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A River Runs Through It - In Character Discussions - Leg C

Key Points:

Leg C

  • 22-6-1267 TGR {22-6-345 SKR}/{22-6-331 RBR} Branwyn and Tiberius arrive in Rivers Bend
  • 6-7-1267 TGR - The rest of the group prepares to leave Dryads Lair.
  • 11-7-1267 TGR {11-7-345 SKR} - the rest of the group arrives in Rivers Bend

The Branadarus' Arrive in Rivers Bend

Rivers Bend Stories

22-6-1267 TGR {22-6-345 SKR}/{22-6-331 RBR}

Branwyn and Lord Branadarus landed on the docks in South Bayside. She gave Tiberius a triumphant smile and then WHOOOOSH! A load of fish dumped on top of their heads.

“HEY! GET OUT OF THE WAY YOU GIT!” the sailor controlling the crane yelled. “STUPID!”

Branwyn laughed, “The lengths I will go to just to have an excuse to bathe with you husband! Let us move quickly.”

The pair ran up the dock to where the harbormaster’s office stood. “Can we get a carriage to North Bayside?” Branwyn asked one of the guards standing outside.

The guard turned towards them wrinkling his nose. “Not smelling like that you won’t. Probably couldn’t pay for one neither. Better get walking. That way,” he said pointing to a bridge heading northwest. “Off with you. I’m guarding the harbormaster not the fishmonger,” he finished, waving his hand in front of his face.

Branwyn flushed but did not retort. “Thank you for the information. I believe a walk would do us good.”

Lord Branadarus started to respond, but Branwyn pulled him away. “We should just go. This way I can tell you some of the things we can do.”

They crossed the first bridge into the city and made their way slowly north, taking in the sights. “We’ll see if there are any regattas scheduled. There is always an opera or some entertaining theatrical being staged at the opera house in East Quaytown district. Our friend, Sarengar used to perform there,” Branwyn said animatedly. “My first mentor, Bellamin Tannyth, started a mage academy in the city. I would like to visit with him while we are here. You probably wouldn’t be interested in listening to two mages rambling on, but I would like you to meet him. Perhaps I can see him some afternoon and then all of us could go to dinner one night. And if we get tired of roaming around the city, we can go over to Caravan Landing. I’ve never been there, but it is rumored to be slightly dangerous and full of possible adventures…”

Lord Branadarus took Branwyn’s hand and swung her around to face him and then kissed her in the middle of the street. “We will see all of those things. But first, food, bed, and baths. Not necessarily in that order. Are we currently going somewhere to do those things?”

Branwyn looked up at him and smiled. “Of course we are,” she said, pointing to another bridge. "That bridge over there will take us to North Bayside, where there is a wonderful place called the Six Griffons Lodge. It is an adventurers’ guild and quite luxurious. We helped them solve a mystery aways back. I would very much like to stay there, but if there is no room, there other inns nearby that they can recommend.”

Question for Phillipe

Before Phillipe could walk away after his conversation with Indigo, Shi'Nynze approached him. It took her a second to realize he was waiting for her to speak. After being cooped up on the knarr for so long, she forgot how tongue-tied she got around strangers, and nice as he was, Phillipe was still basically a stranger to her. Still, it was important, and after only slight hesitation, and a bit of hope, she asked, "Phillipe? Did any...letters come for me while we were gone? It might still be too early but, well, I told my father we'd be here briefly. I'm not sure how he'll send his reply, but it could have been bird? Or maybe an Elven messenger? I don't know, but if you received something in Elvish, it's likely for me..."

Phillipe smiled at Shi, "I have not had any birds show up at my window while you were gone. If I do get anything in an unusual language, should I just take it that they are trying to reach you and forward it along to Branwyn?"

Disappointed, but not surprised, Shi withheld a sigh and gave Phillipe a nod. "If nothing has arrived yet, I doubt anything will, but on the chance it does, please do so. Thank you, Phillipe."

QuiFon Tries to Make Small Talk

After events of 20180126

Quifon tries to make small talk while everyone is taking a moment to collect themselves, see Ilerro and tries to keep his mind off things.

"Hey Illrow, right, I've been meaning to talk with you about teaching me on one of your skills. I mean your no thief and I certainly ain't no thief but sometimes though type skills come in handy. Procog wants me to know more about finding traps, don't need to know how to disarm them or even set them. Figure you seen enough you could show or at least tell me bit more than I already know. When we have time of course." Looks off for a sec watching Hoffman fly by, so as not to put too much pressure on the conversation.

