He spends the rest of the trip in the cart seat staring at the gift box, still in disbelief that he carries it in his life. The ride reaches the square where he is to meet the others, but that is not how the ride ends. It ends with the horses startled when a piercing scream tears into the senses, and the resulting turmoil nearly causes the box to fall to the floorboard of the vehicle. Pocketing the item, Fhiess exits the vehicle to hurry to the others.
The scream causes him to shed his casual demeanor. Without pausing and without any comment, he immediately breaks into a jog, which is the fastest speed that he can muster in his full plate, toward the source of the disturbance.
Together, they rush forth to contend with whatever foul acts have transpired.
Barrow stands next to Hulna, his hands clutching for hair on his head that is long since gone. “Hulna, ye daft cow!” he shouts. “What. Have. Ye done. T’me wagon?”
It appears that a significant portion of the decorations from the previous day have been repurposed to dress Barrow’s wagon for the journey. Every inch is covered by flags, bunting, ribbon, and—perhaps most prominently—a sizeable sign hanging off the tailgate with an etching of the mayor’s face and the words “VOTE WHIMSLEY” painted in large, bold letters.
Hulna waves her chalk beneath Barrow’s bulbous nose. “It’s election season. We’re capitalizing on the opportunity to take Mayor Whimsley’s message on the road and spread it far and wide.”
“But he’s just runnin’ fer bloody’ mayor! No one outside Remdormo can even vote fer him, and we all know him and his message plenty well! He’s runnin’ unopposed, for gods’ sake!”
Hulna taps her finger on Barrow’s chest for emphasis. “We’re creating mindshare.”
“Oh, I’ll give ye mindshare,” Barrow glowers. “I’ll crack that noggin of yers wide open and share what’s inside!”
“Don’t forget who got you this job.”
“I already had th’job, ye just came up with some cockamamie name for it!”
“Being the Chief Engineer of Commerce and Trade Logistics is a serious responsibility, and I wish you would treat it as such.”
“I just drive th’bloody wagon like I always done!”
Hulna ignores Barrow’s outburst and makes a few marks on her slate. “Five days there, five days back?”
Barrow’s volume returns to normal, but he seems no more agreeable for it. “Give it a week both ways,” he says. “Roads’ll be jam packed, comin’ and goin’.”
“Right then. Two weeks total.” She leans in and gives him a peck on the cheek. “Love you, sweetie.”
Barrow just grumbles something in response as he pulls out his pipe. He jams tobacco into it with his thick fingers as Hulna scurries away to go about whatever demands Whimsley’s reelection campaign brings. He lights the pipe and grinds the end of it between his teeth in frustration. “Ye lot ready t’go?” he asks. “Best get movin’ before she gets th’ idea t’come back and paint Whimsley’s face on yer arses so ye can leave a stamp every time ye sit down.”
Ludwig was prepared for much when crossing the city gates, but nothing could have braced him for the nightmarish horrors in wait. The eyesore of the wagon is burned into his retinas. Ludwig can only stare in abject horror as Hulna tries to justify the abomination by digging an even deeper hole. Made up positions? Municipal waste for an uncontested candidate? Notes on a slate that serves no purpose but a monument to the bureaucratic hellscape? The horror. The horror.
A cold sweat forms on Ludwig as the others board the wagon. Most of the subsequent talking is covered up by the ringing in his ears brought on by this affront, but he hears something about going.
"Err, yes. Yes, let's go. Suddenly, being stuck outside the wagon doesn't seem like such a bad deal."
The appearance of the lioness startles him but as he sees the badger a suspicion starts to grow and is all but confirmed when the lioness vanishes only to be replaced by Nyx right afterwards. But he opts not to say anything. The gnome probably had her reasons for the secrecy though he might have to give her a few hints as to how to be less obvious with such a thing. Afterall he kind if was an expert in that area.
"I'm certainly ready to go. The sooner we are on our way, the better, if you ask me," he says to no one in particular before stifling a yawn and glancing one last time in the direction of the city gate, but as far as he can tell no one was watching him so he allows himself to relax.
He continues on at length along such lines to himself as he finishes hitching up a fresh team of horses and closing up the wagon once everyone is aboard. He hops into the driver’s seat and surveys the small caravan of wagons that have come together for the trip, gnawing on his pipe like a dog on a bone. “Oy!” he shouts, removing his pipe and cupping his hands over his mouth. “We be movin’ out! If ye need a couple more minutes, well, too bad! I’m not waitin’! But I’m sure ye can catch up, draggin’ the mayor’s ridiculous offerin’s bound t’slow us down!”
