Chapter 4 - A Fork in the Road

"I suppose it would be unsightful, yes." Lorem bowed slightly in front of the man. If there was no need for violence, indimidation or anything like that, he may as well be polite. "My name is Lorem, and I'm one of Ara's... ..." Now, how should he introduce himself? Ara was their superior, so... "I guess... One of her attendants?"

The temple was impressive. Garak could feel the power of this place and knew that he wanted to have more of it. His teacher had told him that in time it would come, and that he simply had to keep studying and working with his abilities.

He follows behind the others, happy to have nobody at his back. When the entered the room, it appeared that the man and Ara had quite the history...

"Your logic fails, Dudain. Speaking the common tongue alone does not exempt one from being a bumpkin, a fool, or whatever you could call them. Being mute or speaking a language other than common does not preclude one from being wise." His words were as charming as usual. That being said, my name is unimportant. We're here for business, not friendship.

He then found his comfort in the corner from where he could keep his eyes on everybody. An introduction at this point was unnecessary. This man needed not know his name, as it was unimportant to their purpose.

Joachim had passed the afternoon meditating. He did not like it to have lost Garak out of sight all of a sudden but did not really mind. Instead of trying to pursuit him through the crowd he drifted along with it. His mind wandered to what he believed was good and holy he found that most gods did a poor job with representing just that. He wondered how Gerwin was doing and pondered getting her from the headquarters he had left to find another quest for his life, he felt misplaced for a while and continued his journey through his mind reaching the conclusion that it was best not to act at all for now, things would eventually play out, perhaps he could send her a message all the same. This thought filled him with some joy and he came out of his trance, with something he had never experienced before, it was as if he had gained some power or even as if magic was flowing through him, he felt enlightned.

He found himself currently sitting on a bank in a shady part of town not to far away from the temple he was supposed to meet the others. He was probably late already. A prostitute came close to him asking if he wanted some company among various complements. Joachim looked at her without knowing what to reply he shooed her away yelling he had a wife waiting and did not need any foul company. He started to move. Passing a group of shady characters he could not resist and yelled out they should free themselves from their sins and get a life starting with the search for a decent job and purpose. He arives at the precise moment Ara is waving everyone in missing the show of the amulets powers.

A bit behind the remaining group the paladin is now forced to witness his amulet clunking against his own armor from the inside at the same time bashing against his chest. He jumps backwards in surprise and rips the necklace of in fear it might to him harm. He then carefully stores it in his fist looking around to see how the others are reacting to this strange phenomenon as they seem to ignore or at least pay it not to much attention he puts it back on with some difficulty due to the shaking disc. As they enter the main halls Joachims jaw drop in awe of the splendour of the magic statue, he had never witnessed magic in this form and was more then surprised. Joachim moves past the halfling creating soup... he shook his head and gave the fellow a smile, this would take some more practice he supposed.

Being the last to enter the room were the unknown stranger resided Joachim looked around uneasily moving up to Lorem whispering to him "am i very late? i sure hope i did not miss anything important." Then Ara and the man spoke. "Fair met Dudain, my name is the one of Joachim Laross I am the paladin of good will and faith protector of those in need." He then taxies Garak "And pardon my friend here, he is quiet impolite at some times, but a good soul." Still not recalling the events from the night before this statement came from somewhere inside Joachim that believed in the good heart of every being. Something very naive ... Did Garaks words apply to him? Probably.

"As much as I hate to agree with him, Garak is right on one count" Raz says, nodding towards Garak. "This is business -- and we each have our own objectives. The key is for us to come to a business arrangement so that we can all be happy. I for one don't want to be seeing any uptight dead gods coming back, trying to tell everyone what they can and can't do."

"Oh... And I'm Raz. You could say I'm a life coach for our little group."

Ara gives Lorem a curious look, a raised eyebrow, as he introduces himself.
"Attendants? Well, there's a first time for everything, eh?" she says, smiling at Dudain. "Look, I have attendants!"
"Come, attendants, attend to me!" Ara laughs, her mood strangely happy.
"Your logic fails, Dudain. Speaking the common tongue alone does not exempt one from being a bumpkin, a fool, or whatever you could call them. Being mute or speaking a language other than common does not preclude one from being wise." His words were as charming as usual. That being said, my name is unimportant. We're here for business, not friendship.
"Ah, a man of few words. But you see, from my point of view, not knowing the primary language of mercantilism and government is an easy way to lose pace with society, leading one down the path of bumpkin-ness, eh?"
"I'll just go ahead and call you Jim. So we have Jim, Lorem, Raz, Ara, Joachim...and you, the fellow behind Joachim, you are?"
Dudain adds, glancing over towards Tamrik.