Shi'Nynze's Second Message

(Outside): To be delivered to Keerla Naim, Divaekah, Lorien Woods, The Wildlands

(Inside - main message):

Warning: if you are not Keerla Naim of Haathkash, who is currently residing in Divaekah, stop reading now. This is a private correspondence and she will find out if you read it. You do not want that to happen. Just ask Jhaeros Audark. You have been warned.

Dear Keerla,

By reading beyond this sentence, you agree not to kill Kel. No, no exceptions. While I will still frown upon any attempts to challenge him to a duel, I will not forbid it (although duels to the death are strictly forbidden).

I'm sorry I have not written to you until now. There hasn't been much worth to tell. I'm certain my parents have already told you of our success recovering Ellidor's bow, and just like you already guessed, I've found reason to keep travelling. We're currently near Bywater and Lake Peipus with the destination of Drillian and Jistille Estates. Apparently we'll end up in something called The Mist. It sounds exciting! Well, almost exciting if not for one recent detail. Yes, I hate admitting it, but you were right. Loathed as I am to say it, so was my mother, but let's not get into that yet.

I know you'll want the details, but I have only so much parchment. To try to make a long story short: early in our expedition, centipedes almost killed Kel. Not to boast, but he would have died were it not for me (and stop cheering on the centipedes as I know you are). Dangerous though it was, why would I not help him? As he kept saying, it's him and me against the world now. Until two days ago when scrags almost killed me (don't you dare tell my parents any of this). Thanks to my new friends, drowning was no longer a threat, but I was bleeding profusely, barely able to hold my sword, and Kel...Kel left me. I would not be alive today if it were not for my new friends. When I gained consciousness, it was not him I saw tending to my wounds and checking to see if I lived. If anything, he avoided me during my recovery.

Yes, I know, you are fuming now, but it gets worse. Kel was given a choice: to save me or to save a human priestess named Jennevive. She is...well, she has some questionable morals and an insatiable appetite for flesh (and I do not mean that in a cannibalistic way), but her company (in a conversational sense) is not horrendous. Admittedly, sometimes I appreciate it, perhaps because she reminds me of a lost animal, but I digress. Anyways, she does find ease and pleasure in making one uncomfortable. Kel was quite adamant about his dislike of her, and yet, in a true life-and-death situation, he chose her over me. If the idiot weren't an elf, I'd suspect he was charmed (and yes, I know you suspect he is more than an idiot).

More than ever before, I wish you were here, Keerla. I just...I can't make sense of it. I've known him since I was born, 125 years which, even by our standards, is not a short amount of time. I grew up with him. He's a best friend, a brother, an idol, elf I thought I truly knew, but I don't, do I? He actually had the audacity to tell me he didn't think I needed help! One arm was uselessly dangling by my side while my other was too weak to even properly parry! Either he thinks me so naive as to believe his lie, or his skills have gotten far rustier than he will admit.

As he said, he gave his word to bring me home. I thought his word meant something. I thought his word was born out of some sense of friendship or care, but now I think it's only a word of duty, and one that is more for the sake of my parents than for me. Is it shameful that I have seriously considered coming home simply to get rid of him after what happened? True, I won't have an excuse to leave again, but I'm certain I can evade Uncle this time and sneak out successfully. As much as I wish to explore the world, this current adventure has taken on quite a different meaning.

But no, I know it is the anger speaking. I am better than this, but I must get it off my chest. The anger will fade. It is the disappointment that will take effort to get over if I ever find reason to get over it. Fear not: you are still my absolute, number one best friend. You will not have to ever worry about Kel taking that spot from you now. He practically threw my friendship back in my face - not just with his actions, but when I told him I wasn't sure I wanted an amorous relationship with him now. Or ever at this rate. Does he not realize he isn't just any elf to me and such a thing cannot be considered lightly? Either way, he did not take it well.

I suppose this is good news for Nieven. Don't you dare tell him, and since I know you won't listen to me this time, you can tell him...tell him his song has helped me get through some difficult times. I already mentioned how loathed I am to say my mother is right, yes? And you. You called out my hesitation before I left. I did want to wait and see what happened on this adventure but, well, perhaps Nieven and I should make our courtship official once I return…

Oh goodness, I'm almost out of parchment. This is what I get for rambling, although the timing was admittedly perfect before I write anything regrettable (please don't let this letter as a whole fall into that category). Give Arnn a hug for me. Well, provided Tira’allara has not decided to risk the wrath of Solonor (or me) and has let him remain in Divaekah. And remind Grandfather he promised to make Arnn a new limb, too.

