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."
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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