Zion - Light of the New Moon, Part 2
Through the Bahn
Between no comment from Nori's Contributing Reader, and almost everyone else commenting but not voting, the single actual vote came from Loric's contributing reader, and that's the winner! The group will be encountering other travelers! The current modifiers for this Event Arc are as follows: + Delay, and - Favor, but this may be modified based on the interactions below as well as future decisions.
The Highway continued to serve the travelers well; the next four days were spent in peace and blessed boredom. Shadow, Gaerid, Nori, and Sten kept constant look-out, switching shifts so at least two pairs of eyes were watching the surrounding lands at all times. Tollie spent the time largely out of view, except for constant visits by Loric, who spent his time establishing the newest chain of command with the hyena on top. Since Tollie didn't seem to do very well around others, it was obviously left up to the arctic fox to help relay his orders-- a post he 'humbly' accepted.
It wasn't until the fifth day of travel that Tollie was even seen by anyone other than Loric. As the group was pausing for a mid-day break, the hyena spontaneously emerged from his wagon, "Two of you need to go north... now."
Many voices spoke up, asking for more information, wanting to know why, wondering which two, questioning the significance of the move-- but not Gaerid. Without a single word the rottweiler stood up and, making a gesture to Wyse, they both loped off northward.
"A bounty hunter and his dog... I'm not so certain that counts as two, does it?" Nori asked in general, then focused his inquiry directly to Tollie, "What's so important about two people going North?"
"It didn't have to be two people... just two." the hyena answered without actually answering, glancing after the bounty hunter. Without another word, Tollie about-faced and returned to his wagon.
"That guy's a whack-job." the ferret snorted.
"Watch your tongue, Wild Lander." Loric countered quickly, "You're speaking about a priest of Shrad."
"Tollie already said he's not a priest." Tolen reminded him quietly.
"He IS using the Divine Shield." Shadow pointed out.
"Exactly." Loric acknowledged, "He's keeping us alive right now," and he glared at Tolen, "So as far as I'm concerned he may as well be a messenger from Tah'Aveen Herself." and he looked back to Nori, "And what you fail to see is that he is filled with insight. If you haven't been paying attention he's kept us alive on a number of occasions now."
"You're assuming that the boy had something to do with Majh's self-destructive display back with the Chimera..." Sten reminded him.
"I think it's pretty obvious at this point." Loric countered, "and, if you haven't noticed, since we've started listening to him our path has been a LOT clearer." he motioned to the road.
"And that had absolutely NOTHING to do me?" Nori demanded indignantly.
"The way I see it," the noble stated, looking back at the ferret, "He is the designer of our destiny... he keeps us safe and has directed us to safety... and you? Well..." Loric grinned, "you handle the little details."
Snarling, the ferret put his paw on the shaft of his hammer, "I'll show you a 'little detail' you city-dwelling piece of sh--"
"There!" Shadow interrupted, motioning to the north, where Gaerid was returning, followed by what appeared to be a scantily clad raccoon woman, attached to his paw by a chain lead. Wyse was following along behind her, letting out a faint growl every time her head faced any direction other than forward.
"What is--" Tolen began as the three drew nearer to the party.
"An escaped slave!" Loric quickly spoke over him, standing up, "Well isn't THIS a surprise?"
"How could she have been out this far on her own?" Sten asked.
"Simple." Loric answered, walking over to her, "She wasn't alone." and, with a simple motion, he pulled a necklace off of her and held it up to the group, "See? She was being transported." The fox turned back to the raccoon, "How long ago did you break free?" he demanded. The raccoon woman didn't bother answering, simply staring ahead pointedly in a direction where there was nobody to meet her gaze.
The back of Loric's paw struck the side of her muzzle, "I am Lord Loric Kriabnish and I do not accept disobedience from servants, let alone slaves." he drew closer to her, grabbing hold of the chain attached to the metal collar around her neck, "Now answer me."
"This morning." she answered immediately, pausing a moment before adding, "Your Lordship." She didn't bother raising a paw to wipe the droplet of blood leaking from her nose.
"And was your master following the Highway?" Loric demanded.
"Yes, Your Lordship." she answered.
