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Pathfinder: Ascension - Prologue


Campaign Journals


"Their story, yours and mine -- it’s what we all carry with us on this trip we take, and we owe it to each other to respect our stories and learn from them." —William Carlos Williams

Over the next few weeks leading up to the January start of Pathfinder: Ascension, I will be posting vignettes giving insight into the cast of characters that will be appearing in the campaign. These story elements help give background and foreshadowing to the world and events taking place.

Following the closure of recruitment and the choosing of the player characters that will feature in this campaign, I will be opening this thread up to prologue submissions by my players. Feel free to use this space at that time to give more background on your character, insight into his personality, or just take a chance to get in their head and share something fun with your fellow players.

Feel free to comment/speculate on the prologues that are posted as you wish.


Ascension, Prologue I - New Beginnings
______________________________________

<Westcrown, Cheliax : 28 Rova, 4712AR>

Beyond the tall windows of square-paned glass, the horizon looks as though it is on fire. Fluffy clouds shades of molten steel are painted against a canvas of autumnal reds and coppery oranges. Stickbare trees outside show the inevitable progress of fall, while those that still have some color on them look to be joining the sky in symbolic flame. From his vantage point in the offices of the Hightower Estate, a lone man watches the sun setting out that window through narrowed eyes.

The indirect glow of sunlight casts across the man's dark skin, coal black eyes and coarse, dark hair. The distinctly garundi features are hilighted by hues of clay red at his cheekbones and jawline, catching a metallic irridescence in the sunlight. Lifting a glass of liquor to his lips as the sun passes below the horizon, a celebratory sip is taken; to new beginnings.

"Lord Hightower," comes softly from a thin young man in the study's doorway, clutching paperwork and books to his chest. "The remaining documents from your mother's estate have been delivered, I thought you might-- "

"On the desk," Lord Hightower interjects brusquely. "Please," is added as an afterthought as he directs the scribe to the clean desktop behind him. Without a word, the young man hurries over and carefully lays out the old documents, leatherbound books and scrolls in a neat pile. Head bowed respectfully, the scribe backs away from the desk and begins to leave the study before something else is remembered.

"Ah..." He turns, looking over his shoulder to the Lord of the manor before fully turning his body to face him. "Sir-- m'lord, sir. There's a... guest?" He isn't honestly sure. "Da-Teng?" The name rolls off the scribes tongue without familiarity to the proper inflection. "It's-- He's in the foyer, says you're expecting him?"

Hightower circles his desk, setting his glass down on the corner as he makes his way towards the door. "Send him up, please." A smile is flashed to the scribe as Lord Hightower turns towards a bookcase, withdrawing a tome from its surface and flipping it open, cradled in one hand. The scribe's response is a wordless nod, followed by brisk departure.

The wait for his guest is not long, and soon the expected party ambles in through the doorway. The clunk of wood on wood from a scabbard hitting the door frame draws Lord Hightower's attention before the sound of talons on a hard wood floor would. "Gi-deon," is croaked out through a beaked mouth, the coal black eyes of a bipedal raven near the height of a man focused squarely on Lord Hightower. "Your word was, received." A click and chirp escapes the tengu's beak, punctuating his sentence as he finishing his meandering entrance, one feathered hand resting on the pommel of a long, curved sword worn in a shoulder-slung sheath.

"Da-Teng," Gideon nods in return greeting, nodding to his desk suggestively as he walks over to it. "I was worried my message wouldn't reach you. It's a long way as the raven flies to Magnimar." Finishing his circuit of the office, Gideon settles down in the high-backed chair behind his desk with a creak of the supple leather. The book in his hand is laid out on the desktop, turn around and pushed towards the opposite side of the desk.

The tengu struts over to the desk, tail-feathers swishing from side to side as beady black eyes flit about the room, inspecting the statues, paintings and pottery decorating the study's periphery. "As the raven flies," Da-Teng reiterates, "it is a long way. But promise of riches the likes of which the Hightowers have... hastens the pace." When he reaches the desk, Da-Teng looks down at the open book, head crooked to the side inquisitively.

Wordlessly, the tengu looks up to Gideon and blinks his tiny, black eyes. Gideon's response to the silent stare is an affable smile as he reaches for his glass. "What do you say? A thousand gold up front, twice as much on completion." Da-Teng's beak opens and closes with a clack, and he looks back down to the book.

"An-dor-an is uncomfortable," is his immediate response. "Border or no. Eagles don't get along with ravens-- historically." His beady black eyes flit back up to the nobleman, a croak building in the back of his throat. "Much coin, though. Many bodies?"

"Twenty-seven," Gideon smoothly explains, "and I presume you continue to live up to your reputation?" Da-Ten quickly dip his head into a nod in response, then waves a feathered hand towards the book.

"No reputation," the tengu explains. "Legends require sur-vi-vors." With another click of his beak, he proffers his open hand to Gideon, then makes a 'gimme' motion with clawed fingers. Gideon obliges the request by reaching into a drawer and withdrawing a heavy sack of platinum coins. They're tossed through the air, landing with a jingle in Da-Ten's open palm.

The Tengu pulls the pouch open with his beak, noses through the coins, then nods appreciatively. "What now?" Gideon shrugs, slouching back into his chair with another creak of the leather.

"Now, I assemble my team. Which means you," Gideon motions to the door, "are dismissed." Da-Teng chirps hoarsely, then taps a talon against the floor before stepping away from the desk. The tengu watches Gideon for a few moments, then steps left, then right, then into the shadow of a book case and simply disappears. Running a hand over his neatly trimmed beard, Gideon watches the tengu's departure, then lifts his glass up to his lips once more.

He smiles, again, and offers another sip of congratulations for a plan well constructed.

To new beginnings.


Ascension, Prologue II - Contract
_________________________________

<Kuthona 8, 4710 AR>

The resonant din of metal striking metal is carried with rhythmic cadence through darkened, stone corridors. Through dark and winding catacombs that noise leads to the fiery glow of a furnace, its pot-bellied iron door open to spill hot, orange radiance out on the damp stones. The source of the hammering is evident in the blacksmith working diligently over a battered anvil, sparks flying from the length of glowing metal at each hammer impact.

The smith hardly looks the part; a young woman of diluted elven lineage, her shoulder-length hair tied back behind her head, hawkish eyes of silver focused on her craft. The blacksmith's hammer looks too large for her frame, her arm shakes with each raise of the bludgeon over her head. But her strength does not lie in flesh and blood, it is somewhere more ethereal.

