Chapter 6 - South to Saerloon

   
Joachim starts to move slowly as well, as the other group starts to depart. He keeps this tempo even though they are gone, until he is sure they are out of earshot by more then enough not to hear anything he might say ... or shout.

Violently he turn his horse around into the middle of the road where he stops facing the party head on, the lance once more returned to his right hand, Joachim having picked it up after the combat as he would. "NOW LISTEN UP EVERYONE, I WILL NOT HAVE BEHAVIOUR LIKE THIS AGAIN, THE NEXT TIME SOMEONE ACTS IN DISCORD OF THE GROUP I MYSELF WILL DEAL WITH HIM." He glares at the necromancer, the beast rider, the bowman on foot, but as well at Gren, Gerwin and Khel. "I know we do not know each other well as of yet, but we are after what seems to be a quiet ambitious mission. We can not grant us any luxury as doing in our volition and acting on our fed up ego's like mister bone mangler there. Also for goodness sake control you emotions as ignorant and ignoble as people may be and as tense as your companions may seem, keep it together and don't go around firing the first shot, like our fellow bowman or lizard rider.

The most important point is, act with the group. I had no volition of my own to enter that combat back there, but given the fact that it *CURSEWORD* got out of hand, I acted in accord to those I am travelling with. I believe that is the lesson I would like to take from this confrontation, for I too am not prone to misjudgements and mistakes I have done in the past. But don't be fooled by this, I will act in the benefit of the whole."
Joachim stops for a moment looking into the sky for a moment. "I believe that is clear even to someone who has stayed a long time in the wild yes mister Kesendaran? Keep with the pack? Act in unison with it?"

In the back somewhere Gerwin rolled her eyes, no way she would risk her life to defend any of those in this group except, perhaps, Joachim. A very questionable perhaps, as she believed her husband capable to take care of his own, at least in combat, if not in the decisions he made or the way he treated people of different moral convictions. Still something had changed in the man, it seemed as if he had lost some of his naiveté perhaps even his recklessness. It had been a long month so far, not only for her, but certainly too for her husband. After all he was exposed to that gloom subject Garak. Although she had to admit, she liked the changes in her man. He seemed to have gotten more determined and speak out of a different rationale than he had before. Well only time would show if the changes were indeed for good. But Gerwin had no intentions of leaving his side again so soon.

Lucifer, once his dogs and horse had finished their snacks, guided Dusk Taker and his cart back to the road and towards where Joachim had made his loud statement. "Would you prefer that next time, I act like others of my ilk? I, like any man, have my pride. You have yours as well. Your pride is easier to see, you wear it like a shining beacon of holiness. Mine is more difficult to understand.

"I know what I am, I know how I am perceived. Much of that perception is based on the actions of others who practice The Craft. I am, oh holy knight, far more aware of the taint and the evil that my craft contains then you could ever imagine. That taint inundates me with every breath I take. It has tainted me to the point that negative energy, the raw power of death itself, heals my wounds. And yet, I still walk a line so fine, that even your holy vows seem pale in comparison. One false step, and I become no better than those who use The Craft for power, and personal gain. Should I cross that line, I'd expect you to be the first one to come for my head.

"Don't misunderstand me. I have no qualms with raising the dead to serve, should the need arise. It's preferable to use an army of the dead to save those who cannot save themselves, if the only other option is to allow the helpless to be slaughtered. It's also preferable to use the corpse of my enemy to preserve the life of a comrade.

"I digress though, the topic at hand was pride, was it not? I do not cater to threats, it's as simple as that. Nor do I respond well to a lack of decorum. Such things are quite unbecoming of civilized men such as ourselves, and those fools who we just parted with. I did what I could to avoid conflict. Perhaps my methods were unsavory to you, but fear is a powerful weapon. I'd much rather send a fool off in fear, than as a corpse. My actions reflect such. However, I will not idly stand by as I am attacked. Do not fault me for disabling that man, I would do it again should I be given the chance to relive that moment.

Finally, oh Holy Knight, I will do what is necessary to ensure that this group, as motley as it is, completes it's mission. Yes, that includes working with you. I normally choose to shy away from those like you, far too Holy, and blinded by their vows. They see what I am, and would sooner run me through than talk things through and learn that I am not an evil man. That, more than anything else, has earned you enough of my respect. I would not deny you your pride, sir Knight. Do not deny me mine."


