The Royal City of Ceranna...City of Golden Spires...a thousand thousand people teem within its walls. What wondrous secrets hide within it? What horrors lurk beneath? Who can you trust in a city full of strangers?

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South of Mancera: The Everwatch Incident, Part Six
”But,” asks Elennalura, “What happened to you? Why not leave the town behind if it is so terrible?”

Alex sighs, pensively. "My father is dead now; I have no other family left but Rulf. Rulf is my cousin - my mother's sister's son - and he risks his life and his inn every time I show up in his cellar. He's been very brave. I hate these men - Farnell, the Protectors...Arrow especially. They took me, you see. They think I'm dead. I should be, after what they did...they arranged my father's death, I'm sure of it. His heart was never stronger...and he wasn't taking any medicines either. But he was found dead of a heart attack, and a bottle of heart medicine beside him that I had never seen. No one would believe me when I said it had to have been murder. The house...I know Arrow set the fire. I was bound and gagged when he did it, for that was the night the so-called Protectors decided to take me into custody." Her eyes are like fiery coals of hate.

"I swore on my father's grave I would kill that man with my own hands."

Her fingers touch the edge of her scar. "And this reminds me of that oath. Not to mention," Her mouth quirks in a painful, bitter not-smile, "it keeps Arrow from ever recognizing me or wanting to touch me again."

She sighs deeply. "You should rest," she says. "I don't know what business you have here, strangers, but you should get it done and over with as fast as you can. The longer you stay here, the more of you will get eaten up in this place..."
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South of Mancera: The Everwatch Incident, Part Five
"Thank you," Alex says quietly. "I understand your distrust of me. Bide a while, and I will try to prove myself to you."
Rulf goes up the stairs, and shuts the cellar door. Alex turns and shoves the table against the wall. Beneath the table there's a trap door. You follow Alex into a tunnel which leads from beneath the inn. You come up from the tunnel into a room smelling of dust.
You can hear water close by, and Alex whispers, "This is an old warehouse; the running water foils the hunting hounds and seeking spells that the guards use. We've got it set up to rest."
She guides you to some pallets made up of lots of blankets piled on top of bags of grain
Elennalura sighs inwardly, wishing only briefly for tents under trees, but at least she can hear frogs and running water from here.

Alex seems to have set her own sleeping pallet up near a window, but she doesn't lie down to rest, instead propping herself up in the corner so that she can see out the window without allowing herself to be seen.

Her voice is quiet as she says, "Let me try to explain what has happened in this town."

After a long moment, she begins. "It comes down to money, in the end. The city has always been in a bad spot money wise - we're right on the edge of the border not only with those Sanganese bastards but with the crazies down in Adelghani too. The mines belong to the Crown, but they've also always been a strong part of the economy here. The river...that's been our life blood. Without the river, we would dry up and blow away and be nothing but a tiny mining town, I think."

Her eyes roam the scenery outside the window. "For years my family has served the Council - my grandfather was the Mayor, and my father nearly won the place of Mayor after him. When he lost it to Farnell, we all thought it was simply a piece of bad luck and Farnell's own good strategy, politically speaking. He got the poor on his side, you see..."

She glances at you. "He did that by endorsing the creation of the manufactory. There were so many men out of work...miners who'd been injured badly enough that they couldn't work in the mines any more, their women and children...we had a bad problem, even under my grandfather, with thieves and beggars. The streets were filthy with them, and really you either had to pay the Thieves' Guild for their bloody "insurance," or you walked the streets heavily armed and in groups. They hunted the streets in packs..."

"But then Farnell managed to get the Council to allow the building of the manufactory - and suddenly all those men had jobs. Their wives could work; their children could even find a place in the factory. Suddenly there was more money in the town - and the thieves were evaporating. Not all of them, but a large number just...vanished. Probably because they didn't need to steal bread to feed their babies any more. They weren't rich - but most of them had never wanted to be rich, they just wanted to be able to feed their children. Then, when Grandfather passed away, Farnell had all these people behind him, saying that his vision was what the town needed to run the thieves out for good."

She sighs. "At first it looked like they were right. Farnell got Mayor; the Thieves' Guild got sloppy, and one night there was a big raid. Next morning, a dozen men were hung for leading the thieves. I wasn't at their trial, but I'm given to understand that the legal forms were observed. And at the time, no one even thought twice about how quickly the Guild had gone down, they were too happy to know they could for once walk the streets without fear of being ganged up on by ruffians."

