Thursday, July 10, 2014

PBM: Chapter 2: Handle With Care: Part 12

In which the party learns some things about their affliction, and Frantiska leaves...

Hrud
Despite the language barrier, Hrud is very familiar with the tone and volume being used by Dawn-of-Man. It is unwelcome, and very unlike any behavior the man had exhibited up to this point. Hrud didn’t like it. He especially didn’t like how he’d kicked Teldicia and made Lyra cry. Walking up to the bard, the barbarian taps him on the shoulder and, right as he turns around, lets fly with a punch …

Donovan
Donovan doesn’t even flinch as Hrud’s fist comes within inches of his cheek. “Barbarous fool! What did you think to accomplish by such nonsense. Did you really think you could harm a being of my stature?!”

Lyra
Lyra shakes Rant awake so he can speak with Hrud and keep the situation from escalating further.

Hrud
Hrud stares at his fist – then at Donovan – then back at his fist, unable to comprehend how he could have missed. His frustration deepening, as much at his failure to land the blow as Donvan’s continued blustering, Hrud reaches down and, in a reverse grip that keeps the blade downward while still making use of the shell guard, draws the Fang of Mace.

GM
Brother Rant is awakened by Lyra’s initial screams, but lies on the ground with his eyes open for some time, watching the teleportations, the shaking of clothes, the shrieking, the crying, Teldicia’s display of telekinetic prowess, and, most importantly, Donovan’s sudden and strange change in behavior. So long as his current charge, Amara, is safe, he seems generally content to leave the others to their own, often bizarre, devices. Seeing Hrud drawing a weapon, however, he decides that is is probably worthwhile to step in. He stands, pats Lyra on the shoulder, “Donovan is clearly disturbed in some way, do not take it personally”, then calmly walks over to stand beside Hrud. “Aja kenek Donovan karo gedhe pasukan. Piyambakipun sampun cetha ical gendheng. Aku pracaya kita duwe tool kanggo ngobati wong, yen sampeyan ana ati mung incapacitate Dèkné,” he says firmly.

Hrud
“«Fine.»” Hrud replies, “«But he is acting like a githbash».” And with that the barbarian, reaches out with his free hand, grabs the bloviating bard by the collar, and swings – pulling his punch so as not to do any permanent damage, though not as much as Donovan would hope for.

Donovan
Donovan stands firm, confident that no mere barbarian could strike him through the impenetrable magical barrier he had woven. Sadly, the magical barrier was only in his mind. The metal hilt connecting with his jaw was not a pleasant experience…for the two seconds that he was awake to register the pain. Luckily he slipped into almost immediate unconsciousness, crumpling to the ground.

Lyra
Lyra takes a few deep breaths and tucks a stray lock of wet hair back behind her ear as she asks, “Donovan will be ok, won’t he?” With not much else she can do to assist, Lyra goes back to keeping an eye on the swamp, and looking out for more leeches encroaching on the camp.

GM
Rant nods to Hrud, then walks over to Donovan’s bedroll and takes a long, silver rod out of Donovan’s pack. “He’ll be fine Lyra.” He rolls Donovan onto his back, then presses the end-cap of the rod, which is shaped like an open hand, against his forehead.

Donovan
Donovan blinks and looks up confusedly. He wipes the drizzling rain from his face, and can just make out Rant’s face in the flickering firelight. “Rant? Why am I wet?” he asks. Not really waiting for a response, he hauls himself to his feet, looks around surprisedly at the lack of random colors dancing across his vision—though really, he kindof wonders what the sounds of falling rain looks like—then yawns and wanders back over to his bedroll. “Must have rolled off my pallet…Thanks Rant…” he says sleepily. Within moments he is snoring peacefully.

GM
While it takes some time for the rest of you, especially Lyra, to calm down after the incident with the leeches, the remainder of the night passes relatively uneventfully. The rain maintains a steady mist until just before dawn, when it is replaced by a light fog.

Bo
Bo stretches from the stump he sat on during the last watch. “Great night’s sleep. Uneventful watch. It’s nice travelling in a large group. You got any more of that cheese?”

