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Order of the Sword & Rose
Jinna squared her shoulders and smoothed down her blond hair where it had gotten disheveled in her search of the Marketplace. She took a deep, steadying breath and fixed a warm, friendly smile on her face as she opened the door to the Phoenix. Rule one: always make a good first impression.
She paused in the doorway to look around, letting her eyes adjust to the interior lighting. None of the patrons near the door looked likely; few were elven and all were too absorbed in their drinks or companions to be waiting for someone. She heard some noise coming from the back of the bar and headed in that direction.
Jinna found herself approaching a chaotic scene that her mind classified somewhere between a dance party and a bar brawl. A red-haired man caught her eye, striking her as somewhat familiar. Hmm… red hair, strong features, narrow tuft of hair on his chin. Why do I recognize him? Something about the eyes, maybe. After a moment’s contemplation, Jinna cursed herself for an idiot. He looks familiar, does he? Well, I’ve only been seeing his face posted on every wall since I got off the boat. Time to work on those observational skills. At least if Varro’s here, that means I’m probably in the right place.
Before she had time to berate herself further for her lapse in identification, she was approached politely but cautiously by a pale elven gentleman. “Jinna, I presume?” he asked, greeting her with a slight bow.
Quickly smoothing her face back into its smile, she responded warmly. “That I am. And can I assume that you would be Fellowship Officer Points?”
“I do have that honor,” he replied, returning her smile. “I appreciate you meeting me here.” He gestured her to a table and glanced around as if seeking a barmaid before drawing himself up short. “If you’ll forgive the intrusion, there is one small test I’ll need to make before we can speak comfortably.”
A grinning halfling woman appeared by his side, out of nowhere as far as Jinna could tell. “Can I poke her face, Points? Can I?” she asked eagerly.
“Poke my face?” Jinna asked, looking between the two in confusion.
Trying unsuccessfully to gesture the halfling away, Points tendered her an explanation. “A minor precaution to ensure that you are who and what you say you are. We have been infiltrated recently by a shapeshifter, you see.”
“A shapeshifter?” Jinna responded, eyes widening in shock. “And you can identify one just by touching their face?” Realizing that she had instinctively tensed into a slight crouch, she forced her muscles to return to a casual, relaxed stance.
“She wears a mask,” the halfling volunteered. “You can’t see it, but you can feel the edge of it.”
“In that case, you are welcome to feel my face for this mask, although I’d prefer if there weren’t too much poking involved,” Jinna responded, bending down slightly to make the process easier for the halfling.
“Thank you for being so understanding,” Points said, shifting his posture in a way that suggested he wasn't entirely comfortable with the situation.
“Not a problem at all,” Jinna replied breezily, standing back up as the halfling woman completed her investigation. “It seems a reasonable security precaution.”
She was about to suggest they find a table for the drinks and stories portion of the evening when a loud tumult broke out from the crowd they stood on the edges of. Points and the halfling turned to look for its source, his mumbled exclamation dying on his lips as they surveyed the scene.
What moments before had been a relatively normal, if somewhat chaotic, evening revel had become utterly surreal. A group of odd-looking kobolds stood in a rapidly-clearing circle of floor. Curiously, they appeared to just be standing there, not attacking anyone or fleeing the crowded bar. Turning to ask Points if kobold-baiting was a standard tavern entertainment here, Jinna discovered that both he and the halfling woman had vanished, presumably back into the crowd. She looked back up in time to see the kobolds begin dancing, of all things. A grey-haired man in a brightly-colored robe stood in the middle of them. She saw him strike a dramatic pose as if leading the kobold dance party, but then she blinked and he was gone.
The rest of the evening was a chaotic blur to Jinna’s recollection. She remembered watching in bewilderment as the crowd alternately danced with and beat on the strange kobolds. Various musicians played competing tunes to spur on both the dancing and the combat. Jinna knew that at some point later in the evening she had been swept out of the Phoenix with the noisy crowd as it relocated en masse to another tavern in a different part of the city. This bar was apparently the site of a favored sport among the Fellowship and its associates, something they called Sharks and Minnows. She grasped the rules rather quickly but opted to remain in the safe “beach” area at the top of the ladder to observe the game for a few rounds.