"She has a strange accent." Shadow noted, ears focused on her.
"She's a Wild Lander." Tolen noted, standing up, "Can't you remove her collar?" The raccoon's eyes drifted to the healer at the comment.
"No, Tolen," Loric's eyes never left the slave but he responded aside immediately with a scowl, "She is a slave, now sit down." and, once Tolen did, the noble continued, "You do not carry yourself like most slaves." he noted, "You must be serving as a guide." his lips parted, showing his teeth in a predatory grin.
"Yes, Your Lordship." she answered, still not looking at him.
"Then I'll wager that they will be looking for you." Loric's smile only grew wider, "but won't be inclined to leave the Highway to do it."
"I'd say that's a fair guess." Shadow acknowledged, pointing ahead along the Highway toward an approaching collection of transports.
"If you beg, we might be convinced to allow you to stay with us." Loric offered, licking his muzzle, "We are far kinder than any slaver."
"Olahg would not give me up easily." she responded flatly.
"She IS a spirited one." Loric chuckled, "Calling her master by name..."
"Loric..." Nori spoke up, his voice ice cold, "She is a Wild Lander, not a Slave."
"Sorry, boy, but the collar says differently." the fox smirked, motioning to the metal clasp around the raccoon's neck.
"Wild Landers don't take part in your stupid social structures." Nori argued.
"That's the beautiful thing about slavery," Shadow noted in a disgusted tone, "You don't really have a choice."
"Well said!" Loric noted with a laugh.
"If they're looking for her," Sten noted, "Then we can meet with them and hand her back. If they're well-to-do slavers then there will probably be a finder's fee."
"I hate the idea of taking away someone's freedom." Tolen noted, a soft pleading tone in his voice.
"We're not taking away anyone's freedom, Tolen," Loric noted, "We're discussing the returning of property."
Gaerid chuckled softly at that, "Assuming any one person can own another."
"It's a fair assumption... it happens all the time in Shrad." Loric pointed out.
"But we're not in Shrad." Gaerid reminded him.
"Which means we could keep her and it wouldn't be stealing." Loric noted.
"Or we could let her go." Tolen offered.
"If you keep that mindset then you're asking to be a victim." Sten offered to the healer, "If her going free is that important to you, consider buying her."
"I wouldn't want to own a slave!" Tolen objected.
"No..." Sten sighed, "you buy her, and then release her."
The rest of the discussion would have to wait, however, as the other travelers came within greeting distance... at least within distance that the driver of the lead wagon was able to bellow to them. The driver was a well dressed, portly monitor lizard, and he hailed them in an imposing, deep voice, his large frame inflating as he projected his tone, "Hail travelers!"
"Well met!" Loric noted, stepping away from the raccoon to head to the front of the party, meeting with the other group as they drew close and came to a stop.
"You haven't seen a--" the lizard began, but fell silent when he noticed the raccoon, "Ah... there you are, my dear." he chuckled.
"It seems we may have found of some of your property." Loric noted, "Mr......?"
"Olahg." the lizard noted, "And I recognize your crest, Lord Kriabnish."
The fox smiled wide, "I like you already, Olahg... come... join me in my office." and, with that, the fox motioned to the camp.
"Let me gather my associates, my Lord, and I'm certain we can do some business." the lizard gave a smooth, oily, smarmy smile. With a snap of his fingers, several slaves jumped into action, running from his wagon and into the party's camp, putting together a hastily constructed meeting table, complete with a half dozen chairs.
The lizard's first 'associate' turned out to be a spindly, nervous-looking coyote as thin as Olahg was fat. The third member of his party was a particularly emaciated-looking bat woman, whose drooping wings looked as though they were two sizes too large for her body. Though she appeared unhealthy, she seemed to have no trouble moving and her motions were smooth and elegant; she looked to be ancient, but her non-gray fur and the clean vitality of her actions hinted that she was probably much younger than she appeared.
"This is Gidden, my business partner." Olagh introduced the coyote, then motioned to the bat, "and this magnificent creature is Urah."
"I swear to the goddess I will have Allin gut you if you ever call me that again, Olagh." the bat noted, her voice quiet and emotionless.
