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  #26  
Unread 16th of March, 2005, 13:09
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Aashya

Aashya hangs back, afraid at first. She is overwhelmed by the farmer's display of raw emotion, and feels inclined to look away; pretend, even, not to see. In cities and villages everywhere, that is what people do when confronted by a stranger's grief. Let the man draw attention to himself alone. She has nothing to do with whatever troubles him.

But again, she reminds herself that things are different now. She need not distance herself; she can, in fact, try to help.

Rhotha'ah steps forward and Aashya can see right away that the Dorn's presence unnerves the distraught farmer. No doubt! He practically bristles with forbidden weapons. Who else would carry such things openly but an agent of the Dark Lord? He probably thinks the rest of us are his slaves, Aashya thinks. She walks forward to stand by the Northman.

"That's right. We mean you no harm." She takes a bit of cloth that serves her as a handkerchief, and offers it to the man to wipe his face. He's been weeping over someone. His wife? A daughter or son? A death, maybe. Or was the loved one taken away? Aashya tries to be reassuring and helpful, encouraging the man to tell his story.
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  #27  
Unread 16th of March, 2005, 17:44
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Lyr

The Erenlander scholar stretches up into a seat near Dun, radiating awkward politeness and gratitude. As Dun talks to Callum, Lyr's gaze wanders the rest of the patrons, his nervous smiles perhaps not as reassuring and friend-making as it could be.
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  #28  
Unread 17th of March, 2005, 05:04
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Aleina

She smiles warmly at the innkeep and his self-deprecating humour. As usual, the channeler is at home when it comes to dealing with people. Here, at least, that skill was still useful. Gratefully she accepts the ale with a nod and another quick smile before taking a sip and resting the mug on the table.

"Thank you, Callum. A room would be most welcome, and I am sure we will be more than happy with whatever you have available. We have no desire to be out in the cold and dark."
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  #29  
Unread 17th of March, 2005, 05:12
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Heulwen

Hanging back in the shadows, Heulwen's first concern is not the humans troubles, but what has brought them. Is what ever it was still around? Nervously she sniffs the air.

"Warn." Heulwen orders Cytaill, adding his senses to her own. Glancing around, she listens carefully to any response the man gives to Aaysha and Rhoath'ah.
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  #30  
Unread 17th of March, 2005, 10:32
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Heulwen, Rhotha'ah, Aashya

The sky is almost black now as the day's fleeting light escapes the land, and the farmer is silent for a long moment, his head turned toward the forest. He's partially illuminated by a lantern in the window of his home. The light spills out onto the ground, but does a poor job holding back the gathering dark.

He regards them with large, red-rimmed eyes and raises a well-calloused hand to make another attempt at brushing away the dirt and grass in his beard. He fails again. Even in the dimness Aashya can see doubt splayed across his face. Then he shrugs, as if to say he's nothing left to lose.

"It's me daughter, Elia," he says, his voice now sounding distant. "I sent her to get in the animals, damned fool that I am. Should've done it myself. Not safe for a girl to be out near dark. Not now. It's too late though. Much too late. They have her, and they'll marr--" his voice breaks, and he shakes his head again.

Dun, Lyr, Aleina

Callum sighs at their affirmation. "Might as well move the Eren while I'm at it. Work myself to the bone, I will. And for what? My tavern gets smaller every year. Five years ago I had a dozen tables, I did. And my wife was prettier too."

Dun studies the man, searching for any sort of guile, but if anything Callum speaks without any intention of humor. No mirth dances in his plain brown eyes his glumness seems genuine. He slides three ales in front of them. "It's always cold and dark here. One time the sun didn't rise for three whole days. Well, it felt like three days anyway. Time's like that when you have to sleep in the same bed as her.

"So what do you have for trade? Not that I can use much here. I may as well just give my ale and food away. Clothes off my back too."
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  #31  
Unread 17th of March, 2005, 10:49
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Rhotha'ah

At hearing the man's plight, of his daughter lost to unknown men, Rhotha'ah tenses himself. The similarities between himself and the farmer were becoming more and more distinct, and though the darkness hides it, his resolve strenthens, his face tightening with grim purpose.

"Who took them? How many? And which direction did they go?"

