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Third Time is Tradition - In Character Discussions

Unfortunate Blessing

4/22 Mario

The pack was too small for Shi's items as well as his. He couldn't carry another; he would already be burdened with Shi's lifeless corpse. With the sodden grounds of the swamp, and the sparseness of any real cover, Kel would need every advantage he could muster. He was opposed to coming here, this god-forsaken waste of a land. It has zero redeeming qualities, he thought. But he also promised Shi he would keep her safe, regardless where she decided to travel. And here they are. Shi, dead; he, dead inside. The rage quickly filled his head and heart. Be calm, he told himself. You cannot focus when you are angry. Settle, be calm. He breathed deeply until he could concentrate again. Then replayed the events of this evening yet again in his mind.

On the wagon ride home, Kel had formulated a plan, one he had completed countless times before. Just as the first moon set deep in the Mist, he would take Teb on his hip and follow the inconspicuous path out of the wood, a path he formed himself during his routine treks to Dragon Fen. It would be almost too easy. The heightened security and frequent patrols in place for the Queen's visit would prove no match for his skills. The lock would silently yield and entry into the dark home would be imperceptible. A few muffled steps, a tiny glint of steel, and a muted whimper. Then the journey back home. To Shi. He would have had her body brought home earlier in the day to Valoris Wood, to grieve and mourn. With his pack and Teb, he would carry her every step, in his arms, a constant reminder of his greatest failure. Over hundreds of miles of swamp, forest, and wildlands. To where she belonged. They belonged. Far, far from here. By the shrouded dawn, the elves would be nothing but memories in the imaginations of those who would miss them.

All his belongings barely filled the bottom of the pack. I don't need much, especially anything from his place. Shi had so many more important things. I will take them all, he thought. I won't dare leave one behind. With my luck, it will be the piece she treasured most.

He sensed their approach long before they could be seen. Who would be so bold? I told them I didn’t want to see anyone until I came for her. Don't they have the least bit of respect for us? Why do they insist on not listening? The second he heard the latch, Kel knew. He knew that touch, those footsteps, that scent. He turned, then fell to his knees.

Kel didn't remember rising, or embracing Shi, or squeezing her so tightly she wheezed. He didn’t remember thanking Hoffman for watching over her. He did remember looking deep into her eyes, also swollen from tears, and seeing nothing but pain. It quickly dawned on Kel that, despite the utter joy he felt right this moment, this wasn't right. None of this was right.

"You're back. But, ... how?" he said weakly. "Why?" He struggled to understand the circumstances of his dearest love, in his arms, alive. "So this means,...they brought you back...but…” He pulled away slightly, gauging Shi reaction. "How could they? They had no right!" The rage Kel felt before paled to the furor he felt now. "They robbed you of your life, and now they robbed you of your afterlife?" Shi looked him in the eyes, unable to speak.

Kel's legs barely got him to his chair. He sat, head in his hands. How dare they? What right did they have? He looked at Shi. "You've been gone, gone for two days. But you're here.” He seemed to focus on a thought, a terrible, horrid thought. “They didn't bring you back from Arvanaith, did they? They wouldn’t dare…" He paused at the thought. "Oh Shi..." He put his head back in his hands as his mind swirled. He sat silently for a good moment. He looked at Shi.

"This means nothing. This won't change the plan," he said. "You returning, standing here, has but saved a life, one not worth saving, but still. We leave tonight, now." He could see Shi's bewilderment. He took a deep breath and continued. "Don't you see? I died and was on my way, but I returned. I returned because my mission wasn't over. I denied Arvanaith. I failed your brother, and I came back to not fail you. And I did just that. It’s over for me.” The words stung his ears more than he expected. “You died at the hands of so-called friends, and they denied you Arvanaith. You may have been so close. And Teb," he looked at the hilt, "even Teb denied his calling to Arvanaith. Don't you see?" Kel was incredulous that Shi looked confused.

