Quest The Blighting of Wetzlar

Organization specific roleplay for governments, guilds, adventure groups, or anything similar


Character Biography
My friends,

I hope you are faring well since our last meeting. My duties as a steward to Lady Augusta have, as always, brought me into yet another strange predicament. While I generally pride myself on my investigative ability, I have run into some problems that I must admit I need assistance with. With proper payment for services rendered, naturally.

The request is twofold: to find a missing squad of guards the duchess sent to the village of Wetzlar, and to determine what is delaying the town’s usual shipments to Heathhome. I will have more information for you in person. Should this opportunity pique your interest, find me in the Gilded Harp in Eos.

Payment shall be rendered in gold standard from the treasury of Duchess Augusta per satisfactory completion of the investigation.

From the Desk of
Argin, First Steward of Lady Augusta

It took some time for the courier to reach you, but as soon as you saw the wax seal on this mildly wine-scented letter, it was clear who was writing. Whether or not you decide to take on Argin’s task, it might be interesting to pay that fancy clerk a long-overdue visit.

The sight of a stocky half-orc dressed in a neat, embroidered tunic and coat might have seemed conflicting to the casual passerby, but anyone who had ever met Argin knew that his weapon was a pen. Truthfully, he had no idea how to even hold a sword. Even now, tucked away in one of the alcoves of the Gilded Harp, he was concentrating on an unfinished letter on the table in front of him while he casually swirled some dark wine around in a stemmed glass.

The dry rolling of dice echoed from one of the establishment’s back rooms. Argin took a deep breath of the mixed scent of sweet perfume and tobacco smoke that lingered in the air, but found it didn’t comfort him much today. The alcove’s heavy curtain was pulled back so he could see out into the bar area. He glanced out every now and again expectantly, wondering who - if anyone - would respond to one of the copies of the letter he’d sent away in the hands of trusted couriers.

Gannis Selene Osuin Larka
There was a knocking at his door, spurring Osuin to lay down the book he'd been reading and rise from his seat to answer it. His quarters weren't cramped, but they were far from spacious and the burly knight was able to traverse it in but a few paces. With a click and a high pitched wooden moan, the door swung open when he pulled it, revealing a stocky squire in the doorway before him.

“Syr Osuin, a letter for you!” She announced, holding up an envelope towards him in offering.

“My thanks.” Osuin cordially replied, taking the letter from her and taking a closer look upon it. The squire returned a nod before turning to depart, as Osuin tossed the door shut and returned to his desk with the envelope in hand. A quick slip of a thin dagger sliced the side of the envelope open, allowing Osuin to pull free the letter stored within.

It was from Aglin, whom it seemed did require aid after all. Osuin had given his name as one who could help, and had left the offer open. A delay in shipments had an unknown cause, and further information was hidden behind an invitation to a personal meeting. Which seemed fair enough for an investigation – any leads they had were best kept confidential. Given the reports regarding Weltzar, the cause could be of grave concern. Far more so than the letter he receive implied. It was an invitation Osuin could not decline.

Tucking the letter away in his desk, Osuin returned to the book he'd been reading, for the moment. He'd pack his travelling gear later on that evening, and the morning after saw him embark on travels to Eos.

* * *

Osuin arrived in town on horseback along with three knights in his party, their horses slowly trotting over the streets while he made his approach to the stables that served travellers to the settlement. Securing his steed within after an exchange of coin along with the others, the Knight Pursuant then began his search along the streets, kept an eye out for the tavern that was to house the meeting. They travelled one street after another in their search.

“So where’s this place again?”
Asked the knight.

“The Guilded Harp Tavern is what we seek.”
Announced Osuin to the three. “It ought be here somewhere, though I know not-” Osuin began, before being interrupted by a squire.

“Is that it?” Asked one of the squires, a finger pointed to a building not far in the distance.

“Oh? I believe so, Tethram.” Osuin replied, and all four made their way over at once. Osuin pushed the door open, and stepped in first before the others. All gave the scene another scanning search. It would not take long for them to spot Argin, who was likewise keeping search of arrivals as they entered. Locking eyes, Osuin gave a nod of salutation as he made his way over, finally announcing himself once he was at his table with the three in tow remaining a short distance behind

“Osuin, of the Order of Anathaeum. I've received your letter and invitation. My regrets at the situation that begat it, yet the Order remains ready to aid.” He announced, pulling open a chair and taking a seat in awaiting of others whom had also been invited to attend.

Ranvena Gannis Selene Larka Kristopher Mortas
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Asher Vanak-Duth had lost much in the last month, but quickly he learned to focus on what he had left. He had his name, and he had a sword - which he seemed to know how to wield - and a village full of people who could tell the story of what had happened to him.

