Decem Reliquias

Izot

Tyree immediately grabs Linda and yanks her away from the bloody Avar, struggling to restrain her. With a strength beyond her slight frame, she fights against his strong grip and growls like a wild animal, clawing, scratching and lunging at his throat. Unsure of what to do, he tosses her into the pit of writhing insect-like creatures. Instead of devouring her like they did the Avar corpse, the creatures rise up to break her fall and bring her to gently rest on the ground. A shout from Marius draws his attention from the unusual scene to another just as strange. Elorn, the former shaman of Tyree’s home of Redhold, steps out of the shadows behind the Darkspawn in melee with Armon and Broga, and raises his staff to cast a spell. The Darkspawn glow in a pale green light and their attacks become noticeably stronger and faster. Now sure that the shaman has truly betrayed his people, Tyree draws his weapon to engage the traitor.

Across the pit, Corryn and Cathal watch Izot through the metal bars of a prison door as she quietly sobs, not seeming to notice them, her face and torso still human, but her lower half something else entirely, a grotesque, tentacled, bloated form. Cathal tells him that they need to kill the girl. After his success at saving Berchan from the taint, he is hesitant to give up on her just yet. Unsure of what to do, but glad that neither of them has the skills to open the lock, Corryn only hopes to spare Berchan the sight. This may be a fate worse than death for the boy’s sister.

A high pitched screeching from the pit draws Marius attention away from Elorn and the Darkspawn, and he watches through the flickering torchlight as Linda, with the help of the insect creatures, claws her way back out of the pit. Writhing black tentacles latch onto the edge on either side of her, and Marius watches in horror as they drag a bloated, maggot-like body attached to Linda’s torso out of the abyss.

Using his most effective offensive magic, Marius repeatedly blasts Linda with waves of kinetic energy, knocking her back into the pit, but with each blast, she closes the gap between them. He gently encourages his friends to deal with the Darkspawn quickly while he keeps the newly transformed Linda at bay a few more moments.

The sound of rending metal and crashing stone from across the room heralds the next crisis. Marius can see Corryn’s light wisp approaching briskly, and behind the mage and Cathal, another of the tentacled creatures. No longer content to merely enhance his Darkspawn allies, Elorn mysteriously steps out of the shadows again and takes offensive action against them, filling the room with searing flames, burning Darkspawn, mothers, and heroes alike.

With four Darkspawn defeated by Broga, Armon and Berchan, the path opens up and the party makes a fighting retreat back into the hall. When Elorn moves to flank, Marius brings to bear his most potent weapon, words. Traitor, betrayer, coward, hippocrite. The insults fly until Marius sees on his face regret and resignation, and the shaman vanishes. The ladies however are not so easily swayed. Izot and Linda move faster then their forms would suggest, making it impossible for the party to simply run away. Preparing to make their last stand if necessary, everyone is stunned into inaction when a calm but firm voice from the darkness states simply, “There’s no need for all this violence.”

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The Breeding Pit

The third wooden door is much larger than the previous two, wide enough to drive a wagon through. It is unlocked and untrapped, so Corryn and Cathal take the lead into the cavernous, dark room, where they find that the center drops off into a large pit. A glistening catches Corryn’s light, and upon closer inspection, they find that the pit is filled with huge, insect-like creatures with humanoid faces. They continue further in, taking the right path around the pit. Unable to resist, Tyree creeps in, still carrying the catatonic Linda, to have a look and confirms that the pit contains the same beasts he fought outside of Verchiel, when he and an army of Grey Wardens defeated seven mothers and thousands of their horrific children…

Corryn cuts off Tyree’s embellishments and indicates that he and Berchan should head around the left side of the room. Berchan protests about being saddled with the stupid Avar, but Corryn insists. Cathal confirms what Corryn fears, that they have indeed found Berchan’s sister Izot, but he hopes to spare the boy the gruesome sight.

Before Tyree and Berchan get very far, Marius shouts a warning as a pair of Avar warriors attack him from behind. Broga and Armon draw their weapons and clash with the barbarians, allowing the mage to escape and enter the room. The sound of battle and the scent of blood draw the attention of the writhing insects, which start to mass at the edge of the pit. Armon kills one of the attackers, but Marius stays his hand before killing a second one, contending that they need someone alive to question and find out what happened here. Armon uses the pommel of Aamar Fin to knock the warrior unconscious instead, but everyone looks around, holding their breath, fearing that fight was far too easy.

