Session 31B:
Familiar Faces

[JadedDM]: Chrysote 19th, Seaday; 16 bells.  The Tainted Hands are currently traveling through the Dayru Desert , finding solace as the sun slowly begins its eventual descent to the horizon and the dreaded heat starts to wane.  So far, they have managed to continue unhindered.  Yet, they remain alert, just in case.  Kricket takes the lead with Cardel in the middle, and as always, Liam watches the flank.

[Jasmin]: Jasmin wipes a bit of sweat (caused by the sun) off her forehead as she walks beside Siara. "I never thought I would hate the sun so much," Jasmin says softly.

[Siara]: Siara nods, her expression in tune with her aching body.  A couple beads of sweat roll down her temple.  "Strange to think we'll miss it as the desert night cools."

[JadedDM]: Kricket:  "No need to fret.  We'll reach Nikola before then," he says from over his shoulder.

[Jasmin]: Jasmin shrugs slightly at Kricket's words. "Will you be all right by yourself for a second, Siara?" Jasmin asks softly. "I'm going to fall back to speak with Liam."

[Siara]: Siara manages a smile, not so ungenuine.  "Of course.  I've made it this far, haven't I?"  She glances back at Liam.  "Besides, he looks lonely."

[JadedDM]: Liam walks tirelessly, his mind clearly elsewhere.  He still occasionally glances over his shoulder to make sure they aren't being followed.

[Jasmin]: "When doesn't he look lonely?" Jasmin teases before she falls back beside the man in question. "Liam," she says to get his attention. "What did you mean last night?"

[JadedDM]: Liam snaps out of his reverie, glancing to Jasmin.  "What now?"

[Jasmin]: "Last night you said that I was capable of better. Actually, you said I had to be. What did you mean by that?"

[Siara]: Siara clears her throat, calling up ahead to Cardel, who looks just as bored as Liam with nothing to smash.  "Hey Cardel.  Do you think you could make it all to way to Nikola in this heat while carrying someone on your back?"

[JadedDM]: Liam hesitates.  "I just meant...a lot is riding on this.  The contest, I mean."

[JadedDM]: Cardel glances to her and smirks.  "Maybe.  If it was worth my while."

[Jasmin]: "Maybe, but I think there is more to it than just this contest," Jasmin points out. "Do you really care about this contest?"

[Siara]: Siara smiles to cover up the temptation to snicker.  "Well, should you carry me, I'm sure I could think of something pleasant to do for you, in my gratitude."

[JadedDM]: Liam:  "Of course," he says, glancing behind his shoulder.  "Why wouldn't I?"

[JadedDM]: Cardel:  "How do I know you wouldn't break your word?"

[Jasmin]: "It doesn't seem like something you would care about." Jasmin looks ahead at the others.

[JadedDM]: Liam:  "And you know what I care or don't care about?" he asks, a slight hint of annoyance in his voice.

[Siara]: Siara's mouth drops in serious offense.  "I may be a courtesan, but I don't see why my word should be taken so lightly."  She tilts her head slight, grinning back at him.  "Besides, how would I resist?  A man such as yourself...well....I bet you always get what you want."

[Jasmin]: Jasmin looks back towards him upon hearing his tone of voice. "I don't know all that you care or don't care about." She sighs. "I just wanted to know what you meant."

[JadedDM]: Cardel inclines his head slightly upward in pride, clearly taking Siara quite seriously.  "Yeah, pretty much."

[JadedDM]: Liam:  "Let's just say I have my reasons, okay?"

[Jasmin]: "Okay," Jasmin says in agreement. "Then, what are those reasons?"

[Siara]: "Such confidence."  Siara quickens her step till she's beside Cardel, fighting her desire to wince at the effort.  "Well, what say you then?  A favor for a favor?"

[JadedDM]: Liam:  "Why do you even care?"

[JadedDM]: Cardel seems to think this over, which takes a good couple of ponderous moments.  Finally, he seems to reach a decision.  "All right.  But you better be worth it."  And with that, he scoops her up in his big arms with ease.

[Jasmin]: "Like it or not, I do care about you Liam. You don't have to believe me, but there it is."

[JadedDM]: Liam doesn't say anything for several moments.  Then, he finally speaks.  "I never wanted to be a Slayer in the first place," he says softly.

[Siara]: "Let me get myself cleaned up, and I doubt you've had better."  Siara says quietly to herself, audible enough for Cardel to hear with their closeness.

[Jasmin]: "And if I am able to succeed, you want me to take your place?"

[JadedDM]: Kricket interrupts both conversations unknowingly.  "There, up ahead."  He gestures to the mountains they have been approaching for the past few hours.  A large cave looms ahead at the base of one of the mountains.

[Jasmin]: Jasmin glances towards where Kricket points. "The town is beyond that?"

[Siara]: Siara looks up ahead, squinting in the fading light to see what Kricket is pointing to.  The courtesan is surprisingly comfortable, cradled in Cardel's muscular arms.  Much better than walking anyway.

[JadedDM]: Kricket:  "The town is within.  The village is built in a valley, protected from all sides.  The cave leads us there.  This is how it survives in such a hostile area."

[Jasmin]: Jasmin nods slightly before turning her attention back to Liam.

[JadedDM]: Kricket:  "We should reach the cave soon.  It's guarded, but let me do the talking.  We're heroes in Nikola, after all."

[Jasmin]: "As if he would let me do the talking," Jasmin mutters mostly to herself.

[Siara]: "It will be a relief if you are well received."