"We...we, all three of us, you, me, and Teb. We must go. Now. We all denied ourselves eternal bliss. All three of us turned away when we had our chance. This is our signal. We must go, now. We may never have another chance. Do you want that, to miss your limited chance, like poor Teb?" Shi remained silent, her lips pursing. The excitement grew in Kel. "It will be much easier now, our journey. I won't need to carry you, you can walk. Together we can make it, it's not far. We cannot deny ourselves this chance. Solonor couldn't send a clearer message. Praise be Solonor! We must go. I've already packed." For the first time in a long time, a smile crossed Kel’s face. He was going to Arvanaith. He grabbed the pack, stuffed the few remaining articles inside, and cinched it closed.

“Let's go!"

5/11 Carissa

"To Arvanaith? But we can't just...," Shi trailed off at a loss of words and so much more. She couldn't hear that sweet siren call anymore to set her back on the right path. She highly doubted Ilero's offer was still on the table. This felt far from any clear message from Solonor to her. She closed her eyes, took a breath to try to quiet all her thoughts and emotions, if only for a minute to think, before saying, "We'll go home, to Divaekah, and then..."

She didn't actually know what came next, wasn't sure what she was going to say, but it didn't matter. A loud, excited gasp interrupted any attempt at finishing her sentence. They both turned towards the sound only to spot Thistle at the top of the ladder.

"We're going to Divaekah? An actual Elven city? Humans almost never get to go inside an Elven city! This is going to be so exciting!" exclaimed Thistle, jumping up to the landing and rushing over to them, grinning from ear to ear.

"Thistle?" said Shi, confused. A frown formed before she shook her head, not quite with the same vigor as the past, but still attempting to leave no room for negotiation. "No. You are not coming. You are staying here-".

"No!" interrupted Thistle, firmly. "Don't tell me I'm staying here because I'm not. I'm going with you, and-"

"You are NOT-"

"You already left once without me and look what happened!" said Thistle, her earlier excitement taking a quick turn towards anger. It surprised Shi enough for her to briefly fall silent allowing Thistle to keep talking. "You told grandma you'd look out for me. You can't do that unless I'm with you, and I can't look after you unless you're with me. I'm going with you."

With an attempt at a calmer conversation, Shi said, "Thistle, you are old enough to look after yourself-"

"You JUST told me I wasn't old enough a few days ago so don't even try that!"

"Then I won't give you a reason! Thistle, you are not coming and that's final!"

"Why?" asked Thistle, fiercely. "Because I'm not good enough for you? Because you think you can just toss me aside like I don't matter? Like I won't care what you do?"

"That is not at all-," replied Shi, but she was quickly interrupted.

"Words are just words. You can say what you want, but if you leave me, not because death has your name, but because you chose to do so? You chose to walk away from me, from a promise, from a friendship? What does that really say?" said Thistle with a hint a spite, but a little less fire.

Shi fell silent, the heat of the moment dimming, and all the emotions since coming back once more flooding her mind. She sat down heavily on the couch and put her head in her hands. Why was all of this so hard?

"I did not want to come back, Thistle," whispered Shi after a few quiet minutes passed.

"But they brought you back because they love you, like I do, and they love Kel, and they didn't want to see him hurt, too. Sometimes we make mistakes, but we’re allowed to try to fix them." Thistle walked over and sat down next to Shi, resting her head on her shoulder. "Gypsies don't really come back, either, but we don't get mad if we do. Death is a new journey, but if we come back, doesn't that just mean we have to finish our journey here, first? There is still a story to be told, or we wouldn't come back. You still have a story left to tell, don't you? You made a promise to grandma, and you made a promise to Ancien, and you must've made a promise to the others because why else would you still be here in the Mist of all places? And maybe they made a promise to you, too, and that’s why they couldn’t let you go yet. If your story really is over, well, then, next time you die, you'll stay dead, and you'll get to go to wherever elves go because I doubt someone like you wouldn't be allowed to go there."

