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Borderland - Dancing Cauldron (Holt-Lindeck)

This is the in-game/in-character thread for our Grenzland/Borderland Game.
You can access it as a stream and download a copy for your use in CL vNext: https://logger-stream.campaign-logger.com/?rss=57882514bba248b69b91271c059e3a88&mode=next

The corresponding LFP thread is Grenzland (Borderland) - An Open Table West Marches-style Game.

If you like, take your time and introduce your character to the other adventurers.

Consider this the taproom of the Dancing Cauldron - the inn where player characters usually stay and gather when in town.


In the back of the room fixed to the stairs leading up and just beyond the biggest table, there is a big wooden message board.


And often, if the parties do not take it with them, there is a heavy leather map of the Margraviate of Hochholt and areas surrounding Holt-Lindeck. hanging just beside it. A map that evolves with every adventure and every new discovery...

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End of March 1021 NL, spring is coming.

A trapper drinking his share in a local tavern tells his listeners: "A friend of a friend hunting in the east is finding less and less deer at the end of this winter. This surely is related to pillars of smoke rising at the southern fringes of the Black Fang Knolls."

A halfling boater at the docks while unloading his barge reports: "Two days ago while going past Freiholt, my nephew saw eerie lights in the woods surrounding that lost town. These are the dead that are coming back to claim their village!"

A merchant warning another on the market: "Better not go up near Twilight Forest! A friend of mine told me that this Shrovetide's Mummery never ended there. Lunatics painted red and white hunt the locals!"
It is early afternoon in the Dancing Cauldron and only a few patrons turn their heads towards the young Riksharr girl with ginger fur who enters the taproom. Her golden eyes roam curiously over the patrons present, as well as the young waiter and the graying bartender. A thick strand of bleached hair covers half her face. Her face itself is peppered with lots of piercings that are interconnected with delicate gold and silver chains. Most prominent is a heart-shaped charm that is pierced through the skin of her forehead. On her arms and legs she wears half a dozen different bracelets and rings that make a soft jingling sound when she moves. All over her body the ginger fur is interspersed with darker stripes that give her a tiger-like appearance. She wears plain linen clothing, little more than rags that cover her skinny body decently but just barely.

Under the startled gaze of the young waiter, she crosses the room. As three more female Riksharr enter the taproom, the murmuring increases. Only the bartender looks calmly at the newcomers, while he puts a cleaned glass aside and leans forward on the counter expectantly.
"We need room," the girl says in a heavy accent.
The innkeeper nods.
"If you can pay, you can have as many rooms as you want," he replies in an indifferent tone.
A man in plates, a mercenary with a Spartanese helmet on his head, steps up to the counter, the last to enter the taproom.
"I'll take care of that," he says, as he drops a few silver coins on the counter.
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The wooden floor boards sqeak under strain as the huge man enters the room. He inhales deeply as if to take in a free drink with the smell of ale hanging in the air. He actually taps the dust of the road off his heavy leather boots, before he walks over to the counter, a slight sweaty smell accompanying his full armored attire,

"I'll take care of that," he says, as he drops a few silver coins on the counter. His deep booming voice easily heard in the entire room and his leather purse still burstingly full with coins. The purse might be tempting to pickpocket, but his bulging muscles under the heavy brown leather armor and sand colored plate armor sets the risk to a very high level.

As he takes off the Spartanese helm and the thick leather gountlets, it is evident that he is still a young man.
His well-shaven beard and self-confident gaze hint to his background as much as the extremely expensive, but worn armor. Strangely enough though, his armor and weaponry is unadorned by any decorations. Some ladies on the other hand might argue that Eremis' insanely muscular body is decoration enough and the numerous scratches in his armor speak of endless battles.
No fancy Rapier or trickery dagger adorns his belt, but a straightforward shield and simple mace make up his weaponry. A single silver pin in the form of a sword over a shield adorns his figure and holds a crimson colored half cloak of status or allegiance fast attached to his attire, a cloak unscathed by the ravages of the road or carefully cared for.
Alas, his beautiful face is tarnished. An ugly scar runs across his left cheek badly tended for at that time and now threading his cheek like a gorge. Nevertheless, he wears it with pride, knowing for what he made this sacrifice.