He checks the cart for loose pegs/bolts/axles/etc.

Lyra
Lyra seems unusually sluggish and irritable as she checks over her sleeping bag, blanket, and clothes for leeches before putting her things up in the wagon. She becomes slightly anxious and restless just after dawn, and after eating breakfast in sullen silence, she curls up in the back of the wagon wedged between the chariot and Brother Rant’s usual spot.

Yamtwit
Yamtwit finishes clarifying the butter and pours the liquid off into a skin, collecting about 6 ouces worth of the finished product. He then curls up with Rast and falls into a deep slumber, waking up just before dawn, slightly more red-eyed than usual from staying up so late. He prays for a few minutes, then goes and begins unloading foodstuffs from the wagon to make breakfast. He grabs a chunk of cheese, some rice, sausages, eggs, and a tomato. He scoops up some water in his pot, stokes up a fire to bring it to a boil, then cooks the rice. While the rice is cooking, he waves his hands over the tomato and it immediately grows to twice its original size. He grabs the group’s pot from the wagon, and chops up the sausages and giant tomato into it, cooking them together on a corner of the fire. When the rice is fluffy, he pours the foam from the clarified butter over the top of it and cracks the eggs into the pot, stir-frying the mixture. He pours the sausage and tomato mixture into the rice and tops it with the wolf-milk cheese. “Breakfast, anyone?”

Donovan / Winona
Donovan yawns, stretches, and wakes up feeling better than he has in days, despite the dampness. “Good morning everyone!” he says. Hearing Yamtwit’s call for breakfast, he happily helps himself to the sausage and cheese fried rice. He sits back on his bedroll and scarfs the food while staring at the spellbook open across his lap. As he finishes eating he looks up to notice everyone looking at him warily and Teldicia practically glaring at him. “What?” he asks incredulously.

The two Sisters both wake up early also. They clean off the step on the back of the wagon and set up a small, makeshift shrine there, laying out a small white cloth embroidered with Tyr’s symbol (by Sister Ryesha of course), and setting up a small silver merchant’s scale on it. Brother Rant returns the rod of health, to Donovan without a word, then joins them. The three hold a short service—a prayer by Rant, a canticle in three parts, a recitation of the Laws of Hospitality of the Road from memory by Winona (as the most senior cleric present, since none of the three can afford a printed copy), and a final prayer squeaked out by Rye—before helping themselves to breakfast. As they eat, they discuss what blessings they should ask of Tyr for the road ahead.

GM
As you finish your breakfast and make preparations to resume your journey, you see a small, mounted band of men riding out of the swamp to the east. They are at least a half-mile down the road at the point where they exit the thicker vegetation, but the unmistakable glint of steel in the early morning light draws you eyes.

Lyra
Lyra rubs her eyes, sets Rant and Donovan’s loaded crossbows on the end of the wagon, then stands up, stretches, and strings her bow.

Bo
“Are there normally human patrols in these areas?”

Donovan
Donovan finishes reading and shoves his spellbook back into his bag. “Sometimes,” he answers, rising. “Some priests of Helm the Vigilant maintain an outpost in the swamps, presumably to keep the road between Phlan and Melvaunt safe, so it would make sense for them to send out patrols. Speaking of which, if we get moving quickly, we might be able to make it to Iniarv’s tower by nightfall and not have to sleep on the wet ground.” He climbs into the back of the wagon.

Hrud
Hrud finishes packing up his small collection of belongings and hops up into the driver’s bench, “«Road must be clear, if those men have come through. Let’s not waste the opportunity».”

GM
Hrud deftly guides the wagon back onto the road, the other animals and their riders falling in behind. The road is slick from last night’s rains, but does not seem to bother the oxen or the wide-wheeled wagon. As you near the tree-line of the deeper swamp, the wagon begins to bump, and you notice that the road has been overlaid with split logs as a crude form of paving, becoming almost a boardwalk. You cross paths with the armored riders about fifteen minutes after leaving camp. The five of them are clad in plate. Three of them have swords and shields strapped to their saddles, and short bows out (though not drawn or threatening). The other two wear the gold tabards and tall, sky-blue crests on their helms marking them as warrior priests of Helm of the Unsleeping Eye, with large two-handed swords strapped across their backs. The priest riding in the lead holds up a hand for their band to stop, then signals for you to do likewise.