There was a beat of silence, before Shi said, "I can finish my story back home."

"Remember that time I shaved the wolves? You were mad. Like, really mad. I don't think I've ever seen you so mad. I asked Kel if he'd ever see you so mad before, and even he said he'd never seen you so mad before!" said Thistle, lifting her head to look at Shi. Based on Kel’s expression upon bringing it up, he still hadn’t see Shi that mad before or since.

"You shaved the wolves," replied Shi, the ghost of that past anger in her voice. "And not only did you shave them, you covered them in berry juice."

"It was war paint and it was only Anor who hated it!" said Thistle, a small smile showing. She was given a disapproving frown in return. "Okay, so Ithil definitely wasn't happy, either, but Galad LOVED it! He kept licking up the war paint, and I wasn't able to ever put enough on him!"

"You shaved the wolves AND you covered them in berry juice," repeated Shi, unhappily.

"Right, and you were super mad at me," said Thistle, nodding, glad they were on the same page. "So I ran away, and I never planned to come back, but I did."

"You were only gone for one night," said Shi, confused.

"Yeah, because where was I going to go? I mean, I thought I would just go home because clearly you didn't want me here, but that morning, I tried to figure out why I wanted to go home. It would be a familiar comfort, sure, but then what? Grandma would make some joke about me being back so soon, then she'd nap because old people nap ALL the time, and then we'd probably open an extra bottle of wine that night to celebrate, and then we’d dance and talk and then...what? It'd be the same old same old. Why did I want to rush back to that when out here, even when we're not going on adventures, you're still teaching me, and you don’t nap all day, and every day is different? Home isn't going anywhere. Why rush back to it? If I had a story left to tell, I wouldn't want it to be a boring one, would you? Although, your home sounds so much cooler than mine, but you left it for a reason, right?"

"It's not that simple, Thistle," replied Shi, quietly.

"Adults always say that when really, it is," said Thistle, rolling her eyes.

There was another pause as Shi tried to find another excuse, before she gestured towards Kel, saying, "We're already packed and ready to go."

"No you're not," said Thistle, rolling her eyes again, with more exaggeration. "You're missing that super cool wand from your super cool, death defying, adventurous grandmother, AND you're missing the surprise gift I'm working on for you. You can't leave without either of those, can you?"

"The Wand of Wonder!" exclaimed Shi before smacking her head. It was not in her possession, and she did not relish the thought of getting it back from Branwyn right then, especially not after what just happened.

"AND my surprise gift to you," reminded Thistle, patiently.

"What gift?" asked Shi, frowning.

"Well it's not a surprise if I told you," replied Thistle with a grin. "So I guess this means you can't leave yet because it's not going to be ready until I'm done with training, and I'm not done with training yet."

"Thistle," said Shi, but it was not hard to hear she was starting to cave.

"Unless you want to spit on your friendship with Branwyn, and deal with some hoity-toity royal right now, you're not getting your wand back soon. Not only that, but you're not leaving without me, and that is final, so you're not leaving until I finish training. I will be watching you to make sure you don’t try to sneak out," said Thistle, firmly, clearly unwilling to make any compromise. It brought a fleeting smile to Shi to hear Thistle using the very words she used so many times on Thistle. "Whether you leave today, or you leave in a few weeks, or you leave in a few years, Divaekah isn't going anywhere. So stay here, please, for at least a little longer. You don't even have to deal with anyone. I'll deal with them for you, and you can just hang out with the wolves and talk to Ancien and tend the shrine and forage in the forest and all that elf stuff. Okay?"

Shi did not answer right away, as it was still asking too much from her, but she finally relented some, and replied with a slight nod, "We'll take it one day at a time for now."

"Thank you!" exclaimed Thistle with a slight squeal. She hugged Shi tight and did not let go. After a couple minutes passed, and tears finally started to leak from Thistle's eyes, she whispered, "I'm really, really glad you're alive."