"I'm Eremis and this is Nichuan, Karlach, Nisalach, and Echawan," he introduces the group. "A room for the four Riksharr and a room for myself, if you please. And a bath. And ale to begin with. Or wait, let's make this a payment for the week including meals and baths and lodging." He looks at Nichuan and continues in a friendly manner: "You will need at least a week, Nichuan, before you can make any money of your own as a wizard. And you're poor. Let me share my spoils of war for a week. Until then, we should probably both find more of those coins or they will run out."

Eremis will probably start to haggle a little bit about the price with the old innkeep, just enough to show his interest in the person and hear about the advantages of this tavern in contrast to other places. But in the end, he will align several small towers of coins to pay for their lodging and put his strongly deflated purse back to his belt.

"Let's take the big round table under the stairs. I like the view." He hauls his big backpack over and is confident that the cat-people will follow and that the ale will arrive shortly. "Do you know, by the way, where Gram si Alachmes and his caravan is going to stay?"
A young man enters the tavern. In the beginning you do not really take notice of him, as he stays in the shadows. His moves are smooth and he seems quite athletic. He has a bunch of things hanging over his shoulder: they are wrapped in some cloth, there is a bow sticking out at the top. The man directly heads to the counter and pulls two apples out of his bag. As he hands them over to the bartender the latter one accepts with some apparent surprise but soon gently smiles. The young man puts some coins on the counter, then leans over it and whispers to the bartender.
This is the moment when his hood completely slips and uncovers his head. You could already see that the guy has quite dark skin but now you also perceive at least a hint of green. His hair is thin and stringy and cannot hide the large frayed ears.

The bartender calmly takes the coins and fetches a jar from somewhere behind filling it with beer. When handing over the drink he addresses the guy: "But Bausum, I'm not the one to ask, there are plenty of people here. Just today the group over there arrived and they seem to be staying for a while." Bausum winces and with the beer in its hand he turns around and examines the room. His eyes are wandering through the room and during each pass there is a noteable delay when his eyes meet the catfolk.

After some initial hesitation and assessing he approaches the table, takes a deep breath and speaks to Eremis: "Bartender said you keep staying with here for long. Tell me if you need guiding. I am good for passing through the woods and perhaps there is a loot to share." Then he exhales and looks nervously for a free table nearby.

Bausum has a long face with a crooked nose. His teeth are uneven and you can see them quite often when he does something that resembles grinning. His lips have the same brown-greenish color as the rest of his skin, maybe slightly more red. Some scars decorate the visible skin. His clothes are quite ragged, at least the cloth parts, the upper layer mainly consists of leather -- again quite worn down but still functional and stable. There are several pockets. At his back he has a sheathed weapon and a small shield next to the bunch with the bow.
A few days later...

It is still morning in Holt-Lindeck and the rising sun sends its golden rays through the open wooden door and the colorful leadlight windows of the Dancing Cauldron. The young waiter sweeps the floor while some guests of the old inn start their day with an early breakfast.

"Hmm... fresh bread...," purrs Nichuan, the Riksharr, smelling the air as she yawns and stretches while lightly walking down the wooden stairs. "This will be a wonderful day."

"Wait until you see this, my friend,"
the young warrior Eremis greets her from below. Sitting at his usual place beside the stairs, Eremis is having a splendid breakfast including fresh baked bread, molten cheese and some leftover venison. A white medieval shirt covers his muscles this morning as he smiles at her. "Good morning, Nichuan. Come. Join me for breakfast."

She notices a big square package bound in leather leaning against the wall beside him. "It arrived? Can I see?" she inquires curiously.
"Yes, indeed. Came this morning. No, let's first eat breakfast and hang it up together afterwards. After all, it was our joint idea and should be celebrated. Speaking of which: How was your meeting with the Master of Magic yesterday?"

During her upbringing she had learned not to decline a friendly offer of free food, so she eagerly digs in. He had even ordered again a jug of goat milk for himself. The first time she had tried, she had been very surprised by the bitter taste. Now she had come to like it. He had been born in the mountains, he had said, and drank it ever since he was a kid. That's probably why he had become so strong, he would end laughingly.

"Master of Magic? Magister Gernwald Berling, headmaster of the Free College of Holt-Lindeck," she says slowly as if she had had to learn the title by heart. "The neighbors call it Ramshackle Tower, but please show respect."
After a moment of pretended hurtness, she tells her story: "It went well. He was pleased that someone 'of my kind' travel from south to Holt-Lindeck to study the arcane arts. Then he said 'fees for arcane priviledges'. I hadn't thought about that. I had to give him the Tome of Elemental Mastery. I had wanted to learn from it, but he said no. It was my first grimoire and I carried it all the way from the Golden South."

