Eliva's magic helps to keep the effects of the disease at bay; Nathaniel seems visibly stronger, if not entirely well.
The group travels onward through the woods. Occasionally, the trees thin out and you can see a cottage in the distance or a small farm. As the morning draws on, you approach a small village. "This is Rien," Sister Cecile explains. "It is a good sign. We should have no trouble making Mortigny by nightfall. I don't recommend stopping here, though; we cannot afford the delay."
The village is made up of closely gathered buildings. The villagers seem weary, but do not show signs of the deprivation you observed in Borca and Falkovnia. Fruit and vegetable vendors seem well stocked, and even the butcher has goods for sale.
Beyond the village, the forest thickens again. Closely gathered pine trees occlude anything that may lie deeper in the woods. The road is eerily silent, but for the sounds of the donkey and the cart.
As the afternoon wears on, the forest opens up to farmland once again. Picturesque cottages dot the landscape, and ahead of you a huge city spreads out across the valley. A broad river runs through the center, spanned here and there by stone bridges. Buildings three and four storeys high crowd together on the riverbanks in the shadow of the occasional spire or tower. In the light of the late afternoon sun, the masonry takes on a reddish hue, and dark shadows stretch across some of the lower buildings.
"It will be nice to pass the night in the safety of the city," Sister Cecile says to no one in particular.
*** Eliva's healing ***
Leandro saunters to Angalia's side as Eliva prays over Nathaniel. "Courage, Lady Angalia," he murmurs with an encouraging smile, "With Erastil's aid, Sir Nathaniel can last for a long time, and the good sister seems confident we will reach those who can cure him tonight. All will be well. The gods may be distant from this place but they still watch over us."
*** Rien ***
Though the caravan does not stop in Rien, Leandro takes a few minutes to buy a basket and fruit enough to fill it, not taking the time to haggle but paying the asked prices. He hustles to catch up to the wagon and sets the basket there, offering fruit to any who will take it. He particularly tries to interest the little girl in an apple, slicing it with his dagger and trying to tempt her to share the slices with him as he walks alongside the wagon for a while.
*** Mortigny ***
"A great city, Sister," Leandro trudges wearily next to the wagon, rose-wreathed armor covered with the dust of the road, "Where is your hospital? Near, I hope."
"The hospital is in the heart of the city, but once inside, we will be safe from what prowls about the wilderness," Sister Cecile explains.
As you near the city of Mortigny, what from a distance looked like a gleaming city of magnificent architecture reveals itself to be a shadow of a once splendid place. Many of the structures are in disrepair, missing chunks of masonry and with panes of glass in many places replaced by scraps of wood. The walls and gutters are filthy and the streets reek of garbage.
A considerable number of the palazzos and townhouses you pass by appear to be abandoned altogether. Those that are in use display an excess of tarnished finery, as of those who have a multitude of fine possessions but lack the resources to care for them adequately.
While an unsavory air hangs over the place, one thing you observe readily is an absence of a certain kind of filth common to cities: regular storm drains suggest a highly developed sewer system, leaving the roads dry and free of human or animal waste.
As evenings sets in, the streets are full of people, many of whom seem to be headed to the latest party or the nearest tavern or performance hall. Like the buildings, the finery in which the citizens are dressed shows signs of wear, but the people do not seem to care. Their good humor and self-conscious comportment suggest lives spent in pursuit of leisure.
While you spot a beggar here and there, the city seems to contain far more wealthy people than poor ones, as far as you can discern from how people are presenting themselves.
Eliva looked around, the sights of Morigny confirming her belief that cities made it too easy for people to lose touch with each other and the world around them. She couldn't help a snort of disgust at a particularly run down grand house that a couple wearing outfits of velvet that was shiny, and even bare in some places, with age.
"They'd look better in solid wool or leather than such sad finery," she muttered to herself. With a visible effort she pulled herself together. "Sister Cecile, what do the people of Mortigny do? Does anyone here farm? Or is there lumbering or mining here?" The wealth had come from hard work at one time, but it seemed the people of this city had forgotten industry and the joy of building your life around you with your own hands' labor.
"I will be grateful for a chance to rest my feet a bit, and see what we can do to make everyone here comfortable for a bit," Eliva continued, her eyes unconciously flicking in Nathaniel's direction as her brow furrowed with worry.
