Posts Tagged ‘Elorian Campaign’

When It All Ended Pt. 12

May 12, 2018

In the morning, Cassandra was sitting at the table near the kitchen by herself first. She was pretty much the only morning person of the group. She had the jar holding Monela sitting on the table in front of her, next to the eggs and sausage she had summoned from thin air. Galath and William came down the stairs together next. They both eyed the jar warily but sat down and food and drink were put in front of them. None of the three chose to talk just yet. Morgan and Percival came down next and they looked rested and in good spirits. Sensing the mood, even the usually verbose Percy stayed quiet while he started to eat his breakfast.

The group expected Garth last but first Clio glided down the stairs with a big smile on her face. As they all stared in surprise, she walked over to the table and grabbed a handful of eggs and shoved them into her mouth before walking out of the mansion through the front door. Everyone’s gaze was drawn to the top of the stairs where Garth had just awkwardly coughed before descending the stairs. He walked down and sat at the table with everyone and took hold of a magically conjured chalice and drank deeply of the juice it held. There was a very pregnant pause as everyone tried not to stare at him.

Garth started to eat as if nothing had happened but he was the first one to break. “Alright, yes. I shared a night of passion with the faerie woman.”

William grinned. “And how was it? Are you intact?” Many of the group stifled a laugh at that.

“I am in peak condition,” Garth said. “Ready to face danger.”

“How was it?” Percy asked. Morgan elbowed him in the ribs gently and he gave her an apologetic look.

“Unforgettable,” Garth said. “I’m really not interested in kissing and telling. I know I would normally boast and share all of the gory details but this is a woman who could literally tear out my spine. The good news is that she has agreed to assist us today. She is actually itching to get her hands dirty.”

“Didn’t she do that last night?” Percy asked which earned him another elbow from Morgan but pretty much everybody laughed, even Garth.

“That’s good news,” Morgan said. “We’re welcome to have her and, of course, Cassandra has enlisted the djinn Monela. Thank you, Cassandra, and thank you Monela. You will be released from that jar soon enough. Percival and I also enlisted the assistance of Amien’s wolfpack.”

“And you’re alright with that, Percy?” Galath asked, half-joking and half-concerned.

“We need all hands on deck for this one,” Percy said. “After this, Amien can ride or run off into the sunset and I’ll never have to see him again.”

“Or he could die in battle,” Garth added helpfully.

“Nobody is dying today,” Morgan said. “We are going to take out this dragon together.”

“Agreed,” William said. “I’ve never known a better group of adventurers than Morgan’s Raiders. In truth, I have never known a better group of people.”

“I’d still be alone at the academy if it weren’t for all of you,” Cassandra said.

“I would still be petrified in the middle of the forest,” Galath said.

“I’d still be a mere sellsword,” William said.

“I’d probably be locked up somewhere,” Garth said.

“There’s still time for that,” William said and everybody laughed again.

“And I’d still be puttering around that library,” Percy said. He and Morgan paused for a kiss.

“I’m proud of you all,” Morgan said. “You have saved the day with me several times over. We saved the world together when we barely knew each other. Now that we’re a family, we’re unstoppable. If it was any other group, I don’t think I would be leading them into the capital of my homeland to fight a dragon.”

“So what’s the plan?” Galath asked. Galath had always gotten to the point fairly quickly. One kind of expected a cleric to hold patience as one of their virtues but his directness had saved lives before. Although he was a healer, he never claimed to be a doctor so he was never worried about his bedside manner.

“Right,” Morgan said. “Let’s get to it.” She smiled and mentally composed the bullet points in her head. “The guard, Amien’s pack, Clio, and Monela will go in first and engage the dragon’s hangers-on. If the dragon chooses to engage at that point, then we will spring into action. Otherwise, we will head directly to the palace roof. Hopefully, Princess Cora will lure the dragon to the roof and we will fight it there. If not, we will have to confront it inside the castle which is less than ideal. After we take down the dragon, we help finish off any lizardmen or wyverns left over. This is our show so we’ll start and finish the fight. Any questions?”

“What’s our strategy when fighting the dragon?” Percy asked.

“I’m thinking it’s the same as when we fought that beholder that one time,” Morgan said.

Cassandra had a photographic memory and was a perpetual student so she felt compelled to speak. “William stays in the dragon’s face while you hit it with arrows from a distance. I hang back just in range and hit it with spells and try to disable it. Percy and Galath also hang back to heal and do what they can. Garth will be sneaky and look for openings to attack. If somebody falls, we get them up and keep going.”

“Exactly,” Morgan said. “And this breakfast you just fed us is our hero’s feast, right?”

“Yes,” Cassandra said. “I used my last chalice to summon it.”

“I was wondering why I suddenly felt braver,” Percy said.

“I suppose all that’s left is to go out and greet the day?” Garth asked.

“Yes,” William said. “Which means you’ll have to see your Clio again.”

“She’s not my Clio…,” Garth said as they got up from the table. The table and all of the food vanished as they did and Cassandra grabbed her jar before it could clatter to the floor. Morgan and Percy were last out of the door and they both looked back at their home and then at each other before going out to meet the day.

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The Wizard and the Cleric

April 26, 2018

The woods had been infested with the undead and human thugs. Carania knew that with the Raven Queen’s boons she could probably save the day but there was time to be more efficient about it. So, it was time to do a little recruiting. Few things banded people together like dealing with the undead and Carania was counting on that. After examining her map, she decided to head back toward the town of Thorncatch that she had previously just passed through. She found the road again and made her way back to the town limits. Along the way, she discovered her horse Rhiannon wandering on the side of the road. She had thankfully fled when Carania had been shot and killed. Rhiannon was particularly happy when Carania approached.

The two of them stood outside of the gate of the one manor at Thorncatch which Carania assumed housed the Thorncatch family. Most villages and cities in Eloria were built around and named after the noble families that lived there. However, the gate was fastened shut and there was not a bit of movement in the place no matter how long Carania banged on the gate and yelled. Admitting defeat, she headed to the only tavern in town which bore the name of The Grasshopper. Carania pushed her way inside and pulled her hood down and shook her hair free. The first thing she was confronted with was the warmth and smoke from a fire. The second thing she noticed that there was a bird in the rafters and it was a raven.