"Then Farnell hired these new guards - the Protectors as he calls them - they aren't part of the City Watch. They answer to him and only to him, but he's managed so far to keep that little fact a secret from anyone outside the city. Most especially from Royal authorities. He said the Protectors were only to help the Watch, he said he didn't want to hire them on city payroll so that he wouldn't have to raise taxes..."

Her teeth show in the rising moonlight. "Yet the taxes are double what they were under my grandfather, and half of those taxes go to Farnell."

"It's gotten worse in the last five years. To be honest, things have gone downhill quickly since the two new factories opened. They seem to always be looking for workers...they'll hire anyone - man, woman, child, doesn't matter. But I don't know what they're doing with all those workers. I mean, things get made, but no one ever sees the workers again. They live and sleep in the factory dormitory, they eat there, and they don't leave. If they've got family in town, the family gets brought regular bags of money - the paycheck, they say. It seems awfully strange to me though - why not take a day of rest every week?"

"Then this...mania...people were starting to ask a lot of questions, just like I do. Why weren't there any of the laborers coming back out of the factories? Why was the river starting to smell bad? It doesn't harm the boats that use it for travel, but let me tell you, it's not safe to eat the fish from the river any more. Something's wrong, but when people started to ask, this priest turned up."

"At first it seemed just a passing fad, a really strong move towards Pelor worship, nothing to pay attention to. But then suddenly every other cleric of every other god just up and left town. We all saw them walking out, it was like a huge pilgrimage was going on, and none of them would answer anyone about why they were going."

"Then it got bad. The Protectors doubled in number, and started collecting weekly "taxes" which go straight to the Temple. It's an enforced tithe...with the muscle of Farnell behind it. More and more, the Priest and the Mayor seem to be working together. They started outlawing things - they widened the definition of vagrancy to include people performing in the street, or putting out a beggar's bowl. At first people were fine with that - it got a lot of the beggars off the streets and put to work, for their benefit. Then, the laws started getting passed about prostitutes. There were a lot of respectable women that were just fine with those laws, because for a while, the whores were getting out of paying any taxes at all, and making a huge profit off the respectable ladies' husbands. But now...now they claim that there is no difference between a whore and a musician or an actor...and the people are getting scared. Last week, Mama Woodwright's daughter was hauled off to jail for singing while she hung out the washing...! And she hasn't been seen since. Her Mama tried to find her at the jail, but they say she's not there and that she never was...it's horrible."
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South of Mancera: The Everwatch Incident, Part Four
"Pelor just doesn't restrict these things," Felina said, looking at the other two.
Half the edicts that are on the board are rationalized with such phrases as "you can't tell a street singer from a whore" and other nonsense…well, nonsense to a free thinking person. All the townspeople around you seem to be buying into it.
"Something tells me this isn't about Pelor," observes Elennalura. Felina nods.
Pale shakes his head, but in agreement with Elennalura. "Not at all. It is blasphemy to attribute such to his worship."
A man near the sign steps up to you. "Pardon, me, brother, sisters, but can I assist you in any way? It is my duty to explain our ways to newcomers, if you have any questions please let me help you." He seems an earnest, kind looking fellow, thin and tall with balding light brown hair.
Elennalura smiles, "Yes, brother. Please do explain. We are new here and do not wish to offend anyone."
"It would appear that I am not wise to the ways of Pelor," adds Pale, with more than a hint of irony in his tone.
Elennalura raises an eyebrow in Pale's direction, but says nothing.
"I am sure that innocents such as yourselves would not offend," he says kindly, "You see, it is only that we are trying very hard to...clean up our city. Until recently, there was a great deal of illicit trade going on, and I'm sad to say that women sold their bodies on the very steps of the Temple there..." He shakes his head, looking very sad.
"The High Priest of Pelor has spearheaded the campaign to purge our city of illegal and immoral acts," he says, gesturing to the temple, "and the citizens and the Council have felt moved to donate the new decorations and other changes to the structure. The High Priest objected at first, but at last felt it needful to give in to their insistence."
"He has done many great works for the common man of the town," he continues. "Every evening at sunset, during service, he heals the blind and cures cripples...he is a powerfully holy man."
"I see. The whole city must be chipping in to arrange for such beautiful decoration!"
The man nods, although his eyes search you for a moment as if wondering if you are being humorous. He says, "The High Priest conducts service here every sunset, if you would care to attend. It is a most moving and enlightening experience."
Just then, a pair of people dressed like farmers wander up to the signboard. The man bows to you, makes a brief apology and farewell, and turns to them, offering to read the various edicts to them, which they appear glad to accept.
Felina gives Elennalura and Pale with a knowing look. "Indeed. I'm very interested to meet this great holy man of Pelor."
“Shall we attend before we head to the cousin's house?” asks Elennalura.
"I would be interested to witness his service." Pale looks like he’d also like to witness the High Priest falling off a cliff, but his tone is bland.
"Let's go meet with Rulf's cousin first. We should have plenty of time to catch the evening service then."
Elennalura finds a quiet area with nobody paying attention and reads the note, which says, "Don't come to the front, but come to the back door, at fifth bell.”
"I suggest we unobtrusively find an alley around back and make our way to the door."
"Agreed."
As fifth bell is rung about an hour before sunset, your timing is just about right.
In short order, you arrive back at the Scarlet Swine. You see Rulf standing in the door, clearly checking for you. As soon as he sees you, Rulf waves, whispering, "Come on, get in!"
Elennalura enters quietly; Felina makes her way quickly over, and Pale calmly walks in after her.
You find yourself in the kitchen, which is quite busy. Rulf herds you all down a narrow set of stairs into a cellar. There, in the light of a single lantern, a figure sits at a small table, dressed in a dark cloak. The figure stands, and nearly towers over you all - whoever it is, is a bit over six feet tall