[JadedDM]: The party treks on in silence as the sun continues descending and the heat is replaced with coolness.  The party reaches the mouth of the cave and pauses.  Kricket turns to face the others and gestures for Jasmin to join him.  "Use your sword to light the way."

[Jasmin]: Jasmin moves forward to join Kricket at his side. She holds out her sword much like she would a torch, and allows it to light the way for them.

[JadedDM]: The cave is very wide, giving them plenty of elbow room even if they all walked in a horizontal line.  After a few twists and turns, they come across a gate that blocks the passage.  This gate is at least twenty feet in height, nearly reaching the ceiling.  It's made of strong wood and reinforced with steel.  However, one of the clasps is clearly damaged.  Two guards, a hobgoblin male and a human female, stand at attention in chain mail.  Each carries a spear.

[JadedDM]: Kricket approaches and introduces them.  "Greetings, fare citizens of Nikola.  It is we, the Tainted Hands, returned to visit your humble village."

[Jasmin]: Jasmin remains quiet as she looks over the two guards.

[JadedDM]: The hobgoblin guard steps forward.  "D'lokka bless me!  It is the Tainted Hands!"  He bangs on the gate with his fist.  "Open up!  The Tainted Hands are here!"  A few moments later, the gate begins to slowly creak open, being operated by some kind of mechanism on the other side.

[Jasmin]: "Loved by all," Jasmin says softly.

[Siara]: "Nicely done, Kricket."  The Tainted Hands seemed to be received as a god-send.

[JadedDM]: Kricket shakes the hobgoblin's hand and kisses the hand of the female guard, before pressing on through the gate.  Cardel follows slowly, Siara in his arms.

[Jasmin]: Jasmin follows after the others, shaking her head slightly.

[Siara]: Siara doesn't seem to be bothered by being carried into the city.  Nothing shameful about it in her eyes.

[JadedDM]: Liam follows Jasmin, and upon entering they see a number of guards operating a crank that controls the large gate.  They begin closing it as soon as everyone is inside.  Not at all fazed by the sight, Kricket continues through the rest of the tunnel, a little bit of daylight shining at the end.

[Jasmin]: Jasmin continues walking by, but she looks over her shoulder at the guards operating the crank.

[Siara]: Siara shifts in Cardel's arms to watch the guards close the gate.  "Now that's clever.  I bet it does quite the job in keeping unwanted guests and beasts out."

[JadedDM]: Cardel:  "Yeah, it does.  At least, it keeps the Segno out.  The bigger beasties sometimes try to bash through, though.  The town's been rebuilt more than once."

[Jasmin]: "That is a comforting thought, I'm sure."

[Siara]: Siara shudders at mention of the Segno.  "Nasty creatures."

[JadedDM]: Liam:  "Undead, too," he adds just as they reach the end of the cave, and enter the small valley in which Nikola sits.  It's a very small town compared to Voxis.  In fact, even the slums of Voxis would be bigger than this place.  There are maybe three or so dozen buildings in general.  An inn (simply labeled "The Inn") is nearest to them.

[Jasmin]: Jasmin giggles as she looks over the inn. "Creative."

[Siara]: "Small enough of a place.  Hopefully they have a clean bath."  Siara comments.

[JadedDM]: Leading the way, Kricket enters the inn and his sons follow.  It's kind of a dingy, dirty tavern with a number of shady characters nursing drinks and keeping to themselves.  The atmosphere is rather dreary, even depressing, but this does nothing to hurt Kricket's good mood.  He walks right up to the bar and starts chatting with the barkeep.  Cardel sets Siara down in a chair at an unoccupied table and Liam stays by the door, as if keeping a watch.

[Jasmin]: Jasmin stands just inside the tavern just having a look around. "Well, now what?" she asks Liam, since he is the closest one to her.

[Siara]: Siara's body feels a little better for the rest.  "Thank you, Cardel."

[JadedDM]: Liam:  "Just rest a bit.  Father will get us rooms and then he'll tell us what to do."

[JadedDM]: The seedy tavern has a number of occupants in it currently.  A heavily cloaked man sits at the bar at the far end, drinking a mug of some brown liquid.  A gaggle of goblins sit at a table, playing some kind of card game.  A pair of hobgoblins sit at another table, arm-wrestling.  A couple of rather sleazy looking barmaids serve the drinks, and the innkeeper himself--the man Kricket is negotiating with--looks rather young, in his early 20s.

[Jasmin]: After taking in the people within the tavern, Jasmin moves to sit down at the bar near Kricket.

[JadedDM]: Kricket:  "Excellent, my lad, excellent," he says, shaking the young man's hand.  He then turns to the others.  "We have a pair of rooms.  It's not much, but it's a small inn.  We can't expect the luxuries of the Wolf Blaze, after all."

[Jasmin]: "Who gets what room?"

[JadedDM]: Kricket:  "Girls in one, boys in the other is fine with me.  Now, I'm off to find a healer.  There are rumors of some powerful healer that has come to town lately, and I want to see if I can find him.  The rest of you...just try to stay out of trouble, eh?"

[Siara]: Siara eyes glaze over the inhabitants at the bar, pausing on a few of them in particular.  "Not much chance of a free drink here.  Definitely not Wolf Blaze," she mutters.

[JadedDM]: Cardel:  "Maybe you can play a song for a drink," he suggests with a yawn.

[Jasmin]: "This place could use a little entertainment."

[Siara]: "True.  It does seem a bit dreary."  She looks sweetly at Jasmin.  "Would you dance for me if I sing?"

[JadedDM]: Liam:  "I'll be in my room," he says before heading into the doorway to the side of the room that leads to the bedrooms.