"She also has a priceless sense of humor." the lizard explained to the party, then glanced to her, "Where IS Allin, my dear?"
"I am here, Master Olagh." a rich, deep voice spoke from just out of view. With the soft clinking of metal chains, a Tamaskan dog emerged into the open. At just over six feet tall, he was not the most imposing figure, and his average build was nothing too intimidating, but the criss-cross of scars across every visible inch of his body gave most members of the party a moment of pause. A thick metal collar was clasped around his neck and fused metal bracers encircled his wrists.
"These fine people have managed to retrieve our missing guide." Olagh noted.
Shadow did not bother waiting to interject, "Your slave has a sword belt." he stated, motioning to the collared dog's hip where a leather belt was latched tightly around his mid section, a filled scabbard hanging down either thigh.
"He is a blade slave." Urah explained, holding out a delicate paw toward the wolf-like dog, "Come to me, Allin." she spoke.
The dog obediently moved to her, kneeling down beside where she sat at the table and placed his paw into her grasp, "I am here, Mistress Urah."
"There is no slave more loyal than a blade slave." Olagh explained, smiling as the bat leaned down, opening her muzzle to reveal four sharp, pronounced fangs. "Raised since birth to do as commanded for whomever they call master." he continued talking even as the bat next to him sunk her fangs into the dog's wrist; Allin didn't even register the puncturing of his flesh.
"Marvelous." Loric murmured. Behind him, however, others in the party were already talking amongst themselves; they weren't all quite as impressed.
* * * * * *
Welcome to the third post of Chapter 1 for the Shradian party!
As it turns out, the travelers appear to be relatively benign... or are they?
The slavers apparently have an interest in talking with the party, but is there a deal to be made? Threats to be levied? Perhaps a battle to be fought... we'll have to wait and see.
Contributing readers may now vote among the following options:
1) The group has enough money to purchase one of the high quality slaves if they wish, or two of the lessers.
a) 1 High Quality Slave: Allin, the male Tamaskan Blade Slave
b) 1 High Quality Slave: The female raccoon Wild Lander slave.
c) 1 High Quality Slave: a female mink, a well trained "personal slave".
d) Any two from among the remaining: male human laborer, male ram laborer, male raven translator, female human laborer, female deer laborer, or female goat burned-out mystic seer.
2) Inform the Slavers that, as envoys from Shrad the party is exercising its right to confiscate wares and take complete possession of the Slavers' slaves. This action might make use of Negotiation or Intimidation based on the overall stance chosen by the party.
3) Suggest that the slavers join up with the group and add to the caravan heading for Zion. This action will be made easier or harder based on the overall stance chosen by the party.
4) Take advantage of the sitiation and jump the slavers, seeking to overpower them by force. This action will be made easier or harder based on the overall stance chosen by the party.
5) Conclude the discussion and let everyone get on their way.
Since there is the possibility of combat based on how the votes go I will require a Stance from each of you. Stance is given on a rating of 0-5 where 5 is full offense, 4 is aggressive, 3 is neutral, 2 is conservative, and 1 is reserved, A rating of 0 indicates that the character will NOT be taking part in combat (not even in a support role). Please bear in mind that these ratings will increase your Offense the higher your Stance number and increase your Defense the lower your Stance number (or, in the case of 0, have the character try to avoid combat altogether)-- the opposite sub-trait decreases conversely (Defense goes down if the number is high; Offense goes down if the number is low).
I will also require a Utilization number for those characters that have an 11 or higher in combined Magic + Sub-Trait or Faith + Sub-Trait. Like Stance, Utilization ranges from 0-5. Utilization is a numerical equivalent of how free your contributed character is with their magic and/or prayers-- a charater with a higher Utilization is more inclined to use their abilities often and more powerfully while a character that elects a lower Utilization is less likely to depend on them (Utilization of 0 will result in the character foregoing any such abilities). Bear in mind that the higher the level of Utilization the more likely a character is to suffer from fatigue. Characters with higher Attribute + Sub-Skill totals are able less likely to be affected by fatigue unless they use a higher score of Utilization.
Contributing Readers have until Thursday, November 17th at midnight to make their votes known.