Rulf says "These are the ones I want you to take to the safe spot, Alex."
Elennalura remains still by the steps. "What do you mean?"
"Safe spot?" Felina looks wary as she approaches a little closer.
"You are not taking us anywhere without an explanation." Pale crosses his arms, still on the stairs just above Elennalura, and frowns.
The figure lifts gloved hands, and pushes back the cloak covering the face. The face that looks out at you was beautiful once - but the horrifying burn scar across half her face will never be healed enough to permit beauty again. Wisps of blond hair escape from her braid. In a low voice she says, "Trust me, there are few places in this town where a woman is safe from...certain parties."
Rulf reaches over and squeezes the woman's shoulder. Alex tilts her head, touching the unscarred side of her face to his hand for a brief moment.
"What do you mean? What will happen?" Felina frowns.
Looking at you, she says, "The High Priest may spout all day long about cleaning out the whores and thieves, the beggars and tramps...but the Protectors are nothing but bullies in pretty uniforms, and looking like you do," she nods to all three of you, "You're safest if you have a place to sleep where they can't find you."
"Can it not be healed?" Pale asks Alex.
She glances at Pale as he asks this question, and turns her face away a moment. "I don't want it to be healed," she says.
To Elennalura, it just seems like she's lying because she's so hurt about the scar; but Pale and Felina can hear under her words, not only hurt, but a very deep hatred. Pale doesn’t quite know the reason, but Arrow's face comes to his mind as Alex struggles to regain her composure.
"I could do the same to Arrow if you like,” he says, quietly.
Her eyes snap to Pale's. They are, you see now, very pale amber in color, and nearly glow with the intense emotions. The fury and hate hit you like a blow to the face. "Arrow is mine to deal with," she whispers, her tone like daggers.
"Suit yourself." Pale shrugs. Felina puts a hand out on Pale's arm. The hatred in the woman's eyes is palpable.
Alex blinks and twitches a moment, as if shaking herself out of a bad memory. "Come on, I've got a place to hide you all. It's only good for night use, but it's safer than letting any of the guards know where you're really staying."
Rulf speaks. "Will you go with her? I've got to go back upstairs soon or I'll be missed."
Felina looks at Pale and Elennalura. "I think we should."
"And why do you want us to go with you?" Elennalura hesitates because of the half-sensed lie. "Yes, what benefit is it for you to help us?"
Alex looks impatient. "I told you, you don't want the guards knowing where you are of a night. They like pretty women...pretty men, too, some of them. If they take you in the night, no one's going to save you." She looks uncomfortable. "I just don't want anyone else to get caught."
"You refuse our help. What makes you think we need yours? I am not saying that as a petulant child to snap back at you. Be truthful with us,” Pale says sternly.
She starts back from Pale as if he slapped her. "I...didn't intend it that way. I apologize."
"You owe me no apologies. Your actions do me no favor or harm. I trust you as much as I trust anyone else in this township."
Alex hesitates a moment, then says, "Rulf will get in a great deal of trouble if you stay here. He's...important to me. Also, I really don't think it would be fair if I didn't at least try to warn you and get you away from the dangers of this place."
Felina frowns, "I trust her more than Arrow. You know how he looked at me. That wasn't simple desire. I know what that looks like."
"That is true, but we only have her words to go by."
"I suppose we come to the choice of whether or not we think we are capable of getting ourselves out of any trap she may get us into,” says Elennalura, frowning slightly.
"Then I will take her words." Felina steps forward. "Please lead the way, my lady."
Pale sighs.
Felina turns around. "Perhaps I would be safer with Arrow then, Pale? I think the odds are better with the woman."
Elennalura, trying to lighten the mood, teases, "Fear not, Pale. I'm sure we can find you a nice dour rock to commune with along the way."
"A rock is less likely to have ulterior motives. Very well. I will go with you."
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South of Mancera: The Everwatch Incident, Part Three
Getting into the city is not at all hard. Everwatch is a very quiet city - in fact, it's quieter and cleaner than Ceranna. It's smaller, but that's not the entire explanation. The buildings are almost all built the same - reddish stone on the bottom floors, timber and whitewashed brick on the top floors. Only a few buildings are taller than two stories, but not many are one story. The streets seem to be, not quite deserted, but not as busy as you'd expect them to be. It takes you a few minutes to figure out what it is that is so odd. There are no beggars, no bums; no children sweeping street crossings or running about looking for odd jobs. There are also no street singers, no whores, no "vagrants" of any kind, only respectably dressed folk, pursuing their respectable business.