Dan Rathmore down the street said that the healer shaved his head when they stitched his skull back up after the accident. Asher wished they had gone and shaved the whole thing, but at the same time he couldn't bring himself to get rid of the sorry half-mop himself. He blew a frond of his black hair out of his eyes as he shoveled another spoonful of soup into his mouth.

On the other side of the tavern counter, Miss Heidi held up the sealed letter that had Asher's name on it. She'd just finished reciting the message aloud for everyone. She was the only one in town who could read.

"Now, I don't think Asher should follow a summons so soon already, what with him still recovering," Miss Heidi said.

The old, grey-haired man sitting beside him at the counter, Jathos, shook his head. He puffed on a pipe and smoke slipped out of his mouth as he spoke.

"I don't be agreeing," he said. "The boy's sword arm is as good as ever. Maybe going to a new place and seeing familiar faces might bring back some of his memories."

"We can do that just fine here, with time and love."

Jathos shook his head again, smokier and more somber than before. The two of them kept disagreeing over Asher's head, and the young man started to tune them out. His eyes were focused on the seal stamped upon the outside of the letter. Everyone was acting like he ought to recognize it, but he didn't. Not the color, nor the faint smell of rich wine, nor the names signed at the bottom.

"I'll go," Asher said. The two of them both looked at him, eyes wide, united for the first time by their surprise at the boy's words. Pale grey eyes looked back, glancing from one to the other, expressionless. "I want to go," he repeated.

The Gilded Harp was not like the tavern in Asher's village, which was so small that it didn't have a name. This place was clean and well lit inside, for starters. And it smelled like they had more than one kind of ale on tap. Asher walked two loops around the floor before he found a well-dressed orc and a man in armor tucked away in an alcove. He didn't recognize the steward, but the smell of wine was familiar.

"Hullo," Asher said, standing at the end of the table. He wouldn't sit down yet. "Are you Argin?"

Then his gaze turned to the four men in shiny armor that sat near to the steward. They looked like knights, but Asher didn't recognize their emblem as any Lord's. "Hullo," he said to the one who seemed to lead the small band. "My name is Asher. I'm from Wend, a village west of here. Under Lord Damasque's control."
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To the nose of a Venari, the scent was unpleasantly heavy in the Gilded Harp. Perfume, stale drink and a mix of warm bodies. He didn't particularly appreciate any of the notes.

"Straight to the bar," he murmured to Larka.

That hadn't been the plan, but Gannis had changed his mind.

He had immediately spotted Argin. Gannis had taken contracts to deal with monsters across the region. From many sources and to deal with many dangers.

"Knights," he muttered in distaste to Larka.

There were few things more likely to put a Venari in danger than their sort. Not only were they likely to turn on a Venari, a mass of enthusiastic plate armour clanking around spoiled many hunts.
I thought you weren’t going to drink?” Larka chided Gannis, giving him a pointed look of disproval. Sometimes the teachings of Sister Aysel still made a appearance every now and then, even if Gannis was her mentor now. “Sister Aysel says drinking before signing a contract makes the Conclave look bad, specifically slovenly and gluttonous.

Her stomach growled louder than a troll’s belly ever could. Her face turned bright red.

You’re right, straight for the bar.” She conceded if only because of her embarrassment. She never understood why her stomach always decided to prove Sister Aysel right but it did.

Much to Gannis’ chagrin, when he would point out the knights, and it was obvious to see who the knights were, Larka would obviously turn her head and look at the table that the others seemed to be grouping themselves at. Not her fault they stuck out like a leshy in a desert.

Knights.” She whispered back to Gannis, copying his tone and look of disdain as if she shared the same experience. She didn’t but family first, and so small Larka briskly made her way to the bar she began pulling out the thin strips of dried rodent meat to stuff into her mouth.

Gannis Ranvena Osuin Asher Vanak-Duth
Argin set aside the quill and letter to turn his attention to those who had gathered. He gave each of them a polite nod along with an offer of a handshake as he greeted them in turn:

"Syr Osuin! Yes, I have heard many good things about you. Lady Augusta will be quite pleased to know the Order has sent aid, and in such a timely manner."

"Hello, Asher! It is good to see you again." Argin frowned a bit in surprise that Asher didn't seem to recognize him, but he shook his head and grinned. "Ah, but it has been awhile, and we met for only a short time. How callous of me to expect you to remember. Still, I am glad you decided to come."

He cast a glance back over at the bar where Gannis and Larka were waiting. Of course Argin had some idea that they were not the sort who normally worked under the banner of a duchy, but Augusta was nothing if not a shrewd ruler who valued a wide variety of skills. And she usually willing to pay well for those skills.

Argin waved them over, though he expected the mercenaries probably had their own reasons to keep their distance from the Knights. Either way, he would inform them of the situation he was sending them into.