Last edited by Kahluah; 17th of March, 2005 at 10:51.
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  #32  
Unread 17th of March, 2005, 17:20
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Dun

Dun nods at Callum in agreement of dark times, "Aye, and the times 're only getting colder and darker."

When Callum asks about trade, Dun responds, "Hmmm... let's see, will this do fer the drinks, meal and room?" With his nimble fingers and Dun quickly picks off an appropriate amount of Aashya's tobacco leaves, offering them to Callum to inspect.

"Say Callum, do ya see alot of strangers come through here?"

OOC: Dun will try to barter for some food for the road as well, using his merchant profession and/or diplomacy (+2 bonus from hero among men) to get the best deal possible. I don't know how much tobacco she gave Dun.

edit: took quotes out, sorry, forgot

Last edited by Berova; 20th of March, 2005 at 15:39.
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  #33  
Unread 21st of March, 2005, 11:36
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Aashya

They'll marr-- What? They'll marry her? Is that so awful?

Depending on who they are, yes, it could be pretty awful, Aashya supposes. But still not so bad as it might be. When they'd heard the scream, Aashya had imagined that someone was being attacked, or tortured, or.. or worse.

She relaxes a little, and looks out into the night as if she might see Elia being led away by..... them. She waits for the farmer to say more.
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  #34  
Unread 21st of March, 2005, 12:14
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Rhotha'ah, Aashya

He didn't think the farmer's shoulders could slump any further, but they do. His head droops and he stares at his hands as they lay open and palm up on his lap. A dorn he might not be, but Rhotha'ah suspects a man of his size must have some of the north in him. Seeing him here, wretched and broken serves as a chilling reminder of his people's fate.

"It's all my fault. She was just to bring them in...but...one of the goats ran. I...I saw her from the house. She went into the woods after it. I yelled to her. I ran. But she was gone when I got to the trees and" --shame fills his dark eyes-- "I couldn't go in. Not this time of year. We've already lost so many. I was afraid. I..." his voice drops to a whisper. "Oh, Elia. Forgive me."

Dun, Aleina

"Tobacco?" Callum asks, sighing as if the mere presence of the leaf is the harbringer of his doom. "I don't know. Last time I tried smoking my pipe, I almost burned the place down. Probably should've. Might've gotten a moment's peace then." A call from one of the other patrons has Callum sighing and fetching another ale.

And yet despite his misgivings, not to mention his prior accident, the tavernkeeper relents and agrees to offer up food, drink, and lodging for the tobacco. He mutters something about his pipe being the death of him, but seems about as happy as he's capable.

"Food should be ready soon. It's not like to be very good. Mostly gruel with a little fish. At least, I think it's fish."

Heulwen

She only half-listens to the man once he mentions some danger in the woods. The hairs on her neck prick up and she squints toward the dark shape of the forest. Yet the clouds are thick and even her keen eyes are dulled by the encroaching dark. Cytaill feels her wariness and grows more alert, turning his head back and forth to sniff the air. Neither she nor her wogren detect anything.

Lyr

He's wasted on this haggling. Dun seems at home entering into the dance of words, and Aleina, well, her mere presence seems to have men going out of their way to please her. Indeed, the scholar notes more than a few long glances coming from some of the locals in here. Yet there's something else in the air too; something that neither of his companions seem to have noticed.

Lyr counts the patrons in the bar, twelve in total, and all men. There's a darkness hanging over all of them. Even the few who stop to leer at Aleina quickly return to staring into their drinks. They speak in low voices about crops and the weather and boats. Yet what disturbs Lyr is that there's something there, some ubiquitous topic that isn't being discussed.

And then he notices a man sitting in a far corner by a low-burning fire. He's in his middle years with perhaps a tint of gray marking brown hair at his temples. He's dressed much like the others, in plain shades of brown, but there's one important difference between him and the other patrons.

He's watching Lyr.
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  #35  
Unread 21st of March, 2005, 13:30
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Aashya

Shame. The farmer can't even look them in the eyes he is so eaten up with it. Aashya grimaces as she listens to him ramble.

He couldn't go into the trees, he said. Not at this time of year. Not at this time of year? And now his daughter is lost. The poor man! But why won't he speak plainly?

"What are you talking about?" Aashya finally asks impatiently. "Who are they? Why won't you try to find Elia in the woods?"

