From each choice, a path

From each choice, a path

The next morning Lady Aria sent for Iliana and Callach. They arrived to find her sat up in bed looking pale and fraught but more vibrant than the previous night. From the looks of her eyes she had not slept at all. A mess of scrolls and more esoteric communication devices pooled in her lap. Drawn up, tiny, and covered in such a variety of jeweled and decorative items she looked like a young girl on her gifting day.

"Thank you, both, for coming."

"You have both done so much for me already, for our cause. I am heartened to know that I can ask for more, for more is what is needed. We walk a narrow path between violent causes. New enemies appear from the sides. New allies too, though it is often tricky to tell them apart. We are so few we need allies to succeed. We must choose our friends, and our enemies, closely. We are so few I fear we have to divide our forces painfully thin. I ask you once more to stand up for our cause but more, I ask you to do so separately. I have individual tasks for each of you. If you are willing."

Callach smiled to Aria and offered a polite bow. "You seem better, mylady. I am glad."
He listened to her eloquent speech with interest, contemplating her words before he spoke.
The changeling did not know WHY her words appealed to him. He had been an unattached agent as long as he could remember, loyal only to his current employer. Yet there was something to this scheme and conflict he found himself drawn towards.

"I am glad to be of assistance, Lady Aria, but I pray you will let me know just exactly what OUR cause is?
Have we but one goal: To keep a new War from happening? Who are our enemies? Who are our friends?"

The sight of a sleepless Aria amid her scrolls and artefacts, looking so much younger than her long years, made Iliana's chest ache. She wouldn't chastise or question her, of course -- the stakes were high, she knew -- but she couldn't suppress her worry that Aria was taking on too much, too soon, after her rescue.

It was obvious that Iliana was willing, so much so that she almost forgot to respond. After a silence which drew nearly too long, she remembered herself and nodded.

"I am," she spoke. "Direct me."

Aria smiled sadly at Callach. "And so I am glad. You have our goal clear: to prevent another war. The more difficult task is alluded to you in your latter question. Who are our friends and our enemies truly? It is with this in fact I need to enlist your help."

She nodded at Iliana as the paladin added her consent.

"Both your help. Excuse me however. For the safety of all involved, I need take some precautions. Each of you need only know your own mission. If I may, I will instruct Callach first then return to you Iliana?"

If you both post away, we'll stick to the one thread, just with some juggling, for now.

Callach looked at Iliana. He was used to operate on his own and his relationship with his companions had not been without friction. Perhaps it's for the best.
"I am ready. I think."

Meeting Callach's gaze, Iliana inclined her head in agreement.

"Please," she said, turning already for the door. "Take whatever time you need."

When Iliana had closed the door before Aria nodded once.

"I have a tough job that needs doing but I think you're just the man for the job. I've had reports that a small guerilla force of gnolls is being formed in Droaam. There are hints it might be related to our mission but there's nothing substantial. I need you to go there, work your way into the ranks, find out what they are up to and report back."

"It will be dangerous. The slightest hint that you're a changeling then they won't care why you're there, you're dead. If you want something else to do, another area where you might be able to help, I'll quite understand. The decision is yours."

Callach took a deep breath. His area of expertise was moving within city walls, strolling among the nobles of the higher plateaus of Sharn or playing the part of a beggar down in the sewers. Running and hiding in the city was easy.
To escape on the vast plains of Droaam was nigh impossible.

"If the task needs be done, I will do what you request. Since the one thing hardest to fake is physical strength I will be a gnoll mage, able to perform small cantrips," he says, and a moment later he changes his appearance to acquire the face of a hyena.
"I do not speak gnoll, though, npt yet at least. Is there a travel route planned or do I take care of that myself? Are there any resources available? When will I need to leave? How do we make contact if I discover something of interest?"

Aria smiled, "You have picked two things there I believe I can help with, to some degree at least. I imagine I can arrange for some semblance at least of physical strength. I will definitely be able to find you a trinket to let you converse in the goblinoid languages."

"You may leave as soon as you are able. The route and manner of travel will be your own but I can help with money, perhaps contacts if you have something specific in mind. I will also give you a ring through which you will be able to contact me."

"I know this is outside of your comfort zone. Thank you so much for even considering the mission. It is appreciated."

Callach nodded in appreciation. "I will travel under different guises not to raise suspicion. A lone gnoll traveling by Lightning Rail is not a common sigh, even by post-War standards. For now, I am thinking my cover will be my gnoll persona has spent many years in Sharn, where he has felt the scorn of the other races. Now he is returning to Droaam to help bring the nation to greatness again. The only positive he has to say about Sharn and Breland is he learnt some useful incantations."

He ponders some before continuing. "Gold will help. I need to equip myself for the various disguises I will use to camouflage my journey as well as rid myself of potential shadows."


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