The white and red cloth slipped out of the healer's aged hand, and fell to the floor. The healer's eyes widened ever so slightly, before they resumed their normal shape. “Clumsy old fingers,” he said. “Clean that up.” One of the apprentices, his eyes still on the man's leg, peeled the cloth off the floor, and with it wiped up as much of the red cream as he could. “Get back to work! All of you!”
As if the Healer had used a magic of his own, the apprentices dispersed and returned to their regular tasks. Korisca herself was inclined to find some work to do.
“What happened here?” the Healer asked.
Ardith stammered something unintelligible, more overwhelmed by the circumstances around her than she would have been had she not healed the man. Though she had cast healing spells before, never had they worked so quickly or as dramatically as this.
Kay recovered somewhat more quickly, and replied, “Ardith prayed to Andritha for the man's healing, and…” she ran out of steam at that point and simply stood there.
“I've heard, but never seen. Truly, the Great Healer Andritha still grants the power of legends. You must stay with us, and heal Dunweig's wounded. The fishing trade is too much for one old Healer.”
“I fear I cannot,” Ardith said, recovering her composure. “I am on a mission, and have made promises which must be kept. I will, however, while in Dunweig, visit here as often as my tasks allow and assist you.”
A few of the apprentices looked up briefly, and the healer was without words for a moment. “Do they teach no respect to those with Andritha's Healing? I humble myself before Andritha's power, but I am still Healer of Dunweig!” He paused, letting his anger dissipate. “Accidents are numerous, this time of year, with fishermen and netters hurrying to the last autumn catch. Please stay with us a week at least, so we can be better prepared for winter. You and your companions may stay in the temple.”
For her part, Kay was still stunned at what she had just winessed. Her friend Ardith's miraculous cure of the injured man, and then the demand that Ardith stay to heal the fishermen…
She shook her head to clear it.
Still alert, as always, for signs of danger, she stood mute, not knowing what to say to support her friend – and to keep her from being stuck in this town, which struck her as being just a larger version of her home village, and not even as exciting – fishermen, salters, the humdrum of daily life, and without the excitement of conversation with traders from across the sea.
This made her think of Sahlman. He was more than just a sea-trader, she thought; he was obviously someone who was – or had been – important in his distant land. She hoped he was all right, and that she would see him soon.
Then she wondered at herself for thinking that.
Once again she shook her head to clear the gathering cobwebs, and watched carefully for any moves against her friend. She looked to Korisca and found much the same look in her eyes. She nodded to the street-wise girl as she let her hand creep toward her dagger, a signal to Korisca to be alert, and resumed watching. She wanted to trust these priests of Andritha. After all, she had just about decided to convert to Ardith's religion, but she wondered at the scene she had just witnessed.
Once again she needed to clear her mind; the task at hand…
'I am a warrior,' she reminded herself.
Ardith considered the request carefully before answering.
“No disrespect meant, Healer. I was trained at the Seminary in Zadothar, by Gutrin and his Preceptors.
“It is only that I have made prior promises. I, and however many of my companions are willing, will accept the hospitality of Andritha. Unless I am needed for something that my companions cannot take care of without me, I will stay and assist you. My friends still have errands to run, so they will not be a bother in the Temple during the day. I cannot promise you a week, but only however long it takes for us to arrange our affairs here. At least three days, perhaps a week, perhaps longer, I do not know.
“Frankly, it will be pleasant for me to dwell, for a time at least, in a House of Andritha. I have been long on the road, and oft in heathen places.”
As Ardith and Kay started toward the temple doors, Kreemon looked around for a place to wait. Finding a bench by the street near the temple, he sat, pulled out his knife and sharpened it. Bork sat beside his master. After some time, the big hound laid his paw on Kreemon's knee, and nuzzled a pocket of his tunic. Kree smiled and patted the dog on its head. “All right, boy.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a ball of tightly wound twine. He turned a bit and gave the ball a toss down the street. Bork took off after it, dodging around people's legs and carts, and snatched it up in his mouth. Once Kreemon was again in possession of his ball, the two of them sat patiently to wait for the others to come out. Kreemon kept his ears open, hoping to hear some more about the strange “happening”, “the butcher,” and other snippets heard last night in the tavern.
Kreemon's open ear had little success. The noise around him was powerful and meaningless, as fishermen ran from one place to the next, and horses kicked up mud to propel them foreword at an ever faster rate. As the hours of the morning passed, however, the noise died down. Most of the fishermen were on the lake, and the doors of the shops were closed against the cold.
Kreemon sat outside the temple and waited… and waited. After two hours of sitting and playing fetch with Bork, the rain returned as a light drizzle. Kree sat there for another half hour trying to keep dry. 'Gee. I consider myself a religious fellow, but this is taking way to long.' Kree rose and looked around at some of the shops. Finally, he picked out a booth with food and protection from the rain, and walked over to it. He spoke with the old lady under the waterproof canvas and purchased some dried fish from her, immediately feeding some to Bork. He asked her what had been happening of note in the town lately.