The clinking and stomping sound of heavily armored combatants confirms their fear, and four short and stocky Darkspawn, Genlocks, appear at the edge of the torchlight and block the doorway. Broga and Armon turn to face the new threat, and Berchan screams in anger and joins the fight. Tyree, still carrying Linda, doesn’t engage, but notices that the creatures from the pit have climbed upon each other and are dangerously close to escaping their pen. He gently sets Linda down, then moves to the dead Avar and kicks him unceremoniously into the bugs, both knocking them down and distracting them. The Avar is immediately covered with the things and the disturbing slurping sounds of their feast nearly drown out a similar sound from just behind him. Tyree turns around to see Linda, crouched and spiderlike on all fours, over the body of their captured Avar, his throat torn out, blood running down her chin, and madness in her eyes.

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The Fate of the Unworthy

The adventurers next choose to move on to the second small hallway on the right and move cautiously down the silent corridor, until finally reaching a locked and chained wooden door. Wondering if this might be where Berchan’s sister Izot is being kept, Broga makes quick work of the padlock and unchains the door. It swings open with a loud creak, followed by the rattling of chains as a slight figure scrambles away from the blinding torchlight and starts screaming.

Among the incoherent cries, Tyree makes out “No, you can’t have any more!” The large Avar approaches the prisoner, who seems to be a young woman, trying to calm her as best he can, which is to say, not very well. The young boy Berchan pushes through the crowd to see if this is indeed his missing sister Izot, but he is disappointed when Tyree says, “Linda?”

The Orlesian separatist and crossbow thief ceases her struggling and finally takes a good look at her visitors. If she recognizes the men that destroyed her commune and took her family prisoner, she does not acknowledge it. She simply stops struggling and stares while Broga picks the locks on her manacles and Corryn checks her for wounds. He notices several precise, identical incisions on her arms, and signs of malnutrition and dehydration but she seems otherwise physically undamaged. She remains unresponsive, so Tyree picks her up, slings her across his shoulders, and carries her out of the room back into the eggshell-filled main chamber.

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The sun, the nug, and the broom closet

The long dark staircase goes on, unchanging, for hours upon hours. With no sun for reference the group quickly loses track of time. Eventually, though they can’t really say for certain when, the monotony of the stairs is broken by an entrance to a small, circular room. The ornate and pristine sun image painted on the floor and the flower carved into the ceiling seem out of place in the otherwise dank and decrepit tunnels. It makes the group uneasy, but the thousands of tiny eggshell fragments that litter the floor make them even more so. Tyree identifies the shells as belonging to a reptile, possibly deep stalker, but he is excited at the prospect that it might be dragons. No one else shares his enthusiasm.

Wondering about it’s pristine nature, Tyree scratches at the paint of the sun on the floor of the room. To his surprise, the paint around the scratch rushes in to fill in the void, leaving the image undamaged. They decide there must be some magical effect at work, but do not see how it could possibly help them escape from the mountain. The five exits from the sun room, two smaller each to the left and right, and one larger just ahead, offer no clues as to which way they should turn. They choose to pursue the first one on the right for no particular reason, which leads them to a small stone hallway. After only a few seconds, they are again confronted with a choice. The hallway ends with three closed wooden doors, straight ahead, left and right.

Tyree listens carefully at the first door on the left. and hears a steady dripping sound, but no other movement. Everyone readies their weapons and gives Tyree the go ahead to enter. He bursts through the door, but finds no enemy to confront. He is greeted only by empty bookshelves and several wooden tables laden with glass containers. A thick black liquid slides down a thin tube and drips steadily into one of the containers. Marius surmises that this must be a laboratory of some kind, though it bears no hint of who it’s owner might be or what the experiments are for. The lack of dust indicates that it it has been recently used, so they decide not to disturb any of the red or black liquids. Once they verify that the room has no other egress, they leave it exactly the way they found it and close the door behind them.