Meanwhile at Skull Church

Hoffman pretends to count " One, Two, ,, ... it looks like you all made it. I was going to tell you there is not much there, unless you want to take on a goblin stronghold. Yes we presume we could get to the church from there but at what cost. Yes, whomever may be at the church can probably see us, or certainly will when we approach. Did you know this was Red Cloak's hide out at one point? Thing is we were here before just to do recon, if we had a decent tracker, maybe we could have an easier time finding if and where the dwarves are here. Do we really need to explore the catacombs under the church again? Maybe this time we go to the caves, that is where I would have taken the dwarves but maybe they should decide."

Thistle's Visions (Dreams)

Through the Mist the early morning sunlight filtered down between the leaves of the canopy onto the little shrine. The handful of birds singing before sunrise were joined by a few more, each adding their own needs, desires, and thoughts to the collective conversion. The gentle sighs of the few night bloomers faded as the whispers of morning blossoms overtook them.

Shi sat quietly, listening carefully to the sounds of nature in a manner in a way she could not access before. She had tried to mediate as she had in the past, no spells, simply taking in the chirps without knowing their words, the smell of the flowers without knowing their full meaning. The brief peace she felt in that moment, like a heartbeat, drove her mad. It was a stillness of remembering what she had, and what she had lost, in her too short, unfinished journey to Arvanaith. Not that the sounds of life around her were much better at the moment. Some sounded content, one too many estatic to wake up alive, but it wasn't too hard for her biased ears to find those few melancholy notes being sung among the cacophony of life . It helped drown out the sounds of her own loneliness she could not quite shake. Unfortunately, it also did not drown out the sound of running, heavy breathing, and inevitable interruption to her tentative hold on peace.

"Oh thank Solonor you're still here!" exclaimed Thistle, gulping air.

She sat down heavily next to Shi, trying to catch her breath from her sprinting. Shi did not move except to open one eye to look at Thistle before trying to resume her meditation. It was a greeting Thistle had gotten more than once in the past, long before Shi died, and one she still didn't know how to interpret. Whether or not it meant Shi wanted to be left alone, or if she was listening, Thistle carried on anyways.

"I had a-a vision," spat out Thistle before pausing to catch a breath and steady her voice. After finally getting enough air, she repeated and continued, "I had a vision. You need to see Ancien. Now."

"You don't have visions, Thistle," remarked Shi, calmly. The subtle hint of irritation was too faint for human ears, a note only Kel could hear, if he was anywhere nearby.

"I just told you I had a vision so clearly I do," said Thistle, frowning.

"And yet for the past number of years, this is the first time I'm hearing about it?"

"I keep my visions to myself. It's only me. Er, I mean, it was only ever me on my own before you so I didn't have anyone to tell."

"Your grandmother?"

"Don't even," replied Thistle, rolling her eyes, something she knew Shi could detect somehow even with her eyes closed. "I tried to tell her about a vision once, but she thought I was making it up. And then when she found out it was true, she had me sit in her tent with her all evening to try and see more and it was super boring! So I told her I stopped seeing things so she'd leave me alone and let me go outside and play."

"Thistle," said Shi, looking at her fully, clearly not quite believing her.

"Are you really going to argue with a gypsy about if she had a vision or not?" asked Thistle in challenge. "Especially about a vision specifically about you?"

"Fine," replied Shi with a forceful sigh after a beat of silence. "What about it?"

"I already told you. You need to go see Ancien. Now. Trust me. Your future happiness depends on it!" said Thistle, a little more urgently.

Shi started to reply before abruptly biting her tongue. While she stopped herself from saying it, it was harder to hide the depth of her misery, the belief that she would never be happy again, and therefore had no future happiness to risk. Thistle gently took one of her hands into both of hers and gave it a gentle squeeze.

"Please," whispered Thistle, putting as much affection and concern as she could into that one word and gesture.

