The Demigodess and the Bard

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Ottriman

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"I see, that would make sense, but that just begs the question of why the churches haven't sent a whole bunch of people there to investigate yet?"

Lucky didn't have an immediate answer and went to negotiate boat rides, this left Curia to observe the surroundings. A dozen crates filled mostly with Adamantine were around, each crate was handled by three dwarves working together, bulging muscles glistening with sweat. By her estimates each crate should weigh about 450 kg, definitely a load she could handle.

Then he came back and explained to her that they could get a free ride if they pulled their weight. She looked at the crates, though they had three handles she could take them from behind in a balanced way, if she dug in right. She decided it would be even better if she took two at a time, she could balance the great weight better that way.

Seeing that the dwarven porters had already loaded four out of eight boxes she went to two of them and flipped them to their sides, such that one of the handles was up like a suitcase handle. The Porters looked confused before they saw her pick up two crates at once and walk with good speed into the boat.

The dwarves looked on in stunned silence as Curia proceeded to finish loading the crates onto the boat in half a minute. She then stretched her arms a bit before returning to Lucien.

"Hmm that was a nice warm-up, anything else to load on or should this be enough for now? Huh? Wait why are you guys looking at me like that? It's not that big a deal."

The boat was soon loaded and they could set off at any time.
 
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CreepyShutIn

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Lucky grinned at the dwarf he'd been talking to and made some unintelligible remark. Though it was in the dwarven tongue, it had the kind of focused casualness only heard in someone who wanted to show off how unfazed he was. Snapping out of her daze the dwarf began barking orders at the rest of the crew, who immediately set about preparing the boat to set out. "Might be less than an hour now," he said to Curia, walking up onto the boat to help with the preparations. "You ever been on a ship before? For that matter, do they even have boats where you're from?"
 
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Ottriman

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"Yes I have been on a ship twice before, first one was a fishing trip, second a torpedo combat craft used as part of monster hunting. The first was quite dull while the second was lovably exciting!"

Curia was obviously getting very eager and excited, she would probably describe the tale in great detail.

"You'd never think hunting a sea dragon could be so exciting! First we lured it to-"

Meanwhile as she regaled her tale the boat got going.

"And then we drove it onto the shore to cripple its mobility and healing factor. When it was wounded and thrashing on shore: me, dad and Olaf all jumped off to do battle with it on shore! The wounded creature glassed a part of the beach with its lightning breath and tried to eat me but we defeated it without too much trouble."

"Come to think of it big monsters trying to eat me happens quite often."

The melt boats ride was fairly short so they soon arrived near shore, where a mid sized cargo ship was waiting and in the process of being loaded with goods. Curia looked it over, the hull was made of mithral and the whole ships front section seemed reinforced enough for ice breaking. Otherwise the ship itself was lightly armed as far as Curia could tell, a few small cannons and that was it.
 
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CreepyShutIn

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Personally, Lucky found fishing very relaxing. It was a great way to pass time while shooting the breeze with friends or just thinking by himself, and he always kept a bit of string and a hook in a small box so he could tie it to his staff for a crude fishing rod. But tales of adventure and nearly being eaten were great too. When they finally arrived he set about helping the dwarves with whatever crates Curia didn't haul single-handed.

"You too, huh?" He asked, chuckling a bit. "Seems to be at least twice a month with me. Those are honestly the easy ones, I can fly off if things get too hairy. What's really tough is the small, dangerous things - liches, assassins, blackguards, that kind of thing. They're usually attacking for a reason, and half the time that means they have a plan. Makes them dangerous. I remember this one time I was traveling with a friend of mine and we were attacked by some Chaos-powered vampire assassins. Of course that was just the start of things..."

Well used to the work, and with the help of a super-strong outsider, the dwarves quickly got everything set up. The ship had been ready to go since morning, besides the cargo, so within an hour they were off one boat and onto another, the seemingly endless sea stretching out before them. "...I realized if that spire of his was made to absorb ambient magic, maybe it could drain his defensive enchantments too. So I made this gesture to Wolf and she gave it a shot. Air-wrestled him until he was right over the spire and then pushed down. Took about twenty seconds to drain enough, but he couldn't cast while she had him pinned, so by then he was pretty much just struggling to not die. Credit where it's due, though, he never gave in."
 