Carania stared dumbfounded at the bird and it turned its head to stare back at her as it cawed. Strangely, she saw intelligence in the birds’ eyes. Of course, she knew that ravens were intelligent birds in their own right but there was something more in those shiny, obsidian eyes. She looked down at her hand which had the symbol of the raven on it and then back at the actual raven. It was too much to just be a coincidence, right?

“I could draw you a picture,” a voice said. “before she pecks out your eyes for looking at her funny.”

Carania tore her eyes away from the bird and looked toward the source of the voice. “You see it too?” She asked. She thought maybe the Raven Queen had sent the raven as a sign.

“Of course I see it too and she’s a her not an it,” the young man said. “Her name is Grim, short for Grimalkin.”

“Wait,” Carania said. “isn’t that just a generic term for a cat? That’s a bird.” She gestured at Grim as she said it as if it was not an obvious statement.

“Very smart. She is my familiar,” the young man said. “Which means she can change. We all change. She was a cat when I first summoned her but she changed along the way.” Carania sensed there was more meaning here than the words conveyed but she felt it was not the time to probe that particular subject.

“Sorry for assuming so much about tour familiar,” Carania said. “So you must be proficient in magic then? Oh! My name is Carania Garion. What’s your name?”

The young man took a drag off of the herb he had been smoking and smiled. “Sure, why not? My name is Arne and yes I am a wizard.”

“Arne what?” Carania asked.

“Simply Arne,” he said with a hard look that said ‘drop the subject’. “What’s your deal, Carania Garion?”

“I’m a paladin of the Raven Queen and I came here to ask the Thorncatch family for help in hunting the necromancer in the woods near here,” Carania said.

There was a silence during which Grim cawed and Arne took another drag from his herb and then he blew the smoke out slowly. “That was pretty direct,” he said. “I like that. It’s refreshingly honest. Unfortunately, Thorncatch Manor is all closed down. Lord and Lady Thorncatch left one day to travel and never came back. Tough luck there.”

“I suppose I could attempt the hunt on my own,” Carania said. “but I was told to get help where I could get it.”

“Told? Is there coin in it then?” Arne asked. “I could be convinced to help for the promise of a challenge and sufficient pay.”

“Well,” Carania said as she thought hard about that. “it is sort of a holy mission but I bet that the necromancer will have some gold that you’re free to have a share of.”

“A holy mission?” Arne asked. “I’m not so sure about all of that. Don’t get me wrong. I am experienced but I am not a holy person and I have never been on a holy mission before.”

A dwarf sitting at a table alone spoke up. “You’ve never been on a holy mission? Truly? It’s a little bit like sailing with the wind at your back. Somebody out there wants you to succeed. My name’s Galath Windham and I’m a cleric of Pelor. I’m definitely available to help you on your quest.”

“Just like that?” Arne asked. “I guess my share just shrank, huh?” He stubbed out the burning herb he had been smoking on the surface of the bar. It was not the most polite thing to do but Carania did not see any member of the staff about to yell at the wizard and Carania was not about to ruin a chance by scolding him herself.

Carania turned back to face Arne. “So you’ve let go of your reservations then? You’ll join me as well?” She smiled at the young man who paused and made a face like he had been tricked.

“Like I said,” Arne said. “I enjoy a good challenge and it’s been a long time since one came along. You came here looking for help and you’re going to get it.”

“Thank you,” Carania said. “I seem to have lucked out in Thorncatch afterall.”

“I take it from your statement that you have taken me up on my offer of help as well?” Galath asked. “Will an elf take help from a dwarf?”

“Hmm,” Carania said. “I suppose I have little choice.” Galath looked a bit disappointed at that but then Carania smiled. “Aside from that, I have no bigotry in my heart. All who oppose undeath are welcome.”

“That’s definitely in my job description,” Galath said. “I’ll fight by your side.”

“And I’ll fight a little behind the both of you where I hopefully won’t get hurt,” Arne said.

“That’s fair enough,” Carania said. “Sleep well because we ride out at dawn.”

Reunion at the New Moon Academy of Wizardry

April 20, 2018

Hollin Bellringer had arrived at the school reunion for the New Moon School of Wizardry a few minutes earlier. He was still tingling a bit hours after stepping out of the teleportation circle. He usually did not use teleportation as a mode of transportation but the invitation to the reunion had included a free round trip to Braddish which was only a long walk or a short ride to the school. He remembered making that trip with his friends late in his school days to eat lunch and try to sneak ale from the more flexible tavern workers. This time, the trip had been a bit shorter since he had hitched a ride with a carriage heading toward the school which had already been weighed down with others headed for the reunion. He had been hesitant about going at all but now that he had arrived, nostalgia had taken over and he found himself smiling.

They decided to hold the reunion outside in the Herald Memorial Courtyard. It was a full moon, of course, but those in attendance were also asked at the door to contribute some sort of light-producing spell for atmosphere. It was a little awkward when a non-magical guest showed up and had to inform the greeters but it was a nice idea all the same. The school could easily light the courtyard as there were magic lanterns already in place for safety and nighttime events. However, when Tritsi Highweather had volunteered to organize the event, the idea had caught on quickly when she suggested it. It was a way to show how much they had all grown from when a simple spell like Light was difficult to conjure. Hollin could see that Tritsi was quite pleased with herself over near the door, chatting away.

There was a tap on his shoulder and Hollin turned around to see Roxen Shadowend standing there in the dim yet festive light. Her floor-length dress showed off her deep blue skin and her hair was braided to highlight her prominent horns. Roxen was a tiefling, a race of humans who mixed their bloodline with dark, infernal or abyssal powers. Some saw tieflings strictly as servants of devils and demons but Hollin had been raised to give everybody a chance. It often paid to have an open mind.

“Roxy,” he said. “It’s been a really long time. How are you holding up?” She held out a long-stemmed glass which looked to be full of Blackwine and Hollin took it.

She smiled brightly, wickedly sharp teeth showing. “Things are great, Holls. I fell in with a monster hunting group a while ago and I have been having a blast.”

“Really?” he asked. “I can’t imagine getting used to all of that traveling. It also sounds like a dangerous line of work.”

“Of course it is,” she said. “but that’s part of the thrill. When you’re facing down a room of skeletons with only a few sellswords in between I just get goosebumps. It’s amazing.”

Hollin eyed her skeptically. “So you sleep in a tent?”

Roxy huffed and practically pouted, knowing where he was going with that question. “When I have to. There are inns all over the place too.”