In each hammer strike, the sparks rising up from the hot metal twist and turn. A casual observer sees sparks, but a practiced eye sees the shapes in the sparks; twisting lines of eldritch sigils born of flame swirling from the blows. Turning the length of metal with her tongs, the half-elven smith flattens down another side with a series of metered strokes, each one imprinting some fragment of the arcane, a shard of power beyond the mundane world.

The hammer is set aside, and tongs are used to lift the piece of metal and bring it down into a wooden trough. A riot of hissing sizzles accompany the metal being submerged in water, turning the artifice from white-hot to coal black almost immediately. When the length of metal is removed from the water, its creator inspects it with wide eyes. A length of carbon-flaked metal, brushed off by gloved hands to reveal the coppery color of the material below. Each brush of the blacksmith's hand over the artifact shows more of its form, now free of impurities.

She picks up the five-inch long spike, turns it over in one leather-gloved hand to inspect the octagon-shaped head on one end, then the tapered point on the other. A smile crosses her lips, followed by a furrow of her brows as the spike is carried over to a nearby workbench. The oil lantern hanging over it is turned on, casting shadowy light across her work space and the delicate tools laid about it. With the forge roaring at her back, the blacksmith sets the spike in a pair of clamps fixed to the table, and begins a process of chiseling writing into the hammered metal.

The process is a long one, each glyph painstakingly copied from a small wood-bound book on her workbench. The sigils are etched to run the length of the spike, a row on each of its eight faces, with a final and more elaborate glyph on the flat head of the spike. Hours, she spends, toiling over this creation. When finally the task is done, she gently tugs off her gloves to cradle the spike in her bare hands, and breathes a single exhalation across its surface. A swirl of words made from particles of metal dust and firelight swirl off of the spike's surface, as if some long-dormant magic were awakened by a simple breath.

"Horicalcum," is stated by a figure looming in the forge's doorway. Jerking towards the unexpected voice sharply, the blacksmith looks momentarily wide-eyed at the tall, muscular man before relief eases the tension. "It's a very deliberate choice, uncommon, but clever for its purpose." Entering the firelight, the broad-shouldered man reveals nothing to the light. His face is covered by a black lacquered mask, the left eye of which is surrounded by an acid-etched starburst with eight points. The rest of the man is concealed by a layered robe of heavy material, clearly worn over ebon armor. The only color he wears is on his blood-red sash, embroidered with white script and tied off by braided tassels woven through a gold medallion. Each article worn symbolic, all of them intimately familiar to the blacksmith.

The smith eyes him with hesitance, then averts her stare down to the spike as her fingers curl around it protectively, cradling it against her palm. "It spoke to me," she explains, "I can trust it." Her companion's reaction is hidden behind his mask. Only his words convey the trust he has as well; not in the metal, but in her.

"Finish it, and meet us in the library when you're done." The instruction comes with the gentle touch of a gauntleted hand down on the blacksmith's shoulder. "We do not have the luxury of time, any longer. The stars wait for no man, and your time is near." While his touch is light, the weight of what it implies rests heavily on the blacksmith's shoulders. When his hand is finally lifted, the sense of weight does not pass. A burden has been placed on her, one of grave import.

Neither speak as he departs, and the blacksmith returns to her workbench. This time, however, she is not etching eldritch symbols into the metal. A grinding wheel, spun by a foot pedal, sharpens the point of the faceted spike down to a razor's edge. This part, just as the others, it integral to what she is crafting. An intimate familiarity with her creation is important, just as precision; time be damned.

By the time the spike has been sharpened to a fine point, fatigue has set in on the smith. Dark circles hollow her eyes, sweat beads on her brow and the acrid stink of the forge has become overwhelming to her weary senses. Spike in hand, she tugs off her apron and throws it over the anvil, soot-blackened hands leaving prints on its already smudged surface.

She exits the forge into the catacombs, booted feet splashing through stagnant, shallow puddles along the way. With only flickering light from candle-adorned sconces no the walls, the blacksmith unerringly navigates her way through this subterranean realm. The path to her destination is a circuitous one of dead ends, blind corners and snaking passages. The chamber she seeks she has only been to once before, such is the way of her order. Anxiety has riddled her usually composed form both times, now, on approach to the library.

The sound of chanting did not greet her last time, but this occasion is different. The droning choir of voices echoes down the passage leading up to the library, and on stepping in to the expansive chamber she is greeted by a sight of dozens gathered for her. They stand in a circle around the center of the library, a room whose purpose is correct but is named perhaps in deceptive use of colorful language. It is a cylindrical chamber -- a crypt -- with foot-by-foot alcoves lining the walls. Within the alcoves, hundreds of skulls rest in silent observation.

The chanting figures are all dressed in finely crafted robes of black and brown, layered and embroidered with stylish accents. Just as each participant is robed, so too is each masked. While the robes are uniform in appearance, the masks are each exquisitely unique: an ebon skull, a silver fox, a harlequin, a hammered metal faceplate, and on, and on. At the center of the room stands the man with the starburst on his otherwise featureless mask, hands folded behind his back.

The blacksmith enters, sure of stride but all posturing and feigned bravado. Inside she is terrified, and perhaps that is natural given the circumstances. But in this environment, she cannot afford to show signs of fear.

When she steps through a space in the circle of masked figures, they close in to seal the gap behind her. It is only then that the man at the center of the circle speaks. "Brothers," he proclaims with a somber tone, "we are here to witness the birth of a new Keeper." He reaches out with one gauntlet-clad hand to point at the blacksmith. "Approach, and kneel."

Swallowing down bile in the back of her throat, the blacksmith approaches the masked figure and slowly drops to one knee, then another. Looking up, she still cannot see into the lightless hollows of his mask to find his eyes, as if he were little more than armor and robe filled with not more than smoke and shadow. She's heard him cough before, though, knows this isn't true. Still, the thought lingers.

"You came to us with a name," he intones with the same gravity as he addressed the group. "Came to us with titles, dreams, beliefs..." As he speaks, the masked leader of this group circles the blacksmith girl slowly. "Tonight you cast them aside, forever. Tonight, you devote yourself not to a cause, but to an idea. Tonight, you become that idea."

Stopping in front of her, the masked figure holds out his hand to her, palm up. "Your contract," is requested, and in return finds himself given the sky metal spike that she had spent the last few days forging. It is inspected, turned around for all its eight facets to be inspected.

Satisfied with what he sees, the masked figure motions to two of the others in the circle, one bearing an articulated ebon skull for a mask, the other a hammered metal faceplate with six eye holes. They approach the blacksmith from behind, grab her by the arms and hoist her to her feet.