Lucifer stared into the Paladin's eyes for a moment, and took a deep breath. His face was as solid as stone and unflinching. He had no fear of Joachim, nor did he show any signs of weakness. Instead, he was as confident as a man could be in his convictions. Finally, he extended his hand towards the Paladin. "Regardless of our differences, I see no reason to attempt any manner of settling them until our mission is complete. Will you agree to that, sir Knight?"

Even if the paladin had stared at Khel as well, the gnome was wearing an amused smile and he was clearly enjoying the scene as a spectator. His behavior was similar to what you would expect from someone sitting on the first row of the prime of an amazing tragedy or comedy in a famous theater. The emotions on the stage would affect him and he is so close to almost feel part of what was going on, but deep inside he knows that he is safe on this side of the stage. Khel was wearing that smile, the smile of the spectator that reminds himself that however scary what is happening on the stage is, it is not really happening to him.

The gnome spurred his spectral mount to get closer to the paladin and the necromancer, eager to be there in case their exchange came to blows. When the necromancer extended his hand, he pouted a bit, realizing that the showdown might not happen. This time he muttered.

Still, the paladin's outburst seemed a bit unfair. Even if Joachim was clearly the informal leader of the group, it seemed a bit unfair to scold the other adventurers, for sure just as powerful and dangerous as the paladin, as small children. Better it would have been to lay out ground rules and all agree on them he whispered to his elemental spirits, as if he was revealing a secret.

Not even for a second the gnome considered the possibility that Joachim's speech could apply to him as well, even if only in part or as a warning for the future

Joachim looks furiously at the other. "You rant about like a peacock, and dare speak about my pride? You are but a silly sod who thinks he is more powerful than whatever he encounters. Oh buhuh what if the rude man insulted your family, just swallow your arrogance and ignore it. We have understood you master your arts and are a tough evil guy. You are not difficult to understand, you are predictable in your cocky way." His words were spoken in a serene almost unnatural fashion during all his talk he kept his posture.

"Now, I couldn't care less for how close you are to whatever arts you study, for a fact I couldn't give less. Those arts where your choice at some point so get over with, thin line or not. Like I said and you concur, I will for you should the need be."

"Fear is a powerful weapon, exactly. Using it is a provocation in it's own, so you started a battle that had no need of being. Instead of avoiding conflict you created it, just because you are to full of yourself and your pride to just step to the side." Joachim send the other a glare.

"Your final point is the only reason I am willing to still venture with you. If it were not for our employers, I would kindly ask you to stick all your pompous attitude somewhere I don't care for knowing and shove of to some place I would not need to indulge it. But I am willing to, as long as you do not risk the reminder of the group, which the situation of 'oh he insulted me first' was exactly, and knowing you would act so again, I ask simply of you to rethink it, for if you don't, next time I will strike at you instead of their mage leader." Joachim looked at the extended hand and at the necromancer his spear point still between them two ... and left it that way.

Gerwin had rode up to the Lizard rider, perhaps it was because he was a familiar face, perhaps it was due to curiosity of his mount, perhaps it was to make her husband aware of her since she lay in grave danger of being attacked by a raptor and leave the whole situation be. Surely if she intervened right now directly his position and face would be lost, but if he himself had to find out of the situation perhaps it was another thing. Or perhaps she just wanted to chat. "So, you are from the same woods as Adiari?" she asked in hushed up voice. She had spent much time in the woods Adiari was hosting, and most of it had been bad, nightmarish bad... Her eyes and ears, like those of most women where however focused on more then just the answer of the beast rider.

Kesendaran seemed unaware of the paladin's scolding at first, keeping himself quiet as Lucifer answered. However, the second speech from Joachim made the shaman shift in his saddle. Gerwin's approach gave him what he needed to catch the paladin's attention to the matter. He extends his hand and holds Gerwin's chin, gently turning her face to stare into his eyes.

I be wanderin'... If da one bein' insulted was yah lass 'ere, w'uld yah reaction been da same? He lets the woman's face go only after he knows Joachim's attention is on him. Then, with deliberate slowness, he shifts his gaze to the paladin, though his eyes linger in the druid apprentice until the last moment.

Wut w'uld yah do if da place yah call 'ome be threatened by someone? W'uld yah be willin' ta let it pass? He shakes his head horizontally, the question being purely rhetoric.