Barrow drops down into his seat and picks up the reins. “Bloody embarrassment, this is,” he mutters, looking at the decorations haphazardly applied to the wagon. “Would be better off just settin’ fire t’the whole thing. I may still set fire t’it. Oh, what a grand sight that would be, maybe th’flames would turn pretty colors t’match all this ridiculous buntin’.”
The wagon begins to move with creaking wheels, and before long the stout horses are pulling the load at a steady rate down the road. Mounting the crest of a small hill, the vista of the Kingdom of Telmur spreads itself before them. The road continues through a sea of undulating green grass beneath a sky of fathomless blue. Nyx and some of its various satellites are visible, playing coy as they hide behind the billowing white clouds sweeping across the vault of the heavens. The furthest fringes of a forest are barely visible on the far horizon, more than a day’s travel away.
Even Barrow’s sour mood seems to evaporate in the face of such an uplifting landscape and the curmudgeonly dwarf begins to hum a tuneless song as the cart rolls along.
"Simply marvelous," he marvels. "Being that I hold dominion over the wild and chaotic forces of nature - wind, rain, lightning, that sort of thing -, most people might assume I would not be a fan of sunny days and clear skies. Nothing could be further from the truth! I revel in all the wonders nature has to offer. And I must say that Pelor has quite outdone himself on this day."
He looks back and forth among his fellow passengers. "So! Seeing as we'll be traveling together for a day at the very least, perhaps it would be a good idea to get to know each other." He makes a point to establish eye contact with everyone in the wagon, including Barrow, as well as Ludwig outside of the wagon, who he doesn't want to feel left out. "Why don't we talk about where we're from, how we ended up in Remdormo, and our plans after arriving at Telmur Castle?
"I'll start: I hail from a small town you've probably never heard of, called Almsville. I grew up there - or at least this incarnation of me did. Some months ago, I was reminded rather dramatically of who I really was, and so, after saving my town from a roving band of marauders, I decided it was time to set out into the world and regain all that I've lost over the centuries. This is but one leg in a very long journey - one which I fully intend to continue after a very brief stay in the Capital."
He looks around with bright, excited eyes. "So! Who would like to go next?"
First to hear Keranos' opening, he asks quizzically, "Pelor? Is that an ally of your god?" Images in mind come of mornings where the sun creaks through a thinning storm, oranges and newly formed rainbows shining through the bleak greys when thinking of an alliance between sun and storm.
Soon he hears the child's story. Some more questions are raised, mainly to seek clarity, "An incarnation.. who you really are? So you're saying that you may be a reincarnation of someone from the past, and that's related to your god somehow?"
Once he asks more about Keranos' background, he takes his turn to tell his own: "My father passed down to me a sorcerer's bloodline, but my mother did not, so as a result my own arcane blood became too thin to channel magic on my own. To make up for it, my father enrolled me in a college in Altair to seek scholarly pursuits and find an alternative magic for myself. Well.. one thing led to another and an art class led me to pursue painting as a career. I found Hogan's Exports' artistry shops, and now I am here."
He takes a moment to pause, then continues, "I hope that our meeting with the King allows me an opportunity to arrange a commission for our shop. To be honest, Hogan will likely have a more skilled artist do the portrait, but I still don't want to let my boss down."
"Finally, I managed to escape my solitary prison.... in this body." He gestures to himself. "Now I must once again rebuild my divinity to where it once was, so that I may take my rightful place in the cosmos, and eject Talos the Pretender to take up my mantle as the one, true God of Storms."
On Pelor, he clarifies. "Pelor is one of the Old Guard. He has been around even longer than I have, and like as not has forgotten me by now. I never interacted with him much, but I respect his work. And if all goes well, he shall be reminded of my name before too much time has passed."
He frowns slightly while listening to Fhiess's story. "My friend, you must believe in yourself!" He leans toward the bard and puts a friendly hand on his shoulder. "If there is any chance at all that Hogan will choose you to do this portrait, then you should seize the opportunity and do everything you can to make that happen! In fact, even if you don't think there is any chance at all, you ought to at least try. That's the only way to get what you want out of life!"
"I see what you are saying, but a portrait for the king? It would be quite the arrangement and unlikely something I would have little say in other than suggestion. Besides, it would be merely business, I'm sure my muse would find happiness elsewhere if a chance does not happen."
"I grew up in the inner part of Baglahm, in the Savannahs where my brethren dwell. Life was good, barring the occasional interaction with the Hegemony of Dragons. They were a petty, spiteful lot eager to flout their monopoly on force, though from what I've seen here, the governments of Telmur are giving them a run for their money."
Feeling that he's starting to go on a tangent, Ludwig clears his throat before it becomes a rant on why private roads would be superior to those funded by the state.