Having learned to read her tail movements, Eremis instantly notices how hurt she must be. He knows well how many hopes have been connected with this one tome that she had protected on their long journey to the north.
"With this, I will become a magician. So that my family has food and shelter. And my mother doesn't worry anymore," she had said. Now, she had lost it for the word of a man she hardly knew.

"Have patience. You have arrived at your destination. You don't need to worry for food and shelter for the next couple of days. And although you have given away the tome that was precious to you, it was a fitting price for the arcane doctrina that is about to follow. I was devastated when I had to give away my first wooden sword and wait for our smith to form a gladius fitting to my arm's length. But after all, it was worth the wait. And it will be with you. Did he tell you, when to come back?"

Nichuan had come to like Eremis' unconditional support and friendship. Although she hardly knows of his former life in the mountains, his words seem to echo within her.
"Tonight. He shows me the art of illumination, he said. A specialty of college. Many people in town don't like Fire Lane Square. There are soot marks on buildings. A magic fire burned down buildings there. Then Magister Berling 'reshaped his own magic'. Now he makes light, not fire. Only Ramshackle Tower survived the magic fire that night. Now, he walks down the street every Starday and the disciples follow him. He illuminates the town in magical lights of many colors. Without fire. You need see this. They said it look magnificantly and people come to town, just to see it!"

Eremis pushes back his plate and beams at her. She is excited where she was depressed a moment ago. She even took out her small brush and begins to brush her fur, an indication of her relaxation.
"I definitely will, new disciple. A reason to celebrate, I would think." As she looks at him, he knows that she already knows him too well and that 'celebration' always means 'ale' in his dictionary. "Don't make a face. Here, let me show you. We have two reasons to celebrate and still a lot of work today." Eremis moves the dishes and cups away, takes the big leather-bound package from the wall and opens it on the table. She sees that her idea of a name has been finely engraved on the bronze nameplate and the wooden board is nicely done.

"I talked to magistrate Willert Moosball. For a fee of just 50 copper we can create a guild of adventurers and be listed in the town archive. Of course I paid already. Now, we only need 3 more adventurers to start and 3 confirmations of the 6 guild masters in town. Once the rules of conduct are set and taken to writing, we can look for more permanent housing. But first things first, we need to acquire missions and adventurers. That's what this bundle of paper is for."

Under the scrupulous gaze of Merryweather Limbeck, the old innkeeper, the two adventurers hang the large message board onto the wooden wall of the stairs, just above the big round table. "I hope you're right, young fellaw, and this will bring customers who pay for ale and room."

"I expect, it does, Master Limbeck. And we thank you very much, that we are allowed to set up temporary quarters in your inn. Please point any people asking about it to me. Also, thank you for letting Echawan try as a brewmaiden in the Cauldron. It means a lot to us."

Eremis pins the very first letters to the message board. Emotionally moved, he breathes in and out in a vigorating way and takes his things. On their way out of the Cauldron, he passes Nichuan half of the announcement letters that they plan to hand out to possible adventurers, people with problems and guilds for support.

After the two would-be adventurers have left, Merryweather looks at the bronze nameplate above the new message board:



He shrugs and turns to a new customer. If it won't work out he can always throw them out. But if it works ...? He starts smiling while filling up another ale.
The heavy oak door opened with a loud creak and with the wind still cold, carrying within it the scents of the emerging spring, a small group of three men entered the inn.
The leading one, a giant of more than 2 steps dressed in plate and chain, his face almost completely enclosed by a chain hood, was the first to enter the inn room. A richly decorated battle axe dangled from his left hip, and on his broad back a backpack, shield, and 2 throwing axes shared space.

"No! You will NOT do this, Jacob! Father is in a bad way as it is, and your antics will surely rob him of the last of his strength!"

The voice of the giant, despite the sharp words, was of a surprising gentleness.
The addressed, a man almost 1 1/2 heads short, obviously blood young, perhaps 17 or 18 winters old, smiled broadly at the giant despite the admonition. He was dressed in leather, with various pouches hanging from his belt and, most importantly, 2 long knives. His blond short hair framed a handsome face, in which 2 green eyes flashed full of lust for life and mischievousness.

"Dear brother! You should care less about protecting our father's dignity and strength and more about thinking about how to save the last of our possessions. First comes the food, then the morals! Has any of those philosophers and couch potatoes said that Hogar reveres so much!"
He let out a grunt as the last of the group poked him between the shoulders from behind with a long stick.