Tiffana, who has been lost in thought for most of the day's travel, seems to relax a bit being in the city. Her eyes trail across Eliva as the powerful woman assesses the city before moving to Nat.
"We should hurry him to the temple, let him be eased of his burden."
Her gold flecked eyes flit back to the other woman as a small smile plays across her lips, "Have you never desired to adorn your body in satin? To feel it's smooth caress across your smooth shoulders... I think you would look stunning so attired."
Sister Cecile does not seem to detect the subtext of Eliva's question. "I'm not sure what you mean," she says. "Yes, there is plenty of farming and logging in the area. Otherwise, these are just ordinary people - merchants, tradesmen, crafters, shopkeepers..."
She considers a moment. "I suppose it must look unusual to an outsider," she admits. "When this land emerged from the Mists, the cities were here, vacant for the taking. People take whatever space they can live in comfortably, and many contain a good deal of unclaimed wares. If it seems they live lives of luxury, it is because those luxuries are so readily available."
"Do not think these people ridiculous. To the north, people are impaled on stakes for speaking ill of Lord Vlad. To the east, the fruits of their labor are seized to support the decadence of Lady Ivana. In nearby Arkendale and Verbrek, they stay indoors at night to protect themselves from the beasts that prowl the countryside. Here they live comfortably. Yes, in a city of this size there is crime and there are diseases, but there is a reason that refugees from all over flock to this land."
Andrei and Yuri in particular look about wide-eyed, having never seen a city of this size.
Leandro stares at Sister Cecile for a few moments. "So it is true," he says heavily. "Everything she said. There is no going back to Oppara."
He turns to Res and the others, eyes searching their faces desperately for some sign of the truth. "Is... is this your understanding, Sir Res? We are stranded in this horrible place? There is no way back?"
Res looks gravely, back at Leandro. "So we have been told also. However, I for one have not accepted that fate. We continue to pursue Gilbraith because we believe that he holds the key for our return. If we find and defeat him, perhaps we and any who help us, can escape this forlorn world."
"I... I see," Leandro replies faintly, looking over the city ahead as if not really seeing it. He trudges on for a few moments in silence.
"Surely we have been brought together by the benevolent gods, then, to help each other return home. Yes. No matter who... what brought us here, the gods watch over us still," he proclaims rather suddenly, doubt creeping into his voice, "That must be the truth. Yes."
Res pats Leandro on the back. "Faith! You are correct, our gods still watch out for us and have brought us together for a purpose. It is not chance that our paths have crossed. When I first arrived, I believed that Erastil and Gorum wanted Eliva and I to be here to defeat the evil, that plaques this land and restore the communities that are here. It is good that Shelyn has the joined the fight. Now let's get Nathaniel to the hospital to rid him of this fever. And then, surely a good ale can be found somewhere in this city."
Leandro suddenly grabs Res by the bicep and spins to face him. "Defeat the evil??"
He stops abruptly and lowers his voice, realizing that shouting might alarm the patients, continuing quietly but intensely. "Defeat the evil in this place? Do you know what you say? Look around, if you have the eyes to see. I cannot! Everything is evil here, everything, and it blinds me... "
He turns to scan the horizon behind them, eyes wide, then hisses to Res. "And such evil is here. We are nothing before it, nothing I tell you. We can only run, scatter like little mice before the cats! There is not even a clean death with such as these, believe me!"
The cleric of Gorum's face hardens. "Not everything here is evil. You are not evil. I am not evil. Eliva is not evil. Sister Cecile is not evil. The others with us are not evil. Are you not a paladin of Shelyn? What is your oath. You must live by that oath not by the standards here but by Shelyn's standards back home. Stay true to your vows made in your homeland, and you will stay within your code. Give in to the evil laws here and you will lose your power. I am a cleric of Gorum. The evil that suppresses this land will not break me. You call us mice, but I will not scatter before the cat. I will fight, and I will fight, and I will continue to fight until my last breath. This evil will not defeat me and it will not defeat you! I ask you now the question that Gorum asks of every soldier." Res rises to his full height and looks directly into Leandro's eyes. "Will you fight?"
"Will I fight?" Leandro replies slowly, holding Res' gaze but releasing his arm. "You know I will. You have seen it. But Gorum well knows the foolishness of throwing away one's life. Go heedlessly against too strong a foe, and your service is over, uselessly. Or worse - corrupted."
