3123 Festival Moons 29, Afternoon
The Seige of Thulls – Part Three
Smoke swirled through the firelight as the figure stepped into the inn, water running from the shoulders of the cloak that was held tightly in a leathered hand. Stepping further into the room and flinging back the hood he shook his black-blue hair back and surveyed the room as he removed the cloak from his near pristine Prelacy uniform and tucked his hair behind his very pointed ears. His eyes glanced over the patrons, more Prelacy soldiers and scouts, catching on a couple of tables where there were varying forms of gambling going on and he smiled. He walked across the room to a table where a card game was going on and smiled down at the men playing. “Can I join your game?”
The men looked up at him and one asked if he had any money. Grinning he opened his coin purse, showing a decent amount of Camon coin. The man who had asked if he had money looked at his ears, then his uniform and over into the corner of the inn. He then sighed and said “It’s the bosses” and waved for the new man to join their game.
Cards flipped back to the current dealer and were shuffled as this new man watched three more Prelacy soldiers walk in the front door as he had. One of the men walked over to an empty table beside the bard who was singing on the stage. Another man and a woman walked through the bar, brushing past a table of farmers and the black haired man noticed a quick exchange of signals that brought the farmer’s focus to a soldier who had been watching them. They walked to a corner table which was hosting a group of merchants and out of view of the black haired man who started paying more attention to his gambling buddies.
As a song rises about times long past when war was but a memory and a man could enjoy the fruits of his labor and friendly drinks with his neighbors, the black haired man watched the players as they responded to the song. One seemed truly focussed on the game and kept the cards and coins flowing across the table, though he didn’t seem to be winning very much. One was clearly interested in the woman who had walked past him and who had started flirting with the merchants at the table in the corner. The other seemed interested in him but clearly wanted to be left to his own devices as he seemed morose and kept sighing regardless of what happened in the game.
The black haired man leaned forward “Why are you so sad? You just won the last hand and it was a big one!”
“I miss my farm. All of this-” the man shook his head and swept his arm wide “is so different from home, it’s so strange.” He folded out of the round of cards without even looking at his hand as he turned to the black haired man and started to talk in ernest about home and the farm he wanted to get back to. “What is your name anyway? You never said.”
The black haired man laughed slightly as he lost the round of gambling, the coins going over to the man who was so focussed on his cards. “They call me Magpie because of my hair, and the fact that usually I am fairly decent at cards. It would seem tonight though that I am not so good.” Magpie noticed that the man who had named himself Phillipe kept glancing at his ears. “My ears seem to bother you I take it? Surely you’ve seen elves and other non-humans before!” he gestured to the Brinchie who was passing out wine to the gamblers and gave a tip as he paid for this round of drinks.
“I have seen elves before, yes. But never in a Prelacy uniform. The bosses don’t seem to mind your being here, but I am beginning to wonder if it is because they just haven’t noticed yet or not.”
Magpie grinned at him. “Well they don’t mind because I’m part of the non-human regiment. You don’t think we’d be able to get current uniforms in this condition otherwise do you?” and he gestured at the woman and the man who had walked in after him. As Phillipe looked over at the woman who seemed to be getting more tipsy and was clearly flirting and enjoying the music and drinks being provided her. “But surely we don’t bother you so much. The Prelacy has been using our services for a long time. They’ve even been using non-humans who can provide them with magic which I’d have thought would bother you more than just a couple of elves.”
Phillipe’s eyes went wide “What?!” The other two at the table looked up at this. Magpie looked between them all with shock plastered to his face. “You really didn’t know?” He sat back quickly “huh”. “We came here because we heard that the food was good but didn’t realize that your group wasn’t aware of ours. I thought when you said ‘The bosses’ earlier that you knew. Clearly they don’t mind our presence or the presence of any of the other non-humans in here.” Magpie pointed to the Orc serving maid who was drinking at another table with a few other Prelacy soldiers and who was hanging all over one of the soldiers who looked extremely happy and was giving his compatriots a massive grin and two big thumbs up. The gambler who had been focused on the cards looked sick and nodded as one of the other Prelacy soldiers at that table turned and vomited on the floor.