Where would you like to go first in your search for information?
There’s an inn you can go to, where drinks are relatively cheap and the customers might talk in exchange for some free beer.
“I'd suggest we talk to some locals,” says Elennalura, “The local inn is always a good place to start. Why don't we head on over?”
Pale nods and Felina gestures for Elennalura to lead the way.
The inn is called the Scarlet Swine, has a sign with a very red pig on it. The barkeep there knows Elennalura, and greets her in a friendly way as you come in. Elennalura returns the greeting.
The simple tables of the common room are perhaps half full at this hour, just before lunch. There's plenty of space, and a couple of rather large tradesman types sitting at one end of the nearest table, who seem to be enjoying bowls of stew with their mugs of beer.
"Well, good to see you!" the barkeep says, "What can I get for you? Care to try the wines again?"
"That sounds lovely.”
The barkeep grins, “And what are your two companions having?"
"Nothing for me." Pale waves away the offer casually.
Felina smiles, "I'd be happy to sing for that glass." She blushes slightly, "I'm a little short on coppers, I'm afraid."
The barkeep frowns. "I'm sorry miss, you must be new here. I'd not dare take that offer - 'tis against the law, y'see.”
Felina looks confused, "Against the law? To sing for my supper?"
He nods, looking over your shoulders at the door as if concerned someone might overhear. "Public performers, ma'am. The Council, they say it incites unrest in the citizens, like. There's a lotta talk lately, about turning away from bad ways, like. Not sure I agree with it, but no one asked old Rulf for his vote, eh? I just pay my taxes, and keep out of trouble."
Elennalura breaks into the potentially awkward conversation, "It won't be a problem, this round is on me, Felina." and promptly pays for the drinks.
Felina frowns, but nods. "I understand sir. I wouldn't dream of giving you trouble." She takes the glass of wine. "Thank you, Elennalura."
Elennalura innocently asks as she counts out coin, "Are there rooms free tonight, Rulf?"
Rulf murmurs to Elennalura as he takes her money, "If you need a place to stay, here's not the best now. Got a friend over near the river, though, that might be..." he shrugs.
He seems to be happy enough to serve you, but he also seems watchful, as if afraid of someone unpleasant coming in next.
Felina leans in and smiles sweetly at Rulf, "So, Rulf. This seems to be a respectable enough town. Anything interesting ever happen here?"
Elennalura gives a short nod to Rulf and slips an extra coin across the bar.
He gives Felina an appreciative glance and smiles a little, and then assumes a more serious tone. "Plenty of interesting things...historical monuments...religious plays...lots of music at the Temple."
"Sounds very... respectable. And whom would one talk to if they were feeling somewhat... unrespectable?"
“Go out of town, like.” Rulf shakes his head sadly. "Council's gotten real god fearing' lately. Guess it was the old Mayor's dying' that did it, him having' a heart attack so sudden like."
"Knowing that you are obviously an upstanding citizen and wouldn't dare be involved in anything shady, where might we go for a smidgen of entertainment?" Elennalura winks at Rulf.
Rulf's brows wriggle in concern, a weird expression as he tries to cover up his worry. "Now, I wouldn't rightly be knowing...but I've a cousin over the river way. He only comes by here in the evenings after work, though."
Elennalura leans in closer, "Oh? And who is this cousin of yours?"
"Oh, you'll meet him...if you can hang about a few hours, like. And be 'round back when my night man gets here."
Felina smiles, "Hmmm... very well. Sounds.... interesting at least."
me* He gives Felina a look that gives her the idea that Rulf is not telling her everything; your impression is that he isn't lying per se, but he's doing his damnedest not to say more than he has to; he's also extremely nervous and would really prefer to speak more on this subject when not "in public" if that makes sense.
Felina winks, "All right bartender. I suppose I can hang about for a while, music or not, as long as my friend here is paying."
Elennalura's money covers apparently a flagon of wine and a pair of slightly battered looking pewter mugs.
Felina walks over to a corner table where they can watch the room without folks noticing so much; with the tables only half full, she's able to find a relatively secluded table.
Pale is just trying to "feel" out the room. He can definitely sense the agitation from Rulf. He's scared, but not of you guys,
Felina watches Pale, seeing that he's trying to get impressions from people.
The two tradesmen are more stolid, apparently just tired and wanting to eat their food in peace.
Felina leans over to Pale and whispers, "So, what do you feel?"
"Nothing that is not already obvious.”
Perhaps twenty minutes after you seat yourselves...