While it felt like forever to Thistle, Shi finally closed her eyes and nodded with the slighest air of defeat. With eyes still closed, and letting those last morning sounds disappear with the end of her spells, she asked, "You? Kel? The wolves?"

"It's your journey, not mine," replied Thistle, shaking her head, as she starting to pull Shi to her feet. There wasn't any resistance. "I don't know where Kel is, but if he's listening, my vision did not have him in it. I mean, that doesn't mean he can't go, but the conversation I saw with Ancien is specific to you. I did see something near you, too. It probably was one of the wolves, but I'm not sure. Oh! Maybe it means you'll make a new friend? Hmm, well take Anor, at least. She's... not talking to me right now."

"I heard your conversation with her last night," said Shi, looking at Thistle as they went to fetch Anor and a few items for the trip. There was an inkling of a smile forming. "You do realize that you insulted her? You put too much emphasis on that low growl and not enough pitch in the following whine. I don't know what, exactly, you were attempting to tell her, but you insulted her ancestors, her left toe, and her fur coat."

"No wonder she started grooming herself after snapping at me," muttered Thistle, mostly to herself. That ghost of a smile from Shi grew just a little bit more.

It did not take long to get Shi setting off down the forest path, Anor close to her side, but sending a glare in Thistle's direction. Thistle walked with them only part of the way, making sure Shi wouldn't change her mind, catching the rare smile as Shi lightly admonished Anor for her attitude towards Thistle. The shrine had hardly disappeared among the leaves when Thistle stopped and gave Shi a hug.

"I'll wait for you at home. If he doesn't already know, I'll tell Kel where you went. This is a good vision, I promise, but be careful, okay?" said Thistle, tentatively, as she let go.

"I'm sure I'll be back soon enough," replied Shi with a small nod. She was given a hesitant, but hopeful smile in return. Shi started to walk away before Thistle caused her to briefly pause as she called after her.

"Oh! And I forgot to tell you! Let the rain wash you clean! You'll know. Trust me!" yelled Thistle, waving at Shi with a grin. Shi shook her head, true smile this time, and resumed walking away. She did not turn back around, and so she did not see the grin fade into obvious worry, and optimistic planning.

Good. She can't try to runaway today, Thistle thought to herself, watching Shi disappear into the forest. Now what other visions can I have to make sure she stays here longer?

While Thistle planned her next move, Shi made her way towards Ancien with Anor keeping close to her side. The forest was quiet, peaceful, the tranquility only broken as Shi got closer to where she thought Ancien might be, and softly said, "Ancien? Are you here? Thistle told me I needed to come see you?"

"Harrurmmmmmm, I called you? I do not remember that curious animal friend elf girl building home I needed you. Hmmmm, did you need me? How are the young saplings growing? When you have seen them for ten or twenty springs you must tell me how they are faring."

"All the children? More like weeds than saplings," replied Shi, finally spotting Ancien. She gave a small shrug. "They grow too fast to be saplings. Even in her short time with us, Thistle has grown, in so many ways." There was the slightest pause as Shi trailed off, but she shook her head and that current thought from her mind. "Thistle claims she had a vision. In her words, 'You need to see Ancien. Now. Your future happiness depends on it'."

There was another slight pause, another small shake of her head, and a hand brushing Anor on the head, before Shi said, "I apologize for bothering you. I suspected she was making it up. I do not know why, but... well, sorry."

"Hmmmmmm, No not the hurried warm fire using young ones. That is your chosen group to watch over and help grow. You will guide them and show them in their quick short lives. What of the saplings that are growing and shaping in the happy mystic place you are growing? My youngsters take more than a quick sharp frost to harden their centers."