"Anyway... I had a mentor, Carl, who taught me much of what I know. He taught me woodworking as a trade, as well as the basics of being a holy warrior of free markets and profit. I have come to this land to to spread the good word of unfettered capitalism."
Ludwig grows sullen. "But that is not the only reason I have come to this strange continent. I seek revenge. Carl was murdered, by a royal assassin. I didn't get a good look at the killer, so all I've had to go off of is that the killer is of a humanoid size and uses a peculiar choice of weapons: a hammer and sickle. My search has taken me to Telmur, and I hope to find another lead while here."
Ludwig shakes the gloominess as the others talk. He takes Keranos's claim of godhood at face value, and agrees with his recommendation to Fheiss.
"Wow, a deity regaining his power? I wasn't expecting to travel with a god. It's an honor."
"You know Fheiss, the boy- err, the God of storms is right. Anyone can attain greatness if they work hard enough to seize it, and this is a great opportunity if you can stomach working with a monarch. Now is the time to seize your bootstraps and pull with all your might! Painting a portrait for a client of that stature could have a huge impact on your standing with Hogan. Or even better, it may paint the way for you to start up your own hugely successful business."
He grows visibly upset at the news of Carl's murder. "Your quest for vengeance is a noble one, and one that I would be glad to take up alongside you. Your enemies are my enemies, and Keranos's enemies shall know no mercy and receive no quarter. Take solace in knowing that you have the very wind and rain on your side, Good Sir Ludwig. The assassin shall be dealt with swiftly, and your mentor will rest easy, knowing that you have avenged him."
He tries to keep to the subject about his own aspirations, "I don't know about my own business.. I always thought about travel and painting things I couldn't at the studio." He doesn't mention wanting to find strange and new materials which to grind into pigment.
Nyx then looks at the badger below her feet(which I assume don't reach the floor), "Nook mostly just wants to find his next meal. He's still just a bit young to do it by himself so he gets to hang out with me. Lucky him! And lucky me! And all of you for that matter! Oh! Everybody gets lucky!" she exclaims as she pulls a bottle of wine out of her pack. "I didn't bring any cups or anything, but if anyone wants a taste, just ask." She pops it open, shouts "Cheers!" and then takes a swig of it. "Ohh. Its all tingly and bubbly."
His mood bettered, he has no problem returning to banter about travel and work. When Nyx chimes in, he smiles and says "I've got to say I'm a little jealous. Sure, maybe that's less exciting on paper, but it sounds like a much cheerier time. That's certainly something worth chasing, and if you have trouble coming up with an idea, you can always join me in convincing the royal types about the good of markets!"
When offered wine, Ludwig accepts a brief, tiny taste of it. Anything else and he might accidentally drink the entire non-J'raffa sized bottle. That would just be rude.
When Barrow’s turn for sharing his background with the others arrives, he drinks deep from Nyx’s proffered wineskin and gives a deep chuckle. “Not much t’know ‘bout me,” he says. “I be older than dirt and from all over. I'm in Remdormo because if Hulna and I weren't there t’tend t’things, it’d just be one great big mess.” His eyes pass over Keranos before he smiles and continues. “Maybe I be a god me self! Barrow, great and mighty god of crackin’ noggins or some such! I could get used to that.”
After several hours of uneventful travel, the glint of metal flashes in the sun down the road. As the caravan approaches, the source reveals itself to be a group of five men on horseback, each wearing the unadorned, no-nonsense mail and breastplate of the Kingsfort Ranger Corps draped in a hunter green cloak.
“Ho, there, Barrow!” the man at the head hails, raising a hand clad in a lobstered gauntlet--a weighted piece of metal meant more for delivering crushing blows in close quarter combat than defense. “Where are you bound with such inordinate company today?”
Barrow pulls the wagon to a stop alongside the leader of the mounted men. “Well met, Captain,” he says. “We be bound fer Castle Telmur t’deliver Whimsley’s ridiculous birthday present for the lad liege. Anythin’ we need be aware of on this road?”
The captain lets out a buoyant laugh and grins broadly. “Nothing to report, Barrow, same as always. The hobbies know not to come out of their holes to bother travelers on these roads, not while the Kingsforts still stand and the Rangers draw breath.”
“Can’t even rightly recall th’last time I laid eyes on a hobgoblin,” notes Barrow.
“Well, it certainly won’t be any time soon, old friend, I can promise you that!”
“If ye say there be no hobgoblins ‘round these parts, well, I take ye at yer word, Captain.”
“No hobgoblins, on my word.”
“Not th’slightest chance?”
“Not even a little.”
“Nothing but easy travel from here to Castle Telmur, I swear by my honor.”