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Ottriman

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"Interesting, but do you really think things like chaos powered vampire assassins should be something we should still be worrying about?"

"I've never really been attacked by people my size, I'm sure sparring doesn't count. Well there was one incident where someone tried to poison me, still haven't found out who that was but the poison didn't ruin anything for me. Did make the food taste slightly off and that was the closest thing to damage it did."

Curia frowned.

"And I really was looking forwards to that boar pie."

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The ship was loaded far faster then normal, in great part thanks to Curias super strength. There were a few slack jawed looks but everything was soon in order. Once loaded the ship (called the Ice Carrier) soon finished all preparations and got going. The trip was estimated to take around 2-3 weeks depending on the weather, assuming nothing went catastrophically wrong of course.

((You decide if something does go wrong, if not we could still have some role playing while the ship is en route, a few scenes if you will)).
 
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CreepyShutIn

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Much to Lucky's delight, nothing went wrong at first. The initial few days of sailing were as smooth as silk, without even any bad weather to impede them. The worst in fact was a lack of good wind pushing their voyage to a full three weeks; it was too calm even for that. Toward the end of the first week, in fact, the only thing that had changed was Lucky's reaction to it: He seemed more worried than happy, as if a simple, peaceful voyage was cause for concern.

In fact, that turned out to be exactly the case. The more days went by without some kind of emergency, the more he seemed to expect one. Halfway through the second week he started pointing out minor variations in the water and suggesting what kind of monster they might be. He described everything from undead sahuagin to bronze dragons to magically-enhanced sea trolls, and even an aquatic form of Selenite which he admitted to never having encountered but was apparently certain must be somewhere in the oceans.

By the third week he'd finally gotten over his nerves and was ready to help out without sharing his ideas for how they could be assaulted anytime they let their guard down, instead returning to talking, joking and telling tales. This made it horribly ironic when, just four days from Port Selmath, they spotted black flags on the horizon. Worse yet, a closer look with a telescope revealed several of the unkempt-looking crewmen leaping off the deck and transforming into weresharks in the water. A barrage of bullets and cannonballs made targeting the shark-men as they swam impossible for anyone not highly resistant to large amounts of metal moving at significant velocities. So naturally one of the dwarves looked over at Curia and asked "How are you with a rifle?"
 
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Ottriman

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The days passed and Lucky just seemed to be more and more agitated. Curia was annoyed, was it really that strange for him to go anywhere without being attacked? Well it was true that if this ship were to be attacked it would be pretty lightly armed for the task of defending itself. The actual odds of this ship being attacked were very low in any case, the great majority of ships did in fact make it without any problem.

When he started jumping at the irregularities in the water, which in fact didn't register any hostile intent and failed to become anything, Curia was getting exasperated. Was he itching for a monster attack to relieve his boredom or something?

After many days he finally calmed down, Curia was relieved, being this paranoid couldn't be healthy for anyone.

It was then ironic that the ship did end up getting attacked after all, in this case by wereshark pirates. Then she was asked how good she was with a rifle.

"Look, I'm good with whatever weapon you can give me, honestly. That said what kinda ammo is this rifle packing?"

"Well just basic ammo, hardened lead, not exactly expecting to shoot undersea monsters with it." The dwarf replied.

"Giblets! Ah well guess I will just have to be careful."

She took the bolt action rifle and some ammunition and stood boldly at the deck. She the started shooting at the wereshark pirates as they came, injuring several of them and killing one in two seconds. The pirate ship opened fire upon her location but she dug her heels into the deck and weathered the bullets and explosions, calmly reloading the rifle in about a second before continuing the onslaught. The weresharks were taking a pounding but four of them managed to get up to the ship where they scaled its hull with unnatural ease.

Seeing that they were coming, she promptly shifted her grip on the rifle to where she was holding it like a club, drawing her rapier in the other hand. They jumped onto the deck, clearly wearing ballistic cloth armor and brandishing guns and/or adamantine machetes. One of them was clearly bigger and more formidable then the others, and was practically glowing from the amount of magic equipment was on him.