I miss you terribly. Study hard so next time you can join me on my adventures.
Sweet water and light laughter treasured friend who will definitely keep those above promises.
And may Solonor watch over you, especially if you break your promises, tell my parents, and incur my wrath.

10-7-1267 TGR

Jenn’s Message to Nowhere

After watching the lovely tree swallow carry her message to Keerla away, Shi'Nynze briefly disappeared into the hold. She soon returned to the deck with some parchment and a small selection of writing utensils. Spotting an empty bench, the silver lining to the few oars now available, Shi'Nynze sat down on the edge near the center of the knarr and beckoned Jennevive over. The blank parchment sat between them.

"I do not mind sending Branwyn a letter, but you want me to dictate it, too? Did I understand correctly? Why? I'm certain you can write a letter to Branwyn well enough without my help:"

Dear Branwyn,

We are fine, but we broke almost half our oars trying to evade a swarm of eels near Bywater. We should still reach Rivers Bend in about two days time, but might be delayed there in our search for replacement oars. Everyone looks forward to seeing you. Hope you are well.

"And...well, however you would normally end such a letter," said Shi, shrugging. She shook her head slightly, as she continued, "I doubt that's anything different than what you'd write without my help. Here."

Shi'Nynze pushed the parchment and her writing tools closer to Jennevive before glancing around for any sign of another feathered friend to convince to carry a message for her.

Jennevive smiled and pushed the parchment back to Shi. "Sweet Shi, no I can write my own missives this way if need be. I was hopeful that you had been granted the power of a messenger from your Goddess. The ability to send a message to someone without needing the physical accoutrements. I doubt that a mere bird will make it Rivers Bend and Branwyn before we do at this point don't you?"

"God," corrected Shi before pausing to think. She scratched her head before replying, slowly, "I...I cannot think of one that would be of use. I almost have scrying down, but almost is still not good enough, is it? Solonor cares more about communing with nature than communing with other beings."

Shi gave a small sigh as she took her items back. "The best I can offer, at this moment, is to send something by bird. If Indigo does not mind one lost wind spell, we could speed the bird along. Enough wind and the right bird, and yes, I do think it could reach Branwyn in good time, but I also do not think that will satisfy you. The only other possible option is to try to convince something aquatic to do the same. Otherwise I will have to think on it, but at this moment, I do not think I have the kind of spell you ask for at my disposal."

Shi Talks with Wu

It took a little patience, but Shi'Nynze found it worthwhile when she spotted Wu finally taking a small break to enjoy the fresh air and lack of rowing. She approached him quietly before sitting down next to him without startling him.

"May I steal a few minutes of your time, Wu? I have a favor to ask you. I find myself suddenly full of too many thoughts that need shifting though, and, well, I wonder if you will help me. It is not asking much just...well, I'm curious as to what was the most memorable adventure you have had on your travels? I hope it is a happy memory, but please be honest if it is not. I am all too aware that what is most memorable is not necessarily because it was something good."

"My most memorable? or the most moving? or the most perplexing? the one that has changed me the most? I feel these are all different memories but perhaps all part of the whole that wraps around a journey. I can say this is the longest I have been away from my family and for the first time I am traveling in a direction only for the curious and not for the profit." He gave a few clean smooth strokes to the oar.

"Are you seeking assurance that travel will be interesting? Of that I would think you are already certain of. Are you seeking assurance that travel will be profitable? That is left to the hands of the Gods. Are you seeing assurance that travel will be enlightening? "

He paused and nodded at Ilero's seat with Shur, "Enlightenment comes everyone in their own way and time." He then winked at Shi, "and boots enlighten in surprising ways"

"what sort of story do you wish to hear?"

Shi attempted to help Wu row, only to quickly give up - the oar was far heavier than she thought. Still, with a grin, Shi replied, "I tried to simplify it for you, but you are right in that I did a poor job of such. I've heard rumors that some say elves like to be cryptic, but that is not true. Many of us just aren't fans of sharing our direct thoughts. But...I guess, well, I seek a story of an adventure where you might have first started having doubts about your traveling - maybe your curiosity or drive to profit wavered but you found reason to continue that path rather than divert to a different one. Perhaps the weight of how long you've been gone from home suddenly tormented you or you hit a rough patch, maybe a rough crowd, and wondered what really was driving you forward, but stayed in that town, faced that crowd, and persisted in your goal. Or perhaps you can just describe the most wondrous place you have visited so I may add it to my dreams of places I hope to see."

"...and then maybe you can tell me why, now, after all those years you traveled for profit, you decided your curiosity was stronger and what it is that truly keeps you here with this group."