Barrow reaches across and shakes the captain’s gauntleted hand, nodding to the quartet of mounted men behind him as he does so. “May yer heavy hand and four shadows serve ye well in yer duty, Captain.”
“And may the gods grant you the patience to endure the long years of Whimsley’s mayoral administration.”
“Hmph,” Barrow grunts as he urges the horses forward once more. “They’d probably elect someone just as daft t’replace him.”
Their conversation concluded, the caravan resumes its eastward trek while the squad of rangers heads west.
((Taking the hint and making a Perception roll, but the result was less than my Passive))
As they depart in the opposite direction, he watches them stroll away until they disappear beyond the crest of a hill.
He bites his lip and furrows his brow, embroiled in internal conflict. He stays that way for some minutes.
Finally he turns to Ludwig. "What do you make of them?" he asks. "I mean... not necessarily those men in particular - unless you happen to have a strong opinion of them -, but also of government-sanctioned military force in general. Do you enjoy the security of such an organization, or would you prefer privatized militias?"
"But rangers are the most heroic and brave, they save people from goblins and crocodiles; I'm glad to have them around either way."
He gladly takes a break to answer Keranos's question though. While optimistic about his mission, he never expected to begin swaying a god on the virtues of liberty and free markets.
"Not on them particularly, they seem nice enough for jack-booted state police. Good men who picked a bad job, perhaps. But government sanctioned military force? No, it's just another way to strengthen their monopoly on the use of violence. It's much like these roads we travel on: it seems necessary because it's what everyone has known for as long as they can remember, but there's no reason it can't be done privately, without opening the populace to a giant leech claiming entitlement to half their wealth and the creation of policers that can harass travelers at their leisure. Is it easier to watch a wide area for the state than for an assortment of private forces? Perhaps, but those who give up their liberty for assurances of security frequently wind up with neither."
Ludwig arches a brow at Fheiss's thoughts. "Crocodiles are serious shit, I've seen many an animal go from drinking water to dead in an instant on the savannah. Not sure they're really a thing around here though." Now wondering, he looks toward Nyx, figuring she knows. "Are they?"
"And who is to say that security forces with profit as their sole motivator wouldn't also become corrupt, perhaps even moreso than those who work for the state? Who's to say that they wouldn't join forces with brigands - or perhaps even become brigands themselves! - and force innocent travelers to pay up, or be robbed blind? Indeed, what even is the difference between 'paying up' and being robbed?"
His shoulders slump. "I suppose I shall have to give this a great deal more thought."
He stares off into space, content to let the others worry about crocodiles and kobolds for now.
"I will admit that I've never had run ins with states controlled directly by a god. I'm aware of horribly inefficient theocracies, but not of some empire where a god manages everything. Perhaps you could magic away all of the egregious violations of the state when you regain your power, but I see no way to completely remove its coercive nature."
"Profit and greed is exactly why your concerns wouldn't be a major issue. Yes, there would be a need to pay the people guarding the roads. But with the state monopoly gone, many different roads to cities and security businesses could crop up. The need to be competitive would ensure that reasonable prices are available, and more importantly, the government theft- well, we were calling it taxation a minute ago, but taxation is theft, so same difference- would be gone, so instead of paying for safety that way, they'd bargain for fair exchange with the most competitive service. As for banditry? Word would spread, and any business doing that would find itself lacking customers and out of business pretty quick. They're not the state, they can't force people to do business with them. Of course, this all assumes people don't just bear their own arms and defend themselves on the road. All should have the freedom to learn their own martial weapon and defend themselves, after all."
Ludwig walks along pleased with that, sure that that addition had to do it.
He continues staring off into space.
The Kingsforts are situated near a few of the intersections of the major roads that cross the Kingdom of Telmur, erected during the reign of the eponymous founder of the realm, King Telmur. The exact details are murky, but Fhiess seems to recall that the forts’ original purpose were expressly military, and may have played some part in Telmur’s expulsion of the Hauntaurs from Aglea. But Telmur was not pronounced King until sometime after the fall of the occupying empire, so the timeline of events don’t quite work out. Then why would there be a need for such military infrastructure, if not to wage war against an invading force? Perhaps if he had majored in Telmurian History instead of art, he would remember more clearly.
There are three such forts, each of identical construction and configuration; ahead of them on the road they currently travel lies Kingshield. On a roughly parallel road to the north on the far side of the distant forest, stands the riverside Kingsword. The third is Kingsgate, which lies due east and north from the wagon’s current position.
Knowledge Nature: 1D20+2 => 7
Ludwig arches a brow at Fheiss's thoughts. "Crocodiles are serious shit, I've seen many an animal go from drinking water to dead in an instant on the savannah. Not sure they're really a thing around here though." Now wondering, he looks toward Nyx, figuring she knows. "Are they?"
