Hidden 4 mos ago Post by ERode
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By the time Sorcha came to view, Isidore found himself settled, his emotions in check and a stalwart purpose behind every movement again. Was this just experience, or had part of his 'peak human' status helped with the processing of toxins that his liver was currently handling? Regardless, he tilted his head slightly to the side at the swordswoman's reaction and said, "I'm perfectly lucid, Sorcha. And it's no problem. Considering circumstances, Leuca most likely needed some fun anyhow."

Still too many words. His tongue was still loosened by that ale, and Isidore still found himself speaking before contemplating. He frowned slightly, but whatever concerns he had, whatever thoughts, were chased away by Augusta's arrival.

Though the tower certainly hadn't done her any favors in terms of hygiene, with three days of travel bearing heavily on her otherwise alabaster complexion, the difference a well-made dress alone turned Augusta from merely being merely beautiful to being on the cusp of breath-taking. The mixture of colors was reminiscent of the night sky, golden embellishments a mimicry of the moon's splendor. It was curious, that the Urutha, a subterranean race, drew such inspiration from the night sky. Portions of it looked padded though, at least from what he recalled of the woman's silhouette before, serving to accentuate Augusta's natural curves in a tasteful fashion. Useless as protection, but aesthetically pleasing. Isidore kept his mouth from falling open like a punk in the throes of hormonally-driven attraction, however, and nodded at her.

"You look good," he said, unbuckling the rapier from his belt and offering it to her. "This will complete the look."

Retrospectively, Isidore may have done well to save some of his dinner for Octavia to enjoy as well, but surely if Augusta could afford a dress, she could've afforded a meal for their pet as well. He gave the demonic dog a scratch behind the ears instead, before following in Sorcha's footsteps, settling into the posture he always used when in a meeting with professionals: back straight, eyes forward, shoulders back, and movements deliberate. The Queen of the Urutha, no matter how influential, was not his queen.

Her palace room still gave him pause though.

A waterfall that created a pseudo-moat around the room, and a throne cut from a massive mushroom that exuded enough of a ghostly radiance to light up the room all by itself? In a past life, this would have been childishly gaudy, the fantasy of an immature dreamer, but here, it only reflected the otherworldly prestige of the palace's owner, Queen Vasserasa No-Last-Name. An Urutha different from the others he'd seen, affected perhaps by the demon that served as Gloomhaven's guardian so many years back. Her dress was understated and elegant, her arms slim but solid. Her countenance was a mask, the same mask that so many other people of influence had learned to perfect, yet worn so naturally that Isidore wouldn't have been surprised if it was simply her natural face. And her crown...

Her crown was silver.

Isidore narrowed his eyes, ever so slightly, but relaxed just as swiftly. Sorcha being constantly referred to as the Storm Bearer was something worth keeping in mind. Not so different from being referred to as the Undertaker or the Midnight Man, really. A title, manifested from a reputation potent enough to reach across nations, in a world without global media. Impressive.

Perhaps he'll make an impression as well.

"Call me Isidore," the dark-haired man spoke, striding purposefully across the room towards Vasserasa. His gaze flickered briefly towards the male beside her, whether attendant, guard, or husband, lingering just long enough to show that he was seen, before settling back upon the queen's eyes. "Of those gathered here, I'm the least remarkable, but I thank you yet for the hospitality you extend. After such long travels, it is soothing to see such a pleasant city, no matter the gazes of its occupants."

He stopped at the stairs leading up to the throne, allowing the queen to keep her high ground, and extended one hand forward for a shake.

"And it's wonderful too, to have affirmed once more that this world full of great horrors will balance itself out with greater beauty."
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Novak

Novak still had more questions, most importantly what was going on with Leannah, but it looked like the Illuminator had lost interest in them. He felt a sense of dread rising within him over just what he had gotten himself into. Lazhira had made it clear that she believed it to be a very bad idea to do this, and Iva’Krorh had made it clear that there would be dire consequences if Novak reneged on their agreement.

He didn't see any other choice of course, not if he didn't want to hand over Lazhira, the girl who had done so much to help him and the others out, or at least that's what he assured himself. Regardless of her unwillingness to disclose anything about herself- something that Novak certainly wasn't guiltless in doing- she didn't deserve to be trapped here with this crazy god. The town certainly wouldn't believe them if they returned without Lazhira and claimed to have met the Illuminator in the flesh, who coerced them into handing the girl over.

But what did Lazhira think of this? Would her gratitude for him talking Iva’Krorh out of taking her amount to anything, or would she consider it more important to prevent the Illuminator from retrieving the orb? Would she backstab Novak at first opportunity using whatever powers or skills she had concealed from him? And if she did, would Narkissa cover for her, disdainful as she clearly was of Novak? Just what sort of person was Lazhira really like? Perhaps he should've asked the Illuminator about this while the god was in the mood to answer questions.

Just what have I gotten myself into?

Novak stepped away from the hag and back into the laboratory room so that they may converse away from the Illuminator. "Well, what do you think we should do now? There's still one unopened door down here, and Leannah still hasn't returned. I don't like the thought of leaving her behind in this place." He didn't want to talk about the deal he made with the Illuminator, so he hoped that focusing on more pressing matters would push that into the back of their minds.

It might not be a good idea to spend the night here, but if they needed to, there was a living space on this level, with beds and a kitchen.

"Speaking of leaving," he continued, "You two heard the Illuminator's warning too, right? Be careful though on the way out, the foolishness of mortals can’t always comprehend the words of a God and may act rashly. It sounds like there's trouble waiting for us if we leave. Lazhira, what do you make of this warning? Do you know who the Illuminator may be referring to? Are there people in this region who still worship him? The people who resided in this temple, for example, are any of them still around?"