Wu Sen Cho, rowed quietly for a while. Just when Shi thought he would not answer her he spoke softly.

"You seek to know if your journey will be profitable for you. Will you grow? Will you learn? Will you find what you want?"

"I cannot answer you for if you will find what you seek. You do not know what you seek yet so only the spirits can tell what you will find. I can tell you that you will grow. I can tell you that you will continue to learn. Your strength will be tested and your bow and your spells cannot pass the test. It will be what is inside of you that will see you through. Is he worth your struggle?"

"When I was a young man learning my father's trade I came upon a bamboo thicket. I took shelter there from the rain. It was the Feast of the Young Moon Festival. I was woken in the night by a Hengeyokai woman. She laid with me and brought me great joy. When I awoke and saw a swan flying over the setting moons I knew that I must travel. I was not ready to, my father forbid it and my mother wept when I left. When I returned eight months later with bolts of the finest silks and pearls that glittered in the candle light..... they did not forgive me."

Rowing, rowing, rowing

"I found my own peace. I started my own family. I have grown our stature. My children will honor my passing."

Rowing, rowing, rowing

"My father and my mother will not forgive me"

Rowing, rowing, rowing

"I am at peace with my life. When I return to my home I will bring stories that are beyond wealth. I will bring new experiences to my children that they might know there is more out there then they might ever see. If they are strong and brave and curious they might spy the shadow over the moon for themselves."

Rowing, rowing, rowing

"My father and my mother are gone from this world. They did not forgive me."

Pauses in rowing

"I will always be sorrowful for that. I am not sorry that I went out and discovered this world."

Looks Shi in the eye,

"Only you can say what is more valuable to your heart. I have found a peace in my journey. I look forward to seeing Master Indigo find his way in charge without being in charge. I look forward to watching Jennevive take the thinnest spider threads and weave it into a net that catches the strongest warrior. I look forward to Master Hugh discovering his strength that he has always known but never acknowledged."

" I look forward to seeing where your heart takes you."

Rowing, rowing, rowing

Shi nodded to herself as she let the quiet rowing fill the space again. Although still a bit lost in thought, she said, softly, "I'm sorry your parents never forgave you, but I am glad you could forgive yourself. Your children will appreciate it. I know I will always be grateful for the stories my grandmother shared with me of her travels."

She shook her head slightly, her smile growing, as she focused back on Wu and the present. "It was not the grand adventure story of fighting off a dragon one-handed that I expected, but I very much appreciate it. You've given me something to contemplate, and I am happy for that alone. In return, I do wish to offer you some information you might find useful one day."

"You asked not too long ago what my clan would be interested in for trade. I did not lie when I told you magic items and dwarven goods are a start, but I have since thought on it. Unless the items were truly unique, or a clan member found reason to sponsor you, something just as difficult as gaining access to our marketplace, you still run a chance of being turned away. You would not be the only merchant attempting to trade with such items, but I have thought of something far more interesting and unique that many merchants easily discount to attempt to trade: tea."

"You could try the obvious path of seeking one of the finest teas in hopes we might find it up to par, or you could try seeking something different and unexpected. I remember one such merchant when I was a child, about 90 or 100 years ago? Er, anyways, he brought this tea that turned pink and frothed, much like you'd see on a river. He called it qaimaq chai. There was no magic involved in making it, but it was such a lovely tea. Well, the presentation was, but the flavor was...different than expected. Still, it was much appreciated by the clan. Not just for the concoction, but the beautiful artistry and elaborate preparation of it, too. It was a form of art in its own right, although not one the Tarsaps seemed to appreciate…"

"Um, although, the downside of bringing in tea would be setting yourself against the Tarsaps, but that's not much to worry about," replied Shi, offhandedly. She waved a hand idly as if the thought was either unimportant or one she didn't care to discuss. "I know I've yet to see much of the world, but I doubt anything will ever compare to Divaekah. Profit and curiosity drive many to trek the difficult path there in hopes we will let them in. I'm sure one or both are reasons you might one day wish to attempt that trek as well."

"Besides, can you truly consider your adventure successful and your curiosity satisfied if you've never seen the beauty and majesty inside the Wildlands? There is a reason Farthorn attempted to take it from us, and a reason we risked our lives, and will continue to do so, to protect it." Shi stood up, flashing Wu a large grin as she made to leave. It quickly softened, as did her voice, as she left him with one last remark.

"And yes, I look forward to seeing where my heart takes me, too."

"Thank you, Wu."