“I’ll admit that has me a tad bothered too” as Magpie’s admission they all turned to look at him. “I’d never be able to do that personally. Orcs are just a little too hairy for me.” This got a slight laugh from the others as they turned back to the game and Magpie looked at the gambler who had been watching the woman who had walked in with him. “If you want I can see if she’d be interested in coming over here to dance for you.” The gambler mentioned how he used to be nobility, and that while he wouldn’t mind seeing someone with her beauty dancing as he had in the past he highly doubted she’d be willing.
Magpie walked over to the merchant’s table, picking up his winnings as he left and tapped her on the shoulder. “Sky, think you would be willing to dance for us? We’ve been noticing how restless you’ve been and one of my new friends has been particularly interested in you.” She apologized to the merchants and promised to be right back and as she moved over to a table beside the gamblers Magpie told them to enjoy the show.
As a new song swelled through the inn which was an old Camonere song from before the Prelacy and celebrating freedom of choice and building into an energetic jig Sky danced across the top of a table, swinging in circles and kicking up her heels. Magpie joined the gambling table again and the nobleman thanked him as Sky continued to dance, adding little flirtations into it as she went. After a few moments of this Magpie stood and thanked the gamblers for the game, telling them he was going to join another game. Phillipe wished him luck and the other two waved him off as they watched Sky dance.
Magpie worked his way through the crowded inn over to a dicing table which he noticed a Korindian serving a person at a nearby table who looked particularly angry and dangerous. Magpie asks to join the game and as they give him a harder look than he had gotten at the other table they ask him who he is and if he really is a soldier. Magpie calls back across the tavern to Phillipe whom he had been chatting with before and the response convinces them as he calls back to Magpie by name and tells him to stop interrupting the game.
“I can’t believe you’re a soldier with the Prelacy.” Magpie looks at his neighbor. The man shrugs as the dice rattle over the tabletop.
Magpie laughs and shakes his head as he settles in for a lengthy discussion to gain their trust. At this point though Sky yelled across the room an slightly stilted Camonere “Stop it Magpie, you’re as bad as one of my Goblins!”
The man who had questioned Magpie looked at him “Goblins?” and Magpie shrugged this time.
“We have a bunch of non-humans in our regiment. The Builders are probably the biggest group.” The soldiers here had heard of Builders but hadn’t realized they weren’t human. “Oh yea. They are more like Dwarves than humans, but they aren’t from Shaintar, they arrived from beyond the Veil. And their magic, it’s a weird form that seems to be based on crystals.” They didn’t seem to believe him so he pushed a little farther as he threw the dice again. “But even that is nothing next to the demons or the zombies.”
“Now I know you’re lying! There is no way the priests would allow demons to be used, much less undead!”
Magpie gave him a slightly twisted grin. “You haven’t seen any of the Builder’s magic? Or heard of anyone called a ‘Denier of Death’?” At the name of the necromancer cult the gamblers looked a little unsure. “Not to mention- oops. Sorry, but I’m not allowed to talk about that one.” The soldier next to him whom had seemed the most interested and the most believing pushed over a large stack of coins. Magpie pulled out a broken collar and placed it on the table. “This is an example of the Builder magic that they have been using to control the Childer demons they summon. They wanted me to fix it because I’m not human and for some reason some of the leadership seems to believe all non-humans magic is the same.” At that a couple of the gamblers seemed truly upset and like they actually believed him now.
“I wish that the Operative weren’t nearby or there are a few things I’d tell you.” Magpie looked up and saw that the guy he had seen getting served as he walked over with his head bowed over his plate.