"Attack! That woman is mine though!" He bellowed, pointing at Curia before all of them surged forwards with deadly intent.
 
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CreepyShutIn

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It was, Lucky reflected, not a bad tactic. Their ranged attacks hadn't been bursts to try and kill as many as possible, but a measured, paced series of shots that suppressed the defenders of the frost dwarf vessel so they couldn't shoot the coming weresharks safely. The barrage ceased when the boarders arrived, but by then it was too late to man the cannons, since an invasion of weresharks tended to distract. The logical next step would be more boarders, supported by light marksman fire at non-engaged targets. And a quick glance confirmed it: There were more forms in the water, and the last few were leaping off the pirates' deck and transforming just as he watched.

He called out something in the frost dwarves' language, bringing two of the warriors to his side to fight off a large, grizzled-looking pirate dual-wielding machetes. Hopefully they could keep him away; as much as Lucky would like to join the fight there and then, he had to keep things from getting worse. He raised his staff, pointed it at the incoming weresharks and sent out great arcs of lightning, which struck the water and spread out in every direction. Those close to where they hit were electrocuted, if not to death then at least enough to leave them floating unconscious; the rest soon turned tail, realizing they would come no closer.

While this was going on, the apparent leader strode menacingly toward Curia. Either he hadn't seen how bullets bounced off her due to being underwater, or he simply didn't care, because he seemed completely unintimidated. "You cost us some trouble, girly," he growled, raising his oversized machete with ease. "We'll be taking reparations in blood!" Deep, rust-colored energy - a sign of a weapon with corrosive magic - danced along the blade in his one hand while the barrel of the gun in the other hand flared with light, giving off an electric crackling sound.
 
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Ottriman

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A 2,5 meter or thereabouts overconfident shark man, Curia felt that if one toned down the rage and the sharkness he wouldn't seem too different to Olaf. He swung his oversized machete at Curia which promptly caught fire mid-swing, Curia sidestepped the swing and countered with both the rifle and the rapier.

To the shark mans credit he did manage to parry the rifle, which stuck the machete hard enough to shatter its wooden stock. Unfortunately for him the rapier found its way to his guts, he let out a gasp of surprise when it pierced his enchanted armor and inflicted a nasty wound. He pulled back as Curia retracted the blade from him, Curia pressed the attack while he was on the retreat.

"NO! HOW!? WHAT!? HOW CAN YOU BE THIS STRONG!?" the shark pirate leader yelled, shaking in fear and pain as he was driven back. Some of the other fighters on deck took note of this, two shark pirates went to intercept Curia. Curia promptly started making a mess out of them, using one of the pirates as a bludgeon to beat the other to death. This was all the chance the boss pirate needed as he manifested a psionic power and swelled to four times his normal size.

"Truthfully you may have thought you were just raiding a precious metal carrying ship, that's true but you just had the misfortune of meeting a demigoddess of war."

"Demi-Whatever, this operation may be sunk because of you, but I will never be defeated by someone tiny like you!"

The pirate boss raised his machete to attack, even as the other pirates were being defeated and driven off.
 
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CreepyShutIn

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With the sounds of battle quieting down, primarily because half of the pirates were dead, Lucky's keen senses - which had saved him in similar situations many times - picked up the 'conversation' nearby. Demigoddess? Was she being literal? Does that make her Heron's daughter? Questions for later. For now, with the reinforcements driven off, he refocused on the wereshark currently dueling both of his bodyguards. He didn't want to use a lightning bolt on a small ship deck, but he had other tricks up his sleeve. Sometimes even a small, simple spell could win the day.

He hummed a short, sharp series of bars and made a swirling gesture with his hand before pointing at the pirate. Immediately what looked like a very small thunderhead formed right above his actual head and began peppering him with tiny lightning bolts. "Gah!" The pirate cried out. "What the- Ow! Hey, cut it- Aah!" The bolts themselves were weak. They did next to nothing really. But they were painful, and that was distracting. The distraction was enough for the frost dwarves fighting him to slip in under his guard and get some solid hits with their axes, but his lycanthrope regeneration was making this more of an annoyance than a real bane.