Hrud
Hrud slows the wagon to a stop and nods at the armed and armored men, but otherwise says nothing.

Lyra
Lyra smooths her skirt and holds her bow primly across her lap.

Winona
Sister Winona, mounted on Thistledown, rides ahead of the wagon and greets the priest. “Heya Watchy! How’re things in the swamp?”

GM
The priest’s go wide at being addressed in such a fashion. He sits quietly for some time, his cheeks flushed, a vein pulsing on his forehead, leveling an icy glare at Winona, then finally answers through gritted teeth in a a level, monotonous voice. “The road ahead is clear for some miles, Lady Lawkeeper.” He lowers his head in a formal half-bow, and holds it for an awkwardly long time (especially considering the great weight of his armor and helm), as if waiting for Winona to pay him the same courtesy. When he rises, there is another moment of long silence before he continues in a similarly cold tone, “The Scything Claws have been unusually active of late. Be on your guard if you make camp in the swamp.” He nods again, “Lady Lawkeeper,” then snaps the reins of his horse harshly, causing it to speed off down the road. The others of his band sit their in surprise for a few seconds, then ride after him.

Hrud
Assuming it was all some formality between cityfolk, Hrud shrugs and snaps the reigns, prompting the wagon down the road and into the swamp.

Winona / Donovan
Winona shrugs as the stuffy Helmite rides off then turns the horse to follow the wagon.

Donovan leans over and whispers to Lyra, “Remind me to not let her make first contact with potentially friendly parties again…”

Lyra
Lyra’s eyes follow the group as they become visible as they ride past the wagon. “Unless someone else is riding in front and can intercept them first, I don’t see how we have much choice in the matter.”

Yamtwit
Yamtwit, riding close behind the wagon, pipes up. “I can take care of the negotiations, Whitehead. Rast and I have lots of experience at dealing with stuffy-nosed, close-pursed priests who can’t take a joke and don’t appreciate good cheese…”

GM
The ride through the swamp is slow-going, but uneventful. The road is well-maintained, clear of debris, and reinforced with wooden slats in the worst sections. Swarms of biting flies and mosquitoes buzz about, but seem more inclined to assault your livestock, which are sweating and breathing heavily with the strain of hauling your goods, than the party. Hrud points out several unusual tracks in the thick mud on the side of the road as you ride past, but you see no other signs of the creatures that made them. By the time you break for lunch, the heat and humidity have become downright oppressive. Shortly after midday it begins raining again, granting you a brief respite from the heat, but turning the board-walk slick and further slowing the wagon. By early evening, as the sun begins sinking behind the hills to the west, you see a three-story, white-stone tower, surrounded by a wooden stockade on a raised hillock just off the road. Banners bearing the Eye of Helm fly at every corner of the wall and the tower, but hand limply in the damp air. The gates stand open towards the road, guarded by two men in armor and regalia similar to those you passed in the morning.

Frantiska
Late in the day, Frantiska begins to stir again in the back of the wagon. Over the span of an hour her eyes flutter a few times, she groans, moans, and then finally opens her eyes fully. She tries turning her head to look around and lets out another moan, more from a stiff neck from lying on the floor of the wagon for so long than from any of her injuries. She smacks her lips, her mouth and throat both feeling very dry, then seeing the back of a friendly head croaks, “Lyra?”

Lyra
Lyra almost jumps when she hears her name. “Frantiska! Do you need anything?” She placed a hand on a statue to steady herself as she stood up, her back and legs protesting the change in position.

Frantiska
Frantiska coughs, then grits her teeth at the pain from the sudden movement, she lies there for a moment, then replies. “No, I’m fine….I’m just glad to see that you are well.” She attempts a smile. “Where…are…we?” Her voice begins to sound a little stronger as she continues to speak. "How long have I been out?’

