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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