Rulf had calmed down after you sat, but his emotional state spikes sharply, impinging on Pale’s mind very like a scream would affect the ears. You're able to suppress your own reaction to his sudden, and very real, fear. When you glance his way to see what caused the fear, you see two men walking into the inn and up to the counter.
The two men are young, dressed in matching livery of a very dark maroon, with silver bits of decoration.
Pale nudges Felina in a subtle manner. Felina looks in the direction of the men.
One is blond; the other has dark brown hair. They are both passably handsome. The blond one steps closer to the counter, while the other remains a few paces back, scanning the room in a casual way.
Rulf smiles professionally enough and says, "Good afternoon, Guardsman Arrow, how can I help you?"
The blond speaks, and his tone is cool and a touch condescending. "You know why we're here, Rulf. It's Collection Day, or had you forgotten?"
Pale can feel a sinking dread roll off Rulf as his face pales just a little. "Why - of course not! I just...expected you a little later in the evening, your usual time of course...that's all, you just surprised me a little."
"Why don't you go get the payment, then? Wulfgar and I can wait here..." Arrow's voice is silky with menace.
Rulf quickly goes into the back.
Arrow turns about and leans his back and elbows against the counter, looking about the room. His eye lights on Felina.
Felina smiles charmingly at him.
Pale acts (well somewhat of an act) bored and disinterested.
Arrow saunters over to the table where you sit.
"Good afternoon, my lady," he says to Felina, ignoring everyone else at the table utterly. His eyes wander over her, as if he can remove her clothes with his mind. "And what brings such a lovely as yourself to visit our humble city?"
Felina smiles back, "Oh, just passing though. I was very much hoping someone would come over and speak to me." She leans forward giving him a view down the front of her blouse, "My companion here is a bit of a... stick in the mud." She seems to pout ever so slightly at that last statement.
Pale looks at her lazily then goes back to staring a distant section of the wall.
"And are you a...traveling professional?" Arrow asks Felina. He wets his lips a bit, an unconscious gesture.
Felina's eyes glitter, "Indeed sir. I, however cannot seem to find any employment here."
"Well, naturally not, with the City Fathers all taking it into their heads to force everyone to share their religious mania," he says, his tone sardonic. "However...if you're free for a bit of...private employment, perhaps we can come to an agreement?"
Pale can tell that Arrow is not just interested in Felina for sexual purposes; there's greed and a gloating about him that indicates he has something up his sleeve. The Will save indicates you're able to not clobber him on sight; he may be more useful if you don't beat the crap out of him yet.
Felina smiles up at him, "Most certainly. Where would you like your private performance, good sir?"
Just before Arrow opens his mouth to reply, Rulf comes huffing out from the back, carrying a small (but clearly heavy) chest.
"Here it is, Guardsman."
Arrow looks momentarily irritated, then smiles at Felina, like a wolf grinning. "We'll have to resume our conversation later, my lady. I'm sure I'll see you again soon enough."
"I hope so."
With a nod to you, he returns to Rulf. He takes the chest, effortlessly, and hands it off to his partner, Wulfgar, who carries it with equal ease. As Arrow hands Rulf a slip of paper with a sardonic flourish, you see a concealed blade at the back of his neck for an instant as his jacket flexes with his motions.
The two men leave, and Rulf seems to nearly collapse with relief.
"I think it's time for a refill," Elennalura mumbles as she leaves the table and heads for Rulf.
She reaches the bar and hands him the flagon. "Good customers of yours, those two?"
Rulf gives Elennalura a sort of incredulous look, then his eyes shift to Felina and Pale, and he gives a very slight nod.
"No," he says. "They're part of the Protector's Guard; the new City Guards I guess you could call them. Gods know, the old City Guards haven't half the power..." He bites off his words and gives Elennalura a tight grin.
Elennalura nods. "Another new gift from the Council, I take it?"
He bares his teeth - you can't call the expression a smile at all. "Oh, yes. Lord Taravel is most concerned that the citizens of Everwatch be kept quite safe..." He nearly growls. Then he straightens and looks around, as if remembering where he is. "Look, this isn't a good place for me to talk about this at all, ok?"
He slips his hand into his pocket as he refills the pewter flagon, which has just a bit of sweat on it. He hands you the flagon, and your fingers detect the crinkle of paper stuck to the bottom. He refuses to meet your eyes or speak again just now.
"My apologies and blessings upon you and yours... and the council, of course." Elennalura slides one more coin across to Rulf. He takes it with a curt nod