Lycanthrope... They were transporting metals from that outpost - that mining outpost whose mineral wealth included silver veins. What if... Lucky turned, charged across the deck, leapt over the railing and ran down belowdecks quick as the wind. Hopefully the others could hold out for just a minute...
 
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Ottriman

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Lucky would find that one of the crates was in fact full of silver bars, though there was no refined silver weapon to be seen.

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Curia saw the humongous machete come down, she assessed its speed and found it wanting, she dodged the blow. The pirates bosses new size had left him slow and cumbersome, certainly Curia found it impressive he could grow that much, but his growth was clearly not that efficient and refined. Otherwise he would be faster and more precise, Curia planned to exploit this weakness for all it's worth.

The massive machete she had just dodged clove through the deck floor like it was hardly there, leaving a long and narrow hole in it. Curia swiftly stabbed his hand in retaliation, earning a grunt from the boss pirate. This continued for a while, the deck kept getting torn up as she dodged and countered, but she realized that the comparatively tiny wounds were mending just as fast as she could dish them out. This couldn't keep up forever or the whole ship would get trashed, she needed to find a way to overcome his regeneration or inflict massive trauma.

The boss pirate bellowed in frustration at her as she evaded his blows, he dropped his machete and went all-out to try and get her. He leapt towards her, or well more like fell at her, Curia couldn't sidestep such a massive blow and instead braced her rapier. He fell right on top of her rapier, the blade buried itself up to its hilt in his chest but couldn't quite reach any vitals. His falling on top of her drove the breath out of her lungs and broke the deck, causing them to fall down to the next level where his weight slammed her into the metal floor. Curias vision swam as she was rammed hard enough into a steel floor to horribly dent it.

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The Pirate boss held her down and grinned a toothy grin, He was finally getting the upper hand over her! No one would make a fool out of him! Especially not a tiny woman. She was still struggling despite all this and it took some strength to hold her bruised and battered body down. She wrecked his haul and almost made a fool out of him, she needed to die painfully, but in what way? He shivered in anticipation, thinking of ways he could make her pay.

He drove his elbow into her chest, and was rewarded with a grunt and her coughing up a bit of blood. Come to think of it, it had been a while since he'd done that to anyone, and being eaten alive would certainly be appropriately painful for someone like her! He took her head into his mouth and immediately tasted her blood.

It was utter delight, power danced on his tongue, he had never felt anything even remotely this tasty. He stopped paying attention to much of anything other then the taste, not his surroundings, nor that the sword was still buried in his chest, nor the fact his enlargement wouldn't last much longer. His grip slackened, he was basically doing nothing.

Just relishing the taste....

((This is a cue for the guy to die basically, what exact way not really determined yet, be creative))
 
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CreepyShutIn

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Yes! Silver bars! That was all he needed. He grabbed a bit of rope, cutting off about the right length, and whistled a tune he'd learned on the sands of Kalashar. Immediately the length of rope sprang to life, and he released it to pick up a bar of silver and slot it roughly into the crook of his staff. The rope twisted around the bar and tied it tight until he was certain it was secure. To call the result a hammer would be an insult to hammers everywhere - despite having the general shape, it was more of a club really. But it would suffice.

Lucky ran back up to find that the situation had changed: Curia looked hurt, and the giant wereshark had... stopped to... what in the Wastes was he doing? It looked like that Vulcan spell he once saw that overwhelmed the senses with pleasure. Well, whatever. "Curia!" Lucky called out, shifting his grip on his club-staff. "Catch!" He hurled it in her direction, knowing his clumsy throw would never actually hit her but it was close enough for her to catch. What she did after that, with a giant wereshark in front of her and a silver-topped club in hand, was her business.

Finally he looked up to where the two dwarves who'd protected him before were still fighting that pirate. That was going about how he'd left it: The frost dwarves were avoiding his clumsy, distracted swings and retaliating against his legs, but his regeneration made their efforts moot. If they could get at the head it wouldn't be enough, but he was stubbornly refusing to fall over despite the barrage. Seemed like he needed a little something extra to push him over. Lucky was happy to provide.