Kel's first night in Bywater

Kel sat on the wooden seat, his hands trying to fuse with the heavy oar. He strained against the resistance of the lake, every pull trying to clear his mind more than propel the knarr. She thinks I left her, he thought. How selfish! Does she think she is the only one who needs to survive out here?

The knarr docked in Bywater in the dead of night. Despite the hour, Kel yearned at the chance for solid ground under his now re-booted feet, to feel stable while standing and not sway at the lake's whim. He jumped at the invitation to visit with Indigo’s friends, to be with someone, anyone, who would show him some warmth and understanding, someone who could see his point of view.

Shi quite clearly made it known tonight that Kel was just a friend, and no more. This angered him. Shi thinks I’m just her personal bodyguard, putting my life at risk, catering to her every whim, so she can gallivant the world while I keep her safe. She is even too afraid of facing her own mother, taking advantage of our situation for her own selfish gains.

He was visibly distracted during the visit with the Halflings in Bywater. He even invited Jenn to join. Not for Jenn's company, but to blow a salty breeze at Shi. He would tolerate Jenn's overt crass comments if it meant it would keep Shi up all night wondering. That'll teach her, he thought.

The tempest of thoughts in his mind barely let Kel realize the priestess was chatting him up. His natural daftness would have made it difficult at best for him to read any clues, but with the Mist in in thoughts, Kel could barely keep a single thought clear. Did the priestess just say she would 'keep' me? Focus, Kel, focus!

Kel rarely felt lonely, but right now, he felt very alone; the nearest elf didn't care to speak to him. He daftly made sure of that. His one true friend, the one elf he could trust with his life, and had done so many a time, is frolicking in Arvanaith. Sadly, Kel thought, he made sure of that, too. He shook the dreadful memories of his last mission with Ellidor from his mind. I can only fret over one Zaurahel at a time, he thought. But the audacity of Shi to question his judgment seared his every fiber.

The tavern closed, and Kel and a few others headed back to the knarr. Once the others boarded safely, Kel stealthily made his way back onto the docks and bee lined to the nearest, tallest tree. The branches were a bit far apart, but nothing Kel couldn’t climb. After all, he has been climbing trees all his life. He settled into a nook and sighed. He wasn't exactly ashamed of his next actions, but he wouldn't want the others to know. With no one else to talk to, all alone, Kel unsheathed Teb. 'Ah, Kel, we are up high. Are we spying on the Halflings? They are no threat', announced Teb.

'No Teb, relax. It's the only place I could find privacy. Since the battle with the sea hags, I feel like I’m out of control.' Kel winced as the fury of Shi's words echoed in his head. 'Shi has me wishing I never vowed to keep her safe.' Kel was surprised to hear those words; he knew he truly didn't mean them.

'Ahh, I wondered how long it would be before we discussed the sea hags. Hideous creatures, not a redeeming characteristic amongst the whole of them. Foul and vile and disgusting, I say. Did I tell you the time when we were on the Velikaya River, heading to Deksport? We drifted down on two-log rafts with the current, until we reached…'

Kel quickly interjected. He knew he had to, or the rising sun would bring with it the rest of the crew, ending their private time.

'Teb, please focus', Kel interrupted. 'Shi is crazy. Just mad as a rabid ferret. How dare her accuse me of leaving her in peril, when she was safely above water, surrounded by the others? Didn’t she realize I needed to help Admiral Indigo and Jenn? And then to think ... wow, I can't believe this... that they mean more to me than she does?' Kel seethed at the words. He took a deep breath to calm himself. 'A few more seconds and we would have lost the Admiral and Jenn. But all she sees is herself.' Kel shook his head in frustration. In all his years, he thought, he had never seen this level of selfishness in another elf, much less Shi.

Teb seemed to sigh. It seems he had given this situation some thought while sheathed. 'Kel, you are intelligent. You can see through an ambush every time. But with some things, you seem very lost. So let me help.' Teb cleared his throat. Kel rolled his eyes, anticipating the typical, long-winded Teb story. He asked for this. When you resort to Teb for counseling, expect a long story.

'My dear Kel, a swan is not a wolf, and you should not expect a swan to have the experiences of a wolf. A swan knows the lake, and the wet grasses, and it's clutch of eggs, and not much more. It never has to fight for its food, it is abundant about it. But the wolf, he also knows the lake, and also the woods, and the caves, but more so the ways of his prey, and the manner in which it feeds, and sleeps, and hides. And it uses that to his advantage. This doesn’t make the wolf better than the swan, just different. Very different.'