[Jasmin]: Jasmin watches Liam walk off. "Hmm, I could despite the fact I'm not in the right condition to be doing so."

[Siara]: Siara chuckles.  "Somehow I don't think anyone will notice."  Siara's gaze moves around the inn, and despite the condition both the women are in, they still seem among the most attractive there.

[JadedDM]: This much is true.  Most of the people in the inn don't look like they have bathed at all this week.  The only one remotely clean in appearance is the barkeeper himself.

[Jasmin]: Jasmin looks around the inn for some free space in which she can move more freely. "I might have to dance on a table," she says, sounding amused.

[Siara]: Siara's grin widens.  "Perfect."

[Jasmin]: Jasmin slides off her stool, and removes her armor so that she can move much more freely for her impromptu dance performance. She makes sure her belongings are near Siara before she climbs up on a table. "Whenever you are ready, dear."

[JadedDM]: Cardel takes a seat at the bar, ordering a drink.

[Siara]: A nod as Siara's demeanor seems to lighten at the prospect of a performance.  Her voice begins to fill the room with a honeyed sound, still trained and rich despite her current injuries.  Her song is one of her favorite drinking songs she'd learned years back, about a drinking contest between two young men that turns humorously sour.

[Jasmin]: Jasmin takes a moment to get a hang of the beat of the song before she begins to dance upon the table. Her moves are graceful, exotic and erotic (as that she what she is best at), and she tries to somewhat follow along with the story at the song tells.

[JadedDM]: Soon, all eyes are on the pair.  Even drink service has ceased, although nobody has yet noticed.  The card-playing goblins, the arm-wrestling hobgoblins, the barmaids, the barkeep, and even the lone cloaked stranger observe.  The latter, especially, seems fascinated by the dance.

[Siara]: Siara concludes the song, the story ending with the two drunken fools serenading each other as they stumble away from the bar.  Siara's voice quiets to a hum as she peers up at Jasmin, watching as she finishes her dance.  Siara applauds enthusiastically toward her partner.  "Marvelous."  She glances around the tavern.  "Shall we have another?"

[Jasmin]: Jasmin smiles down at Siara as she moves to sit upon the table. "Only if those within this tavern wish to see more. I think we might have caught their attention."

[JadedDM]: The crowd applauds.  The goblins toss a few of their winnings at the table, creating a small pile of silver and copper coins.

[Siara]: "And justly so.  You were beautiful, Jasmin."  She winks at the other woman.  As she waits for the occupants to respond, Siara places an order with the barkeep for a bowl of soup and some water.  The bard glances back, pleasure lighting her face at the sight of the coins.  "So generous!"  She smiles toward the crowd.

[Jasmin]: Jasmin laughs cheerfully as she sees coins falling at her feet. "Oh, it has been awhile since I've seen coins thrown my way."

[JadedDM]: The barkeep himself delivers the soul and water, setting them on the table before Siara.  "On the house," he insists.  He's a human in his early twenties with brown eyes and coppery red, messy hair.  He wears brown clothes and boots and a dark green apron.  "Very impressive," he adds.  "It's been a long time since anyone with such talent graced our tavern."

[Siara]: Siara peers back at the barkeep kindly, a warmth in her eyes that had been lacking since she'd joined the Tainted Hands.  "Thank you.  It's been a while since I've been around people worthy enough to sing for."

[Jasmin]: Jasmin smiles faintly to the barkeep before she steps away from the table. She walks towards the cloaked stranger. "You strike me as one that doesn't wish to be noticed, but it is hard not to."

[JadedDM]: Barkeep:  "Are you seeking solace here?  Or just passing through?"

[JadedDM]: The cloaked stranger looks at Jasmin from under his hood with a strange intensity, but says nothing.  Jasmin feels a little queer under his gaze, but she can't quite explain why that is.

[Siara]: "I'm traveling with a group.  But I'm in need of a healer's services."  Siara takes him in, smiling to herself.  "I'm not sure how long we'll be staying."  Siara takes a drink of water, forgetting how thirsty she had been while traveling through the desert.

[Jasmin]: Jasmin's head tilts curiously to one side as if she was studying the man. The feeling she gets when she looks at him gives her a bit of a shiver. "Who are you?"

[JadedDM]: Barkeep:  "Unfortunate.  I mean, I'm glad for you that you aren't on the run like the rest of us.  But it's a pity you aren't to become a permanent fixture here."  The barkeep thinks a moment.  "We did have a healer arrive in town recently.  Your companion, the older gentlemen, asked about him."

[JadedDM]: Cloaked Stranger:  "Jasmin?"

[Jasmin]: "How did you know?" Jasmin asks, looking rather confused at this point.

[JadedDM]: The cloaked stranger pulls back his hood with one hand, revealing a young man in his mid-twenties with brown hair and eyes.  He looks tattered and worn out, and his eyes are dull and without any sort of happiness or hope.  He seems somehow familiar to Jasmin, reminding her of her youth.  "So it is you," he says, turning back to his drink.

[Siara]: Siara playfully dismisses the comment.  "What use would a town like this have with me?"  Although, her voice did sound slightly interested.

[JadedDM]: Barkeep:  "Well, with talent like yours, you could probably hire on as the Big Boss's personal minstrel."

[Jasmin]: Jasmin looks almost thoughtful for a few moments. "It can't be," she says. "Videl?"

[Siara]: "Really?"  Siara quirked a brow.  "What sort of pay would Big Boss pay for such a position?"