Lyra
Lyra smiles, glad to hear Frantiska’s voice again. “You’ve been mostly unconscious since before I returned near midday yesterday. We have been on the road through the swamp all day, and are nearing the Tower.”

Frantiska
Frantiska tries to sit up, then thinks better of it. “What tower?” Her eyes go wide, “Wait? It’s not that tower again, is it?”

Lyra
Lyra’s eyes widen, then she shakes her head. “Oh! No, it’s the temple to Helm inside the swamp between Phlan and Melvaunt. Ivan’s Tower? No, that’s not right….”

Donovan
Donovan turns around, surprised to see Frantiska conscious. “It’s Iniarv’s Tower, Lyra.” He moves over near Frantiska, “Glad to see you up. How are you feeling?”

Sister Rye checks the bandages on the elf woman’s legs, “You look like you’re healing well.” She blushes and squeaks, “Oh, I borrowed your cloak. I hope you don’t mind. It looked like the two of you were not getting along. I’m Ryesha by the way, I don’t think we’ve officially met.”

Frantiska
“I could certainly be better, Mr. Donovan.” Frantiska looks at the halfling girl and smiles, “Keep him, we really didn’t get along.” Feeling a cramp in her leg from lying still so long, she tries moving, only to find that it hurts worse than the cramp. “Is there anything to eat?”

Lyra
Lyra carefully picks her way past the chariot, around statues, and over sacks of coins to crouch next to the food crates. “Bread, some of it slightly smashed, dried fruit, nuts, sausage, lots of cheese, and some fresh tomatoes. What sounds good?”

Frantiska
“Some bread and cheese sounds fine.” Frantiska squints her eyes against the pain and tries to settle herself back down.

Yamtwit
Yamtwit looks at the tower and gulps, «I guess we volunteered, didn’t we Rast?» The big wolf lopes up to the gate, “Good evening my fine gents! I am Yamtwit Cheeseater. My caravan and I are looking for a dry place to bed down for the night. Might we impose upon the hospitality of your fine tower here?”

GM
The two guards shrug and motion for you to enter the walled compound, surprisingly unbothered at being addressed by a goblin. Aside from the tower, which looks large enough to house close to a hundred men, you see stables, a smithy, a well, and a couple of other outbuildings inside the compound. There do not appear to be many people about, aside from the two guards on the gate, you see two more by the doors of the tower, another on watch at the top of the tower, a couple of grooms tending about a dozen horses in the stables, and a page fetching water from the well.

Bo
Bo wonders if there is a decent cook in the compound, as he slips off the back of the wagon. He’s gauging the age of the construction, and keeping an eye out for any other non-humans. Bo is also on the lookout for anything of dwarf make or manufacture.

Hrud
Hrud parks the wagon near a stable – hopefully out of the way, as no one has complained yet – and tends to the oxen and his own steed. He eyes the stalls, making note of which one he should calls dibs on, depending on how the sleeping arrangements turn out.

GM
The tower looks old, perhaps dating back as far as the earliest days of Phlan, though the palisade looks new. The tower is in good repair, the surface white with a fresh coat of lime and the chinks in the wall having been recently re-mortared. While the stones were likely dwarf-quarried, the tower is clearly not of dwarven make. The stable is clean and looks like it has room for twice as many animals as are currently present, and the grooms quickly move to help Hrud unharness the animals, smiling and saying things that he clearly cannot understand. As everyone disembarks the wagon, a few more guards and servants, all human, come and go from the tower.

Yamtwit
Yamtwit, dismounts from the wolf, unties Bobbers from the back of the wagon and leads the donkey into one of the open stalls of the stable. «Stay here and be good Bobbers. Rast, keep an eye on her while I go inside and greet our hosts.» He takes the saddles off both animals and tries to set them over the wall of the stall. Finding it too high, he leaves them on the floor of the stall, pats Rast on the head, and walks out to find Hrud. “Eraka, badhe sampeyan kaya kanggo nggabungake kula ing nemokake wong ing daya?”

Hrud
Curious, Hrud starts to follow the goblin, stopping long enough to grab the warhammer from under the driver’s bench of the wagon and sliding into his belt, opposite the green broadsword.

