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Nine cards laid out in order, three by three. Tattooed hands gently trace over them, reading them in muted whispers.
"What you ask, it is unwise for any to attempt, much less us. What profit is there in bringing down the Hellknights on our heads?" the woman asks, the flickering candlelight making her tattoos dance in time. The man across from her was equally tattooed, though his were faintly luminescent, pulsing to an unknown beat. He had not once glanced down to the cards, keeping his eyes locked on her alone.
"It will happen, your actions notwithstanding. Better to participate," his voice was gruff and monotone, lacking any human quality.
Perhaps his grudge against them is more than a little personal, she thought, He is too much like those he professes to be enemies of.
"We will consider your proposal," she finally acquiesced. The man nodded, though if he was satisfied or not she could not say.
"Move before the month's end. I will pay my due," he stated, then left, turning sharply on his heel and walking into the night.
The woman sat for a time, staring at the cards laid out on the table. Then with well practiced movements, she grabs them up, sorting them back in to the deck, shuffling, and laying them out again.
She does this for the rest of the night.
The cards never change.
|Bjorn of the Brothers|
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It's been a week since your induction into the Order. After the ceremonies and parades, you are left feeling somewhat confused by the extent of free time you now have. Where before every waking moment was spent drilling or studying or doing various other more mundane tasks, for the first time in over a year you have the time and capacity to do what you wish. Finally though the time comes, and you receive your first assignment. A rather unusual one at that...
The Vicarius nods as the last of you file into his office. The door shuts behind you, with no apparent driving force, and the air pressure in the room seems to rise subtly. The masked man is somehow more alien up close, the lack of any facial features giving you nothing to associate with anything human. Finally, he speaks.
"Hellknights. Your mission is a delicate one, thus the reason I am giving it to you personally. There is a group that is calling itself the 'Tower'. While they have yet to be confirmed as having done anything... unscrupulous, they are a danger simply by virtue of their frequent obfuscation as to their motives. In addition, we have recently received intelligence suggesting that they are attempting to make some sort of contract with the Strix at the Devil's Perch."
He pauses for a moment, absently twisting a ring on his finger.
"This obviously must not be allowed. Travel west towards Pezzack, but do not enter the town. A guide has been arranged for, who will meet you at the specified coordinates. From there you will travel north, into the forest. This is where the Tower is supposedly organized. They're led by a woman named Imazi. You WILL treat her with the utmost respect and caution. She is..."
He pauses again.
"She is unimaginably powerful. It is through her power alone that the Tower continues to exist, but it is also through her counsel that the more extreme members of the Tower are kept in check. She has had dealings with us in the past, and knows that she at the least an even match for any signifier we have. Which is why we are sending you. As new Hellknights, she will not know you, but will also not mistrust you as much. You can successfully send a message. Simply deliver this letter, and thank her for continuing to be a mediator between our two groups. That is all. You are under NO CIRCUMSTANCES to engage any member of the Tower unless first attacked. And even then engage only as necessary to withdraw. We have no desire to make these enemies."
The Vicarius turns and faces Kayle directly.
"Signifier Kayle, you are hereby promoted to acting Maralictor for the duration of this assignment. I need not explain that success on this mission will be a large step for you in achieving full Maralictor."
He hands Kayle a satchel.
"You will be given access to the level three armory. You will be expected to meet up with your guide at oh nine hundred two days from now. All necessary information is included in your briefing."
He nods to the satchel.
As Hellknights, your pay is 25gp/week + mission bonuses. Go ahead and add that to your current total. I will remind you every week, though unless you're at the Citadel or a large enough city with a bank you won't be able to access it.
"Are we allowed to read the letter or are walking into this blind?" Vorgal looked up from a notepad where he had scrawled some notes from the commander's speech. He meant it as a question, but his distraction with his continuing note-taking made it sound more like a challenge.
The Vicarius is silent for a moment; though his face is unseen, his mask turns towards Vorgal.
"The letter is merely a polite reminder of the consequences should she act in a manner unbecoming one of her stature. All necessary information is included in the briefing. You are far from blind, I should hope."
|Bjorn of the Brothers|
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As you order, Vicarius Says Bjorn while saluting.