Surprised by the sudden, forcible movement, a reflexive yelp escapes her. "We are more than names, more than identities, more than individuals." The masked man that has been leading this ceremony approaches her restrained form, resting the pointed tip of the spike to the center of her chest, then adjusts it to be slightly off-center over her heart.

"Today..." the words come, even as he reaches down to his side, where hidden by a layer of his robe a warhammer is withdrawn. Seeing that, the blacksmith's eyes widen and she begins to struggle in that visible show of fear she had been attempting to hide, "you die in obscurity."

The warhammer comes down, striking the spike on its flattened head. The impact drives the length of sky metal between her ribs, a shower of orange sparks swirling from the impact around the spike. Blood sprays from her mouth with a wheezing gasp, spatters on black robes and equally dark armor, dribbles down her lips and chin to roll down her neck.

The man holding the blacksmith let her arms go, gently lowering her to the ground where blood begins to pool out beneath her, slithering into grooves carved in the floor, drooling out in the shape of some far greater seal, etched in stone.

"Tomorrow," the masked figure intones, holding his hammer where it had struck the fatal blow, "you begin anew." The chanting of the members of the circle finally comes to an end as the hammer is lowered and slid back into the loop it was drawn from.

"All secrets to silence," the circle proclaims in unison. Their leader repeats the mantra, looking up to the ceiling of the library where open sky shows the tapestry of stars against the night.

"All secrets to silence."


Ascension, Prologue III - Bait
_________________________________

<Alkenstar, the Mana Wastes - Lamashan 9, 4712 AR>

A shingle hanging outside of a battered storefront in the ash-dusted streets depicts a cat stalking a rooster walking on an iron fence, the name "Cock & Puss" written below in gold script gives a tongue-in-cheek humor to the signage. At this hour of evening, when the sun is a greasy spot of light over the western mountains and the shadows are long and grasping, gas-lamp light inside of the tavern and the noise of reverie are common.

The noise of creaking hinges is drowned out by the din of piano playing and conversational tones. The saloon doors swing back and forth slowly, letting narrow shafts of diffuse gray light and a lone traveler spill in from the street outside. The particles of ash caught in the light swirl around the man walking through those doors, and the heavy report of his boots on the hardwood floor is likewise drowned out by the noise. When patrons of the bar spot him, their backs tense and posture straightens, eyes square on his tall frame but few dare to make eye contact. Most are focused on the double-barreled longarm rifle folded over one arm.

"Clear skies," the gunslinger requests as he reaches the bar, settling down onto an old leather-topped stool as he flings the tail of his duster out from under himself. The bartender responds wordlessly, briskly mixing a drink of cloudy pickled juice from a jar with clear liquor from a top-shelf bottle behind the bar. The resulting concoction looks like parting clouds and a crystal clear sky in a tall glass.

He charges nothing.

"It's important," is overheard by the gunslinger, coming from an out of place stranger down the bar. "I was told that Jezidah frequented this establishment." The gunslinger's cold gray eyes lift up from his drink, watching the dark-skinned Garundi man dressed in the ruffled finery of a Chelish nobleman press a few gold coins onto the bar-top beside a swarthy dwarven patron.

The dwarf scrutinizes the coinage, then shakes his head. "Told ya," he grunts, "ain't seen Jezidah in months. Might be out on contract, lots a'heads need huntin' these days. Ain't gonna' hunt themselves." The coins are pushed back towards the nobleman, all while the gunslinger watches quietly, intently.

"If you remember anything," the nobleman pushes the coins back across the bar again, "consider it a cash advance on services to be rendered. If you see him, tell him Gideon Hightower is looking to hire him -- long term -- for something in his line of expertise. He'll know how to find me." When Gideon goes to depart the bar, leaving the coins in eye-shot of the gruff dwarf, the gunslinger slides off of his stool, leaving his rifle and his drink behind.

A few heavy footfalls is all it takes for the gunslinger to intercept Gideon's departure, and the sight of a gray-haired old man in an ash-speckled duster approaching gives Gideon a moment of pause. "I'll take yer' coin," the gunslinger drawls out with a motion of his head towards the bar. "I know where the feller' you're lookin' fer's gone off to."

Hesitating, Gideon glances back at the money he left with the dwarf, and keeps up appearances by gesturing for he and the gunslinger to step aside from the noisy bar, motioning towards an empty booth lit by a ensconced candle on the table. Tired gray eyes follow Gideon's gesture, and a wordless nod acknowledges the request as he falls in stride with the Chelish nobleman.

Seated now across the table from Gideon, the gunslinger takes an opportunity to withdraw a thick cigar from within his jacket, rolling it between calloused fingers before slicing the end off with a folding knife. "You're a long way from Westcrown," is more telling a comment than Gideon first realizes; it isn't a lucky guess. "What brings you here, lookin' fer' Jezidah?"

"Business," Gideon obliquely explains, his hands spreading apart in as wide a gesture as his explanation is broad. "What brings a shieldmarshal to my table?" The look Gideon returns to the gunslinger is a pointed one, before his laces his hands together in front of himself and relaxes.

Lighting his cigar with a tindertwig, the gunslinger draws in a slow, purposeful breath. The head of the cigar begins to glow brightly, crackling and popping before a gout of smoke is exhaled through his nose and across the bristly whiskers of his thick mustache. "Jezidah's dead," is simply put, the tindertwig waggled in the air to extinguish it.

Gideon's reaction is nonplussed, his brows furrowing together and back slouching until he's reclined against the hard back of the booth's cloth-upholstered seat. Dark eyes avert from the gunslinger, down to folded hands, then angle to look into the firelight of the candle. "I take it you're certain?"

"Buried 'em m'self," is delivered with the desired certainty. "Jezidah'd gone a long time thinkin' that a man can make enemies an' not have it come back n'bite 'em in the posterior." Those tired, gray eyes seem much more focused now, leveled as they are on Gideon's far darker ones.

"Who killed him?" Seems like an easy question to answer, but for Gideon the truth isn't as obvious.

"I did," the gunslinger clarifies. "Right 'fore I turned in m'badge." It's this later detail that Gideon had needed to quell his uncertainty. Silence hangs at the table for a moment, before Gideon finds his posture again and leans forward to more directly engage the gunslinger in conversation.

"That's an unusual choice for someone of your station," Gideon opines with the barest hint of an appreciative smile creeping up on his lips. "But I'm not one to question a man's choices, that's for powers beyond us to do weigh. I'm one to make offers..." The gunslinger raises a single, gray brow at the insinuation, then withdraws his cigar between pinched fingers.