At the door directly across from the laboratory, Tyree hears faint scratching sounds. Once everyone readies themselves for conflict once again, he carefully opens it and peaks in. The faint torchlight falls over a myriad of small cages, each containing a creature more strange than the next. Seeing no threat from the tiny caged beasts, he opens wide the door and lets everyone in. Broga, being familiar with some of the deep dwelling creatures from his short time in Orzammar, identifies a few nugs and a deepstalker, but others prove to be beyond his knowledge. Presuming that these animals must be part of the unknown experiments across the hall, they decide eating them might not be a good idea. Seeing no way out through this room and nothing of particular use, they close the door and proceed to the next.

The brave Corryn decides to try the door directly ahead. Everyone behind him readies their weapons and takes battle positions to confront whatever might be lurking behind the door. Corryn takes the handle and it creaks slowly open, then suddenly swings wide. The nible mage deftly jumps back to avoid the enemy that has burst through the door. An assortment of brooms and mops clatter to the ground, echoing loudly in the otherwise silent chamber. Laughing quietly at they’re jumpiness, they ensure that the broom closet has no secret doors, replace the cleaning implements, close the door, and return to the central sun room to try their luck with another hallway.

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A Dwarf, a Cat, and a Mage

Tyree clenches his fist and his jaw and looks away from the pitiful thing that was Dog, swearing to avenge his friend against the wicked shaman that could have saved him, while Broga tries to find any trace of where Elorn might have vanished to. Knowing they really have no other option, the tired group gather their wits and head into the dark tunnel, leaving the sunlight and the charred remains of Dog behind.

The rough natural tunnel soon leads to carved stairs and worked stone. Being familiar with this architecture, Broga informs them this must be an entrance to the Darkspawn infected Deep Roads, once the highways of a vast underground Dwarf kingdom. Further down, an imposing statue of a dwarf bearing a hammer confirms this. After many hours, they stop to rest, making camp on the uncomfortable stone steps.

During the evening meal, Marius eyes Broga suspiciously, noticing that he keeps putting his hands into his pockets and muttering to himself. During his nightly watch, he confides in Cathal that he thinks the dwarf is hiding something from the rest of the group. Determined to learn his secret, he fleeces the dwarf in his sleep. The clumsy mage wakes up the dwarf in his efforts, but is able to convince him that something was crawling on him. Undeterred, Marius tries again and finally finds a small, porcelain cat statue in one of Broga’s vest pockets. As soon as Marius removes it from his pocket, Broga’s eyes snap open and he desperately reaches for the cat. A tense moment passes by as the two stare at each other, each grasping the cat and wondering why it should seem so important to them.

Through soft and kind words, Marius convinces Broga to let go, and he examines the plain looking statue. The inexplicable need to covet the item washes over him, but he is unable to detect any magical aura. He surmises that this must be one of the legendary relics, and with an incredible show of willpower, hands the statue back to the dwarf, who quickly snatches it and clutches it close to his chest. He rocks back and forth and begs that Marius not tell the others what he has discovered. Marius agrees, and convinces Cathal to do the same, worried that the others may not be able to resist the cat’s unnatural allure.

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Fire and Ice

While Corryn attempts to talk some sense into the hostile Avar shaman through the swarm of locusts, Elorn calmly walks past him to the edge of the ice bridge. With a flick of his feather covered staff, he makes the bridge even more perilous by summoning a large pool of grease. Berchan sneaks up from behind and attempts to grab the staff, but succeeds only in distracting Elorn. Worried that the fragile bridge might be destroyed, Broga and Armon bypass the stunned Tyree and dive across, sliding to the cave entrance covered in sludge, then stand to confront the obviously mad mage.

Coming somewhat to his senses, Tyree situates Dog on his shoulders and takes a cautious step forward on the greasy ice. Elorn’s faithful owl leaves his side once more, swooping out over Tyree’s head, and releases a curious object from it’s talons. As the small stone hits the bridge, the grease ignites, covering Dog and Tyree in flames. Confused and worried, Tyree still takes slow, cautious steps across the flaming ice bridge until finally reaching the other side, and carefully places dog’s now charred, stiff corpse on the ground.

From across the chasm, Marius slams Elorn with mental energy, knocking him to the ground, allowing Broga and Armon to get past his defenses, but also foiling Cathal’s attempts at getting line of sight. She yells at Marius to follow and takes a diving roll through the flames across the ice bridge, but slides ungracefully and crashes into Tyree, still trying to snuff out the flames on Dog, tangling them both into a useless heap. On his heals, Elorn begins to retreat into the cave. Cathal extricates herself from Tyree and draws a bead on the traitor. Before she can get a shot off though, the shaman says in an ominous voice, “If you follow me, you will die,” and vanishes.