“Sorry, Rox, I just know what family you come from,” he said, obviously teasing her a bit. “You had high standards back in school. You had a whole bed shipped in if I remember correctly.”

Roxen shrugged. “My parents allowed it so who was I to turn it down? Regardless, I’m made of stronger stuff these days.” She posed, making her right bicep bulge a little. It was not that impressive in general but for a wizard, it was pretty good. “What are you up to, judgy boy?”

Hollin was about to answer when he happened to catch sight of a dwarf making his way through the crowd. His red beard was out of control as usual but his hair was almost as well-braided as Roxen’s. “Thon!” he called out and the dwarf made his way over. “Thon Ironbeard, it’s been ages.”

Thon took a long swig from his pint of ale. “Too long,” he agreed. “I need to stand next to you so I look more handsome.”

Roxen rolled her eyes. “He looks fine,” she said.

“More than fine, I hope,” Hollin said.

“Hollin was just about to tell me what he’s been up to lately,” Roxen said. Both she and Thon looked expectantly. “Go on.”

Hollin nodded and smiled and sipped from his glass the pitch black but sweet liquid. “Well, it’s nothing as exciting as monster hunting. I just set up an enchanting workshop in Overbrook.”

“That’s kind of boring but not really surprising,” Roxen said. “You were always the fastest enchanter in our years there.”

“You were too good,” Thon said. “You must be raking it in. Overbrook has plenty of nobles and adventurers and the Guard pass through there all the time.”

Hollin smiled. “I do alright. It can get busy but most days are pretty laid back, the cost of enchanting is pretty limiting for the average person.” The truth was that Hollin had fallen in with the Broken Skull gang. They paid him quite well to enchant for them while he was still free to sell his services to whoever else came in the door. He was also their magic expert in that region and he consulted on a lot of their magical issues and problems. Of course, he would never tell even his oldest friends that.

A woman passed by and the hem of her dress brushed against Hollin’s leg which drew his attention. He watched her walk by, her auburn hair flowing loose and her green eyes sparkling. He knew exactly who she was and that is what surprised him.

“Is that Cassandra Oakspring?” Hollin asked.

“Looks like you don’t need glasses yet,” Thon said and took a big swig of his ale. “That’s her alright.”

Roxen looked around wildly until she spotted her. “Oh man, wow,” she said.

“Yeah,” Hollin said. “I wasn’t sure if she was going to come or not. She killed a dragon. I would have thought she would have better things to do.”

“Yeah but she lives here now,” Roxen said. “She’s definitely the coolest girl in school now.”

Hollin looked away from Cassandra and at Roxen with a smile. “Got a little crush?”

Roxen blushed. “No.”

“I’m thinking maybe she does,” Thon said with a grin. The two guys laughed and Roxen turned slightly away in mock anger.

It was great being back. Hollin found himself smiling brightly, far from his normally complicated life back in Overbrook. Part of him wanted to avoid Cassandra like the plague but another part of him wanted the thrill of talking to an officer of the law while working for one of the biggest thieve’s guilds in the country. This reunion was about to get interesting.

The Queen’s Champion

April 19, 2018

Carania took a big gulp of wine as she processed this. The goddess of death was sitting in front of her quite casually. It was unnerving but it all fit. The black on black, the white mask, the feathered dress, the aura of immense power. Carania felt she had probably been impertinent to a goddess and that had to be remedied. “I’m sorry for offending you.”

“Offending me?” The queen said with a laugh. “You have impressed me. As for how I know your name, I am a goddess but you are not unknown in the world. You are Carania, possibly the best with a sword in Silverlight not to mention your proficiency with other weapons. But what interests me most is your name. You were born Cara. Caring Cara, always helping everyone as you grew up. You not only played with other children, you watched over them too. However, when you took your fencing training, you added the ‘nia’ at the end of your name.”

Carania nodded. “Yes, ma’am. I felt like I needed a change at the time. I never tried to hide anything about myself.”

“Ma’am?” the Queen asked and she laughed again. It was an almost musical laugh. “Very cute.” She waved her hand and her mask was suddenly gone and Carania immediately averted her eyes, looking down at her empty glass. There was rich laughter from the other side of the table. “You can look, dear girl. Few are allowed to see the true face of death but I trust you. Death can seem cruel but death is kind, I assure you.”

Carania looked up and saw what looked like a young woman Amela’s age. She was breathtakingly beautiful. Her waist length hair had suddenly gotten shorter and wavier and it was gathered in a stylish bun atop her head. Her face was painted to accentuate her features with striking black lips and heavy black around her eyes. Her skin was actually dark which was a bit surprising compared to the ghostly white of the mask. She looked almost like she was from the deserts to the north but she was a goddess so that could not be.

“It is like you have two names or two parts to your name. It illustrates the two sides of you. Compassion and the Sword. Both tools can be a great asset in what comes next and I need you to have every advantage you can get your hands on. I need you at your best, Carania.”

Carania swallowed the rest of the wine. “You need me? What possible use can the Raven Queen have for a mortal such as me?”

“I cannot walk the material plane as easily as you can,” the Queen said. “I need a champion out there fighting for me. I have many enemies and many things to set right and I need help. I think with your mind, your heart, and your sword, I think you can be exactly who I need.”

Carania blinked. “This is a job offer? I feel silly reminding you but I’m dead.”

“I can send you back,” the Raven Queen said. “As long as you agree to be bound to me.”

“What exactly would I do?” Carania asked.

The Raven Queen leaned forward. “You would be my sheriff. You would roam the world, mostly sending undead back to their graves by force. Undead rise all the time and they are unnatural and should be put down without hesitation.”

Carania nodded. “I’ve never met any undead but I would agree. Am I supposed to do this alone?”

“I would suggest that you partner with other people once you get back. Clergy and paladins of great faith are especially useful for this cause.”

“So, go back, recruit a fighting force and eliminate undead around the world? Is that all?” Carania mimed writing a list on her palm.

The Raven Queen laughed again. “For that, you get your life back and, seeing as how you’re an elf, you have a long way ahead of you. There will be adventures and I’m sure there’s some coin in what I’m asking if riches are your thing.”

“Where would I even start?” Carania asked.

“You would start with revenge.” Suddenly, the Raven Queen was holding up one of the arrows with the black fletching. “This is an insult. Their arrows are not even fletched with raven feathers. These are crow feathers. Fitting since the people who shot you are interfering with my harvest.” Carania looked a little lost. “There is a necromancer using human thugs to kill people for the necromancer to raise later. This necromancer is pathetic but he could become a problem later. I want you to take him and any undead out.”

