 'em slowly while you watch. He's a classy man, the boss is. Just one small problem with that: I have no bleedin' idea who the hell you're supposed to be. You're a feckin' nobody, which is a real letdown, I'll be honest."

They were hoisting Dez to his feet, now. Two men held each arm, while the seeming ringleader set down the newly acquired sword. "So now I'm just gonna beat you until you answer my question..."

Hefting a stout club, the man flashed a yellow grin. "What's your name, son? Who is the Scarlet Dastard?"
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'Now, that is a good question.' Wheeling about, their quarry temporarily forgotten, the thugs stared at the open doorway in which Syr Faramund stood. Smiling, the knight held up a hand in polite greeting. 'Sorry, am I interrupting something?' Looking from one man to the next, the knight was pleased to see a lot of confused faces. Six confused faces, to be exact.

The seventh, the man on the floor, looked relieved, if a little worse for wear.

Regaining their senses, two of thugs went back to pinning down floor boy. 'Who the fuck are you?' The leader of the group demanded, scowling down the length of his sword at Faramund. 'Me? I'm Faramund.' The knight gave a small wave. 'Who are you?'

'Don't matter who I am!' The city tough snapped. 'Seems to me you walked in on a
private matter. Leave, before we make you leave!' Staring for a moment, Faramund's expression changed from one of dumbfounded curiosity to that of understanding. 'Ah! Right! Of course.' Turning to go, the big dawnling paused. His eyes flitted about the wreck of a room, taking in the detritus. A splintered chair here, a knackered table there.

In the midst of it all, a suit of burnished armour... and a sword still red from the night before.

'Say,' he said, stepping back into the room, 'have any o' you lot seen the proprietor? Was looking to get myself a quick drink before hitting the road.' Glancing around, Faramund's hand came to rest on the hilt of his sabre. His meaning was not lost on them. 'What part of leave didn't you get?' The boss growled, waving some of the bigger members of his crew forward. 'Y'know what? Change of plans! You can stay.'

Sweeping aside his cloak, one of the bruisers whipped out a vicious-looking club.

'We've some questions need a-answering. Perhaps you could help us with that, seein' as you two seem to know each other.' Faramund got a good look of the boss man's teeth as he grinned, not to mention a waft of ale-breath. Man really could do with a few lessons on hygiene, the dawnling thought, sighing in mock resignation. 'That's okay,' he said, unlacing his cloak with his freehand to shrug it from his shoulders.

'I was waiting anyway.' The bruiser paused, turned to his boss. Eyebrows rose, heads were shaken. 'Waiting?' The boss frowned. 'For who?'

'Them.' Faramund answered, pointing a finger towards the back of the common room. The thugs turned as one.

The knight drew his sabre.

Aarno Amelia Hawthorne TheScarletDastard
Taking in the indignant expression of the Elder woman, Amelia handed Syr Aarno the piece of paper while intently watching the two women for any nefarious twitch or change that might give the squire something more to go off of. For Amelia was still on the fence whether that note's intent was a warning or a threat.

Keeping her eyes on them, she answered in a flat tone, a brow raised, "I imagine that we are welcome to any and all resources of the town to aid our investigation. Chief among them will be a guarded and dry place to store her body while we are here. Only until we can get her body picked up and returned to wherever she belongs. Speaking of which," She finally turned to Syr Aarno, having given him enough time to read the note and now trying to implore him with her eyes, "we'll need to find that out as soon as we're able. She deserves whatever burial rites would put her soul to rest."
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What self-respecting Knight of Anathaeum left the scene of a murder under investigation to wet his parched throat?

This was the incredulous question that had let the goons hunting Desmonthenes operate boldly, in broad daylight, without fear, while the Order was a-calling in the same little town. The answer to this question was apparently named Faramund, and he was a wonderful distraction.

Stupidly turning to face the back of the room, the ruffians whirled to again face Faramund at the sound of his hissing steel. Though Dez had had quite enough of this lot's attention, perhaps the performer in him simply didn't like being ignored.