((well okay then. perhaps i should have gave myself some int... although from what i read of the rules, it probably would have been a huge waste so w/e))
Sagishi travels along in silence when the general introductions start. Every now and then he throws a glance over his shoulder, back to the city they have left. Any moment now he expects to spot a figure coming through the gates in pursuit of them, but no one appears and Sagishi relaxes a little fit. Is Gerion really had planned on getting his hands on the money he would have done it as soon as they had left the city or even before that. There was no way he would have managed to set up something more elaborate further down their way. And apparently even he wasn't greedy enough to go so far as to boldly attack official envoys to the king. But once more Sagishi has to leave a city rather hastily and once more he can call himself lucky that his head was still on his shoulders.
And yet he had been so happy the evening before. As their motley crew started going about their own business for the night Sagishi made his way to the commerce district to do some shopping. He had never even seen this many coins in once place let alone owning them. And he had attained them totally legal, there were actually his! By law! He couldn't help a little chuckle as he strolled down the still busy streets, pausing here and there to look at a certain item a little closer.
He had already gotten himself a most exquisite grappling hook and stocked up on materials to replace the fireworks he had used up during his little performance, when he realized that somewhere along the way he had also acquired two additional shadows. They were lingering about in the shadows a few dozen paces behind him and since Sagishi knew these particular shadows and more precisely knew what it was that they usually did, his god mood was quickly replaced by a far less cheerful feeling.
He fought down the urge to run and instead cursed himself. He should have known that it was only a matter of time before the guild heard of his little stunt. He hadn't wasted a single thought on how they might think about it. Well, at least he didn't have to think about it now either. Being followed by Gerion's two favorite goons send a clear enough signal.
He knew that it was only a matter of time until they'd realized that he knew they were following him and as soon as that happened they would most definitely resort to less subtle actions. So Sagishi did his best to resume his stroll along the shops, only appearing here and there to cut a corner more quickly or prefer a smaller side road to the main street. After having zigzaged the district in a most haphazard pattern Sagishi finally steps at a small food cart whose owner had set out a couple of tables with chairs for them to eat at.
He ordered a plate of grilled chicken and some beer, sat down on one of the tables and started to eat. He had not even taken two bites when a heavy hand came to rest on his shoulders, gripping them, not painfully, but without any ambiguity.
"Boss wants you."
Sagishi flinched but relaxed when he realized that this was indeed al there was to this sentence. No, 'Boss wants you dead' followed by a dagger between the ribs. He put on what he hoped looked like an innocent and puzzled face though he was never quite certain with the people up here in the north.
"Can't I at least finish my dinner first?"
"Now." This came from goon Nr. 2.
Sagishi made a great show of wolfing down as much of the chicken leg as was possible in the time it took him to rise from his chair. He cleaned his hands on a napkin and then tested his luck by finishing the beer before he followed the two goons. All polite and well-behaved.
The last time Sagishi had been in the dingy backroom of the "Feathered Dog", which functioned as the so called center of operation for Gerion's crew, he had been doing his best to convince Gerion that instead of cutting Sagishi's throat, as was standard procedure when one was caught working in the wrong territory, or working at all without clearance from one of the guild masters, like in Sagishi's case, that instead he should consider letting him become a member of his guilt, that he would be a great asset to them and that they'd count him.
Like last time Gerion was sitting at the small round table in a worn out armchair that might once have been a shade of blue or green but had taken on a grayish hue that reminded Sagishi of mold. Gerion was a tall man but not a big one. His limbs seemed too long for his body and him sitting with his legs crossed and one arm resting on his knee to support his head produced some geometrically interesting shapes and angles. The look he was giving Sagishi promised nothing good.
"That was a rather interesting display you put on for the mayor today." He smoked too much and over the years his voice had gotten a certain huskiness that seemed to slither through the air like an icy current.
Sagishi still wore his hopefully-innocent-and-absolutely-nonplussed-about-this-whole-situation face. "Oh, you heard about that?"
"Oh no, not heard. I saw it. I was right there."
"Ah... well I hope you have found my display impressive. After all it proves that I did not lie to you about my talents."
"You are right." Gerion sighed and put on a sad face which was somehow a hundred times more terrifying than his angry one had been. "But what good are your outstanding talents to me, when you are off performing your little tricks for the king? Don't you see what a huge hole your absence is going to rip into our organization's income? How are you planning to reimburse me for that loss?"
Sagishi looked up at the ceiling, as if he was thinking hard about this question, before he answered, "I guess you are right. I think it is only fair that I'm to work some extra shifts once I'm back from this little tour."
