Rising in the North

Even before Sulovir II stepped on to the snowy island to join the rescue party, he could hear the trembling in Father Aldus’s voice.

“I must say, I feel I’ve learned more in the past twenty days than I have in twenty years! From the temple to Lerilin to Marali and now Duldrus… such a small town seems to have so much going on!” Father Aldus shivered amidst the early morning wind, and the rogue did his best to hide a smile. Up here, this was a warm spring’s day.

Lord Rengal gave the Father a good slap on the back, sending him stumbling forward. “Got to get out in the world my good man!”

Father Aldus laughed nervously. “This was supposed to be a simple day of gaper-watching. How the Goddess sends us on such unexpected journeys!”

Rengal turned to face the rest of the group. “So, what are we expecting? Dragons?”

“A war, perhaps,” Sulovir said as he idly checked his pouch of explosive dust.

Aldus gasped, but fell in line as the rescuers descended into the depths of the ice dungeon, to retrieve whoever it was that had gotten eaten by a dragon today. The Father’s groans hung over the frozen halls like a cloud. “One minute, you’re out tending the cookpot… the next, you’re in the belly of the beast!”

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But naturally, the rescue went off without a hitch, and by evening time, the party found themselves weighing anchor on the shores of Duldrus, with the hall of GYPSY rising up through the fog ahead. As Sulovir came ashore, he realized the combatants were beginning to make formal introductions, and he stopped to join them.

“Rengal, Duke of Duldrus. But we can exchange full titles later.”

“And I’m almost… paralyzed from the cold,” Aldus said, teeth chattering. “Let’s discuss this over the warm fires of the camp, shall we?”

“Shuab, of the Mirith Vanguard.”

“Sulovir, Slayer of Liches.”

“Ron!”

“Run!” Aldus said. “Got it!”

“It’s what I do best!”

In disorganized fashion, the lot of them set off for the pilgrimage camp, tucked away in the nook east of town. At some point the group got separated, and Sulovir, Ron, and Aldus reached the camp first, where Jesper was stirring up a large pot of lobster soup. They spent a few minutes in a lively debate with the chef on the merits of slurping, before Rengal finally arrived on his own.

* * * * *

(Aldus): Ah, Your Grace!
(Aldus): * dips head *
(Rengal): Ah, you are safely returned, Father Aldus?
(Sulovir II): Aha
(Aldus): Ron and the Lich...slayer, here, have been my faithful guides!
(Sulovir II): *nods*
(Aldus): The rest of your entourage, will they be joining for soup?
(Rengal): I believe Dame Shuab is returning to Mirith for an appointment with the bank vault.
(Jesper): Here, bowl for you.
(Rondino): Hehe
(Rengal): *bows*
(Rengal): My thanks.
(Jesper): You are welcome. * smiles *
(Aldus): Hopefully we will see them returned to us for the next stage of the pilgrimage, then!

(Rengal): They are still working through the gaper stalks from near the time of that quake.
(Aldus): Still some work left to do here in Duldrus, in the meantime.
(Aldus): Oh yes, the temblor! * wipes brow *
(Rengal): I shall ask them to join you here.
(Aldus): In due time, that would be most grand, m'lord!
(Rengal): Capital enterprise that, showing you the coast! Got to see a dragon!
(Aldus): * shivers * I.. I.. yes, capital, indeed!
(Rondino): Bet you weren't expecting to see one of those today sir!
(Aldus): What a... stunning experience!
(Aldus): There's a lesson in there!

(Rengal): Cannot say I was anticipating it either.
(Rengal): Now that's a sport with a sword and not a bow.
(Aldus): But while we have you here, m'lord, I musn't forget!
(Aldus): There is the matter of finding guards for this town, still to discuss!
(Rondino): Aye
(Rengal): One moment.
(Rengal): Is that Lord Sulovir the Second, Lich Slayer?
(Sulovir II): Aye. It is.
(Rengal): *bows*
(Aldus): I saw him live up to the title a fortnight back, I did!
(Sulovir II): Haven't seen a Lich anywhere near town since I moved in, sir.

(Rengal): I must have missed you in the melée.
(Sulovir II): I'm easy to miss. *smiles*
(Rondino): It is hard to keep track of him..
(Rengal): Ha, of course!
(Rengal): I would give you a slap on the back, but I fear I would miss!
(Aldus): Ha-ha!
(Rondino): Haha
(Sulovir II): *chuckles*
(Sulovir II): *puts dagger away*
(Rengal): You were saying, Father Aldus?

(Aldus): Through donations, we've secured rather large sums of gold, as I alluded to before!
(Aldus): With the intent that they go directly to augmenting the defenses of this noble town!
(Aldus): Which, I must say upon my first impressions, is in sore need!
(Rondino): *nods*
(Rengal): Do have a bit of a gaper problem.
(Sulovir II): Aye.
(Aldus): The only thing I cannot speak to is the matter of where to find men willing and able for the task.
(Rengal): Mostly they don't bother the locals.
(Aldus): Right... mostly the wayfarers... and pilgrims! * chuckles *
(Rengal): Terrible for the visitors.
(Rondino): I spoke with some eager able-bodied men over in Mirith the other day..
(Sulovir II): I hate gapers.
(Aldus): Had quite a jolly of a time getting in, we did. But that's another story...