@Rune_Alchemist@Click This
Hidden 4 mos ago Post by Pyromania99
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Augusta appreciated the looks her companions had gave her as she arrived. Truthfully, this dress was a lot better looking than she thought she was going to get. The tailor definitely had great taste in outfits. "I didn't really pay much but lip service for this. And a future promise I suppose. Regardless, I left my other dress with the tailor in hopes it'll be repaired some time." The elf mentioned as she looked over the dress. This one would also be somewhat better for the cold weather outside. Then Isidore handed over a rapier to her, telling her it would "finish" the outfit. She smiled as she took the weapon. "My, a weapon for me? Well, I won't say no to this in this dangerous world."

Then, they headed to the Uruthra Palace. Augusta thought she was ready for anything at this point, but boy was she wrong. The place was like it was straight out of an old fantasy movie. A mushroom throne, waterfall behind it... Truly it was difficult to imagine this prior had she not seen it. And the queen herself! She was as a being that appeared in one's dream. Even in this fantasy setting that Augusta found herself in, the queen was still a standout. Curious, Augusta used the power of her eye but was only met with a message that resounded in her head. It wasn't the same enigmatic message the goddess liked to give her. No. this was the queen herself interfering with her gift. She was glad to have met Sorcha first, as the woman's status gave her the composure to deal with this situations more.

The queen knew her name. Her ability even it would seem. She swallowed back but the queen seemed intrigued? No, rather, amused by something. That something was her, wasn't it? Augusta thought to use her eye again but... Well, that seemed a poor decision at the moment. Rather, she thought about how to introduce herself. Isidore beat her to the punch and introduced himself. Well, if the queen already knew... When Isidore was finished with his introduction, Augusta gracefully took some steps forward. She gave a small curtsy to the queen and then met her amused gaze. "Greetings, Your Majesty. We are pleased to finally make your acquaintance." She mentioned giving her a smile. "And, while I feel it is only polite to introduce myself to Your Majesty, I have very recently come to ponder if you in your grand wisdom have need for an introduction from us. If in your magnanimous mercy you would forgive these words, I would appreciate it." Her words had a sense of elegance to them, despite basically calling out the queen.

"However, for those that have yet to know, I shall enlighten them." Her look turned to the guards but, more particularly to the rather effeminate male standing near to the Queen. "This one is known as Augusta Aquilonia." The next part was directed towards the Queen. "Please feel at ease to refer to me merely as 'Augusta'." If the Queen knew enough, it was not unlikely she knew the elf's name from her previous life. It's not that she'd have disliked being called Bella, but it complicated things, did it not?
Hidden 4 mos ago Post by PKMNB0Y
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Visiting the herbalist again was quite valuable, as Misaki soon found out; the old lady seemed more than happy to indulge her in her efforts to understand the flora in the region, and the presence of something that did fit her criteria for bamboo immediately put her on track for something useful. Even if she couldn't make paper out of wood pulp or something more in line with papyrus, scrolls made out of bamboo (or in this case, a bamboo-equivalent plant) would serve just as well for her purposes.

That was the emergency backup plan, though; as she dropped off what she had collected and bid the old lady farewell, Misaki made a swift beeline towards Lady Mie's entourage—and towards the woman herself.

"I apologize for my late visit, Lady Mie," the white-haired foxgirl began, bowing out of instinct as she spoke, "but this is less of a direct question regarding your wares. Do you by any chance have any paper or ink on hand I could look at? This is an odd question, I admit, but..."

Really, understanding where that set of things was technologically was just as important for the sake of production. There was no way to make massive amounts of paper in a village like this, especially given the situation, but if bamboo pulp paper made with screens was a viable option, then there was really no reason to not emulate that process. Even if the result was of lower quality than she might have liked, it was still better than nothing.

Ink, on the other hand... That was probably doable with charcoal or soot, but using quality control in situations like this never hurt.

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Narkissa Langdon


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What a lovely little god this was. And by lovely, she meant anything but. At the very least, her gambit seemed to pay off. The Illuminator had entirely focused her (his?) attention on the empty-headed man and his promise and not her. Narkissa wasn’t under any illusion that she’d pulled a fast one on a god, though, let alone one that was the god of knowledge. It didn’t take an omnipotent being to notice that she was skirting around making an oath, and if the Illuminator wanted to collect from her despite her implicit refusal to make a deal, she knew there was nothing stopping the god from doing so.

All the more of an incentive to leave this place as soon as she could, especially after hearing the evil god’s parting words.

“Right. So. Us three are going to have much to talk about later. But right now, I’d like to prioritize our survival,” Narkissa said, as soon as they were out of earshot of the Illuminator and her corpse dance. Nonetheless, she gave Lazhira a very apologetic look for putting her in such an awkward position. She was glad she was able to save the girl, though. “I don’t want to leave Leannah alone either, but we might be forced to,” she lamented. They did not, in fact, have a hydraulic jack, after all, nor could she probably recreate one with magic yet upon second thought. And like Novak, she did not like that god’s warning at all.

“I get the impression that there are, in fact, some more rabid followers, by the way she spoke. As much as I want to leave, now, we need to do some scouting. How about this; let’s get back to the tar pit first. Novak can shimmy up the rope and peek his head out to see if the coast is clear up top, and then we can plan from there,” she suggested, shamelessly volunteering the man up first.
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Malphas
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While an ambush was a bit too uncouth for Malphas's taste, it was probably the best thing they could do given their advantageous position and resources at this time. Either they succeed and the Illuminator gifts him with his favor, or they fail and Malphas flees the scene before he is caught. The outcome means little to Malphas, seeing as he'll be gone before long. As far as leading this troupe into battle goes, however, was another issue. As much as Malphas wants to avoid getting his hands too dirty, he still has the poison on his dagger as well as the poisons collected by the hunters. With that and the home-field advantage in mind, this ambush probably wouldn't be too difficult. For now, he'll indulge in this bloodthirsty hunter's request.

It's the only way Malphas is able to secure more of that poison, after all.

"We'll split into two groups, then. One group will be tasked with capturing this girl, while the other will serve as a distraction for the other travelers. If you've collected enough of those herbs for an ambush, then we'll need to put them on your weapons right away. You shouldn't underestimate the physical capabilities of those travelers, so you'll want every advantage you can take against them." Malphas drew his poisoned dagger, spinning it in his hand. "As for the thief, we'll need the swiftest of us on her, myself included. We'll go in after the first group throws their party into disarray."