GM
The guards at the door of the tower sidestep to interpose themselves when they see the goblin and the well-armed barbarian approaching. They eye the two of you warily, “Relinquish your weapons,” they ask, none too politely.

Yamtwit
Yamtwit translates for Hrud, “Sing njaga ngandika sing ngirim uncalan Pethel lan pedhang ing lemah.” He places his club carefully on the ground in front of him. “We’re here to see your boss!” he says cheerily.

Hrud
Hrud watches the Yamtwit, then – understanding dawning as the others turn to look at him – realizes how uncomfortable the thought of leaving his weapons makes him. Stepping up to the guard who spoke, the barbarian asks the goblin, “Carane iki siji disebut?”

GM
As Hrud and Yamtwit discuss what to do, the guards look at each other for a moment then one disappears through the doors. He returns less than a minute later with a square-jawed, chisel-featured man in his early 30’s, bedecked in a full, suit of plate armor, of the sort that even most knights on reserve for ceremonial or display purposes. The man nods at the two visitors, though the gesture manages to show all the formality of a full bow (a maneuver which seems nearly impossible given the armor), then at the party around the wagon behind them. “Welcome to Iniarv’s Tower,” he says stiffly. The guards visibly relax in his presence and the guard who waited by the door whispers something in his ear and he continues, “Eraka, yen teka ing tentrem, panjenengan olèh kene. Aku takon sing ninggalake senjata karo titian Nanging. Yen luwe, kita bakal nyetel mangan bengi ing rauh.”

He nods again to Hrud and Yamtwit, then walks over to greet the others by the wagon. Several more servants than you have seen to this point come out of the tower behind him, quickly busying themselves with hauling water and firewood into the tower.

Donovan
Donovan decides against bothering Frantiska any further and climbs down from the wagon. Seeing the knight come out of the tower, he walks over and offers his hand. “Pleased to meet you. I am Donovan Phillips Leitch, until recently official herald for the Council of New Phlan. My companions and I are en route to Melvaunt on some errands for the faculty of the New Phlan Public Training Hall. We would be quite pleased if you would allow us to impose on Helm’s hospitality for the night.” He makes a sweeping bow, then quickly makes the necessary introductions and bona fides with the clear, practiced voice of a professional herald and crier. “The goblin is Yamtwit Cheeseater, of the Scabeater tribe, purveyor of dairy goods. The tall man is Hrud of the Eraka. These,” he says waving towards the three Tyrran priests, “are Brother Rant Harmell, Sister Winona Mdewakanton, did I pronounce that right, and Sister Ryesha, all of the Temple of Tyr’s Waiting in New Phlan. The girl is Amara, niece of Professor Aumry of Umbar of the New Phlan Training Hall. The three maids of elvish lineage in the wagon are Miss Lyrathwen Beragaion, daughter of the Council Underclerk, Dame Frantiska Sykora, Moon Knight of Selune and Aglarond, and Teldicia. And the dwarf is Bo.” Wow, there are a lot of us. I hope I didn’t miss anyone, he thinks to himself. He stops for breath, then looks into the back of the wagon. “Also, if you have any healers about, the Lady Sykora could do with their attentions. We had a run-in with some gnashers on the road which went poorly for her.”

Hrud
Hrud, more content to leave his weapons in the wagon than hand them over to armed strangers, takes his sword and hammer to the wagon, where he tucks them under the driver’s bench and makes his way back to where the goblin is waiting.

Lyra
After giving Frantiska some cheese, bread, and a waterskin, Lyra slips back across the wagon when she hears Donovan’s introductions.

Seeing Hrud leave his weapons in the wagon, Lyra leaves her sword near the bows, then carefully removes a dagger from each boot before stepping down from the wagon and greeting the Helmsman with a proper curtsy.

GM
The knight nods again, “Sir Justin Melenikus, at your service sirs and madams.” He turns back to the guards, “Watchers, there is a wounded woman in the wagon, please see that she is conveyed carefully to the chapel.” The two guards snap to attention, run inside, and return with a stretcher. Rant and Teldicia help them navigate the mess in the back of the wagon, and then remove Frantiska into the tower. “Our cooks are preparing dinner as we speak. I’ve already asked them to put a couple of extra kettles on. Our fare here is simple, but you are welcome to it.” Sir Justin pivots stiffly and walks into the tower, gesturing for you to follow.