"Wetzlar is one of our main exporters of timber, and provides some of the finest in the region," he began, pausing to get the attention of a server to order a bottle of wine for the table. "The timbers of palaces are made of that wood," he stated with professional pride.

"Of course, there is always tension among the Lords and careful balances are required to maintain the integrity of the forest, but we have never had any problems up until a few months ago. One of our main lumberyards fell under attack. Many good folk were lost. Although her Ladyship was never quite sure if the attack was another Lord's attempt to sabotage our economy, or something else entirely, she responded by sending a caravan of new settlers along with a contingent of soldiers from Heathhome to help defend the village.

"The shipments resumed and no word of any problems reached the court until this past month. Again, the exports from Wetzlar have stopped. Her Ladyship sent me to investigate the cause and... let's just say that I am concerned," he finished darkly, looking into the glass of wine as if he might see the future in its sanguine depth.

"While I believe that I may have come across some of the new settlers, I did not see any sign of the soldiers. On top of that, all of the villagers I've tried to talk to were..." he paused, trying to decide how to broach the subject without sounding like a bit of a lunatic himself. "Behaving strangely. When I tried to speak to the village elders, they were quite hostile, to the point where I had to leave for my own safety."

The server returned with a bottle of wine and a tray of glasses. Argin took the opportunity to sip on his own wine before continuing with a pointed glance to Osuin and his cohorts, if they had joined them at the table.

"We are well aware of the Order's continuing battle with that cult that has reared its ugly head," he spoke in a hushed tone. "Be assured that Lady Augusta has no tolerance for that kind of filth in her domain. She would be very interested to know if said cult is trying to establish a hold here. Or if one of her other enemies is involved. Of course, we also want to make sure our soldiers are not in danger."

Argin was indeed glad for the Order's involvement, for they garnered a respect from many people in the region and were more accustomed to the strange ways of the Wilds than most of the rulers were. He was also glad for the hunters, who lent a certain ability to get things done without drawing attention where attention wasn't wanted.

Which was exactly why, after any immediate questions had been answered and agreements made, Argin would pull aside Gannis and Larka and quietly tell them:

"There have been tales of strange creatures in the woods around Wetzlar. The usual fearful talk... but if there is something to these tales, do what you do best and bury it."

It was a message Gannis had heard before from this particular employer, when she didn't want word of a potential threat to spread. The last thing the duchess wanted was to cause a panic in an often superstitious population.

Larka Gannis Asher Vanak-Duth Osuin
“But of course. The order stands ready to assist.” Osuin replied with a polite nod, before turning to meet the others who had joined them. The man’s name was Asher, and he looked of origins as humble as his own. Osuin was not always a knight, and had his beginnings as a peasant in the shallows, a life he was glad to leave behind in favour of the greater purpose he’d found. Luxuries such as a full suit of metal armour was once unthinkable, but was one boon of many that the Order had provided him with.

“A pleasure to meet you, Asher.” Osuin extended his polite introduction. Though he had the etiquette to converse with nobility, he felt more comfortable in the presence of common folks like himself. Osuin couldn’t fathom what an upbringing of gold and luxury was like, nor did he care to. As rough as his life’s path had been at the start, he was more than content with where it had led him.

If there were any others there, he was not aware of it until Argin wave to others in the bar, causing Osuin to turn a touch more to look upon them before his attention returned to Argin as he divulged further information about the situation that had befallen them. It involved the woods from which they fetched their lumber, and Argin was careful to point out that this was done with the integrity of the forests in mind. A concern most fair, it was reassuring to hear, given the Order’s care towards such a balance.

The next topic he spoke of was distressing, but not unexpected. Were there no trouble, they’d not be here, and he already knew the trouble was likely dire indeed. Tarid and Josai had mentioned the attack Argin spoke of, and connection between these current events was likely, but not confirmed. Argin proposed that it could be the work of a rival merchant or king, but given what the Order had received in the reports he doubted that such was not the case. Still, Osuin maintained his silence. If Argin was avoidant of speaking it, Osuin was averse to questioning why. There was likely a fitting reason for it.

Matters turned darker when the hostility of the population was mentioned. Surely something troubling had occurred to make it so, whether it be the corruption of the villagers, or rebellion against their rulers. Perhaps their minds were no longer their own, or perhaps their attitude had some justification for it. It made for yet another matter to get to the bottom of.

Argin mentioned the cult, with a look pointed squarely towards Osuin, to which he gave a nod. He spoke nothing of it, sensing that it was a topic that was being delicately danced around. The Order’s familiarity was precisely why they took interest, and the cause for his haste in arrival.

“As always, we stand ready to help. Especially if it is what you speak of, as I fear it might be.” Osuin replied, taking a glass of wine that was offered.