Two new faces, Alidar and Telmah, come to the camp.

(Rondino): Hello!
(Jesper): Hello. Have some soup! * passes bowl down *
(Telmah): * looks around *
(Aldus): Eager able-bodied men, you say?
(Sulovir II): *looks at Ron*
(Rondino): Aye!
(Sulovir II): Ah, yes. Eager-bodied men.
(Rengal): Sir Rondino of the Hidden Vale is it?
(Sulovir II): I believe they could use a bit of proper training, though.
(Rondino): It is, yes.
(Rondino): I was just doing a quick prayer by the statue

(Rondino): And I guess afterwards they overheard myself and some others talking about Duldrus and it's need of guards..
(Rengal): The miracle statue?
(Rondino): Aye, the same.

(Aldus): A miracle, yes!
(Alidar): i came across some ruins and a chest to the southwest of here
(Rengal): Old Nether Tribulations Hall?
(Aldus): That's the one you showed me, right!
(Aldus): Time has not been kind to it!
(Aldus): But go on, dear Ron!
(Rengal): Some say there is a stash of maces in there.
(Rondino): :)
(Rengal): Now, you were at the statue of the Goddess?
(Sulovir II): The Mace Place is just West of here...

(Rondino): Now these men.. they aren't umm, how shall I put it.
(Rondino): They are able-bodied..
(Rondino): And eager.. did I say that?
(Sulovir II): I think so, yeah.
(Aldus): Always good to hear it again!
(Rengal): I am aware of how these sentences go...
(Rondino): *rubs back of neck*
(Rengal): Tell us man.
(Rondino): They wouldn't be my *speaks quietly* go to men for the job?

(Rengal): Fascinating information my young friend, but that is not ideal either.
(Rondino): Yes..
(Rondino): They claim to be reformed by the Goddess
(Rondino): And they are seeking a chance to redeem themselves
(Rengal): Reformed from what?
(Rondino): Well, from the looks of it, one was a Brigand and the other, a Mercenary.
(Aldus): Oh my! Well...
(Rengal): *puts head in hands*

(Rondino): No no but.. *stammers*
(Rondino): They were so eager!
(Sulovir II): *chimes in* But, I'm sure they just need a bit of proper training..
(Rondino): I could see it in their eyes!
Something smells terrible.
(Rengal): Father Aldus?
(Sulovir II): *plugs nose*
(Aldus): The Goddess does delight in a change of heart, yes...
(Aldus): And perhaps only she alone can know the true contents of a man's heart...
(Rondino): They would need proper training, of course.
(Rengal): Also I believe Dame Shuab is in need of a curse lifting.
(Aldus): * pur clar ber *
(Aldus): Be cleansed, Dame!
(Shuab): Thanks! Sorry 'bout the smell.
(Jesper): * smiles widely *
(Jesper): Oh, another guest? I didn't even see. Souuup!
(Shuab): * cringes at mention of title *
(Aldus): * passes *
(Shuab): Soup!!

(Aldus): But a tree is judged by its fruit.
(Rondino): Aye!
(Rengal): On that matter, please pass these to your chef.
(Aldus): Perhaps, in her own way, the Goddess is challenging us to trust her blessings...
(Rondino): Perhaps, perhaps..
(Aldus): Oh, very good. Jesper, my friend, here... you go... * gingerly touches slimy stalks *
(Rondino): Anyways, I thought I should mention it.
(Rondino): If we find ourselves in Mirith we might find them there by the statue!
(Aldus): Normally, I might be highly in doubt, but...
(Rengal): A tree is judged by many things.
(Sulovir II): *looks at Ron* Did we mention we'd also be paying them?
(Rondino): One of them went by.. Ruthford I believe. The other was Themson.
(Rondino): Aye Sul, we did we did.

(Alidar): * pur ber rel *
(Rondino): That always helps *winks*.
(Aldus): But I believe that they were found by this statue, this miracle... I believe it may be a sign!
(Aldus): Perhaps the Miracle of the Statue can translate into a Miracle for Duldrus, as well!
(Sulovir II): *coughs* and the budget is flexible *coughs*
(Rondino): Perhaps!
(Sulovir II): *clears throat*
(Rengal): Far be it from me to deny a sign.
(Rondino): Yes, of course.
(Aldus): Many things have become illuminated to me under these last few nights.
(Rengal): An appraisal of their characters would seem perfectly within order.

(Aldus): We simply must give them an appraisal, yes!
(Rondino): *nods*
(Aldus): And in the darkness, the Goddess shall find the light.
(Aldus): How splendid!
(Rengal): Very good of her.
(Rengal): Not that it's hard to find the light of everything around it is dark, eh?
(Rengal): Just my joke.
(Aldus): Ha-ha, yes!
(Rondino): :)
(Aldus): My path to Mirith is a long one, and we will not reach there for… a hundred days or so.
(Rengal): like this good knight Rondino.