Malphas gave everyone a look-over once more, before being reminded of something.

"Ah, and before we continue... I'll need a mask. They might recognize me, and some of them may know what I'm capable of. We can't have that now, can we?"
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Into the depths?
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“...The hunters.” Lazhira replied with a glance towards Narkissa. “He probably meant the hunters. Most of them still do, I think.” She frowned, glancing back towards where the God was still hanging about as she listened to Narkissa’s suggestion. It was a good suggestion, but she didn’t want to cause a scene with the hunters...though it was also likely too late to find some way to just sneak out. “That’s...sort of why I didn’t hang around when they approached us when you guys first arrived. I can’t be sure who is or isn’t, or if...” Her voice trailed off, frowning.

But a plan had been set, and it was an easy enough to follow. The trek back to the temples entrance was easy enough. The creature using the skull as a home seemed to have left them alone, and as far as he could tell was gone completely, having vanished somewhere else into the temple. Once they arrived at the pit, though, Lazhira would pause.

“Uhm...h-hey, you may want to use that mask if you’re going up. It...may help.” Lazhira suggested. Maybe she knew more about it than she was letting on again, but he probably didn’t have the luxury to ask her about it. It would take little effort to climb up the rope, and Novak would find the temple area above exactly as they left it. Remnants of the battle with the slimes were left, black slimy oil stuck to the floor with bones of various humanoids left on the ground where it died.

But his own eyes could perceive nothing out of the ordinary.

Should he elect to do as Lazhira said, however, and don the mask again, things would be a slight bit different. While there were no people to be seen, as the black and white monochrome color of the masks sight would cover his vision, he’d notice a faint shimmer of an arrow stuck in the floor near the entrance of the temple. A small silvery white line would slowly meander its way from the hole to the door, where it would abruptly stop. Likewise, a float mask with disembodied hands would be attempting to grab a mark similar to the one on Lazhira’s arm.

Upon the floor were flowers of a similar color, growing from the floor and dripping with some thick, viscous liquid.

What exactly it meant, was difficult to discern - but if this mask had shown him something that happened in this temple, then perhaps it could show him something that could potentially happen? But how exactly would he determine what it meant? Either way, it was likely something was waiting up there to ambush them.



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“Ink? Paper?” Mie took a sip of the clearly alcoholic beverage at her side. “Hmm...If you mean the bamboo slips I use to write my inventory on then yes, but...they’re not really for sale.” The fox would inform Misaki. “I’m surprised you have knowledge of it. Its something those human’s came up with to help repel evil and empower their magics...I only learned of it after...well, lets say a trade deal in my favor, fufu.” She chuckled. “They’re quite protective of it. I usually keep it under lock and key. I could run a profit on it, but eh, more useful to myself than to sell to these people. I take it you need some of it?”

Mie would fix Misaki with a grin.

“Alright, alright, over here.” She’d hop off the table, leading Misaki away from the main tent that was quickly emptying of people as the Oni put away the wares for the night. Once leaving through the back of the tent, Mie would lead her to what was obviously a storehouse for various goods she’d sell. Rather than paper, it seemed as though she was more referring to strips of bamboo that had been dried, and then preserved in a method fit for writing on. They were stored in large stacks, locked in a chest away from the elements.

She’d take a few and hand them to Misaki to inspect.

“And...before you ask how much, I wasn’t really planning on selling any. Truthfully, I doubt you have the monetary compensation to pay me in any fashion.” Mie continued with a sigh. “...but well, I’ll consider it a gift from one fox to another. Its rare I meet someone from my homeland out here, even rarer one of my kin that is on friendly terms with me. I suppose they’ve all forgotten little ol’ me, how distressing, ha~” She’d idly comment with a light chuckle. “Take a few slips if you want, but if you want more, well, I can only be so generous.”

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“I see my guests are blessed with tongues of nectar and sharp wit...and possessing quite the odd custom.” The Queen smiled, she would tentatively take Isidore's hand. Her grip was as one might expect of her appearance - far from firm in any since of the word, leaving one to wonder if they were even holding anything to start with. As she released Isidore's hand, her gaze slowly turned towards Leuca. “I am glad to see you have arrived mostly unharmed. Sorcha has told me of what happened...though I fear it was more than a simple raiding party.” Some of the guards seemed less than amused with Augusta’s words, though all kept their tongue to themselves.

“A-ah? W-what do you mean, your majesty?” Leuca questioned, frowning as she considered the words. Sorcha would place a hand on Leuca’s shoulder gently squeezing it.

“In time, child. I’m sure you are all exhausted from the trek from sea, to mountain, to the earth. We can discuss things more in depth one you’ve all had a rest. There is still time for that, at least. First, another introduction.” She would motion to the male next to her. “This, is my son. Nesherit. He will be your guide while you stay here. If there is anything you need, please, he will be more than happy to assist.” The rather youthful looking male would take a few steps forward towards the group. He appeared much similar to the other Shadow Elves, grey colored skin with white hair, and eyes of blue. His tight fitting top covered only his chest, and a pair of elbow length gloves adorned his hands, though they left his palms and the tips of his fingers uncovered.

“I...yes, I am Prince Nesherit of Gloomhollow.” Nesherit would reply slowly. “Mother has deemed me to be your...guide, at the palace and the city should you have need of it.” He didn’t look particularly happy about this.

“Nesherit, be a little more kind.”

“S-sorry, I just wasn’t expecting to do...this,” He motioned vaguely towards the group. “today.”

“Yes yes, but mingling with something other than books or your studies will do you some good, child. Maybe learn some eloquence from Augusta.”

“Tch...I...yes, I suppose I could do that.”

“My sons' distaste for socialization aside, allow me to get on with one of the reasons you are here, little Leuca.”

“R-right...I was told I was going to be learning history and magic from, uhm, Rullphana? I think.”

