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Wedding Crashers - In Character Conversations

Table of Contents:

First Breakfast Meeting

The main throne room is open for breakfast with the royal family. The Queen sits at the end of the table, Toybin next to her on her right. Koorin is taking care of a young girl as well as assisting with the young prince Edward. Maids are coming in and out with Medoro fussing and guiding traffic. He glances over to Branwyn, "We normally start in here and then in an hour or so the family goes up to their rooms. We reset this room and she receives her visitors for the morning in more proper fashion."

Branwyn nodded and thanked Medoro, happy that this morning had gone more informally with the couple. It seemed more like the time before Wilamina had been crowned than their audiences immediately afterwards. Perhaps motherhood had softened her in some ways. Branwyn leaned over the table in the direction of the Queen and Toybin. “I would like to finish the introductions if I could, now that Indigo has been properly fed,” she said, with a smile for her friend.

Indigo held up a forkful of sausage and grinned.

Branwyn went around the table starting with the men that needed no introduction, Ilero and Hoffman, but that she wanted to acknowledge since they had been relatively quiet thus far. Then she moved to her friends new to Drillian and to the Royal Family. “You have now met Hugh d’Ambray, but we also have with us Patron Kenna Westfoot, a priestess of the Kayugan faith, sitting at Indigo’s left. Across from them are our new friends from the city of Divaekah,” she said slowly hoping she was pronouncing everything correctly, “Keldorldrin Teken'lyl of the Shadow Guard and priestess Shi’Nynze Zaurahel. This is their first time travelling in Drillian and in the Mist and I am sure that they have questions now that they have finally arrived. But if you will excuse me for a moment, I have someone I wish to greet.”

Branwyn nodded to the Queen and rose from her chair. She walked to the far end of the table, leaned down and said quietly, “Lord Mosskin, it is Branwyn. I am sure you have been hearing me babble on, but I wanted to come over and tell you how happy I am to be home and to see you doing so well,” she placed her hand gently over his and gave Lord Araheal Mosskin a kiss on the cheek.

While Branwyn talked softly with the man who had taken the young and inexperienced Dragonslayers in years ago, the rest of the table were busy talking and having their breakfast.

Indigo turned to Kenna. “Isn’t this the best breakfast? You have to meet Koorin. She made it. She used to travel with us on adventures, but then after Queen Wilamina became queen and tasted Koorin’s cooking, she convinced her to stay and cook here. But Koorin’s also from Gold Hills and she’s a Kayugan priestess too,” Indigo said, spinning around in his seat. “Koorin! Come here and meet Kenna Westfoot!” Indigo scooted over to make room as Koorin skipped over and plopped down between Indigo and Kenna.

Meanwhile: Hoffman leaned over to speak quietly with Ilero. "Is it just me or is this princess a lot like the prince we already have.. beside you. No offense but just how many princes and princesses can one group support and how do we help your friend while she is with us.

Ilero reached for his drink with his left hand to take a moment to think over his response. Quietly he responded, "Hit not uncommon for second or t'ird noble child go t'is way. Not gots to plow field or run shop to earn money, has time to learn fighting and adventure instead. Or go into god stuff. Also nobility rat'er run wit' ot'er nobles t'an common people, so wind up wit' bands of nobles gallivanting about. Has caused trouble many times 'fore."

Hoffman rocks his head back and forth as he let's this information sink in. "Good to know we don't have to worry about taking care of her." He takes another bite. "I don't want to get used to this, but I am gonna eat this while I can." Then louder to everyone "My complements to the cook."

Ilero takes a bite of his food and quietly mumbles while chewing, "Best t'ing hye t'ink of for friend is keep ears and eyes open. Learn lots, say little. Were's probly big question too. Mebbe see if can push Shur into asking."

Kenna and Indigo told Koorin some of the stories of their river adventures on the knarr. This caused Koorin to give a display of her finest ballast. She raised her arms in the air and spun around on her toes until, feeling a bit dizzy, Koorin fell to the floor with a thud. Indigo laughed. Little Prince Edward pointed and shouted, "Koorin went boom!" Kenna rushed over to make sure Koorin was unhurt.

Branwyn turned at the sound of the ruckus, shook her head, and told Lord Mosskin that perhaps she had better return to her seat.

Last Call for Goodbyes

Shi'Nynze took her time repacking the few things she managed to unpack. As much as she wanted to explore this new land, she really wanted a goodnight's sleep. From the stories she heard, she wasn't surprised The Mist affected her so, but she was not prepared for it to affected her to such a degree, and now they were to head right back out to travel more?

She carefully set the bag of berries on top of all the rest in her pack so they wouldn't get squished. Glad as she was for the gift from Jilly, and for a chance to say goodbye to Jilly as she wasn't coming this trip, Shi was certain that conversation had caused her headache to briefly worsen. Done packing, and with time to kill, Shi'Nynze decided to take a short walk. It usually helped her feel better while at home. Squinting at the dim sunlight as she stepped outside, she had a feeling it wouldn't make a difference.

Finding herself back near the keep, Shi spotted Jennevive. She knew Jenn had gone to church after breakfast. Most likely she was returning from it. While she thought Jennevive might see the group off, there was a chance that, back home with the Queen, she might be too busy for it. With a few thoughts that'd been brewing, and a slightly reluctant admittance to herself that she was disappointed Jennevive wouldn't be joining them, she knew she should take her chance to say goodbye while she could before they left.

"Good morning, Jennevive," greeted Shi'Nynze with a smile (or the best she could musty with the queasiness, at least). "Back from church? It is the church Branwyn built, isn't it? It must be an interesting church to attend." Before she could lose her nerve (or her breakfast from earlier), Shi'Nynze pushed on with the thoughts that plagued her. "Have you managed to find your husband yet? I know you were looking for him. I...well, I don't think you have a relationship with him I would understand ("She feels loyal to him, yes, but are there any feelings of love?" wondered Shi), but hopefully he brings you happiness. I've been thinking about what you said at the inn in Portown, and well, as far as I can see, you've not done anything that makes me think you shouldn't have happiness, too."

Feeling a bit bashful (It was that, right? Not nausea from the sickness?), Shi gave a slight shrug, saying, "Um, I just...wanted to tell you that and now seems a good a time as any since we're leaving soon." She tried not to grimace at the thought of more travel.

Jenn smiled at Shi, "My little honey pot, I am happy. The chance to see the full swirl of chaos of this war thrills my heart. It is the only thing that would keep me away from seeing your dance on the edge." She offered over her shoulder as she walked away, "Watch Branwyn and how she navigates the rapids around her. Watch Ilero duck from shadow to light to shadow. Watch the light dance through Miranda. Live on the edge and embrace the chaos."

It wasn't quite the same thing, but Shi knew chaos: summer swarms and drunken spiders (What? Keerla and Shi were curious what would happen if a spider had feywine. It made one of the most beautiful webs they'd ever seen), wind storms and major floods, butterfly migrations and garter snake mating. Well, the last one might be more like the chaos Jennevive liked, but truly, it was two-sides of the same coin, wasn't it?

Shi shook her head with a smile, saying, "You said you didn't know why I ended up following Branwyn when I first met you, but it sounds like you actually do understand. The chaos of war? No, it is not quite for me, but that which seems to follow this group? The possibilities that linger there?" After giving a slight shrug, Shi tossed Jennevive a wave she wasn't sure was seen. "Take care, Jennevive. I..., well, I do think I hope to see you again."