Motioning with that hand, a trail of smoke is drawn between he and Gideon. "I ain't a mercenary." It's direct, but Gideon has navigated these conversational waters before elsewhere.

"Never implied. But a man must earn a living, and I have opportunity, if you'll listen."

"Shoot," has a couple of meanings to infer, coming from an ex-shieldmarshal. Gideon takes the most favorable interpretation for the time being. Instead of jumping right in to a sales pitch, Gideon instead reaches inside of his leather surcoat and withdraws a cloth-wrapped object. Laid out on the table, it has an audible weight to it. Delicately, the cloth is pulled back, and the gunslinger's attention remains fixed on it.

Piece by piece, an object is revealed: A bright and pale metal, like blanched steel, forged into a solid hemisphere. Banded engravings on its surface inlaid with gold are unrecognizable to the gunslinger, as are the diamond-studded constellation patterns on the dome's crown.

Assured now that he has the gunslinger's attention, Gideon half-heartedly covers the object with a flap of cloth. Their eyes meet, and this time the nobleman has the advantage of curiosity -- whether to his intentions or his work is uncertain; the distinction doesn't matter, only the presence thereof.

"Have you ever looked up at the night's sky and wondered?" It's a vague question, and one that elicits little response from the old gunslinger, save for a scrutinizing stare. Gideon's smile becomes more apparent, and as he leans in closer, it's as if he were imparting a great secret on this stranger.

"The stars hold secrets."


Ascension, Prologue – Empty Nights

<Gabriel on the road to Piren's Bluff - Lamashan 14, 4712 AR>

_________________________________

There is a dream I have. I don't know if it's about a place I've ever been to or if it's just a figment of my imagination. I don't know if it was the start of my journey or the end of it. But the dream has always been with me. Like with all dreams, it's hard to tell when it starts. When I finally notice, it feels like I've been there for years. I'm sitting beside a young woman. She's young, pretty even, but she seems distracted, as if she can't quite focus. Beside her on the other side is another young man, much larger then the young woman and giving the appearance that, despite his youth, he has seen much. Oddly, he looks a lot like I do. The same features, the same way our hair falls. I have a thinner build and my grey hair and eyes distract from the similarities, but they are definitely there. He is distracted too, but every once in a while he seems to shake himself free for a moment. Then a whisper comes on the breeze, one that promises safety, and then he is at peace again. Without being told, I know that these two are my parents, despite the fact that I don't have any waking memories of them being so young.

We're sitting beneath a tree whose leaves seem to change every once in a while, shifting from the softest of greens to the most brilliant of gold and then back again. This tree is sitting at the base of an impossibly large mountain. Both offer shade from the light, but what does filter through is anything but annoying, instead seeming to offer comfort and a sense of peace. At the base of the mountain, where our tree was, there seemed to be a field of grass that would go on forever, though sometimes I glimpsed the glass and gold wall that surrounded it in the distance. There are other trees out there as well and I can just barely make out other people, some alone and some with families, sitting beneath them. But just when I start to see more of them they fade from my mind and become unimportant. Sometimes the grass in this field is green, a brighter shade then the leaves that hang over our head, but sometimes they're color changes, becoming the most amazing sea of platinum. The day is peaceful with only a slight breeze that sweeps across the land every once in a while, bending the grass in an amazing wave.

Sometimes there is song. A beautiful voice will ring out across the vast expanse, filling those who hear it with joy. Sometimes there is play. Children will run across the fields and balls of light will dart between them, and there is laughter from both. But always there is peace, happiness and love.

Or, at least, that is how the dream usually goes. I especially look forward to the dream these days, now that my parents have passed on. Their lives were full and happy, but I still miss them dearly. And when I dream of them in this place, I can almost feel them beside me, as if I was dreaming not of the past but of the present. They seemed happy and it made me feel happy.

That was not this dream however. For instance, I was alone. No longer was I beneath the tree. I could see them in the distance, near the horizon, but it would take a long time to try and reach those places. And even then, there was a certain stillness to the area that made me want to stay way. The mountain, as always, loomed over me, as it loomed over everyone here, but the breeze no longer carried with it that beautiful song of love and harmony. The sea of grass was flitting pack and forth between green and platinum, something I had never seen it do. The night sky hung over head, filled as it always was with countless stars. At the very edge of my vision I can see the gold and glass wall that protects everything within this somehow endless paradise.

I am alone. That is the thought that runs through my mind. I have had many variations of this dream, during the night and during the day. I have been brought to this place beside my parents or in the field beside our tree playing with children, with my mother and father watching on. I have, in recent years, noticed a road near our tree that I might sometimes follow, always with my parents looking over me.

Then, I realize, it is quiet. The only sound I hear now is the wind moving across the shifting sea of grass. It has been quiet before, to a degree at least, but usually there was something more always happening at the edge of my vision when I cam here. Even the song that would ring out in the distance when it was not upon you was silent.

"All secrets to silence."

I am alone... It is quiet... and... wait, where did that star go?

My eyes are up on the sky now, but it was surely just a trick of the eye. There are countless stars in the sky and it would be impossible to keep track of one of those brilliant, dazzling lights among so many. But... there, another one is gone! It is not a trick! Even as I think that more and more begin to vanish at the edge of the wall. Slowly the darkness creeps forward, taking more and more of the sky with it. On the plains, things begin to vanish behind a wall of shadow that is slowly sweeping across the sea of grass.

All of a sudden a strong, howling gust gust pushes at my back, as if it were trying to push back the darkness. It nearly takes me off my feet and definitely caused me to stumble. The silence that I heard was briefly shattered by this angry wind as it seemed to be trying to force back the darkness. I could see on both side that this wind seemed to encompass the entire plains. Grass bent forward, nearly flattered to the ground by it. But the curtain of shadows pressed on, not slowed in the least, and after a several moments of digging in my heels to keep my feet the wind slowed, then stopped. I looked back up to the sky. Nearly half of it was covered in the darkness.

"The stars hold secrets."

The stars were vanishing. Their light was being extinguished. I didn't understand what was happening, but suddenly the emptiness of the plains and the silence of this world made me feel very, very small. I dropped to my knees and covered my eyes as I tried to force myself to awaken. It was only a dream after all. I did that for several seconds, muttering to myself to wake up. But when I opened my eyes and moved my hands I was still kneeling in the field. The curtain of darkness was coming closer. It was almost upon me. I shuddered as it neared, but slowly, haltingly, pulled myself to my feet. I looked into the darkness knowing that I could not run. And I did the only thing I could think of to combat this emptiness nearing me. I shouted. The curtain fell over me and... silence.