Last edited by Kelemyn; 21st of March, 2005 at 13:37.
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  #36  
Unread 21st of March, 2005, 16:18
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Rhotha'ah

Seeing the man weakening as they speak, the Dorn's eyes narrow and he emits a low growl of frustration. "She went into the woods. What direction?" Despite the stoic look on his face, Rhotha'ah's eyes and posture betray his impatience - if the man wouldn't take back what was lost to him, then Rhotha'ah would have to instead.
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  #37  
Unread 21st of March, 2005, 18:45
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Lyr

Lyr tears his eyes away from the man staring at him, feeling nervous pinpricks run down the back of his neck. Being observed so closely seriously unnerves the young scholar, and makes all the repressed secrets in his mind scream for release, until Lyr is sure that his hidden guilts must be written on his face.

"Pardon me, master... Callum?" Lyr asks the barkeep, his voice croaking a little. "I could not but notice... do you not have any barmaids?"
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  #38  
Unread 22nd of March, 2005, 02:44
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Heulwen

The woods. They had been planning on camping in those same woods not even several minutes before and here this farmer was absolutely terrified to enter them after dark. A shiver runs down Heulwen's spine as she thinks about the possible fate that might have awaited her and the others had this farmer's cry not diverted their attention.

Thinking about the farmer's cry, however brings back to mind the reason for it. The farmer's daughter had entered those woods, and whatever was in there scared the farmer so much that he wasn't willing to risk himself to save her.

Goats. The man said his daughter was bringing in the goats. Looking around, Heulwen tries to locate the goat pen.
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  #39  
Unread 22nd of March, 2005, 03:34
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Aleina

Barmaids?

Her ice-eyed glance falls on Lyr for a moment, then quickly scans the room. Her gaze travels across the patrons like the beam of a lighthouse, tension rising inside her as she realizes what the scholar has already guessed. Aleina was so used to ignoring the impolite eyes of men that she hadn't noticed their unease.

Was she the only woman here? Her mind tumbles over the possibilities of what that meant and how this blunder might affect them. As ever, she keeps her emotions hidden and calmly waits to see what happens next.
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  #40  
Unread 22nd of March, 2005, 12:17
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Heulwen

She and Cytaill leave the two humans to their inquisition. She knows better than to try and question the man. Having little patience, Heulwen circles around the far side of the farmstead with her wogren padding beside her. The light from the house is dim, but it serves enough for her purposes.

The pen itself is connected to the barn located about fifty paces from the home. No livestock can be seen at this time. If anything they were likely gathered inside. The gate to the pen hangs half-open. As she draws nearer to the barn her suspicions are confirmed. The telltale sounds of animals can be heard from within.

Lyr

The question is innocent enough and Lyr congratulates himself for being so perceptive, or he would, if not for the sudden attention of every set of eyes in the room. The pressure of so many eyes bore into him and the discomfort he felt before multiplies. Callum looks more glum than usual.

“Barmaids? I wish. Haven’t had a barmaid since—“
“That’s enough, Callum,” a man sitting at one of the tables says, his voice rumbling with displeasure. “They’re just passing through. They don’t want none of our troubles. Isn’t that right lads?” There’s a general, incomprehensible murmur of agreement.

Rhotha’ah, Aashya

“S-she went just over there”—he points toward the now dark forest—“but I can’t go in. They’ll find me. They know when you’re in there. But she’s gone. Me sweet daughter is gone. She deserved better than this. I thought it would end with her mother, but it hasn’t. They want more. They need more...”

The farmer breaks down once more, lost and weeping amidst memories known only to him.

Aleina

While Callum answers Lyr’s question, Aleina carefully surveys the room. She tries to do it as nonchalantly as possible, but it’s a small tavern and with only a dozen occupants her intentions are hard to mask. She notes that as soon as Lyr speaks the entire room grows quiet. Each of the men are keenly interested in the exchange between the scholar and the bartender. Yet out of all of them, there’s one man in the back, sitting by a low-burning hearth that seems especially interested. He’s leaning forward now, his drink cradled between his hands.

