Going Away for Awhile [Merlana, Gauss, mzipser, MzNurse, ShadowRidley]

Karn says, "And I could be a guard too, I suppose, or a bouncer, or a waiter, been that before. A bouncer. That might be fun.""

"Snow is cold and wet. Alone neither is pleasant, but I don't know anyone who enjoys spending months cold and wet," Layna says with disgust. "I'm sure it's not as bad in the cities, if you can stand the places."

"I'm most at home in forests. There was always something to forage, hunt or scout in the Wildwood, no matter what the season. If the need people comfortable in the forests, that would be the most believable," she says. The snow or the city? It seemed like this was going to be a miserable winter. Maybe snow isn't as bad as everyone said it was. She cold hope. "If not, I suppose some sort of guard duty, though I can't say I'd be the most imposing of guards."

Astaban says, "I've been a waiter for a number of years. I have been handling purchases of food, so I could pass as a merchant, but it would be a stretch." He smiles, then says, "I'm a little too thin to be much good as a guard, except maybe as a scout."

"If the merchant caravan idea is not to your liking," Talia interjected into the conversation, smiling, but with a slight edge to her voice, "It would not be such a stretch to imagine us three newly wedded couples traveling to a new home. This would be a wonderful excuse for not having jobs or visible means of support upon arriving, and would allow a certain amount of time to meet people and explore. Perhaps some of us could even seek employment with West Merui, at the same time that the others are investigating from without."

Her grin widened, as she looked at everyone in turn, "Besides, that would help pass the time on the journey."

Layna looks at Talia and Tobie, then at Astaban and Karn, then back to Talia. "Seems like the numbers don't support that, unless you like sharing," Layna says, with a wry grin.

"I don't have a problem with the merchant caravan idea, other than I don't know the first thing about being a merchant. I could certainly make a believable be a guide for such an assembly. Though that still leaves us with what to do for a winter in River Forge.... without drawing attention to ourselves."

"Don't know about the merchant idea", Karn says,"not too many of us know about it and it could lead to a bunch of questions that could trip us up ... and attract bad types, like bandits and tax men."

"He takes a drink and continues, "I still like the idea of being driven from out homes and met on the road, looking for work and a place to stay for the winter. Someone said something about one of us having a relative we were heading for. As for the winter work, well, most of us have experience in taverns, bar tending, waiting, like that."

Talia smiled sweetly at Layna, "Well of course I meant we could hire a husband for you."

She frowned, and listened to the protests and the worries that her plan wouldn't work. When she could hear no more, she rolled her eyes, and turned to the halfling for support. "These are the people you want to infiltrate a trading company?" When she faced the room again, she was serious. "Do you think that we will be interrogated by high priest Calimbash, under the influence of a truth spell? Of course we will be challenged by tax collectors, but do you think they will be eager to pry into our details once they see our letters of credit? If they push too closely, we destroy them. You would have me believe that you lot destroyed a dragon, and you're worried about some scum who are so pathetic they are forced to make a living knocking over peasants? They are scum, and no one will miss them. There will be plenty more where they came from." She sighed, exasperated. "There is nothing to know about being a merchant, except that you are bringing goods to those who want to give you money for them. If you are worried, I will be the merchant, and you can be my guards. I can speak prettily, for what it's worth, and I will have them eating out of my hands. Perhaps the tax collectors will pay me for the right to escort us to town safely."

Satisfied, she regarded her new teammates seriously for a moment. "It's not the lie you tell, it's the lie you don't have to tell. We'll just look like someone expected to travel to River Forge, merchant caravan, out of work peasants, married couples, it doesn't matter. Let's just pick one, preferably the one I proposed, and begin making our plans. Tiny wouldn't have brought me aboard if I didn't have something to offer, and believe me I wouldn't be here if Black Crocus didn't know what they were doing."

Astaban nods as Karn speaks. After listening to Talia talk for a while, he looks momentarily distracted, as if he is half-listening while the proverbial wheels in his head are turning.

After Talia finishes, he says, "I think Karn's idea has merit. It provides us with a good cover story, and it provides us with the flexibility we need to apply our... talents. Those of us who would best fit in as a guard could go seek work with the West Merui Company, while those of us who have other talents could work in the tavern, and ferry information to the others. Plus," he pauses for a moment and stares at Talia, "stating that we're friends that have met along the road would limit any awkwardness that might compromise our mission."

Astaban pauses for a second, stands up, and stares at Talia while he speaks, a hint of irritation and coldness in his voice, "Underestimate us at your peril. We work well together because we plan for things in advance, we reach agreement about what we will do, and we are comfortable in the roles that we are assigned. Our last trip, we avoided towns and civilization as much as possible, in order to complete our task as quickly as possible, so that we can return home. Don't presume that since we bicker, argue, and debate, that we won't be ready when the time comes."

The halfling smiles again and says, "I'll be attending to other business. Have your watchers call me if I am needed." He slips out the door, chuckling.

With a roll of her eyes Layna thinks 'humans!' and begins sternly, "Now children..."

"Talia is right, she wouldn't be here if the boss didn't think she had something to contribute. None of us would be on this assignment if we didn't have a certain unique perspective to offer. It seems to me like we have to decide what each of our strengths are and play to those."

"Now, let's take things one step at a time. The first thing we have to do is GET to River Forge. That seems to be what I'm most suited for. I can't believe the Crocus is daft enough to think I'd fit in in a city. I don't know what the elven and half-elven communities in the area are like, but I'd wager I'd have a decent chance of being welcome there, or at least listening in and gathering some information."

"Tobie seems like she's equally at home in the taverns and the wilderness, and could easily fit in among the..." Layna pauses briefly, trying to find the right word, "less formally educated folk in River Forge... or in any tavern. And of course keeping the lot of us healthy is likely no small feat."

"Karn seems like he would be equally comfortable in a tavern." With a grin she adds, "From what I've seen with that jug, he could probably out drink most anyone in town and get information out of them."

"Astaban, you sound like you are also quite comfortable in a tavern, but also about town."

"And Talia, obviously has the most information about the city of River Forge, and those of higher station. I do not doubt that she will easily be able to gather some of the information we need."

"So first, let's decide how we are getting to River Forge. Walking? Caravan? Riding? Once we decided on that, we can start to build our story. The prospect of a two month walk doesn't bother me overly, other than the changing seasons. We'd be cutting it close, but walking all the way is certainly possible before winter. Personally, I'd advocate riding part of the way or joining or forming some sort of caravan on our own, merely to save time. That should get us there in closer to one month."

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