Yamtwit / Frantiska
Yamtwit scurries off to the kitchens and begins expounding to the cook on how his dishes “don’t have nearly enough butter!” He manages to resell a block of cheese, which technically belongs to Donovan but he bought so much he won’t notice, then joins the others in the big hall on the second floor of the tower to eat. After dinner, he takes a bowl of stew and hunks of bread and cheese down for Rast. Then curls up on a pile of dry straw in the barn next to Rast and Bobbers to sleep.

Frantiska takes her meal in a room off the chapel which serves as an infirmary. She welcomes the priests’ care, but is disappointed to learn that they lack the power to heal her legs outright.

Bo
Bo explores the tower, inside and out, during the day, noting architecture and relative age of each building, wing, what-have-you.

At night he prepares to explore the cellars for anything forgotten and tucked away. It is truly an information gathering search only. If anything catching his attention was found, he would bring it up the next day.

GM
The tower is a white-washed, four-story, barrel-shaped, stone structure, with a conical roof, more than a century old but well maintained. The ground floor is a single room, used entirely for storage, with boxes and crates of supplies neatly piled against the walls. A wooden staircase in the back goes up to the second floor, then continues on to the upper floors in a series of switchbacks and landings. Each floor has a heavy wooden trapdoor that can be lowered over the opening to the stairwell, and the staircase itself appears to have been designed to be easily collapsible with a couple quick blows of an axe to a single support beam. The second floor is also a single room, a great hall dominated by a large table and fireplace, where the majority of the residents live, eat, and sleep, along with a number of big, red-furred hunting dogs (and where you are encouraged to spread your bedrolls after supper). The third floor includes a fair-sized chapel dedicated to Helm, with four side-rooms—Sir Justin’s private quarters (which doubles as an office/meeting room), two rooms which serve as dormitories for the twelve priests in residence, and combination armory and infirmary. The fourth floor is again, a single room, with eight broad windows (the only windows in the structure), and a large swivel-mounted ballista in the center. Thirty-nine men live and work in the tower: twelve priest of Helm, twelve guards, fourteen servants (grooms, pages, cooks, and a smith), and Sir Justin.

The compound is perhaps half an acre in total, surrounded by a wooden palisade made from water-resistant beetlebung trees harvested from the surrounding swamp. There are five wooden outbuildings: two large stables with room for fourty horses (with twenty-three present, not counting your own, including one impressively large destrier), a kitchen, a smithy, and the wellhouse. The kitchen and smithy are positioned half-way between the wall and the tower and opposite the stables to avoid fire spreading—and judging by the newness of their apparent construction and the blackening of the ground around them fires are something that happens relatively often.

Winona
Seeing Bo staring at the walls in a way that seems more meaningful than sheer boredom, Winona and Rye wander over in his direction. “Hey Beau, what’s so interesting?” Winona inquires.

Bo
“Not too bad for a human-built structure. Dwarf-made would have prevented those wall from chinking in the first place. The defenses are laudable, though I’d like to have murder holes to pour oil on the enemy…which you can then light. However, for an overnight stay, I’d feel relatively safe. Unfortunately there don’t seem to be any artefacts kept herein. I guess that would be too convenient for my purposes.”

Hrud
Hrud stands around awkwardly, not sure what to do or where to go now that he’s inside the building – and feeling naked without his weapons. Hopefully, this tower wouldn’t be as dark and soggy as the last one.

Winona
Winona nods along as he talks about chinking and murder holes, though it is hard to tell whether her interest is actually genuine. “What sort of artifacts are you looking for, Beau?” She looks around for the others. She notes Donovan and the girls heading upstairs, Yamtwit heading outside, Rant sitting in a corner lecturing Rye on the legal definitions of personhood and whether it is possible to ‘own’ a sentient object (glad I don’t have to deal with that, she thinks), and Hrud standing around looking bemused. “Say Beau, any chance you speak barbarian?”