Gerion slammed his boney fist down on the small table, causing it to almost topple over yet his face and voice showed no hint of anger or rage. "Stop playing the fool. You yourself have sold me on your cleverness or have you been lying then? It doesn't matter. It is simple, you have done a job and as per agreement 50% go to the guild."
Sagishi held his mouth shut.
"Now, the real problem is that you took on the job without any consultation of the guild first, which I'm sure you remember was one of the rules I explained to you, not so long ago." He paused looking Sagishi up and down. "But I tell you something. I'll give you yet another chance, because I honestly do believe that you'll be able to do great things for... with this guild. But I can't of course let you go unpunished, so I say, this time the guild gets the 100% cut. I'm sure that will please the boys and tomorrow that ridiculous statue will go on its journey without you by its side. Understood?"
Sagishi took a deep breath before saying his next words. "100% cut from what, exactly?"
This time the old guild master had a harder time hiding his anger.
"I thought I told you not to play dumb with me. It does not benefit the position you are in, trust me."
"No, seriously, I don't know what you are talking about?"
"The fucking price money, you little imbecile. Hand it over now." The icy wind didn't slither but cut through the air now.
Sagishi's heart was racing and he was wondering if the man before him could hear it too. "But I don't have that anymore. Ser Ludwig, that's the...," he stopped to think about the most appropriate term. "... the gentleman with the long neck, he suggested that we should pool our money together so that should the need for expenses arise on our journey we..."
"I'm not putting up with this nonsense any longer, I gave you a fair chance, but fine. Ulf! Bak! Get in here!" Gerion had only finished the order for two seconds before the door to the backroom opened and his two goons enter. He gestured from them to Sagishi. "Get the purse."
Sagishi didn't even have a second to brace himself before large hands started patting him down roughly. The turned out every single one of his dozens of pockets, piling the various items they discovered on the small table but even after a good three minutes of rummaging the purse didn't show up. Sagishi watched Gerion's face grow darker and darker as the search continues to bare no fruits. Finally Ulf and Bak stopped and looked at Gerion questioningly.
"You said you had your eyes on him the entire time." If there ever bad been a hint of pleasantness in Gerion's voice of had been completely vanished now.
"We had!" Bak or Ulf said.
They hadn't, but Sagishi was not about to point that out.
"Watched him the whole time. Did a lot of shopping, he did." This time it was Ulf or Bak that spoke.
Gerion turned his attention back to Sagishi. "Where is it?"
"I told you, all the money has been pooled. I only got a few coins to buy some gear I needed. Believe me I didn't like it either, but I couldn't be the only one refusing, could I. Would have looked suspicious."
"I don't believe you one fucking second boy. You tell me where that money is right now!"
Sagishi just shook his head. "I told you. That J'raffa creature is looking after it. We... the others figured that it would be safest with him because no one would dare attacking him and..."
"Shut up! This was your last chance. Since you have decided to be uncooperative I fear we have to make use of more drastic means." Gerion turned to Ulf and Bak. "You two, go down to the Fiddler and fetch Eiko." He turned back to Sagishi. "I don't think you have met this particular gentleman yet but let me assure you that he'll get the whereabouts of that money out of you in a matter of minutes. So I'm gonna ask you one more time, because I'm feeling generous, what did you do to that money?"
But Sagishi only shook his head in response looking genuinely sorry.
"So be it." With a wave of his bony hand he dismissed Ulf and Bak.
For a few minutes they waited in silence, Sagishi doing his best to discover new interesting things about his feet. When he thought he had waited long enough he turned to Gerion once more.
"Look Boss, I know this whole situation looks bad but there really isn't anything that can be done. Unless of course you'll want to attack the entire convoy and somehow manage to get it from the J'raffa. But let's face it, that would be stupid."
Gerion didn't answer and Sagishi carefully leaned forward a little closer meeting the man's stare.
"But don't you see what kind of opportunity has opened up here for me, for you, for us? The money might be out of reach for now, this sucks but there isn't anything we can do about this now. But within a couple of weeks journey I'll be at the King's court."
He leaned forward even more, looking the guild master deep in the eyes.
"Just think about all the information I could gather. If I join that delegation I'll be able to roam around the court freely. I can make plans of the interior layouts, observe the security measures..."
A sparkle seemed to spread in Sagishi's eyes. The specks of silver in his otherwise ice blue eyes grew larger and larger until his eyes seemed to glow ever so slightly.
"Can't you see. Even if our own guild might not use the information I'm sure there is more than one organization out there that would love to do so and they'll happily pay us for the information."
Sagishi's voice was soothing and calm, his eyes emitting nothing but generous kindness. He smiled widely.
"Can't you see the possibilities?"
Gerion's eyes glazed over and he nodded slowly.