As two of the men holding his arms left to rush the knight, Dez headbutted his closest captor with everything he had. There was a crunch and crick, as the thug's nose broke, and Dez discovered that whipping your head around can cause you to pull something in your neck. He cried out in pain, but he had an arm free.

The other man holding Dez gave him a resounding punch upside the head, but Dez was thinking a little more lethally. In a practiced move he pulled a gleaming little dagger from his waistband and shoved it into the second man's throat. The yelp that resulted was more of a gurgle, as Dez withdrew his weapon to wince. He'd definitely hurt a muscle, his neck was incredibly sore... though, maybe his neck was fine, compared to the bloke falling to the floor to bleed out.

Turning, Dez discovered a very angry gentleman with very broken nose, approaching him with a dirk longer than his forearm. "Now look, how's this fair? Your knife is much bigger."
He took the offered paper, inspecting the writ.

“ What’s that now? “ The Elder asked, stare bouncing betwixt the two of them like that of a inquisitor having caught suspect conspirators passing notes. Aarno shrugged at it, offering the damp slip back to Amelia that she might keep it safe. He hadn’t a pocket he could trust, in that regard.

That Amelia should’ve continued, all good remarks and sensible suggestion, befittingly delivered him from answering to the Elder. Instead, he kept his look on the squire and nodded along, naught but calm approval upon him.

“ Alright, then. “ He agreed neutrally, voicing no opinion as far as deserved rites and souls were concerned, despite his skepticism towards both. “ Can you think of any such shack that might suffice, Elder? “

“ There is one where we keep tools and supplies, over— “ The old woman turned and jerked her head into a direction beyond the fences. “ Edge of town. We’ll have to ask Niklas though, to at least clear it for your use. He has been in charge of it thus far. “

“ Hmh. Was he one of the guards, watching the crime scene overnight? “
“ No. “ A shake of the head, swift. “ That’d be Into and Fredrik. “
“ You know where they are, presently? “
“ At home? Having gotten no rest since— “
“ No— I’m here! “

From the crowd, in a cheerful wave, came forth a man. As he approached, smiling much too wide for a chilly morning as this, Aarno first remarked the man’s insignificant height, a perfect median betwixt that of the Elder and Amelia. The steps were springy, like those of a faun on its way to some mischief. It took no small amount of mental fortitude for the sworn knight to keep his blank expression, a weary groan in the back of his throat.

“ Awful business — Murder. “ The man remarked outright, watching the corpse with morbid interest.
“ I thought everyone was of the mind it was an accident. “ Tilting his head, Aarno gave a shark’s smile.
“ Yeah, if by everyone you mean — “ A glance at the thinning crowd next to the fence. “ Idiots. But I know better. “

“ Really? “ Tone climbing with feigned interest, Aarno glanced at Amelia sidelong, before animating to approach the man that’d left himself hovering over the deceased.
“ Yes, Syr— “
“ Latva. “ He filled in, settling to stand in the peasant’s immediate vicinity. “ And you were— Fredrik? “
“ No, Syr. Into, Syr. “

The man struck out his hand, grinning, and he wasn't rude enough to deny it. So they shook, right after which the man wasted no time to give a little wave and smile to the squire in turn. Gods be merciful.

“ Say, Into— You’ve a cart we can borrow? “

Amelia Hawthorne
The bruiser was the first to go. With his back turned, there was little he could do about it. He went quick and easy. Faramund made sure of that. The rest were a touch more stubborn. Choosing one and rushing them, Faramund brought his blade down in a savage blow aimed at the leader's weapon. He would need answers, once all was said and done.

Dead men did not make for good conversationalists.

Steel collided, and the boss let out a pained yelp as his sword was knocked from his grasp. Disarmed, distracted, he didn't see Faramund's fist until it kissed him on the mug. The boss mewled pitifully as he went down, fouling the steps of the next man to try his luck. 'Bastard!' The thug cursed. Faramund couldn't quite decide whether it was meant for him or the person he was tripping over.

Not that it made a difference either way.

Intercepting a wild swing with his sabre, the big dawnling bulled in close in, bringing his hilt up to realign the man's jaw. Faramund felt bone give way, and his assailant went down in much the same fashion as his boss. Leaving...

