The Base Camp at the Foot of the Mountain

Precisely at the time appointed on the recruitment flyer a small man strides through the door with quick, precise steps. He is clad in several layers of dark brown, impeccably kept leather. At his neck a white lined colar can be seen beneath what looks like a leather coat but you cant be sure because of the tightly drawn leather overcoat covering the man from shoulders to just above his booted ankles. The coat bulges around the chest suggesting objects beneath. On the man's back, slung over his shoulder by a strap is a weapon. You are fairly certain it is a crossbow but the only real hint is the bow-like stave that juts from the what you think is the front. On the end of the bow are pulleys through which the string runs. You have never seen pulleys on a bow before. The stock of the thing is covered in faintly glowing blue runes. Under the "barrel" is a large metal cylinder, also covered in runes. The weapon is probably the strangest contraption you have ever seen.

The man is small and thin in general. His skin is rather pale, accentuated by the dark leathers. A pair of spectacle like objects are pushed up onto his short hair, goggles you think they are called. His face is thin and a little mousey, his eyes skirt over yours, not looking directly at you but at someplace over your head.

He looks at each person already the tent from left to right for exactly that same amount of time per person. An intriguing conglomeration of individuals to have gathered for this mission. A dwarf wilderness expert with a large Sus scrofa at his feet. An arcanist to the dwarf's left from the feel of him. The construct is crude but seems functional, I must make time to examine it closer. To the arcanist's left a warrior priest of Manks with a fey companion, curious? That binding must be complex indeed, I must examine its nature further as well. To the priest's left a ... shifter ... i believe they are called. Lightly armored with a throwing spear. A woman of a primal bent no doubt. Dangerous by the looks of her.

The small man comes to a loose attention and clears his throat, then speaks to the elf on guard. "Specialist Vega reporting for duty." He then takes a seat next to Selena. His motions are precise, even a little jerky as he sits as if he is picking out the exact optimal location on the bench.

Selena watches carefully as each person enters the tent. The first is a man and fairy, and he makes an odd gesture to her. She tilts her head, not understanding what he wants. She stays quiet and still until he realizes she is not going to respond to what he wants, and proceeds with his introductions. At his name, Selena blinks a few times. I did not ask. Is this a custom here, to say your name loudly to those you meet?

Evidently not, because the two riders that come in shortly after make no mention of it. A large boar and a giant bunny come inside. Selena had never seen animals like these, yet this is far less startling to her than the previous man's introduction. Creatures like these could be naturally produced, even if such a rabbit was... odd. She could understand these. The words of that other man, however, made no sense.

Then another man entered, though this one seemed to be identifying himself to the elf in charge more than her solely. That was more understandable. When he takes a seat near her, she watches him out of the corner of her eye, more out of instinct than any actual concern of his actions.

Were these the people she would be working with? Going on her own to handle these kidnappers would be absurd, nor did she believe she was the only one to answer the call. She did not mind working with other people. But if they had such different mannerisms, she silently wondered how well she would be able to interpret them.

''Aw, ya should have seen it, there was a big bunny too!" They had arrived earlier, but they needed some time get ready. The young squire had done a lot in the few minutes they had. She unpacked her knight's armor, and presented it to him. She took the celestial warhorse to the stables so it could feed. There it was easily accepted among the other mounts, despite its celestial nature. Surely more than a few were magical in nature, if not fey. The squire quickly looked around, but was disappointed to find no pigs or bunnies. She returned to the carriage to help finish adorning her knight with his shinning armor. She then unpacked his shield and sword, and made sure they were in working order. She polished them up a bit as well. Finally she unraveled his family's battle standard.

The knight himself remained silent, deep in thought. His movements were sluggish and listless. He never would have finished putting his armor on if she hadn't come in and quickly fastened everything in place. He stepped out into the light of day again, though still dragged his feet as he made his way to his destination. Few stopped to pay the knight much attention. He was now dressed in full plate mail, though to call it heavy was relative. For his squire, it would have been heavy, but he was trained to bear the weight of the steal as if it were made of feathers, for he did not just have to carry it, he had to fight in it. Following close behind him, the young girl held up his family's battle standard. The flag was white to represent valiant purity, while the emblem emblazoned upon it was red to represent nobility. The emblem was the Faust family crest, which was derived from an old symbol that was commonly known to represent the simple concept of'might'. The shaft was painted black for death, and accented with gold for elegance. It was the standard of a noble house that had reached its status through the noble profession of knighthood.