Do us will have any backup in case that Tower lider goes treacherous to us?
|Bjorn of the Brothers|
Cassius nods his understanding of their instructions slowly, steepling his fingers before his face as he mulls over what he knows of the mysterious strix and the region to which they are traveling... or if he has heard any rumors of this 'Tower' group.
Knowledge Local: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (7) + 9 = 16
Knowledge Geography: 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (18) + 9 = 27
"Acting-Maralictor, might I peruse the briefing materials?" he asks Kayle. Should Kayle assent, he takes the satchel and begins to skim through the briefing materials. Better to see anything problematic now, then later.
"Might we have physical descriptions of our guide and the lady Imazi, Vicarius? As well as the name of our guide? I find that it helps mitigate the chances of complications.
"Beyond that, what else do we know of the Tower? Are their ranks primarily composed of humans, or other, sir?"
To himself, Cassius closes his eyes and briefly commits their mission to memory: Deliver the message to Imazi, who is to be treated with deference. Avoid conflict with the Tower agents unless given no other option; prioritize disengagement. This is a diplomatic mission.
The Tower is a group more of vague, haphazard rumor than actual fact. That the Vicarius is openly telling you they exist is the first legitimate confirmation you've ever heard about them. The only thing that anyone agrees on is that there are a great many mages attracted to the group.
"You have a stipend. It would be wise to spend it on horses, or purchase space with a caravan, but you may do as you see fit."
The Vicarius turns to Cassius.
"All relevant information on Dusk and Imazi is in the briefing. I will say however that Dusk is much much larger than you will probably expect. I have never seen nor heard of any humanoid quite that big."
He pauses, seeming to muse for a moment, though his hidden face and still hands betray nothing.
"The Tower is still largely an unknown to us. Imazi is very powerful, and her magics have shielded their activities from us for the most part. I can say that they are mostly Varisian nomads, and almost all of them are sorcerers or witches of varying power. There is not likely to be many that are powerful enough to be problematic though, aside from Imazi herself."
"Thank you, Vicarius," Cassius says to the further information that their superior gives. Varisians... ragtag practitioners, in his opinion, but if their orders are to be diplomatic, he will be diplomatic.
"Big? You think Dusk is a giaaaaaaant--" squawks Decibel, only to squeak shut when Cassius lifts a hand and clamps his beak shut once more. Not before the Vicarius, you feathered little idiot.
(I know the base costs to purchase horses, etc; what would rental, or space in a caravan or the like, run us monetarily? Outright purchasing a basic horse and gear is outside of my budget, at least, at 75 GP for the horse + whatever the cost of gear would be. So I'm fine with going on foot, personally, unless we could rent mounts for a few gold. ....I could buy a scroll of mount and memorize that. ;) )
Man my phone didn't finish putting up my post. I am here and paying attention, I swear :p
Ivari stands at attention and listens to the details. At the various asking of questions Ivari cocks an eyebrow, assuming that only Kayle would be allowed to ask as assigned leader. There was always something new to learn about the order.
Ivari was content to stand by. The elf and the wizard seemed to be of keen mind and were asking various details. Bjorn seemed of an odd manner of speech but Ivari had seen his test, clearly worthy. Only the leader had been quiet...perhaps to see the caliber of the men she led?
Lol, fair enough.
Cassius returns the satchel with their briefing to Kayle (if Kayle granted him permission to take it in the first place) and stands to attention.
"Acting-Maralictor: permission granted to see to travel arrangements for our number?"
sorry work has been busy for the past week.
At ease Cassius, You may see our travel arrangements.
Kayle addresses the rest of the group.
It would behoove us to pool our resources and time to ensure we have the necessary supplies and gear to accomplish the mission. If we can can not afford to rent horses, perhaps we can find a caravan heading towards Pezzack and offer our protection for a space within the caravan.
|Bjorn of the Brothers|
Bjorn salutes the Vicarius, and goes out. Once outside, he address to Kayle.
Acting-Maralictor, before arrangements are done, perhaps we must calculate the time that will take the trip. Once we have knowledge of it, we can decide if mounts are required. Its your call, of course.
I don't know, I feel uneasy, something odd... somehow. Perhaps only my imagination, but still... not even in the test I felt that way.
Cassius salutes the Vicarius as well, and bows, before exiting the room with the others for discussion on their own time.