As you take the flagon back to your table, bells begin to sound out in the street. No sooner do the bells cease chiming than people begin coming into the inn, demanding food and beer in cheerful voices.
Elennalura pockets the paper, assuming it isn't safe to read it in such a public space.
Felina looks over at Elennalura, "So, seems our bartender here is under a lot of pressure from these guys."
"It does at that. I think we may have gotten what we can from here, unless one of you thinks you can get someone in that crowd to talk. My suggestion is that we finish up here and move on."
"I would not question anyone so openly and among so many others."
"Agreed. Felina?"
Felina nods, "Yes, but I think we should check back on him. He did mention a cousin of his that he seemed to want us to meet. That man may be of some help."
Without much more discussion, you decide to check out the Temple, since it seems to be quite the tourist attraction.
Finding your way to the Temple is not at all hard.
As you approach the area, you notice that there's a very large plaza laid out in front of the Temple; at the center of the plaza is a huge monolithic stone, some kind of relic from ancient times perhaps, standing alone in a circle of grass, ringed about with a wall about four feet high, and on top of the stone wall another two feet of decorative looking iron fencing.
Pale and Elennalura, at the same time, realize that this building was once probably a central temple of the sort seen in Ceranna City - the kind of place where all gods have a shrine of their own in some little niche of the interior, a place for unity...but it's been completely overhauled to suit the worship of only one god, and that's Pelor.
The roofs are coated in shingles of beaten gold; there are sun symbols everywhere. The temple seems to be glorifying Pelor not only as Giver of Light but as Conqueror of Darkness. As beautiful as it is, it strikes a note of menace as well.
Pale says slowly, looking up at the edifice, "I would not think Pelor would wish for this."
You can see that the temple is quite the center of attention in this area at least, and there is a signboard near the temple, with quite a lot of papers attached to it.
Each paper outlines a different restriction or warnings: No wearing scarlet, no public singing or dancing...it seems like whoever is running this temple is very down on anyone enjoying themselves.
Felina reads the warnings and frowns deeply. "Pelor doesn't restrict these things."
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South of Mancera: The Everwatch Incident, Part Two
Once the tale is done, Talia rests her hands over her face a moment.
"Even though I have heard this once, it still greatly distresses me," she says quietly. Her eyes look pinched.
Felina's concern deepens and she frowns as Elennalura finishes her tale. "This is deeply disturbing." She looks to Talia, "I assume you know of some way I can help since you called me here."
"I am hoping you and I between us can convince the King to listen to the problem."
"I see. I will be glad to speak to him. I'm sure I can convince him of the importance of this problem."
"As of yet, the poison seems to remain in one area, but you can understand the... difficulties... the city could face if the Shannon River were to become contaminated. Perhaps that will help him decide?" Elennalura offers.
Felina nods, "That is a good point. Is King Cyril available?"
Talia shakes her head. "He has been closeted for three hours with Sir Aravallen. You might be able to talk with him after they are done..."
Elennalura frowns at that name. It's the same name as the owners of the factories.
Felina frowns. It looks as if she has a bad taste in her mouth, "Aravallen... what does he want now?"
Talia looks concerned. "Something about permits or restrictions that he wants lifted..." Then she looks horrified. "Oh, gods. He wouldn't be trying to gain Royal sanction for his factories, would he?"
Elennalura busies herself with a loose stitch on her embroidered sleeve, having little patience for matters of state but understanding their importance to others. In such settings, no serious accusations can be made. Though Elennalura has her suspicions, it is proof she lacks right now…but Elennalura cannot yet voice her suspicions.
Felina wrinkles her brow, "And what would be wrong with royal sanction of what he does? I know none of us care for him as a person, but there's nothing wrong with making a profit."
Talia shakes her head. "Of course not. But something...bothers me about that man. I can't pin down why, though."
Felina makes a face. "The man's only concerned with profit. Well, profit and women, but I can see where one would be concerned about his methods. He's the type to shirk safety in favor of making a few more coppers. I see what you mean, Talia."
Talia nods.
"Anyway, let's go ahead and let the King know we are waiting to see him. We'll speak with him after Aravallen leaves."
With Talia's clout behind them, the Seneschal gives no trouble about the matter - and the women find themselves waiting in a sitting room. The room has two doors - one to the hall way and another to a room suitable for meetings. After about another hour spent waiting, the door from the meeting room opens, and out comes Thorn Aravallen, looking smug, and the King.