Once the matter was settled, he’d find somewhere to sit and finish his drink, though that Gannis and Larka had been pulled aside did not escape his notice. Strange that it had been shared selectively. He could not overhear them, though, and could only wonder what had been discussed.

Ranvena Asher Vanak-Duth Gannis Larka Kristopher Mortas
Even at the bar, Larka was able to hear Argin’s and the others words. She said nothing however, pulling out piece after piece of dried meat that she quickly wolfed down. She had to prepare for the fight ahead— and as Argin pulled aside the venari to whisper a job to Gannis (top-secret mission!), Larka was glad she wasn’t trying to save the jerky for later

Or maybe she should for when she would need to recover after the fight with the secret beast? Larka stopped chewing on the jerky, tongue raw and raspy from the stringy texture of the salted meat. She wiped her dirty fingers on her plain tunic after putting the jerky away. Once she had situated her satchel, she looked up at Gannis.

Can I talk to the others?” She usually had better luck in talking to others than Gannis did, even if it was only because out of the two of them she was the cutest. “If we don’t say anything they’ll think we’re suspicious.” And Gannis was the suspicious-looking sort.
Asher took the steward's hand as it was offered, and let it be shaken. He knew the look that Argin gave him well. It was the same frown that acquaintances around the village had given him since his recovery. Lots of reactions mixed up together, but always the feeling that he was missing something. That he should be behaving differently.

"Yes, I'm sorry," Asher responded meekly, bowing his head in apology. "I don't remember much from before this--" He tapped the shaved side of his head, where several long, ragged scars interrupted the stubble. "But my sword arm is still good, and I know the land. I won't get in anyone's way."

Argin got down to business shortly after. The steward had investigated Wetzlar, but wouldn't tell them exactly what he had found. Just that the villagers were acting funny. Whatever it was, soldiers couldn't best it. Would knights and a handful of mercenaries be enough? Pale eyes glanced at the others who listened to Argin's words.

The knight and his company was just as noble as Asher expected knights to be. And then the other two... they weren't quite human, were they? Half-feral hunters, a young pup and an old dog.

Asher spoke to Argin even as he kept looking at the others. "You've picked people from outside the duchy. That means you think there's a chance we might go mad or missing, too." It wasn't a question. His voice was flat, and needed no answer. His eyes turned back to Argin, squinted into a smile. "Don't worry, I don't really mind. Already said I wouldn't get in the way."
Can I talk to the others?” She usually had better luck in talking to others than Gannis did, even if it was only because out of the two of them she was the cutest. “If we don’t say anything they’ll think we’re suspicious.” And Gannis was the suspicious-looking sort.

"No," Gannis said plainly.

He was already planning ahead. If there was a way to avoid all contact with the Knights, then he would have chosen that.

"We'll have to talk to them tomorrow," he muttered. "If Argin wants this lot involved we'll have to make sure they don't get lost and then don't start burning peasants to solve the problem."

Gannis felt the weight of his coin purse.

"If I buy you two pies, that make it up to you?"
Argin thought to ask Asher about the mentioned injury, but ultimately decided it was best not to pry into something that seemed so traumatic. That, and he never cared for the gory details of things. So instead he pressed on with the business at hand.

Youve picked people from outside the duchy. That means you think theres a chance we might go mad or missing, too.

"It's not a matter of any of you being expendable, but rather that each of you has a tried-and-true history of excelling in difficult or strange circumstances, often with only your own wits and resources to draw from," he replied to Asher's observation. "True, the duchess could simply send another contingent of soldiers from the capital, but clearly those she sent before were inadequate for the problem.

"Of course, I would be remiss in promising you that there won't be danger involved, but I trust that everyone here knows the reach of their own abilities and their limits. And if ever you find yourselves in extreme circumstances, the duchess stands ready to provide support."

Argin grinned and gave Asher a confident nod.

Once he'd returned from giving the duchess's message to Gannis and Larka, he turned again to Osuin and Asher with a nod in the hunters' direction and explained,

"Those two by the bar are some of the best hunters around. I requested their help with the investigation. They work in their own ways - as I am sure you each will - but know that you aren't alone in this endeavor. I will remain here to receive your reports and contact Her Ladyship, if the need arises."

Argin remains at the table for some time after this point, sipping his wine and open to any conversation or questions directed at him. Otherwise he leaves space for the various members of the team to collaborate as they feel necessary, and make their preparations for the two-day journey to Wetzlar.

The Gilded Harp's bar is fairly well stocked, keeping a supply of decent wines, ales and hard liquors as well as food items such as breads, stews and - yes, meat pies.The drinks are slightly more expensive than the usual tavern. The barmaid, a middle-aged woman dressed rather prudishly given her job, also offers rooms at surprisingly low rates, though she does her best to convince inquirers to indulge in some of the gambling tables situated behind some curtains in the back.