Branwyn Allows Herself to be Happy for a Moment

As the group began drifting off, Branwyn leaned her head against Branadarus’ shoulder. “I am glad that’s over. We can all relax knowing that Marisu is in no more danger of being killed than any of the rest of us,” Branwyn said with a slight smile. “I wished we could have spent a little more time here before travelling again. But we should be back in just a few weeks. And then,” she raised her head and finally let herself enjoy the other important news of the morning. She took Tiberius’ hand, swung it up in the air and twirled herself around.

“We have land! Up to ten square miles,” she was practically glowing. “We can build a big beautiful house for ourselves. Ilero can start up his guild. Hoffman and Miranda can build a home for themselves. The apprentices can stay at the tower. We can do just about anything we want! I don’t know what everyone wants, but we can ask them. There will be plenty of room! We can let farmers come in and farm some of the land. Build a tavern and inn and adventurers from all over will want to come and see us! But … that 10,000 gold pieces will most likely be gone in no time with all the training everyone’s going to want. We may need to take a few mercenary jobs to pay for building supplies. You won’t mind that, will you? I can get in touch with the Dragonslayers and see if there’s any jobs we can do. My magic will help make the building go faster, and we can get the priests to help and before we know it we will have the … the Branadarus Estates of Drillian!” Branwyn twirled herself around again, laughing and building their house in her mind already.

“We should get going. The sooner we leave, the sooner we’ll get back.” Branwyn started to follow the path Anastacia took, then suddenly stopped in her tracks. “Oh no! I almost forgot. The scrolls!” Branwyn turned and ran back towards the entrance hall. “MEDORO!”

As she turned the corner at the doorway, Branwyn hurtled straight into the Mosskin herald. “Medoro! I’m so glad I’ve found you.”

Medoro gently took her arms and drew her back from him. “Indeed, you have. I had almost forgotten what it was like to have you here. It is coming back to me now,” he said with a slight chuckle. “Now what can I do for you?”

“I don’t have any time. We are late getting started already. You must find Jilly and Jennevive. Tell them that they need to get the military treatises we found and give them to Queen Willimina and Toybin. We didn’t have time to unpack properly, but we put everything in the library at Orchard House. Jilly should be able to find them and Jennevive be able to read them and make sure Jilly has the correct scrolls. They are to deliver them on my behalf as a gift to aid us in the war. These treatises were written by the paladin Arthur Brandish of Terraguard. He was one of the most brilliant military strategists of all time and I have no doubt they can be useful in the fight. Give my apologies for not being able to present them myself. I am sure the Queen shall be pleased.”

Branwyn gave Medoro a quick hug and then ran off to catch up with her husband and get to the launching point of their latest adventure.

"I had so hoped to stay longer" Miranda says as she hugs the Widow. "I promise not to take all your apples, but you must know one is never enough."

Hoffman, afraid of hurting her nods as Qui Fon and Brother Foto take up the Widow's time, allowing him to escort Miranda to pick a few more apples.

Miranda takes Hoffman's hand. "We knew we would have to do something for the Queen. This seems like the most honest thing we can do. We don't have to squash a rebellion or hunt down a friends family, we simply have to do what we do best, protect our tribe." Hoffman smiled. " You know that sounds a little uncivilized when you call us that. I am actually flattered but others my prefer the word family, or at least team."

"Oh really. Would you call Aunt Jen part of our team? I will never forget what Red Cloak did and sometimes it is hard not to see the connection, if the situation changes. No, we may not have been born into this tribe, but we are a part of it. We will see this through and then we will make our way to Loosend. What is the hurry when we have the rest of our lives together." They hug before Hoffman pickup Miranda up and putting her on his shoulders to reach for the apples.

Tieran Guild

Ilero and Jared spend an hour closeted in a room with the officer assigned to help coordinate and recruit for the newly formed Tieran Guild.

"Hokay... hye t'ink t'at everyt'ing. You gots my maps and notes. Hye figure we mostly gets army scouts start wit'. Hit good place to start, t'ey used to orders and organization. Mebbe later we gets more independent types, once we gets organized and running. Remember, hye want copies made of all maps we collect. T'at way as branches open up, can distribute copies around, share knowledge."

Cantrips and a Talk with Anastacia

Note: Occurs in 3rd skiff in normal tones of voices unless shouting is noted. Anyone in skiff 3 or possibly the adjoining skiffs would be privy to the conversation and have the ability to comment.

After giving her husband an explanation for her move and a quick kiss, Branwyn settled into her new skiff for the day. “This will be exciting. This whole trip I’ve been near the back of the line. I’ll almost be able to see the path forward from here.” She smiled at Johan and gave his knee a pat. “You know that your bad luck the last couple days is just that. Random chance. Experience only comes into play in your ability to respond to the dangers that happen to befall you. You have done very well and are more than ready to learn more advanced spells. When we return home, we will get to work on that. As well as learning to cantrip. All proper mages should have this skill. With some creativity, a clever cantrip cast at the right time can be invaluable at getting out of a nasty situation when your regular spells have been exhausted. Watch.”

Branwyn made a swirling motion with her hand and then pushed it out towards Indigo, who was bent down and busy settling the potion chest in the skiff just ahead of them. Suddenly a small black cloud of smoke appeared around Indigo’s head. He jumped up, coughing and waving his hands in front of his face. “What’s on fire? I can’t see!” Indigo shouted, trying to duck under the smoke that had suddenly surrounded him.

Branwyn turned to Johan. “See! In this time, Penelope could quite easily take her pole and smack Indigo in the back of the head and he would be blinded to defend himself against such an attack in that moment. Or it might give you the head start you need to retreat and gain a better position from one’s enemy.”

“But remember, Johan, that cantrips are weak and if you cast such a thing, you must act quickly or the effort shall be wasted.” And as she finished her warning, the smoke began to dissipate.

Indigo spun around now that his sight had returned, looking for the source of the smoke. Spying Branwyn grinning in the next skiff, he shook a finger at her angrily. “You can go back to your old skiff if all you’re going to do is cause trouble up here!”

“Oh, relax. We haven’t even headed out yet. It was just a magic lesson. I’ll be good now. I promise!” Branwyn held up her hand to swear to her future good behavior, laughing. She turned to Johan and gave a little sigh. “I suppose this concludes lessons for the morning. I did promise after all.”

Anastacia coughed loudly. “May we be off now? Jared’s already navigated his skiff out into the marsh and we need to put some miles under our belts before the sun sets.”

“I’m sorry, Anastacia. Brother Foto. Talk of magic has been the only nice thing I have been a part of this morning. I can get carried away. We are ready to depart.”

Brother Foto nodded and pushed the skiff off the shallows of the bank and out into the marsh. He turned his face outwards to hide his amusement at Branwyn being scolded twice in the course of about five minutes. Whether they themselves encountered any outside dangers, this seemed to be the start of an eventful day for the third skiff in the line.

When Branwyn offered to spend some closer time with her unfortunate apprentice, she had not given his skiff mates much thought other than to try to offer a pleasing replacement for herself to Shi’nynze. But after to listening to the talk with Marisu this morning and fighting with herself to keep quiet, she eyed Anastacia and thought that perhaps this new skiff arrangement could prove beneficial in more ways than one.