[JadedDM]: Videl:  "It's been a long time, little sister.  I see you have grown quite a bit since we last saw each other," he says casually.

[JadedDM]: Barkeep:  "I can't say for sure, but Big Boss is the richest person in Nikola.  Well, that makes sense, as Big Boss runs the town itself."

[Jasmin]: "It has been ten years, Videl. Things tend to change a bit in that amount of time," she says cheerfully. "What are you doing here?"

[JadedDM]: Videl:  "Not much," he says, not at all echoing her enthusiasm.  He takes another swig from his mug.

[Jasmin]: "You are supposed to be off at war, not hiding in some bar. What happened?"

[JadedDM]: Videl:  "I deserted," he said.  "Didn't have much choice, really, but what can you do?"

[Siara]: Siara eats some of the soup as she thinks this through.  "I have been on the look out for a promising position."  Siara shifts closer to the barkeep.  "After my visit with the healer, and a nice bath, I would like to meet your Boss.  Does he ever take visitors this late?"

[Jasmin]: "How did you not have a choice?"

[JadedDM]: The barkeep smirks, as if Siara just stumbled onto a private joke.  "I can send one of my barmaids to deliver a message to Big Boss.  Of course, I can't make any promises.  It's ultimately up to Big Boss to decide whether to see you or not."

[JadedDM]: Videl:  "What are you doing here, anyway?  Isn't...what's his name?  The merchant?  Supposed to be taking care of you?"

[Jasmin]: " Sorel died when I was 15," Jasmin explains. "I managed to buy my freedom at that point, and now I'm a slayer."

[Siara]: "I'd be very grateful if you did that for me."  Her smile softens, but her eyes take on a curious tint to them.  "What is he like?  Big Boss?  Is he young, like you?"

[JadedDM]: Videl:  "A slayer?  Like the Tainted Hands?"

[JadedDM]: The barkeep smiles.  "You'll see for yourself soon enough, hopefully."

[Jasmin]: "I'm actually with the Tainted Hands." She smiles brightly at her brother, as if she was proud of herself.

[JadedDM]: Videl:  "Huh.  I'll be damned."

[Jasmin]: "You didn't think it would be possible for me to become what I am now, did you?" Jasmin asks.

[JadedDM]: Videl:  "No.  But then, I didn't expect I'd wind up here, either.  Life is full of surprises."

[Jasmin]: "Are you going to go back to Voxis?"

[JadedDM]: Videl:  "No," he says.  "Nothing for me there."

[Jasmin]: "There is nothing for you here either though," Jasmin points out. "Besides, maybe there is something for you back there."

[JadedDM]: Videl:  "Like what?"

[Siara]: Siara laughs softly at the barkeep's secretiveness, making her wonder.  "Indeed."  A thoughtful look.  "I'm anxious to meet him now.  I wonder what else I'll discover about him when we meet."  She's talking about the Big Boss, but she seems a bit more intrigued by the barkeep himself.

[Jasmin]: "Well, I don't know. I mean, when I become a noble, maybe I can get you in as well," she suggests with a small shrug. "I have to win the contest first though."

[JadedDM]: The barkeep runs a hand through his messy hair to straighten it out, but the hair resists this and goes back to where it was.  He seems rather bright-eyed and bushy-tailed compared to the rest of the people in the pub, not at all letting the dreary atmosphere get him down.  "Big Boss is pretty mysterious, but that's part of the charm, I guess."

[JadedDM]: Videl:  "Noble?  Contest?"

[Jasmin]: Jasmin takes a deep breath. "Well, I use to be a member of a slayer group called the Shadow Bats. We were kind of rivals to the Tainted Hands. Things weren't going well with me when it came to the Shadow Bats, so I joined the Tainted Hands," Jasmin explains the basics. "The Viscount proposed a contest between the Tainted Hands and the Shadow Bats. The winners of the contest will become nobles."

[JadedDM]: Videl:  "Mother and Father must be so proud."

[Jasmin]: "They don't really know about it, and if they do then they don't care."

[JadedDM]: Videl:  "Don't care?  If you're a noble, then you're rich and have power.  I think they'll care then."

[Siara]: "Hmm."  Siara takes a few more bites of food, her expression showing that her mind is quickly recalculating things.  After a moment or so, Siara raises her gold eyes back to the barkeep.  "You seem to run a pretty successful inn, here in Nicola.  Do a lot of travelers come through here?"  She meets his eyes, offering her hand. "I'm Siara, by the way."

[Jasmin]: "They aren't going to get anything out of me. If it wasn't for you, I would have been dead just shortly after birth after all."

[JadedDM]: Barkeep:  "Nabal," he says, shaking her hand.  "We don't get too many travelers, to be honest.  There isn't much up here, except lots of sand and death.  Mostly, it's just us locals, hiding out from the Drow."

[Siara]: "Well met, Nabal."  She gently squeezes his hand.  "It seems you've carved out quite a place for yourselves.  The gate alone seems decent protection."

[JadedDM]: Videl nods.  "I did what I could, I guess."

[JadedDM]: Nabal:  "Thanks.  The gate does its job, although it was damaged recently.  An elemental tried beating it down."

[Jasmin]: "You kept me alive, so that gives me more reason to help you out a little than them," Jasmin says. "It is either that or you can stay here though. The choice is up to you."

[JadedDM]: Videl chuckles sardonically.  "How exactly are you going to help me?"

[Siara]: "Still, you guys manage to pull through.  You must be pretty proud of your city."

[JadedDM]: Nabal grins.  "We do all right, considering.  Big Boss has really turned this place around the past few years."