(Rondino): *blushes*
(Aldus): Will you be returning there yourself, m'lord?
(Rondino): *holds hat nervously*
(Rondino): *does a slight bow*
(Rondino): Thank you Sir.
(Rengal): Dressed in gold on a field azure.
(Rengal): You do stand out.
(Rondino): Though I'm not much of a knight I must say.
(Aldus): Like a candle, yes. He has accompanied me on every stage of our pilgrimage thus far!
(Rengal): Good show.
(Aldus): None other can claim the distinction.
(Rondino): I do what I can!

(Aldus): But if you are returning to the city, m'lord, perhaps you might meet these men!
(Aldus): Men of reformed heart and mind, newly dedicated to serve!
(Rengal): Excellent idea.
(Rengal): I am eager to see the miracle for myself as well.
(Aldus): Shall I entrust the donation of the salary to you, then?
(Rengal): If you wish to do so I shall attend to the matter.
(Rengal): Though what of the poor?
(Rengal): Not that there are many.

(Aldus): It is my understanding that this may be, in fact, the best way to serve them in this town!
(Rengal): I had thought the donations were intended for them.
(Rengal): If that is the decree of the Temple.
(Rengal): Far be it from me to argue.
(Aldus): Shelter and safety from harm is, to be sure, an essential right.
(Rondino): *nods in agreement*
(Rondino): A basic right it is!

(Rengal): Of course, Guild GYPSY protects this approach.
(Aldus): * pushes large sack of coins forward *
(Sulovir II): *eyes sack of coins*

(Rengal): And woe to any dragon attempting to cause Lord Hayate harm.
(Rengal): *accepts*
(Aldus): I wouldn't know the first thing about the logistics of their station, m'lord.
(Aldus): But I certainly have utmost confidence that you do!
(Aldus): Especially after this last night! * chuckles *
(Rondino): Speaking of which *looks up* aren't we running a bit late, Father?
(Rengal): A point, the Royal Guard was present in amongst the ice.

(Aldus): Right, right!
(Aldus): We will move, before long, to Gohoran.
(Rondino): Okay.
(Aldus): Though I gather some of you will have a different destination!
(Rengal): You Pilgrims do not rest much!
(Rengal): If you are on the move or not, I think the portal is my goal.
(Rengal): Should meet these men of future standing.
(Aldus): We will leave a helper here, and gladly help feed and shelter these men, if they do come.
(Aldus): While the rest of us continue the pilgrimage per the schedule.
(Rengal): Good to meet you, Father.
(Aldus): It has been... quite the thrill, yes!
(Rengal): Lord Sulovir, Dame Shuab, Sir Rondino.

(Sulovir II): *nods*
(Shuab): * leg tingles *
(Aldus): Farewell!
(Human): Farewell, child.
(Rondino): Farewell!
(Human): Until next time. * smiles *

(Aldus): I must take an hour to see to some last minute preparations, in town.
(Aldus): Perhaps a spell more. At noon, let us gather here again!
(Aldus): * looks up * The walk promises to be a chilly one!
(Shuab): I see.
(Shuab): Alright.
(Shuab): Take care until then, Father!
(Sulovir II): Mm, chili.
(Aldus): Make your preparations as well. See you at noon!
(Rondino): Okay.
(Aldus): Ta-ta!
(Rondino): See you soon!

* * * * *

One moon later…

The sun hung high in the sky over the town square. Jedd sat cross-legged on his perch on a barrel outside The Hammer and Ingot, sipping silently from his steaming mug of ginseng as the men sparred. The last days of spring still clung on, and the new trainees looked immensely grateful for the brisk northern winds as they rustled down from the foothills, green and flowering, and into the square.

“Good, Ruthford,” said Captain Jozas, leaning against the wall with arms crossed, poised like a lion ready to pounce. “Themson, ease up a bit. You’re not going to become a golem slayer in a day.”

With a grunt, Themson wiped the sweat glistening on his brow, and corrected his form. Ruthford moved in to strike, swift and precise.

The fighter concealed a proud smile in his mug. It had been over fifteen years, now, but he would never forget those days when he had been the trainer, and Jozas the pupil. The War of ’38. Jedd took a long sip. Mirith overrun, the Resistance in Duldrus barely holding on… and in comes young Jozas, ready to fight off all the brigands in Mirith. He was the most promising volunteer they would see, taking in Jedd and Amere’s lessons with unparalleled haste and passion. Surely it was no coincidence that Lord Rengal had selected him for this new job.

Truly, the whole of the unit appeared to be in top notch condition. Gwen in the north, alongside the guards of GYPSY. Gannet watching the more deadly eastern road, with Ruthford shadowing. Marid and Themson to the south. And of course, the captain.

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His mug now emptied, Jedd tucked it away and picked himself up from the barrel, drawing the attention of Jozas.

“Another match, Sir Jedd?”

The fighter laughed. “I think I’ve had enough for one day, captain. Rather, I’m afraid it’s time I get back to the keep.”

“Suit yourself. You know where to find us.”

“That I do, that I do.” Jedd slung his pack over his shoulder and nodded respectfully. “Thank you for your kindness, captain. And welcome home.”
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