Ulf and Bak were more than a little surprised when they returned with a disgruntled Eiko who hadn't enjoyed being called away from his beer, to find Gerion and Sagishi coming out of the backroom, the guild master having his arm around the younger man's shoulders amicably. "I knew right the first time I saw you. 'This one', I thought to myself, 'This one will make it far'. I'll always had a nose for potential. And I smell a lot of potential in you boy."
"Oh, you'll not regret it. I promise. You can absolutely count on me."
He turned to the puzzled muscle men and smiled before leaving the tavern. He casually strolled through several streets, making sure that no one was following him, before he dug into an alley and started to run as fast as his feet could carry him.
First he circled back to the street where he'd hidden the purse, squeezed behind a display of empty wine barrels. His gamble had paid of and the purse was still where he had left it. After making sure he'd tucked it away safe and sound he hurried down the now empty streets to the southern part of time. He figured that he had less than an hour before Gerion returned to his senses and realized the stunt Sagishi had pulled on him. It wouldn't be long before more or less any criminal in town would be looking for him. He cursed under his breath. How did he always end up in these situations?
After ten minutes of steady running, Sagishi reached the "Fox and Goose". Squeezed between to larger houses the little tavern seemed like a careless afterthought to the already haphazard architectural design of this part of the town. It was small, shabby and Margretta the innkeeper might just be the worst cook that Sagishi has ever encountered, himself included, but rooming was cheap and Magretta didn't ask questions and was not too strict when it came to ever growing tabs. Though in truth Sagishi had simply liked the name and would have still chosen it under even less favorable conditions.
Margretta was already more or less asleep on the counter when Sagishi burst through through the door. She mumbled something about stew but he didn't paid her any attention and instead sped up the stairs to the minuscule chamber he had been living in since coming to Remdormo. It was barely bigger than a square meter and hadn't any furniture or window. All that was currently in it was his traveling sack and his spare cloak, spread across the floor as a makeshift bedroll.
Sagishi hastily rolled up the cloak and gathered the rest of his belongings before rushing down the stairs again. Margretta was still snoring lightly and Sagishi was already half through the door when he returned and fumbled a few gold pieces from his purse, placing them under the woman's tankard. Horrendous cooking aside, Margretta had treated him fairly and he'd feel bad not to pay what he was owning her. She didn't wake up and seconds later Sagishi was out the door again, vanishing in the dark streets of nightly Remdormo.
All that had been left was to find a proper hiding place in close proximity to the central square, so that he could spot when the rest of the delegation arrived and he could seek refuge in the group. After some looking around he finally found a small cranny between two houses and, looking over his shoulder constantly, he pushed his things inside before, with one final assurance that no one was around, he slipped in himself, curling up on the travel pack and watching the dark streets outside vigilantly, waiting for morning to come quickly.
Lost in his thoughts Sagishi only realizes that it is his turn to say something when Nyx holds out a cup of wine to him and the rest looks at him expectantly. He takes the cup and drinks thankfully trying to recall any of the conversation that had just taken place. Had that child really said he was a god? Surely he must have misunderstood that? When the cup is half emptied, Sagishi stops and looks around.
"How I came to Remdormo?" He looks in his cup and for a moment a distant look appears on his face before he finally says, " Nothing less than mankind's greatest incentive! Love." He smiles enigmatically before emptying the rest of the cup. He burps and follows it up with a long yawn. "You have to excuse me my friends. I fear my night was shorter than I would have liked." He settles down in the cart kicks up his feet, crosses his arms behind his head and only seconds later snoozes peacefully.
He wakes up shortly as they meet the patrolling guards but old habit had him keep his head down and when the cart keeps rolling again he listens to the others talk until he falls asleep again.
As the day begins to near its end, Nyx and what Oneiroi are visible near the horizon are consumed by the fire of sunset colors as the sun moves toward the horizon. The woods seen from the outset are closer now, though not so close anyone can make out individual trees. A slender structure stands beside the road down the way and pierces the sky.
“Th’Allgods spire as good a place as any t’make camp fer th’night,” Barrow announces.
The structure turns out to be an obelisk that stands two men tall, made of some sort metal with a black luster with countless characters of an unknown language carved into its surface. Despite its constant exposure to the elements, the obelisk is devoid of tarnish and seems to be relatively polished. Scattered about the base are all manners of religious and worshipful paraphernalia; candles, makeshift shrines, recognizable icons of all manners of gods, and many more that are not--presumably belonging to practitioners of the regional fringe faiths that venerate the personification of one or more of the Oneiroi moons.
It seems that in the inability to determine the purpose of the object, faiths all over Telmur have ascribed their own to it.