“I may have made a mistake, Anastacia. I told Ilero that he must share with Marisu what you told us about Marisu’s father and the werewolves. I … I had withheld certain information from her for a time before, and realized when I did tell her, that her anger towards me was quite justified. I had underestimated her strength under such stress. I did not wish Ilero to repeat my mistake and urged him to make this new information known to her immediately. And he has.”

Anastacia gave a slight shrug. “I don’t see where you made a mistake. I would have told her myself if you asked me. You heard me before. It’s good to have the truth. Living in a cloud of delusion is no better than that cloud you sent over to Indigo.”

Branwyn nodded. “I agree. I certainly didn’t expect the news to be received with any amount of happiness. But I also did not expect it to be received with such complete and entire disbelief. It was quite ridiculous and I found it difficult to hold my tongue. You see, when Sir Androp Ilkop arrived in Dryads Lair to prepare for the arrival of Count Joffery Vilmar as the new Ambassador, he spent a good deal of time telling us news of home. He told us specifically that Queen Willimina sent a squad of therianthropes to infiltrate the Doeskins and turn them. He made it sound as if this was intentional by the Queen and was regarded as a victory on her part.”

“This news, when told to us, was treated as unquestionable fact. So especially when there are those amongst us that personally know Queen Willimina, I found it difficult to watch them so easily accept that ill deeds could be committed by our Queen, but at the same time so easily doubt such acts could be committed by someone that no one knows in the slightest. No one except Marisu. And even she had not spoken to her father in quite some time. My attaché in Dryads Lair never handed her correspondence from her family. She knew nothing of her family’s treasonous rebellion, and I am sure she would have said that it was not in their nature to try to violently overthrow the whole order of the kingdom. But so they have.”

Branwyn was watching Anastacia’s face, but carried on in a torrent of pent up frustration. Brother Foto began whistling softly under his breath. Johan held on to the sides of the skiff tightly, looking around uncomfortably.

“Everyone seems to conveniently forget that Queen Catherine Eustace was of sound mind and named Wilimina as her successor and she approved Toybin as her Consort. Willimina is the legitimate Queen of Drillian and anyone who tries to violently overthrow her is committing treason. Why does THAT somehow get excused as nothing, and a rogue mage burning a few ships is seen as the worst sin upon the earth?” Branwyn noticed Anastacia’s confused expression at that last bit.

“Oh, never mind that. I’ll explain it later. I started to make them think for a moment about where both pieces of information came from and then stopped myself to not get into a debate that clearly was not going to be based on logic. Sir Androp has been in service to the Vilmars since we met him. Any news of the war was coming from a distance and may likely have been passed second or third hand. You, on the other hand, told of the experience of the werewolves being set upon you. You were there. Which makes the most sense as being accurate? Again, utterly ridiculous. I told them that they should just cast a zone of truth spell on you if they don’t believe you, and get this whole thing over with and I got no adequate response. I do miss Jennevive. She would understand.” Branwyn sighed.

Anastacia started to speak when Branwyn just continued on. “So, I was thinking that it might be helpful, especially when we are likely be going to have to fight rebel forces of some sort, for you to possibly explain in more detail what happened when Lord, Count, whatever he is or was Doeskin unleashed the werewolves upon you. It is confusing. We are at war. So how were you so close to the Doeskins in which he could have had caged werewolves in a plan to attack you? Were you alone or with troops yourself?”

Anastacia raised an eyebrow. “May I speak now? Or do you have even more you wish to say?”

Branwyn flushed, shook her head, and waited.

Johan coughed and interupted. "If I may?"

Anastacia gestured to Johan, "Please I thought this was a conversation about magic, I have little to add to that."

Johan stretched a bit as he scanned the swamp banks. "I was a metal worker for thirty years who always wanted to be a mage. I joined the mage's guild in Dryads Lair thinking I could learn spells and grow to be a wizard. But the guild was happy to take my money and teach me very little. After ten years Branwyn comes to town and takes me on as an apprentice. I learned more in my first year with her than I had in the previous ten. That is why I followed her into The Mists of Drillian here in the hopes of continuing to grow."

Anastacia smiled, "She has a way with people it is true."

Johan nodded, "She trusted me and I see that others are very loyal to her. It does not seem to make a lot of sense for those that are loyal to her to think that her opinions about the Queen are very far off."

Anastacia started, "Yes but Marisu is a young woman barely out of her parent's household when she left with Ilero and Branwyn to find adventures. She cannot be expected to have the same loyalty to Branwyn's ideas as she does to Branwyn herself. Marisu does not know her own thoughts that well. I should know I was like her less than half a dozen years ago."

Johan nodded calmly, "And it has been decades that I was young and impulsive. Until I met those elves I rarely saw someone older than me. Although the way they act I am not certain I would count them as much older than Marisu anyway."

Anastacia smiled, "You should ask Indigo how old he is."

Then she turned to Branwyn, "We seem to have some time. Let me tell you what I have been doing in my past two years for our Queen."

suddenly shouting from the rear of the group, calls about saving Anor echo out and the sounds of combat

After the commotion Brother Foto addresses those around him.

"I find it amazing how loyal you particular humans are. When I first heard you were mercenaries, I had my concerns. Seeing the loyalty to the group made me feel I was correct in following along. There has been conflicts before but this one is still hard for me to comprehend and I hope I am saying this right. Being loyal and trusting one party member even when it conflicts with the patron of the group seems impossible but I saw it. Like we have accepted the possibility of two different realities.

I know enough to understand how one event might give two different perspectives, like if someone summoned an alligator and that alligator knocks over a skiff, some would say the summoner did not knock over the skiff, certainly not directly, but some responsibility has to be presumed, if one can prove who summoned the alligator, for what ever reason the alligator was summoned. And this is a much more involved conflict that we are dealing with now. Does that make sense"

“I certainly have not accepted two different realities. There is but one. People may be mistaken or have different perspectives on motives, but if I summon an alligator or Doeskin summons werewolves to do his bidding, the responsibility clearly falls upon the summoner. The alligator in your example would not have been there without the summoner and the alligator cannot be blamed for doing what an alligator does. It is the same with the werewolves.”

Branwyn paused for a moment, remembering. “You know what this reminds me of? Doeskin trying to use werewolves to attack his enemies, I mean. Brother Foto, I don’t believe you were with us on that trip. Tristan had received a mission to drive out a den of Hades worshippers from Skull Church. When we arrived, we found all the priests had been killed except one unfortunate soul. You see, they thought that they could create a powerful Fire Elemental that they could control and order about. But when you conjure a great evil, how can you possibly think that you can contain or control it? A Fire Elemental does what a Fire Elemental does. Burn all in its path. And it did. Bit of a nasty lesson that. And if you capture and cage werewolves, how can anyone expect that they would NOT bite the hand that was trying to feed them?”

