...and a severed head.
SUMMARY: Yelrona, Kaj, and Deak are introduced, along with Deak's city guards, Kaj's raven Shard, and Yelrona's severed head in a bag.
It's a pleasant fall afternoon, and the Warehouse District is alive with activity, but with martial law declared throughout the City, patrolling guards are significantly more noticeable. Walking along the road, one such patrol is accompanied by a Hearthguard of Althea, perhaps as a defense should wights be encountered. This Hearthguard is a blond man wearing a blue cloak over a resplendant breastplate expertly enameled on the front with Althea's blue rose. He carries a bill as well, using it at the moment for little more than a walking staff.
Ordinarily, Rona avoids the City Guard as much as she can. Not that she objects to their existence, necessarily, though she knows more about the level of corruption in the Guard's higher echelons than she wishes she did... just, things go more smoothly in her life if she avoids them. Her reputation is hardly the most law-abiding, after all.
That said, sometimes there's no avoiding it, and this is one of those times. She approaches the patrol, and nods to the Hearthguard accompanying them. "I'm afraid I have to report a crime, officers," she explains.
The patrol stops and turns to the elf. The hearthguard says, "Yes? What sort of crime?"
"Well, I'm not entirely sure," Rona admits. "Theft, at a minimum... I'm afraid this belongs to Ser Adriani, and was removed from his possession without his consent." She reaches into her pack and removes a watertight pouch, from which she removes a second, non-watertight bag. Which you can identify as such because it is dripping blood. "As for why he was travelling with a human head among his possessions, or whose head it is," she continues, opening the bag to reveal its contents, "or where its associated body is, I have no idea. I retrieved the bag from the miscreant who stole it," she continues -- true enough, in that she retrieved it from her own possession, although she does not intend to reveal that fact to the guard, "and decided it would be best to return it to the Guard rather than to Adriani himself... though no doubt there's some perfectly harmless explanation for why he has such a thing. I mean, yes, there are rumors he dabbles in prohibited necromancy, but those are just rumors, right?"
Deak looks with horror at the bloody head. The guardsmen physically recoil; perhaps they're new to such affairs? Anyway, the hearthguard winces in distaste, but asks, "How do you come to know that Ser Adriani was in possession of this head? Did the miscreant talk to you about it?"
"Who, me? No, of course not... not a word. But I observed the theft. This sack was in a cart Adriani was pushing between two buildings a few blocks north of here, and the thief -- with great skill, I must add! -- snuck up behind him and lifted the sack from the cart. What else was in the cart, of course, I have no way of knowing... if, perchance, it contained similar bloody sacks, only Adriani and the thief would know for certain. In any case, I stepped in of course -- such theft can't be permitted to go unchallenged, after all! -- and... well, to make a long story short, I ended up in possession of the item. So of course I came directly here, to offer it up to the Guard, like any law-abiding citizen of Alexandros."
Deak turns to the imbecilic guards and says, "You go on a... ahem, ...head, and try to catch up with this cart, eh? I'll come after you shortly." With that, the guards look at each other then one says, "Yeah. We're on it." They head toward the north. Then Deak says, "You seem confident," and half-smiles/half-smirks.
"Hey, wait!" Rona calls out as the guards head north. "You forgot his bag!" she adds, holding the bloody thing at arm's length. Reluctantly, one of them retrieves the item, before joining her partners.
"Who, me?" she says to Deak, amused. "Not especially. No doubt they'll find some reason to let Adriani go... his family owns far too much property in this neighborhood for ordinary justice to take him. But, well... we do what we can. There are enough threats to life and limb facing the city right now, we hardly need more."
Deak sighs, "It's always something, isn't it?"
Yelrona chuckles. "When it's nothing, we hardly ever notice."
Deak nods, "Well, at least attendance at the temple is up in times like this. Of course, so is patronage at the hospital. Either way, it keeps a Hearthguard hopping."
Yelrona nods. "There's that. It's different for Tarienites, I think... everyone needs to maintain a sense of humor in times like these, but somehow it's the first thing people discard in a crisis."