He ran to one of the crates lashed to the deck, nimbly leapt up to it and propelled himself from there with one leg up to the railing of the deck above, which he grasped to turn his ascent into a quick flip. When he landed he thrust both his arms at the pirate and called out "Scirocco!" A sudden gust of wind battered him, and even as his legs were healing the latest wounds it proved just a bit too slow: The lycanthrope fell over onto his back.

"No, no, no," he said in a panic as the dwarves approached, realizing what was coming. "Oh nonononono! Aaaaa-" His scream was cut off, along with his head, in one swift blow of the lead dwarf's large, mithril axe. One more down.
 
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Ottriman

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Curia was woozy, she hadn't felt this beat up in a while, not that being body slammed through a deck by fifteen tons of shark was enough to knock her out, would be disgraceful if it was. The pirate boss froze when he first tasted the blood on her face, his grip slackened, this was to be exploited.

Lucky threw an improvised hammer made of a metal bar bound to the end of his staff towards her. She muscled herself out of the pirate bosses grip and swiftly picked up the "hammer". This snapped the pirate boss out of his trance, but he was just a tad too slow, and barely able to move in the corridors with his massive bulk.

"Hyyyyaaaaaaah!"

Curia let out a warcry and hit him as hard as her divine strength permitted, straight to the top of his skull. The blow was comparable to all the force of several grenades focused onto a narrower spot. She had briefly flashed a cobalt blue and her voice had gained unearthly resonance for a split second before the "hammer" made contact.

The result was immediate and bloody, even the bosses incredibly thick skull was no match for the demigoddesses wrath. The top portion of his head messily caved into his neck, gore and bone fragments scattered all over the place. The rope holding the bar to the staff snapped and the now flattened silver bar bounced away, now more of a bowl-shape then anything.

Curia was panting and unsteady on her feet, she had been just a little reckless in how much power she was pulling in this constrained form. That had been dangerously close to transforming, Curia shivered at the thought even as the bosses corpse shrunk back to its natural size before her eyes. The head was mostly gone with just a tiny bit of jaw remaining signifying that once this corpse had a head. She removed her rapier from the corpse and sheathed it, it could be cleaned later.

She bat the remains of the silver bar, carrying it with her mouth while dragging the boss pirates corpse up to the main bridge with her left hand while supporting her weight using Luckies staff in her right. Once up on the mostly ruined deck she tossed the boss pirates corpse overboard and spat out the silver "bowl". She was panting, her body was badly bruised and her face flushed from the exhilaration of combat.

"Sorry *huff* about *puff* the silver bar."
 
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CreepyShutIn

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Lucky leaned on the railing, surveying the damage. The state of the ship wasn't too bad, overall. A few holes in the deck, but none in the hull, so nothing to worry about immediately. The crew had all survived, too, though he'd probably spend a while healing one of them. Good thing no self-respecting dwarf would go anywhere without an axe or hammer. He knew a fussy, prim-and-proper scribe who carried a warhammer under his robe.

In the end they let the pirate ship sail away - apparently the loss of their boarding crew, captain included, and the denial of any further boarders via suppression by lightning strike was more than they could handle. That meant they could get straight to the cleanup. There was nothing much to be done for the holes but to hammer a few planks over them and get the real repairs done in port later on, so Lucky and just pitched in where he could. Still, there was plenty of debris to pick up, some of which had to be tied down somewhere, some just tossed overboard as useless splinters.

But through it all, it wasn't until Lucky had a moment belowdecks with Curia, healing her injuries from the battle, that he asked what had been on his mind. "So, demigoddess. That a literal thing or just spur-of-the-moment hype?"

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Overall, the port was fairly unremarkable. It was what it was: A place for ships to come in, offload their cargo and then send that cargo to somewhere else. Of course cities had grown from that sort of thing before, and might have done here, if the whole place wasn't so damn dry and inhospitable. The surrounding lands were mainly arid steppes, without even the hidden abundance of a proper desert to recommend them. If it wasn't a geographically convenient place to dock a ship from the far south, it'd be completely empty.