Even as he dragged his feet, she proudly held up the banner. On the squire's back she bore his sword and shield. Its not that they were too heavy for him, but it was too cruel to burden a knight with death that the tools of war represented at all times. That is why one of the duties of the shield bearer was to carry the sword and shield of their knight, until it was actually time for the knight to take on the full responsibility of battle. The broadsword was intricately designed, and dynamic in appearance, yet despite looking like it could be hung on the wall of an art gallery, it's broad wide blade was war worthy. The heavy shield was kite shaped, and was adorned with the symbol of The Church of Justice. The emblem had the figure of a beautiful woman wearing flowing robes. She was blind folded and held a sword at her side and had raised up a balancing scale. At the squire's hip she had her own sword, a simple longsword.

Finally, he had arrived at the large blue command tent it seemed like there were a few others already inside. He stepped in, the light shinning off his brilliantly polished steel coated body. He strode in with confidence, and began to open his mouth, but before he could say a word, or be addressed, his squire chimed in with a loud voice filled with pride.

"Presenting, Sir Leonard Percival Faust, Paladin Cavalier of the Holy Church of Justice, Knight Chevalier of Newhaven, and... er... Well now apparently, Mercenary Recruit for King Lioric!" she announced, starting off with a serious expression, but then ended up trailing off and finishing with a big smile. She was standing besides him with his battle standard firmly planted.

Leonard, the announced knight, looked back to his squire. He technically could not complain. She was just performing the duties that she was supposed to be learning and putting into practice, and she did quite well... Except for that last part.

He just wished she knew how to read the mood a little better. This was not an audience with royalty. It was not a meet and greet with the nobility. It was a gathering of warriors outside a war room. It was not the place for such formal introductions. Leonard sighed, but couldn't bring himself to complain about it. The young girl looked up to him beaming, as if she felt she had done good.

Leonard frowned at her, and then turned back to the others.

"Pardon the intrusion... Oh, and this is Eleanor," he said meekly. His confident front did not last long. He had gestured to the squire and again forced a smile as he introduced her, even though it was improper for a knight to introduce his squire. That was only important in formal situations. He removed his helmet, revealing his face. The tall and fit man had a bit of a square jaw. His black eyes seemed full and wide with weary optimism. His dark black hair was long, but pulled back into a small pony tail with his bangs allowed loose to frame his face. His light mocha colored skin stood out against the shinning steel plates of his armor, and pure white arming doublet.

"Well Sir Leonard..." The elf with the rapier addressed him in a slightly mocking tone, before continuing to give the same spiel he had given everyone else. Leonard listened with mild interest. He was preoccupied with the thoughts of how what a great start he had. What better way to make friends, than to

After being filled in on the situation by the elf, Leonard humbly agreed to wait. He and his squire did move away from the doorway, but did not sit down. He also took a cursory glance at the others gathered there. He thought he recognized the dwarf from the road... Or was that metal one him? He only saw him from a distance on the road. Could that be the...

"Big pig not big!" The squire chimed in, as if reading his thoughts. He wanted to tell her not to be rude... But... He didn't want to squash her enthusiasm either. So he did nothing about it.

The others were all interesting and exotic to Leonard, who had traveled a great distance to get here, though he did his best not to stare. He had never seen such an interesting crossbow, but its intricate and sophisticated design was mostly lost on the old fashioned knight. To him it was just a 'really cool' crossbow. The woman with the spear had the most interesting hair style... Wait was that hair sticking out of the sides of her head? He tried not to stare, putting his helmet back on. On the metal dwarf was a rabbit. Elean must have been exaggerating when she said giant bunny. Or were rabbits common in the area?

The arrival of the knight and his squire causes Selena to look over at them. Unlike the knight, she has no qualms with staring openly at him. And here she had thought the other man was strange, announcing himself as he had. This man needed a little girl to do it for him?

As she observes the child, however, Selena realizes she is older than she first thought. It was hard to tell at first due to her youthful appearance. Not knowing much about humans also did not help. From what she can remember hearing, humans were similar in lifespan to shifters, but she had no evidence of that. What she does know is that amongst the confusing crowd of people, it was nice to see a child who had clear emotions. She was eager and energetic, excited about all that was occurring. Selena had not felt that way in a very long time, yet she could remember such feelings well.

For the first time since entering, Selena stirs, her back straightening as she approaches the pair that entered. Ignoring the knight completely, she says to the girl, "Hello." Her voice is soft, as if not used often, but her words are precise and well-formed. "Do you not have any titles like your companion?"

Leonard felt his heart skip a beat when suddenly the only female in the room (Eleanor did not count, because she was an Eleanor) stood up and approached him. He tried his best to act nonchalant, but in the end he was in fact acting chalant. He swallowed hard, and adjusted his helm's visor. Yup it was fully down in the down right position. He coughed and cleared his throat, and then finally... the woman walked right past him and greeted his companion.