Marius, stepping out onto the ice, shifts nervously, hoping to wait out the flames before crossing. Steam, drips and cracks signify that if he waits a moment longer, he will be stranded on this side, or worse, fall to his death. He finally just closes his eyes and rushes across, coming out mostly unharmed and only slightly ablaze. The bridge disintegrates behind him, the ice chunks falling away into the mist below.

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Who?

The bedraggled and demoralized group trudge through the Muirn’s pass for over an hour, wary for the escaped Corryn double, and cross over three tiny streams of snowmelt before they realize it’s been the same stream every time. Now alert to this strange phenomenon, they cease their vigil for the specter and pay more attention to their surroundings, marking a spot on the wall to make sure it’s really the same spot and tapping along the wall looking for a concealed exit. Having no luck at this, Broga plops to the ground in hopeless despair moaning about how they never should have come this way and that all is lost. Corryn, Marius, Cathal and Armon stop with him to discuss possible explanations and escape routes. Meanwhile, Tyree continues silently on, the corpse of his faithful Dog slung over his shoulders, still refusing to speak to anyone. Luckily the trap prevents him from getting anywhere, and he passes the group several times as they quibble and argue about what to do next.

Finally fed up with Broga’s whining and recognizing this as a mage’s trick to confuse and disorient the weak minded, Marius takes the lead, blasting Broga with a bit of Hope to get him moving and break the illusion. It seems to work, as they soon emerge onto a plateau with a few sparse trees. The incident puts them on their guard for a nearby, potentially hostile mage, but the frigid air that is the Frostback’s namesake soon drives this from their minds. Although glad of the warm clothes the Avar were so kind to provide them with, the weary lowlanders elect to camp outside the haunted canyon.

The sullen Tyree walks away from the group, and stops at the edge staring off into the tree-covered mountains, listening to the distant, soft hooting of an owl. His fellow Avar, Cathal, follows him, albeit foolishly, and attempts to give what little comfort she can, in her typical, blunt fashion. “He was valiant and fought well. Let us give him a warrior’s burial.” Tyree does not answer at first, seeming to contemplate something for a moment, but does not agree to the gruesome ritual known as the Air Burial. “Go away. He’s not dead,” he simply states, and turns away. Cathal rejoins the rest of the group where Broga’s feeble attempts to build a fire keep getting foiled by the fickle wind. She warns that Tyree is not in his right mind, and that maybe some time alone would be best.

Tyree eventually returns to camp, and, upon seeing Broga’s pathetic attempt at a fire, tears it down and builds it properly, then rolls up into his bag and drifts into a fitful sleep, hoping on the off chance that the whole day was just a bad dream.

The morning arrives far too soon, Tyree’s wish unfortunately not coming to fruition. They shake the frost from their bedrolls, noses, and Dogs, pack up, and follow Cathal’s advice to follow the northern path heading further up into the mountains. The camaraderie from earlier in their journey seeming to have diminished with each parting member of their company, first Azur, then Felayne, and now Dog, leading to an uncomfortable and nearly hostile silence.

They travel on like that for hours, until finally Cathal waves back for them to halt. She doubles back and informs them that the rogue Avar Banur’s lair is just up ahead. According to Azur, he is the one who took his wife and Berchan’s sister, Izot, captive on their ill-fated elopement. If she still lives, that is where they should find her. The excitable boy Berchan insists that they charge in immediately, but cooler heads prevail. Being the stealthiest of the lot, Broga is elected to scout ahead and report back his findings, and is gently reminded that he do a better job than last time.

The dwarf silently climbs the narrow path they’ve been following until it becomes even narrower, and the comforting cliff wall to the right falls away, revealing a deep chasm over which a delicate looking ice bridge spans. Seeing no where else to go, Broga slips, literally, across, to a dark cave entrance on the other side. Only a few feet in, he finds a strange totem wedged into the ground. It seems to be some sort of bird skull adorned with feathers, obviously not left here by any animal. Standing there in the darkness alone, he takes out the unusual and compelling cat statue he looted from a merchant’s stall in Verchiel, closes his eyes and wills it to do something. Anything really. Nothing seems to happen though, so he stashes it back into his coat, still keeping it close. Not willing to scout any further ahead alone, he makes his way carefully back across the bridge and reports his findings.