"Oh, the actual saplings. If they tell you they are happy, that is good. I am still learning their dialect. I've been speaking to animals for far longer. It is only recently I was granted the gift to speak to the saplings. I gave them the illusion of company, trees that do not exist except by spell, yet give them protection and aspirations for growth. But it's only an illusion. I cannot tell if they know, and if they also find out the hard way it's all an illusion...," said Shi, trailing off with a note of melancholy. "What happiness do they find there? Because it currently eludes me."

"Does the sap run strong inside? Or do you slumber and rot away from within? If you are rotten inside then I will need another companion to leave the Wood for me. "

"No, this is not like Heart Rot," said Shi, shaking her head, slightly insulted. "It is more like ...well, a literal lightning strike." Shi winced slightly. "Or, perhaps, a wildfire. Damaging, but not necessarily the end. The sap is there, but moving like Winter, awaiting Spring. Or, maybe, it's like our Tree of Life, risen from the ashes, but only once far from its origins. It is just ...waiting. For the right conditions, but I do not know what they are."

"Hmmm Once I thought spring was here. I was moving my limbs and stretching my twigs. It felt like the entire Wood was alive and moving again. I had thought that I might move south and tear that stone tower apart piece by piece until each stone was shattered into good worn rocks that a root could grip and grow around. I wanted to push all the slippery soft hasty nasty quick goblins into the ground and cover them with roots until they were feeding the worms for a spring or two. It was a morning of bright sharp movement with the breeze in the Wood and the water gliding over the grass. I marshaled the Wood into moving south. We took the the first ridge that the quick sharp men built and broke it into pieces. We strode over the rise and broke through to shatter the wall and felt the water drain away into the marsh as it should. The land grew firm, we took root and the Wood grew. Then we moved again to take back more from the sharp pointed hands of the warm fire quick men. We drained the lands so they could not grow grass. We pooled the water in deep dark glens. The Wood grew and I thought that Spring had brought a warm and powerful summer.



Then a sharp Arahael quick bow, long stride, far seeing, Mosskin foolishly came into my glen to treat with me. He said that the quick warm fire men in the north were gone. He said that if we moved south that they would be gone there too. He made my sap sing, his words told me good things were about to happen in our summer.



Then Arahael quick bow, long stride, far seeing, Mosskin showed me how the warm fire men from where we drained the land became cold not dead moving men. We were not worried for dead moving men do not harm the Wood. Yet Arahael quick bow, long stride, far seeing, Mosskin spoke of how warm quick fast men would maybe protect the Wood from other warm quick fast men if the warm quick fast men were not to have so many of the cold not dead moving men. We spoke for a full Spring of what the Wood would do and how the Wood would prosper. In the end Arahael quick bow, long stride, far seeing, Mosskin promised me that he would help protect the Wood if we helped protect the lands to the south of the Wood past the broken ridge.

It has only been forty springs that I have kept my promise to protect Arahael quick bow, long stride, far seeing, Mosskin from the cold not dead moving men. How many springs has it been for you to protect your fast warm fire men curious animal friend elf girl building home?

"Forty springs is not too long, but it is longer than mine," replied Shi, hesitating, as she sat on the ground, petting the patient Anor. "I never thought of it as protecting them. I can't wield huge fireballs like Branwyn, nor swing a sword like Tiberius. I'm nowhere near the healer that Kenna is, and I'm certainly not as fearless as Ilero. But ...none of them can wield a bow like I can or know the ways of nature. Am I protecting them or adventuring with them?"

There was a silence as Shi sat and thought some more, before she said, "I did not know the undead have been a problem for so many decades. That is not normal. We were on our way to investigate that before ...In all those years Arahael quick bow, long stride, far seeing, Mosskin promised to protect you, did he ever once disappoint you? Or act in a way that was contrary to your expectations? As you say, they are quick fast men and sometimes their actions are not what those of us who move slow would expect."

"Hmmmmmmm, branches grow where they find a way. Your saplings move and grow in ways you did not expect. They did not know they were going to grow that way yet you have a home there. Are you disappointed the leaves did not fall into a pattern you designed?"