Deak grins, "Well, I believe a proverb that both out faiths take for holy writ says, "Laughter is the best medicine."
"A lich, a paladin, and a cleric are sentenced by the Great Judge to walk together across the Endless Desert, with only one thing of their choosing to eat," Rona replies judiciously. "The paladin refuses any food. "My faith will sustain me," she says. The cleric likewise refuses: "I will pray to my god for food in the desert." The lich looks at the other two and says "Just give me a spoon and I'm set."
Deak smirks, "Yeah. Nobody every said piety makes you clever."
Kaj has arrived.
"True. Or funny." Rona shrugs. "So... how are we doing on the not-being-overrun-by-undead front?"
Kaj makes his way out of a warehouse, carrying eight cases of wine in a stack as he walks towards a wagon. He is having a debate about, of all things, thermals, with someone invisible, or with his own mad brain or...
One of the guards returns, and Rona looks up at the giantborn talking to himself as Daek discusses matters with the guard. "Mostly thermals don't affect wagons much. Or does this one fly?"
Kaj places the case-stack on the wagon, then adjusts it so it's not a leaning tower of almost collapsed wine bottles. He slaps his hands together and looks around then down, finding Yelrona near his belt buckle.
"Well met!" he bellows, smiling genuinely if briefly, "I speak of thermals with Shard," he says, as if that clarifies it all.
"Ah, I see," Rona lies. "And does Shard fly?"
Kaj laughs, nodding. "Of course, else why speak of thermals?!" He looks at Yelrona with a quizzical look, which looks extra quizzical since he has one stone eye and a scrunched up half-scarred face.
Yelrona thinks about it. "Lots of reasons, potentially. Perhaps Shard is merely theoretically interested in thermals," she offers, extending a finger. "Perhaps Shard is a poet and was looking for something to rhyme with 'wormholes,'" she adds, extending a second. "Perhaps Shard has an invisible friend who can fly, and is providing translation services." A third finger.
Kaj drops down to his haunches as she enumerates her ideas, because he's tired of looking down and assumes she's tired of look up.
"Shard can fly."
"I bloody well hope so!" offers Shard, a large raven who was camped out in Kaj's blue mane of massive hairness. He stares with one eye at Yelrona, head tilted and turned away, getting her measure.
Yelrona blinks, nods, rolls with it. "Excellent. But it's more comfortable to ride in a giantborn's hair, I gather?"
"Until the time is right," offers Shard. "Plus..." he pecks at the various shining things woven into Kaj's hair as if to illustrate his point.
Kaj, for his part, just smiles, but it's a nervous smile because he knows the Raven suffers from NoFilterSyndrome.
"Well, that certainly is a lovely collection of shiny things," Rona acknowledges. "If it isn't too personal a question: how did you come to learn Common?"
"Mostly by listening to and answering stupid questions in Common!" replies the offensive bird. Kaj looks mortified and says something to the raven in...raven common?
Yelrona says "Then I suppose we ought to start teaching you other languages." <sildanyari>
Shard fluffs up and launches into the air, and is soon lost from sight.
"He is extremely....ah, temperamental." He shrugs his watermelon-sized shoulder apologetically. "Try not to shoot him."
Yelrona laughs. "I'll do my best. How did you happen to be accompanied by a talking raven?
Kaj is about to answer when a family of three mice pop their heads out from one of the satchels at his belt. "Hello, hello," he says, then switches to mouse common (?), says a few nice things to them, at least judging by his tone. They chitter back and head back inside.
"The North Wind." He smiles.
"Was that an introduction to the mice," Rona asks, affably, "or an answer to my question?"
Kaj holds up a cucumber-sized finger. "Your question," he says, then stands up, his back getting sore from squatting, presumably, since he stretches and leans back, hands on his lower back. There's a large tarantula riding on his sandal, it appears.
It doesn't seem so large against the backdrop of his foot. "All right then. The North Wind keeps many secrets, I'm told. For example: if a rooster is standing on the top of an angled roof of a house facing south-east, and the wind is blowing North as it lays an egg, which side of the house will the egg come down on?"