“You mean the guy who’s sleeping in his dinner?” Magpie pointed over to the table. Since his immediate companion was too drunk to see he asked his buddy who waved him off and the third laughed and called the Operative ‘Mr. Snores Alot’ and the soldier next to Magpie, Francois, said he really wishes that he could give that Operative an East Port Smile. “Well… We could. He’s asleep, and what kind of Prelacy soldiers would we be if we allowed such a prestigious member of our ranks embarrass himself by falling into his dinner?” Francois smacked the table and stood with Magpie. They went over to the table and picked up the Operative, carrying him back to the bartender.
“We need a room for our buddy here. He’s just a bit drunk.” Magpie saw the bartender glance at his ears, then the Operative, then at Francois before he offered the ‘Draxx Room’ and Magpie smiled with a “Definitely! That would be perfect!” As they got the Operative into the back room Magpie stopped Francois as he drew a dagger. “If we slit his throat here they’ll know something went wrong and that we were to blame. Not to mention that we wouldn’t be able to go back out there because of the blood.”
“Well what do you want to do then smarty-elf?” Magpie looked at the Operative and pulled a rope out from under his uniform and Francois grinned. “Ok, but we strip him first. No reason to leave him a weapon he could use to get out later.” After they had stripped the Operative and tied him up in a very awkward and embarrassing position Magpie put a hand on Francois as he started to walk out of the room.
“Where are you headed now?”
Francois looked at the Operative. “There’s no way I could go back now. After this they surely would hang me. And now there is no way I could go home either.”
“Why not desert, join the other side?” Francois looked at Magpie like he was insane. “Well, if you go back down to join the Prelacy again they’ll kill you, me too actually. And I know the Rangers would probably take us. Especially if we bring this operative and hand him over as a war prize.” Francois nodded and mentioned that that might work. “Do you know anyone else who might want ot switch sides with us? I’m certain my friends who came in with me will if they’ve been getting similar responses from the other Prelacy soldiers who’ve been lied to about what their leadership is doing.”
Francois gave Magpie a hard look. “Might be. There are a few others I could see switching, and if the two leaders we have right now weren’t in charge I’d say screw your idea and just leave at this point. I don’t know if the bosses will flip, or allow us to, so if it looks bad I’m probably out of here.” Magpie nodded and they started to make plans as they walked back towards the main room.
As Magpie and Francois got back to the main room they looked around with high interest as Sky had gathered over half the bar to surround the merchant’s table for a drinking conversation. The bard was singing about the horrors of war and the glory of battle while the soldiers leaders were raising glasses with a Brinchie and an Orc woman flirted and fawned over another table of soldiers who were appearing to fully enjoy her attentions. Magpie leaned over and whispered into Francois’s ear “what were you worried about again?” Francois shrugged and led the way back to the table.
As they got there Francois pointed to a table on the other side of the leaders and told Magpie that the soldiers there were possibilities. Magpie nodded and said “I’ll let them know you sent me to talk to them-” and Francois immediately stopped him.
“I don’t want my name involved unless it looks like it’s going well.”
Magpie nodded “I understand, but if I go over there and just walk up with a ’let’s leave the Prelacy’ they’ll take one look at me and kill me on the spot.” Francois looked around the room then shrugged.
“This is probably true.” He pulled out his purse and removed a cloak-pin from it. He paused and looked really hard at Magpie. “This is a pin from my family. It was used by our servants centuries ago, before the Prelacy took over in Camon. It will mark you as a servant of an ancient Camonere noble house.” Thanking him and saluting Francois Magpie started to work his way up to the table he had been pointed to.
Magpie noticed as he worked his way across the bar that Ta’or, the Korindian who was playing at being a waiter was talking to an old lady who pointed to the table that Sky had drawn half the bar to. Then right as he was getting past the table with the leaders he hears the last of the conversation where the Brinchie is talking to the leaders about loyalty and fighting for what you believe in and for those you care about.