“There’s plenty of incentive for that first mission,” Carania said. “I can’t pretend that the rest of it isn’t attractive either. You’re right. I do want to protect people and I have heard how nasty the undead can be.”

“Very nasty,” the Raven Queen said. “The unthinking undead such as zombies and ghouls are bad enough but the ones that think are even worse.  Eventually, you will be hunting down wights, vampires, death knights, and even liches. Do you think that you are up to the task?”

“As long as you’re not sending me back in this dress,” Carania said.

The Raven Queen laughed. “You can’t wear your armor all the time, Carania. If you do, it becomes a part of you and it becomes harder to take off when you need to. Figuratively, of course.”

“So, how does this work?” Carania asked. “How do you send me back?”

“Carania Garon, I charge you to purge the land of the undead scourge and to kill those who would unleash that threat on the world. In return, you will be resurrected, you will be harder to kill, and you will be granted special abilities to carry out your mission. In short, you will be a paladin and champion in my name. Do you accept this charge?”

Carania swallowed and nodded but looked at the Raven Queen with a steely gaze. “I do.”

“Take my hand, Carania,” the Raven Queen said. When Carania reached out to shake the Raven Queen’s hand, there was an incredible feeling just from her touch. It was cold but there was an odd tingling energy as well. The Raven Queen bent down and kissed Carania’s hand and Carania felt some of that power enter her body. She realized at that moment that she had been comfortably numb and now she felt everything again and it was exhilarating. “Goodbye for now. See you in your dreams.”

Carania suddenly woke up on the forest floor and stumbled to her feet. There was still blood everywhere but there was not even a single hole in her armor. She looked at her right hand and there was an imprint of the Raven Queen’s lips. The imprint slowly blossomed into the image of a raven with its wings spread. Carania looked out into the forest. It was time to go hunting.

The Faith of the Raven

April 6, 2018

Carania lay on the cold, wet ground of the Hernon forest. The ground was cold and wet from the melting frost of an early spring morning. The sun was just rising to burn the cold away and the morning was still in that middling period between cold night and warm day. There was also a decent fog going which is the excuse Carania was giving herself for why she had not seen the arrows heading in her direction. Three of them had hit her and one of those three was currently buried deep in her gut. It had been like this for quite a while but Carania no longer had the strength to move. She was powerless to do anything but watch her blood mingle with the wetness of the grass beneath her. She suspected some sort of paralyzing agent or enchantment. Either way, she was definitely going to bleed out and it would not be long.

She wished she had seen who had shot her. It would not have helped her situation any but it would have lessened her confusion as her life dripped out of her and fed the grass. She could see the fletching on one of the arrows and there were some greasy black feathers sticking out. The work was crude but it had obviously done well enough to end her life. That was the only real evidence she had of her murderers. She had not been expecting trouble. In fact, she had merely been looking for a shortcut as she traveled toward a gig in Silverlight. She had been a bodyguard for a niece of the Silverlight family for years but the family had gotten her a more prestigious job in the Capital. She hated to say goodbye to Amela but she could not turn down an offer to walk the streets of the capital. Of course, now that was definitely not going to happen.

As her vision started to grow dark, she wondered if the Silverlight family would have her resurrected. She doubted they would ever find her body to perform the ritual and somewhere in her heart, she doubted their professed loyalty to her even in return for her years of loyalty. She had given up a normal life and more specifically any chance of romance for years of service. Now, she would die and it would not even be in the defense of a client or for any good cause. Her heart began to hurt and she was not sure if it was literally hurting or if it had broken from thinking these thoughts. She realized at that point that she could not see anymore and in the darkness, she tried to reach out but her arms still could not move. She tried to cry out but she made no sound although she wondered if she could even hear anymore. Then there was nothing.

Then her eyes were blinking open and there was black tile beneath her. She was in exactly the same position on her side she had been on the grass of the clearing but there was tile instead. Carania was intensely confused. She slowly moved her eyes toward her stomach and she could not see the arrow anymore. This was even more confusing. She stayed there on the floor for some time and nothing changed. She felt weak and helpless for the first time since she was a little girl. She never wanted to feel this way again. She used that desire as power.

“Help,” she called out but it sounded weak, her voice cracking. “Please help.” A little stronger but not by much.

“Oh, are you going to lie on the floor any longer?” A feminine voice called out. “Feel free but I am getting bored over here.”

“I got shot,” Carania said. “I can’t move. Some sort of poison or magic. Sorry for boring you.” She sounded annoyed. The woman was not being nearly sympathetic about the situation as she should be.

“Do you not remember what happened after you were shot?” The woman asked. “You’re dead. You don’t have to act hurt after you’re dead. Especially in my domain.”

It was as if a spell was cast and suddenly Carania could move and she realized that she felt no pain. She was not even breathing. She rolled onto her hands and knees and, from there, she pushed herself to her feet. She realized her armor was gone and she was in a dress that had previously been shoved to the bottom of her pack which was also missing. It was a pretty dress that she had been forced to wear at formal occasions that Amela attended. She hated it now just as much as she hated it then. She looked around the room. The floor was matte black tile and there was jet black wallpaper with dull silver detail. There was a spindly onyx chandelier hanging above with blue-flamed candles that somehow cast the perfect amount of light. Black on black on black was an interesting style choice.

She turned toward where it sounded like the woman had been. There was a young woman sitting at a table. She had long black hair but her face was covered by what looked like an expressionless porcelain mask. Carania blinked twice and the mask was now smiling. A laugh came from behind that mask as if it was not there and the effect was a little disturbing.

“Welcome to the Outer Planes and my home,” the woman said. “At least, this is one of the more stable parts of it. Do you like the decor? It’s easy to keep changing it when reality is so… subjective.”

All Carania could do was make a confused, hopeless noise as she just stared at the woman. This was not what she had been expecting from the afterlife at all.

“Sit down, Carania,” the woman said. “We have much to discuss.  I also have tea.” There were two steaming cups of tea sitting on the table. Had they been there before?

Carania slowly, cautiously lowered herself into a chair. “I don’t really like tea.”

“Wine? Ale?”

“Wine? It’s not even noon yet,” Carania said with disapproval.

“You are dead,” the woman said. “I think the rules don’t apply to you anymore.”