Kaj laughs, wiping at his hair strands with the back of his hand as the wind whips them about.
"That's some rooster...perhaps Sildanayari roosters lay eggs, but where we are from, they do not." He grins, crossing his arms.
Yelrona smiles approvingly. "No, not in the Mythwood at least. Perhaps in Llyranost. But then, ravens don't speak Common where I come from either... when the North Wind blows anything is possible, it seems. What do you get when you cross a cold rooster with a warm python?"
Kaj tilts his head, "A dead rooster and a dead python, I presume, since they are cold-blooded? But I can ask." He scratches absentmindedly at a scar on his forearm that looks like it was made by trident or something else with 3 points equidistant.
"A cockatrice, of course. Or in this case a dead cockatrice, I suppose. Or perhaps an undead cockatrice? I've never heard of such a thing, though I suppose they must exist somewhere," Rona muses.
Kaj snorts. "Or you could say: lunch. For the python."
Deak returns from setting the guardman straight. He shakes his head and says, "Somehow I doubt whether that one will ever make detective." Then says, "Hi." the jotun-born before asking Yelrona, "What's this about an undead cockatrice?"
"They're what you get when you feed a talking raven to a cold python, I think. Or something like that. Have the two of you met?" she asks Kaj and Deak. "I ask because if so, one of you could introduce me."
Kaj smiles down, "Well met, son of the north, I am Kaj, this is Yelrona, that--" he points at a raven resting on a spire about two hundred paces away, "Is Shard."
"What, the mice and the spider don't have names?" Rona asks, mock-outraged.
Kaj laughs, "I have not met the spider formally, and the mice do but I cannot make the sound in the right frequency, but they do give you their regards." He looks over to the warehouse.
"Very polite mice. I like that." Rona thinks a bit. "I can suggest some warm places for them to hang out for the winter, with plenty of grain they and their mouse friends can live on, if they'd like."
Kaj nods, looks down at the mice, explains. They seem keen, looking at Yelrona.
"But perhaps another time I will translate, as I promised I would help with the whole barge load." He smiles at Deak who is perhaps lost in the awe of well mannered mice, and offers Yelrona a shoulder squeeze which will leave a mark, maybe, but it was really meant super friendly like.
Yelrona nods. "Another time, then!" She waves to the giant and the mice.
Deak nods at the departing Kaj and says, "An odd sight, that one." He shrugs and smiles. "Anyway, I gather there have been a lot of wights about, just judging from the workload at the Soldiers' Defense, but apart from going on a job for the Guild, I haven't really been getting out a lot lately. There was this one dungeon though, that had hordes of lesser undead."
Yelrona looks up, interested. "Oh? Is it still a problem, or did you take care of it?"
Deak says, "Well, we left a stone gargoyle a small band of kobolds there, but I'm pretty sure we destroyed all the skeletons and zombies that were infesting the place, including a skeletal dog. Still, the gargoyle seemed content to let us go."
Yelrona blinks. "That's startlingly... friendly... for a gargoyle."
Deak chuckles. "Yeah. I guess he was charmed by my dazzling smile. Or maybe we just magaged to get away with pulling a convincing little charade over on him."
Yelrona nods approvingly. "Always a good move when you can pull it off. Is he a danger to the region, though?"
Deak shrugs. "Could be. Frankly, I suspect a group from the guild could take him down quickly enough, but by the time we met him, we'd already had a long day. A fighter doesn't usually run out of swords, but a caster like me only has so many spells to go on with."
Yelrona nods. "I know what you mean. I mostly rely on magic to augment my fighting skills, but even fighters can't fight forever."
Deak nods. "Nomally, they do the heavy hitting and I just back them up, but in this case... I mean a priest has some distinct advantages at fighting undead. So I was more in the front line than usual."
Yelrona nods. "Makes sense. Thank you."
Deak looks curiously at the expression of thanks and says, "You're welcome, but it's not really all that different from any other Guild job. We work together to get the job done. Anyway, those dolts I was working with earlier are probably getting lost about now, I should go make sure they get safely back to the barracks. Have fun."
Yelrona nods. "Good luck!"