"Ey, don't do that! Or I'll di...!"

The youth addressed as Jacob swallowed the rest of his words as he looked into the cold eyes of the third arrival.
This one was about half a head taller but much slimmer, his clothes were well cut, with many pockets. The Staff in his left was made of black stone oak wood and dozens of runes confused the eye of an observer. At the tip, a red ruby flashed in the light of the incoming sun. The man's hair was shoulder-length and flea-white, though he had the face of a young man. The cold looking eyes were the color of emerald.

"Even though you are my brother, you should pay a little attention to your manners toward me and my masters. Or have you forgotten what I did to your hunting dog last winter?"

hissed the white-haired one in an unpleasant scratchy voice.
Before Jacob could retort anything, the giant's voice cut through the argument.

"Hold it, BEI GOTT! We're in public!"

he pointed to a table in a corner.

"Let's take our seats there."

Jacob seemed to have already regained his composure.
"Oh yes ..of course oh Arthur! Always maintain decorum!"

he said, but not without moving quickly and nimbly out of his brothers' reach to the table.
The giant, called Arthur, sighed.
"Come on, Hogar. He's your brother. Stop threatening him with your...arts...all the time. We both know you'd never use them just like that."

A strange undertone crept in at the words "arts" and "never".

"No...you're absolutely right."

Hogar was smiling now, but a smile was not at all...mischievous.
Awkwardly, all three took their seats. Their conversations mingled with the din of the tavern....

(Excuse my poor English, I am not a native speaker, nor do I speak English in everyday life.)
Mid-April 1021 NL, after a week of late snow, temperatures are rising again.

Around New Moon in the evenings and mornings, the moon's whole face is burning bright red for everyone to see. A Hehl-worshipping weirdo is telling everyone willing to listen: "The End is Nigh! The Underworld's fires are burning brighter every day!"

A Gnome struck by fever entered Holt-Lindeck a few days ago. Gatekeepers report that he has been murmuring about "black snow falling on Auheim." Yesterday he died, having lost all the color in his hair, eyes, and skin.
Once again the door to the inn opened. The man who entered, throwing back his brown hood as he entered, had a friendly face and his tonsure revealed that he was a cleric of the One God. The silver sun symbol on his chest seemed to catch the light of the crackling fire and reflect it back in myriads of light reflections. His gaze roamed the room and stopped at the table of the 3 brothers. The already friendly face suddenly shone with a warmth that had to make even the most hardened warrior feel good.

"Jacob! Hogar! Arthur! GOTT SEI DANK! You have arrived safely. How are you my brothers?!"

echoed through the room in a warm baritone.

The cleric, slightly shorter than the tallest of the brothers, yet taller than the other two, was obviously the oldest of the four. His face was crisscrossed with laugh lines and also worry lines. His gray-blue eyes were filled with wisdom and compassion. He stormed toward his brothers with a liveliness that would have been more appropriate for a boy.

The three called men all rose from their chairs and even Magus Hogar flashed a warm smile.

"Benedikt! How nice to see you, were you with mother? How is father? Have you heard anything from the scouts in the mountains? Why have you only come now? "

The three brothers spoke in confusion and embraced the newcomer one after the other.

The looks that Hogar and Benedikt gave each other seemed to be marked by mutual acceptance, but also by an ongoing dispute.

Arthur seemed relieved to see his eldest brother and to be able to share some of his responsibility.
Jacob just seemed happy. His eyes literally chased back and forth between the elders.

Benedict sat down, put down his bundle and weapons, and looked around for the waitress.

"Dear lady, could you bring me and my brothers a round of mead or beer? GOTT weiß, all four of us could use a swig!"
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“Hey, look! Do you see that guy over there?”

“The tiny one with the ridiculous robes and the strand of red hair?”

“Yeah, that one.”

“What’s with him? He’s surely one of a kind. But it’s not like you don’t see strange figures in the dancing cauldron all the time.”

“Be careful my friend, this one means trouble. Indeed, many shady beings can be found here: The greedy, the broken, the fortune knights… But this one is different.”

“Haven’t seen him here. He’s a newbie?”

“Sure he is. Looking for fellow adventurers, they say. But have a closer look at him. Do you see how everyone watches their steps around him? He’s a walking disaster, they say. Just has to walk by your table and your beer becomes sour. Or he might just spill it over you accidentally.”

“So this guy’s a bit clumsy. What’s the problem?”