One of the men, one sitting at a table, speaks out. He’s dressed slightly better than the rest, although that isn’t saying much. He takes a long pull from his ale and turns to look at her. Their eyes meet and can feel gooseflesh rise along her arms and legs. She expects lust, she’s seen it often in enough in men’s eyes, but instead there’s something else. Something she can’t name. He takes another drink and smiles. “How long you three planning on stayin’ here?”
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  #41  
Unread 22nd of March, 2005, 13:39
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Heulwen

Sniffing the ground near the gate, Heulwen searches with eyes and nose for the signs of a human girl in amongst the clutter of animal tracks.
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  #42  
Unread 22nd of March, 2005, 15:42
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Lyr

Sensing an increase in observation, Lyr shifts uneasily. He glances around, hoping that one of the others will take the pressure off him - until he sees Aleina talking to one of the men in the crowd. For a reason he can't quite fathom, the Erenlander decides to keep the people in the bar talking so she can carry on her conversation with less attention.

"Where are they?" The words are offered to the crowd as a whole, including Callum, and the stress on the word 'they' indicates a more general feminine sense than just the barmaids.
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  #43  
Unread 23rd of March, 2005, 07:10
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Aleina

Exposure was vulnerability. Predators knew it; they preyed upon the weak, the young, the unsuspecting. Prey knew it; they stayed huddled, grouped, hidden - hoping to avoid being solitary, a sure beacon for unwanted attention. Women and channelers shared this in common: they were both prey.

Aleina suddenly felt alone in the dark, unaware of what stalked the impenetrable blackness around her. Was it only shadows or was it the grim predator come to pluck her from this world and into the next?

Yet she was no yearling out on her own; she was wiser than that. To show fear was to invite attack, and though Aleina knew better than anyone her own weakness, she also knew her own strengths. Her gut told her to hide, to flee, but her mind was built of steel and stone and not so easily cowed. Her face stays calm, her bearing remains controlled.

"Not long, I think."
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  #44  
Unread 24th of March, 2005, 13:49
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Aashya

"Where is she going?" Aashya mutters under her breath. She can just barely make out Heulwen and Cytaill moving off in the direction of the farmhouse before they are swallowed up by the night.

The farmer points toward the forest, indicating the place where he'd seen his daughter last. But he doesn't answer Aashya's question - Who are they? Aashya can see the look of determination in Rhotha’ah's eyes. He's ready to go in after the girl.

Hold on a minute, everybody! Aashya thinks. Heulwen has already wandered off and is out of sight. If Rhotha’ah takes off too, Aashya will be left alone with the dwarf and the distraught farmer. She puts her arm out and stops the Dorn before he can make a move to go.

"Wait," she says, then chews on her lip, nervously. "I don't want you running off getting lost. Let's stay together. Heulwen went that way, around to the other side of the house, I think. Let's go catch up with her, and then... then we can decide what to do." She doesn't even want to think about going into the woods.

She starts out after Heulwen, saying nothing more to the farmer. It is full dark now, and heavy, rain-laden clouds shroud the moon and the stars from view. Aashya can barely see where her feet are going, and in fact, she walks with her hands out in front of her, feeling for any obstacles that might suddenly loom up in her path. She aims for the pale yellow light gleaming fitfully from the farmhouse window. As she walks along, she explains to the dwarf in the Trader's Tongue about the farmer and his daughter.
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  #45  
Unread 24th of March, 2005, 18:24
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Rhotha'ah

As the Sarcosan woman places her hand gently on his arm, his gaze softens a little as the heat of determination dissipates and cools slightly. "Of course - we should go in as a group. We will have less chance of being caught unaware with more eyes and ears at our disposal."

Rhotha'ah turns and follows Aashya, placing his large footsteps atop her own as she leaves them behind her, as they try to find the dwarf and the halfling woman.
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  #46  
Unread 25th of March, 2005, 12:47
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Rhotha'ah, Aashya

Soradur follows along behind them and they leave the farmer alone with his thoughts, kneeling in the dark. It's almost too dark to see now as they move from the farmstead and toward the barn. Grass is crushed softly under their feet and Soradur mutters something to himself about humans. Their vision is so impaired that they don't even see the halfling until Soradur points to her and the wogren, two small shadows next to the larger one of the barn.

Aleina

Aleina sees the man scowl as Lyr presses his questioning. His eyes narrowing slightly, he looks past her shoulder and at the young scholar. The tankard is raised once more to his lips and he takes a longer pull than before. Finishing he sucks the stray ale from his moustache.

