Prologue: Winter's Shadow

L'lef stood silently, keenly listening to what those around him said, or perhaps he wasn't listening in any way shape or form. His face was masked by the same cold expression it possessed, prior in the great hall. If he had any additionaly thughts or comments, he managed to some how keep them to himself.

Anton impatiently looks back and forth as the others are talking, anxious to get more information about his particular expedition or to get started, as it did seem they said almost everything they knew concerning the ruins.

While Deresk was finishing speaking, Uldin, who had been silent, suddenly looked very green in the face after eating a piece of fish. Sweat broke out on his face and he started breathing heavily. He then started to make gurgling, burping noises, and shoved back from the table, got up and started hobbling to the door.

"It seems master Hadderhek has had a piece of bad fish," the queen said mildly. "You, escort our esteemed guest to the latrines, then to his chambers, where he may recuperate." One of the guards, till now standing silently by the door, helped the dwarf out of the chamber.

"How unfortunate," the queen said. "Now who will-"

At that moment, a dark-haired lass in a nice dress entered the chamber, accompanied by a man with similar facial features. "Excuse me, your majesty, but my brother is here, a little late, but he is here," the lass said.

"Excellent, Hanna, thank you for showing him to us," Eisa said. "Welcome to my court, Jona. Please, have a seat and some food. We were just discussing the specifics of the issues you and your new companions will investigate."

Just after that, a lithe, gray-haired, leather-clad human man entered the chamber in a huff.

"Lyeth, I have changed my mind. We cannot afford to have you leave on this errand. You're one of our best Arbiters; we need you to stay here in the city."

With that, the willowy white-haired elf got up and left, shooting an apologetic look toward the queen before she left.

"Another one," the prince sighed. "Who else will-"

"I think this fine gentleman might," Gareth says with a grin, as another man walked in, alone.

"I take it this is your man, Gareth?" the queen says. "Please, sir, come in and have a seat and introduce yourself; Gareth speaks highly of your abilities thus far."

(Rangeror and Velkyros, jump in as you will. )

The ground was so still. Jona gritted the left side of his teeth, trying to keep a straight face as he surveyed the room. The Queen looked to him with such poise and...expectation. He sniffed the air as acknowledgement to the others and then sat down as asked. That was a bit better, though he wondered if rich food would better or worsen the land-sickness. He sighed, relieved only by the thought of returning to a boat, and the tight squeeze from Hanna on his hand after she sat down next to him.

Jona felt terrible for showing up late, his visit was something they talked about in their letters to each other for years. It wasn't until a matter of great importance to the queen herself could he get the nerve to go back, risk seeing other members of the family. Jona shook his head, and looked up, he was getting lost in his own dark thoughts. He looked around and smiled as he listened to the Queen say her piece.

He also darted his eyes at the one with blue skin. Don't see that, often.

Ezryn strode forwards as the queen welcomed him to her table, bowing reverently to Queen Eisa, Prince Aelfgar, Princess Abelena – who his eyes drift over for perhaps a second longer than the others - , Gareth and then finally a slightly less shallow bow for the Half-Orc Archmage. For a moment his right hand clenches into a fist at his side as his gaze settles on Thoven, showing a deep distrust for any with Orc blood, then relax as he stands upright once more. Dressed in his best for the meeting, Ezryn nevertheless looks as if he should be outside standing watch over a section of the wall instead of inside the palace; a thick wool coat of ice blue colouring is worn unbuttoned over a white linen shirt, thick pants of the same colour cover his long legs and are tucked into leather boots with an odd blue sheen to them and the edges of white fur visible. To those who pay attention to such detail, the visible impression of two tightened 'belts' around his left arm indicate that he usually has a shield at hand, the way his hand hovers slightly over his right hip shows he is used to making allowances for a sword being in the way.

”It is an honour to meet you, my Queen. My prince. Princess.” His smile is warm, inviting, but his eyes are two frozen pools of water that blink far less than they should as if he is constantly trying to take in every little detail they pass across. ”Knight Grand Commander Gareth, thank you for this opportunity, sir.” Resisting the urge to run a hand through shortly cut, thick, black hair, Ezryn lets his eyes drift across the table at the others seated there. His hand clenches again at his side as his eyes settle on an Orc, sitting at the table peacefully; not a sight he had seen before, nor was it one he was comfortable with. ”My name is Ezryn, ranger and guide. I apologize for my state of dress, Your Majesty. My... line of work doesn't often grant me audiences before one such as yourself, as it is your guards found my wolf friend unsettling.” His smile evolved into a light chuckle at the thought of his companion sitting out at the steps of the palace, guarding his armour, shield and weapons like he had asked and of the guards watching him as he had left. Moving to the table, he took one of the vacant seats and sat down on it uncomfortably, his back a little too stiffly upright and his hands folded carefully on his lap so as to avoid fidgeting. Being in the presence of the Queen and her Royal children, the Archmage and the Knight Grand Commander was unsettling, especially as he had hopes of one day joining the Knights of the Iron Glacier.