“Why don’t you ever listen to me? It might appear this way. But he’s a mage. Yes, a full-fledged mage. Form Halberstein, they say. Was expelled there, it seems. I bet he’s involved in all kind of bad stuff. Curses and the like. “

“You’re too superstitious. He looks rather naïve to me. And he seems friendly, too. Might not last a single day as an adventurer, though. See, he’s talking to the bartender. Man, does this guy ever STOP to talk? Even the bartender seems a bit annoyed right now.”

“Yeah, looking for fellow adventurers to join their group. Would not accept him as my teammate, however.”

“Come on. He’s a mage. Why not?”

“Don’t say this too loud. He’s always eager to give a demonstration of his arcane arts to unsuspecting bystanders. Last time he almost set the tavern on fire during one of his ‘shows’.”

“Well doesn’t matter anymore. He’s walking right towards the board. Will probably join this new guild everyone talks about. You see, he read it. He's walking right to them. What was his name, by the way?”

“He’s called Teo Litvak.“
"Nah, this is all wrong. There's no bridge. They started construction, but then they stopped. I have seen no dwarves. Maybe they left and now there is no architects. In the part of town north you can see fine rocks. And a part of railing for that bridge. But it was never built, you understand? North part they call Alt-Auheim. South part just Auheim although Neu-Auheim would make more sense. If you wanna cross from Alt-Auheim to Auheim, you will need the ferry. So, I wouldn't recommend horses."

Eremis stared at the map with furrowed eyebrows. He knew maps very well - had since his childhood - and also created a few of them himself. Crude ones he now had to confess, though. He had beliefed it to be an easy task. "It is just a map" he would say, but what he now experienced was on a completely different level.

He had come to rely heavily on Bausum's knowledge of the land. The half orc seemingly knew most parts of the land like the green back of his hand or had at least heard of it. There were details that definitely made a difference. Details that could decide on life or death, like the steepness of a cravice or landmarks for orientation in the wilderness. The correct flow of the water and the speed of water, pine woods or marshes. And Bausum seemed to know all of it.

The last member of that team of three brought the experience of the other two to parchment, making the map she was drawing look almost like a piece of art. With precise strokes, Nichuan ran the pen across the parchment, that showed a nearly completed map of the wider Holt-Lindeck area. Her delicate cat paw was holding the pen firmly while she adjusted the shape of a mountain peak to what she had in her notes and scribbles that she had drawn during their long caravan journey to the Borderland.

Satisfied she finally looked up from her creation. "Like that?"

Eremis nodded. "It looks perfect! But I fear, my friend, you must hurry because the light of the day is fading."

Nichuan smiled at his praise. Then she looked up to the ceiling. Her left hand raised she muttured some words that were accompanied by a soft purr. Her paw started glowing, and tiny flames rippled across her fur. They whirled upwards and ignited the nine candles that crowned the chandelier hanging from a strong beam.

Eremis and Bausum followed the flames on their short journey upwards like some of the other patrons did. It was not the first time Nichuan had used her magical talents in his vicinity, but every time Eremis was delighted anew by the display. The two men looked at each other, and now it was Eremis who was smiling.

"Alright, Bausum, we'll drop the idea with the horses and will go on foot," echoed Eremis' deep baritone voice over the loud clamor of the evening in the Dancing Cauldron.

"I don't mind walking back to the crossing. We've come so far, what is a little bit more, he? So, I'll make a list of goods that we will probably need. The innkeep Merryweather said, that there was one more adventurer volunteering to join us. He'll probably be with us shortly. It's one of the four brothers, I hear. But it is a pity that you can't, Bausum. I would have preferred you to join us on our first expedition."

He looked down at Bausum sitting bent over at the biggest table of the tavern and he meant it honestly.

"Well, well, my friends, we're almost there. Only two more adventurers and a success in our first expedition, and there shouldn't be any more problems with the birth of our guild. You're ready?"

Nichuan nodded and blew softly over the fresh ink. "What is with money? Who pay?"

Eremis' honest face crinched slightly. She had almost come to read him as good as he read her. "Well... not settled yet. But I'm confident to settle it before we departure. Either from the magistrate or from Master Durok."

Eremis took the heavy leather parchment on which the map was drawn and carefully fixed it onto the message board for all adventurers to see and to continue to add details.

(The message board in the first post is updated.)