But Lucky was glad to be on land again either way. He liked the sea just fine, but the freedom to wander off in any direction on a whim always made him feel better, even if he didn't actually do it.
 
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Ottriman

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After the pirates were defeated, Curia went belowdecks to get a nice rest, she was heavily bruised and scratchd but no major injury had occurred, which was good. She estimated that unassisted she should be fully healed in around 2-3 days, of course given the people aboard she was unlikely to be unassisted.

As she was resting there was a knock on the door and Lucien came in. He was practically right on time, of course he would come to heal her, there was no real reason for him not to. Curia smiled, that was mighty fine, she liked his healing, the soothing melody going with it could put a smile on any injured persons face.

And heal her he did, in but a few minutes most of the damage had been undone and he stopped singing, Curia was a bit unhappy with this but only frowned slightly. Lucky looked like he had something on his mind.

"So, demigoddess. That a literal thing or just spur-of-the-moment hype?"

Curia twitched, she had been briefed on the importance of this information and how it was not to be revealed lightly. On the other hand, she hated lying, honesty is what builds trust, which builds friendship, which builds society. This could be a terrible mistake, nonetheless Curia took a deep breath and spoke.

"Yes, that's the literal thing, my mother is Heron."

She rose from the bed, went up to Lucky and whispered to him.

"This information isn't to be revealed lightly, consider it our secret, for now."

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The harbor was very unremarkable, another place that probably wouldn't give her too much information about the state of the world. Though it was no doubt a step up from the antarctic, the southernmost tip of Africa was still an inhospitable place after all. Still civilization thrived all over the earth no doubt, compared to many other places even earths worst places were like paradise.

As Curia helped unload the ship she drew stares from various dock workers due to the huge amount of crates she moved by herself. The ships crew was also busying itself negotiating for the price of repairs and talking about the uptick in pirate activity for the past 2-3 decades. That was a topic which interested Curia so she listened in.

A local Desert Orc of some variety, dressed in fairly light but covering clothing was talking to the ships captain. His tusks were silvery, no doubt dental fillings, but otherwise this orc seemed of fairly modest build and stature compared to some Curia had seen in the past. He also had golden earrings and other jewelry so he was probably rich.

"So what you're saying is that your passengers fended off the Rhubear weresharks?"

"Oh aye, I could hardly believe it myself! These two travelers may not look like it but they're very strong! I know you doubt me but we have two pirate corpses to show for it."

"I'm doubting you, but if I hadn't just seen one of them lift metal-stuffed crates all by herself without breaking a sweat I would utterly disbelieve you. I think we can arrange for free of charge repairs for your ship captain, assuming that what you say is true."


So the captain and the orc went to the ship, this orc was probably important so Curia made a mental note to ask about him. The first two things she wanted to do was figure out why the amount of pirates had increased, and sell the gemstones she had for some actual local cash.
 
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CreepyShutIn

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"Heron, huh? Wait, don't you mean-" The penny dropped, and Lucky stopped short. "Nevermind, I get it now. So, he sent you on a fact-finding mission here, huh?" He leaned against the wall, looking thoughtful. "That about closes the gaps in what I'd figured. In that case, there's probably something you should know off the bat: Did your parents ever tell you how churches used to solve serious religious disagreements? As in so serious they threatened to cause a divide in the churches? A high priest of some sort would contact another plane directly and ask their god or a representative. Simple, and it solves major theological issues.

"Only now they can't actually do that." He rubbed the back of his head, wondering how he should proceed, then decided to start at the beginning. "First I remember hearing of it was when I was eight, but apparently it'd been getting worse for decades. The Church of Heron had a serious disagreement over matters of honor. One side believed that war should be waged by certain standards. Treat the enemy with dignity, especially prisoners; don't use poison or similar, underhanded tactics; generally 'conduct thyself with honor on the holy fields of war.' That's an actual quote.

"The other side disagreed. They believed that you should wage war with practicality first and honor... pretty much not even considered. Terror tactics, sabotage, poison, you name it. Now as you can imagine, mortals don't join the faith of the war god because they're calm, diplomatic folks, so this escalated quickly. Frankly I'm pretty sure the faith held itself together as long as it did mostly on momentum. But about twenty-one years ago they finally snapped. One of the archpriests killed another; he insists it was a duel, but not everyone believes it. Since then it's been all-out war.