Bo
“I don’t speak barbarian, but I believe I heard the barbarian speak dwarfish. Do you need to communicate with him?”

Winona
“Not particularly, I just hate to see someone looking so out of place.” Winona shrugs and walks over to Hrud, putting a, still heavily mail-clad, arm through his and leading him to one of the big tables. She pulls out a set of dice and some coins and pantomimes rolling them. “Care for a game Beau?”

Bo
“Count me in.”

To Hrud: “De dame wil dobbelstenen. Kom bij de groep.”

Hrud
Hrud, comprehending the Winona’s actions, pulls 10 silver pieces from this belt pouch and sets them on the table before him. When the dwarf speaks to him, however, the barbarian can only reply to Bo’s comment with a confused look.

When Yamtwit wanders by, Hrud nudges him and says, “Aku ora bisa ngerti marang tanpa Pethel”

Bo
“Heh. The barbarian talked to me in perfectly accented Dwarvish when he first stumbled upon me. Looks like he gets the gist, regardless.”

Lyra
After dinner, Lyra rather hesitantly approaches Donovan. Her voice is quiet, and after initially getting his attention her eyes are rather fixed on her shoes. “I … I think something’s wrong. With me, I mean. The headaches are getting worse, and my powers are growing.” She wraps her arms around herself, though there is no chill this close to the fireplace. “Some of the things I can do now are … rather terrible. There are reasons I haven’t honed some of my talents. I didn’t want to admit it, but I’m scared. Both of this power, and what I might become were I to try and wield it.”

Donovan
“I’ve been a bit worried about that too. Yesterday I had the strange experience of somehow seeing sounds, like every tone, from the wagon wheels to Yamtwit’s barking had a color associated with it. Teldicia has been complaining too. Something has clearly been very wrong with all of us since we looted that tower. I haven’t had any headaches today, and the hallucinations seem to have stopped, but I can’t remember anything that might have changed what was happening to me specifically. " Donovan stands and heads for the stairs. “Come on…I’ve been curious about Frantiska’s running off and getting trampled the other day as well.” He taps Teldicia on the shoulder as he goes by, then hurries up to the chapel. “I don’t know what’s going on Lyra, but I trust you, perhaps more than anyone else here. We need you to trust yourself, since you’re the only one who might be able to teach the rest of us to control these abilities that have suddenly been thrust on us…”

Frantiska
“Oh good,” Frantiska says through the pain of recently broken ribs when she sees Lyra and Donovan come in, “I need to talk to you two.” She shoves herself to a sitting position, wincing. “Sir Justin has offered to allow me to remain here while I recuperate and I intend to take him up on the offer. In this state I am only a burden to you. I know you do not owe me anything, but I have a few small requests before you leave for Melvaunt.” She coughs, sits recovering her breath for a few minutes, then continues. “You will find a red candle in Thistledown’s saddlebags. A gift for Amara’s grandmother. Please make absolutely certain that it is delivered, and that the candle is lit before you leave the girl alone with the old woman.” Something in her eyes tells you there is more to that story, but she doesn’t expound. “Also, please have my gear brought up and have Thistledown stabled below. I’ll catch up with you as soon as I am well enough to stay in the saddle…”

Lyra
Lyra’s brow furrowed in confusion at Frantiska’s statement about the candle, then her eyes widened as she remembered Professor Aumry saying Amara was dangerous. Surely it was only to protect Amara from any illness that might spread?

Then the rest of what she was saying hit her. Frantiska was leaving. Or more precisely, asking them to leave her.

“It’s no trouble, truly!” Lyra’s voice cracked mid-sentence, and it was all she could do to hold back tears.