As he turned around and saw the puzzled looks from his companions and some people gathered around, he explained in more detail:
"You've probably heard the rumors about the gnome from Auheim already, yes? They say, he's fallen ill from an incurable illness. And some even say, he had white hair and white skin and white eyes. But the most disturbing rumor is, that he died cursed within a few days and on his last breath he is said to have said: 'Black Snow falling on Auheim'."

People were already fixed by his story. He liked that effect that he had on people. So he gave them a moment to make their own conclusions, before continuing with what all must have been thinking:

"What if this is indeed a plague? An incurable, mysterious illness that befell Auheim and is expanding as we speak? How long will we have got until it reaches us? And what could we possible do against it?"

No one answered.

"That is why I call you to arms and to collect your courage and yonder past your next meal and towards an uneasy journey to the east. I rally you to join me to investigate before it is too late!"

After three heartbeats of utter silence, in which fate decided on the courage of the people gathered in the Dancing Cauldron tonight, he continued with those of them that had not become pale as stale bread.

"I have spoken to the magistrate Willert Moosball and stressed the danger it poses to the inhabitants of Holt-Lindeck, and even beyond. I spoke to the 6 guild masters, and especially implored Master Durok, Master of metal works, to support our course as a shortage of silver from Auheim would surely have it's effect on the guild's profit. Finally, I've spoken to the head of the city watch, took a look at the poor gnome miner, Frundir Samtstein, and then asked them to look out for more cases for us. I've put all my irons in the fire. Now, we have to hope that it will suffice. Regardless though, we will journey east and do what is right. But beware: You may come to seal your fate. On the other hand, you may create your own fate."

Emeris looks over the people, at his friends and smiles. He takes a long swig from his ale and finishes with his finest soldier tone dialect:
"Volunteers and professional adventurers are welcome. Bring your pack, a week's provisions, a tent and your best armor and steel you can muster. Say your friends goodbye and meet us at the north gates on sunrise this mountain day."
"It's a chance for us to flush some gold into the coffers! If we really want to take back the castle and our lands and send those cursed orcs to hell, we need gold! Only with gold can Arthur hire and keep soldiers! Right?"

Jacob looked around. His eyes fixed on those of his brothers one after the other. He saw Arthur's hatred flash when he mentioned the Black Orcs. This irreconcilable hatred, which changed the face of his otherwise calm and level-headed brother to a grimace. And he also saw the mighty warrior reach for his axe and look at the half-orc at the next table.

Hogar's expression was nothing to take away. As always, he looked as if the loss of the lands, the injury to his father, and the shame of defeat were none of his business. But it was he who answered first.

his voice dripped with false recognition.

"It seems to me that you actually understood some of the lessons about logic, causality and consequences that I taught you."

He clapped his hands softly. Then his head turned jerkily toward the cat creature. They all followed his gaze and, like the mage's companions, watched as the flames flew toward the chandelier.

Hogar's face contorted in disbelief and disgust. He shook his white mop of hair. "Art should never be used for profane means, apparently the "lady" did not pay much attention to Magister Berling's lectures on ethics and applied magic."

Jacob sighed at the distraction. "BEI GOTT! Listen to me!!"

The eldest brother put his hand on the shoulder of the youngest.
"You're right, of course, but notwithstanding that, neither I, nor Arthur, and certainly not Hogar...!"

he gave the magus a warning look.

"...allow our mother's youngest son to get into a strange and potentially dangerous situation alone with wild strangers!"

Arthur and Hogar reacted differently. The warrior nodded emphatically, while the magus raised only one of his white eyebrows.

"But we NEED the gold! I want our land back! Want to see father sitting by the fire of our hearth again, I want our vassals to be able to return to their homes! "

More quietly he added,

" Especially Lisbeth, Marie and Anna!"

and a grin spread across his face.

Benedikt shook his head, slightly amused and yet with sad eyes.

"I will not allow it as an elder, neither in my role as your brother nor in that of a representative of the Church of the ONE God, Dominus enim est Sol!"

At the last utterance in Larien, the language of Sol Ecclesia, the Church of the Sun, his voice was full of silent authority.

Jacob's grin abruptly trailed off.

"And now? Arthur must continue to wait here, the messages say that the 3 mercenary lances we have requested will be here in about 1 to 2 weeks. The gold we have so far is just enough for a single mission of 1 week at the most! And that also only if nothing changes at the weather or GOTT BEWAHRE, at the information, which we have so plentifully."

The youngest brother let is hand deliberately crash onto the table. As the others crinched, nobody noticed that one of the coins of the change disappeared into his sleeve.