'You only know one path, Kel, that of a Guardian. And that is all you have ever known', said Teb. 'Since your first moon, your father and grandmother have been grooming you to wear not just the Ebony, but the Violet as well. How many times had you held me in your tiny gloved hands before you could even lift my weight, your father simply wanting you to develop a respect for weaponry? How often did your grandmother take you into the Groundwood of Divaekah and disappear without a trace, for you to track and find her, before you were even steady on your feet? Can you count the number of practice targets you sliced in half while training?' Kel sat with a vacant stare, recounting these memories. ‘No, Kel, your life is very different from the others, elves or otherwise. You cannot expect a swan to be a wolf.'

'You have, as have I, your father, grandmother, and all the Shadow Guardians before us, received unsurpassed training in combat and threat assessment. With just a glance at a battle, you can foresee every swing, hit, miss, and yes, death', Teb continued. 'You have trained a lifetime to do that, so you take it for granted. Not everyone can do that. You have only ever held company with your peers, others that have the same training as you. You all know but one way. But not everyone is a wolf.'

'You cannot fault Shi for not realizing what you so quickly assessed, and then acted on. She just saw you leap away to help others, especially that harlot Jenn.' Kel was replaying the battle in his mind. 'You know what you did was right. Clearly, anyone trained to notice would have done the same. But imagine what Shi saw: Her sworn guardian running away from her, abandoning her when she needs him most. She couldn't have known the severity of Master Indigo and Jenn's situation.' Teb's words seemed to penetrate the fog in Kel's mind.

‘This outside world is new to Shi, and she needs you now more than ever. She is so far from home, and you are all she knows. You want more from her, but right now, all you both need is a friend. She would never abandon you, you know that is true. And what she knows is that you did that to her.’ Kel slowly nodded his head. ‘It will not be easy to get to where you two were before, but if Shi means anything to you, and we both know she does, it will be worth the pain and effort.’

Kel sat silent for a while. He was surprised that Teb remained silent as well. Shi couldn’t have seen what he saw, Kel thought. All she saw was him leaving. He let that sink into his mind, and it slowly replace the anger he was harboring. She must have been terrified, the only person she knows leaving her when she was so close to, well… Kel shuddered. He took a moment to gather his thoughts and then he broke the silence.

“Teb, your years of wisdom have always served me well. And as always, I thank you.’ Kel held Teb up to the first rays of light. ‘I promise I’ll let you tell all the stories you like, once we get to The Mist.’ Kel slowly sheathed Teb, and made his way carefully to the path below. As he walked toward the silhouetted knarr, Kel thought of the days ahead. While laboring at the oar, he must figure out how, somehow, he could convince a Swan to trust a Wolf.

Tiberius returned back to the Six Griffons lodge excited. "Branwyn dear I have some great news. Well it is interesting news, maybe it is frustrating news but overall it is definitely news." Branwyn watched from her bed where she was reading with amusement. "You have only been gone to get bread for our picnic, how many adventures could you find?"

"OH I Forgot! I am sorry I can ... Well we can pick up some on the way to the park." He smiled winningly.

"So there are two possibilities that we can do. Both of them are tomorrow. One is very dangerous." His eye dancing, "The other is easier but I think you might like it better."

He stood there balancing on his toes watching Branwyn until she laughed and gestured for him to continue.

"The first is a chance to help fund and produce an opera here in the city. The Opera Khôltar. From what I hear it is supposed to be a very intense opera and your friend Sarengar is willing to perform in it. For some reason people did not want to support him but I said we would of course."

"The second is to be hosts on a tourist barge. There is a group of nobles who want to travel down river to see The Mist and I managed to talk the lead guide into paying us to be there with them. He was very impressed with having the Ambassador for Drillian on his trip to help describe the wonders of Drillian to his passengers. We could leave tomorrow with them and we would be able to just go from there to catch up with everyone else when we are done."

Tiberius grinned at Branwyn, "Doesn't that sound like fun! Both of them actually, I thought you might like the singing but the barge would be interesting too. Who knows maybe we will find some pirates along the way!"

"So what do you say?"

The book fell from her hands into her lap as she listened to her two options, neither of which sounded appealing to her in the least. “But … I thought we were going to teleport to Portown. I know our last trip didn’t end completely successfully, but what are the odds a netful of fish falls on our heads again? I think we’re safe from that happening again.”

“But you already said there isn’t anything amusing to do in Portown. This will be fun. We could teleport to the meeting place right after the opera if you like,” Tiberius countered. “Or right after we defeat some pirates.”