"My expectations are too high? I expect shade no matter the pattern they become, but I suppose even that is dependent on the time of day," replied Shi before giving a sigh. "So now what?"


"Young curious animal friend elf girl building mystic place and home, perhaps you should go speak with young quick branwyn long hair quick tongue sharp eye tree healer mother of flowers protector of woods and tell young quick branwyn long hair quick tongue sharp eye tree healer mother of flowers how your home grows and how Young curious animal friend elf girl building mystic place and home is guiding your charges"

Return from Court of Thanes

After 20200228

Hoffman looks as if he is thinking, clearly biting his tongue over the mention of Red Cloak, and spends some time trying to refocus before starting to twitch at the thought of Tiberius dealing with Gnomes. "Um, Excuse me Branwyn, but if what you said the other day, you want me in charge of security, certainly this is more of a task for security than a head of state? Besides, I certainly have more experience and connections with Gnomes. Tell me if I am out of line, or at least let me sit in on the meeting.

“Of course, Hoffman. It would be nice for you and Tiberius to work together on this. Just remember,” Branwyn added, “that this will be an agreement with Dragon Fen. Anything agreed upon I will have to honor, what with you leaving Dragon Fen soon.”

"Well, I thought we were considering this an expansion of Dragon Fen, I am sure that is what the Queen will call it, just as I know how long it will take for them to stop calling it Skull Church. But for the Gnomes, the important thing is that we are going to the source of the problem and will continue from there." Hoffman says confidently

Hoffman gives the bag of gold to Nevin. "This is from the Gnome for protection of the village near the woods. A little more information before the meeting would help." he says as calm as he can be before heading out into the woods to find Kel. The wolves find Hoffman first and while they do not attack, they do not make home feel at home. They feels like bouncers escorting him to see the boss in the back room, allowing it but not happy about it. When he gets to Kel, the mood brightens a bit and Hoffman tried to be casual. "Hey Kel, sorry to bother you. Not sure if you want to or are ready to talk but I did have some business to let you know about. The Gnome farming village, just outside the woods are officially paying for protection. You and I both know we would protect them without payment but in case they ask, it's legit. They don't want to be a part of Dragon Feb, but now rather than keep and eye out, you might want to actually watch for any issue.
Oh, and the gang is going to go back to Skull Church, if it worked out I maybe assigned there like your assigned here, so it may be awhile. Take care of yourself."

After 20200403

Hoffman looks to talk to Branwyn "So, just a little info, to prepare for some of the possible situations we may encounter. Uncle Foto can cast a spell that will make someone immune to your fireball, so if I say it's ok to cast, trust me it's ok. But also, have you decided who you want with the ring to control undead? Do you think it should be someone weak with nothing else to do or someone strong enough to control themselves?"

“I did not know that about Uncle Foto. Very good. I’m not expecting I’ll be able to start too many fires once we are inside, but you never know,” Branwyn replied. “And I do trust you, Hoffman.’

‘As far as the ring is concerned, I have given it to Drayven for the time being. With these paladins and all the potions and scrolls for dealing with undead, we might not even need to use the ring at all. My choice was based on who I thought would not hesitate to use it if needed and someone I thought could be able to bear whatever burden may come from invoking such an object. It is evil. Necholas is not wrong. But what is coming out of that church is a larger evil to my mind. I’m willing to fight that with whatever tools are available. If I see it hurt Drayven, you just may see me take it back.”

Branwyn gave a small laugh. “It is times like this that I do wish that Jennevive was with us.”

Hoffman shakes his head "I have a better I understanding of why we have to maintain civil relationships with people like Aunt Jen but I do not trust her enough to make her any more powerful than they are. If we hope to get this area under control, we are going to have to do it ourselves.

A quick aside during 20200410

{Bob: I will give Lisa and TMO (no other characters are part of this) a chance for a short interaction here and the point where Brer Necholas (TMO) turns to watch the wagon careen down the hill. "Heh. Clever." happens. About 10 minutes worth of talk.)