There was suddenly a glass of dark black wine in front of Carania and she decided to sip it. It was surprisingly sweet. It reminded Carania a little of the one glass of wine Amela had convinced her to drink back in Silverlight. “Who are you? Where am I? How do you know my name.”

“You haven’t guessed?” The woman asked. “I am the Raven Queen and I wanted to meet you.”

 

When it All Ended Pt. 10

March 24, 2018

“What are you all talking about?” Cassandra asked from the top of the stairs. She had left the flask containing the djinn on her bedside table. She would release her in the morning when it was marginally safer. Besides, she had a feeling the djinn would either wreck the mansion or get them all drunk if given the chance. Messing about with spirits was dangerous but unleashing mischief onto the world definitely topped the dragon making the capital of Eloria its lair.

“We were just talking allies, Ms. Oakspring,” Galath said. “Even after all our travels the allies we can call on are running short.”

“Once again, Galath,” Cassandra said. “You can call us by our first names. I think you’ve earned being informal with us.”

“I think I am just more comfortable calling you by your surnames,” Galath said. “I suppose I like knowing that you are all somehow linked to my past.”

“Go on and speak how you will speak, Galath,” William said. “Either way, you stand by our side and that’s all that matters to me.” Garth and Cassandra both nodded and each agreed with that sentiment. Cassandra stepped behind the bar, amidst the unseen servants and sat facing the three men.

“Speaking of allies,” Garth said. “How did things go on your end?”

“I spoke to Princess Cora briefly and she is keeping the dragon busy for now,” Cassandra said. “I don’t know how long she’ll last.”

“As far as I know,” William said. “the Royal family does not have as much prowess when it comes to battle. It must be hard to be helpless against a dragon in your home.”

“Only mostly helpless,” Cassandra said. “I kind of know the Princess. I met her once back at New Moon. She showed signs of magical ability but if she pursued that, it was with private tutors.”

“Besides that,” Garth said. “I’ve heard that the royals are actually pretty smart and capable.”

“Oh Pelor,” Galath said. “did you case the royal palace at one point?”

“I will neither confirm or deny it,” Garth said, looking side to side. “I will say that they do have a lot of nice things and even one artifact would probably set me up for life.”

“No stealing while we’re there tomorrow,” Cassandra said. “Anyway, the Princess will try to get the beast up onto the roof. It’s big and flat and will give us more space to face the dragon.” All three men started to think of what they could do and what they had to do on that roof, strategizing based on their abilities.

“And what of the djinn,” Galath asked. “Will she help us?”

“She has agreed to help us,” Cassandra said. “I know it’s foolish to fully trust a djinn but I feel like it’s worth the risk and Morgan and Percy agreed.”

“Well, I trust you,” William said. “That’s all that matters.”

“Yes,” Galath said. “I have complete faith in you.”

Garth shrugged. “Sometimes you have to work with a trickster.” He grinned.

Cassandra smiled in thanks.

“Well,” William said. “I hardly think we need the help. We’re a great fighting force. We’re Moonglow’s Raiders and I have never seen anybody as powerful as we are.”

Cassandra had a sudden thought. “Hey trickster,” she said. “I just thought of somebody that you could possibly contact.”

“Me?” Garth asked. “All my old friends are back in Kofrain and, besides you all, I have nothing but enemies in Eloria.” He paused and thought for a moment. “And Shura and Treles and Ascines and I really carved a path, didn’t I? I’m really drawing a blank here Cassandra. You’re going to have to give me a hint at least.”

“Well,” she said. “The ally wouldn’t be in any of those places. The ally would be in the feywild.”

“Oh no,” Garth said. “Not her.” He slid off of his stool and started to walk away.

They all turned to watch him. “I didn’t mean to offend you, Garth,” Cassandra said. “but tomorrow is going to be really hard on everyone. I want all of us to survive. I want as much of the Guard as possible to survive.”

“We need all hands on deck, Garth,” William said with all seriousness in his eyes. “She wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important.”

“I know,” Garth said without turning around. His shoulders slumped and he sighed and ran a hand through his hair.

“What are you afraid of?” Cassandra asked. If it had not been her who asked, if it had been William, the question might have made him angry. Cassandra was just so good at reading people, like the books she was so fond of.

“She is a being of the feywild,” Garth said. “they’re not like us. They’re dangerous.”

“It’s not like she wants to eat you,” Galath said. William and Cassandra laughed a little at that.

“She might,” Garth said and that ended the laughter. “I just don’t know. I know that she had a hungry look in her eyes and I just don’t know what she was hungry for. With other girls, I had an idea before I pulled them close. This is uncharted territory.”

“We will not force you, my friend,” William said. “It is enough to have you by our side in the battle tomorrow.”

Garth sighed. “I hate that I’m not the fearless force that you all know and love.”

“Love is a little strong,” William said but it was said calmly. “There is a very clear line between bravery and foolishness.”

“I was just teasing you about you know who,” Cassandra said. “You have a good point. She could be very dangerous. She is Fey, not mortal like us.”

There was a long silence. “I think I’ll turn in,” Garth said. “We have a big day ahead of us and you know how I get if I drink too much.”

William smiled. “Drink too much? I’ve never seen it happen myself.”

“I’m very good at hiding,” Garth said with a smile and he headed up the stairs. The three remaining looked at each other worriedly.

When It All Ended Pt. 9

March 17, 2018

William Havelock and Garth Whispernight were sitting at the bar downstairs. During his exile from his homeland, William had learned to really enjoy a good tavern. There was usually fellowship, decent ale, and there was the possibility of a good brawl breaking out. William had earned his title when he was knighted. He did not come from nobility but he had instead made a name for himself in the tourneys all over Shera. He had fought threats to the land alongside prissy rich boys and girls and gained fame through hard work and bravery. However, it was not until he had officially become a full-time adventurer that he had downtime to discover the simple joys of drinking with friends. Of course, there was a time when it looked like William and Garth would never be friends.

Garth had come a long way himself, even farther than Shera. He had fled Kofrain himself when the desert had figuratively gotten too hot. When he had joined the party he would have been the first to admit that he was a scoundrel. He was proud of it. He called himself the world’s greatest thief but he had always done it for fun and not riches. William and Cass had been the ones to finally catch him and Morgan was the one who convinced him to join the group. What started as reluctant do-gooding turned into an exciting thrill ride which in turn led to him being as addicted to saving the day as the others were. The war of words between him and William had grown from animosity to petty fun and finally to real friendship. Garth had turned over a new leaf and while he still did not follow the laws of the land, he definitely used those powers for good.