Leandro sighs wearily, removes a gauntlet, and rubs the dust and sweat from his eyes. He slowly pulls the gauntlet back on, shaking his head. "I... I apologize, Sir Thannq. You are right. Not all is evil here. I am no coward, and I do have faith. But I have a hard-earned wisdom about this place. We must be wary and cautious so we live to fight another day, or we will be no help to the decent people here at all. We will become a cause of terror to them."
He lowers his helmet's visor with a clank and turns away, resuming the march.
Angalia stays close to Nat, watching him quietly for signs that the fever is worsening. She listens to Sister Cecile's description of the city and its people and nods.
"It's an island then, where people can have something like a life. I can understand that. But how long has this place been here?"
Untroubled by the theological traumas afflicting Res, Eliva and Leandro, she nonetheless needs to think about something other than their own inability to escape.
"If things come through the mists, they must be able to leave them. We just have to find the right key."
In answer to Angalia's question, Sister Cecile says, "This land emerged about 40 years ago. It certainly is a source of stability for many people."
As for a discussion of the workings of the Mists, Sister Cecile does not have much to offer.
Sister Cecile leads you along the cobblestone streets past the dilapidated townhouses, many of which have shops and businesses on the ground level, shuttered for the evening. She leads you down a quiet, winding side street. To one side, all that remains of a grand palazzo is a collapsed facade and a pile of rubble.
On the other side, a huge building looms against the night sky. Intricate figures decorate the stone facade, while a pillared portico adorns the entryway. The many windows are tall and narrow, and most have bars on the outside. The highest windows are decorated with finely carved gargoyles which grin down upon the street below. Flickering oil lamps flank the doors and cast a dim glow on the cobbled street.
"Here we are," Sister Cecile says. She leads the wagon around the side of the building to a gate, behind which lies a stable. "Wait here while I see to the donkey and the supplies," she says, and she passes through the gate.
Sister Cecile emerges from the gate after leaving the cart and donkey to others. "Let us make our way inside," she says, leading the way for you and her patients to the front door of the hospital.
The front doors are solid wood, fit into an archway that reaches 15 feet up at its center. Twin heavy iron knockers are set on the double doors. Sister Cecile lifts one of them and lets it down with a resounding thud. After a moment's wait, you hear the sound of bolts and latches sliding inside. One of the heavy doors opens outward, and a stern middle-aged sister in a habit like Sister Cecile's appears at the doorway.
"Sister Cecile, it is well to see you," the sister says with a faint smile as of one unused to good humor.
Sister Cecile responds with much greater warmth, "And you, Sister Jacinthe." She ushers you into an expansive hall. Tall pillars support a complex system of arches to support the ceiling. The floor is polished but shows signs of wear and age.
Sister Jacinthe secures the door behind you.
Sister Jacinthe replies sharply, "This building is as it was when we took over its stewardship. Some thought we ought to remove the bars from the windows, but some of the residents need to be protected from themselves." Her demeaner is humorless and weary. You can tell she speaks from experience.
At this last remark, Sister Cecile shakes her head sadly, as if recalling some tragedy.
Then Sister Cecile speaks up with introductions. "Sister Jacinthe, these people have been most helpful to our causes. They ended the Laughing Plague by destroying its source, and protected me and these patients when we were set upon by some unmentionables."
She introduces each of you in turn, and also makes references to her new patients. Sister Jacinthe's attitude turns somewhat when she hears of your efforts with the plague. She worked at the infirmary assisting Sister Greta for a span when the plague first broke out, before being relieved by Sister Cecile a couple of weeks ago. She saw firsthand its effects.
As they speak, a third sister, very young with a smiling, round face, hurries into the hall. "This is Sister Nadine," Sister Cecile says by way of introduction, "one of the newest members to join our order. Sister Nadine, can you show our guests to some of the spare rooms? Sister Jacinthe and I must attend to situating these patients." She pulls Sister Nadine aside and says quietly (but not so quietly you can't make it out), "Take special care for that man," indicating Nathaniel. "He is unwell and will need rest."
Sister Cecile turns back to all of you. "Tomorrow, I would like you to meet Sister Claudette, the head of our order. I am sure she would like to hear of your experiences and would probably like to thank you herself for your services."
Leandro raises his visor and bows to his hostesses.