“Nothn happens here. The men come in with the fish every morn so I can go an salt um. Winter'll come soon, an they all get to rest while I stay out here an sell um. Nothn at all.”
Another man also kept himself dry under the cavas. He stood quietly, looking out at the rain as if there was something more to see than falling water. He had the strong arms of a fisherman, but not the legs to match, and his skin was as light and smooth as if he'd never sailed a boat.
Bork finished his fish, briefly sniffed the table, and then excitedly sniffed at the man's legs, circling them over and over. The man did not move at the pressure. He made no sign at all that he knew what went on around him.
“Bork! Stop that, come here, sit!” Kreemon scowled at Bork for bothering the man. “Sorry about my friend here sir, I know not why he does what he does sometimes.”
The man's thoughtful gaze broke as soon as he was addressed. He looked down at the dog, as if noticing him for the first time, and smiled. “No reason to apologize. My pants stink of meat. Probably taste like it too.” The man spoke in a sad monotone, but as he continued, his voice slowly took on more expression and friendliness. He looked up and down Kreemon's body. “A traveller, eh? The name's Moren.”
“Moren? My name is Kreemon and this is Bork. Yes, I am traveling with a priestess. She has found her temple and has forgotten how much time has passed I believe. I was just asking the nice lady here about goings on here abouts, trying to pass the time… Err, are you a butcher, that your pants stink of meat?”
“That I am. I have a shop if you get tired of fish, at the far end of the market, next to the ruined building.”
“Aye, would ye be going there now? I could use a bit of dried meat for our rations, and mayhaps a bone or two for Bork.”
“I can help you with the bones, but I don't have anything dried right now, unless you want to dry it yourself.” His voice again began to drop to a quiet monotone. “The salters won't start coming in for another week. I'll go back after the rain…”
“You seem a bit distracted, are you troubled?”
The butcher's head raised again, and he smiled. “Oh, nothing really. More than one friend has thought me crazy when I told them.”
“I've learned over my travels not to dismiss strange tales as crazy. One man's craziness is another man's realities, more often than not.” Kreemon looks at the temple again and out at the sky. “I've apparently got time to spend, I'd be interested in hearing your tale, if you'd tell it.”
Moren also looked up at the temple, and then back at Kreemon. “It's not much of a story, really. I just have a feeling, started a few days ago, that I'm in some kind of danger. No, not really danger. I really haven't been able to get the feeling into words, but it's as if I can see an enemy, no not an enemy. It's as if I can see death coming for me, slowly, and from the wrong direction.” He paused for a moment, at a loss for words, and then lifted a hand. “When I tie down a cow to slaughter it, she has no way to know she's about to die, but… but she knows. I can't really explain it. I just have a feeling I should be awaiting death.”
“Hmm… a disturbing feeling, to be sure. For that, I have no clear response, other than you should always live life to the fullest and like today may be your last. You never know when your hour may come, so you should always be prepared. I'm sure those words do nothing to make you feel better, I'm sorry.”
“Oh, you don't understand.” A lengthy pause preceded his next statement. “I do know when my hour comes. I have just a few days left, or weeks… or months. Definitely not years. I just wish there was a way I could console my daughter. Well, I wish there was a way I could console myself. No one is really fearless when it comes to death.”
Kree looked at the man askance. “What do you mean you know the hour? How can any man know when his time is to be?”
“If a man stumbles, how does he know he's fallen? If a child cries, how does it know it's hurt? When a tree drops its leaves, how does it know the autumn comes? I feel death coming like the child feels the onrushing pain, like a tree feels the seasons. I'm sorry. My speech has become much more philosophical since I realized I would die.”
Kree was confused by the man. We all know that we are going to die sooner or later. Earlier he was speaking as if he knew the moment that it would happen, and now it seemed as though he just realized he was mortal. Maybe the man had some sort of fatal disease.
“I believe all I can say is that I am glad that I am spared that feeling.” Kreemon stared out into the rain, waiting for his companions to leave the temple.
They did emerge, eventually, and told Kreemon of the changes in their fortune. He excused himself from a stay in the temple by saying he would rather be where he could see the townsfolk and gather information, and Ardith accepted his excuse without word.
The next day was busy for Ardith, as was the day after. She had forgotten how much work was involved in full-time healing. Even among apprentice healers in other temples, she had not been kept so busy, but she was happy. The apprentices were in constant awe of her, moreso than they were of the Healer, but his orders they still answered as trained automata.
Besides regular prayers, there was nothing for Kay or Korisca to do but watch the healers. Soon, Korisca slipped out of the temple without informing anyone, and was seen no more. Kay remained with her friend, who she was attached to more than she would have been to her own sister. All the apprentices saw their relationship, and respected it.
Dunweig was a strange place. Kreemon had seen fishermen before, but never in such number, and never moving with such force against such a powerful-looking lake. He spent hours on the shore of the Black Lake, watching the fishermen and hoping for some interesting bits of news from the ones coming ashore. Dunweig was a strange place, but a boring one.