“However,” Branwyn continued calmly but firmly, “if you are talking about a justified rebellion, then you will need to show proof that one was warranted. There is but one reality here as well. You were not born on our lands and so this system of succession is foreign to you. I understand that. But it is not to me, or Anastacia, Marisu, or any of the noble families of Drillian. This is how the rule is passed on. None of the families had a problem with it when they were chosen, and suddenly they think it unjust now that they weren’t? The rebellion against our Queen began the day after she was coronated. She had not enacted any tyrannical policies or stripped power or lands from the other houses. Brother Foto, there was a plot from the start, before Willimina was even named Queen. I believe that whomever has cried rebellion the loudest were the ones that gave the withering curse to Queen Catherine in order to hasten their ascent to the throne. When that plot failed, they spread rumors against the new Queen and rose in rebellion in the hopes to take the throne through mass bloodshed. Originally it was my plan to investigate the curse and find proof of the culprits, but instead I was sent to Dryads Lair to serve the kingdom in another way. And so here we are, still at war.”

"I certainly see what Hoffman see in .., er why Hoffman hangs around.." Brother stumbles before clearing his thoughts "I mean, I appreciate your situation. I am not here to stop a war, one way or another, except for how I can help you. I have no need to get in to a discussion of who did what or why. One of the reasons I left home is the drama in small spaces. Out here you can escape some of the drama, at least for a while." Brother Foto goes back to whistling as he paddles. If you want to investigate, we will be here for you.

“Thank you, Brother Foto. I do appreciate that. At the moment, I would be happiest just to be able to get to this wedding and back home again with everyone safe and well. But speaking of crying the loudest, we are heading towards the Bolpel lands and things are only going to get more dangerous from here. I would never thought I would say this, but I cannot wait until we are in Ghostwood, safe within Count Drake’s estate,” Branwyn replied.

“Miranda has been talking about taking Hoffman to Loosend when we get back. I am glad that she has done so, for Miranda seems to do more for others than herself, and I think she is more than due for a trip for her own desires. But … if she doesn’t mind the company, I think there might be quite a few of us who should like to go with them. I think Kenna, Snee and Shi would be fascinated by the myriad of churches, temples and shrines all in one place. And I could have access to such priestly resources, as well as a Mage Guild, to possibly research the origin of the withering curse. Besides the fact that if Miranda offered a trip out of the Mist for a week or two, I think almost any of our new friends would jump at the chance!” she said smiling with a nod to Johan. “But here I go babbling on again, when Anastacia was going to tell us her story. And I would so very much like to hear it. My second promise of the day? I shall be quiet until lunch,” Branwyn held up her hand again to take a remainder of the morning oath of silence.

"So you wanted to know what I did at the Doeskin Estates. Let me tell you a story.

I grew up with my mother being Queen or knowing she was going to be Queen and the Eustaces and the Doeskins have always been friends but the Bolpels not so much. After Willimina was ordained Queen against the will of the Bolpels, who are the cause of all these problems, we all had to get together and decide who we were going to serve. Of course I was on Willimina’s side. She has always tried to unify people. She has always tried to be open to have as many people listen to ideas and to offer suggestions. However not everyone throughout the kingdom believed she was actually the best choice for us and what happened is the Doeskins, the Gronarks and others decided that if they could move quickly enough overthrow her as Queen by casting aspersions on her legitimacy and then choose their own successful Queen instead. I did not want to be that successor and when it was proposed that I become that by the Bolpels I refused.

Willimina sent me to the Doeskins to go see if I could convince them to at least step aside like the Gronarks stepped aside from helping the Bolpels. Toybin negotiated that settlement. When I arrived on the Doeskin Estates Marisu’s father greeted me and said that he had a proposition for me. He said that I would be Queen which I shook my head and refused again and then he said or I could be queen against my will and I laughed and two of his servants came forward and drew their swords against me.

A few moments later it was still myself and the Earl standing in the room with now three dead bodies. I suggested that he rethink his course of action. He smiled he said if your precious Willimina loves werewolves so much then she will be glad to have another. With that two more men stepped out from the shadows, stepped forward and changed from men to Wolf.

I knew I could not take on two werewolves on my own so I fled throne room and made my way upstairs I went through a bedroom out to a balcony and went down the side of the keep escaping before they knew which room I had gone into.

I made my way across the lands back towards our own estate. When I got there I sent a message by bird to Willimina to let her know what had happened. When I was on my way back to Jistille I received a message of assistance with three young men riding with the message assigning them to me. Willimina had apparently convinced werewolves to join her and was sending me her own to assist me in dealing with the two at the Doeskins. We went back for the Doeskins and I brought five of my own retainers along for additional safety as well as silver daggers. With the help of our three new companions we discovered that there were only two weres was that belonged to the Doeskin Estate and we quickly chased them and joined them in battle. I was able to subdue one of them and bind him against his will. The other was slain in battle but two of my own retainers were injured and my new companions inflicted their curse upon them without my permission or assent.

So I was now there with five werewolves on my side going against the Earl of the Doeskin Estates. I decided that I would force all five werewolves to swear in both of loyalty to the Eustace Estates. We then we went to confront the Earl in his own lair I took it upon myself to execute the Earl for bringing such destruction to the kingdom and for allowing such beasts to be part of this rebellion.”

Her voice became a growl.

“I do not like the idea of the Eustace name being associated with werewolves but I needed to stop the Doeskins before they could do more damage to the Kingdom I hope that when this war is over we can find a way to return my loyal retainers back to the beings they were and somehow find a way to banish these beasts back to the swamps where they belong.”

Scanning along the banks she began again passionately.

“I want to move forward with healing our Kingdom. After we attend this wedding and prove to everyone that the Queen can exert her power where she wants anywhere in the Kingdom then we should be on a more powerful footing to bring the houses back to the table to bargain and end to this war. That leaves us with the question of succession. I am not going to marry a boy. I am not going to be Queen. I am willing to be princess until this war is over and the queen can act fully and confidently in any manner she wishes but I will not marry a boy. That worked fine for Kristen Medipop but it will not be my fate so if you can magically conjure away to find someone else that will provide a young girl I am all ears.”

She paused after that rush of words.

"I wish I had better news for you on Marisu’s family. They brought their own fate upon them I was only the person who delivered it to them."

Anastacia stared out at the swamps thinking.

Branwyn opened her mouth to speak and then closed it again. She started and closed her mouth once more, cursing herself silently for making such a stupid promise.

skip over clarification of story and history, as told in WC-OOC

Marisu ignores the hypocrisy of wanting to execute someone for involving werewolves in a war while bringing along your own werewolves that were recruited before you knew about the enemy werewolves. Mentioning it won't help anything, and a death sentence is a death sentence, regardless of if it's for participating in a rebellion or using werewolves.

"That doesn't sound at all like my father, Princess Anastacia. It's a bit of a stretch, but could we be dealing with magic of some sort? A shapeshifter, illusion, or perhaps mind control? After all, someone attempted to use a wand of command against the Queen. Perhaps someone has found or made a stash of those?"

Brother Foto finds it hard to whistle for a bit but manages to meek out. "I was hoping for a more happy story, or at least one not involving the family of companions. You have any funny stories of Toybin?"

Miranda Goes Around Talking

Miranda walks up to Anastacia. "Here let me look at your wounds." and begins small talk without giving her a chance to say no.

"You know I knew the Queen before she was Queen, back when I was just a beginner healer and maybe more important, a naive mercenary. I never thought much about politics. Later on I spent some time alone with Toybin and I think he helped set me on the path I am on now. Now I focus a bit more magic but I comfortable enough with my teachings I can continue my work as a healer. Yet I am almost like 'what's next?' Do you ever think that? If you don't want to be Queen, do you have have any long term goals?"