Aravallen bows to them all, courteous but careful not to leer for a change. With the briefest of courtesies he takes his leave. The King looks at Felina with a small smile.
"I could hope that this emergency meeting business means you've found a husband and need my immediate approval for espousal..." He grins then. "But I imagine that's not the case."
Felina laughs, "Not yet. Actually, we have a more immediate matter that needs attention. This is the druid Elennalura. She's been investigating some troubling matters in the South. Princess Talia and I believe this matter is of great importance."
The King looks at Elennalura, one eyebrow raised. "Really? What's going on then?" His manner is deceptively casual, almost grandfatherly.
Rigidly proper, Elennalura relates her tale of poisoned waters.
When she is done, the King strokes his beard for a moment. "Certainly this bears closer investigation," he says, "but are you certain that this poison would spread up the river so far?"
Showing the first hint of humor since she stepped in the door, Elennalura quirks her lips into a half-smile and replies with a glint in her eye, "Forgive me, your highness, but I AM a druid... it is rather my calling to know the ways of nature. I speak with as much certainty as I can muster when I say that I found no containment methods being used, and no way to stop the eventual poisoning."
He gives her a small bow, acknowledging both her humor and the truth of her words.
"Still, I must ask that you investigate more closely. You say you spoke to the people of Everwatch, and they reported no ill effects?"
This gives Elennalura pause. A moment's thoughtfulness passes over her face. "There were... no reports of ill effects, no."
"Something strange is going on then," he says. Then he sighs. "But I can offer you no help, other than a writ of limited Crown authority. I can empower you to go have a look - but I won't empower you to arrest anyone or take any action. I want this to be information gathering only, ladies. I have no resources to spare to bail you out of trouble...so don't get into anything you can't get yourself out of." He shakes his head. "The timing on this could have been better. A week ago I'd have had resources to send with you - but I just committed to a project that will take all my magical resources for a month."
"We will make do with the writ, sire. Thank you for what help you can give us."
"Do you think you could write that up for three of us, Your Majesty? I'd like to have Pale with us in case we run into trouble." Felina pauses, "I assure you we'll try not to kill anyone this time."
At this statement, Elennalura's eyebrows raise a notch and her eyes shift slightly in Felina's direction before she can control herself.
Felina notices the movement, "Of course last time, it was because someone had kidnapped and threatened to kill my son. I'm sure I can control myself in a less personal situation."
Flushing ever so slightly, Elennalura composes her face back to neutrality. "Of course," she concedes with a nod.
The King goes to the door and gives a short set of orders to the guard there. After a few minutes, the Seneschal comes in, accompanied by two pages carrying various implements
Swiftly the Seneschal writes out the writ as specified by the King, who dictates the limits of the authority you're being given. The pages quickly make a copy of the original, the King puts his seal on both of them, and in perhaps fifteen minutes Felina is holding a rolled up, sealed copy of the writ. "This should suffice," he says to her.
The King starts for the door. "Pardon the brevity, but I have a great deal to set in motion if I am to make good on the promises Sir Thorn just wrested out of me."
Felina frowns but simply nods. "We will see you when we have more information, Your Majesty."
Elennalura salutes formally as he leaves.
Talia asks, just before the King leaves, "What did Lord Aravallen ask you to do, your Majesty?"
The King looks at her, but Talia lifts her chin, clearly she's not going to apologize for being a little nosey.
"He asked that I work to ensure that the entire city has light after dark. Not just street lights but lights in places like the docks. He presented some very compelling evidence that convinced me this was a good idea. However it means that I and the Royal Mages will be very busy designing and setting up enough devices to accomplish this goal."
"It might interest you to know that one of his main points was that there is already a problem with soot in the air over the city, from so many torches and fires."
Felina raises her eyebrows, "Interesting... We'll have to wait and see how he profits from such a project."
The King laughs. "Oh, he will find a way. That is what he is best at, after all. At least he pays his taxes honestly."
And with that, the King is gone.
Talia turns to Felina and Elennalura. "Go, and return swiftly and safely," she tells you, hugging each of you in turn.