Donovan
“Red candle huh?” Donovan sits on the edge of the bed. “Frantiska, I know you’ve been unconscious for a while, but how are your headaches been doing? Aside from the headaches have you experienced anything…unusual? Visions? Hallucinations? This might not be the best time, but something weird, and probably much more sinister than ‘psionic static’, is going on with all of us. I brought Lyra and Teldicia up because I think we need to hash this out as quickly as possible before something horrible happens…”

Frantiska
“Yes, Mr. Donovan, I have been seeing things. Before I rode off yesterday, I saw white sparks or starbursts, which moved and congregated around Lyra, then Teldicia, then Hrud, as if I could see who in our group had power. I have no desire to explore that further.” Frantiska rubs her eyes. "I’m tired Donovan, and other than the risk of mental intrusion, which I believe we have already hashed out these strange senses we are exhibiting do not appear to pose any risk.

Lyra
Something about what Frantiska said bothered Lyra even more than her inflection when speaking of mental intrusion. “You said Teldicia and Hrud. What about Donovan?”

Frantiska
“As far as I can tell, Donovan was clean.” Frantiska opens her eyes again and a look of intense concentration comes over her face, “Seems to be so now as well…”

Donovan
“So what happened to me yesterday, and what made it stop?” Donovan sits thinking for some minutes, then, “Lyra…can you attempt to contact me again?”

Lyra
Lyra shifts uncomfortably and avoids looking at Donovan, not liking one bit where this was going. “Are you sure?” Waiting for Donovan’s assent, she closes her eyes and concentrates.

Frantiska
Frantiska watches closely as Lyra’s eyes close, holding her temples against the headache accompanying the sparkling motes that dance before her eyes. She watches as a stream of them seem to drift from Lyra and settle about Donovan. “There it is…” she says, blinking her eyes to clear the strange visions, “it certainly looks like the thing is spread by Lyra. Donovan? Any hallucinations or visions to confirm?”

Donovan
Donovan cries out as the headache returns full-force. “Yes,” he squawks. He watches fascinated as his own words seems to come out of his mouth as a spikey, dark-red cloud. He can’t help but be fascinated at the myriad of colors floating up the stairs from the people talking, eating, and working below. He sits for a while, eyes shut tight. Yes, he thinks to Lyra, mental contact with you is clearly the trigger. You can look through other people’s eyes right? You should see this…

Frantiska
“So,” Frantiska suddenly looks much more interested, “what happened to you between when I passed out and when you woke up this morning that didn’t happen to me, or Teldicia, or Lyra, or Hrud? Or since the last time Lyra attempted to contact you? What made it stop?”

Lyra
I’ve hardly slept, and if I lose focus, if I can’t control my new abilities, I might hurt you. I can’t risk that. Lyra breaks the mental connection abruptly, sinking to the floor and wrapping her arms around her shins, rocking slightly.

“Donovan was behaving erratically when he woke up after I found the psychic leeches last night.” She looks at Donovan, her chin resting on her knees. Do you remember anything of what happened before Brother Rant healed you?"

Donovan
“Brother Rant healed me?” Donovan looks genuinely confused. “How? Why?”

Lyra
Lyra fidgeted with the hem of her dress. “You … you were shouting at everyone and acting imperious and tried to kick Teldicia. He used the rod on you after Hrud tried to knock you out.”

Donovan
“The rod?!” Donovan practically yells, then kindof zones out as he watches the long, bright word bouncing off the walls. “Excellent. So, whatever this is, we have a way to get rid of it…and reinstate it. So now we just need to figure out how to control it…” He rubs his temples, “But given that this headache is back…that might be something to leave for tomorrow.” He stands and heads for the stairs, “I’m going to go find the quietest place I can and try to get some sleep.”

Frantiska
Frantiska nods, “Yes please. Also, can you bring that rod by before you all leave? I would rather not be stuck with the headaches for however long it takes you to return from Melvaunt.”

Lyra
Lyra squeezed her eyes shut and rested her head on her knees until the pain passed, or at least seemed to dull slightly with familiarity. She rose and smoothed her skirt. “«Rest well.»”

After settling in near the Sisters, Lyra awoke with a start and hazy memories of running up a seemingly endless staircase. Frantiska at the top of the tower like some storybook princess, to be rescued before the tower filled with rushing black water with the looming threat of the dragon’s return. It was both Iniarv’s Tower and the weir tower, yet neither.


Lyra lay on her bedroll for some time, consciously controlling her breathing until her heart stopped racing.