“That is correct. And in turn we would learn bladework and about your histories from you and Sorcha. It is a...small step forward, but an overall welcome one even if the King was rather...forceful about it. That man has no sense of discretion...” She’d straighten her posture, waving a hand at the group. “That will be all for now, travelers. Unless you have further questions for me, Nesherit will show you to your rooms. I will have Rullphana come fetch you tomorrow after you’ve had sufficient rest. And I’ll have someone bring you a change of clothes too, Leuca.”

“A-ah, right! Okay. I’ll be glad to get out of these...”

“I expect you to inform the group of what we discussed, Storm-Bearer.”

“Of course your majesty.”

“...Right, erm, well, if you would follow me...” Nesherit would say. The Prince would lead the group to a trio of rooms that had been seemingly just set aside from them - Sorcha and Leuca in one, Isidore in another, and Augusta in another. The rooms were mostly the same, luxurious carpet covering a stone floor, the lighting being handled by bioluminescent mushrooms. The beds were made of the finest materials they seemed to be able to make, with little plants and other growths covering the interior, between the cracks in the stone though it seemed more intentional.

Once Nesherit had led them to their individual rooms and any questions had been asked, Sorcha would pull everyone aside, into hers and Leucas room assuming there was nothing left or needed of the prince. The Prince would leave the moment he was no longer needed, muttering something under his breath and heading back to what seemed to be the throne room.

Once she was sure they were alone, Sorcha would turn to the group.

“...it seems the Apostles may not have just been there looking for trouble from someone.” Sorcha would begin, once everyone had been settled in the room. “Her majesty has informed me that there is a certain faction in Gloomhollow and the dwarven city that seeks to do Leuca harm, though what and who neither of us can say for certain, and at the moment we have a single lead - Firebeard.”

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“Hmm...no objections from me, then.” The hunter said with a nod. “Fine. I’ll go with the first group, and make sure to see if I can split her off from the others. You’ll come in with the second after. I’d say don’t take any longer than five minutes, but I’ll leave when to you.” And with that, the hunter would walk off, motioning for Malphas to follow. A number of hunters had been gathered inside this temple.

“The general plan is this. I take five. You take five.” He’d say, taking a spear from one that was offered by another hunter. “Don’t be afraid to get a little rough - as long as she’s alive we’ll be happy.” He would then offer Malphas a mask, unlike the ones in the old temple, these were smooth, made of wood, but had eye holes for use. “Do what you want with these five. We’ll go ahead and get into position. Don’t make us wait.” This left Malphas with only a little time, but perhaps he could say something to these five hunters that may...motivate them a bit more.

Meanwhile, the hunter would already leave with five, for the temple and get themselves into position.
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Misaki's eyes widened ever so slightly at Mie's initial response, the foxgirl having realized her blunder as soon as the shopkeeper mentioned what she was using to keep records. The scrolls that were in Enli's house had led her to expect otherwise, but the fact that Mie was using bamboo to keep tabs on her sales meant that technology on that front had likely regressed the the point of nonexistence—doubly so, given how Mie was surprised that she even knew of such a thing.

Before she could give a proper response, though, Mie left for the storehouse, and Misaki found no real reason to stay behind when she was offering to show them to her. As much as she desired to keep herself out of the spotlight, lacking something as fundamental as paper (or, well, fundamental from her point of view) was not something she could accept.

The bamboo slips that the shopkeeper revealed to her were about what she had expected while processing the matter mentally on the walk over. Compared to what she was used to, they were far from ideal; workable, yes, but given the high cost associated with them, Misaki was a bit disinclined to use them. As much as she wanted something to work with, these were still fundamentally a last resort for her.

With that said, this chain of conversations had put a spark of an idea into her mind.

"Ah... Thank you for the offer, but I must decline," she said, returning what Mie had given her with a smile. "Recordkeeping is essential in this line of business, and something like this is a bit too valuable for me to accept at the moment. Even so, I must thank you for the opportunity; you've given me a bit of inspiration for the rest of my time here."

Assuming that Lady Mie did not press her any further, the white-haired foxgirl would promptly leave the premises, making her way off to the side before deciding to take a detour to the beach. She needed somewhere to organize her thoughts, and even at this time of day, she could use light to illuminate the sand as she charted out what she needed to handle.

It'd be a troublesome road to make paper, but if she succeeded, then the theoretical return would be insanely high; if her cover as a person from another world was gone anyways, then there was really no point in trying to play coy, right?

@VitaVitaAR@Rune_Alchemist
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Novak

Novak looked over the images that the mask showed him, trying to figure out what they meant.

The arrow is pretty obvious- they must have bowmen. For all I know they may have archers hiding in the fog, ready to fire as soon as they have a clear shot. The mask grabbing the symbol...it looks like the symbol on Lazhira. She seems afraid of them...it might mean that they're here for her, which would make sense considering her disfavor with the Illuminator. The flowers...I've no idea what that means. Perhaps Lazhira might understand the symbolism.

Novak quickly climbed back down the rope, not wanting to leave himself open to getting shot. His climb back down gave him a bit of time to ponder on the situation. If the hunters were worshiping the Illuminator, it'd explain why the Kyrinth was upset. Not only were they breaking the village's covenant, but for all Novak knew, the hunters might be killing things or encroaching on territory that they shouldn't.

It was a shame the Kyrinth wasn't here right now, because the more Novak thought about it on his way down the shaft, the more dire their situation seemed. If it was the hunters lying in wait, that meant Novak and the others wouldn't be safe even if they made it back to the village. The mask might allow Novak to identify Illuminator worshipers among the villagers, but Enli couldn't punish them without evidence. Upon reaching the bottom, he removed the mask, showing visible worry upon his face, and reported what he saw.

"The mask showed me a few disconcerting images in the Temple, images that weren't there before. An arrow, a...something grabbing a symbol that looked like the one on Lazhira, and some flowers with something dripping from them, I'm not sure what that last one meant, but I don't think we should go up there." He left out the detail about the phantom mask, worried that it'd draw suspicion upon him.

