The Long and Winding Road

Day 48b: Grotesque Underestimates

May 13th, 2016

Before heading out to find Eupraxia’s camp, Catherine goes shopping for a crystal ball to try to prove her story. The price turns out to be far too exorbitant for her and she decides to wait on the purchase. Meanwhile, Oliver is hard at work writing something and Keidrann, bored, decides to people watch outside of the inn. Soon he realizes he’s being watched by a group of ruffians and he leads them down an alleyway. At the same time, Oliver ponders on a philosophical question of sorts: How much is a soul worth? No one comes up with a strong answer but they decide, based on how flippant Quentin was about the whole ordeal before being attacked, that they can’t be worth that much.

Suddenly Keidrann is jumped by a scraggly man with a net, though he easily dodges and gracefully hops his way up to the rooftop where the apparent thief sprung the ill-fated trap. After giving chase and cornering one of the group of ruffians, it becomes clear that the ragtag band of fellows are poor, though that does not stop Keidrann from disarming all of them of their dulled knives and, more importantly, their net.

In much less exciting news, Vaunders determines exactly what this hunter is like and could contribute to the group. Thinking back on her myriad experiences, she realizes they’re referring to a Strix which means they’re quite keen, nocturnal, and can fly. She starts to doubt the kind intentions of this strix hunter and warns the group of a possible trap they’re walking into. Oddly enough, Oliver agrees but everyone else, including the recently returned Catherine, seems to think the hunter will be harmless… to them.

They decide on approaching with caution and head off in the vague directions Eupraxia had given them. Most of the group, unsurprisingly, have no idea where to start but Vaunders notices a large set of bird tracks and drag marks that head out into the woods. Figuring this is the best bet they have, they follow them and happen upon a large bear corpse that has been gutted and skinned expertly and shortly afterwards a campsite. Stretched hides and mounted corpses litter the site and a tent made out of animal furs sits in the middle. It’s pitch black in the tent, which doesn’t actually affect anyone but Vaunders and they all pile in and notice a blood soaked strix gnawing on it’s lunch in the corner.

Clearly this is Eupraxia, and introductions quickly turn sour as everyone is repulsed by the smell of the room and her general attitude. Vaunders questions the sincerity of Eupraxia, deciding the best course of action would be to sift through her very mind for her immediate motives and feelings. Through such close proximity she also catches Xanthus and Keidrann’s hesitant trust of Eupraxia, while she learns Eupraxia thinks of Catherine and Keidrann as beast tamers of the group. She also learns that Eupraxia sees Vaunders as a non-entity. Catherine offers payment for Eupraxia’s services but she refuses only wanting assurance the group will be facing formidable foes in the future. After some deliberation, Keidrann shares the eye of the Aboleth and she jaunts around satisfied and clearly recruited.

The group heads back to Albemarle, with Eupraxia strutting her stuff by beating everyone to the gate and then back again without breaking a sweat. They’re about to head to the guild as a group, but Vaunders and Xanthus head to the casino to follow up on the party info. Everyone at the guild is quiet and somber and the group quickly finds out the reason is probably because of Anastasia having gone missing. The group becomes even more intent on finding her once they find out her bounty is set at 250,000 gp. After an apparent spill for a new employee in the back room, they leave off for the inn.

Upon reaching the casino entrance, there’s a new receptionist whom Vaunders asks about seeing an info broker at this hour. She happily complies and acts as one herself, surprisingly. Vaunders first asks about Anastasia, whom they learn the last name of, Moriarty’s whereabouts. The price isn’t too bad but Xanthus tries to talk down the price anyway, attempting to convince them about his amazing ability to talk to swords and more specifically about Mao. Shortly into the lecture, Xanthus’ eyes glaze over and he falls into a trance, hearing a voice coming from the darkness. It calls to him, saying to call Mao’s name on the night of the next full moon. Xanthus then keels over and slams his beak on the desk, dizzying him.

Vaunders pays the remaining fee, the receptionist puts a big silver mirror on the counter, and then it smashes after the question of Anastasia’s whereabouts is answered: She is in an area with an anti-scrying spell in effect. Xanthus steadies himself and finally asks how much they have on his own past in particular. The price is quite extreme, at 35,000 gp, but Vaunders tries to lower the price by giving up her own past but she runs into a snag; It appears she cannot remember much of any names from her past, thus making the information useless to the info broker. Realizing there’s no chance of getting the information, they head back to the inn as well.

Oliver is slowly becoming more suspicious of Albemarle’s populace and notices a figure following them on the rooftops. Clearly this town is becoming progressively more hostile towards the party, and to get his mind off of this he thinks hard about his marks. He concludes Mainio Jokela might be an alias, due to his apparent lack of existence. They all reunite and are about to head off in the direction of Amatsu when suddenly a familiar face drops down from the rooftops.

As it turns out, the person shadowing the group is actually just harmless Ushio. He rambles something too quickly for anyone to catch it, as per usual, so Vaunders scans his mind for his surface thoughts. Not surprisingly, Ushio’s inner thoughts sweep by just as fast if not faster than his words and she gets disoriented very quickly; She does manage to decipher a little bit of his cavalcade of thoughts. Apparently Ushio has gotten a lead on someone important and armed with the knowledge can report back to the “Empire” to start a search on this person. He will also being heading back to a library, has some friends named Bree, Archos, and Mei, muttered something about halflings, got attacked by “Tahaggin”, and can run on water?!

Upon the information overload, Vaunders sits down with a migraine, while Eupraxia explains what she knows about Ushio’s current destination:: Littlefoot. It is apparently a part of Learmonth Archipelago far south west from here, and it’s wildlife includes large, petrifying goats. Ushio explains that he had been petrified before but “got better”, which is highly unlikely. He then rushes off, as he is want to do, leaving the party to their travel plans.

They gather groceries and supplies for the trip ahead while Praxi is chosen as the new driver of the carriage. Vaunders hires a divination sage for locating Anastasia, named Annabelle, and the group heads off… but the gate is destroyed by a now invading goblin horde. The invading army chants incessantly about giving a “white spike” back to their “great king” and proceed to siege the city. Catherine tries in vain to talk sense into the goblins, but one fires an arrow into her side. Oliver rushes off to alert and hopefully enlist the guards to help, while Vaunders hatches a plan. She has Catherine shrink her to the size of a kitten and the fight for Albemarle begins.

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