Larka Gannis Asher Vanak-Duth Osuin
Aglin had gathered a fair group of others to assist with the problems of Wetzlar, which ought to be expected. They had an array of talents between them all to aid in the task discussed, tracking, hunting, combat and contending with corruption could all be counted among at least one of them, each. Osuin himself was prepared for the latter, having read Anathaeum’s report on it. Granted, given that Anathaeum routinely deals with the rooting out of corruption meant that Osuin was somewhat biased in his belief.

Were it what he suspected, he'd have some information on the matter. As likely as Osuin considered it to be so, it was far from certain. Until he could match details with what the other knights had reported, he'd simply have to remain perceptive for any clues linking it. Were it something else entirely, Osuin would need to remain ready for that, too.

The next matter was to secure lodging for the duration of his stay, and a middle-aged barmaid had arrived to offer just such a room they had that was available.

“Sure, I'll take the room. I doubt I'll find better lodging elsewhere. Sure is cheaper than I expected.”

“Yeah, I suppose it would.”

“Hah, no, I don’t think I ought to gamble it away.”

“...That's not really my money to gamble.”

“Funds I've been given for my journey.”

“That's also not really my money to gamble.”

“...Duly noted, thanks.”
Osuin remarked, leaving the barmaid in search of a drink.

Ranvena Asher Vanak-Duth Larka Gannis
"Two pies and whatever you fookin' want to eat when we get paid."

If we get paid, he thought to himself silently. He trusted the client to pay them fairly, but there were times when a problem wasn't as big as anyone thought.

The Venari were all taught to read and write. It was a rare skill on Arethil outside the merchant classes and nobility. Huge quantities of knowledge had been lost to the endless cycle of civilisations rising and falling. Argin did know how to read and write.

They were taught it for one simple purpose. As pies were brought out for Larka, Gannis put quill to paper.

"Contract," he grunted, sitting before Argin. The Venari were as adept at writing watertight agreements as they were at identifying monsters.

"Clauses for if there's fuck all out there and we're still owed a fee. But there's a discount an account of us not getting our hands dirty. If you don't agree with anything, point it out and if I'm content we'll drawn a line through it and I'll sign over that line. "

Once any further negotiation was concluded and ink dried Gannis made one quick pass by the other members of the party.

He did not stop to make conversation.

"Stables at dawn?" he offered.
Larka sat up on the tall wooden stool, swinging her short legs with delight as Gannis didn’t just relent but said after this she could have whatever she wanted. How should she abuse this power? She was beginning to understand the tight wording of the Venari contracts and her mentor had left a hundred of possibilities in his few words.

She was certain he’d end up cutting her off somewhere, but in the meantime she could daydream about the fun she surely would have.

Once the pies were out, Larka spent little time in focusing on anything else but her meat pies. The first bite came quick, but the second and the third and every other bite after that came quicker. Both pies were gone fast as if Larka had shared her bounty. She only left one piece, carrying it in her hand as she slid off the stool to follow Gannis once the contract was agreed upon.

Following after the gaunt man, she paused, pie still in hand— with juices dripping down her wrist— and glanced at Osuin and Asher. She smiled at them and, once Gannis’ head was turned once more, gave a small wave. She trotted after him and held up the sole remaining piece of the meat pie.

I saved you some.
Asher was discovering new things about himself each day. Such as getting easily flustered by the compliment the chamberlain paid him. Well, it was for all present company, but he still blushed under the grime of travel at the acknowledgement of his skills.

"Um, well..."
he started, teetering back on his heels sheepishly when Argin gave him a smile and a nod. "Thank you."

He didn't really have any other concerns for the orc, so Asher wandered off as soon as an opportunity presented itself.

The older hunter passed by him on his way upstairs, giving a simple question with the air of someone who didn't want to stick around for the answer. Asher blinked. "Yeah," he answered anyway. "Dawn's fine." He raised a hand when the other hunter - the girl - waved to him, a dazed look on his face. He was thinking about something else.

Stables. Asher repeated the word to himself. Was he supposed to have a horse? He couldn't very well be the only one to show up without one. Eos was a big enough settlement, someone around probably could loan him one. With a sigh, Asher headed to the exit.

"Guess I'm not sleeping, yet..." he muttered to himself as he slipped out the door and disappeared into town.
At the bar, Agatha the barkeep was trying only half-heartedly to get Osuin to spend some real money. She'd seen all types over her years working at the Gilded Harp; she could tell this knightly sort wasn't going to become a regular anytime soon. But he obviously had coin on him, and it would be such a shame to see that coinage wasted elsewhere.