"I'm afraid I don't have a lot of ideas on how to tackle this," he admitted. "If Lazhira's right and it's the village hunters, they'll probably know the terrain better than us, and even if we do make it back to the village, what's stopping them from killing or abducting us in our sleep? If we surrender, they'll probably kill us to keep their secret safe. The only thing I can think of is to hunker down here and find whatever we can on this level to even the odds. I don't suppose either of you have any ideas?"

There was one advantage that Novak saw- their foes couldn't anticipate that their arrival was warned of by their own god.

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The Journey Begins


~ Dawn ~


Interacted with: @Rune_Alchemist


“Dunno, but he followed a hunter out...maybe he had business with them?”
Lady Mie


Nick sighed. Looks like he just missed Donovan. Should he try to find the guy? He really should but Nick had no idea who this hunter was nor an inkling on where they could've went.

“Only sage I know is one that supposedly visited Chagawa once in the past, but the Guardian Beasts wanted nothing to do with them so forbid them from entering. I’ve heard the Dwarves and Shadow Elves have some Sage they revere, though. And if you’ll excuse me, I need to start closing up shop. You wanna know more about that sage, maybe try asking Enli. I hear they’re pretty connected to the Moon Goddess.”
Lady Mie


"Alright, I think I'll do just that. Thank you very much, Lady Mie." Nick bowed before heading on his way.

With Donovan gone and his offer to team up with those girls kaput, Nick found himself on his lonesome. Which was a bit of a problem since while his fellow Earthlings had cool, awesome powers when they came to this world, Nick appeared not to get any. Should he find himself in danger, especially against a fantastic beast, Nick could do little to defend himself. With those in mind, it was probably not a good idea for Nick to keep pursuing this dangerous quest and move on. Besides, there appeared to be a lot of people already helping this village. His presence was redundant.

Although, he still should pay Enli a visit again and at the very least, tell him about Kyrnith's plan and ask the guy about the Sage and the strange, black stone that apparently belonged to him. It was his first lead to getting back home.

And so, Nick went back to Enli's longhouse. "Lord Enli? You still here?" He called out. "Uhh, did a pair of girls just come by here? They're about yay-high, wearing pretty weird clothes? Did they tell you anything about Kyrnith? Uhh, we kinda met up with the god earlier."

"I'm also here to ask you about a particular stone. I heard it belonged to someone called the Sage."
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Vasserasa’s handshake…well, this was certainly a culture clash indeed. Isidore held her hand firmly though, shaking thrice before releasing. More interesting was the evasiveness of her language around topics that seemed self-evident to Isidore. Of course it wasn’t a simple raiding party, if there was someone of importance in Dirithen society involved, if the gates to the Dirithen city were sealed off. It would have been wonderful, really, if the queen offered any time for questions, but if the discussion was to be tabled until tomorrow, then there was something to be considered.

What preparation needs to be made by Vasserasa before this discussion was had?

He remained silent as the rest of the conversation closed out, picking out what information was important to remember. Cultural exchange largely for the purpose of homogenizing history and exchanging military information? Or, in other words, not cultural exchange at all. Rullphana was a name that popped up as well. An advisor or a professor, perhaps, paid for by royalty. And finally, Nersherit was at least willing to talk when asked, establishing that there was a library in the palace. A place worth visiting later on, doubly so if his position as part of the Sirithen delegation afford him more access than a mere guest.

The rooms were nice though, and after days spent out in the wilderness without even a proper bed, Isidore’s body positively ached for the soft mattress. The cracks in the walls from which vegetation sprouted was a nice touch as well, reminiscent of that Japanese crafts concept that one of his associates had told him about before, and the lighting managed to strike a balance between ‘bright enough to read’ and ‘dark enough to sleep’. It was good, then. Better that he had his own room too.

As Sorcha brought everyone into her shared room and spoke, Isidore swung his pack down and retrieved his map. Laying it down on the table, he spoke, “This map may be helpful. There’s a sizable Dirithen population in Gloomhaven. I will ask around. As for Firebeard…you believe he’s only part of a faction, not the leader? He was addressed as a Lord by the ones that attacked us.”

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Augusta had managed to do two things simultaneously. First, she angered the Royal Guard. Second, she managed to amuse the queen. Still, as they were guided through the halls her vision curiously stayed on the prince. He was a bit more effeminate than she would expect a prince though perhaps his mother's physical appearance as an almost fae like being had some effect on that.

The woman wanted to ask him some questions but... well, that could wait for now. Sorcha was to talk to them. She settle what small amount of this she had in her room save her recently obtained rapier that she kept at her side. She stood amazed in front of her bed and wanted to fall into it but kept that desire in check. If she did that, there was no real guarantee that she would get back up.

Rather, she walked with Octavia and went to the rendezvous with Isidore, Leuca and Sorcha. She listened to Sorcha speak, followed by Isidore though she found need to interject. "Lord could also mean a noble below the king on the hierarchy somewhere. Well, not that I know Dwarven culture." She made the assumption that there was indeed a king or queen perhaps but who knew. "Alternatively, there could be other types of factions. Religion, an unruly group wanting change... People wanting to further a specific cause."

Augusta held a pose in obvious thought. "Sorcha, do you perhaps know the factions in the Dwarven stronghold? And in Gloomhaven?" She asked, turning to the human woman. "I like to battle with words, personally. And I like to know with who I wage war before I commit to it." In obvious reference to the incident she caused in the throne room. "They can make you friends and enemies in the same breath." She obviously didn't take well to someone targeting Leuca.
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Narkissa Langdon


@Rune_Alchemist @Crimson Paladin

“Hunters, huh,” Narkissa muttered. “An encouraging nickname.” She raised an eyebrow at Lazhira’s followup statement. “You… might actually have to fill me in on that. I’m not sure if I was here for that.” That didn’t sound familiar to her, after all. She’d met Lazhira in town together with Leannah, and the strange Japanese girls from earth. It didn’t feel like there were any strange cult-ish hunters there for that meeting. Then again, Lazhira didn’t know who to trust, either. Cool, so it was like the red scare during the Cold War, except replace the Soviet spies with cultist spies. Lovely.