''Oh, I soo do!" Elean nodded enthusiastically to the girl. She
All my allies within a close burst 5 of the Battle Standard gain +1 to damage rolls. This is very important.

P.S. This was a standard action.
placed the standard into the ground so it could stand on its own. With that out of the way, she performed a proper curtsey for the other woman.

"Lady Eleanor de La Fleurette, Esquire... or just Squire for short!" She gave her title and her full name, and again, she started with an air of nobility and elegant dignity, but ended with a free spirited smile. Leonard was keeping a watch on her manners and poise, from the corner of his eye. He cringed a little when she added that last bit.

"It's a pleasure to meet you. May I please have your name as well?" she added again with practiced poise. Leo let out a sigh of relief.

"Also...You have really cool ears!" she chimed in again. Leonard's heart almost stopped for good. He wanted to say something... but what? He wasn't her father, though he was supposed to be teaching her the tenants of chivalry. One should never be untoward or uncouth towards a lady. Under no circumstance should a man bear false witness towards a lady. One should always treat a woman with the utmost respect, even one who is married to another man. He remembered those practiced lines they fed down his throat, and prepared to feed them down Eleanor's throat... but wait.

Elean was also a woman... should he not chastise her then? Leonard again found himself struggling with indecisiveness and once more ended up doing nothing. Thankfully, Elean was there be entertaining. She eagerly awaited a response with an innocent smile. She certainly didn't mean to be rude, and she was genuinely complimenting Selena's interesting ears.

To be at the girl's face level, Selena lowers herself slightly on her knees. The mannerisms of the girl, and then her two small outbursts, cause a genuine smile to grace Selena's face. It was a welcome change to be around someone who simply said what she felt. She had never heard someone comment on her ears, but it did not surprise her. Children were curious about what they did not know of, and this one had evidently never seen a Shifter.

"It's a pleasure to meet you too, Eleanor," she says. With a small laugh, she adds, "Thank you. Nobody has ever told me that." She offers her hand, remembering that some of the humans she had seen used a handshake as a customary greeting. She was not sure she was doing it correctly, but she attempted to anyway. "I am Selena Sequoia. It will be a difficult trip, but I hope we can still have a good time together." After exchanging her name, Selena rises and smiles again, this time at the knight. "You have a wonderful squire, Sir Leonard."

Elean grabbed Selena's hand and shook it enthusiastically. Thankfully, she was not too strong and couldn't have hurt Selena by this... too much anyway. She beamed a proud and happy smile.

"The difficulty proves our endeavor is worthwhile," She cheered. She was a child at heart, but she was no fool. She could say some pretty wise things from time to time. She knew why they were here, and that it was a serious matter. She fully intended to give her all, and fulfill her very important duties, even if she wasn't a full fledged Paladin just yet. She was determined to play her part, but she also understood what the other woman was saying.

"With, a nice gal like you, I'm sure we'll find plenty of fun along the way," she nodded in agreement.

Leonard turned to Selena, and all his anxiety disappeared with what she had said. He knew exactly what to say to that.

"She's a hard worker... and has a good heart. I am lucky to have her," he smiled warmly as he gently rested a hand on her head. She smiled up at him, just plain happy to see he wasn't mopping around like usual. It was easy for him to find these words, because they were the truth. Though the truth could be harsh at times, this one was just plain pleasant. She would grow up to be a find Paladin Cavalier one day. She might even be honored as a Chevalier as well... but she would have to live that long first. Part of a knight's duty to their squires is to protect them, as well as teach them. He was determined to do everything in his power to see her live up to her potential.

"Ah ha... you're such a weirdo sometimes... or rather, at all times!" she teased as he took his hand away from her. He didn't stop smiling though. And this time he didn't have to force it.

The exchange between the two is enough to make Selena feel more at ease, even with how Eleanor had already been helping her apprehension. These people might have come from different walks of life, but they were still nice and wanted the same thing she did. They would work well together. She could only hope that the same would hold true for everyone else in the tent. For the moment, she gives Eleanor and Leonard another smile before returning to where she was before. They would have more time to talk later, should they want to. She hoped they would.

As things quieted down amongst you all, a man walks out from the inner room in a rush. Though wearing armor, sweat could be seen soaking his skin where it shows. As he left he kept repeating, "I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" before he left ran out of the tent. The elf standing guard shook its head saying, "Poor bastard. Must've gotten chewed out by the captain. You lot can go in now, just be careful. The captain's probably in a bad mood."

(Continues in: The Shadow Over the Keep)


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