Jinna remembered the point at which she had decided to join in as a minnow. She’d shed her uncomfortable chain shirt and left it, her rapier, and her lute in a tidy pile on the “beach” platform while she went to find a place in the minnow pool. Based on her observation period, she had a strategy worked out: stick to the middle of the pack, be unobtrusive, stay light on her feet to dodge unexpected attacks. And it quite possibly would have worked, had she not turned the first corner straight into a magical ice storm. Bloody mages! was her only coherent thought before she hit the floor and blacked out.
Jinna did not clearly remember regaining consciousness or dragging herself back up the ladder to the “beach” platform, but she must have done so because that was where she found herself sitting now. “I think I should stick to spectating for now,” she mumbled to herself as she blinked repeatedly to try and clear her fuzzy vision. A soft chuckle from nearby told her she wasn’t the only one sitting this round out, but she couldn’t be bothered to turn her head enough to see who it had come from. Not that I’d recognize them anyway, unless it was Varro, Points, or that halfling girl. Hey, I didn’t even get her name. I’ll have to find her and ask, once the world quits moving quite so much.
Trying to get her eyes to focus properly, she returned to watching the crowd of minnows run by beneath her, studying the details of individual faces to better recognize people later. A slight frown crossed her face as she studied one man who looked vaguely familiar, as if she’d met him in passing. Jinna prided herself on her memory for faces, and to redeem her earlier mistake with Varro (which she passed off as a result of the differences between flat sketches and a real face), she was determined to place this man. Grey hair, dark eyes, silly little beard… Aha! He took off the bright robe to be a minnow.
“I knew I recognized him,” she mumbled to herself in satisfaction. “That’s Dances With Kobolds down there, that is.” At a remark from whoever else was sitting on the platform with her, she frowned and responded, “No, I do not need to see a cleric about a concussion. I’m not seeing things. Look, he’s right down there.” Jinna stared intently at the minnow pack, ready to point out the strange man as soon as he came into sight, but he never showed up again. She sighed wearily. “Never mind, maybe I did hit my head harder than I realized. I think it’s time for me to find a bed for the night before I start seeing anything else crazy.” She dragged herself to her feet, stuffing her chain shirt untidily into her bag rather than going through the bother of putting it on.
“But there were kobolds,” she muttered defiantly under her breath as she walked unsteadily out of the tavern. “And he did dance with them.”
Points meets Sir
We were all waiting for the big event. My Guild mates and I had gathered in our usual haunt, The Golden Phoenix. Tonight was it. The man, Sir Lawrence was coming to town and word had it that you could win a Vorpal Sickle from him. As a Sickle can be used by anyone and Vorpals cut off people’s heads, everyone wanted to be chosen.
Points wasn’t sure what would happen but it definitely didn’t go the way he thought. First after much animated discussion with those gathered we decided to go do some Fight Club while we waited for Mr. Big Britches to show up. We had just stripped down and were beginning to descend to the brawling area, when Varro shouts "Oh my god! He’s here!" Now picture five naked adventurers ready to brawl suddenly in the presence of a Lord of Stormreach.
It was quite comical watching as everyone hurried to dress. Once everyone was properly attired, the introductions began. Varro being the Ambassador introduced himself first and they began a conversation, which ultimately worked into the contest, Trade or No Trade. It was nerve wracking to watch and wonder if I would get a chance at the Sickle. In the end I did not. I was happy for Varro, but as everyone else, I would have liked a shot.
In the end, Sir Lawrence, a 12 th Order Paladin by my observations, cast numerous Disco balls and everyone danced in celebration. This went on for a few minutes and then he bid us adieu and teleported to another location. At that moment around us appeared a bunch of kobolds. We set upon them immediately before they could assault us. After a few swings it was apparent that these were no ordinary Kobolds. While I was striking fast, hard and well, they seemed little damaged and continued to stand there. I pressed my assault fully expecting they would launch an attack at any moment. I eventually dropped my dancing partner and looked for another. The remaining kobolds seemed well in hand so I took a breather.