"All secrets to silence."

_________________________________

Gabriel awoke with a start, bolting up into a sitting position. He felt like shivering, though his face felt warm as the gentle rays of the sun continued to rest upon him. A cool breeze past over the wagon and Gabriel did shiver, drawing his heavy woolen cloak more tightly around his body. Beneath one of his hands he felt the coarse hay that he had fallen asleep on. He had no doubt that some of it was in his hair to, so he shook it off. This movement caught the attention of the wagon driver, who looked over his shoulder and laughed. “Well look whose finally awake. Told ya. Don't matter how cold it is. Once you get used to the bumps on the road it's hard not to fall asleep in a pile o hay.”

Gabriel chuckled as he looked around to the caravan he had joined. A small group of traders headed the way of Piren's Bluff. Most of them were driving wagons like the one Gabriel was resting in. Assured of his surroundings, Gabriel looked down to his lap. His book was still there, open to the page he had been reading as he drifted off. “I suppose I owe you an apolo-” One of those bumps Gabriel had somehow been able to ignore caught him by surprise as it jostled the cart. The young man nearly bit his tongue, “-gy.” He finished, his chuckling turning to chortling at the perfect timing.

“So, sleep well?” The driver asked, looking over his shoulder for a brief moment to check on the seemingly young man. A lot of people acted like that around Gabriel, despite several of them knowing his real age. In kinder folk his appearance, that of a young man barely sixteen years old, seemed to bring out a feeling of protectiveness, often to the flustered embarrassment of the young man.

“I...” For a brief moment, Gabriel's mind clung to the darkness that had swept over him in his dreams and he felt like screaming. But the moment passed very quickly, and Gabriel was just left with an odd sense of foreboding. “I... suppose so.”

“You don't sound to sure.” The driver answered. “Everything alright?”

“I suppose I'm just nervous.” Gabriel gave the man a smile, “I've never worked with others before. If I do well this could be a great opportunity. And the mystery of what we might learn at these ruins is driving me crazy!”

The driver chuckled, having heard it all before, and replied, “You'll do fine lad. You seem to have a good head on your shoulders. Just be careful out there. Wilds ain't a place you can fall a sleep so easily, ya' know?”

Gabriel nodded and lay back against the hay. “I'm told the group will have guards, but I'm not without means of defending myself either. Thanks for the thoughts though. How close are we to Piren's Bluff?”

The driver mumbled something like 'probably make it there in the morning' before falling silent, having just realized how he must have sounded to Gabriel. It was like that a lot too. Some folk, kind as they were, weren't usually very outgoing. But around Gabriel they felt safer, more comfortable. Gabriel turned his thoughts away from such things and back to his book, one of several he had packed specifically for this trip. It was a basic guide on how to conduct one's self through ruins. Where to be careful, where to look and even what kinds of things might be valuable. Gabriel had already read it twice, but he decided one more go might not hurt. The pages turned slowly and for a few hours on this chilly day the ride was peaceful.

Slowly, day turned to night. The driver, along with the rest of the caravan, led there wagons off to the side of the road just as the sun began to set. By the time camp was set, the stars were out and several small fires were burning. Gabriel, who had bargained his way onto the small caravan as 'help' was out and about helping with a few issues. A wagon that needs cleaning. Horses that needed feeding. A tent that wouldn't stay up.

By the time he got to his own little bedroll, the young man was tired all over again. He simply plopped down onto the comfortable cushioning and looked up into the night sky. As he marveled at all the stars that lit this night, their silvery white light achingly familiar, something Gideon had said came to mind. “I wonder what secrets they hold...”

“What's that lad?” The driver asked from his seat around the fire, a few feet away from Gabriels chosen resting spot.

“Just something Hightower said when he was trying to recruit me. He asked me if I looked at the nights sky and wondered. Said... the stars hold secrets... just wondering what those secrets might be.”

“Probably to many to count lad, and none for the likes of us folk. That be the gods and the angels territory.”

“You think so?”

“Aye, I do. After all, some secrets are meant to stay that way. Be it that we, normal folk like us, aren't meant to find them. Don't you think?” That was an oddly philosophical thought from what Gabriel had believed a simple man. Then again, the man had spent several hours each day for the past week leading a horse by the reigns. Probably had a lot of time to think.

“Maybe... then again, I'll never know until I find out.” Gabriel smiled, “A lot of people are afraid of the dark. But it's not because creatures of evil reside in it. Oh sure, some do, but when you look at the night sky filled with stars you can see billions of beautiful, amazing things that reside in the darkness as well. People are afraid of the darkness because of the unknown."

“The thing is... the unknown isn't always evil. Sometimes... it's just the next place we need to explore.”


Good luck with your campaign! From what I've read so far, this AP could become really, really interesting! Looking forward to its beginning and the associated journals!


Finally got around to reading your introduction, Gabriel! Fantastic!


Ascension, Prologue IV - Necessity
___________________________________
<Cheliax - Pharast 7, 4686 AR>

Brittle old bones sound like splintering wood when they shatter from blunt force. "Stay away from him!" The length of a wooden staff whistles through the air as its swung in a wide arc, impacting the fleshless jaw of an animate amalgamation of human remains. The stroke sends the creature's head jerking to the side, tooth and bone splintering away and its too-many arms flailing to maintain balance.

In the shadows of dappled sunlight beneath the boughs of old oak trees, the woman battling this creature is unrelenting. Dark hair in tight braids flies wild and loose at her shoulders as she wheels around to watch another skeletal creature crash through the treeline. Her deep mocha-hued skin tinged with deeper shades of red at the cheekbones and along her jawline beads with sweat from exertion and some places runs red with blood from a dozen deep scrapes. Eyes possessing the same red hue in their dark depths with metallic irridescence, conveying a defensive ferocity.

The staff-bearer whirls her weapon around and tucks it under one arm, placing the staff's haft between herself and a young boy behind her. "Get back," she states flatly to the boy, watching the two-headed skeleton push a small tree aside as it clambors up the embankment from the woods onto the road, four arms grasping at the air wildly.

As the skeleton lunges forward, the Garundi woman levels a closed first in the direction of the skeleton as waves of heat ripple outwards from her skin. She draws the closed fist back as if ready to punch, wisps of flame spilling from between her clenched digits. Then, just as the skeleton springs forward with both jaws open and all its claws hands outstretched, she thrusts her hand forward and expels a roaring blast of flame and concussive force. The skeleton is blasted apart into smoldering bone fragments, dirt is kicked up and trees sixty feet away are blown apart into burning tinders.