Anastacia looks down at the tear in her trousers with a slight grimace. "That one did hurt a bit" as Miranda continued to work her healing.

"My short term goal is to get to this wedding and back with most of us in one piece. I want to try to heal the Kingdom so that I do not need to be the princess anymore. I grew up knowing that I would never be Queen and I was happy with that. It allowed me to do what I wanted to. Now my goal is to end this civil war."

She stands up and stretches, "Thank you for the attention, make sure everyone else is able to travel. I think we are only a day and a half away from the Kings Road and I want to make good time."

Miranda smiles and wonders to her self why no one answers the question she asked but wanders over the Branwyn and whomever is around. "Branwyn, I just wanted to touch base and make sure everything is going as you like. I know when you allowed us to join you again, we don't have a formal agreement though you have always treated us well. I and well we are not necessarily looking to join the mercenary unit I want to know that we are open for a longer commitment. We do want to get to Loosend sooner than later but it sounds like it may be a group outing but anything we can do to help, we are here for you for the foreseeable future, as Qui Fon would say."

Branwyn smiled a bit at Miranda’s comment. “Do things ever go as one really likes? And does anyone really know what is best until everything is said and done and you are left with making peace with however it all turns out? You tell yourself that is what you really wanted and how things were meant to be in order to save yourself from being perpetually disappointed. But I am rambling.’

‘I hope you would know me well enough by now that I wish no formal agreements from anyone and that I care about everyone that travels along the crazy path we have begun so long ago. Everyone is free to stay as long as they wish or leave if there is another path that would make them happier. And I do appreciate everything you have done to help us along our way. I know that it has been difficult at times and that I am sometimes the cause of that, but I am both happy and grateful to have you with us as long as you should like to be. I do wish you and Hoffman nothing but the best for the future. That is why I would like us to be able to come with you to Loosend. If you could come and survive my wedding, it would be the least I could do to offer my support to you in yours,” she said.

Miranda smiles wide. "Yes, No formal agreement except to come to my wedding, if we can make it happen. But I do have other goals, longer term. I tried in Dryads Lair to find more intellectual work, training and such but I was unknown and not quite ready. But working for you or with you I am sure we can find something. Once we teach some of of new guest to the swamp to swim, I can train any of your apprentices for you that I can, I was thinking you can introduce me to one of the royal families so I can sever like you do. No plans, just when the time comes.

Life and Leeches

After helping Branwyn and the wolves put the rescued cargo on land (damn hill giants), Shi combed through the wolves' fur only to be dismayed to find them covered in leeches. She glanced as leechless Branwyn and sighed as she started pulling them off. It wasn't pretty work.

"Miranda?" called Shi, seeing her heading towards her. "May I ask for your help? It looks like they dove into a nest of leeches. Could you please help Galad?" She nodded towards the youngest wolf who was clearly in discomfort and shook her head. "I guess there really are leeches in these swamps. They, um, do they carry disease? Or is this the worst I need to worry about the wolves?"

"Um, and while you're here, if you don't mind helping," continued Shi, lowering her voice. "I was curious about something you said earlier. What did you mean about having a best friend changing on me? Did that happen to your best friend?"

Miranda takes a deep breath, looking around at all the party spread out. "Of course we will take care of Galad, if you can give me a moment to look for a natural cure, if needed, I would like to save the spell until everyone gets back to casting.""As far as friends changing, I was thinking more of myself, how much things changed once Hoffman and I got past the awkward stage in our relationship." She glances over at Hoffman finishing his diving for the last of the cargo and smiles just a little."I know you have a long life ahead, certainly hope a long one with Kel, but getting past this part and on to the next is not one you want to linger on, if you excuse me for a moment." Miranda walks over to Hoffman, gives him a peck on the cheek and leads him away from the group, just over a hill and they lay down just out of eye sight as they slowly check each other extensively for leeches. Qui Fon does his best to distract people with his tumbling and loud talk of his view of the battle and the happy couple talk quietly.

"You know Hoffman, I felt a part of you with me as a jumped in and pulled with all my might to save Anastasia and yesterday after being thrown by that skeleton, I just acted just like you, I stood up and went back to work. You are a part of me now. I am so happy about our future, no mater if we can get married or not"Hoffman lets his grin get bigger. "You know I feel the same, I was so hoping we could talk our way out of that fight, even though you know how much I like to fight. I am gonna have to have a talk with the jer... "Hoffman stopped as he saw Miranda's face change. "What?"Miranda kisses Hoffman again and leans up to look for Branwyn before adjusting her clothes and getting up and walking quickly over to her."The giants did not understand Common. Oh Hi, excuse me. Now there is a small chance that guard could speak the giant's language but the ring he had, do you think it could be magical? I doubt he could control that many giants with a ring but maybe, maybe it helped him talk to them. Can I try it out?" Looking around "Doesn't some one here speak.. hey Shi (putting the ring on) say something in elvish for me."

Meanwhile Hoffman secures hi clothes and smiles and he watches Miranda take charge.

(dice rolls and casting to be made on line)

"Thank you, Miranda. All three wolves probably need to be checked when you have the time, I-," Shi paused halfway, realizing Miranda had walked off. Focused as she was pulling those final leeches, she missed her excusing herself. She shook her head with a small smile before spotting Branwyn, one more thing on her mind.

"I'm glad to see the wand finally getting use. Er, not that it did much. There wasn't even an explosion," said Shi, sighing with slight disappointment before quickly clarifying. "Not that I want you to explode. Just that apparently some of the spells, well, can be flashy. Or were flashy. Grandmother tinkered with that wand so much I'm unsure if it can still cast the spells she described. She really liked explosion, but after almost killing my father, it's said she tried to dial back on those possibilities."

With a shrug, Shi opened her mouth to continue before Miranda returned. She paused a second to understand the request, and question if it was smart to put the ring on without thought, before saying, "(E) Such as what?"

{Miranda does not understand what Shi said in Elvish}

Miranda sighs "That did not work. I have no idea what you said. This really is not the time, sorry I thought it was simple. Let's get everybody ready for traveling again." (Puts ring back in party pack)

Branwyn wrung some more water out of her hair and shook her head. She still smelled like the swamp and would probably continue to until they reached Count Drake’s castle. She looked to Miranda and laughed. “Since when is magic simple? Your thought was a very good one, Miranda and I think you are probably right. That guard either had to know how to speak to the giants or perhaps that ring did help him. Other than Shi’s wand, most magic items are equipped to do one thing only. So, we know that the ring does not translate Elvish, but it doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t be effective at understanding the hill giants language.”

Branwyn snapped her fingers and a small flame shot out from her hand. “Oh! Sorry. I just had a thought. Hugh was very helpful when we were dealing with the cyclops while we were on our tour of the keeps of Cordrawn Hills. I know he has studied languages. Before we put it aside as unusable until I can conduct an investigation into all our possible magic items, why don’t you try to use it with Hugh? And … if it does work, I wouldn’t be surprised that the spear we found is especially effective in fighting giants. Though with the multitude of weapons the fighters carry around with them, I have no idea how they are going to be able to wander around with a huge spear as well. Even Marisu has a rapier at her waist and a crossbow on her back. There are only so many weapons one can reasonably carry, but I’m sure we’ll figure out something.”