"But anyway, as you say, we are here for business, and we may as well begin...unless there are more of you coming?" he proffers, glancing at Ara as she shakes her head. "Excellent! Well then..."

"As you already know, one other of your company, a girl called Delphine, is apparently missing. When Ara came to me asking for help, I sent word out to my contacts across Sembia, hoping to hear word of the missing lass."
Frowning, Dudain reaches into his pants pocket, and pulls out a small signet ring, its face etched with a large 'D'.
"One of my contacts found this ring just outside the Queen's Honey whorehouse, dusty and coated in a thin film of blood. Naturally, we vigorously questioned the proprietor, and after losing several fingers he agreed to talk," Dudain says, handing the ring to Ara, who then passes it to anyone interested.

"Apparently, Delphine was taken along with several other girls, by a group of fellows headed North into the mountains. Seems they wanted some entertainment for their trip, and happened to grab Delphine as they entered the brothel. According to the owner, the leader of these men called himself Zetroc, and paid for the girls with heavy bags of gold."
"They were old coins, some marked by flame and others pock-marked with age, all minted many years ago. That kind of coin likely came from an old treasure store, or perhaps stolen from the coffers of a rich merchant. Either way, he didn't seem to care much about the price, though he was particularly insistent that none of the girls be able to speak Elvish. Seems kind of an odd request when buying a whore, no?"

"... Zetroc?!" Lorem's thoughts drifted from Ara's sudden cheerful mood to what their interlocutor was saying to them. Delphine had been... And was this Zetroc the same Zetroc? But most of all... There too many strange things. One of which was Delphine not putting up a fight, and the strange request... He suddenly narrowed his eyes. He would think about the details later. What he knew was that they had a track on their missing companion, now. He clenched and unclenched his fists. "To the north, you said?"

Tamrik is my name, though it matters little. A name is only something to distinguish one person from another in this world. Tamrik's answer was cryptic, without any real thought. His melodic voice rang in the room though, and provided a calming sense of belonging in his heart.

Would that all could accept me for the person I am. What matters a name, when there is hatred based on religion, or lack there of. Tamrik thought to himself ruefully, a faint smile touching his beautiful features. He listened carefully to the information that the man gave out, caring only because it would get them away from this place sooner. He cared little for places of worship, having been forced into religion, and having been hunted for denying his heritage's 'truth.'

Elvish is not so uncommon a language among peoples in the realms. They must have something of extreme import to hide if they requested such a thing. What can you tell of this man, Zetroc? He seems more shady than my dark friend, and more overzealous with his entertainment than my large one. What could the true use of these women be, slaves? Sacrifice? Could they truly only want pleasure, I highly doubt it, old coins and a lot of them signal something bigger in my mind. Tamrik is worried about Delphine, she was not the weakest woman, but a woman she was. Tamrik may have allowed some black into his heart, but he was always a chivelrous man. Woman were to be treated with respect, and they needed a handsome savior. He thought smilingly.

"Who's Jim?" Raz asks confused by the words. After a moment, he nods in understanding. "Oh, I get it... You mean Garak, because he wouldn't give you his name."

As he continues, Raz face reddens as he hears what happened. "Several? From MY Queen's Honey?" he says, his voice raising as he listens to the words."Doubt they want pleasure!!! How can... But they... It ain't right."

With a growl, the massive priest punches a nearby wall, tearing a decent size hole out of the wall.

"Let's go north. This Zetroc have some questions to answer... And then I'll kill him" he says, still seething at the wrongness of taking the women from his favorite brothel.

"Aye, as I heard it they were headed north, for the mountains, and beyond that I cannot know. But I myself know nothing of this group, nor of its leader Zetroc."
"But, as for their intentions, your guess is as good as mine. The roads get more and more dangerous every year, and the bandit groups only get bigger, stronger, and braver. Then again, most bandit groups are all the same - all they want is coin, killing, and copulation,"
the man states, his chainmail armor showing through the openings in his tunic as he moves.
"But all you can hope for in a situation like this, is that they're just that - random bandit groups. If they're something else, some sort of cult or a bunch of whackjobs wandering the countryside stealing women - well, it's best not to think about it, if you can."

"Zetroc is a coward...just like most bandits. They lack the talent to be a true professional, and the brass to work alone. They are also greedy, which makes them easy to control and predict. They are all sheep and should be led to slaughter."

Garak thought for a moment before continuing...

"If there are bandits, then the best way to lure them out is to become an irresistable target. I'd suggest we get a wagon, some wares, and head north. A few of you can pose as guards; the rest as merchants. When they attack, kill all but one...and I'll follow them. We keep going until we find our target or run out of bandits."

There were several reasons why Garak would take part in any rescue mission, and it certainly was not because he cared one bit at all for the lost girls. There was promise of coin and other treasure...especially if the bandits were at all organized...


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