"I'll admit they're not the fanciest in town, but they are neat and clean. T'would be a shame to have such a nice parlor and filthy rooms, after all." She gestured out at the establishment's slightly aging but expensive furnishings, the namesake harp with its mock-gold filigree sitting unused on a corner stage.

"You know, you look like a fellow who has a lucky star shining over his shoulder. You should try that luck out at Lords' Dice. Maybe even some Delver's Twenty."

"There's always a chance you'll win, should the gods smile upon you. Could make that coinpurse of yours a bit heavier..."

"Oh? Then whose money are you carrying around, if I might be so bold?" She chuckled with a sly, secretive smile.

"I see. But you're working for Master Argin, by the looks of it? The duchess pays quite well, I'm told."

She shrugged again, giving up on her ascetic customer. "Well, if you happen to change your mind, Lucia would be happy to teach you any game."

The knight left with barely a coin spent - no surprise to Agatha. She turned her attention towards the unusual sight of the small girl who was decimating a couple of meat pies one of the waitstaff had served her.

"Now that's an appetite!" she remarked to the stunned waiter as Larka took off behind Gannis, gravy trailing from a single leftover slice held in her hand. If only her thirst matched her hunger...

Osuin Larka

At Argin's table, the steward just gave Asher another friendly nod before the sellsword departed. Gannis joined him not long afterwards to discuss a written agreement for the job:

"Clauses for if there's fuck all out there and we're still owed a fee. But there's a discount an account of us not getting our hands dirty. If you don't agree with anything, point it out and if I'm content we'll drawn a line through it and I'll sign over that line. "
"Of course. Let me just look over the document," Argin replied, taking the contract once Gannis had finished it. He was confident that it would be fair for both parties, but he took a few minutes to scrutinize the details anyway. Venari contracts were notoriously professional, and Argin was pleased to see that this one was no exception. One less piece of paperwork for him.

"Everything looks to be in order."

He took an ink kit out of a finely-crafted satchel on his belt and stamped the document with the duchess's familial seal to make the document official. He signed his name alongside the stamp before handing it back to Gannis.


Eos's stables are a few streets over from the Gilded Harp, between the intersection of two arteries heavily trafficked by traders' caravans and wagons of goods heading to and from the regional capital, Heathhome. The halfling stablemaster, an up-tight man who obviously likes horses better than people, has only a couple of his own horses available to rent out - one a slow, older horse for a moderate fee, and the other a fast horse usually reserved for messengers or emergencies. He is reluctant to loan out the latter for anything less than a good handful of coin (or a worthy enough cause).

Asher Vanak-Duth
The encounter with the barmaid was interesting, but far from unexpected. Gambling brings in a good amount of money, and fleecing coin from hopeful travelers likely resulted in a decent income for the owners of the Gilded Harp. Osuin was hardly the type to gamble, yet even if he was, he’d been earnest in stating that neither the gold he brought, nor the gold he’d yet to earn were his to wager. He was present on knightly business, and the coin he carried expressly for the purpose of funding his journey. The reward would likewise be paid to the order, whom would put it towards whatever was collectively needed. It might go towards arming squires, or organizing further expeditions. Were Osuin in need of anything, he could simply make a request, so long as the request was not frivolous.

With lodging secured for the night, Osuin sought out a drink to imbibe. Refreshments were considered an appropriate use of the coin he held, food, drink, gear, and lodging were all costs that the Order wouldn’t deny. At the bar, he’d accounted for all four once the barman served him his drink. After a couple more, Osuin retired to his room for the evening to get some sleep for the day ahead.

Ranvena Asher Vanak-Duth Gannis Larka
The next morning....

Out late and up early, Asher was feeling like his coin had been a bit wasted on that nice inn. Still, having a mirror and a fresh basin of water to wash his face with was nice. He looked at his scars in the mirror. The last stitches had come out, and what was left over was craggy flesh. With a surge of small vanity, he wondered if his hair would grow back the same. If at all.

About an hour before dawn, Asher packed up his small number of things and headed to the stables. The stablemaster had lent him a horse named Basil. Old thing, hard in the mouth, and with more practice as a carthorse than a steed. Asher didn't seem to mind, though. He hadn't even tried to haggle for the swifter horse.

As the sun broke the treeline and cut through blue shadows of pre-dawn, Asher stood in the stable's yard, trying out different commands on the rented horse. Basil trotting circles around him dutifully, only tugging on its lead when it thought something was unfair. Jathos had told Asher that one should never mount a horse without getting acquainted with it first. In hindsight, the old man might have been trying to impart a different kind of lesson, but Asher found that the advice was sound when taken literally, too.