“But it does say something about the Bolpels that they have the resources for over half a dozen hill giants and magic items to control them,” she continued. “I was hoping that they would be in a weaker position by now. But I suppose that is what we are here for. We have eliminated the skeleton sentry post, an evil priestess and her undead minions, and have now cleared the roadway for good people to travel. I think we have made excellent progress in a very short time.”

Branwyn then turned to Shi apologetically. “I am sorry I wasted a charge on your grandmother’s wand. Those giants were incredibly resistant to magic for such unintelligent beings. I really did think it would be easier. It was like using magic on dragons and they can be more intelligent than some humans. Maybe size does indeed matter,” she said with a grin. “But I am glad that there was no explosion. I was a little close to the giant for that kind of magical reaction. But there is always next time. I was just hoping that the failure was that of the giant’s magical resistance and not my pronunciation of the Elvish. I am not a master of languages by any means.”

"It still has more charges. It's okay," said Shi, smiling. It fell a little as she continued, "Er, but yeah, I guess that was not the right situation for an explosion. They must have been resistent. Um, I mean, it is Le mERna not Le merNA, but I don't think that should make too much of a difference. My spells weren't doing much, either."

"Oh well. There will be a next time to try the wand again," finished Shi, her smile returned with a slight shrug.

Hoffman walks up to Kel and speaks quietly. "Did it help? You know helping Mara? I thought if She saw you getting closer to someone else, she might break out of the friend zone and see you as someone special. I figured either way one of them is gonna like you more, so did it work?

After a moment of silence and what appears to be a confused look on Kel's face, Hoffman explains further, speaking slower and more pronounced.

"I had a similar issue where there was one woman I was friends with that I thought might be more and when I hung out with another woman, not only did it make it clear that the first woman was not ment for me, the other woman was. Maybe it will work differently for you but your situation with Jen certainly made your feeling clear, or rather your guilt did. Just let me know how I can help you.

Kel thought about the comments a while before formulating an answer. How could he let Hoffman know that he and Shi are courting, without letting everyone know he and Shi were courting? He knew his loyalty lies with Shi first; everyone else would need to respect that. He was sure that if Hoffman knew, Miranda would certainly know; that's what good couples do. What he didn't know was if Miranda knew, who else would know? Their courting would filter through the ladies watch, eventually getting back to Shi. And just like that, her trust would be gone. Back to square one.

"Shi and I are taking things slowly. We talked a bit, and we are really going to focus on what's best for us right now. Getting out of this swamp safely, and seeing the sun again, and trees that are actually green, that's our goal. One encounter at a time." Kel was impressed with himself. His answer wasn't totally skirting the truth, it just didn't mention all the facts.

"As for Mara, she is quite attractive, there's no denying that. Her personality is very outgoing, she seems to have a good heart, very willing to spread Belinos's message, and I think she genuinely wants to see that all that deserve His blessing get it. We are fortunate to have her traveling with us. She will make someone very happy one day. It just won't be me. I only have the desire to spend the rest of my years with just one person. I didn't carry Mara to make Shi jealous; i did it because she needed help. No ulterior motive involved. She risked her life for us, so she is one of us, and deserves our protection and assistance.

"I think I made the right decision in saving Jen; all my training and knowledge convinces me of that. But I didn't consider Shi, or her feelings, or what that meant to her. If I truly want her to be mine, mine forever, I have to put her first. And that's exactly what I have resolved to do, despite any other distractions." Kel again impressed himself. As he listened to the words flow from his mouth, he realized just what Shi meant to him. She is all that matters. And he couldn't have made him more smitten.

Mara's experience with the Giants, in her own words

We stopped just short of the King's Road. I could see the advance team speaking with the one human. The sight of several giants surrounding them was a bit concerning, for sure. The human must be verifying only those allowed in these parts actually pass. I knew a few gold pieces exchanging hands is usually enough to allow passage. Let's just work it out, and peacefully move on. I silently prayed that this wouldn't escalate.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, the giants decided to attack. I have heard giants will do that, being upredictable, no regard for anyone but themselves. Savages. Branwyn, Indigo, Jared, and the others scrambled for defensive positions. Hugh, Kel, Branadarus; all moving quickly to assist. The commotion was almost overwhelming. I have seen minor skirmishes, small bullywug raids of the family farm, but I've never seen one of this magnitude, with hulking beasts (seven of them!) smashing the ground, picking up our friends and tossing them like dolls!

I knew our team needed help, but my mace could only make a scratch on the behemoths. But I could help another way, with Help. I called on guidance, and I was not let down. Belinos is always responsive with a quick answer. I saw one beast standing on loose soil, swinging away at the Princess. But what if his feet just sunk down into the mud? That would slow him for sure. I closed my eyes, bowed my head, and called for favor.

The familiar feeling of Belinos cursing through by body, providing me with strength and power, is a feeling I hope I never lose. I opened my eyes, and pointed to the ground beneath the giant. The loose soil almost instantly turned to mud, and the giant sank a few feet down. Yes! That would slow him down!

My elation slowly turned to dejection, as the giant continued to swing away. Was the mud not deep enough? What did I do wrong? Was I not worthy of the full power of Belinos?

Suddenly, shouting to my left. Farther in the distance, I could see Hugh, very badly injured, retreating to safety, hoping for some healing. Closer, I could also see two giants making small work of the team set up as a barrier between our enemies and the rest of us. I quickly rushed up between the two groups, and knelt down and prayed. Again, I called on the power. I knew if I recited His word aloud for all to hear, it would inspire our team, and deject the attackers. I felt the power, the spirit, move through me again, comforting me. I opened my eyes to see the horror of one of the giants directly over me. His horrible odor and putrid breath filled my lungs. I could see the anger in his yellowed eyes as he raised his club. Before I could utter a word, all went dark.

I felt like I was floating in nothingness, pitch black, pure silence, but yet eerily soothing. I had no fear, no concerns. Nothing but peace. A dim light grew slightly brighter, and I heard a voice. I knew instantly it was His voice. I turned away; I knew I wasn't worthy to gaze upon Him.

"Child, why are you here?" His voice was loud, but calming.

I couldn't for the life of me explain where I was, nor why I was there. "I do not know. I was praying to you, my Lord, and then...I don't know. I remember seeing my friends in need. I wanted to help, extend your blessing to them in their time of need. And now I am here..." I felt almost embarrassed that I was speaking directly to Him. ME. I certainly was not worthy of his audience.

He spoke slowly. "Child, you shouldn't be here. It is not your time. I have great expectations from you. You must complete my work. Go. Go, and keep the faith. Spread the Word, and Help all those who deserve it."

The light slowly dimmed, then went out completely. I could feel myself falling, slowly at first, then rather quickly. I hit something hard, but I was still at peace. I opened my eyes.

My vision was blurred, but i could see the outline of the face of an angel. I tried to look away, but I could not move. As my eyes regained focus, I could make out the face of Brother Fotopoulus. my savior. He was feverishly trying to stop the bleeding, binding my wounds. That's when I felt the pain: my whole body felt crushed, like the weight of the world had come crashing down on me. I was in agony. The deafening noise of the battle continued around me, but I was unable to turn to look. I felt weak, and closed my eyes to pray.