At hearing Bjorn's words, he inclines his head to his stocky comrade.
"If I may, Acting-Maralictor? Pezzack is a rough fifty miles from the Citadel," he volunteers. "On flat ground, we might be able to walk that in the time allotted, but it would be pushing things, I believe. Wiser to invest in steeds, I think, as our leader has suggested. I shall visit the Citadel's stables."
(Barring Kayle or anyone else having further instructions, Cassius will head for the stables. My impression of Citadel Enferac is that it's a self-contained fortress, and not exactly a stop-over for trade caravans-- but if Cassius's in-character knowledge would be otherwise, and suggest caravans as feasible, then run with that, of course. I would prefer getting our own horses: if we agree to provide security for a caravan, we're bound to the caravan's rate of movement and its concerns, when our first priority needs to be making our rendezvous on time. /my two cents)
I have not had my own horse since I was a boy but I know how to ride. I have some gold and would easily put it up for the group to get on its way though I need some to provide for more ammunition.
|Bjorn of the Brothers|
Sure some activity will easy my mind.
I'll accompany you, Cassius. That will bring me some memories from my firsts days on the Citadel. I used to take care of the stables, and the horses, of course. Says the redhaired man with what looks to be a smile on his face.
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Cassius inclines his head to Ivari's offer. "I shall see if it will be necessary, Brother Ivari," he murmurs.
He also nods to both Bjorn and Kayle wishing to join him on the short walk to the stables. "As you will, of course."
On his shoulder, Decibel squawks in Infernal as they walk: "Dwarf taking care of horses? Awwk! But you don't come up to their bellies--"
"Decibel," Cassius says shortly. "Mind your tongue. I apologize for him. Indeed, you may consider it a standing apology, as I feel I will need to issue it many times," he sighs.
"You are both accomplished riders, then? I had the basics of training in horsemanship as a boy, but I cannot claim to be any master of the saddle."
It's not actually a short walk to the stables =P
You travel downwards, by staircases both winding and broad, and down sloping hallways. Finally you reach the courtyard (though it's less of a courtyard and more like a foyer, still partially enclosed by the mountain), and spot the stables. As you approach, the herdmaster (he has been called that since time immemorial, though you know it's not a real title), looks up and sees you, wrinkled face twisting into a grin as he spots Bjorn.
"Ho there! Been some time lad," he says, removing a dirty glove and clasping your hand.
|Bjorn of the Brothers|
Not a master myself -Answers Bjorn to Cassius- but I can defend myself on it
The big red man rushes to the old one to shake his hand and tap his shoulder with wide smile
The old good man never changes, like set in stone
Hey old man, the training had me busy for that long, but now that I have the time and opportunity, decided to pay you a visit. Those are my comrades in arms Cassius and Vorgal, and she is Kayle, our numbers Acting-Maralictor
None of us are a dwarf, crazy bird :D
With no other assigned task, Vorgal will follow the others to the stables. He's been wanting to get a horse for a while, just hasn't had the money or time to care for it. His meager sum now, even after the Hell Knight pay, wouldn't even get him an old, easily winded horse.
He hangs back a little though, shuffling through his notes and his mind for any relevant information.
Know geo Pezzeck: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (6) + 6 = 12
Know local: 1d20 + 6 ⇒ (9) + 6 = 15 Especially as relates to caravans or other transportation rentals.
Ivari follows, content to keep the group together.
At Cassius' question about riding the paladin nods, I have a natural talent for it. The limbering of the mind and muscles that make me formidable with a bow aid in keeping me atop a horse and maneuvering it. I'm not sure I would claim "accomplished" however.
As the bird goes on the paladin frowns in a friendly manner and nods talking idly, His accent for the language is quite good. I would have though the beak would make some of the sounds more difficult.
Kno Local: 1d20 + 5 ⇒ (3) + 5 = 8 I'll follow Vorgal's lead and rattle around in my skull for info...I seem to recall the complex has a stable. With horses!
Gyeh. Sorry about the dwarf thing; I actually read Bjorn's bio and I could have sworn I saw a dwarf mention. I think I'm hallucinating things. Oh well, yes, Decibel is crazy, blame it on the bird. ;)
And very well, not a short walk! :P
Cassius stands back from the effusive greeting between the stablemaster and Bjorn, his hands clasped behind his back and inclining his head slightly towards Ivari and his commentary.