Wide-eyed, the boy watches all this happen in silence. His only sound is one of fear as the first of those monstrous undead comes rushing back in, one of its jaws hanging broken from the staff impact.

"You can't have him!" The woman's scream pierces through the forest as she throws herself in front of the boy, finding the skeleton's claws hands sinking into her shoulders and waist, burying knuckle-deep and twisting at exposed flesh between the leather sheathes of her armor. Blood oozes from each wound, runs warm down her side. The boy can smell it, coppery and potent in the air. She brings her staff up between herself and the skeleton's chest, trying to push herself free from its grasp. A kick, next, but nothing seems to be working to pry herself free.

As the skeleton opens its one functional mouth, a hideous bear skull, the boy lets out a frightful cry and stumbles backwards to fall on his backside. At the noise, the skeleton releases its grasp on the woman and shoves the her back with one enormous equine-boned limb, then begins shambling towards the terrified child.

Its bear-skull maw opens silently, then snaps shut in the air as it advances with menacing intent. The scream of a panicked mother rings through the forest as the woman watches the creature close in on the boy. As it lunges down with mouth open, the child throws up his arms in defense, only to feel the powerful blow of the skeleton's human limb throw him aside.

He tries to crawl away, fingers digging into the dirt, but the creature's bite finds purchase on one wriggling leg. Jagged teeth sink through flesh and muscle like knives, pierce into bone and with a single crackling snap break the boy's leg. He screams like a wounded animal in response, but the pain is short lived as he collapses motionless to the dirt below.

Only a second later does the skeleton find its skull split by the blow of a quarterstaff. Bone splinters fly in every direction from the back of its skull, but the injury only serves to enrage the creature. It whirls around, horse-limb kicking outwards like some backwards leg, finding nothing but thin air as it passes over the warrior-woman's head. She lunges in with the staff, driving the butt of it under the skeleton's chin and shattering its neck, sending the head toppling away.

Still fighting, the mutilated creature flails wildly and blindly. Its legs are swept out from under it by the same staff, then a final blow ends the conflict by demolishing its ribcage and splitting the beast's spine in twain. The fell energy keeping it animate can no longer sustain its form, and the disparate bones all disconnect and tumble to the ground like scrimshaw cast-offs. The staff, too, falls to the ground as that wounded woman rushes to the boy's side.

"No," she whispers hoarsely, dropping to the child's side and now sees the full extent of his injuries. His leg is twisted, broken in two places inside his thigh and blood pooling out into the soil. Her own injury seems insignificant in comparison, and with her good arm she picks the boy up and cradles him to her chest.

Tears roll down her cheeks, stinging the tiny cuts on her face. Whispering to herself, she can feel his breath struggling, feel him trembling in her embrace. But it is not out of grief that she holds the child so close to her, not confusion that rests his head on her bleeding shoulder.

When she feels the child's teeth sink in to her bloody shoulder, it is reassuring.

It is out of necessity.


Ascension, Prologue V - Masquerade
__________________________________

<Piren's Bluff, Andoran - Lamashan 15, 4712 AR>

The clatter of wagon wheels on a rocky, dirt road have been a constant backdrop for the entire journey. Sitting on the open back of a covered wagon, a young woman in trail-dusted leather slides the edge of a knife down the side of a bird bone, carving a fluted groove. When the wagon comes to a slow stop, she tucks the knife inside of a sheathe on her thigh and slides off the back.

"This is as far as we go," the driver calls out, craning his neck to look back from his seat to the young woman as she walks towards him alongside the wagon. "I'll be turning around come morning and headed back down the trail. No more settlements out this way, m'lady," he nods towards where the sun is setting. "Just the Aspodell range and then thrice-damned Cheliax."

"Thank you," the girl notes, threading a lock of curly, dark hair behind one ear. She hefts up a small satchel of coins to the driver, offering him an affable nod as well. "This is where I need to be, you've been most gracious." The driver tosses the satchel in his hand a few times to measure the weight, but isn't as rude as to count the coins in front of the lady. Instead he rests the bag at his side on the seat and offers a weary smile in return.

Making her way from the wagon, the young woman's focus is clearly on the stone and mortar building the wagon parked in front of, one that looms over most of the other smaller structures in the settlement. Plumes of smoke wind up from its chimneys, and a raucous bunch sing and drink beyond the doors inside. Brushing back her oiled cloak, the girl fingers a pouch at her side and pulls from within a length of gauze. Wrapping it around two fingers she presses it to her lips, then brushes it over her face as she speaks, "Rex imagines, velamen oculorum ad veritatem.." The noise wagon and horse traffic through the packed-dirt streets drowns out the words the lady speaks, and as she finishes her sentence the piece of gauze dissolves into spidery threads, then blows away on the wind.

Walking towards the entrance, the girl looks up to spy a pair of fiendish looking suits of armor posed like guards flanking the door. One brow arches for a moment as she considers them, then pushes the door open into the tavern. Right from the foyer, an enormous wood-burned sign can be seen hanging above a chipped old sword, reading The Conquerer's Blade in Taldan script.

The tavern is packed, full of rough looking men in chain and leather armor drinking and laughing with one another. Guardsmen of Piren's Bluff, some of them, others look to unscrupulous to have been hired by the Baron. A few obvious sellswords huddled together at a table, counting coins and sharing stories of conquest and combat in Druma. A surly old man in an oiled duster sits at the bar, nursing a flagon in one hand. The long-arm rifle propped up against the bar at his side gives the her, considering the rarity of black-powder firearms this side of the Inner Sea.

As she starts to make her way towards the bar to further inquire, it's a deep and familiar voice that causes her to halt in her tracks. "Aribessa Montclaire," is breathily stated, "if I may be so bold as to make that assertion?" Whipping around in surprise, Aribessa finds herself face-to-face with the man she'd come all this way to find.

"Gideon," she utters in disbelief, her green eyes darting from side to side to try and figure out where he had been standing when she came in. Gideon's demure response is a bow, one arm folding at his waist and the the other bearing his walking cane flourished out to the side. A sarcastic smile is cracked before he stands up straight, rapping the tip of his cane against the hardwood floor.

"Nearly everyone has arrived," Gideon offers with a motion to the Druman mercenaries, then to the gunslinger at the bar. "The others are around town, making last-minute preparations. The advanced team will be setting out come morning, and I will be accompanying your team to the rendezvous site in a couple of days when you'll get the full details of what we're doing and why." Putting an arm around the short, young woman, Gideon guides her towards the bar with a slow, steady gait and a noticeable limp.