Spinning, his blade interposed and ready, Faramund regarded his last opponent with the dead-eyed steadiness of a veteran soldier.

The thug, funnily enough, hesitated.

'Use it or throw it away!' Faramund bellowed, his voice like thunder. Startled, the thug took a staggering step backwards. Faramund thought of warning him about the chair leg protruding from beneath the table behind him, but by the time he opened his mouth, the dumb idiot was already on his arse, weapon forgotten. If it works, it works. Surveying the situation, Faramund moved to grab the boss by his collar.

'Geh'rof meh!' He squealed, swatting at the dawnling's arm. Faramund pacified him with a slap. 'Enough of that,' he said, his gaze cruel and unforgiving. 'You! Don't even think about reaching for it!' The last man had found some courage tucked away beneath the floorboards, but it wilted under the knight's scrutiny.

Suitably chastised, he went back to studying the floor between his legs.

Dragging the boss into one corner, Faramund turned back to face the stranger. He was still struggling with his man. 'Shouldn't you be... y'know? Helping him?' A meek voice asked. Following it to the source, Faramund raised an eyebrow. 'Huh?'

'He's your friend, ain't he? You twos are workin' together, must be. Why else would you get involved?'

'Working together?' Faramund lowered his sabre. 'Do I look like a fucking hedge knight?'

TheScarletDastard Aarno Amelia Hawthorne
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There was something disconcerting about finally being able to see the dead woman's face; the light rain running clean tracks down her face, a mockery of tears that she would never feel. Her last expression ruined in its clarity from time spent between her murder and now, but Amelia swore she could still see the fear, the disbelief. I wonder who will mourn you? Amelia thought somberly, shifting anxiously in her seat. Your death will have answers, I promise.

They had ridden the mule driven cart towards the tavern to briefly speak with their Knightly counterpart, regardless the lush that he was Aarno had reminded her, when the cart rolled to a stopped just under the building's overhang, a welcome respite to the rain. Amelia hopped out of the back, where the victim had been laying on her back, only a blanket beneath her body, separating her from the soggy wooden planks of a cart previously used for the moving of manure, the only one that was available, insisted the Elder woman. Amelia's disdain for the woman was growing, the strange underlayer of cynical bitterness an obvious display despite her attempted subtlety. The lack of class was only one of many splinters worming its way beneath the squire's skin.

Amelia nodded to the farmer who drove them and to Into as she walked around the cart and to the door. Skeptical about leaving them alone with the body, but her and Aarno would only be a moment.

Imagine her surprise, upon seeing the chaotic and strewn scene that she and Syr Aarno walked into but seconds after.

Standing in the doorway, cataloguing the presence of blood, of unconscious men and immediately searching for evidence of the loyalties of such men, locally commissioned soldiers or brigands? The rough state of their dress spoke to the latter, a relief if there was any. And the curious presence of three men left alive. One of which, having been the stranger she had tried warning Syr Faramund about earlier. Oh, how good it felt to be right.

Silently, Amelia closed the tavern door behind them and lowered the simple board that locked it.

Turning around, she crossed her arms and leveled a glittering stare at the brute of Knight, irritated, despite how effective he had proven to be.

"He was just walking away, huh?" She softly chastised.

Faramund Aarno TheScarletDastard
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“ And I swore, said to myself — Something’s amiss here. Are no knights like that coming around, all searching for something like, if it wasn’t serious. “

Into had been speaking without pause since they’d begun their way off the yard, determinate to make his captive audience feel just that — captive. As Amelia had, smartly, taken to sit at the back quicker than he had the eyes to see, it had befallen upon Aarno to remain on foot. He didn’t mind it, naturally, but with the squire having taken shelter in the company of the least talkative of the group, safely behind the peasant’s back, he figured it’d be himself to entertain the village chatterbox.

“ Inquiries, huh — Did you catch whomst to? “

And so he’d done, nodding and humming along with more or less feigned interest. There were things being said, some even valuable as far as information went, but he’d just wished the man would use less words to tell them. The latest point, that the deceased should’ve been in the village looking for something, had taken the entire way from since they’d left to where they were now. The longer the story went, all with great detail and description of every interaction, he had time to condemn it just another thrilling fabrication thrice over.