"Not long is good," he says, fixing his gaze upon her once more, black eyes meeting cyan. She doesn't blink or look away, maintaining her chill demeanor. A moment passes, then another, and then the man simply smiles at her. It doesn't quite touch his eyes.

"Then welcome to Fairbrook, lass. Name's Shalm. We hope you enjoy your stay."

Heulwen

Crouching slightly, the halfling takes in the smells lingering in the night air. Cytaill follows suit and meanders back and forth, sniffing. The first and most obvious scent is that of moisture. If it does not rain tonight, it will on the morrow; she can almost guarantee that. Beyond that the odors become harder to distinguish. Each is a fine layer that's intermingled with the others and only her nose can sort them out.

The animals are the second strongest there: goats, yes, and a pig or two. The farmer did not lie earlier. Yet the girl's smell is harder to find and Heulwen only finds it by the smell of flowers. She doesn't know which kind, but she smells them here despite the lack of any flowering plants nearby. The girl likely wore them in her hair.

She hears the others approach her, minus the farmer, long before Soradur points her out. In the dark she can the two humans shift their heads back and forth before finding her shape. It is getting quite dark now. She'll probably need a light if she wants to search any further tonight.

Lyr

Boldness isn't his defining characteristic--nor courage for that matter--and yet he finds himself summoning up whatever bravery he can muster and restating his question to the tavern. The response is almost uniform. Callum suddenly finds his own feet to be the most fascinating things in Aryth while the other men seem now content to stare into their drinks. The only exception is the one by the fire. He still watches Lyr with dark, inquisitive eyes. The scholar suppresses a shudder while Aleina speaks with another man nearby.

And then, so quietly that Lyr almost misses it, Callum mutters something.

"They left after the others started to go."
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  #47  
Unread 25th of March, 2005, 22:46
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Aashya

"I can't see a blasted thing!" Aashya whispers hoarsely, then curses in frustration as she bangs her toe on another protruding rock. The party can't go much further without a light.

But where are they to go anyway? Aashya has no desire to go on into the woods now either to make camp or to search for the farmer's missing girl. She can hardly imagine what has frightened the man so, but if it prevents him from trying to rescue his own child, it must be terrible indeed.

"Heulwen!" she calls out softly when they reach the barn. "What are you doing?"
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  #48  
Unread 29th of March, 2005, 17:31
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Lyr

Lyr looks around the room, his face displaying open surprise and curiosity. Nevertheless, his mind moves rapidly. Calculating the vectors of misery and plotting the lines of other’s dark intentions, he comes up with several very unpalletable possibilities.

With as much sympathy as he can inject into his tone, he asks the inkeep: “Was it slavers, master Callum? There are... I hear that there are many places that suffer under their predations.” Lyr mentally berates himself for that slip; if the watcher is, as one of his more dire (and therefore inevitable, given the way of the world) suspicions screams, a Legate, then the last thing he should be doing is branding himself an illegal itinerant.

Last edited by Dirigible; 29th of March, 2005 at 17:35.
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  #49  
Unread 29th of March, 2005, 23:43
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Heulwen

Rolling her eyes when Aaysha calls out, Heulwen looks up from her search for moment to make out the shape of the others coming her way.

The girl has no sense of discretion.

Waiting for the others to get close enough so that she can speak in a low voice, Heulwen replies, "I've found the girl's trail, or at least its start. Any effort to follow it, however, will require a light. These clouds make for a dark night so that even I have trouble seeing."
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  #50  
Unread 29th of March, 2005, 23:44
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Aleina

The channeler is perturbed by the man's behavior. At first she had feared what Lyr was now investigating: slavery. Yet these people did not seem threatening to her. Shalm's manner was strange and she could not quite understand why.

"I am sure that we will."

Aleina's answer is spoken almost neutrally, still unsure of the game she was currently playing. Perhaps they should leave, find another town for Dun to mine for information . . .

At the thought a chill wind blows across her soul, sending black spots dancing before her eyes. The room dims, sound dies away, and for an instant she is alone with the rotting husks of the patrons. Shalm's teeth are clearly visible through the sloughing flesh of his face; within the ruin his eyes pierce her mind, somehow menacing and pleading at once.

And just like that, the vision disappears - a wisp of fog shredded and pushed aside by a gale. She folds her hands into her sleeves and her eyes scan the room once more, the thoughts going through her head a confused jumble.
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