Tyree recognizes the totem, as does Corryn, having seen similar such items around the sacred animal pit in Redhold. They presume a shaman must be living here with Banur, but get no further in their discussion as they are interrupted by the twang of many arrows leaving bows and whizzing by their heads. Turning their attention to the chasm, they see that on either side of the cave, small alcoves now hold half a dozen Avar archers where before there were none. Tyree and Cathal return fire, having no qualms with killing these very different Avar. Several fall to their death in the skirmish, and, with the mage’s help, the opposing archers are soon summarily defeated.

Almost laughing at the feeble defense, they find the bridge itself their next obstacle. Corryn crosses first with the boy, both being very slight of build and light on their feet, and the pair have no issues. Marius lingers on the southern edge, apprehensive of the height and unsure of the bridge’s structural integrity. He lets Tyree cross first, with Dog’s now quite smelly body still slung over his shoulders. As the big Avar reaches the center of the bridge, a bird flies dangerously close, threatening to knock him off balance, circles back around, and swoops into the cave. Corryn recognizes the bird, and is relieved to see Elorn emerge from the darkness, his owl coming to rest comfortably on his strange, rune-covered antlers. Tyree’s eyes light up at this sight. At last, someone who can revive Dog! Corryn’s relief and Tyree’s excitement are short-lived though, as the man addresses them in a stern voice, stating ominously, “You should not have come here.” A swarm of locusts emerges from the mage’s staff, engulfing Corryn, to the shock and horror of his traveling companions.

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Muirn's Pass

Finally finding themselves at the foot of the Frostback mountains, Cathal takes the lead in her familiar homeland and guides them to Muirn’s pass. Warning once more that the area is known to be haunted, they venture into the narrow canyon, hoping to catch Banur and his Avar minions off guard by coming from such an unexpected direction. Not ten steps in, just after Cathal and Dog round the first corner out of sight, Broga exclaims and falls to the ground, out cold. Corryn hurries forward to inspect the dwarf, who unexpectedly leaps to his feet and stabs at him. Confused, Corryn looks around, seeing another dwarf on the ground, with Armon leaning over and stabbing him. Marius approaches Armon, blasts him back from the dwarf and utter chaos ensues.
Everywhere Corryn looks, his companions are fighting one another, but unusually, there seems to be two of each. Not sure who is who, he yells for Berchan to retreat back out of the narrow ravine. The boy simply cowers in fear, unable to move for the sheer horror of the sight of a twisted copy of himself. Tyree approaches, ostensibly to come to the boy’s aid but swings his maul rather than pick him up, luckily missing the youth. Corryn grabs him, pulling him back and yells for retreat, hoping only the real copies follow. Too busy gleefully massacring one of the Mariuses with the glowing, singing blade Aamar Fin, Armon ignores the suggestion and stands his ground. Cathal and Dog return from around the corner and follow a Corryn, Tyree, and Berchan back out of the pass to regroup.
Gathering his wits and focus to head back in to extricate Armon, Marius and Broga, Tyree is caught completely off guard when Cathal stabs him in the back, literally. Dog assaults him from the front, and he and Corryn realize the real versions must still be around the corner. Corryn heads back into the canyon while Tyree engages the copies, but the Avar soon finds his mundane weapon all but useless against the unnatural specters.
Upon reentering the pass, Corryn fires an Arcane Lance at the Broga attacking one of the Mariuses, and it disappears into a wisp of smoke. Now knowing the copies can be defeated, the real Armon and Marius redouble their efforts and also strike the final blow at their opponents. The Marius and Armon copies dissipate, the remaining pair only slightly annoyed they didn’t ‘accidentally’ kill the real one. The magic wielding trio then quickly dispatch the Tyree specter. The Corryn copy, seeing his companions defeated, runs in to the wall and disappears. Armon and Corryn then finally heed Tyree’s calls for help, though he easily dodges the imposter Dog and Cathal, thankful that they seem to be just as ineffective in battle as their real counterparts.
Marius sees the real Cathal stumble back around the corner, battered and bloody. He runs to her aid and begins to dress to her wounds, but notices the marks seem to be dog bites. Worried, he asks where Dog is, and she responds simply, “He attacked me. I killed him.” Realizing her error, Marius tries to quickly explain the situation and does his best to conceal the bite marks with the bandages but worries what the unstable Avar might do to her should he find out the truth.
He does not have to wait long. After a brief discussion at the mouth of the pass, they decide not to abandon the plan and proceed forward. Around the bend where Cathal and Dog fought, Tyree finds the canine’s body lying on the ground, peppered with familiar Avar arrows. He calls for the mage, but Corryn’s magic does not revive Dog. He solemnly picks up the corpse and carries it forward into the mist, not looking back or speaking to anyone.