Branwyn looks at the pile of cloth dolls by the window and her eyes narrow. She starts forward then stops as her mouth tightens. Brer notices her reaction and starts forward as well. Grolduk says, "I do not like the look of those dolls". Brer concentrates on the dolls looking for evil intent. The entire farmhouse and barn glows an malevolent red in Brer's vision. Grolduk pours a flask of oil over the dolls and lights them on fire. Branwyn says "If you are going to make a fire make it small, very small. I do not want to touch them. It could trigger something be ready" Brawnyn looks in the window of the farmhouse then jumps back from the flames.

Brer looks at Branwyn with a question on his face. Branwyn says in a cold voice, "They were of my children. He is a monster and needs to be destroyed." Then Dray calls out "Going in" as he enters the barn.

Brer's hooded face looks at the dolls as they burn, then up at Branwyn's set face. "Mortals are as capable of evil as any of the undead. They're also able to change their ways. Don't harden your heart to the point where death is the only solution. It may still be necessary, but make it his choice, not your mandate. I'm here to help you, especially against the undead that stain this place. But I hope I can also help you personally. With your power and your youth, you walk a narrow road, with steep falls to either side. I hope I can help guide you, help you through this place without losing your humanity."

Branwyn stared at the fire watching the dolls burn. “This level of evil will not change. This isn’t a dalliance with the dark side. This is his passion. At this very moment, I don’t know if I will kill him or not. I have not and will not kill anyone who yields before me. Do you see him yielding?” she asked, not expecting or really wanting an answer.

“But unless he kills me first, I will tell you he will not be able to practice his magic again. One way or another. His books will burn. If he manages to keep his life, he will lose those parts of him that can create magic. Evil can continue to fester in his heart with nowhere for it to go. If you wish to help me, make him yield. Or pray that Snee or Foto has a hold spell. When my family and my people are safe, then we can see about me.”

The firelight deepens the shadows underneath his cloak, highlighting the occasional white streaks in his beard. "I'm not in the habit of being soft on evil, as you can guess. It may very well come to death for one of you. I'm not bothered by that, death has been my companion since long before you were born. But I've also seen others become the villains unintentionally through the best intentions. If I can help one person avoid that fate, especially one with your gifts, it saves a lot of suffering down the line."

He smiles at her. "I heard a phrase once that I like. "I'm trying to cast a light into the future." "

(Right after the events of 20200626

Hoffman sighs. "Oh well, back the way we came. Maybe this is a sign..." His voice trails off as he pats himself down again for good measure. "Yes, It is a sign." (OOC "Yea, Going out of business sign")

(Right after events of 20200710 )

Hoffman opens his eyes and sees Black Cloak and tackles him (more of an overbear, not a random wrestling move ) and is struggling with him , two black cloaks rolling around on the ground when he hears Lord Tiberius above him haunting say "We can bring you back" as he unleashes a furry of attacks killing both the warrior and the mage in black cloaks. Hoffman shakes his head and opens his eyes again, he is not dead, he did not tackle black cloak and he paid the price. Weak and exhausted he tries not thinking of her but he does and it dawns on him. He examines Black Cloak's body closely, looking for spell components. If this is really Black Cloak, he would need to have something on him.

(Right Before the Healing Dream )

Hoffman looks intently at Branwyn.

"Everything is going to be ok. ... But I had a thought. Maybe when you get some replacement chain mail for me, you can get someone to make me a nice suit of armor like Brer's. I think that would be rather impressive for when I meet the Queen and maybe help me not get beat up so much? I also liked how, you know that guy thew the ax, not how he threw it but the fact he threw it. Maybe if I had a few more axes, I could throw them more."

He takes a deep breath before continuing

"Maybe I'm just tired. I just feel like so many things are possible now, like a wight has been lifted off me"

Hoffman's Dream