"....yes," he says with lips pursed. "It is-- most unusual-- that Decibel speaks Infernal, and fluently. That little mystery is one of the reasons I have accepted him as my familiar."
"Thought it was cuz no other animal would have you, awrrrk!"
Cassius's expression doesn't change, though he does sigh beneath his breath. He lets Bjorn take the immediate lead with the stablemaster to ask about the cost of horses: Bjorn knows the man well, so better to let friendship sway the price, perhaps.
"Well well, finally moving up in the world eh?" the wizened herdmaster chuckles, "Pleased to make your acquaintance all. I take it from the title though that you're on assignment? Don't really get Acting otherwise."
Knowledge (Local): All caravans staying at the Citadel have to sign in with the gate guards. Though the Chief Supplies-Maralictor probably has a record of all scheduled caravans and supply trains.
|Bjorn of the Brothers|
After a moment, Bjorn regains its composture, and gets back into his habitual serious look.
We must travel and we need some mounts. The Vicarius said we are on or own in this matter, Kayle commanded to pool resources to get it in time, and well, we decided to come here to take some steeds.
I trust totally this man, but is up to Kayle to give any details. -Thinks Bjorn while talking to the old man-
You have some that could be a good investment? Our numbers are five.
"As Signifiers we each receive twenty-five gold to the seven-day," Cassius answers the stable-master's question. "Not enough to purchase a horse outright, I don't imagine, but perhaps we might pay for a week's travel upon them?"
He refrains from saying Ivari's offer-- better to see what the man could supply them with now, and only reveal more resources as necessary. "And we are headed to Pezzack."
I am not quite a master, but I have had Nymeria since she was but a filly.
Kayle turns to answer the stablemaster.
We are currently recieving twenty five gold pieces a week. We are heading towards Pezzack. I do not believe we have enough coin currently to purchase four mounts outright, but surely we can come to agreement with a sizeable down payment and an allotment of our stipend over a month or two.
I can currently put down about 60 gold as a down payment
Yeah, but Kayle never actually gave it to you. But we'll assume silence is consent in this instance I guess (never thought I'd be saying that... XP)
You pick out the vouchers. They are for various amounts and even currencies, though all backed by Citadel Enferac and the Chelish Imperial Bank. All told it adds up to approximately five hundred gold pieces.
His inspection of the documents had been brief enough, given their short time in the Vicarius's office, but he's fairly sure he had seen vouchers... now what was the amount...
"Acting-Maralictor, if I might..?" he says with another nod to the satchel. "I believe there were vouchers that might extend to cover our travel expenses."
When the vouchers are inevitably pulled out, either by him or by their leader, they total five hundred gold. That, Cassius thinks, should cover horses and tack.
To Vorgal, he murmurs, "The briefing suggests little more than we already knew: delivery of the letter to this Imazi. There is a map of the region, as well as legal documents to present as symbols of our authority and so forth. When we have time, I will read the dossiers on Imazi and Dusk in full-- perhaps as the horses are being saddled...?"
The herdmaster plucks the vouchers from your hands with impressive deftness, peering at them intently.
"Ah yeah, that'll certainly cover it. Pretty high for youngsters like yourselves. Unless inflation is worse than I thought it was. Eh... bloody economy..." his muttered grumblings quickly fade away as he trudges back into an office, then resume as he steps back out again, this time with a large tome in hand.
"That'll be five horses then, gear included? Just let me know when you're leaving and I'll have them ready for you," he nods amicably, holding out a page and battered quill for Kayle to sign.
Cassius, if you could please read the dossiers. I trust you will inform us on anything mission essential if you come a cross it.
Kayle turns to the stablemaster,
We should only need to purchase four horses, I have my own mare, Nymeria. It would be nice to finally take her out in the open fields.
"I suggest we get on the road as soon as necessary," Cassius says to his colleagues, with a nod to Kayle as their leader in particular. "It would not do to be late. I am prepared to travel now."
He nods a wordless of course to his instructions to read the dossiers more thoroughly. He should have a few minutes, at least, while the horses are being readied.