"My good lawman!" Gideon exclaims as he approaches the bar, earning a side-long look from the gunslinger as he turns to regard the approaching nobleman over one shoulder. "Allow me to introduce Aribessa Montclaire, the engineer I spoke to you about." Gideon offers a nod to the woman under his arm, then motions to the gunslinger with the snarling wolf's head of his cane. "Aribessa, this is Ieshua Hollows, former shield-marshall of Alkenstar."

Sliding off of his bar stool, Ieshua brushes a hand over his head to sweep off his hat. "Ma'am," he offers with a polite nod of his head. "Mister Hightower here's hired me t'make sure you'n yours make it safely along yer journey." Tired eyes drift up from the girl to Gideon. "Though he ain't said what it is I'd rightly be protectin' y'all from... yet."

"Ah, all in due time Mister Hollows." Gideon watches as Aribessa slinks out from within his grasp and sidles up to the bar, propping herself up on a stool as she looks the gunslinger over, then his rifle. "Miss Aribessa is a bit of a tinkerer, you see. She's never had much exposure to firearms, however. I told her that -- were you amenable -- she might be able to take a look at your, ah, peace-keeping device." A wry smile follows that remark. Ieshua, however, snatches up the rifle by the barrel and tucks it under one arm.

His stare is cold, flashing from Gideon to the girl and back again. "It ain't a toy for no child," he brusquely states, then winces. "No offense, ma'am," is offered cordially to Aribessa, who merely folds her arms and offers Gideon an intent look. "But Gideon, this is a state-guarded secret," Hollows explains as he motions to the rifle. "I got an old musket in my pack she can look at. But this girl," the rifle, "she ain't for lookin', or touchin'."

Grimacing, Gideon runs a gloved hand over his bald head and nods, "fair enough." His calm stare lifts to Aribessa. "When Mister Hollows is done with his drink, I'm sure he'll let you take a look at the musket he mentioned. That," his eyes flit to the finely crafted rifle, "appears to be off-limits."

"Yeah," Aribessa notes softly, "that's fine. Take your time, I'm going to get a room for the night and relax. It's... been a long day." To her surprise, Aribessa finds Gideon waving his gloved hand in front of her face, only to sleight-of-hand a key between his fingers. His smile remains, though this time less teasing.

"Already accounted for. Second floor, last door on the right, a corner room." Passing the key off to Aribessa, Gideon affords the young woman a brief nod, then moves to join Ieshua at the bar. As the two begin speaking together, Aribessa makes her way up the stairs and out of their line of sight. Creeping down the hall, she offers a furtive look behind herself before hastily making her way to the room Gideon described.

Door unlocked and promptly shut and re- locked behind her, Aribessa breathes a sigh of relief and slouches against the door. She brushes a hand across her face, exhaling softer this time, then tugs at a dark lock of hair and holds it in her field of view for a moment. Wrinkling her nose and furrowing her brows, she considers its chestnut color and twisty ways before there's a knock.

At her window.

A few hurried steps carry the young woman to the window, where a tiny black bird with blue hues to its feathers pecks at the glass. Unlatching and opening it, the diminutive avian visitor flutters into the room, whips around and then lands on her shoulder with a ruffle of its feathers.

"Atrocious!" It exclaims, "There is no worldly reason to be this far north this late in the year. I protest entirely to this endeavor!" Managing a wry smile, Aribessa rolls her eyes and picks up the thrush to perch on one finger.

"Quiet now, Iilus, you don't want Lord Hightower to know you're here do you?" It's a rhetorical question, because Aribessa's raised brow silences Iilus. "It will be best if we aren't seen together still, but..." she glances around the room, "you can stay here tonight. The vanguard is to leave in the morning to clear the way for the researchers. I don't know much more than that."

Considering the information, the thrush ruffles its feathers and cranes its tiny head to the side. "Two troupes? What nonsense. Are the researchers even here yet?" The bird's inquiry elicits a shake of Aribessa's head in response.

"I don't think so, no. Just me, for now." Toying at her bottom lip with her teeth, Aribessa looks over to the window and her own muted reflection in it. The stare is matched by the thrush, who hops up her arm to settle on her shoulder again, leaning in to look up into the girl's eyes.

"What about everything else?" Iilus asks in a chirp, to which Aribessa smiles, albeit faintly.

"He doesn't suspect a thing."


Ascension, Prologue – Prey for the Mind

<Karrn on the path to Piren's Bluff>

------------------

Like many things, it starts with a hunt. I enjoy a good hunt more than anything else, especially if I can make a game of it. My father didn’t like that at first but he got used to it when he saw me tear a huge stag’s throat out just as it was about to escape from his own pack. We ate well that night.

Only, this time I’m not hunting prey. Well, I guess I am. But prey for my mind instead of my teeth. I guess that’s how to say it. Gideon and his expedition are not-eating prey. I should probably act like they aren’t prey at all when I find them, though. I don’t want them to point at me and scream. That would be annoying.

So prey. They’re not-eating prey for my mind, but there’s always time to find prey for my teeth, too. This one looked like a young deer. My armor spooked it, I got an arrow in its leg, and I’ve been tracking it. In the strange place –Cheliax, I think- some people asked why I wear armor this noisy. They didn’t understand it’s like tying rocks to yourself to be a better swimmer.

There it is. Just a little closer. It’s tired and weak now. Pounce. Bite. Tear.

I don’t understand the city-people. They look at me like they can’t understand the good things in life. Lying in the warm sun with a full belly. Blood still in your teeth. Watching clouds pass behind the green-spread leaves. They don’t appreciate it. I don’t know how anyone can live like that.

I hated being in the city. Too much stone under paw, but wrong stone. Too smooth. No life in it. And so many people in one place who live in different places in the same place. They don’t see each other. It’s not like my tribe.

Joruk laughed at me when I told him what I was doing. My father just shook his head but I think I saw him smile a bit too.

I have to know. I don’t understand them and I want to. My mother said the Walker was like that, when he was just a young gnoll, always searching and never satisfied with the answers, but in a good way.

Now that my belly is full, I should search for my not-eating prey for the mind. The men in Cheliax told me they were at a place called Piren’s Bluff. If I’d known that from the beginning I wouldn’t have had to travel so far. It’s right near home! Typical civilized-think, making everything more complicated than it needs to be. Bow to him, step out of his way, say these words now and these words then, but only to people like her. Walker knows it could drive someone rabid.