[Jasmin]: "Do you need help?"

[JadedDM]: Videl:  "Nobody can help me now," he says bitterly, looking into his empty mug.

[Jasmin]: "Tell me what happened, Videl."  Jasmin looks a little concerned at this point.

[JadedDM]: Videl looks at her.  "What happened to me?  This," he says, pulling back his cloak to reveal that where his left arm should be is...nothing at all.  The entire arm is missing.

[Jasmin]: Jasmin's eyes widen at the sight. "...How...How did that happen?"

[JadedDM]: Videl pulls the cloak back over him with his right hand.  "Umber hulk on the Daemon front.  Tore it right off.  A healer was able to save my life, but not restore the arm."

[Siara]: "He sounds like a great leader."  She brushed some hair back, feeling slightly self-conscious in front of Nabal.  She would normally look so much better.  "How long have you been living in Nicola?"

[JadedDM]: Nabal takes a seat next to Siara, untying his apron for a moment to take a break.  "A couple of years now.  I was only nineteen when I arrived."

[Jasmin]: Jasmin looks as if she doesn't know exactly what to say. "How long ago did this happen?"

[JadedDM]: Videl:  "About four months ago, I guess."

[Siara]: Siara glances just past Nabal to check on Jasmin, who seems a bit distressed, talking to a mysterious man she doesn't recognize.  Jasmin doesn't seem to be in any danger, so she turns her attention back to Nabal, smiling again, glad he sat down beside her.  "Where did you come from originally?"

[Jasmin]: "You've been here ever since?"

[JadedDM]: Nabal:  "Feluka.  It's a lumber town to the east of here."

[JadedDM]: Videl nods gloomily.

[Jasmin]: "Do you know why they couldn't restore your arm?"

[Siara]: "What brought you to Nicola?"

[JadedDM]: Videl:  "Apparently it takes a very powerful healer to restore lost limbs.  And I wasn't deemed important enough by the army's clerics."

[JadedDM]: Nabal:  "Like everyone else, I'm on the run."

[Jasmin]: "What about the healer that is here least according to Kricket he is powerful. Maybe we could ask?"

[JadedDM]: Videl grunts, clearly skeptical.

[Jasmin]: "Hey, I can be very convincing when I want to be," Jasmin says.

[JadedDM]: Kricket returns at this point, stepping into the inn with a flourish.  "I have returned!  Ah, good.  You didn't burn the inn down or anything," he says with a chuckle.

[Siara]: Siara leans forward with interest.  "On the run from what?"  The gold of her eyes has lightened slightly, as if she's intrigued by the idea.

[Jasmin]: Jasmin turns her attention from her brother to Kricket. "Did you find the healer?" she asks.

[JadedDM]: Nabal leans back in his chair, putting his hands behind his head.  "I probably shouldn't say.  After all, you could be a spy from the Drow or even a bounty hunter looking to collect on me," he says with a grin.

[JadedDM]: Kricket nods.  "Yes.  He has agreed to heal you ladies up a bit tonight."

[Jasmin]: "Do you think he would do me another...favor if I asked him?"

[JadedDM]: Kricket grins.  "I don't know how inclined he would be to do you any extra favors, although I suppose there's no harm in asking."

[Siara]: Siara bit her lip, half-grinning.  "Do you distrust everyone this much?"

[JadedDM]: Nabal:  "It's a smart policy.  You never know who you can trust after all, right?  Everyone who lives here is a survivor.  You have to be to live here."

[Jasmin]: "Oh, I'm sure I can convince him somehow."

[JadedDM]: Kricket:  "You are welcome to try.  Ready to go meet him?"

[Jasmin]: Jasmin hops up on her feet. "You just stay here, Videl," she says before she moves to the door with a bit of a bounce in her step.

[Siara]: Siara shrugs, still smiling.  "In the end it will serve you well, I suppose."  The courtesan just now notices Kricket has returned and hears him mention the healer to Jasmin.  Siara stands, looking back at Nabal.  "I think it's time I go meet this healer and clean myself up."  Her gaze takes him in one more time.  "Would you still be willing to deliver a message to the Big Boss for me?  I would very much like to spend some time with him later, if he is willing."

[JadedDM]: Nabal nods.  "Consider it done, Miss Siara."

[Siara]: Siara leans in and kisses Nabal lightly on the cheek, as a parting gesture.  "Thank you."

[JadedDM]: Nabal beams at the gesture.  Kricket gestures for the girls to follow him.  He heads out into the streets.  Night is fast approaching and lantern bearers are now being lit all around them.

[Siara]: Siara follows obediently just behind Kricket, her step all the lighter since her conversation with Nabal.  As they walk, Siara looks to Jasmin.  "Who was that man you were speaking to?  You seemed upset."

[Jasmin]: Jasmin follows after Kricket. "Videl. My brother," Jasmin says. "I wasn't expecting to see him in a place like this."

[Siara]: Siara's thoughts abruptly change from Nabal to Jasmin.  "Your brother?"  Surprise was clear in her voice.  "What is he doing here?  And why hadn't he come to visit you in Voxis if he had been so close?"

[Jasmin]: "He lost his arm in battle," Jasmin explains.  "So here is kind of a fitting place for a deserter. Of course, Videl and I weren't really close. He just made sure I stayed alive until Arjean, my mother, sold me to Sorel ."

[Siara]: "Sold?"  Siara looks to Jasmin a bit differently.  "Your mother sold you?"

[Jasmin]: "My family had debts to pay, so she really gave me to the merchant she owed as a way to pay off her debts."