Brow furrowed slightly, he leans against the stable wall and begins reading in earnest. The garish parrot on his shoulder squawks and peers over his shoulder, reading or pretending to read, one of the two.
Once they are on the road, Cassius intends to relate his earlier musings on the strix and the region they call home-- but there's no need to say such things in front of anyone not a specific part of their squad. Gossip travels.
|Bjorn of the Brothers|
Bjorn lets Cassius alone with his readings, a looks to Kayle
How about other suppies, like trail rations and water? I'm eager to see that level three armory stuff, but I'll take charge of provisions first if necesary
Don't think I'll be able to affor anything, but I'm really curious
DOB: 13th of Lamashan, 4672 AR (Assumed, requires further research)
Weight: ~120 lbs.
Defining features: Completely covered in an intricate web of Varisian style tattoos.
Bio: A sorceress of significant skill, Imazi first came to the Order's attention in 4686, when she was overheard during an interestingly accurate harrowing by (name redacted), an agent of the Order of the Nail (crossref. CSA:1942b). She disappeared before more could be researched into the matter and was not seen again until 4704, when she won an enormous sum of money (estimated at approximately 400,000 gold pieces) betting on Hugh Fraxelles during the Dies Irae. Once again, before any interrogation could be held, she disappeared. Attempts to track her via divination spells and by activating various abjurations on the prize money all failed (crossref. CSA:2004f).
In 4710, an intelligence agent from the Order of the Scourge, (name redacted), went missing while investigating a supposed cult in the Ravounel Forest. Imazi took credit for the disappearance, warning the Order of the Scourge to stay out of the forest. A secondary commando team (level 7 operatives) sent to assassinate her also disappeared. She once again warned the Scourge to desist, and appealed to the Order of the Gate for assistance. Eventually a contract was signed and the Gate successfully entreated with the Scourge to desist action against Imazi (crossref. CSC:0485o).
Abilities: Known to be a skilled sorcerer, particularly with divination and abjuration magics, as well as various curses. Imazi also has a history of extremely accurate harrowings, including real time acquisition of information, the ability to transcribe previously unknown past events, and even prophesies (crossref. CSP:1212c).
Method of engagement: It is HIGHLY advised to not engage Imazi at all. It is unlikely she will ever be caught off guard. Only one previous engagement is known of (see above), but there are no details. Direct offensive power is unknown. Advised strategy is to mindblank all attackers and engage from stealth.
Will post more later tonight
DOB: Unknown (appears to be in late 20's or early 30's)
Weight: ~550 lbs.
Defining Features: Half-orc, though trends more towards human than orc. Numerous scars, particularly on back and stomach.
Bio: Believed to have come from the Underdark, perhaps as a particularly valuable slave, no information exists on him before his appearance in 4700 as a bodyguard to (name redacted), a minor Quadrian noble. He quickly gained notoriety as more of a preventative bodyguard, frequently leaving would be assailants alive but missing limbs and facial features. It took less than two years before assassins and hit-men started refusing contracts against anyone who employed Dusk. He quickly became bored with this, and left, disappearing into the Whisperwood for several years. In 4704 a unit from the Order of the Pike made contact with Dusk, during which a working relationship was established (crossref. CSS:3904a). From that point Dusk has frequently worked with Hellknights, primarily as a guide.
Abilities: Extremely high strength, has been recorded on multiple occasions ripping limbs off attackers with his bare hands. In addition, has the typical orc berserk ability, further increasing his strength and combat abilities. Some very limited use of divine magic (source unknown, possibly Benorus or one of the Eldest) primarily recorded as healing spells or the darkness spell. Most dangerous in darkness; during the night, in densely wooded areas, or underground.
Method of engagement: Due to his current relationship with the Hellknights combat is unlikely. If he must be confronted, do so at great range, and do not let him enter any shadowed area, keep in visual range AT ALL TIMES. Close combat is practically a death sentence.
Special Notes: Has an extremely deep seated fear/hatred of demons and demon cults (crossref. CSP:1900d; supports Underdark origin theory). While normally neutral in most matters, will go out of his way to destroy any demonaic in his vicinity. This can potentially be used against him, or to keep him in check if necessary.
Will post more if I wake up in the morning.