“You are very quiet over there, Whisper,” William said, setting his mug down. “You also look a little green. You’re not scared are you?”

“Scared?” Garth asked with an incredulous look that had indeed been a look of dread a moment before. “Unlike you, I will never even be seen by the dragon. It won’t know what hit it when I get the killing blow.”

William laughed. “You? I’m sure you meant to say that it will be me who scores the killing blow and I will do it as I look that dragon in the eye. It will know who ended its life.”

“Will you two ever stop arguing?” Galath asked as he walked up and climbed up onto a stool. The older dwarf man had taken off his customary mail and cloak and he looked a lot more casual as a result. The party was used to him being so formal.

“I’m afraid not,” William said. “You and Morgan just might be stuck watching over us forever, old man.” He and Garth smiled at each other, they would be done sniping at each other for a while.

“True,” Galath said. “It’s not as if we’ve been able to unload either of you along the line.”

“We’re hard to get rid of,” Garth said proudly. “But who would want to get rid of a crack thief like me?”

“All of the nobles of Eloria for starters,” Galath said. “Usually I find your bravado a bit tiresome but we need your legendary confidence tomorrow, Whispernight.”

“I keep racking my brain for any more allies we could call on but I am separated from the Knights of Shera and most of the friends I personally made during our adventures are on the front lines,” William said. He reflexively looked over at the sword he carried with its hawk head pommel. He felt a brief guilt that he was not with his fellows in Shera or in the thick of battle with the brave Guard of Eloria. Then he remembered that if he had been, he would not be here to face the dragon and that was strangely comforting.

“Yes,” Galath agreed. “I too have been searching my heart for allies but to no avail.”

“What about Carania, Galath?” Garth asked.

Galath flinched at that. It was not a negative thing but just proof of how much that name affected him. “She would be very effective here but last I heard from her, she was dealing with a problem in the Underdark. Even if she was not down there, she would be on the front lines dealing with the undead that are rumored to be fighting in the war.”

“That’s a shame,” William said. “She really would be helpful even if this kind of strays from her mission from the goddess of death.”

“We all go above and beyond what we are asked to do, Mr. Havelock,” Galath said. “Also, I’ll remind you that she is no grim reaper but is as much a defender of life as she is a defender of death.”

“True,” William said. “I’m sorry for implying anything wrong with the lady. She has done right by us a couple of times now and I just wish she could be here now.”

“So do I,” Galath said. “But I’m sure that we will see her again.”

“I bet you will,” Garth said with an elbow to the dwarf’s ribs. “If you know what I mean.”

Galath coughed and shook his head. “I’m sure I have no idea what you mean.” The dwarf took a long sip of his tea, so much that the cup refilled as soon as he set it down. It was a bit of an irregularity for a dwarf to not be a drinker but Galath always wanted a clear head and sometimes drinking just reminded him of the friends he had lost when he had been petrified. He looked around and realized that all three of them were men separated from their original homes. While they were not the same, that thread had tied them together in the midst of a party of adventurers. “You know, maybe you two can go home after this.”

“Maybe I don’t want to go home,” Garth said. “Maybe there’s no real home to go back to.”

“Surely your home did not crumble to dust like mine did,” Galath said. “It is probably still there.”

“Not the structure, Galath,” Garth said. “Maybe I like it here better and maybe this is sort of my family now.”

“Has the thief grown a heart?” William asked with a smirk.

“No!” Garth yelled and then there was an intense silence. “I always had one, I guess.”

“Of course you did,” Galath said. “and I know how you feel. I will never forget the bond we have forged together.”

“Neither will I,” William said. “It is as strong as the vows I took as a knight. Maybe stronger.”

The three men drank to that.

When It All Ended Pt. 6

February 3, 2018

The dragon had left Cora alone in her bedroom. The door was not locked and she had not posted any of her lizardmen for guards. She had simply threatened Cora with death if she wandered too far. Otherwise, she could move around the castle to feed and entertain herself as long as she did not make a move against Khandara. She knew she needed help but so far, she was still alone. The remaining Guard members of the castle had been chased off or killed. It was only a matter of time until the dragon got bored and consumed her as it had promised.

“Princess Cora?” A voice echoed in Cora’s head. “This is Cassandra Oakspring of Moonglow’s Raiders. I don’t know if you remember me but we’re here to help.”

“Cassandra?” Cora asked in her head. “Didn’t I meet you at New Moon? I appreciate the help but there is a small army between you and me.” Cora summoned an image from her memory of Cassandra but she could only envision a gawky teen girl from way back when.

“We’re working on that,” Cassandra responded. “We will be at the castle soon and I promise you we will take out that dragon or die trying.”

“I like the former option better,” Cora said. “but this dragon is very deadly. She has me prisoner alone in here. Is there anything I can do?”

“We want you safely out of the way when it begins,” Cassandra said. “The roof! Can you lure the dragon up there when the time is right?”

“I can try,” Cora thought. “She certainly likes playing with me and the longer she’s interested, the more likely she won’t eat me.”

“Think on it,” Cassandra thought. “Keep hope alive. We’re on the case.”

“Be careful,” Cora thought. “I honestly can’t wait to see you again. If you pull this off, my parents will give you anything you want.”

“Let’s focus on the fight first,” Cassandra thought. “Try to sleep tonight and conserve your energy. This is the last message I can send tonight.”

“Thank you and good night,” Cora thought. “I’ll see you tomorrow.” And then the connection was dead and Cora was alone again. But she was not completely alone. Somewhere out there was the gawky teen who had given her a tour of New Moon Wizardry School along with the renown adventurers group Moonglow’s Raiders. The thought was both comforting and exciting but now Cora had a mission. With that new purpose came a new strength that she had not known she had left inside of her. She was going to get that dragon to the roof.

* * *

Cassandra took a few breaths after using the Sending Pendant. It had limited uses per day and it took a bit of her energy for a little bit whenever she used it. She lay back on the soft bed in her little corner of Percival’s mansion. She had not thought that Princess Cora would remember her. She had imagined that the letters that Cassandra had sent were answered by some servant or something to spare Cassandra’s feelings. Instead, the connection was real and it kind of blew Cassandra’s mind. She was even more determined to save the Princess than before. It was not just her duty but her desire as well.