Asher let out a sturdy whoa and the horse came to a stop. "Okay, I understand," he said to it, as earnestly as if he had been talking to something that could understand him back. "Do you want to work with me, then?" He patted the horse's shoulder. "It's not going to be an easy job..."

Basil's head hung low on its neck. It shifted its weight to lean lazily on one of its back legs, not seeming to care about anything except the brief moment of respite and the lack of new commands.

"Right, stupid question." A sigh left Asher's chest at the horse's indifference. He stopped petting the beast of burden and went to untie the reins from the saddle horn. "Guess no one ever asks the plough horse if it wants to pull the plow. Or if a sellsword wants to... well, you know."

When the others arrived at the stables, Asher would stop talking to the horse and join the rest of the group. He was ready to go, and ready to follow whoever decided to take lead.
Following after the gaunt man, she paused, pie still in hand— with juices dripping down her wrist— and glanced at Osuin and Asher. She smiled at them and, once Gannis’ head was turned once more, gave a small wave. She trotted after him and held up the sole remaining piece of the meat pie.

I saved you some.

" may have it," Gannis told Larka. It would be better if she was listening and he was free to talk.

He led her outside of the establishment, out of earshot of the others.

"I want you to remember, there's folk out there wouldn't be too kind to us if they knew how we worked."

"We work to the contract, but a knight...a knight is out to make a name for themselves. From what we know right now might not be anything to do with a creature. Could be political. Village chose to serve a new master. Just be careful of the knight looking for trouble just to prove his honor and bravery and that shite, yeah? "

Gannis and Larka had left their hunting dogs in the woods. Custos Canem were enormous breeds of dogs almost exclusively used by the Venari. He had a plan to use them as an excuse.

"Morning," he grunted at the assembled group. "Anyone's horse got a problem with big - and I mean real fuckin' big - hunting dogs?"
Larka was more than happy to finish her last piece of pie herself. As she licked the juice that had trickled down her palm to her wrist, she listened to Gannis. Immediately, she nodded her head. Contracts were important, not for her but for the Conclave. Knights, it seemed, had no sort of contracts to keep them within the boundaries the written word created.

Although they were outside, Larka glanced back towards the door. The two knights they had seen inside… she shrugged to herself.

Conclave comes first. Always.” Larka said and then followed Gannis out into the night.

It was the next day, so technically she could talk to the others, couldn’t she? Despite Gannis’ warnings, she was curious about the knights. The two looked so completely different from the other. One knight looked like one, from his armor all the way up to his friendly looking face. The other knight just reminded Larka of a younger Gannis. She’d tease her mentor about that later.

Kitty isn’t too big.” Larka piped up. She had gotten a runt because she was a runt. Even with all the bugs she ate when she was younger to grow bigger, Larka felt like maybe that had only given her half an inch. “He’s maybe… only a little bit bigger than me?” She’d let the knights guess whether that was all fours or on his hind legs.
Those who awoke early found the entire valley around Eos blanketed by a dense fog; a lingering grey sheet more predictable this time of the year than the sun itself, according to the locals. In these quiet hours of the morning the dismal, low-hanging cloud was set softly aglow by light filtering through thick windows as the early workers rose and breakfasted.

The Gilded Harp was an establishment more suited to midday-gamblers and evening drinkers, and very little stirred within its doors except for the guests shuffling out the door. Being accustomed to life on the road, each mercenary quickly packed up their things and made their way to the agreed-upon meeting place.

The sun was beginning to burn away the morning fog as they gathered outside the Eos stables. It was a large, open structure with a more enclosed shelter in its center and a large fenced pasture adjacent. A merchant's cart sat outside of the front double doors, the merchant and the stable master conversing as they unhitched the horses. Otherwise, there was little activity besides their own.

As you set off on your two-day journey to Wetzlar, many questions hang in the air between you and your companions, in the backs of minds and on the tips of tongues, but perhaps never spoken.

Despite the daily morning fog and damp, the days remain clear aside from a few clouds, and the road to Wetzlar is dry aside from a few stream crossings that you easily manage. Your party makes camp for one uneventful night in a clover-choked meadow before reaching the village’s outskirts the next afternoon.

(( for information on the village))

The small village is tucked so neatly into the forest, it would almost seem like elvish design if not for the pitched roofs and gables that rise from the mosaic of surrounding greenery. The main thoroughfare is quiet - everything is quiet - as you come into Wetzlar’s outskirts. The only sign of the usual bustle of daily life are two nomadic wagons parked on the side of the road with a round table set up in front of one of them. A strange purplish glow emanates from the table; or to those paying close attention, from several candles left burning on its surface. Every now and again the cart pitches to one side or other, as if someone is moving around inside.

A small sign hangs from the edge of the table, its faded paint proudly advertising
‘Lula the Mysterious, Fortune Teller’.

