Saus

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Re: Saus

Postby Graybeard » December 8th, 2008, 7:59 pm

"Many things, and not many of them good," Sister Rose replied. "On the good side, the Tsuirakuans decided to re-open the warp gate. I don't know what you two found, but it apparently convinced them there wasn't a problem. I gated in last night with no trouble. Also, I suppose it's good that Brother Farley and his battlemage now definitely constitute an Item. He's been walking around the mission with a big grin on his face ...

"The rest of the news is not so cheerful. The city is still up in arms about the dead battlemage. You probably heard that they brought in a couple of high-powered investigators from Tsuirakushiti. From what I understand, they've definitely come to the conclusion that the killers have fled, but they still don't know where. They're being stand-offish about the investigation, so it's good that we have ... contacts. Kristi told Brother Farley that they've got evidence that at least one of the bad guys came from the Southern Continent, and for all they know, may have gone back there. They're beginning to think they may never solve that, which doesn't make the townsfolk happy at all."

"I can imagine," Brother Miguel said. He wasn't thrilled about the Southern Continent news; it reawakened his bruja concerns. But he was a long way from there now... "How are preparations for the Cardinal Inquisitor going?"

"I was just getting to that, and here's where the news gets very bad indeed," Rose said. "Incredibly bad.

"One of the Tsuirakuan investigators got the idea that there might be a connection between the dead battlemage and the disappearance of Father Egbert, for Luminosita alone knows what reason. Sister Margaret decided -- I can't imagine why -- to let this guy have a look at Father Egbert's quarters."

"Ouch. I can imagine any number of ways that might turn out badly," Miguel winced.

"Yes," Rose said, "but I bet the actual one wasn't something you had in mind. Argus, do you remember when you opened that locked desk drawer in Father Egbert's bedroom? The one where you tried to do an improvised object reading and wound up having to sleep off the spell effect afterward?"

Argus frowned. "Yes, I think so..." Truthfully, he'd tried to put the events of that day out of his mind.

"You got off easy," Rose said with a shudder. "Accounts are a bit unclear on exactly what happened; Sister Margaret was in the room with him at the time, and so were two novices who were escorting him around. I was out in the community, so I didn't see what happened myself. The three who were in the room told slightly different stories..."

"Stories about what?" Miguel asked, half suspecting he knew the answer; Rose, for all of her Empathy spellcraft, sometimes had a tendency to beat around the bush. The investigator had clearly stumbled across something bad, and likely trouble for the mission. He was framing various possibilities in his mind when Rose answered, looking uncomfortable.

"I can't think of a good way to put this. All three agree that he cast his object-reading spell, turned it on the locked desk drawer, screamed ... and dropped dead in his tracks."
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Re: Saus

Postby Drannin » December 8th, 2008, 9:29 pm

If blood could literally freeze, Argus' would have. "Great weave..." he breathed, suddenly pale. Brother Miguel looked over at him in concern, and Sister Rose put a troubled hand on his shoulder.

How close did I come...?

"Argus...?" Miguel's voice. Argus shook himself and came back to the present. No point in panicking.

"Well... thank the Weave my divination skills are just about worthless." It was a weak joke, and no one laughed. "So whatever was in there..."

"The resonance alone was enough to kill a man," Sister Rose finished grimly.

"That's bad for Kiyoka." Argus was very serious now. "Tsuirakushiti isn't going to take the mysterious death of one of their investigators very well. If they were being enigmatic before, they're going to bring the hammer down now." He looked at the other two very grimly. "One of their own died due to something a Veracian priest had in his drawer. This has 'international incident' written all over it."

This took a moment to settle in. Argus concluded, "Which brings back the original question: WHY did Father Egbert have such a thing in the first place?" Sister Rose stared out at the counrtyside, her face unreadable.

Brother Miguel's voice trembled. "I don't know. But we might find a clue in Ramanzel."
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Re: Saus

Postby Graybeard » December 9th, 2008, 12:48 am

"I'm not sure we should be in a hurry to get there," Sister Rose said. "There's a very important piece of the puzzle that's missing, that should be provided in a day or two. Needless to say, when the Tsuirakuan died, the other investigator suddenly lost interest in the problem with the battlemage and got very interested in what happened in Father Egbert's chambers. Priorities, you know. But his own investigation there -- without touching the desk, needless to say -- basically turned up nothing. As far as he could tell, the dead man simply had a heart attack and keeled over."

"So why does that mean there's a missing piece of the puzzle?" Brother Miguel asked, himself puzzled.