"Currently most of the war is in a bit of a lull. It's not peace, exactly, and some places are still seeing fierce fighting, but mostly they're rearming and resupplying for the next phase of killing each other senselessly. At least they have the decency to keep it away from major population centers, but the whole thing hasn't been kind to the countryside." He sighed, shaking his head. "By comparison, the schism in the Church of Kalthir was pretty quiet. One side believes luck corrupts the simple purity of achieving your goals through personal competence, the other believes the truly competent should roll with the punches. They've just been ignoring each other in a state of Mutually Apathetic Disdain."

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"While we're here," Lucky remarked as he and Curia left a currency exchange (common in trading posts, for obvious reasons) "you should probably know the golden rule of desert survival. Actually it's a good rule of thumb for everything, but out here it's life: If it looks too good to be true, it is. Oasis in the middle of nowhere that wasn't there a few minutes ago? Yeah, that's a mirage. Predator mysteriously turns tail and runs? There's something bigger coming. And last but not least, desert guides. The good ones will squeeze every coin they can out of you through sheer haggling, then guide you safely to wherever it is you're going. The bad ones will offer to work for a fraction of that, then lead you to the middle of nowhere, slit your throat and loot your corpse."

Perhaps the most jarring thing about this was the way he said it. It was with a sort of downbeat acceptance, as if it were something he didn't like but couldn't fix - which was probably about how it was, really. "The absolute worst are the ones who haggle you for everything, but then lead you to a bandit ambush. The bandits take whatever's left, usually non-coin goods, and the 'guide' goes back to find some other victim. Hard to tell them from the good ones. Which is why I paid a friend of mine to stick around here a while so she could help me get back." He gestured for Curia to follow, going through some alleyways toward what looked like a bar. "I'll warn you now, she has a foul mouth. Luckily it's in her language, her Common isn't so good. She also charges frankly extortionate rates. But she's honest to a fault and has a good heart."
 
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Ottriman

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When Lucien started talking about the affairs of mothers followers she stood to attention and carefully drank in each and every word. The more he talked about the state of affairs, the more Curia frowned. She had been told that a conflict not too dissimilar to this, but to actually hear it just made it that much more frustrating.

Curia was holding onto the end of the bed, towards the end of his explanation the iron bedpost had crumpled up under her grip, her hands white from how tightly she was holding it. The metals pitiful squeak as it folded up under her grasp seemed to get her attention, she was trembling as she slowly released the mangled bedpost.

"Lu-Lucky, leave now and give me a moment."

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That night many found it difficult to sleep because of the piercing scream of rage that had happened earlier in the evening. It seemed to reverberate and haunt the crew members more then any normal scream would, it felt like it might travel over the entire world just to get back at them.

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Curia counted the coinage she'd received from the currency exchange, 40.000 local Rhoomblas, this was a hefty sum of money represented by 1000 Kubists, platinum coins worth 40 Rhoomblas each. One could buy a spacious and comfy home for 5 with this kind of money. Since there were 200 Kubists to the kg she was walking with 5 kg of platinum on her person.

Lucien mentioned the toxic culture of guidance around these parts.

"How come they can get away with things like that? It really has never happened that they angered someone really strong and were never the same again?"

If they'd try to pull something like that off on anyone Curia knew from home they would no doubt dearly regret it. Curia was briefly lost in thought imagining exactly how various people would react, and how much would be left of the guides in some cases. Then Lucien mentioned the friend of his that he was going to depend upon. Would only make sense given the apparently underdarkian attitude of backstabbing among the guides here, Curia was seriously flummoxed by that.

"Sounds like a good idea given the.... Bizarre success of backstabbing here."

Curia followed Lucien into the bar, a fairly modest place by all accounts. The bar had a kind of silent and somber mood to it she didn't expect. Various people mostly made quiet conversation or sipped drinks.
 