In wut it depended on me, it wasn't no pissin' contest. Be not forgetted dat Archwood be me 'ome. And t'day I be leavin' one moah danger pass into dat place, one moah danger dat can reach me woods and slay me people. Dem don't understand the need of the woods. And if yah praise righteousness and justice above all... I 'ope yah sleep won't come to yah when me kin start dyin'. Or if it comes.... It be the longest sleep yah'll evah 'ave.

Finished his own justification of his actions, the woodsman gives his cryptic smile and pats Ghar'ra's neck, whispering to the beast. His voice is heard again, though this time directed at the druidess.

Aye, dem woods be me 'ome.

Gren just snorts as he listens to the paladin and the necromancer. While it was true that he understood the call of the pack, he looked at these two as an alpha and a young pup. Joachim needed to show the pack that the pup wasn't going to take his leadership. He wondered which of them would strike at the other's throat first. If he had to place money on it, he expected the pack's hierarchy would remain unchanged.

Martin stood back as the words flew. He bent his head forward, knowing that these words flung about were akin to the arrows he fired; sharp, deadly, and not soon forgotten. Meditating on the fight and how his arrows had all flown true helped him to calm himself before he stepped forward and said his piece. The Fletcher knew how bad he was at public speaking, but it seemed like a necessary evil at this time.

"Friends, let's not argue the matter any further. We all have a job to do, and the Order has placed Joachim in charge of this mission. Our duty is to follow his orders and his lead. Any confrontation will only serve to strengthen our enemies and weaken our cause. We were all chosen for our various strengths, each to complement the other. Were we to fight, it would be a senseless and needless risk to not only ourselves but our mission," Martin said, and turned to Joachim.

"Sir Knight, I have apologized to our victims and now I apologize to you. I lay my bow and arrow before thee, to command in this venture as dinh of our ka-tet. I hereby submit to your authority, and acknowledge your orders," the Initiate of the Order of the Bow said, and presented his prized weapon to Joachim.

None the worse for wear physically, though admittedly rather strained emotionally, the party continues on its path towards Saerloon, though Garak is nowhere to be seen. He had vanished shortly after the encounter with the merchant caravan, and had not yet returned to the group...

With such a motley assortment of characters, progress is slower than for a single man on horseback, or what it would be for a group of similarly-equipped riders, but it is steady, and when nightfall arrives the group has made it halfway to Mulhessen, a large city that lies on the path between Saerb and Saerloon.

Based solely on distance, a concerted effort of nonstop riding though the night could probably get you to Mulhessen by the morning, though with the path obscured in darkness that might be easier said than done...

Thinking back to events of recent days past, you recall mention being made of Mulhessen, as there is supposedly a Lathander-devoted group operating out of it, who stands in opposition to the Bane faction of which Sigphan was an ardent member...

Lucifer stared at the Paladin for a moment as he refused the handshake, then let his hand settle on the reigns of Dusk Taker. He chuckled a bit as he settled the horse into a soft trot in the caravan line they'd formed. He'd force a talk with the paladin eventually. The man was blinded by his vows, or so it seemed to the necromancer, many of his kind were. They only understood their vows and their calling, they didn't possess the insight to see the finer, more delicate nuances of life that required a less than perfect touch.

Of course, Joachim was far better than most of his kind. He had a bit of sense in his head. If he didn't, Lucifer might be using him to pull the cart instead of the horse.

He let his thoughts wander. The darker ones were growing a bit troublesome, so he focused his mind on something else. That woman, Gerwin, had a pleasant arse, so he continued to focus on it as they rode. That was enough to draw him back in line, and away from the corrupting darkness of his art. It was almost a shame that she was at the Paladin's side, but then, Lucifer could tell that she truly belonged there.

But as they neared Mulhessen, Lucifer again began to feel agitated. He'd heard of the group of Lathander's followers in the town, and he knew that they would pose trouble to him. As a necromancer, his powers, and his views often conflicted with the holy god's followers. He'd have to be careful and maintain a guise as a merchant traveling with the group, rather than the master of death that he was.

Unaware of the party's intentions, Kesendaran kept to himself during the rest of the journey, lost in though. Ghar'ra, either well trained or just out of strange animal curiosity, kept following the horses at a leisurely pace, almost without need of commands from his rider. Which is all to the good, since the shaman appears to be offline, for some reason. His semblance became darker and darker as the time passed, with the man beginning to mutter under his breath about something. Sometimes he raised his head to look around, only to return to his mumbling state, concentrated in nothing but mumbling about everything.

Thus he continues walking, without speech of notice.





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