Now we go to dance and sing
In the consecrated shades;
Round the secret holy ring,
With the matrons and the maids.
Thither I must haste to bring
The mysterious early light;
Which must witness every rite
Of the joyous happy night.
Let us hasten -- let us fly --
Where the lovely meadows lie;
Where the living waters flow;
Where the roses bloom and blow.
Heirs of immortality.
Segregated, safe and pure,
Easy, sorrowless, secure;
Since our earthly course is run,
We behold a brighter sun.
Holy lives -- a holy vow --
Such rewards await them now.
His voice rings in the entryway.
Perform(oratory): 1d20 + 12 ⇒ (4) + 12 = 16
Res does what he can to assist in settling in the new patients. When that is complete, he looks for Leandro. When he finds the man, he asks quietly, "Leandro, now that we have found at least temporary sanctuary, I wonder if you feel up to talking about how you came to be here? A thick mist came over us as we were fighting that vile Gilbraith. Next thing we knew, the mist lifted and we found ourselves here. What were you doing when the mist snatched you?"
Leandro looks perplexed and sighs, taking a few moments to think before answering carefully. "I... there was no mist. I was swimming at the time and thought I was pulled under. I ended up here. I'm not entirely sure why. Though now I understand a little more of those mists people talk about."
Sorry for the absence. I'm on vacation and thought I would be able to check in more frequently. I may be spotty this week.
The corridors of the hospital are long and tortuous. As you walk, your footfalls resound on the marble floors and echo ominously. Sister Nadine shows you a series of private rooms, such that you may each have your own if you wish. The chambers are austere cells with simple furniture. She explains that the doors have locks, but she offers you the appropriate keys. She chuckles nervously, "Do not worry. We are not confining you to our secure patient quarters. We use these for guests and visiting physicians." She grins at her own attempt at humor.
For those who assist with the patients, those rooms are more secure and also have less furnishings. The beds are functional, but smaller items have been removed for safety concerns.
Eliva is surprised by Leandro's poem, and after a pause she joins in Angalia's admiring applause. "That was lovely! I don't know quite what to say except that."
As Res pulls Leandro aside, Eliva turns to Sisters Cecile and Nadine. "Thank you for giving us lodging in your halls. I see by the great care here that your work is hard, but you take pride in doing all you can.
"Is there anything I can do to thank you for this kindness? I am sure my knowledge of healing is small compared to yours, but I have some knowledge of herbs and basic first aid. I hope to help my friend Nathaniel here settle down comfortably so he can recuperate from what ails him, but after that I would gladly make myself available to lend whatever assistance you might find useful."
Eliva's first concern is Nathaniel. She will attempt to help heal him. I would consider this an aid check to Res, most likely. 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (3) + 7 = 10
Before turning in, Res tries one more time to try to help Nathaniel with Eliva's aid. Res makes two healing checks to try to lift the disease from Nathaniel. Heal 1: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (3) + 7 = 10 Heal 2: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (4) + 7 = 11 "Blast, this affliction is beyond my ability to help it seems."
Leandro doffs his helm on the trek to their rooms, looking around with interest and Bluff: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (3) + 4 = 7 ill-concealed dismay at the austere conditions. He remains well behind their guide to avoid distressing her, and allows her to get the others settled before accepting a key from Sister Nadine. He takes her hand as she offers the key, bowing over it formally.
"Lovely lady, my thanks for your guidance and hospitality. The work you and your order do here is greatly appreciated by we who have had need of your aid. Surely the gods look on you with favor."
He accepts the key and releases Sister Nadine's hand without delay before retiring to his room and stowing gear. Once his possessions are settled, he finds Nathaniel, Res, and Eliva, locking his quarters behind him.
"Would that I had studied the healing arts and so been more useful," he apologizes, "But perhaps I can be of some assistance, with Shelyn's grace." Heal: 1d20 ⇒ 9 "Alas, we must rely upon Sister Claudette or one of her healers. Never fear, Nathaniel. You will be well soon!"
Leandro sits with the patient and the party's healers for a few moments, chatting, then rises and bows to excuse himself. "Sir Res..." he says hesitantly, "If you would... do you have time to speak further tonight? Privately?"
Sorry for the slow posting. I've been traveling and had limited internet time.