Then the leaders stand up and call for attention. “Gentlemen! I have for you a proposition. Those of you who have no love for the church!” And he glared at the priest who was sitting by the bar. “Are welcome to join me in saying ‘Screw You!’ to the Prelacy!” And at this all of the soldiers in the bar stood and raised their glasses alongside the disguised Rangers to cry out “Huzzah!”
At this Francois jumped down from the ledge where he’d moved to by the drinking contest and drew his sword. He then stalked over to the priest who had been watching everything and he shoved his sword up under the priest’s chin. He introduced himself to the room via a long string of family names that proved he was from the old Camon nobility. At this the merchants in the corner went white, and the priest stared down at him. Francois demanded the truth “tell me everything! I want to know if any of what we have been told is the truth and I want to know now!”
The priest threw up his hands at this point “Fine. Alright. Yes. We are all a bunch of liars. Most of us in the priesthood don’t give a damn about what we preach. It’s mostly just a group of people who love power. And everything the elves have been saying is true, we hired the Builders and Deniers of Death just as they said, and we use magic, hell some of us are no different from the Priests of Light that the locals know. We summon demons, but only ones we can control… Just don’t kill me.”
The room erupted in angry cheers for finally getting the truth out of a priest, and finally having one at the end of a sword. At this the leaders wave for silence and the one wearing black looked at each of the non-humans in the room as he asked “does anyone know where we might find the Rangers?”
At this all of us said “Right here!” and the three Aevakar who had walked in the front door posing as Prelacy soldiers ripped off their uniforms, spreading their wings wide as Ta’or came out of the kitchen with a “did someone say Rangers?” The church official immediately surrendered again to the Rangers and the man he had been talking to falls out of his chair to the floor and rolls on the ground laughing. Sky then turned to the merchants and said “you, and you, and you, are under arrest.”
After the surrender and arrest of the remaining threats the leaders of the soldiers ask for the leader of the rangers to step forward. Sky jumps down from the table and walks forward. They gave her 3 minutes to explain why they should join the Rangers. He told her that if she wasn’t convincing enough they would walk out that door and lead their soldiers back home.
“We understand that many of you had no choice in joining. We will give you the choice, and we will vouch for you. Our commanders will take you, they will take my word. I heard you talking about how your commanders don’t care about you or your soldiers, and I can guarantee that our do and will. There is one commander of ours who was severely injured and refused treatment because he had others under his command who were injured and needed healing. He had to be forced back behind the lines in order to get healed.-”
The first leader interrupted Sky and her speech “I have heard of this man. You mean Artivan yes?” At Sky’s nod he turned to his fellow leader and cried “This! This is what I was talking about! Leaders who actually care about their charges! Choices for our men! Rights for everyone!” Ta’or then stepped forward and added a comment about how the Rangers wouldn’t lie to them and would tell them everything that they needed and the truth of the situation every time. The commanders of the Prelacy soldiers then turned and told Sky that they would be happy to join with the Rangers.
As everyone was leaving a table of Olaran farmers raised their pints in a salute to the Rangers calling out “Good on you! That’s the funniest thing we’ve seen all year!”
As everyone headed back to Thulls to bring the new recruits into the ranks Magpie struck up a conversation with Francois. “So I see you are more than just an elf.” Magpie shrugged and Francois laughed. “I will be glad to call you friend.” Magpie then asked about the camp that Francois had been stationed at and if he had any other friends there who may want to join him among the Rangers. Francois then realized that Magpie and the others had a few extra goals. He decided to help with their next part of this mission. He gave Magpie an idea on the layout of the camp and the information he would need to get past the guards and into the camp. He then as they were getting close to Thulls told Magpie which groupings were going to be convertible and which were not, making sure Magpie knew that the groups he labeled as not deserters would kill anyone who suggested it on sight. Magpie then flew forward with Galashorn running below him to assure the Olaran forces that the Prelacy troops marching up were converts.