Only a handful of yards away, a cluster of brown tents squats in one of the few open parks..

Larka Gannis Asher Vanak-Duth Osuin Vandor Colton
It was no Gilded Harp that had taken the mercenary from one location to the next. Taverns certainly weren’t unheard of to this adventurer, however he had spent day and night in a drifting tide that left little else to be discovered.

The sellsword’s journey had taken him between stream crossings, across forest floor and more, beyond fog, and that damned dampness that crept at his back as he slept on earth bereft of a hammock—if yet with a blanket.

Sleeping on the dirt was nothing new for the sellsword, but then came a small village tucked so neatly into the forest. Nestled in the central region of the Valen Wilds, Wetzlar was a settlement of stone and wood, though one would easily be forgiven for mistaking it as a very element of those woods.

On that earthen bed, handmade structures banded with verdant shrubbery, paths paved in green. The songs of the birds seem to fill the wood, in lulls and bursts, working together like the fingers of a fiddler on a violin’s strings.

Amid the wind, a sleepy evening breeze, the melody had suddenly dawned on one man, as if the morning had not yet passed, and he was deep in the bliss of awakening.

It was folly, of course. The sellsword sat in that forest, in the village, garbed in his plate armor, casting his gaze at nothing in particular. Awake. Asleep. He spied his little eye into the trees as if his memories might fade away in a heartbeat. They never really did.

Vandor Colton sighed. His table held no purplish glow, was not on the side of the road, and held no candle. Yet, the man of battle sat in solace, or some semblance of it, watching a caravan of two wagons, spotting the cart pitch from side to side from whatever person was inside.

Dead. Alive. It made no difference to someone like him. Words are wind. He spread his arms, propped elbows on the tabletop, and crossed one outstretched leg over the other.

The woodland breeze tickled his skin, danced with the strands of his hair, and in that moment he was content to listen to the chorus of a woman who sang the man’s past.

Ranvena Larka Gannis Asher Vanak-Duth Osuin
Osuin turned in for the night after a few more drinks, and then headed up to the room he'd rented to catch some sleep.

Morning arrived, and once roused from his slumber, Osuin gathered what belongings he'd brought and departed the tavern for the stables. The rising sun's rays shone through the blanket of fog that descended upon the land, dissipating more and more as the sun crept up over the horizon. It was a short walk, and once he had his horse loaded up to travel, Osuin was ready to make his way to Wetzlar.

* * *​

After two day's time, he had arrived at the village in the early hours of the morning. It matched the description compiled in the reports given of the prior incident. An unfortunate hamlet, to have dealt with such threats as were described, both then and presently. Though Osuin felt quite sure the two events were related, it still needed confirmation. It could be that they were not, and that Wetzlar was just unusually unlucky in suffering supernatural catastrophes, though it was most doubtful.

He appeared to be the first to arrive to the quiet and nondescript settlement. There was little that stood out aside from a table lit with an odd purple glow placed before a pair of wagons. According to the posted sign advertising as such, there was a fortune teller present. It would be some time before the others arrived, and the fortune teller might provide some amusement until they did. Hearing what they had to say could be interesting, despite the lack of weight Osuin placed upon the accuracy of the craft. This was not the sort of investigation suited to be left to superstition, not that Osuin could think of any that were.

But it wouldn’t hurt, and he was curious as to what Lula might say. Even if inaccurate, it would be entertaining. With coin from his own pocket, the burly Knight Pursuant made his approach towards the table.

“So, how much?” Came his simple inquiry, a look of curiosity on his face.
The cart jostled once more, and a tall, middle-aged woman poked her face out to look at Osuin. Her tanned skin almost shone gold in the sunlight, curly black hair cascading down her shoulders in ebon rivulets. Her obvious surprise at his presence quickly transformed into the warm, welcoming smile of a performer at work.

"My, it is not often that Lula sees such a princely visitor to her humble wagon! You wish a reading? Yes, Lula the Mysterious will see your future in the cards - if you are brave enough to face it. For only a scant few coins; enough for bread, enough for meat trimmings for soup.

"Let Lula just fetch her cards..." her voice trailed off as she disappeared back into the wagon in a racket of banging and high, metallic tinkling intermixed with some grumbling. She returned after a few minutes, her head now swathed in a black shawl that obscured most of her features except for the exotic makeup painted around her eyes.

She sat at a single stool on the opposite side of the table from Osuin. Tiny bells and metal beads sang from the many bracelets on each wrist as she shuffled a deck of large cards with circular designs interwoven with animals on their backs.

"Tell Lula true. What fortune is it you seek, princely one? Fortune? Fame? Love? To know your true enemy?" she asked, low and sultry and with some strange accent that couldn't be tracked to any continent or country.

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