At Angalia's inquiry, Sister Nadine hesitates a moment. "Certainly this wing for the guests..." she says. "If you want to see the patients, I think Sister Claudette would probably rather you toured during the day. We try to keep visitors away at night, as it could disturb the patients' rest, which is so important for their welfare." Then she brightens, "But we also have some common areas down on the first floor - the dining hall, library, and East gardens, which you are free to visit as you like."
Sister Nadine gives heartfelt thanks for those of you who offer aid. She mutters a brief excuse before going to fetch Sister Claudette to see to Nathaniel. She returns only a few minutes later, walking a few feet behind a heavyset elderly sister. "I must apologize for my haste," she says, without an introduction. "I am in the midst of my rounds, but with infections such as this, time is of the essence. If we can treat it early, it can only improve his prognosis." She concentrates and raises her hand over Nathaniel. Remove disease caster level check 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (4) + 5 = 9 She frowns in consternation. "The infection is stubborn," she says. "He must rest." With that, she turns to continue on her way.
The dice roller really wants to see Nat become a ghoul...
Eliva gratefully sinks into the bed provided in her small, spare room. After fighting the fey creature and nights of travel, it feels like a luxury indeed.
The next morning, Eliva rises early and goes outside to greet the sun's rise and pray for Erastil's blessing on her endeavors for the day. Once her morning prayers are completed, she goes to check on Nathaniel.
Heal (to determine his health and see if more Con healing is necessary): 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (8) + 7 = 15
She will heal his constitution if it appears to have fallen, to help him fight off the infection. she has two lesser restorations available: Lesser Restoration 1 1d4 ⇒ 1, Lesser Restoration 2 1d4 ⇒ 2
Heal (to help him fight the disease): 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (18) + 7 = 25
In response to Angalia: Sister Nadine smiles and nods. "Of course, tomorrow we can show you around."
The night passes quietly in your simple rooms. In the morning, Sister Cecile comes about knocking on doors. It is early, but not obscenely so. "I wanted to let you all know that there is a morning meal available in the dining hall on the first floor." She offers to lead the way.
"One moment, Sister," Leandro replies through the door. In a few minutes, he appears in a midnight blue tunic and trousers, soft leather boots, and the holy symbol of Shelyn worn openly on his breast. He keeps his usual high standard of personal grooming, with his long hair oiled and wound into warrior braids.
Leandro bows to Sister Cecile, then locks his door behind him. "I am ready when everyone else is, Sister. I do hope the night was quiet. Do you typically post guards at night?"
"No," Sister Cecile responds. "There has never been a need. This is a place of healing. I am sure there may be criminals who might find something worth stealing," she concedes, "but this building locks up like a fortress at night. There has never been a problem."
"We do ensure that there is an orderly who walks the halls of the patient wings during the nighttime hours, in case there is any disturbance."
She smiles. "While I hate to rush, we must eat quickly. The sisters and staff take our meal in the dining hall first, and then we see to the patients."
Once you are all ready, she leads you down the hall and down a broad stairwell to the first floor. As with everywhere in this place, your footfalls echo alarmingly on the marble. The dining hall is broad with several long wooden tables throughout. The sisters have congregated at one of them and there are places for all of you.
Sister Cecile tells you of the hospital personnel. In addition to the four sisters, they are assisted by two cooks who work in the kitchen, three orderlies (one of whom is absent, monitoring the halls of the patient wings), and a housekeeper.
"Welcome," Sister Claudette says openly.
Res, well rested and famished, from a steady diet of trail rations, heads to the dining hall. "Thank you sisters for your kindness. After our meal, I wonder if we may speak to a patient of yours? Sister Cecile mentioned that he keeps mentioning the name Gilbraith over and over again."
The sisters smile warmly at your introductions and respond in kind.
At Res's inquiry, Sister Claudette furrows her brow. Sister Cecile jumps in, "These fine people were most helpful to my safety and that of those in our care. They took great risks on my account. If one of our patients may have information that could be useful on their journey, I think it is the least we can do."
Sister Claudette nods her assent.
The talk turns to other patients. "The new patients have been situated appropriately," Sister Jacinthe says with typical efficiency.
"I went to check on Monsieur Grevac yesterday, and his room was empty. What happened?" Sister Nadine asks.
"He was released to his family's doctors. If you read his file you would know that," Sister Jacinthe says quickly and impatiently.
Sister Cecile turns to all of you and smiles. "I hope you slept well. You must have been weary from the road."