But there’s a hunt going on and I can make it a game. And maybe I can learn more about these people who say they’re not animals.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Click, clack.
Click, clack.
Click, clack

The sound of the metal balls from the momentum cradle constantly ringing out as they came into contact with each other was something that Lyniza had never been able to fully drown out. The noise droned on and on, filling the background with a sort of immutable beat, a pace set for the work ahead by each tone that sounded out from the small trinket. Many times, it was a handy thing to have around. It helped keep Lyniza focused on her work, helped keep her mind from drifting to thoughts of the sounds of construction coming from Golemworks, the current status of her family, if something was going to up and explode today, or any other number of things. Sometimes, it was a comfort.

But by the stars, sometimes it was just annoying as all hell.

Ugh, I can’t take it anymore,” she mutters as she looks up from the row of vials in front of her and reaches out, a hand clasped around the five clacking balls until it finally and completely ceases moving. “I hope you see fit to stay still this time,” she comments, glaring at it as if it were going to move again on it’s own. “I don’t want to have to cut your strings again. Master always pitches a fit, and I’m so not in the mood for it today.”

Watching it for a second later to make sure it, in fact, is not the magical trinket she did have to cut the strings on last week because it wouldn’t stop moving on it’s own, she lets out a sigh once it proves that it has no further intention of annoying her. Eyes close as she slouches back in her chair, head tilted back and hands folded into her lap. It takes a crackle and a pop from one of the vials in front of her to snap her back to reality, one eye creeping open as she tilts her head back to the table in front of her. The reddish liquid contents of the vial have started to fizzle, a sign that the mixture within has been left to the open air for just a smidge too long, and it was now considering going through a rather explosive transformation if allowed to be exposed for much longer.

Jumping up from her seat, the chair tumbles backwards as Lyniza scrambles across the table. In quick order another vial, a small bit of parchment paper, a thin blue vial, and cork are grabbed. Quickly, the paper is laid out across the table, the clamp holding the vial swivled over it. Part of it’s contents – the fizzling potion – are poured into the empty vial, while the contents of the blue vial are mixed in with the red, turning it a shining bright pink. The cork is settled firmly into the vial without delay, and attention turned to the remaining empty vial. Swirling it a few times, she pours the liquid out across the paper, turning and twisting it in a thin, continuous motion. It bubbles against the paper, and Lyniza has just enough time to cover her eyes and turn away before there’s a flash and a puff of smoke.

She frowns as she turns her attention back the to the table and paper in front of her – now flash burned thanks to the alchemic reaction that had just occurred. No fire, thanks to the alchemic paper she had used keeping much of the reaction from burning straight through the wood, but the smell of singe wood and a slight haze of smoke hung obviously in the air. What did bring a smile to her face, though, was the result of her twisted, quick movements – a phrase, “This tornado loves you” now emblazoned across her worktable, written out as she had poured the liquid across the paper.

“Quiane?”

Lyniza’s posture straightened dramatically, accompanied by an audible swallowing of air as she heard her master speak up from behind her.

“I didn’t blow it up this time!” she immediately protests as she swivels around on her heel to face the door to her part of the workshop. A roguish smile sits across her face, still holding the now pink vial in hand. “I may have put a bit too much stabilizing agent into this mixture, though.” Or not enough. Depending on how long he had been in the room. It was all a matte rof perspective, surely.

Menos shakes his head and sighs, a finger tapping at his cheek. “I saw the flash from the front room. You and I are going to have to look over your notes tonight again. You’ve been improving dramatically lately, but it worries that these mishaps are still happening…” He watches her thoughtfully for a moment, prompting Lyniza to quirk an eyebrow at him as she turns back and sets the vial into the rack with the others.

“Is something the matter?” she inquires as she begins to pick up what’s left of the paper and clean up her workstation. A tome of notes is pulled towards her from the edge of the table, and she flips it open so she can find the formulae she had been looking over earlier.

Menos is silent for several moments as he watches his pupil prepare for what he assumes she thinks is a lecture. “I’ve received an invitation to an expedition,” he answers, speaking in a low voice as he moves towards Lyniza’s workstation. “This presents some… complications for me. I have an annual presentation next month, as well as contracts to fulfill and negotiations with Golemworks on a few matters to attend to.”

Lyniza plops back down in her seat, shrugging and smiling as she kicks back, feet placed up on the edge of the table. “So? I’m sure I can handle at least some of that. Or you can send me instructions. I’ve always heard expeditions are good for businesses.” The implication that he can’t afford to turn down the invitation hangs plainly in the air, but neither of them seems to pay it much mind.

Shaking his head, Menos walks up to the workstation and places a hand on Lyniza’s shoulder. “I’m afraid these matters are business – or work orders – still above your ability, Lyniza. The expedition, however…” There is a tentative moment where Lyniza’s eyes widen, predicting what’s coming next, and Menos smiles in response. “I think it is something you can handle. Though I see you’ve already guessed that.”

Energy renewed, Lyniza practically bounds up out of her chair, taking Menos’ hand. “You’re kidding, right? You’ve got to be teasin’ me, there’s no way!” Her notebook slams shut, and immediately she’s moving over to a large cabinet, throwing it open as she looks over the instruments and contents within. “The cards told me that something great was happening soon, but I figured we were just going to get a really expensive contract or something!”

Rolling his eyes, Menos takes a seat at the worktable. A more serious expression sits on his face, arms crossed. “You must think carefully and be sure before you accept this, Lyniza. This expedition is far from here, in Andoran, and if I’m not mistaken you’ve never been outside of Varisia, no?” He narrows his eyes at her as she continues to gather things she thinks she will need, though she slows down considerably as he continues. “You’ll be representing this shop as well as yourself there. You’ll be speaking on my behalf. Don’t forget that this isn’t a leisure trip to get exited about. This will be a work job.”

A small frown forms across Lyniza’s face as she looks back at Menos. He was right, she’d never been outside of Varisia, with her family or otherwise. The prospect of being away from the shop and out of contact with her family left her rather uneasy. But at least she’d be out of the city. With only a brief pause, she nods and turns back to the cabinet. “I’ve already made up my mind. I’m goin’.”

Menos just smiles, rising up from the seat. “Then I’ve already packed all the work materials you’ll need. Gather some personal items, and then meet me at Golemworks. I’ve been meaning to get something to help with small tasks around here, and now seems like as good a time as any.”

Lyniza’s expression brightens considerably, unable to hide her excitement. “An’ now a trip to Golemworks? This day….”

It may just be the best day of her life… at least for today.

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