[JadedDM]: Kricket leads the girls to the other side of town, to a rather shady looking building in need of repairs.  It looks abandoned at first, but as they approach it, they can see blue light from one of the windows.  When they reach the door, Kricket pauses and turns to face them.  "I have to ask that neither of you say or do anything to upset or agitate the healer."

[Jasmin]: "Why would we upset or agitate him?" Jasmin asks curiously.

[Siara]: "Or rather, what sort of things would agitate him?"

[JadedDM]: Kricket smiles.  "He is an old friend of mine...and'll understand soon enough."  He knocks twice on the door, and then opens it and steps inside.  It's very dark, illuminated only by a faerie fire torch of blue light near the back.

[Jasmin]: Jasmin steps inside after Kricket. Her face falls as she looks around the room. "...Kricket?"

[JadedDM]: Kricket steps forward toward a small figure wrapped in black robes, sitting in a chair by the torch.  "Greetings, Zikar, my old friend."

[JadedDM]: Nightmaster:  "We meet again," he says from under his hood, amusement in his voice.

[Jasmin]: Jasmin looks rather taken back, if not a little scared at this point. "Uh..." she looks quickly to Siara as if she is thinking about bolting out the door.

[Siara]: Siara's mouth opens, but nothing comes out.  All remaining color has drained from her face.  She seems to have to concentrate on breathing.  She looks to Jasmin, and gestures calmly not to over react.

[JadedDM]: Nightmaster:  "I sense your fear, but you have no reason to worry.  I have agreed to heal you, at my old companion's request," he says with a chuckle.

[Jasmin]: "But we...oh Renos," Jasmin says in complete shock.

[JadedDM]: Kricket:  "As neither of you are associated with the Shadow Bats anymore, there is no reason to worry about old grudges, eh?"

[Jasmin]: "...Right. Of course," Jasmin says, taking a few deep breaths to calm herself.

[Siara]: Siara manages a smiles, a light nod of the head, out of respect towards the healer.  "Of course."  She swallows.  "Thank you so much, Zikar, for agreeing to meet with us so late."

[JadedDM]: Zikar:  "This is when I am most active, actually.  In any case, these are strange times.  We all have interesting alliances.  Like the one I forged with your dwarven friend."

[Jasmin]: "...Eskar?"

[JadedDM]: Zikar:  "But that is of no consequence.  I am happy to aid the Tainted Hands when I can.  Who shall step forth first and receive Shadowbite's blessing?"

[Jasmin]: Jasmin looks to Siara for a few seconds before she steps forward quietly.

[JadedDM]: Zikar patiently holds out a gnarled, wrinkled hand to touch the young woman with.

[Siara]: Siara doesn't argue with Jasmin decision, a wave of relief actually apparent in her gaze.  The bard seems to have reigned in the largest piece of her panic.  After all, what choice do they have?

[Jasmin]: Jasmin gently places her hand against Zikar's.

[JadedDM]: Zikar begins to chant softly in his usual raspy voice, speaking in the goblin tongue.  A dark purplish light envelops his hand and spreads to the dancer's body.

[Siara]: As Jasmin interacts with Zikar, Siara looks to Kricket cautiously, attempting to read him.

[JadedDM]: [3d8+3] => [1,7,3,3] = (14)

[JadedDM]: Kricket patiently waits, his hands behind his back, humming a soft tune to himself casually.

[JadedDM]: The dark light seeks out Jasmin's wounds and helps in healing them.  Although she is by no means fully restored, she does look a slight better.

[Siara]: She is quiet in her thoughts as she draws her eyes away from Kricket, refocusing them on Jasmin.

[Jasmin]: Jasmin takes a few steps back once the Nightmaster is done with her.

[JadedDM]: Zikar:  "Now the other girl," he says, reaching out his hand.

[Siara]: "How do you feel?" she asks Jasmin quietly.

[Jasmin]: "Better," she says to Siara.

[Siara]: With a sigh, Siara approaches the Nightmaster, her throat and chest clenching with instinct to panic.  Her face remains relatively calm.  She curls her fingers around his.

[JadedDM]: Zikar repeats the chant in goblin, and once again his hand is enveloped in a dark light.

[JadedDM]: [3d8+3] => [8,2,8,3] = (21)

[JadedDM]: The light spreads throughout Siara's battered body, revitalizing her considerably, but not entirely.

[JadedDM]: Zikar sighs, as if tired.  "That is all I can do for tonight."

[Siara]: Siara sucks in a deep breath, amazed at the ease of the action.  Her eyes meet Zikar's, unsure of what to say.  "Uh, thank you."

[JadedDM]: Zikar:  "Return tomorrow night, and I can do more.  Until then, I need rest."

[JadedDM]: Kricket:  "Very good.  Nice work, as always, Zikar."

[Siara]: Siara whispers to Kricket.  "Does he know that the Shadow Bats are in the area?"

[JadedDM]: Kricket whispers back, "Knowing him, he probably knows a great deal more than even we do about what's going on around here."

[Jasmin]: Jasmin chews on her lip before speaking up. "...Nightmaster, before you retire I have a favor to ask of you. I...I realize I am in no position to ask you of favors, but I have to try."

[Siara]: Siara nods.

[JadedDM]: Zikar pulls back his hood and looks to Jasmin with his crimson red eyes.  "Speak then, child."

[Jasmin]: "My brother is in need of help. He lost his arm while in battle. Is there a possible way in which you can restore it?"

[JadedDM]: Zikar is quiet for a few moments as he considers this.  "Restoring a lost limb is indeed, a challenge.  Alone, there is nothing I can do.  But...there may be a way..."