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Summerday

Marius, Tyree, and Dog return to the market to find quite a different scene than when they left. Several guards have cordoned off the area, having replaced the white-clad youth. One guard halts them just outside the crime scene. Peeking around him and spying a puddle of blood, a sinking sensation in his gut tells him what must have happened here. Hoping he is wrong, he uses his undeniable charm, the tragedy of Haven, and the threat of the dead coming back from the grave to convince the guard to let him through to examine the body. Seeing the vicious wound in the victim’s neck and a yellowish tinge starting to form around its edges, his fears are confirmed. He warns those around to be on their guard, in case this one comes back. After a few tense moments of staring at the corpse, it does not rise. He warns the guard to keep a close eye on her anyway. Tyree commands Dog to track Corryn, and he and Marius leave the guard wide-eyed and unable to tear his gaze away from the unmoving corpse.

Panting and heaving, Armon turns the corner to find his quarry has reached a dead end. The infected man turns to face his pursuer, lunging at him with the fierceness of a cornered animal. Cathal fires her arrows and Armon hacks and slashes at him, causing wounds that bleed yellow, but, in typical Amber Rage fashion, the infected man continues to fight well after his wounds would dictate. The quick Berchan joins the fight, dodging in and out, stabbing ineffectually with his short sword, but providing a welcome distraction. Corryn shouts at him from behind to maneuver him away from the standing well. Using his shield, Armon circles behind and pushes him forward, right into the swinging maul of the newly arrived Tyree. Figuring the Avar warrior would not have returned alone, Armon shouts for Marius to take care of this guy. A shower of yellow gore soon follows, catching Tyree and Berchan in its wake, leaving them stunned and nauseated.

Once the two ill combatants recover enough to walk, Marius suggests they find a place to wash up and have a nice meal. They locate a modest inn where Tyree, Berchan and Corryn head straight for the baths, while others sit down to have a nice meal. Tempted to try out his newfound toy, Marius tells the serving boy “free” in his most commanding voice. The boy looks confused, and demands up front payment for the meal. Figuring it didn’t work, Marius deflects the boy’s questions and pays for the food. After the boy returns to the kitchen, a commotion arrises. A pack of dogs tear through the common room and race out the inn’s front door. They are soon followed by Marius’ serving boy, who seems to be attempting to escape the ire of the plump woman with a rolling pin. Before returning to the kitchen, the woman catches Armon’s eye and winks at him. Stunned, the staunch man tries to ignore it, while Marius silently grins. When their meal is ready, the cook brings it personally, with a few extra biscuits and winks for Armon. Flushed and flustered, the soldier looks down at his plate and finished his meal silently.

When sufficiently clean and fed, the group is eager to leave town and dismiss Marius’ suggesting to stay at the inn for the evening. With an unknown number of infected villagers, they don’t plan to stick around to see Elmridge become another Haven. Outvoted and overruled, Marius at least keeps his word to Felayne, stopping by the Wulf estate on the way out of town. The mage makes her promise to leave town at the first sign of trouble, and she hands Marius a small velvet pouch for his.

In their camp on the outskirts of town, Marius ponders Felayne’s fate and hopes she will heed his advice. Curious, he questions Cathal on where she plans to go next, seeing no reason she would stay with them after her brother’s death. She reminds him that Izot is still technically her sister-in-law, and Berchan her brother, and that she has a family obligation to complete his mission. After that though, she expresses no desire to return home to the new Redhold, as there is no glory to be found in constructing walls and buildings. Marius offhandedly mentions he is headed to the Brecilian forest. This alarms and interests her, who warns that the area is known to have werewolves. Claiming that “Avar remember what the rest of the Alamarri have forgotten,” she promises to tell Marius all she knows about them after Izot has been rescued.