Branwyn ran her hands through her hair and shut her eyes for a moment. When she looked back up at Tiberius’ eager face, she asked, “Did Sarengar tell you why no one wanted to produce The Opera Khôltar? It is not an intense opera. Well, frankly, no one knows what kind of opera it really is because death and destruction come to all that perform it. I do not believe there has been anyone to have seen a performance of it all the way through. It is cursed! THAT’s why no one wants to produce it. Sarengar is a good friend and I would do anything I could to support him. Except this. How would we feel if we did this thing, and then the opera house burned to the ground, or Sarengar and others in the cast were killed in some random, mysterious way? I don’t want that on my conscience and I don’t believe you do either.”

“Curses? People get cursed. Things get cursed. Operas aren’t things. They are just a bunch of different sounds floating through the air that disappear almost immediately. How do you curse that?” Tiberius cocked an eyebrow and put his hand to his chin, contemplating the matter.

Branwyn opened her mouth to start to explain when, Tiberius, having decided that the matter wasn’t worth giving more thought to it, exclaimed happily, “Well then, the tourist barge it is!”

Smiling in resignation, she said, “Yes, that is the better option of the two. I don’t mind taking a barge down the river, but do we have to host it? I’m no bard to be telling amusing stories. Indigo is much better than I am at those sorts of things. Will they toss us off the ship if I am not properly entertaining?”

In Which Ilero Explains What He Was Thinking

Branwyn sat down next to Ilero and Shur, who were quietly having some breakfast. “Mind if I join you?” she asked.

Ilero shrugged. “You sit already.”

Shur smiled warmly. “Not at all, sugar. You doin’ okay this morning?”

“Thanks, Shur. I’m all right. Wishing I had a little more sleep, and the apprentices are busy waxing the edges of the chests and the spellbooks … but you don’t want to hear about all that. I was talking with Hugh about what happened last night with the dragon,” Branwyn said, pausing and looking pointedly at Ilero.

“I don’t know if this is you being over protective, which I do understand. Or, if this is some ‘I should have died, but I didn’t, so I don’t deserve to live and I will try and get myself killed’ sort of thing you have going on here. Which I don’t understand, by the way.” Branwyn felt her voice rising in exasperation and she took a breath.

“Ilero, I think you are one of the most resourceful people I have ever met,” she said with a smile. “Not only have you mastered your skills, but you apply them creatively in ways I could never think of doing. But don’t you know by now, that we can’t … we won’t … just sit by and leave you to it? We will follow you. Down a well. Into a rotating maze full of skeletons. Maybe not going face to face with Medusa, but yes, in front of a dragon. Did you really want Hugh and Kel to stay back at camp and just watch you battle a dragon alone?”

Ilero ducks his head and stares at the ground. "Hye already tell Hugh sorry. Can say again. Hye not t'ink from his side at time. Hye not trying to die, if you worried 'bout t'at. Hit not hye time yet, pretty sure. Hye was t'inking distract dragon and give camp time get under cover or shoot back. Hugh wit' me not help do t'at, but did help take dragon down." He pushes some stones and dirt around with the toe of his shoe.

Branwyn let out an audible sigh of relief. “I am glad for that. And, yes, I have been worried about you. It is a little hard to tell what you’re thinking, you know.” Branwyn cocked her head over to the group gathering around Jilly for food. “They probably don’t know what you’re thinking when you run off ahead either. Like I said, you are very good at what you do. But so are they. Hugh, Indigo, Kel, Hoffman. They see a threat or one of us looking like we are in trouble, and they want to fight. To protect. In that split second in battle, when you make your choice based on what you do best, they are doing the same thing with the skills that they do best. So sometimes you might find yourselves running into each other now and again.”

“Maybe next time you get a ‘turn the dragon into a lighthouse and chase it by yourself’ plan, you can take a second to tell your watch partner not to worry because ‘Hye gots plan!’” Branwyn said with a grin. “Hokay? Especially with the creatures that can fly off with you.”

Hoffman clears his throat. "If I may, I just want to say I am sorry. Again I tried to put myself between an agressor and our group and it was like I was ignored. I don't know how that alligator turned Sarengar into an alligator but I am sorry I could not so more. I do not know if I am cursed or have some spell on me but I will continue to do my best. Miranda has already helped me find my new inspiration in the God Himdal. I will be ever watching for trouble.

Shur leans over and gives Hoffman a kiss on the temple. "It ain't your fault, honey. You did your best. At least you were there to try. I weren't even there."

Branwyn bit her bottom lip to keep it from trembling. Upon waking, she had been told about Sarengar, as well as about Hugh and the dragon, and changes to who was in what skiff. And so, she was doing everything she could to push Sarengar to the back of her mind until things were decided. There were too many people she had to think about and take care of to allow herself to grieve right now. Besides, she told herself, maybe she didn’t have to. Maybe everything will be all right and she would be able to hear Sarengar singing again soon as they moved down the river towards home. Hopefully.