The other members of the caravan disembark their vehicles and makes ready for the night. Barrow gets a strong fire burning in a circle of stones and begins gleefully stripping the decorations that have desecrated his wagon and heaping them into the flames. His gleaming eyes reflect the light of the burning crepe paper as he rubs his hands together and chuckles in satisfaction.
Apparently someone in Remdormo--maybe Whimsley, but more likely Hulna--had the presence of mind to send the delegation with provisions for their trip, and sacks of food and canteens of water make their way through the group. The flames leap into a night sky illuminated by rippling auroras and glowing moons. The presence of Nyx is discernable only for the absence of the stars it obscures, and Somnus’s own satellite, Pasithea, is a purple orb hanging above the southeastern horizon.
It is a quiet, peaceful night.
After the camp is properly established and everyone else is settling in, he strolls toward the unusual obelisk, taking stock of the various religious relics surrounding it to see if he recognizes anything of interest (in particular, which gods are represented among them).
Religion roll:  + 2 = 14
He stops directly in front of the Obelisk and stares intently at the mysterious words carved into it. A beat passes, and he frowns. It appears that this, much like everything else he was trying to relearn, would take some effort.
Keranos takes a deep breath and presses the palm of his hand against the smooth surface, focusing intently on the passage in an attempt to discern its meaning.
((Cast Comprehend Languages))
It isn't long until Keranos steps into the visual plane he is drawing from. At first Fhiess waits until the child moves away, but Keranos begins to take on a saddening reaction to the altar. He quickly directs his sketching to include a contour of a figure with a palm against the obelisk, only including a marginal hint of the person's identity in the rough shapes.
The offerings of the worshippers of the Oneiroi are more varied; no deity is represented by more than two such displays, and only a few of them are familiar to Keranos. Those that are would be minor gods and goddesses of no particular significance to him that he can presently recall.
Keranos: Anything associated with Talos is notably absent.
When he rests his hand on the surface of the obelisk, he finds it smooth and chill to the touch.
Keranos: Each face of the obelisk indicates the name, distance, and direction of words that have no meaning to you. They are presumably the names of cities, though they do not correlate to any you know of. The words below that are apparently the text of various statutes and laws regarding travel and commerce dictating maximum weight loads and wagon lengths and such. It’s dry stuff.
He follows along as the boy and the elf go and check out the strange stone structure. The symbols mean nothing to him an so he scans the various remains of worship for something valuable or useful.
Perception: 1D20+4 = +4 = 23
((If he finds something he'll pick it up.))
He then turns to the elf and standing on the tips if his toes he tries spying over the young man's shoulders to catch a glimpse of the sketch.
"That looks really good. I hope we'll also get a taste of your musical skills soon. Nothing better than a nice campfire and some music."
His curiosity sated, Keranos wanders off the beaten path. He finds a quiet clearing where the campfire is still visible in the distance, and looks up to the sky. Impossibly high above him, the two colorful satellites stare back, and Keranos is filled with a mixture of wonder and longing.
How long had it been since he had ruled alongside those mighty giants? Millennia, certainly; but beyond that, he could not say with any degree of specificity. In truth, the gaps in his memory troubled him far more than he let on.
He remembered nothing of his time in seclusion. This might be explained away by the foul magicks that had imprisoned him, but what of the time that came before that? No matter how hard he tapped into the reserves of his memory, there yet seemed to be an impenetrable haze surrounding those golden years.
He pushed those thoughts from his mind and focused on the crickets. In times of strife, the simple, rhythmic sounds of nature - a steady breeze, the pitter-patter of a rainfall, the rustling of leaves - were calming to him. They always had been; that much, he could remember.
"You will pay for your treachery, Talos," he whispers to himself. He finds that the words carried more self-pity than they did a desire for vengeance. He is not sure what to make of that.
As more flames from the distant campsite wink out of existence, Keranos decides that it's time to get back to the others. He removes his armor and finds a spare bed of straw. He spreads himself out and drifts off. His final thoughts are of the moon - the last thing he sees before closing his eyes.
A little later, the obelisk surrounded by shrines and tributes to assorted deities gets his attention. He waits for Keranos to finish examining it before going over. Towering over the obelisk, Ludwig is more interested in the assorted altars and tributes around it than the obelisk itself. Ludwig rummages through his bag and produces a small, wooden statuette of a yellow snake angrily looking towards the sky. Carved in the base of the statuette is a phrase in Baglahm Common.
Draconic: Don't tread on me
"Good! Now the free market has a place in the religious mind share." Content with his contribution to the religious items around the obelisk, Ludwig returns to the camp. After grazing some of the nearby, tastier looking trees, he will remove his armor and find a place to sleep for the night.