Lord's Keep in Cartelom, Rhogein
Dharrec watched as the nearby woman spoke to a mountain of a man, one whom he was inclined to believe he had encountered before. The man offered a silent nod to Dharrec as he left, which Dharrec returned in kind - a symbol of unspoken respect betwixt two warriors. After the man had gone, though, the woman decided to extend a simple "hi". Dharrec turned his head to look at her, shifting his weight in hesitation.
"Hello." He replied after a few seconds, his voice dry from lack of use. He hadn't realized just how little he actually spoke until now, and he supposed the last time must have been over a day ago. It was an odd feeling, though perhaps it was not the only feeling.
The loud slam of a door echoing across the room silenced most of the occupants, drawing their attention to the intrusive sound. Their eyes would then be met with the sight of Captain Hannigan entering the great hall from somewhere deeper within the Keep. Followed loosely by two guards, Hannigan approached the crowd of volunteers swiftly and with a sense of urgency. A few whispers started up, likely those theorizing or betting on what the assignments would be or what issues there were, though they were hushed not long after Hannigan came to a halt.
"Brothers and sisters, lend me your ears!" Hannigan called out, silencing the last of the crowd's idle chatter. "I must apologize for my tardiness, and for the fact that this meeting must be cut shorter than I had intended. I am glad to see so many eager volunteers have assembled here today, but unfortunately Cartelom cannot spare all of you to expeditions. I have only just been informed this morning that another siege could be at our gates in the coming days, and so therefore any unnecessary risks should be avoided." Hannigan continued, beginning to pace idly.
"I'm sure that for some of you this will come as a relief, and also that many of you have come in pursuit of money to feed yourself and your family. Rest assured, however, that those of you who would prefer not to venture out there can find solace and coin in enlisting amongst the city's army or guard. Many of you are young, too young I fear to go out there and risk death on this mission. I need only the most determined souls for this expedition; men and women who are willing to do whatever it takes to see this through... because I cannot guarantee you will come back alive." Hannigan confessed, punctuating with the stomp of his heel as he came to a stop, turning to stand before the crowd once more.
"Those of you who are rightfully scared may leave. Enlist with the army or city guard if you need the coin." He said, presented more like a command than a mere suggestion. About a third of the crowd began filtering back out of the Keep, and Dharrec simply watched them go. "If you are aged under twenty years then you still have a life to live, and I cannot, in good conscience, allow you to throw away your young lives." Hannigan continued, prompting another fifth of what was left to then start leaving as well. He proceeded through a list of disqualifications before nine volunteers were left.
"Well, this is still more than I would like to spare - for the city's sake - but perhaps there is something to be said of safety in numbers." Hannigan finally announced, turning to his guards and gesturing for them to leave. "You nine must work together on this, watch each other's backs, and Keep each other alive. I've seen far too many good soldiers, good people die in this... this nightmare. I want to make sure you are fully aware of the choice you're making; what you're doing for this city and its people." Hannigan stalled as the clacking of the door's locks echoed across the room, and suddenly his demeanor changed.
"Scouts report seeing survivor activity in the village of Velgas, northeast of Cartelom. If this is true then they are not residents of Cartelom, and we cannot afford to wait for responses from the other cities to see if they're another expedition group. As you might imagine this is very urgent business, and I need you to leave as soon as you are able. Unfortunately we haven't any horses to spare, so you'll have to make the journey on foot - so stay together. Am I understood?" Hannigan finished, a look of dire seriousness in his eyes.
A little while later the group of volunteers was headed out of the main gate, Dharrec among them. He knew the region well, and though it would be about an hour-long trek under normal circumstances nothing could be certain now that the dead were roaming about. But aside from the odd Lich or two scattered about, it did not seem like there were too many wandering about at the moment. Perhaps this expedition might be free of significant dangers, but... they never exactly go as planned.
Streets of Tarne, Oroulam
"Hear ye, children of Oroulam, for all those who live upon 'er land 'n these tryin' times're 'er children indeed!" An aged voice called out in the streets of Tarne, belonging to an older man in thick robes who's face was obscured by a ceremonious looking mask.
"Th' Flames of Omen hath spoken, and have warned us that th' time for an undead attack on our city's nigh upon us! We all know what hardships we'll be faced with when those Godforsaken daemons come t' claw at our gate. We all know how close we've come t' meetin' God's embrace, an' th' struggles that our great city of Tarne's had t' endure 'cause of this hellish blight! It 'tis with such knowledge weighin' heavy 'n our hearts an' our minds that we - humble servants of God an' th' Temple of Sacred Flames - offer t' ye all a chance t' live... not just 'n body, but 'n spirit as well." The clergyman announced, bringing his arms wide.
"We humbly offer t' those who've yet t' taste of carnal desires their chance t' do so. All are welcome, an' all sins committed on this day within th' temple's chambers shall be permitted and forgiven by us 'n God's stead! We've come t' understand that indulgence 'n such carnal desires as those that shall be permitted work t' clear th' mind an' rejuvenate th' soul. Perhaps it 'tis God's true desire that we are reminded of our primal origins, of our primal selves.
"It 'tis only af'ter much debate and communing with th' sacred flames that we've come t' this verdict, an' surely th' only place such a celebration of life should be held is 'ere in th' confines of our temple. Th' priests an' priestesses shall hold a sermon 'n th' meantime t' preserve th' sanctity of th' temple should any rather heinous sins threaten all of us 'n attendance with corruption, so worry not - yer immort'l souls shall remain intact throughout!" The man continued on, preaching about how unorthodox this new ceremony must seem to everyone.
He then went on to explain that alcoholic spirits would not be permitted, save for a glass wine for each participant, yet the smoking of immoral substances would be. He listed some rules and other stipulations as people began to approach him and the Temple of Sacred Flames. The world surely did seem to be a different place than it was just three months ago. But, after all, a lot had changed... and what would otherwise just be three months of time was made to feel so much longer by the presence of the undead threat and the constant struggles of the living just to survive the week.