Thankfully, both Lazhira and Novak were in agreement with her basic plan, and Novak even used his strange mask under the suggestion of Lazhira as he climbed back up the rope.

The report he gave back after returning was just as encouraging as the name given to the hunters.

“Right, so an arrow, the cultists’ symbol, a deadly sounding flower –poison? Either way, the field has been tampered with, so it’s a clear ambush no matter the strange symbology,” she agreed. Unfortunately, she didn’t have many ideas for tackling this one. They only had guesses, and they were far from well equipped enough to deal with an ambush like that by intentionally tripping it to find out, either.

“Hmm… so, by the way that ambush seems to be laid out, it’s contingent on us coming out into it,” she thought aloud. “In other words, if we stay below for the time being, if they haven’t seen you, it might be a while before they go looking for us. At this point, I say we turn back and see what the rest of this underground network reveals to us. Hopefully we don’t run into a certain corpse dancer again, and we find a secondary exit instead, mm?”
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Malphas
Super Secret Cult Meeting
@Rune_Alchemist

As the first group left, Malphas took a quick gander around the temple, seeing if he could peek out any other entrances or exits. Should things go awry,- or worse, boring,- Malphas needed a safe way out. Somewhere he could run to if needed, potentially out of sight from that monster he ran into on his way here. For now, he looked onto the others who remained with him, scrutinizing them with his eyes as if he were measuring each of their individual worths.

In reality, Malphas only pondered on how long they could actually last in combat.

As interesting as both the Illuminator and his secret cult is, it was the cultists themselves that had Malphas feel... uninspired? He just wasn't sure what to really say to them, personally. He has no tangible leverage over them, and their uses seem severely limited. Sure, they are hunters who know the land better than he ever would, but they are also rooted to the village. There's also the fact that Malphas already made arrangements to travel with another group. In all honesty, Malphas did not care for them on a personal level.

Still, their lives do mean something to him. They are all human, after all. They all have hopes, dreams, desires... And they also have a clear goal in mind: Taking the thief alive. Between this duty to their god as well as the more... graphic murals of this temple, Malphas was given a stroke of inspiration! One at would allow these lemmings to do what Malphas desired while also fulfilling the duty given to them by their god.

"... You all know what you have to do. The thief must be punished for her transgressions. But afterwards, what shall we do with her after he retrieve what she has stolen? Kill her? Leave her alive with a mere slap on the wrist? And what of her captives? Shall we let them live, knowing they have desecrated this holy place? No... I feel as if we could do more."

Malphas walked further into the room, so he could place himself in the center.

"Take them all alive. We shall bestow upon them the mercy of the Illuminator. After all, there's much more we can learn from a living subject than a dead one, no? Perhaps you'd like to know just how far one's fingers can stretch apart? Or what about the absolute threshold of pain a man or woman could endure? Indulge in your curiosities! Turn this temple not into a tomb for the dead, but instead a dungeon for those foolish enough to cross the Illuminator! Use their pain as instruments of worship, and use the knowledge gained from their vessels to stand above your peers!"

Malphas grinned as he looked forward, towards the temple's exit. Whether they believed in his words or not, Malphas did not care. The only thing that interested him was what he inspired in them. Hopefully, whoever's left alive of this cult would turn this holy place into a den of debauchery, a temple not just dedicated to a god, but also to human depravity. Placing his mask on and throwing up his hood, Malphas marched forward, bow and arrow in hand.
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Into the depths?
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“Flowers…?” Lazhira grimaced. “Ah...those...they might be the white flowers that grow around the temple - they are really, really, toxic. Even touching one can put someone down for days. It can kill in seconds if it gets in your bloodstream...” She frowned. “If they’re using that, then they’ve probably coated their weapons and arrows in it.” She rubbed her arm in an uncertain manner. “...Poison probably wouldn’t hurt me, so I could probably help with that at least...but it’d be a death sentence for you two...” Questions on why it wouldn’t affect her aside, Lazhira would look towards Narkissa. It was a good plan, really. Why walk right into a trap? But at the same time, she shook her head.

“I don’t...know if there’s a secondary exit. I still feel like this place is weird somehow, but I can’t quite put my finger on it...” She turned towards Novak. “I doubt they would be that...rash. Enli might not have much power, but the people do like him and not everyone would agree with something like that.” Still, if they were to stick with their plan of looking for an alternative, they would be pleased to find their other guest had left. The only sign of them being here was the mannequin left behind, with a rather comical sign tied to it labeled ‘Out for dinner, back in five.’

The main worship hall seemed to have no other doors leading out as far as they could tell, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t. Maybe with a little looking around they would find some sort of secret exit or something. The only other unexplored place was the door from before that was still blocked by old furniture. Donning the mask seemed to reveal nothing immediately new, either.



Nobbu and the Fox
@VitaVitaAR@PKMNB0Y

“....haaa, really? You’ll not find me being generous agaaaain!” Mie replied back, words slurring slightly. “Well, whatever...don’t come askin’ again.” She’d watch Misaki leave, frowning a bit. She really was a mysterious little fox, wasn’t she? She didn’t press the issue, holding out a hand as a quiet figure placed her pipe in it. She would bring the pipe to her lips, inhaling quietly before speaking. “What do you make of her, Ayumi?”

“E-eh? My opinion? She seems weird. And the black-haired one...she seems...similar to the Oni?” A voice replied, as the dark clothed figure would kneel beside Mie, just out of sight behind her. “Uhm...but that aside, didn’t you have a meeting with one of those travelers?”

“Ah,” Mie stopped in her tracks, stumbling over her feet slightly. “...I suppose I did, didn’t I? Hmm, and he’s not here...”

“I shall bring him.”

“Ha, yes, yes, do so. He might have gotten involved with whatever is happening here. Make sure to tell anyone else that I’m not having any more visitors this evening.” The fox would walk off, towards her tent. So many things happening. Ah, she really wanted to leave before things escalated...