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Contagion

They strip the Templar of all her belongings, laying them out carefully on the soft, dewy grass. Forgetting the threat of the Revenant momentarily, the mages inspect each item by torchlight, separating the magical from the mundane and doling out the spoils. Tyree lays claim to the buxom silverite armor, not caring how ridiculous he might look, while Marius tries the distinctive circlet. He stares at Broga and says “Confess!” Immediately the dwarf begins blubbering and babbling incoherently about a wagon and a fruit stand. He hurriedly hushes the dwarf, then moves on to the rest of the Templar’s items. Corryn tries on the luxurious red cloak and discovers a folded piece of paper in one of the inside pockets, and lays that aside for inspection later. Cathal retrieves the longbow from the field where the Templar abandoned it, claiming it for her own without asking permission, also collecting the arrows and adding them to her quiver. No one challenges her.

Once the loot is divided satisfactorily, they discuss how to prevent the Revenant from bringing this particularly dangerous enemy back to haunt them. With hopes that it will render the corpse useless to the persistent necromancer, Armon, the expert amputationer, hacks at the Templar, removing her arms, legs, and head. Once they bury the chunks of Templar in separate locations, they leave the area, just in case. Once at a safe distance, Corryn shares the paper he discovered. He unfolds it to find an accurate and detailed drawing of his own face staring back at him. On the back is scribbled “Armon Reinhardt,” much to everyone’s confusion. Not knowing why the Templars might be after him, Armon just shrugs, assuming the Templars must be incompetent and mixed up their convicts. With that nasty business behind them, they rest for the night, and continue in the morning to Elmridge, hopefully to rendezvous with Felayne and maybe finally be rid of the Arl’s troublesome young son.

The streets of Elmdrige are bustling with teenagers in white frocks and merchants hawking flowers, candies, and trinkets of all sizes, the Summerday celebration in full swing. Marius notices a particularly homely woman selling red roses, and subtly “suggests” to Armon that he purchase one. He has an awkward exchange with the woman, purchases a rose, then returns it to her, walking away stiffly, feeling hopeful and quite confused. Satisfied that he is on the way to breaking the persistent pessimist’s spirit, Marius gets down to business, asking Berchan where the Arl’s estate so he can ensure Felayne arrived safely. Berchan points them in the right direction, but refuses to go near the place, not yet ready to give up on his sister or his adventure. Corryn volunteers to stay with the boy in the market, and Armon, always happy to be rid of Marius, stays as well. Marius, Tyree, and Dog head off, the group still strangely divided by the lines of the battle of Redhold.

The Avar and the mage wade east through the sea of giggling girls and blushing boys to the Arl’s estate, the largest building within site. It’s sparse and practical appearance perfectly suited to Arl Wulff’s reputation. A pair of guards flank the gate, and hail the approaching men. Marius inquires about Felayne and is relieved to hear that she made it safely here, but she is currently resting. He asks the guards to let her know that he is alive and that he intends to come back later to talk with her before leaving town. The man nods and, upon request, points Marius in the direction of a nice tavern where he can get a bath and a good meal.

Curious about the festivities, Berchan runs off into the crowd, leaving Corryn and Armon to peruse the vendors’ stalls. Moments later, a blood-curdling scream erupts from a nearby woman. Always ready to help a damsel in distress, Corryn rushes towards the sound, pushing his way through fleeing teenagers. He arrives in time to see a man hunched over a woman’s body on the ground, blood gushing out of her wounded neck, painting her white tunic a bright crimson. Afraid he knows exactly what has just happened, he shouts at the gawkers to back away, but few heed his warning. The man looks up, his face covered in blood, clearly having just bitten the woman, revealing sickly yellow eyes and confirming Corryn’s suspicion. He rushes into the crowd scattering them as no words could do, bites at least one of them, then rushes north up the street. The mage shouts for Berchan and Armon and gives chase, hoping that it isn’t too late to save Elmridge from Haven’s fate, and that it is pure coincidence it arrived in town just as they did.

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