L'lef's head turned, so that his icy cold gaze could fall upon the newly arriving individuals. His lips hinted at the formation of a frown as the queen spoke, but the lad's straight face never broke. His finger tips began to stretch, giving that it may in fact be apparent that something other than the situation at hand was upon the blue guy's mind.

Corynn watched the newcomers. The man named Jonas didn't impress him to much, he looked to... uncertain, holding on to his sister for support like that. But the ranger, Ezryn, on the other hand? Him he already liked. He seemed like a fairly practial guy, and well he'd always gotten along pretty decently with rangers when he was still in the army. And he felt like that group could use someone like that, at the very least to get to their ruins.

His own group however? He was starting to feel quite confident about it, at least Deresk and Ruln. The quiet blue man however? He wasn't sure about him yet, but he wasn't overly concerned about that, it was to early for that. For now he just really wanted to get moving since it seemed like they wouldn't be able to get any more useful information until they got Star's Rest.

Ruln's brow furrowed heavily as he blinked, watching the two who departed. Surely it was not a good omen, losing two members of the group when they had barely even heard out what they were to do. But... another two took their places with an alacrity which was almost alarming. He inclined his head once to the two of them once both had halted, his eyes focused upon them, studying. The one man seemed wordy. Perhaps not a bad thing, but not always the best of things. Would they have to sit through the briefing again? Well, at least it would give a second chance at hearing things they might have missed the first time, if there were any. The other... well, he seemed far quieter, but he was far from certain his being at ease was the cause. After the nod and the inspection, though, his gaze turns over towards Deresk.

Anton observed as the two hastily removed themselves from the presence of the queen. When two more individuals promptly took their places, he was a little quizzical. Hmm, that is odd. Oh well, looks like we will have two parties of four anyhow, he mused. Anton looked the newcomers up and down, judging their value for himself. Thinking these new individuals were just as unusual as the rest of the lot, Anton brought himself back to the task at hand. If there is no other news for us, shall we prepare to depart for our respective destinations? he inquired.

The queen looks at the new arrivals, saying, "While I hate to cut things short, there is a city to run out there. Listen carefully, you two, as we fill you in on the situation."

She then quickly goes through the mission specifications the rest had just heard, with occasional input from Gareth and Thoven.

"You two will travel together with Anton and Garn," the queen says, gesturing to the halfling rogue and human mage - "to the ruins of Fios Sean in Fuar Dubh, the cold marshes to the east, to help determine what happened to the expedition, if the situation can be rectified, and, if not, discover and secure this 'great discovery' they spoke of just before we lost contact. If Thoven is right, and this is a ruin relating to Old Drenheim, the information there could be critical."

"Now," she continues. "Unless there are other questions, I suggest you all assemble in your groups and decide on a plan of action. There are many inns and taverns in the city, and a plethora of shops that may bequeath gear to you for low charges. I regret that we cannot outfit you with gear for free from our treasuries, nor can we give you quarters in the palace; for there are those among us who, if they saw you overmuch in the palace or outfitted with royal gear, would target you and your lives would be in danger. Even meeting here in the palace may have been a risk, but a necessary one; it is the only place where we can be assured no unfriendly ears are listening in, even by magical means - lead was incorporated into all the palace walls upon construction, to prevent scrying. And just to be safe, Thoven helped, too."

The Archmage shifts uneasily at even the slightest hint of a compliment. "Hrmph, Simple Private Sanctum spell, nothing fancy," he grumbles. "Can't be too careful."

"At any rate," Gareth chimes in, "it is up to you to decide when you leave the city. Though we would prefer you not to wait more than a day."

"And while my mother may not be as in tune with the heartbeat of the city as she once was," Aelfgar said, "I am. There are two taverns I can safely recommend; the Sleeping Eagle, on the second tier, and the Salty Seabird on the fourth tier. The Eagle is a bit pricey, but high-class, while the Seabird is a little plainer, but also a tad friendlier. Both innkeepers are discreet and ask few questions. Of course, those are just suggestions. As mother said, there are many
Knowledge (local) checks would reveal more places, if it matters.
such places in the city."

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