"I was just getting to that. The Kiyokan Powers That Be decided to bring in a specialist. It turns out that Tsuiraku has developed a class of lifemage that specializes in what they call 'thaumatopathology' -- post-mortem magical examination of the recently deceased. They're having the body examined by one of those. It takes a little while; her report is expected some time today. I think it's something we might want to hear, and I don't know of any way to get access to it out in the boonies where we're going. Remember that most of Veracia doesn't have Crystal-net."

"I take your point," Miguel mused. "I don't believe for a minute that what happened to the guy was just a heart attack; there has to be some connection between his death and whatever sent Father Egbert over the edge. But yeah, it would be nice to know just what, why and how."

"You're not seriously suggesting we go back to Saus and wait for word, are you?" Argus objected.

Miguel started to reply, but Rose cut him off. "Things aren't so great in Saus, either. That freak storm caused a lot of damage, and there is a faction there that's grumbling because they think our Reformed temple had something to do with it -- I have no idea why. Tensions are beginning to appear between the Orthodox and Reformed neighborhoods. And another thing, maybe you'll know the significance of this more clearly than I do: Sister Hortense says they've identified the foreigner whose body was found in the ruins of the Millenarian temple. His name was Gordon Grumiel -- she said that would mean something to you."
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Re: Saus

Postby Drannin » December 9th, 2008, 3:39 pm

Argus sighed. Brother Miguel said a small prayer under his breath. "Gordon Grumiel was a man who had spoken to Father Egbert just before his disappearance," Argus explained. "We spoke to him briefly over crystal-net, and to an apparent imposter in Saus." Sister Rose's eyes widened at this.

Argus sighed and stretched his neck slightly. "Someone decided that Gordon Grumiel knew too much and did away with him, then met with us. Maybe to learn what we knew; maybe to throw us off or even keep an eye on us. I don't know. But this confirms our darkest suspicions..."

Brother Miguel spoke up. "I agree with Sister Rose. This report is something we need to hear. How about it, Argus? Leave Ramanzel until later."

Argus hesitated, but grudgingly nodded. "I'd rather not put it off, but you're right. This is important information. Should we head to Emerylon after all? Or is there somewhere closer with crystal-net access?" He shifted uncomfortably. "Wherever we go, I hope they have some asillin. My head has been bugging me lately, and I don't know why..."

(OOC: asillin= aspirin analogue. Essential for those with chronic hangovers)
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Re: Saus

Postby Graybeard » December 9th, 2008, 8:55 pm

"Or is there somewhere closer with crystal-net access?"

Brother Miguel and Sister Rose were both looking uncomfortable even before Argus' question, and they were even more uncomfortable after it. Miguel gave Rose a strange glance, then cleared his throat. "Well ... there is one place."

Rose's expression turned from discomfort to something more ... intense ... as she stopped the wagon. "Miguel, you don't mean..."

"I do, and I don't like it any better than you do." Miguel was looking downright miserable now, but he thought, in for a penny, in for a pound. "Argus, do you remember what I said back in Saus, about sending the false Grumiel on a slight wild goose chase?"

"Remind me."

Miguel started to speak, closed his mouth and blinked, then started over. "When we were meeting with that guy, you asked where Father Egbert had come from. I told a minor fib about the Sleeping Sexton, partly to see how much he knew about the geography of Veracia, and partly to throw him off the track for just a little while -- I already didn't trust him. I told him you could see the north side of the Sleeping Sexton from the town where Mildred and family lived, when it's clearly on the south side, as you can see from here." He pointed to the distinctive profile of the ridge.

"Yes, it's coming back to me now..."

"Right," Miguel continued. "I think I told you then that there's a military base on the north side, and Rose and I know its commander. Two hours in the wagon will get us there."

"And this place is going to have Crystal-net?" Argus was starting to get the picture.

Rose and Miguel looked each other in the eye, and then swallowed hard, with synchronicity that would have been humorous if they hadn't both looked so worried. Rose got the words out before Miguel. "Argus, you did not hear us say that... did you? Let us simply say that they might be able to help us. But you need to be aware that we're going to have some explaining to do if we take you there; that isn't your garden-variety army base..."
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Re: Saus

Postby Drannin » December 10th, 2008, 4:06 pm

Argus stared at the two of them. Explaining. Oh. Argus had been in the military. Atypical bases and serious explanations were decidedly not a good combination.

He pondered for a minute. "Would it be better for me to wait a ways away from the base while you two get a report? It'd be pretty easy for me to camp out; I've done it a lot lately. However, if you don't think you two would suffer any negatove repercussions from taking me along... I'm not terribly worried."