While Varro was hacking at another one, he asked me to see to a new recruit named Jinna who should be walking in at any moment. I turned and searching the bar’s interior found a young woman with a shocked expression on her face observing the carnage. Not wanting to scare her more, I sheathed my weapons and smoothed my hair making sure to blot any blood drops as best I could. Pasting on my biggest smile I approached her. "You must be Jinna…"
Her near vacant stare captured my eyes. "Is Kobold baiting a common event here in Stormreach?" As kobold screams echoed in the background, I replied, "No tonight is a special occasion. Sir Lawrence was just here and left us a lovely parting gift. As the last one fell, I asked Jinna to a seat so we might talk. I asked her the usual questions. Where was she from? Why did she come to Stormreach? Why did she wish to join the guild? All of these answered while people celebrated victory over the mysterious and menacing standing kobolds. After finishing up the interview and inviting her into the guild, I decided to try my luck with Sir Lawrence in other locations.
I spent the next hour and a half running throughout Stormreach to try and find him again. I did not, however and returned to the Phoenix, just as everyone had decided to try Sharks and Minnows. We made it to the Hammersmith Inn without incident and all entered the Brawling area. Uxor explained the rules to everyone and we began. A few hours in, I noticed a newcomer. As the Minnow leader it was my job to orient newborn minnows. I hailed him as I approached and Sir Lawrence quickly shook his head, not wanting to be recognized by the others.
When we finished the run I was surprised to see him still alive. He had made it and lived to swim another round. After a few runs, he finally had enough and spoke briefly to Uxor, Varro, Liyra and I and we thanked him for coming. Liyra was barely able to speak to him and eventually did get singled out for a hello. There were no fireworks when he left this time, except for the swooning ladies. We continued to run for a while longer and were informed that Sir Lawrence observed us for a long time. It was disturbing to think he was watching us running around in our undergarments, but such it is with the Lords of Stormreach.
Ever since that day, I have thought of Sir Lawrence as ‘The Watcher’.
(A short treatise on the perspective from inside the mind of one happy go lucky halfling cleric, relatively new to the city of Stormreach, and looking for something to do)
*while humming a catchy little tune Dalli skips along the wooden boardwalk*
R. E. S. P. E. C. T… huh hm. mmmhm means to me… stopyerbuffinstopyerbuffinstopyerbuff-Erf?
*sees a gathering of scantily clad persons, mostly of the larger races, dancing on a sandy beach*
That looks like fun!
*shucks her armor and joins the crowd, running across a few friends*
Heya, dere’s Mister Biggun Bard!
*wavies at the pale human bard with the soul patch*
der Snocone girlie biggun!!
*hugs the redheaded amazon barbarian’s leg*
and Missy Rav….
*gets distracted at sight of the bardish she-warforged*
Ohmygosh! MISSY PINKNESS!!
*chortles and claps, missing most of the announcements in her delight at seeing her ‘warfrog’ friend and babbling at acquaintances both old and new*
*is clued in to the fact that there’s food and games, receives a cookie and then notices a very Shiney man relatively close to the human bard fellow*
*waves at the man, and claps, finding him very pleasing to look at, but escapes notice. Unperturbed, as that happens a lot to a wee person amongst bigguns, she thinks nothing of it. Then the Shiney man speaks. Elbows and heels get put into use so she can get close enough to hear*
Well shut my mouth! Mister Biggun Bard gots a birthday! Happy and a verse airy for to bein brung inter the world nekkid Mister Biggun Bard!
*further announcements from The Shiney Biggun have her paying attention, but she is constitutionally incapable of refraining from comment when she has opinions*Wow, them’un bigguns shore does carry on, erm.. wella now whozZAT?!*catches glimpses of the new lady arrival, but her attention strays back to what she’s hearing from The Shiney Biggun*
Prezzies? For Mister Biggun Bard? Yay! Whatcha get?
*does a happy dance jig when she sees the shifting colors on the robe, and the unique shield the bard is holding reverently*
*grins at The Shiney Biggun, fully expecting not to be heard when she whispers*
Good on yeh, Biggun!
*so she is quite tickled when he makes eye contact, lowers one lid in a wink and smiles before turning back to whatever business an important Shiney Biggun might conduct while wearing next to nothing, standing on a wharf, and passing out presents to well-deserving birthday bards*