Now, Cassandra turned her attention to the other task that had been given to her. She sat up and rummaged through her pack and pulled out a cube. She had carefully constructed the cube alongside one of her old teachers at New Moon for a very specific purpose. The party had been trying to figure out what to do with it for a few months. It was not the object itself that was so tricky, it was who was inside of it. Months ago, the party had encountered a wandering Djinn that some students had accidentally released from the Elemental Plane of Air. The party had defeated the Djinn and trapped it in Cassandra’s trap, earning Cassandra a special accolade from her old academy. Now, Cassandra finally had an idea.

She held the trap up near her mouth. “Can you hear me in there?”

There was a long pause and then a whispery voice answered back. “I can hear you, Cassandra,” Monela answered back.

“You know my name?” Cassandra asked with some surprise. When the event had gone down, the Djinn had been uninterested in talking much. It had been more interested in playing tricks and pranks and property destruction. It sounded like it had calmed down some.

“I can listen all the time from inside this box,” Monela replied. “I have learned much about you and your compatriots.”

“Oh?” Cassandra asked. “I’m curious about what you think, then.”

“You are powerful yet kind,” Monela replied. “You bested me and tricked me into this trap. I have much respect for you.”

“Kind words,” Cassandra said. “Pretty words, too. What would you say to a deal which included your release?”

“Well,” the Djinn said. “I would not be adverse to hearing more of this deal. I mean, I am your captive audience so go ahead and speak.” Monela’s voice betrayed her and Cassandra could hear a tinge of excitement there and definite interest. She knew that Monela must be going crazy in the box and Cassandra actually felt sorry for her. She knew that Monela was a spirit of wind and freedom and was not meant to be in one place for long. Still, she also knew that Monela could be a mischievous creature and care was needed.

“We are having a little bit of trouble with some lizardmen, some wyverns, and a dragon,” Cassandra said.

“Nasty sorts,” Monela said. “They never want to have fun. Not my kind of fun. It’s no fun if people actually die.”

“Exactly,” Cassandra said. “I’m so glad we’re on the same page. My friends and I are going after the dragon. Can I ask you to help take care of the rest?”

“Ask?” Monela nearly shouted. “Not order? That is interesting and I find your phrasing pleasing. Speak your deal and I will consider it.”

“The simple deal is as follows,” Cassandra said. “I release you and in return, you fight alongside the Guard but especially target the wyverns. Once the battle is done, you will leave this place.”

“Leave this place?” Monela asked and it was clear she was surprised. “Gladly. If you survive the dragon, you could try and trap me again. I do not wish to be in here again.”

“Understandable,” Cassandra said. “Of course, I make no promises that we or some other group won’t try to catch you again if you make trouble.”

“That possibility makes the thrill of making trouble all the sweeter,” Monela said and laughed.

“Well, then,” Cassandra said. “We have a deal. I will release you inside the city gates tomorrow.”

“Rest well, Cassandra,” Monela said. “I do not wish to hear of your death.”

Elorian Education Services

January 29, 2018

<A robed man enters frame and smooths his robes before realizing that the camera is already running>

Greenwood: Hello, my name is Hynan Greenwood and I am the minister for education here in the land of Eloria. I wanted to take a few moments of your time to highlight some of the specialty schools here in Eloria. Some children and young adults have aptitudes beyond basic schooling and trade apprenticeships. These children may have aspirations for highly specialized fields such as enchanting or becoming members of the Guard. Others may wish to become Adventurers, our land’s unofficial second line of defense. Whatever the reasons, Eloria has set up educational opportunities to help present a more educated workforce so we can all contribute to society in our own way. Let’s meet some of the teachers you might have.

<The shot cuts to a hunched-over tiefling woman in a stereotypical witch’s hat who looks like she has been dusted with soot. She speaks awkwardly as if she is not comfortable with attention>

Woodrow: Hello. My name is Cinna Woodrow and I am the Director of New Moon School of Wizardry. We are situated in Braddish in the District of Coppin, the north side of town. Oh! You’ve just caught me trying to create a new enchantment. <She dusts off her spectacles> I won’t go into detail but it should be a nasty exploding trap to ward off thieves. So far I have the exploding part down but I have yet to lock in the not exploding part. That is what you can expect here at New Moon. We will teach you the beginner and intermediate levels of magic and then we will encourage you to find your own path in high level magic. When you leave New Moon, you will be ready for whatever magical path that lies ahead of you. Our staff includes alumni includes Arcanist Gar Braddon and famous adventurer Cassandra Oakspring.

<The shot cuts to a scruffy-looking man with red hair in plate armor and leaning slightly on a longsword. He smiles broadly at the camera>

Harefoot: Hello! <He raises the sword straight up in the air in salute as he shouts> My name is Donovan Harefoot and I am an instructor at True Cross Swordfighting School where swords cross daily. We are situated outside of Hurlock in the District of Stull at the Battle Arts Academy. Here at True Cross we are dedicated to a lot of things but first and foremost is how to fight. You will leave True Cross knowing how to succeed in any combat situation and you will have mastered at least one weapon. Despite our name, we also have teachers on hand who can teach you all sorts of martial weaponry techniques. We also specialize in a variety of styles and I guarantee we can find one that fits your body and personality. Personally, I came here as a weakling and I left here as a fierce warrior in the last Great War. After some successful time in the Guard, I came back here to whip you young people into shape so we can keep this great land safe.

<The shot cuts to a blonde woman with a few sticks and leaves tangled in her hair but a beaming smile on her face>

Trickfoot: Hi! My name is Harria Trickfoot and you’re lucky enough to get this message about Sunny Valley Ranger School. I became the director of this school after my father passed away a few years ago. Sunny Valley doesn’t exactly have a fixed location. I’m sure you’ve heard what Rangers are like. Wherever we are currently camping is where the school is. This school is incredibly hands-on as we will teach you to excel in hunting and tracking. This is not like normal hunting. We will teach you how not to lose your quarry whether it is a stag, an owlbear, or even a nasty orc. When we set out after a target, we do not stop until we find it and neutralize the threat. We are at home in any kind of terrain and tracking any kind of creature or person. In fact, I always say that a ranger’s home is where they lay there head at night. When you come to Sunny Valley you will be assigned to a squad and we will teach you how to track and fight any target that you need to. Guaranteed.