I awoke in the arms of another angel, this one with pointy ears and a charming smile. He was carrying me, as I could still not walk. While my body ached terribly, I could at least move my head. I looked into Kel's face, and he gave me a warm, genuine smile. I smiled back, settling into his comfortable arms, resting my weary head into his strong chest. Despite the pain I felt throughout my body, I knew everything would turn out just right.

Kel calls it quits

Kel was on rear guard, keeping Shi and the wolves in his sight. He was worried; he knew as long as his focus was on his anger, a battalion of bullywugs could march right past and he wouldn't notice. Every step jolted through his body. He knew his pursed lips were the only barrier, a very fragile barrier, keeping his anger from spewing out. His insides were on fire as his mind could only focus on Hugh, being pummeled by the hill giant. And then the guard captain admitted to shooting Hugh from the sky, shooting him from the sky, dropping him at least 30 feet, and presuming him dead. "We'll bring his body to you, if we find it", he casually remarked, as if he misplaced his waterskin. Ohhh, I should have ran him through right then, thought Kel. And all his dimwitted friends. If only we were anywhere close to adequate cover, Joe and his whole team would inexplicably vanish, just 'poof', gone. Only those who braved the patches of quicksand would have any chance at finding them.

And Branwyn, oh Branwyn, your true colors did show today. How you casually discussed the number of names and titles you have had so ceremoniously bestowed upon you, while one of our own lies somewhere in the bush, dead or dying. Dying trying to help you. To get you safely to a wedding. And you couldn't care less. Kel kicked the stones on the path, one caroming close to Shi. She turned to see where it came from and noticed Kel. Angry. Very Angry. She slowed to let Kel catch up.

"So what's eating you?", Shi asked, a bit worried. She had seen Kel angry before. Nothing previous was even close.

Kel glared at Shi, his jaw clenched so tight he thought his mouth would never open again. But it did, as he addressed Shi in Elvish.

"So we see the real Branwyn now, and the rest of them, all of them. We see what they think is really important." Kel struggled to keep his volume low. "The guard captain Joe tells them Hugh has been shot, possibly killed, and no even flinches to find him? to see if he is hurt, or even alive?" His words fired out of his mouth like darts, penetrating the only one who would listen. "She would rather discuss the complexity of having too many titles..."

Shi looked at Kel, started to speak but didn't a chance.

"Despite this godforsaken mist, I can see clearly what we are to her. Nothing but expendable arrow catchers. Blade absorbers, keeping the rest of them safe. We mean nothing to her, or any of them. Nothing." Kel's voice started to crack. "He is one of her own. Hugh was with them before we joined up. He has a child. A child! He's thought to be dead, and all they can think of is how the Marquessa should be addressed?" Kel kicked another stone, barely missing Ithil. The poor pup was already jumpy, and a stone skitting by didn't help his nerves. The wolf openly whined while he walked closer to Galad. Kel felt bad for a moment, but his rage again flowed through his words.

"I'm out, Shi. done. I don't give a single care about any of these others, not one. I'm done being a nobody to a bunch of nobodies, every one unimportant to me." Kel shook his head. Deep down he knew that wasn't true. In the time spent traveling, Kel managed to form loyal bonds with most of the team. He even developed a mutual respect for the lumbering oaf, whose wife just wrote Hugh off as dead, and could not have cared any less. He quickly angered again. "No worries, we can find others," she thinks.

"You and the wolves are my one and only concern, my only focus." Kel paused a bit. He knew the difficult part of this was just beginning. "Shi, it's time. Now. Now that we see where we stand. We need to go. Home, back to Divaekah. We can make it alone: you, me, the three pups. And I promise you, I will quit the Guard, and we can travel the world together, wherever your heart desires. Anywhere but here, with them." He wasn't totally convinced his abilities could get all of them safely out of Mist alone. Especially if Shi remained so ill he couldn't lay hands. But it was still better than being left for dead, forgotten, like yesterday's leftover rations. "What kind of leader would bring her friends to this...this... foul swamp? and into this Mist? where everyone gets sick? And they call this Home?? Look at you, Shi. You haven't been yourself since we got here. You can't heal anyone, you're always ill, you've vomited more in these last days than I've ever seen you before back home. We need to go. We're not safe relying on "friends".

Kel knew his argument to leave was weak, weakest he's tried so far. And his motivation for leaving was based in anger. But he was exhausted, physically and mentally drained. This is the best he had in him right now. Kel sighed loudly. He finally paused long enough to let Shi respond.

"You're right," said Shi, simply, keeping the conversation to their native tongue.

Based on the look of shock and stunned silence from Kel, she knew he didn't really believe what he was saying, believe she would actually agree, which is what she was counting on. She could finally get a word in without worry of being interrupted.

"We'll find ourselves a boat and make our way out of this blasted swamp. If one of us falls into the water, maybe one of the wolves can rescue us. I mean, they'll probably hesitate more than Indigo does when someone goes overboard, even someone he isn't fond of, but you can hold your breath, right? And when they get covered in leeches and contract some nasty disease again, I'll be able to cure them, like Miranda did without thought. Er, eventually, provided they don't die before I get over this sickness of my own. Of course, we'll have to be just as cautious of the trees, but I have complete confidence in my abilities to save you from one like Tiberius did even though, like him, I'll be putting myself in plenty of danger. Sure, I have less chance of escaping alive like he did, but at least you know you can count on me since clearly you can't count on any one of our so-called friends. Should I even mention centipedes?"

Shi paused for a moment to let it sink in. In a quieter voice, she continued, "I know you're upset, Kel. You almost lost another member of your squad. No, they are not like your squadron back home, but you care just as much for them or you would not be so upset."

"Was there room for improvement on how it was handle? Certainly. Should Branwyn have admonished the guard for being starstruck rather than getting right to searching for her friend? Maybe. Should the guards have taken the possible death of Hugh more seriously? Definitely. Should you have run off searching for Hugh without a plan, letting emotion alone guide you?" asked Shi, pausing.

"Like an arrow in flight, it is difficult to arrest the consequences of an action. Choose your targets carefully for an ill-considered action can have a long-reaching impact."

"Solonor teaches us to be patient. As a healer, would it be smart for me to run to the aid of others without considering my situation? No. I could just as easily put myself at risk which would do no good for the person I'm trying to aid, myself, or anyone else around," said Shi with a small sigh. Surprised as she was to have been allowed to talk for so long without interruption, she pushed on to get her last few thoughts in.

"You should be angry at the guards. Their conduct was neither conducive nor helpful to the situation at hand, and honestly, was a bit heartless. But should you be angry at Branwyn? I don't believe it is fair to be. She has shown us many times that she doesn't consider us to simply be fodder. She risked her life to save Kenna from a dragon. She did everything in her power to keep her mother-in-law away from us. She helped us in our quest with nary a stipulation for tagging along. She was just as worried for Hugh as you were. She just had a different way of showing it - and acting on it, but she knew her options and knew, no matter what, we would not lose Hugh today."

"Am I happy here? Not particularly, and while I would have relished the chance to rest once we arrived, it was not by choice any of us, Branwyn included, decided to go to this wedding. She does feel bad that I've not adjusted, but can I fault her for calling this her home? She finds it just as odd for us to live in trees. But sick though I may still be, I do not see reason to leave them yet. Friends they are, who have risked their lives for us. One of them even gave up his life to save Ithil. You really think we're nobodies?"