Elennalura smiles warmly, honest affection showing as she returns Talia's hug. "Let us hope our next meeting can be over something as trivial and enjoyable as embroidery, yes?"
Felina hugs her back, "You and your little ones stay safe as well."
Felina finds Pale and between herself and Elennalura, they explain the situation. "Will you join us in determining the truth of this situation?"
"I will. The last thing this city needs is something more to weaken it considering the other events taking place."
The question now is travel. How to get all the way to Everwatch quickly and quietly...and Elennalura says, diffidently, "Would anyone care to let me teleport us there? So long as Pale's equipment isn't too heavy, we should be fine to take all three of us and my hawk."
Felina grins, "That would make our journey a whole lot easier."
"That would make things much easier. Time is always of the essence it would seem."
"Excellent. Once everything is in order, we can depart. Shall we organize ourselves and prepare to go?"
All right, arrangements are made then - someone to watch over Keros while you're gone, the usual "if I die, give Cervil NONE of my stuff"... the normal things.
"I'll go get my armor and weapons, just in case. I've become a bit paranoid about leaving the city without them now."
Right, I'll have Keros stay at the palace with Talia's kids if that'll be ok
Pale is already armed and armored given all the past events.
Felina gets the hat of disguise for Pale, so he can conceal the fact that he's wearing armor; he uses it and changes his appearance to a traveler's outfit, otherwise he'd look very conspicuous in his priest's robes.
Felina will dress in normal (non nobility) clothing so as not to clue anyone off that they're doing an investigation. She'll use her shiftweave shirt to make herself look like a traveling bard and she'll bring her lute.
Elennalura calls her eagle to her and gathers her things, ready to leave as soon as the others are.
"Are we ready to depart, then?"
“Yes,” replies Felina. Pale nods.
Elennalura says, “I need a tree.”
Pale leans over to whisper in Felina's ear, "Your friend here has spent too much time alone in the woods I think." Felina whispers back, "Technically she's Talia's friend, but I think I agree with you there."
Her hawk makes a soft noise that resembles nothing so much as avian laughter.
"I'm sure I remember there being a stand of cedar wood near our destination, is there a cedar nearby?"
In fact there is a grove of them on the grounds.
Elennalura leads the group to the cedar grove and prepares to cast the spell.
Elennalura asks Pale to touch her hand.
Pale touches her with the end of his mace. "Is this sufficient?"
Elennalura looks extremely amused at his reticence. "Unfortunately, no. Hand holding will suffice, however."
"If I must." Pale takes her hand.
Elennalura takes their hands to forestall any further argument. Felina just laughs.
"Off we go. This may sting a little, Pale." Elennalura swallows a giggle.
The smell of cedar sap surrounds you all as Elennalura steps forward. Just when you think you should be running right into the limbs and trunk of the tree, everything gets very misty and dark, and there's a slightly nauseating sensation - like being on the loop-the-loop in a roller coaster, but without the other sensations)
When the mist clears from your eyes, you find yourself standing in a grove of cedars. However you know you aren't still at home, because the noises are far different, and there isn't manicured lawn around the trees.
"Everyone's limbs intact?" Elennalura teases, pointedly looking in Pale's direction.
"The only limbs you need worry about are your own and the trees, druid."
Felina simply laughs and looks between the two of them. "We should get to work. We must prevent any further damage here."
Felina is the first to notice the lights beyond the trees, and catch the sound of laughter and music in the distance. Elennalura stifles another grin and sets off.
"It looks like there's a village ahead." She sets off after Elennalura
Indeed, this is the village just outside Everwatch itself. This town isn't on the river, and the people remember Elennalura and greet her with friendly smiles.
Elennalura returns the smiles and waves, and moves further through the village.
The inn is the only place open in the evening, so that's where you are for now.
"The river is along Everwatch proper, we will visit there tomorrow. I know the inn here. We should be comfortable enough there for the night."
Felina nods. "Sounds like a plan."
"What exactly are we going to do to address the situation here?" asks Pale.
"For the moment, we are going to get settled in some rooms and assess what we know and build a strategy from there."
"We're supposed to find out what exactly is causing the poison in the river. This is strictly information gathering." She gives Pale a significant look.
Elennalura nods in agreement. "Tomorrow, I will show you both the river."
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Homebrew (3.5)
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