"And Hogar considers it more important to attend a dispute in the Free College about the moral issue of summoning demons to obtain information. "

Hogar quickly raised his hand and his eyebrows drew together. He hissed softly so that only someone with really good ears could hear.

"You should damn well be a little more careful with what you say, demons and summoning isn't exactly the pair of words to say out loud in a public tavern. And you know VERY well why I want to be there! So hush little brother!"

Bendedikt leaned back in his chair so that it creaked. Then he rose in one fluid motion and strode to the table with the 3 other adventurers.

Arthur, Hogar and Jacob stared after him.

Sensing their stares, he turned and said:
"It is my duty as a brother and priest to protect my family and life. I have no more important task than this. SO GOTT WILL, he will protect me on this journey with his light and I will return with enough gold and maybe new allies to reach the goal of our family."

Then he strode ahead, leaving his silent brothers behind.

"God grant you light and warmth! My name is Brother Benedikt, cleric of the Sol Ecclesias, healer and fighter for the one GOD. I read with interest your notices on the wall there. My brothers and I would like to join your efforts in the near future. At least as long as our time permits it. I give you my word as a man and priest!"
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Bendedikt leaned back in his chair so that it creaked. Then he rose in one fluid motion and strode to the table with the 3 other adventurers.

Arthur, Hogar and Jacob stared after him.

Sensing their stares, he turned and said:
"It is my duty as a brother and priest to protect my family and life. I have no more important task than this. SO GOTT WILL, he will protect me on this journey with his light and I will return with enough gold and maybe new allies to reach the goal of our family."

Then he strode ahead, leaving his silent brothers behind.

"God grant you light and warmth! My name is Brother Benedikt, cleric of the Sol Ecclesias, healer and fighter for the one GOD. I read with interest your notices on the wall there. My brothers and I would like to join your efforts in the near future. At least as long as our time permits it. I give you my word as a man and priest!"
Eremis' face broadened into a welcoming smile as he set down his empty tankard of ale and wiped his hands on his breeches. Extending a big and strong hand to greet the newcomer, he acknowledged his status with a nod.

"Welcome to our endeavor, Brother Benedikt, cleric of the Sol Ecclesias. We are honored, that you would join our ranks. You and your brothers." He glances shortly over to the other brothers who stared at them with mixed expressions.

"I'm Sergeant Eremis Gladis. My friends just call me Eremis. And if you are willing to accept these three guidelines," he is pointing to the board behind him, "you are more than welcome! We are looking for capable and courageous members, especially one as learned as yourself. Sit, Brother, and tell us about yourself and your brothers and what you are trying to accomplish in joining our ranks. If my ears do not confuse me, I figure, you are not originally from Holt-Lindeck, right?"
The cleric returned the firm handshake and looked the sergeant straight in the eye.

"I am only an unimportant servant of my God. The honor is all on my, no....!" he pointed in the direction of his brothers, "on our side! My name is Benedikt of Falkenstayn, priest of the one God, the light in the darkness, Solus."

Accepting the offer to sit down, the priest cleared his throat briefly and then began to speak.

"I understand the rules of the guild and both I and my brothers will abide by them. I stand by that with my word. Of course, we have our own motivation for joining you. Besides the obvious duty in the name of the Lord Solus to fight the darkness and the strivers of Hehl and to offer them the possibility of forgiveness!"

He let his gaze wander through the round, smiling kindly at the other two present. Everyone could read his face, like an open book. Curiosity and friendliness spoke from his eyes and his features.

He nodded to the mage woman.

"Lady Nichuan, I am pleased to meet a representative of your species. You and yours are another wonder of Solus' creation. Apparently you are also a magistra! Perhaps you know my younger brother? Magister Hogar of Falkenstayn? He has only recently completed the exams."

Then he suddenly blushed.

"I..oh..forgive...I have just revealed to you that I have at least been paying more attention to your conversation than I should, since I know your names! Solus forgive me, it was not my intention to appear rude. Master Bausum, I would also like to ask your forgiveness. Especially for my brother's reactions. Pain and hatred are feelings that are difficult to pass and sometimes they manifest themselves in prejudice. Please forgive me and mine!"

His hand made a vague gesture behind him.
"Only Nichuan," Nichuan said. "No lady, I think. I'm Riksharr from Golden South. Over there, my sister Echawan."

She pointed her ginger paw across the taproom where another feline girl, but with yellow fur, was putting down a tray with jugs on a table. The three merchants she was serving were discussing disruptions in trade with the West, and seemed to take no further notice of her.