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CreepyShutIn

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"Oh, it's not that bad. Don't get the wrong idea, nine out of ten guides you'll meet are... mostly honest. They'll get you where you need to go, anyway. And out of the bad ones, another nine out of ten are just crooks and scoundrels, not murderers or bandit guides. But I don't really know the lay of the land here, so on the off-chance we get a bad one, it's better to not get lost in the desert. Trust me, I've been there, it's not fun. Also she owns a magic carpet - only seats one, but she can guide us through the air so we don't have to walk.

"Oh, and before I forget: Most of the people who could kill them easily kinda stand out." He looked around the tavern they'd just entered, then pointed at a man with short, black hair, a scar on his nose, several throwing axes strapped across his person and one much larger axe that seemed to be made entirely of wood, bark and all. "That guy, there. He's an obvious case of kill-you-with-one-hand. Not all of them advertise it like that, of course - some are pretty low-key - but natural selection works: the criminal underworld in many places has evolved to not cross people with glowing swords or floating crystals around their heads or something like that." He paused. "Or hire very good hitmen. And if they accidentally cross friends or family of said, well, may the gods have mercy on them. These guys probably won't."

Looking around again, Lucky soon spotted someone - a bald, tanned and heavily-tattooed dwarf woman wearing desert clothes, several bags and a scowl, as if the beer she was staring into had personally offended her. "There's my contact," he said cheerfully. "C'mon, follow my lead." He made his way toward the woman, weaving easily between tables and patrons, and called out a greeting in Kelas, the trade language used across this continent. Come to think of it, he wasn't sure if Curia understood all spoken languages. Some Outsiders did, to be sure. Well, if not, he could do the talking, since Dhasha's Common was terrible. Dhasha responded in a tone that matched her expression, but she looked straight at him and sat up straighter. More regard than she showed most people.
 
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Ottriman

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As they went inside Lucien continued to comment on the guides, clarifying that one out of ten would lie to you and one in a hundred would flat out back stab you. Curia wasn't particularly reassured by this, though it would obviously not affect them given his contact. He mentioned the potential obviousness of a lot of warriors and pointed at one. Curia looked him over, assessing his strength based on the slight muscle movements he did as he shifted in his seat. Around 1/5th to 1/4th her strength, barring boosting tricks she was unaware of, so pretty good but not the most amazing ever or anything.

Curia looked at the bartender, come to think of it, she had not had a good drink in over a month. The real reason to drink alcoholic and other such drugged liquids was to get high on them, but the amount she required might draw undue attention. Curia mused, so long as she didn't babble anything unfortunate about her nature or mission it'd be fine!

For now she had to pay attention to the dealings with Lucien's contact, this was important for her mission after all.
 
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CreepyShutIn

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The conversation in Kelas continued for a few minutes as Dhasha tried to raise the agreed-upon price and Lucky cheerfully turned her down. By this point that was practically traditional, citing some way things had changed since they made the agreement, but with only a scant few weeks between they both knew there wasn't much that could justify it this time. Soon enough Lucky turned back to Curia, nodding. "Good news! Since we arrived early, we can get going today instead of having to sleep on it. We can start setting up as soon as Dhasha's finished drinking... so, maybe come back in an hour." He met the surly dwarf's scowl with a cheery grin. Apparently her Common wasn't that bad. "Seriously, though, while we're waiting on that, there's probably a few things you ought to know.

"First off, we're heading to the city of Bharadesh. It's a trade city north of here, a few days' travel on foot. We've got supplies on a camel, but just leave that beast to Dhasha. Camels are evil bastards. Also, every time I go anywhere there's at least fifty-fifty odds something is going to happen, whether it's an attack by bandits or monsters or a sandstorm forcing us to take shelter in ancient ruins or something else weird. That's the other reason I needed to hire in advance. Dhasha's one of the few who'll put up with all that.

"Being that we're going by a trade route, naturally there's bandits to worry about. There's no real guard or anything, most caravans just hire their own protection and either it's enough or it's not. Besides that, there's also some scary beasts out in the desert. I haven't heard of any lairing along the path we're taking, and since she would've told me by now if there were that means we're probably off all the main hunting grounds, but some monsters like to wander. Other than that, remember the golden rule and we should be fine. Any questions?"
 
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