“ I could point them out in my sleep, Syr. There’s— “
“ In a moment, if you will. As I believe— “ Aarno interrupted in the toss of a hand, stare fixed on an approaching building and a sign that beckoned. “ That’s the tavern. “

He slowed down his stride to let the cart pass, trailing behind it until it came to a stop. Amelia, as the mastermind of this detour, was allowed lead in but a nod, which she was quick to seize. He settled into her wake, glancing at Into in passing.

“ We’ll see what our friend is up to — Think you can guard the cart by yourself? “
“ Of course. “ A little too confident for comfort, but he’d take it.
“ Good man. “

Hinges creaked and two crossed the threshold, leaving behind the chill and pale light of an autumn morning. The halt therein came fast, abrupt at the sight of the welcome party, or rather — what was left of it.


Struck to a deadpan silence, he could only stand in his place like a newly petrified gargoyle, glare taking in the space inch by painful inch. He realized what he felt, witnessing this turn of events, wasn’t exactly surprise nor disappointment, just—

An overwhelming weariness? Much the image of it, he let his attention land on Faramund, the glorified centerpiece of it all. Or, at the very least, the only one whose explanation was of any importance, presently. As much as he hated to admit it, he was rather certain he wouldn't like what he'd hear, no matter what it ended up being.

As such, he submit to saying nothing.

Faramund Amelia Hawthorne TheScarletDastard
The door to the tavern opened with an audible creak. Turning, sabre in hand, Faramund welcomed his companions with an upward nod. Behind him, men groaned in pain, or else lay still in slowly-spreading pools of their own making. A right proper mess, so it was.

'For what it's worth, I only killed the one of them,' the dawnling explained, wiping his blade clean on the back of a dead man's tunic before putting it away.
'And before either of you ask, they started it.'

Faramund was a problem solver. He didn't go around starting trouble. Not when he could help it. Making a quick headcount, the big dawnling began picking his way across the ruined common room. A hand fell to seize the bloodied sword he had spotted earlier. The murder weapon?

Holding it up for Amelia and Aarno to see, he deposited it on one of the few tables still standing. So what if it collapsed a few moments later? The room was a damned mess, and not one of his own making, thank you very much!

Striding over to the bar, Faramund rattled the counter with his knuckles. A muffled sound drew his attention further, down into the space behind the bar. Leaning over, a hand on the hilt of his dagger, the knight smiled to himself as he realised just who it was he saw tied up on the other side.

'Well, hello there!'

Grinning, the last of his adrenaline ebbing away, Faramund wiggled his fingers in greeting to the man trussed up behind the bar. 'You must be the proprietor. Apologies about the mess. I arrived too late to stop this rabble from turning the place upside down. I wonder-' He broke off, his trail of thought running cold as the barkeep scowled up at him. 'Right! Of course! One moment.'

Vaulting the bar, Faramund squatted down to cut the man free of his binds. There were bruises on his face and arms, presumably from where the thugs had hit him. Giving him a hand up, Fara took a step back as the barkeep pulled the cloth gag covering his mouth loose.

'Bloody fuckin' godless heathen swine cu-' The barman coughed, spluttering on his words now that he could breathe freely again. 'Ack, Gods, mister! I'm damned lucky you came by when you did, or I'd be...' He paused, his eyes narrowing as he looked around the bar that was his livelihood.

'What in the Unholy-'

'Like I said, sorry about the mess.' Faramund apologised, though it sure as shit wasn't his fault. 'It appears these fellows had a problem with one of your clients, decided to ransack his room while he was out and about.' Despite the level of destruction, most of the shattered furnishings and jumbled possessions seemed to originate from upstairs, where the guestrooms were located.

'From the looks of it, they didn't find what they were after. Well, not until Whats-is-chops wandered back in.' Glancing around the room, Fara noted a distinct lack of strange men amongst the carnage. Not counting Aarno, anyway. 'That said, I was wondering if you could find the time to answer some questions? Maybe whilst we get the place tidied up. Speaking of... Squire Hawthorne!'