“Please, Hoffman, there is no need to apologize. Shur is right. It wasn’t your fault or anyone’s fault. It was an alligator. And just over there, some of our priestesses are meditating and working to determine what Sarengar would want us to do. Everything could be just fine soon, couldn’t it? We just have to wait a little bit,” she smiled and gestured to the small group huddled at the far end of the camp, while mentally shoving all her feelings back down again.

“And no, Hoffman, I do not believe you are cursed or enchanted in any way, but maybe …” she said looking Hoffman up and down. “Maybe with all those drab browns you tend to wear, it serves as a sort of camouflage to your enemies and thereby protects you. If you really want some creature to focus their attacks on you, then I would talk to Jilly. Ask her to take all those berries she’s been hoarding to make a dye. Then you can go into combat wearing a nice red shirt. That should do the trick!” Branwyn said.

The normally quiet Brother Foto stands up and objects. "No, no no. You go ahead and jump on what you ever want to get their attention. You do not need to dress in red so I can't see where you are bleeding. I would rather bless your axes every battle."

Branwyn could not help but laugh a little. “Brother Foto has a point. Perhaps that wasn’t the best of ideas. No red shirts on watches. Only at parties.”

Then Branwyn turned back to Hoffman. “But what you said before, that alligator did not transform Sarengar. You did not know what had happened to him? Oh, it must have been a few years ago. Yes, I think that was when Miranda was first studying magic and you all were away. Was it?” looks over at Ilero to see if he remembered. “Sarengar was bit by a weregator, Hoffman. Then we were in the Mist and not seeing a lot of the moon and we never saw him change. So, we never knew if it took or not. Then after Sarengar lost his ear, he got restless and moved to Rivers Bend to continue singing and do the occasional ship piloting work. If Sarengar really turned into an alligator last night, then he must now be a weregator after all,” Branwyn said. “Hmmm … wonder why he didn’t tell us.”

Ilero shrugs. "Not know, maybe? Or maybe too embarrassed mention it? Anyways, get it out of way, when hye die again, please do not bring hye back anot'er time. If gods not happy wit' story by t'en, tough. One extra life enough." Shur wraps her arm around his back and leans her cheek on his shoulder.

Now it was Miranda's turn to get excited "No, No No. I can't be infected, quick Shur, tell me what I need to do? Brother Foto cast something on me before it's too late.

Shur sits up and grabs Miranda's arm. "Oh, honey, you got bit? I didn't know, I'm so sorry! Lemme see it!" Miranda hurriedly pulls back her clothing to show the injury. "Aww, you already got some healing, right baby?" Shur prods at the wound some, then nods to herself. "Aright, quick question. Branwyn, you're sure Sarengar weren't a were before he got bit that time before, right? Not born one or anything like that?" She turns to Miranda and pats the back of her hand. "Sugar, you should be okay. Thing is, my granddaddy taught me all about weres, and said that only those born or directly cursed could turn someone else. So if Sarengar got himself bit, nobody he bit was in danger of becoming one too."

Miranda sighs. "thank you, i don't mean to panic but things are so good right now, that is the last thing I need.

After lagging behind the group all day, Hoffman and Miranda catch up with the group at night camp. Hoffman can be overhead commenting that he still believes the rainbow was a sign from Heimdall that He is happy and is watching. Miranda's smile is more deep and calm as she simply nods and finds their place to rest for the night. They share time just being with one another, oblivious to the world around them. In the early morning, Miranda wakes feeling so content with where she is, she almost laughs when she sees the swamps around, but takes a few steps away from Hoffman and starts her revived prayer ritual. As the sun breaks, Hoffman wakes from his catch up sleep and immediately goes to relieve himself in the far corner. He smiles and he approaches Miranda with the glow of the sun silhouetting her and he sits facing her and joins in morning prayers. Miranda grabs his hands and raises her head to look him in the face, looking forward to seeing his smile but instead see an odd look of shock and confusion that breaks her concentration. "What? she simply says wipes the stray hairs from her eyes and for a moment sees her hands in the light. Hoffman stutters " I think you may actually be glowing this morning." (Is 'Holly Heimdall' too much?) A wave of joy and revelation overcomes Miranda and she lets out a hushed outburst. "Praise be to Idun, She has forgiven me and brought me back into Her service." Hoffman just stares at the youthful Miranda resume her prayers as the rest of the group stirs.