"Go blow off some steam. Have a rock lifting contest with Tiberius before beating him in another arm wrestling match. Kick some rocks off into the trees rather than further fraying the nerves of the poor wolves. Try your hand at sparing with the princess. Do something, anything before your anger gets the best of you and you take it out on someone else. I don't know how much of what I said actually sank in, I don't know if I've ever seen you so mad, but just pause for a moment and take a breath," said Shi. She hesitate for a second before lightly grabbing Kel's hand to give it a quick squeeze before continuing, "For both our sakes."

Kel stared at the dusty path, wishing it was leading him in the other direction, towards home. He held Shi's hand, letting the contact wick away his anger. He kept looking down at the path, trying to shield the smirk crossing his face. Every time, he thought. Every. Time. How does she do it? He shook his head in disbelief. How does she manage to find the exact words to disprove my beliefs, to give light to a different perspective, to turn about my opinions? And all with a subdued sarcasm that makes me feel even more foolish for even considering my thoughts to be rational?

Since they were young, Kel noticed that every time he voiced his opinion, Shi would counter with an opposing yet equally valid opinion of her own. Regardless which side he would take, she would take the other. He thought at first that it was just Shi being flirtatious, trying to rile him up, to have a poke at him. But as they got older, and their opinions turned to more serious topics, Kel began to realize how important he found Shi's point of view to be. He would opine on anything, just to hear a different perspective, Shi's perspective. And he had come to respect it as highly as his own.

Kel looked up at Shi, the smirk slowly changing to a smile. As their eyes met, he could feel her tension ease. She could see right through him.

"And so you did it again," Kel remarked, slowly shaking his head. Shi slowly smiled as well. "You just love doing that." Her smile changed to a look of confusion, mock confusion. "Don't play coy, you know exactly what you did." Shi squeezed his hand again. "Don't think that I'm not mad anymore; I still am", Kel said sternly. She couldn't help but giggle.

Kel broke eye contact, and returned his gaze to the path. Shi's words continued to circulate in his quickly calming mind. Every pass seemed to quell the tempest of anger more and more. Kel had no rebuttal. Every word Shi said was true. Each member of the team has in one way or another demonstrated great care for the elven pair, risking their own lives to ensure the safety of everyone. Yes, even Branwyn. It angered Kel a bit to admit that maybe Branwyn did have concern about Hugh; that even if he was mortally wounded, he could be revived. But really, who would trust a life to a Rod of Resurrection? That's the plan? He shook his head again.

"Ok, I'm not as angry amymore", Kel conceded, as he looked at Shi, "but that doesn't mean this is all forgotten. Hugh was still missing, presumed dead, and no one cared. I'll never forget that." Kel pondered his actions. Were they justified? He did charge ahead alone, defying the authority of the local guard. But isn't that what friends do? Who wouldn't risk life and limb for a friend?

"Yes, this team has proven that we matter, that we are one of them, more than a few times. But make no mistake: never, ever forget, you are, and always will be, my one and only priority." Kel tightened his grip on her hand, hoping to never let go. But he knew, deep inside he knew, the instant he sensed danger, the moment the team encountered trouble, he would be right up front, defending his friends.

"Eeeeeewww," said Snezana. "This bag with the goodberries needs washing. Can someone else take these 52 goodberries so they don't spoil?"

"Why do you have so many berries? And what makes them "good"? I'll eat them. Want me to eat them all?" replied Thistle, expectantly.

{grins, thank you Carissa, Spring posted in case she would not be here so that someone else would have the goodberries if needed}

Branwyn Starts a Book Club

Petit-Singe escorted the group out of Dame Camille’s chambers. As they walked down the halls toward the gardens, Branwyn stopped him. “Can you wait for us here? I really don’t want to be carrying these heavy books with me through the gardens. We’ll be right back.”

Without waiting for an answer, she gestured towards the group and guided them back into the ladies’ guest chambers. Anastacia was sitting up in bed sipping broth and looking slightly less green than she did upon waking. Hoffman let the group enter first and then closed the door after stepping inside.

Branwyn dropped the book, The Art of Therianthropy: Adding Members to the Family, on Anastacia’s bed. She dropped the other tome, Removing the Curse of Therianthropy, onto Marisu’s. “These weren’t the kind of titles I wanted to announce in front of Petit-Singe, but I think they may be of special interest to you both. Perhaps working together to absorb their contents and understand fully what has happened and what may be possible, this may be a stepping stone to a path forward in some way.”

“I found it interesting,” Branwyn continued, “that these two books were not covered in dust. Meaning that these books were possibly the books that Father Simon was studying not shortly before he was immolated at the reception. Now that we have learnt there is a contingent of werewolves in this castle that the vampires would like to exterminate, perhaps Simon was killed by a wolf that did not wish to be cured? Just a thought.”

As Marisu and Anastacia eyed the books laid before them, Branwyn looked around the room towards everyone. “But I also wanted to check in with you after this morning’s revelations. Now that we know the man who is to be saved is a vampire, does that change anyone’s desires to save him?”

Marisu reaches out and picks up the book in front of her and looks at the title, then smiles back at Branwyn. "Knowing we were going to try for the library today, I prepared accordingly. If we can obtain some blank books or enough paper, I can make identical copies of up to two books today, although only one of them can be magical in nature." She gestures at the two books, "Do we want to do these two right now, or wait and see if we can find better resources later on?"

Branwyn brightened at the thought. “That’s a wonderful idea! Maybe we should wait on these here if we plan on breaching the summoning wall today. We have these borrowed so there is no great rush, but I am not sure how much time we will have when and if we finally have access to the library of one of the greatest mages in our area of the world. But we do have to be prepared then!” she said, excited at the thought. “Perhaps you could use a little persuasion to get some blank books from Petit-Singe, Marisu?”

Marisu nods. "I'll see what I can do. I do have space on my spell scrolls if we find a spell we want. I can't actually do a whole book of spells though, it's only good for one incantation at a time. And I'm not sure if I could have copied that Golem tome either. I think it may have been too advanced for my small skills."

“Please don’t say that! Anything you can and want to copy would be very helpful. I wouldn’t think too much about the golem research. Those types of things are luxury items. I hope that you will be able to find something in our exploration that you would like to have for yourself," Branwyn responded. "But, again, before we go into the gardens and perhaps into another dream, I understand if thoughts have changed in regard to Etienne given this new knowledge. For me, regardless of him being a vampire, Etienne would be the most powerful and advanced mage that I could ever hope of seeing. If anything, the more we learn, the more I would like to find him. If we could have perhaps a day or two to try, I would be most grateful.”

Marisu taps the book she's holding. "This appears to be a good start for me personally. Also, if we were told the truth, we have a choice between helping make Etienne a better person, or letting Hazelthorn influence his development. If we must have a vampire master mage, having him be a better person and possibly even owing us a favor or two sounds like the proper choice for me." She shrugs. "I understand though if anyone has other preferences."

"Grandma says it's possible to trust a vampire," piped in Thistle, before pausing and tapping her head. "Ummmmm, or was it understand a vampire? One of those. Both of those? Sometimes grandma talks lots but I'm pretty sure she said that."