The beach was calm, gentle waves rolling against the shoreline. Most fishermen had already tied their boats to the makeshift docks, or pulled them aground some distance ways into the beach so they wouldn’t drift off. It was really a rather picturesque scene, the setting sun sinking over the horizon, only a bit of light left in the day for the moment. Thankfully, the tide was low, allowing the fox girl to use the sand fairly easily to draw her plans with.

"Excuse me."

Of course, her thoughts were to be interrupted by someone they may have seen around before, hovering around Mie's entourage. She would bow lightly in greeting. "Apologies for interrupting your thoughts." She would glance towards the drawings in the sand Misaki had been drawing. She would frown a moment, before shifting her expression back towards Misaki. "I am Haruno, one of Lady Mie's retainers. If It is not too much trouble, may I speak with you? Of course, I understand if you do not wish to converse with one such as I and if so I shall quietly make my leave."

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@ERode@Pyromania99



Sorcha looked at the map Isidore offered, eyes scanning it as she spoke.

“Unfortunately, I am not very familiar with the dwarves of this mountain.” Sorcha replied. “But I know their culture, at least. They are a culture with...a fair emphasis on castes, typically divided into four distinct ones. You have the Rulers and their families, followed by the Scholars and Warriors, then the craftsmen, and then everyone else...” She looked up from the map, turning to Augusta.

“Firebeard is the captain of the Ice Guard. That is, the dwarves sole unit meant for scouting and fighting on the surface, and in charge of guarding the gates and other important caverns from the outside. They’re fairly respected, so I’ve heard.” She would sigh, placing a hand on leuca’s shoulder who was understandably uncomfortable with this information. “I can’t say for certain if he’s the leader or not...or why a Dwarf would want Leuca, but...” She frowned, looking briefly down at the small elf. “I have some ideas, which is why I would ask for the continued help of the two of you. I’ll be busy in the coming days, but the two of you...you can investigate in my stead while I keep my eyes and ears upon the palace. I suspect this is also what the queen wishes to speak with you at length about.”

Of course, it wasn’t any of their business, really, to get involved in these sorts of politics but they likely had already been grouped with Sorcha and Leuca on their way in.

Builder and a Traveler
@PaulHaynek



At first Enli didn’t appear to be there, but soon the older gentleman would walk into the main hall from a nearby one, likely one where some food was being made judging from the smell of it. A few more people were also inside, too. He greeted Nicholas warmly.

“Ah, Nicholas...yes, I met with the two of them already. They’ve already informed me of what happened. I must prepare to meet with the Kyrnith tomorrow. I can not let this opportunity go to waste...but a Sage? I suppose you mean the Sage of the Moon, or Urumna, as those of the mountain call them. What do you want to know?” He would say, taking a hand to take the stone and inspect it, if Nicholas let him. “Truthfully, the Sage is a rather...enigmatic figure, to us. All we have is a name from some of our ancestors - Chaenelith, and that they were beloved by the moon. The Second Moon in the night sky represents their position in the heavens, accompanying Delpithi across the heavens as her attendant. I can’t say much more than that, but they are said to be able to twist fate and luck to someone's favor.” He would pause. “I can’t say I know much about the stone you hold, but if it has some connection to Chaenelith...hm...”

He would rub his chin in thought.

“Perhaps you should visit that obelisk outside the village at night and try praying? Its always held a strong connection to the Moon and Sea. I apologize for not being more help - Chaenelith is not known for desiring to be involved in affairs of others and was said to make efforts to prevent themselves from even being known. Forgive me for asking, but why do you want to know of them? It’s rare any will seek the Sage, let alone possess something with some connection to them.”



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The hunters that had been placed under his watch, would collectively hesitate for a moment, before they would react in affirmation The group seemed to react positively to his speech at least. Unbeknownst to Malphas, such things had already been going on - the worshippers may be simple hunters, but the Illuminator themselves was one to do such things, and regularly encouraged his own followers to do so.

He could tell at least, that his words had made them believe in what he said, and in turn, him, even a little. They could fight and handle themselves even a little bit better now. So he would leave, the hunters behind him, encouraged by his words into the forest and towards the temple.

But...it seemed as though there might have been a small problem. Even before he approached the temple and the other hunters who had been hiding, there was no sign of the party they were supposed to be ambushing coming out.The hunters had set themselves up in several positions. One was by the templer entrance, and another had taken a perch in a tree, bow at the ready while the others were laying in wait to engage from the ground.

Curiously, through the mist, Malphas could make out the retreating form of a person in dirty rags, moving behind the temple. He could at least recognize it in his memories as someone he had seen before...wait, the hag from last night? What was she doing here?
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Malphas
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@Rune_Alchemist

Malphas was a bit disappointed at how the first group had done nothing thus far. This disappointment was short-lived, however, as Malphas began to assume that those inside the temple were somehow aware of their planned ambush. Not an issue, really. After all, Malphas had already assumed such was the case. With the number of divine interventions he's received, it would only make sense if the others were blessed with such knowledge as well. The only issue was the preparations they could be making while within the temple. With the fear of a planned counter-attack, Malphas quickly made his way to the first group's brash leader.

"There's the possibility they may know of our ambush. Change of plans, then."

Malphas looked at the arrow in his hand, remembering his flashy entrance moments prior. This gave him an idea.

"We'll smoke them out. Build a fire near the temple's entrance. Yes, yes... Nothing you mind getting burned in there, right? Ah, we won't even need to burn anything within the temple proper. Have your group gather some lumber near the grounds, just enough to make a nice and smoky fire. I'll have my group gather the torches from the hall."

With that, Malphas walked just out of earshot of the first group's leader, signaling to his group to rally towards him.

"Gather the torches from your worshipping hall. We're gonna build a fire pit near the entrance of the main temple and seal them in. I'll be helping the others gather enough wood to do so."

With both groups off his tail for the time being, this gave Malphas ample time to think of some sort of escape. Before he could scheme to himself, however, he noticed a familiar sight scurrying off behind the temple! Was that the hag from earlier? Malphas remembered just what she said the night before... Was this a sign of the Illuminator? Or was this a trap?