<The shot cuts to a serious-looking man with a nose that looks like it was previously broken and did not quite set right. He talks with a quiet intensity>

Cole: My name is Harkan Arnell and I am an instructor here at the North Star Dojo. We are situated at the Battle Arts Academy in near Hurlock in Stull. We are solely dedicated to teaching students to center themselves, unlock the chi within, and use that ability to learn how to fight with honor and discipline. Do not apply to this dojo if you are just looking to go around beating people up. That is not what we do. Our students go on to happy, productive lives who only use combat as a last resort. We work to unlock an inner peace inside of our students so that they can use the skills we teach them responsibly. That means that if you come to this dojo, you will take it seriously or you will be gone. Probably off to a school that might tolerate that sort of behavior. While our work is serious, we are not emotionless creatures and we do know how to smile. Many of our students have gone on to successful careers in the Guard and some have even started their own small dojos across Eloria. Please consider North Star if you are serious about becoming a fist against injustice.

<The shot cuts back to Minister Greenwood>

Greenwood: Well, there you have only a few of our land’s brilliant instructors. Eloria supports any teacher of any level who seeks to educate and train each upcoming generation. As usual, any family that seeks beginner level educations will be accommodated at no charge. Trade Apprenticeships will still get young people to their chosen professions such as blacksmithing, ranching, or shopkeeping. These more specialized schools are necessary because what they do is either complicated, potentially dangerous, or both and we need to place those students in a safe, stable environment in order to learn. Most of these schools require applications so send them off as soon as you can. While some schools can be expensive, scholarships are offered every year so don’t be discouraged. Get out there and learn something today. Good luck!

When It All Ended Pt. 5

January 20, 2018

“Who are you?” Princess Cora asked, her voice still shaky. She was now sitting on the floor in a sort of daze as the dragon sat on her father’s throne. The dragon had taken the sword that the Princess had been wielding and had stabbed it into the seat of the queen’s throne. It definitely sent the message that the dragon was now in charge.

“You mean besides being a dragon? My name is Khandara,” The dragon said. “It’s so nice of you to ask. Most people either attack or run away screaming. Just a note: If you do either of those things then I will kill you.”

Cora swallowed hard and nodded. “I guess I’ll just sit here then.”

“Good girl,” Khandara said with a smirk. “And they say that royals are dumb.”

“But why are you here?” Cora asked.

“I heard that the King and Queen were away at war,” Khandara said. “They’ll probably die there what with all the demons and undead on the march. I thought I would upgrade from my old home. A palace is definitely an upgrade.”

“My mother and father will return with an army,” Cora said. “What will you do then?”

Khandara smiled and her form shifted into a mirror image of the Princess’ form except with green hair and green eyes. “I’ll welcome them home with open arms just after I pick bits of your guts out of my teeth. When their guard is down, I’ll eat them too. By then, this place will be quite inhospitable to any army. So many magical traps. Besides that, I brought my own fighting force.”

Cora just looked down and wished she was powerful enough to do something. Talk of being eaten by a dragon made her feel powerless and desperate and she was now spending most of her brain power on finding a way to protect herself from the dragon. Once she was protected, she could formulate a plan on what to do next. There had to be something. Ther Royal Family never gave up. They just figured out another way around a problem after defeat.

* * *

Morgan was in the lead as they reached the gates of the Capital at a fast trot on their horses. There seemed to be a small makeshift village at the gates and Morgan lept off of her horse and tied it to a post. A member of the Guard ran up to her.

“Miss,” the guard said, “The city is dangerous. There is a dragon present. I’m afraid whatever business you have in the city will be delayed. I would fall back to a safer position as well.”

Morgan held up a makeshift badge that all of her crew carried. It was modeled after her old Ranger badge as a sign of how she ran her group of adventurers. “My name is Morgan Moonglow and this is my crew, Moonglow’s Raiders. I’m afraid that the dragon is our business in the city. With everybody at war, this falls to us.”

The guard’s mouth hung open for a few moments. “Are you sure?”

“We’ve made up our minds,” Morgan said. “We have to at least try.”

“I’ve heard of your adventures and your victories,” the guard said. “If anyone can accomplish this right now, it is you.”

“Thank you,” Morgan said. She motioned for the Raiders to gather closer. “Now, please tell us what the situation is inside the walls.”

The guard took a deep breath. “The reports say that the dragon has disappeared from view. We believe that the only possibility is that it has somehow entered the castle. Outside of the castle, there are still lizard men and wyverns patrolling. If you are to reach the dragon, you’ll have to get past them somehow.”

“Will your forces be able to assist when we attack the dragon?” William asked.

“We can probably commit some forces,” the guard said. “I’ll have to send the message up the chain of command. Some of us have to remain at the perimeter to keep this contained as best we can.”

“Is the Royal Family inside the castle as well?” Cassandra asked.

“Only Princess Cora was in residence as of yesterday,” the guard answered. “We don’t know what her status is. We hold out hope that she’s alive.”

Cassandra turned to Morgan. “I know her, Morgan. She might be able to help her if she’s alright. We have to save her.”

“I know,” Morgan said. “I want to do that too but we can’t just charge in there.” She turned to the guard. “Thank you, please let whoever is in charge know that we’re here to help.” The guard nodded and walked off with purpose, leaving their compatriots to guard the gate. Moonglow’s Raiders walked off a ways to talk in private.

“So, what’s the plan?” Galath asked.

“Our obstacles seem too much for just us and a few Guard to handle,” Percival said. “I suggest we call in some favors owed to us.”

“For a dragon?” Garth asked. “We might need to call in all of them.”

“And use all of our assets,” Morgan said. “Percival, could you open your doors to us so we can eat and start planning?”

“Anytime you ask, my love,” He said with a wink that made Morgan smile but roll her eyes. He pulled out a small ivory door, a silver spoon, and a piece of polished marble. “Welcome to my mansion!” The items swirled a bit in the air and then the ivory door planted itself in the ground and grew to full-size as the other items dissipated. The doors opened and everybody walked inside. It was always a little overwhelming to step into Percy’s mansion no matter how many times the Raiders had done it. The style was reminiscent of the Grand Library in Silverlight where Morgan had first met Percival. In fact, there were shelves of books and scrolls scattered in most of the rooms. “The servants are already finishing up a feast for us.”

“Fantastic,” Morgan said. The mansion had begun to feel like the closest thing to a home over the years. Sure, it disappeared but it always reappeared looking the same and always welcoming. “We’ll eat and then we’ll start figuring out who and what we can count on.”


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