Amelia Hawthorne Aarno TheScarletDastard
A dull thumping met the tips of the fingers Amelia had pressed against the under jaw of one of the men unconscious on the floor. Just checking, her nod said to Aarno, letting him know that the body count was minimal, so far at least. She had qualms about what that pile would look like at the end of their increasingly complicated journey. For as her eyes landed on the pile of strewn personal belongings and the stray man that was the object of this interrogation, she couldn't help but sigh. Another complication.

Hearing Faramund call out to her, she began stepping gingerly over the bodies, until she stood at the center of the debris and carnage. Grabbing her tome from the sling she carried it on, she snagged the piece of charcoal she kept with it and sketched a single rune onto the back of her left hand. Satisfied at her writ, she tucked the charcoal behind her ear and opened her book, rifling to a section of spells that she used specifically for cleaning en masse.

Taking a deep breath in, Amelia extended her hand out in front of her, the rune on the back flaring a bright red that rivaled her hair. She muttered under her breath as a small wind buffeted from her palm and in the next moment, every broken piece of chair and shattered table caught fire with a blazing heatless flurry of flames. The color flared to such a bright white, that it seemed impossible that such a thing gave off no heat. But just as quickly as it all burned, the light snuffed out and whatever detritrus had been caused by the fight, was no more. Small piles of cold ash lay everywhere.

Snapping closed her tome with a satisfied thump, Amelia cleared her throat and wiped off a bit of ash that had settled on her shoulder. Her clever eyes leveled at Faramund before asking, "Will that do, Syr Faramund?"

Aarno Faramund TheScarletDastard
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Get this place tidied up? What are we now— housekeepers?

Whilst his face remained a mask of unimpressed defeat, a burning stare at the Dawn Knight betrayed all — mainly his outrage at the volley of babbling and unbecoming initiative therein. Hand resting on the sword hilt, he idled a couple steps further into the room, glare taking in the faces of strangers.

Now, if even one of you dares make any which move—

Thankfully, the squire had a plan that would see them all relieved from manual labour. A leafing of pages had him look to her, just so for him to catch the glow of a rune. As he’d seen this magic before, it didn’t concern him as all manner of clutter about the floor appeared to combust, effectively lighting up the indoors with a blinding light. Squinting, he kicked a splintered chair leg away from his feet.

In short order, the disarray was no more.

“ Perfection, Squire Hawthorne “ He butted in on Amelia’s question, voice elevated and wholly deadpan. “ Now all we need is a broom, so Syr Faramund can finish the job. “
Well, that expe-sorts that out. Though he hadn't expected her to be so quick with it, Amelia had done a bang-up job of putting the place back together. Not. 'It's not what I had in mind, no,' he replied, ignoring Aarno the same way one might ignore a fly buzzing in their ear. 'But there's no arguing with the results.' He grinned, took a sidelong glance at the barkeep.

The man had gone pale around the gills. It was hard to say whether it was the magic that had caused it, or the complete destruction of his establishment.

He'll get over it, Faramund thought, attempting to console the barman with a pat on the back. 'For what it's worth, I think those guys are willing to pay for the damages,' he said, jutting his chin towards the two figures sitting in the corner. 'Right, fellas?' His gaze alighted on the boss, as if expecting a challenge. All he got in return was an enthusiastic nod. 'See? Sorted!'

Hopping over the bar, Faramund started to move towards the door. 'Oh, Squire Hawthorne,' he paused, turned on his heel. 'You might want to cover your nose. Syr Aarno's talking out his ass again, as per usual. Not that a little broomwork would go amiss.' He smiled, glanced at the dusker.

Sooner or later, they were going to have to have a word or two about his attitude. Or a fist fight.

Whichever worked, really.

Unbolting the door, Faramund heaved it open. A small, dainty little man greeted him. Faramund lifted an eyebrow. 'Hello!' The man smiled, stepping back a pace. 'Have we met? I'm Into! And you are?' Eyeing the militiaman up and down, the dawnling let his gaze wander to the corpse-laden cart.