Regardless of what it was, Malphas cautiously made his way towards the ragged figure, clutching onto his poisoned dagger tightly. Assuming this was a trap, Malphas gathered the very same energy he manipulated yesterday into his hand. He'll use that light trick that blinded him moments before to make his escape!
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Novak

Novak considered his options as he looked down at the mannequin and the note, not particularly surprised or upset that the god had decided to ditch them. If Lazhira's hunches and Novak's mask were any indication, going out the way they came wasn't an option, not unless they wanted to risk getting ventilated by poisoned arrows or getting stabbed by poisoned knives while navigating the fog. On the other hand, they couldn't stay here forever, if the hunters were out there, they might eventually get impatient and delve into the temple.

The laboratory and its apparatus wasn't much use to him either. If Novak's hypothesis about it being the source of those slimes was correct, it could be possible to create more to even the odds against the hunters, but he had no idea how to do that, and even if he did, they didn't have the time and they probably didn't have the necessary ingredients. Perhaps one of his companions knew how to better utilize what was here, but the most he could see them doing here was using the furniture to barricade the exit to buy them a little more time.

It was possible, Novak considered, that the altar might have a secret exit, with which the Illuminator could have used to slip away without a trace. On the other hand, it might simply be that the Illuminator teleported out. Another possibility would be exploring the barricaded room. Even if it didn't lead out of here, the furniture blocking the door suggested that the former inhabitants feared whatever was behind it. It might be risky to unseal something that the Illuminator's faithful were afraid of, but at this point, riskier still was sitting around and waiting for the Illuminator's faithful to come down here. With his mind made up, he dashed over to the blocked door.

"Could I get some help unblocking this door?" Novak said as he tossed a chair away, "I don't know what the Illuminator's faithful were afraid of enough that they'd try try to block this door, but if Lazhira is right about them using lethal poison on their weapons, we're screwed if we don't find either an escape route or a way to even the odds."

If Lazhira and Narkissa protested or opposed Novak's actions, he would heed their advice and cease to dismantle the barricade. If not, he would continue to pull it apart until the door could be opened. Judging by the rest of the temple, if there was something alive in there it'd probably be another slime, but fortunately his companions were familiar with how to kill them.

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The Journey Begins


~ Dawn ~


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“Perhaps you should visit that obelisk outside the village at night and try praying? Its always held a strong connection to the Moon and Sea. I apologize for not being more help - Chaenelith is not known for desiring to be involved in affairs of others and was said to make efforts to prevent themselves from even being known. Forgive me for asking, but why do you want to know of them? It’s rare any will seek the Sage, let alone possess something with some connection to them.”
Lord Enli


"Wait, wait. So is the Sage's name Chaenelith or Urumna?" Nick was briefly confused at the multitude of names dropped by Enli. "And they're real friends with the Moon called Delpithi. Did I get that right?"

Then came Enli's question as to why Nick was looking for the Sage, to which the young man exhaled a sigh. "I wanted to keep this as a secret as much as possible but... Okay, notice the weird outsiders that's been coming into your village all day? Including me?" Nick gave the village leader time to think. "Yeah, they're... we're... not from this world. While I'm not a hundred percent sure about this, I'm willing to bet that all of us came from a world called 'Earth'. It's another world much different from this one but... It's a long story, okay?"

"While my fellow 'outsiders' seem to be having fun running around here, I've got a life in Earth. I wanna get back." Nick revealed his ultimate goal in this second life. "Now, Kyrnith told me that this Sage person may know a thing or two about traveling dimensions. That may be my key to getting back home. If not, well, at least it's a step on the right direction."

"No offense to your world, of course. It's pretty nice here but like they say, 'There's no place like home'." Nick finished. "So... are there any specific words or phrases I should say when I pray to the obelisk?"
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Augusta thought Sorcha's words. "If we ignore any possible reason I'd want to bring about the ruin of Firebeard via the attempt of his subordinates to kill me... I can't forgive what ever possible reason he would want Leuca." For some reason, she felt the need to add. "And, of course, I don't appreciate his men trying to kill me." She went to stroke her chin for a few seconds. "Well, regardless. We have things to do today, do we not? Isidore, I will need to talk to you later about something but for now, I that thing we got underground. You know what I mean. We might get some answers." Obviously, she was talking about the demon seed that was currently in his possession. "I have a meeting with a certain Lady Rullphana with Octavia to do a little research study on it... Oh! And, if you all hear anything about the Earth Weaver situation, let me know. I may be in debt to a certain tailor who seems to have a problem securing a certain type of silk."

Augusta stood and thought if there was anything else to discuss. She seemed to be in a rush perhaps, though she was wanting to get as much information as she could. Hopefully, she could ask Rullphana about who she should investigate if it seemed there were those inside Gloomhaven in league with Firebeard. She took a breath and walked over to Leuca before giving her a small hug. "There's no need to worry. Between the all of us, this Firebeard fool doesn't stand a chance." After that, she'd collect the seed... If Isidore would hand it over... and be on her way.
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Narkissa Langdon


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“Yeah, when you put ‘flowers’ and ‘dripping’ together in one phrase, it doesn’t evoke the most hopeful imagery, especially given the context,” she agreed. Given Lazhira’s description of the poison, it meant that way out was right out, even more than before. Narkissa gave Lazhira a questioning gaze when the girl glanced at her, but didn’t choose to mention it at the moment. She’d certainly want to follow up later, though.

“We won’t know if we don’t look,” replied Narkissa, with a matter-of-fact tone. “Maybe there’s an illusion that hides it which also contributes to the weirdness? Well, either way, let’s get out of this pit again.”

It wasn’t much later that they found themselves in front of the blocked door that Novak had mentioned. But… it was blocked intentionally from this direction, right? Was it meant to keep something in, or to keep something out?

“Wait up. Before you start dismantling, put that mask back on to see if you see anything.” In the meantime, Narkissa got as close to the barricades as possible, trying to see if there was any sort of draft she could feel from the cracks in the door or barricade. If there was, then it was definitely a promising lead. Either way, if Novak didn’t find anything concerning, she wouldn’t object to unblocking the door or helping clearing it.
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