"I went to Master Gernwald Berling other day. He will teach me. Then I will be ... magistra. Maybe."

She glanced sideways and caught Eremis' reassuring look before she turned to brother Benedikt again.

"I not seen your brother." She paused for a moment. Her tail twitched restlessly back and forth. "Many no-fur look same to me. Sorry?"

She felt uncomfortable talking to this stranger who in turn seemed kind enough but had this unfamiliar scent of power around him. She remembered how she had met Eremis at the caravansery far south, and how long it had taken her to trust him. By now she wouldn't have second thoughts when he asked her and her family out to visit the Festival of Lights on last Starday. Thinking back of this magical night she unconsciously began to purr, and her tail stopped its nervous twitching. They had grown close over the last weeks. She smiled when her eyes fell on the half-orc Bausum.

He on the other hand was a different matter. Parts of her wanted to fear him just from his looks, wanted to run and hide. Again, it was Eremis who was the literal link between them, and who had eased her instincts. If he was willing to trust these brothers, so was she.

"You don't have to apologize, my Lad..., ohh... Nichuan," obviously the priest stumbled over the foreign name. "My brother likes to be alone and...," Benedikt's voice trailed off for a moment. "Well anyway, I am pleased to make your acquaintance!"

He smiled, rose from his chair, and extended his hand to the Nichuan with a bow. The Riksharr relaxed visibly, and imitated his movements as well as she could.

"Thank you, Benechdikt of Farkensteyn," she said, struggling with his name even more, while letting him close his hand around her paw. "Achhadin. Welcome. I think?"
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"I am no master ..." But Nichuan already started to speak and Bausum fell quiet. He had learned that humans -- pure-blood humans -- tend to tell you quite a lot if you just let them talk. If this was the same for the cat, he didn't know. But anyways, it had become a habit to rather listen than talk. His eyes flashed around as he was trying to follow everyone and everything.

"Then you are welcome ... I think?" -- just as Nichuan said that, Bausum rose and opened his mouth to a wide grin, showing his irregular teeth. "As the cat girl told, you are welcome. I just want to say, you don't have to speak up that much. We all have good ears. And in the woods it is important to hear the birds sing. Is it not? So you can hear the orcs when they are sneaking up on you. This is all I ask of you when we are hunting together." That was one of the longest contribution to a conversation Bausum had made so far, so Eremis and Nichuan looked at him with quite some surprise.
As the half-orc rose and began to speak, Benedikt could literally SEE Arthur stiffening behind him in his mind's eye.

But Benedikt was not like his brother, he had found his way back to the light through the hatred and despair. He had let his God into his soul.

So he waited patiently, listening with sincere interest to the words that came out harshly. But the roughness of the words was only due to the little practice, that was quickly clear to Benedikt.

"You are a master. Anyone who joins a quest like this and walks under the light is entitled to respect. And it seems to me that you, of all people, have come a long way. For not everyone..." he looked around clearly at the huge warrior at the table behind him, "sees behind the outer appearance, but sees only the foreground."

Then a smile stole into his face, which emphasized the family resemblance to Jacob.

"And HONESTLY I don't heed your advice and talk and talk...! BEI GOTT!"

He shook himself, "Believe me, I know orcs. Better than I'd like to, unfortunately. And have already had to learn your lesson."
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"But to answer your question, Sergeant Eremis. We come from a small barony, north of the Blackfang Hills and east of Halberstein. "

He hesitated only briefly, but an attentive listener could hear pain in his voice.

"Strictly speaking, the barony no longer exists. Blackfang orcs raided it three years ago now. Parts of my family and almost all of our vassals have suffered wounds of mental and physical nature."

At the next table, Arthur could be heard growling slightly and Jacob playing with his knife. Only Hogar stared unblinkingly at the priest's back without making a face.

"As you can imagine, we lost almost all our belongings. Arthur and also Hogar have convinced me that we must regain our barony and above all confront these orcs. To bring them the light and convert them or send them to Hehl. "

"I am not sure if I am too naive, but I believe in the power of the one Father, our Lord, Solus. He will surely guide us to do what is right, BEI GOTT."

Again Benedikt shook himself. "And now, I am talking too much again. If we are to go out together, I should rather listen to you and learn how to support you. Certainly not with magic or knowledge of nature and hunting. But I can offer you the healing power of Solus and his everlasting light!"
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