What was the worst they could do to him, after all?
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Re: Saus

Postby Graybeard » December 10th, 2008, 8:46 pm

Now it was Sister Rose's and Brother Miguel's turn to ponder for a moment, as Rose turned the wagon off the main road onto an unmarked lane leading north. Finally Rose broke the silence. "My initial reaction was to take you up on that, but there's a problem, Argus. Remember that we're in rural Veracia here. Even more than in Emerylon, and much more than in Saus, foreigners stick out like a sore thumb. And the natives aren't friendly when it comes to outlanders. I ... speak from experience." That was the grimmest Argus had ever seen Rose look.

"There are basically three options," Miguel chimed in. "There's a little town, I can't remember its name, on the other side of the pass, just before you get to the base. It would not be a good idea to let you off there alone, not at all, but maybe one of us could stay there with you while the other goes on and does some talking at the base. That would give you some cover --" and some backup, he thought but did not say -- "at the cost of not having the whole story to tell Colonel Bogiel when we see him -- that's the base commander. Second, we could do as you suggest and leave you at the pass, which is about the best place around to make yourself inconspicuous; just get off the road a bit into the woods. Then we'll go on and have our chat. That'll probably have the best outcome at the base, but I have to tell you, you'd be taking a certain amount of risk; there are still predators in the hills here -- human and otherwise. Or finally, you could come with us and let us try to explain why we're traveling with a Tsuirakuan. I have some ideas for that, and the worst that would happen is that they'll just tell us to go away, without getting the help we're looking for. The down side is that there's every chance that that'll be exactly the outcome, and we'll have wasted some time. At least I think that's the worst that can happen ...

"So what's your preference?"
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Re: Saus

Postby Drannin » December 11th, 2008, 3:50 pm

Argus was silent for a long moment. None of the options was very good... all ways were risky... very risky. But when it came to relative risk...

"I understand the risks. However, given the amount of time required, I'd be pretty safe hiding in the woods just off the pass. I know a few tricks to make myself inconspicuos and well-protected." Although it makes for a damn unpleasant nap.

Miguel and Rose looked unhappy. Argus smiled. "Trust me. I may a cantankerous old bugger, but I can handle myself. Be more worried about anything that tries to give me a hard time." The old mage smirked.

Honestly? Argus was half-hoping for trouble. He had steam to blow off.
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Re: Saus

Postby Graybeard » December 11th, 2008, 9:25 pm

"Well, here's where you get off ... cantankerous old bugger," Sister Rose said with a smile and a twinkle. Argus did realize that was a direct quote, didn't he?

Truthfully, the pass looked like quite a pleasant place to spend an hour or so while Rose and Brother Miguel went to the base. It wasn't imposing as passes go, maybe two thousand feet above valley level at the most, but that was plenty to offer fine views of the countryside. To the south was the farmland that Argus had seen from Heamish, extending into the distant haze; Ramanzel was out there somewhere. To the north was a valley, beyond which a considerably higher mountain range rose, its highest peaks snow-capped. The road dropped into this valley, and Rose and Miguel could be seen heading northeast toward a small town. The ridge line presented fine cliff faces rising a few hundred yards beyond the pass that prevented distant views to the east or west. Except at the saddle itself, the pass was in a pine forest that provided ample places for Argus to make himself inconspicuous. There were no other signs of human habitation or life.

Or was there? In the distance, on a side road that connected to the main road near Rose and Miguel and the wagon, a small party on horseback was heading south toward the pass -- three people, to be precise.

[OOC: Over to you, but do you want me to write up what happens when Rose and Miguel reach the base, or leave it as an exercise for the reader? I'm more than willing to, at the risk of introducing a spoiler or two...]
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Re: Saus

Postby Drannin » December 11th, 2008, 10:21 pm

(OOC: Best to leave it for now, maybe write a flashback, when they meet up with Argus again. Provided something horrible doesn't happen.)

Hm. So much for a pleasant day out.

It was best not to get sighted by locals. Fortunately Argus had an old trick up his sleeve. Sitting cross-legged on the ground, he stretched his will and mana into the ground around him. "Orbus subterranous," he intoned. Around him, the ground shifted... and Argus seemed to sink into it like water. Around him, soil and rock shifted, forming a bubble as the cantankerous old assorted-b-words established a small shelter under the ground. His surroundings stiffened, preventing any weight from crushing his new hideaway. Finally, small airholes gave him air and some light.

It was an old trick he'd learned in the battlemages. When in trouble, hide. Provided annihilating the enemy wasn't an option, mind you.

And thus, Argus sat quietly, intending to rest and meditate until the unknown party had passed him by. The only possible complication was if one of them could sense the ambient magical fields keeping the bubble intact. He felt pretty safe.

Time passed. Argus meditated, feeling the flow of energy around him. It had been a while... it felt good... reinvigorating... like some of his old strength was returning to him...

Sounds of hooves on the ground above him. A sudden stop. Voices. "Yeah, I'm pretty sure there's magic emanating from the ground over there..."

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