'Busy,' he replied, walking past the skittish youngster. 'Amelia! Your boyfriend's come to see you!'
She may have hated herself a little for laughing. But only a little, Amelia admitted while covering her mouth to keep back the surprise snorting laugh that almost escaped at Syr Aarno's expense. Gods' forbid he think she was actually laughing at him.

Regardless, the sudden tension that was mustered between the two Knights kept her rooted in the center of the tavern. Faramund almost brushing passed her to leave and she noted the dark arrogant smirk that didn't quite meet his eyes.

Now irritated that she had to extricate her own self from whatever macho shit they were brewing together, the squire went to walk towards the pile of discarded armor, realizing with some amazement that the owner was nowhere to be seen. Wherever could that man have gone? How did they not see him leave?

Turning to address Syr Aarno with their dilemma, her mouth snapped closed in an embarrassed scowl as the Dawnling's shout reached her reddening ears from the doorway, the guard Into peaking around Faramund to wave obliviously at her. With an indignant huff, Amelia walked out of the bar, trying to piece her expression into one of patience and pragmatism, "It seems we interrupted a rather ambitious mugging of one of your many travelers. They're detained and ready for whatever justice your bailiff deems warranted for their transgressions." Turning her body to allow Syr Aarno into the conversation, she addressed him next, "Although it seems our prime witness has fled himself."

Aarno Faramund
Talking out of my arse? What a hilariously disproportionate reaction.

Mouth pressed into a line, he regarded his fellow knight like one might a least favourite son. With disappointment, pity and some dread, mainly for the fact he hadn’t a way to get rid of him. Matters larger than himself would make sure of that, but unlike in the case of a son, those things here had nothing to do with his heart.

As such, it wasn’t worth any which fight. Let the twat have the last word he likes so much.

Firmly, he rotated upon his heel to give space as Faramund made to exit, a sidelong glance landing on the Squire in turn. She appeared about to speak, his expression softening for her, but no time for any which exchange was given. The dawn knight’s voice boomed from outdoors, as if to just to remind the both of them that he was, indeed, yet here.

No substance, no actual cause. Just a symptom of cant-shut-uppery. Figures — the man would’ve made an illustrious career as some Lord’s court jester.

Bereft of words, he moved outside in Amelia’s wake, a single wave raising for the barkeep. As Into was, curiously and not at all suprisinly, crowding the doorway with his gawking of the scene within, he left the door open.

“ Prime witness. “ He repeated, yet fully in the dark as for who they were even talking about. And why. His stare bounced from Amelia to Faramund, and then back again. Had he been wrong then, to react as he had? Was this something deviced privately betwixt just the two of them? Some clue or trail, however unlikely it felt.

He made a great effort at regaining his neutral disposition.

“ I trust this had something to do with why were are here, then. Has Syr Faramund learned something? “
The murdered Lady hadn't gotten up and walked off in their absence, which was a relief. Clambering up into the bed of the cart, Syr Faramund squatted down beside the body, his sabre thumping the sideboard as he adjusted it to suit his stance. 'Mind stretching your legs for a moment?' he asked the farmer up front, allowing for a wayward glance and a tilt of his head.

The farmer nodded, climbed down from his perch with all the grace an old man could muster.

Pulling back the tarp his companions had used to cover the body, Faramund frowned. It wasn't until now he had managed to get a proper look at the victim's face, and now that he had, a plethora of questions leapt to mind. Namely: where had he seen that face before? And when?

It hit him as Amelia and Aarno stepped outside to join him.

'Maybe,' he replied in the squire's stead, glancing over his shoulder towards them. 'Why don't you come over here and sit with me a minute? I have need of our squire's eyes, and her mind, if she would be so kind as to lend it to me?'

Amelia Hawthorne Aarno
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Curiosity was a dangerous thing to pique in Amelia. It was her indelible driving force. The forever carrot at the end of her proverbial stick. Always wanting something new to learn, to puzzle over. She could never get enough.

And there was the carrot, a question laced in Faramund's voice. He knew something, and she wanted to know what.

Her residual irritation washed away and she wasted no time in clambering into the cart to kneel beside the Dawnling. The squire looked to him with an open expression, her brown eyes burning with investigative ambition.

Faramund Aarno
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