[Jasmin]: "May be a way?"

[JadedDM]: Zikar:  "I understand you and your companions are heading to the Abelard Ruins, yes?"

[Jasmin]: Jasmin nods.

[JadedDM]: Zikar:  "There is an item there, said to be lost.  But I believe it can still be found there.  A magical cloak of considerable power.  If you could find and retrieve it for me, I could use its power to restore your brother's lost arm."

[Jasmin]: "I think we, or rather I can do that."

[JadedDM]: Zikar:  "Excellent," he says, tenting his hands.  "Bring me the cloak, and we have a deal then."

[Jasmin]: "Thank you, Nightmaster." Jasmin lets out a sigh of relief as she turns to leave. She looks rather eager to get out of there.

[JadedDM]: Kricket bows with a flourish, and opens the door.  He steps out, and waits for the girls.

[Jasmin]: Jasmin steps out after Kricket and then promptly slaps him on the shoulder.  "You could have warned us!"

[JadedDM]: Kricket shrugs.  "I did.  I asked you not to offend him."

[Siara]: Siara laughs lightly.  "Would we have entered if he had warned us, Jasmin?"

[Jasmin]: "That was not a warning," Jasmin says to Kricket before answering Siara. "I would have still entered. I would have just been more prepared."

[JadedDM]: Kricket:  "That being done, I believe I'll return to the inn for a drink."

[Jasmin]: Jasmin wrinkles her nose, and she makes her way back to the inn. "I hope the Shadow Bats don't cross his path."

[Siara]: "I hope the people in the inn are willing to pay for some more entertainment.  I was too distracted to pick up the money they threw."  She seems unconcerned with the Shadow Bats.

[Jasmin]: Jasmin raises an eyebrow at Siara. "Don't you all ready have money?"

[Siara]: Siara meets her gaze.  "A bit."

[Jasmin]: "Oh." Jasmin clears her throat. "I need to tell Videl about what is going on so I'll catch up to you later, Siara."

[Siara]: "Alright."  Siara follows Kricket back to the inn.

[JadedDM]: The three return to the inn.  It's later now, and the sun has fully gone down.  Most of the patrons have turned in for the night, although Videl remains rooted where they left him.  Nabal starts cleaning some of the tables idly.

[Siara]: Siara comes up behind Nabal, glad that she looks all the better from the healing.  At least she no longer resembles an attractive zombie.  "Anything I can do to help?"

[Jasmin]: Jasmin walks up to Videl, trying to look cheerful once again. "I think I made a deal with the healer. I just have to get a magical cloak for him, and he said he would use the cloak's power to restore your arm."

[JadedDM]: Nabal:  "Ah, you're back," he says, looking her over.  "Looks like the healer did his job.  Oh, and you forgot this," he says, reaching into the pouch on his apron, he pulls out a handful of coins.

[JadedDM]: Videl:  "A cloak?  From where?"

[Jasmin]: "The Abelard Ruins. We were heading there anyway."

[JadedDM]: Videl nearly spits out his ale.  "What?"  He sighs.  "So not only am I not getting my arm back, but you'll be throwing your life away, too.  That's a great plan."

[Jasmin]: "I'm not throwing my life away, Videl," Jasmin says with a sigh.

[Siara]: Siara beams at the sight of the coins.  Taking the pouch, she kisses Nabal in her joy.  "Oh, you're wonderful."  She weighs the bag of coins, flushed as if she'd received a lovely gift.

[JadedDM]: Nabal grins and shrugs.  "It's pocket change, really, but if it means so much, I'm glad I saved it for you."

[JadedDM]: Videl:  "Nobody returns from Abelard alive, Jasmin.  Not even the Tainted Hands could do that."

[Siara]: Siara adds it to her own coins.  "Every little bit counts."  Color has returned to her face and her eyes seem brighter.  "Have you heard anything from the Big Boss?"

[Jasmin]: "Do you know how many times I've heard that?" Jasmin asks. "Do you realize that I returned alive from killing the fire lizard that the Tainted Hands couldn't defeat? I've returned alive from the Qavay Temple too. I can do this too."

[JadedDM]: Nabal nods.  "My messenger returned while you were gone.  Big Boss has agreed to see you."

[JadedDM]: Videl looks at her.  "You?  Wisp of a girl that you are?"

[Jasmin]: "I'm more talented than you think I am, Videl. I wouldn't be with the Tainted Hands if I wasn't."

[Siara]: "Splendid."  The inn seems rather empty.  "When do you usually close up?"

[JadedDM]: Nabal shrugs.  "When the customers stop coming," he says.

[JadedDM]: Videl frowns and turns back to his drink.  "I'm a lost cause, Jasmin.  Don't put yourself at risk for my sake."

[Jasmin]: "I was all ready putting myself a risk for a different reason. This just gives me another reason to return alive. You'll see," she says, sounding rather determined at this point. "I'm going to prove my worth to at least someone," she says before walks away from her brother to go up to her room.

[Siara]: "I see."  She hesitates for a moment before speaking again.  "Are you going home to anyone, Nabal?"

[JadedDM]: Videl looks down in his now once again empty glass and frowns further.

[JadedDM]: Nabal:  "Nah, I sleep here.  I have a cot in the back of the kitchen."

[Siara]: Siara smiles to herself.  "Well then.  I hope to spend more time with you."  She looks around.  "Did the Boss say where and when he wanted to meet with me?"

[JadedDM]: Nabal:  "Tomorrow afternoon," he says, turning a few chairs up onto the tables.