Kreemon visited Moren on occasion, and bought bones for Bork and meat for himself. The butcher was morbid company, but more interesting than the hurried fishermen, especially when the streets were quiet and the fishermen were at work.
The building next to Moren's shop had long since been destroyed. Sharp columns of stone rose up at angles above Kreemon's head, and extended out a large distance on the ground. They must have made an impressive structure at one time; perhaps a temple. Most of the time, Kreemon felt surprisingly little desire to explore the place. Perhaps it was the uninviting shadows, or the fact that such a place could gain and lose its glory in the course of a single Zioth.
Kreemon also spent some time with Korisca, or, rather, following Korisca. While his interest was to learn about the people of the town, she spent her stay learning the town itself. By the third day, every street was familiar to her. By the fourth, she had begun to enter buildings, whether or not she was invited to do so. Like Kreemon, she avoided the ruins. There was nothing to gain from exploring an uninhabited place, nothing to see where there was no life.
As Korisca learned more about the town, she found more and more ways to eat and sleep for free, until her daily expenses were almost nil.
By the the tenth of Farinon, Ardith had stayed six days in the temple. Even Kay was becoming anxious, and Ardith wondered what had made them stay so long. The appeal of a temple was great. She was busy there, but it was so much simpler a life than the political manipulations of Balban and the other townsmen. Townsmen had broken their group, sent Sahlman back south, kept Ardith and the bulk of the group pushing east to Huerten, where their mission would find its end.
Huerten. Balban was expected in Maelbourg by the end of the the month. They had to speak to Baron Huerten before then. The Baron's city was so close, yet there had been so many delays, and now it was the tenth day of Farinon. Had Balban expected them to make it a straight journey? Other than with self-imposed delays, they had made good time, and Balban must have expected delays of some sort.
Ardith could only imagine what might happen at Huerten – or afterwards. What would happen after they left the city? Perhaps they would return to Balban, but what then? They could not expect to find work at the mouth of every town crier; Balban was an exception to every rule there was. Maybe Sahlman would come back with something. Maybe it was not worth worrying about the future quite yet.
Whatever the case, the time had come to leave.
Kreemon spent a regular day in Dunweig. He watched Korisca leave for the center of town, which was where she always started her day. She would wait for something to happen, or for a thought to occur to her, and then she would wander, or do what looked to others like wandering, in whatever direction she was drawn to. Kreemon decided not to spend this day following her.
Instead, he visited the lake. The fishermen got on their boats, some waving or nodding to Kreemon, who had by then become a familiar sight, and sailed or rowed to where the catch was supposed to be most plentiful that day. Most boats had been on the lake since dawn or earlier, but Kreemon had only once risen early enough to see those off.
Kreemon woke from an accidental nap shortly after noon. He was not happy with the laziness that he'd acquired in this town. All around him people were busier than anyone he had seen before, while he slept.
Kreemon got up, waved an unseen hand at the ships, and walked away from the lake. He spent most of the day on benches and in shops, listening for news and information. In the late afternoon, he visited Moren.
There was a small crowd around the butcher's shop. It must have been a good day for business, and Kreemon was glad he'd let his friend alone for a day. When he saw the faces of the people leaving the shop, however, he was afraid that crowd might not have been drawn by an excess of good meat.
Kreemon pushed through the crowd, and, once inside the shop, saw no butcher. Following the eyes around him, he looked first at the far wall, and then at the floor. There Moren lay, his skin as pale as bone.
All: Almost a year of real-time has passed since turn 33. The recent slowness is due in part to a more interactive turn, where a dozen interchanges may occur before the turn is done, but most of it is due to long delays in both my and the players' responses. I realize that many of my posts were difficult to respond to, but in the future, if you have no response to give, please tell me as soon as possible so I can supplement what you have. Don't be afraid to skip out on a response that you see as unimportant; there are times when I send out posts, knowing that there's a good chance your character will do nothing, but just to give you a chance to interject if you want to and to make sure I don't intrude on your character.
To ensure that the game runs more quickly, I'm going to set a one-week time limit on turn responses. In other words, a week after I post the turn, I might start writing the response for you. Exceptions can be made, of course, for vacations and excessive workloads. If you're in the middle of writing your response at the end of a week, just tell me and I'll be happy to allow another week.
On the plus side, this pair of turns comprise the largest post yet!
Please note the new email list at the bottom of this turn. Brandon Paredes has taken over Korisca, and Nathan Weismuller will be joining with a new character.
Please look over your names in the email list too, to be sure I'm sending posts to the right addresses. Some of you have two or three adresses on the list. If you don't actually check email from those addresses, they might as well be taken off.
As far as responses for this turn go, other players may want to wait for Kreemon to leave Moren's shop, and then you can all assume that you meet at Grabble's or something.
Your Bill, Sir:
- Kreemon: 12ag (food, incl. meat), 42ag (lodging)
- Korisca: 3ag (food), 20ag (lodging) [note: you have only 2ag, 5dy left]
Kreemon: You raised a level! +3HP, giving you 12 total. Is there anything else you're supposed to get when you raise a level?