[Jasmin]: Jasmin moves to the boy's room, and slowly opens the door. "Liam?"

[Siara]: "Tomorrow afternoon," she repeats to herself.  Siara hops up to sit on the edge of one of the tables.  "Would it be too much to trouble you for a drink?"

[JadedDM]: Jasmin enters the boys' room to find Cardel, passed out on one of the beds, and Liam, polishing his boots quietly.

[JadedDM]: Kricket:  "I could use a drink myself," he says, taking a seat at the bar.

[JadedDM]: Nabal:  "Two drinks, coming up," he says, returning to behind the bar.  "What'll it be?"

[Jasmin]: Jasmin grins as she steps into the room. "It didn't take him long," she says as she approaches Liam quietly.

[Siara]: Siara drags her eyes from Nabal to look at Kricket with an empty expression.  She takes a seat at the bar, looking back at Nabal.  "I'll take the strongest drink you have."

[JadedDM]: Liam looks up quietly to Jasmin.  "Ah, yes.  I'll be in for a rough night, with all that snoring."

[JadedDM]: Kricket:  "A wine, for me."

[JadedDM]: Nabal pours Kricket a glass of wine and then mixes up a concoction for Siara.

[Jasmin]: "I'm glad I'm not in here tonight then." Jasmin sits down on the floor in front of him. She hugs her left knee and rests her chin upon it. "What do you want to do if you don't want to be a Slayer?"

[JadedDM]: Liam shakes his head.  "I don't even know.  I was never given a chance to find out.  I just want to live my own life, to walk my own path...whatever that may be."

[Siara]: Siara takes a sip of the drink, wincing as it burns its way down her throat.  It does feel a bit better as it spreads to her stomach, warming her.  She takes another drink.  "Just what I wanted."

[Jasmin]: "...Well, what type of things do you like to do?"

[JadedDM]: Kricket sips his wine, but says nothing.  Nabal just nods.  "I don't know many women that can handle Hellwine like that.  There's clearly more than meets the eye to you, Miss Siara."

[Siara]: Siara laughs.  "In my line of work you sometimes need something to help you forget."  Another drink.  Another wince.  "I've tried it all."

[JadedDM]: Nabal:  "And what is your line of work, exactly?"

[Siara]: "Courtesan, originally."  She answers, a layer of pride to her voice.  "And professional entertainer.  Although, I am currently working with the Tainted Hands."

[JadedDM]: Liam:  "I've always liked...cartography."

[JadedDM]: Nabal:  "Slayers, eh?  You probably have seen some rough things in your time, then."

[Jasmin]: "You like making maps?" Jasmin asks curiously. "You can draw?"

[JadedDM]: Liam:  "Yes.  I don't get a chance to do it often, because...well, we usually don't travel much."

[Siara]: Siara grins toward Kricket.  "Kricket always tells the best stories of their adventures."

[Jasmin]: "Are you good?" Jasmin asks, smiling faintly.

[JadedDM]: Kricket smiles.  "I do have a flair for stories," he admits.

[JadedDM]: Liam:  "I'd like to think I am.  I don't get much practice, though, obviously."

[Jasmin]: "Maybe when we get back you can show me? Where would you like to travel?"

[JadedDM]: Liam:  "Anywhere.  There's so much of Legar to see alone."

[Jasmin]: "You know, that does sound kind of fun. Of course, all of this is really new to me considering I never really left Voxis."

[JadedDM]: Liam:  "Really, this is as far as I've ever traveled myself."

[Jasmin]: "So the ruins are somewhere new for you too?"

[JadedDM]: Liam:  "We've been in the desert before, and Nikola, but not the ruins, no."

[Jasmin]: Jasmin glances down at Liam's boots. "Do you think you could help me find a magical cloak that is within the ruins?"

[JadedDM]: Liam:  "Magical cloak?"

[Siara]: Siara finishes her drink, her mind swimming just slightly.  "Nabal, what would the chances be of me procuring a bath tonight?"

[Jasmin]: "I made a deal with the Nightmaster. He wants the cloak, and if he gets it he will restore my brother's missing limb."

[JadedDM]: Nabal:  "There's a tub in the back.  I can have the girls boil some water for you, if you like."

[JadedDM]: Liam:  "The Nightmaster?"

[Jasmin]: "He is in this town. He was the healer that your father went to go see for Siara and me."

[Siara]: "It would be appreciated.  We've been traveling for a while."

[JadedDM]: Liam:  "Oh, I see.  That must have come as a shock."

[JadedDM]: Nabal gestures for a couple of his barmaids to carry out the order.  "Just on one condition, though.  We can have another performance or two tomorrow."

[Siara]: Siara smiles, flattered.  "You can have as many performances as you desire, sugar."

[Jasmin]: "It would have been nice if he had warned us, but I think your father enjoyed giving us that shock."

[JadedDM]: Nabal:  "Excellent!  Maybe we'll get some extra business then, at least while you and your partner are still here."

[Siara]: At that, she looks to Kricket.  "What are our plans for tomorrow?"

[JadedDM]: Kricket finishes off his wine and stands up.  "We'll pick up some supplies and go see the Nightmaster again that evening.  Then the following morning, we head out again."

[Siara]: "Good."  She smiles.  "You off to rest, then?"

[JadedDM]: Kricket nods.  "Enjoy your hot bath."

[Jasmin]: "I think I'm going to get some sleep." Jasmin pushes herself up from the floor, then leans over to kiss Liam on the cheek. "Good night."

[JadedDM]: (Okay, we'll call it a night here.)

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