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 Participants: Steel Falcon, Faz, Tobias

Time: Early Therendor, 998 YK (the month following Olarune)

Places: Karrnath, Breland

Steel Falcon

"Thanks for meeting me on such short notice... 'Steel Falcon.'" Ezi smiled a bit at the name. "No, no, I'm not making fun! I like it."

He hung up his coat at the rack that Lysa kept at the door to her quarters, then took off his hat. "So I have a lead. It's in Karrnath, and I understand if you don't want to leave the country with your legal status all - " He tilted his hand back and forth, then he took a deep breath.

"It's about your father. I went off the descriptions of the other people you said were meeting with him and I may have something. One of them fits the description of one Benjamin Droth, a functionary who was caught with his pants down and that blunted his political fortunes, which is how the paper's Karrnath office found him. He is confirmed to still be alive as of the Day of Mourning, so I don't think he was in Cyre.

"The thing is, ever since that incident he was rumored - nothing printable, but he was rumored to be mixed up with some more radical elements. He might have a connection to the Order of the Emerald Claw, the disgraced shock troopers and knights of the nation - since they were disowned and went into hiding they've become radicalized too. They're dangerous news, even for someone who fought Xander Troy's prototype warsuit and won. But it's the best lead to finding more about your father that I've found."

Tobias

Tobias told himself that nothing good was ever easy, and it helped as he and the priests and priestesses worked to establish the Silver Hearth.

Korth was an ideal place to start, close to the border as it was and the capital of the nation. But it had taken extensive negotiation to even get a foothold, and even then, it was the Low District. Tobias didn't mind - the Low District was where help was needed most - but it did rankle some of the others.

Currently he was using his powers to cure several particularly nasty cases of maggot fever, a disease that often affected the sick of Karrnath - the infestation taking root in the stomach and making it impossible for victims to keep any food down, letting them slowly starve in anticipation of the maggots' next meal. But the maggots were cleansed by the Silver Flame, and they were day in and day out the mightiest army Tobias had faced.

As he tended to the victims of each in turn, one of the priests entered - a young half-elf man named Melv, who was steadfastly faithful but who tended to drink too much. He surveyed those Tobias was tending too, and shook his head. 

"Horrible. It's spread by bread that's been on the shelf too long. I wish they didn't eat it - no, I wish they didn't have  to eat it. But I can't blame them."

Faz

Faz stepped off the platform of the lightning rail, the air still thick with the lightning elemental's discharge. He watched as other passengers fought to keep themselves from being stung by static lightning.

Dr. K stepped out behind him, muttering as he adjusted his collar. "I swear that the damn elementals do that on purpose. Yes, I'm aware that they're little more than roaring bundles of instinct when bound to these things, let a man be mad at something. All right, let's see..."

The doctor toted his bags further away from the platform. "Faz, do keep an eye out for pickpockets? I would rather not lose my identification papers while stranded in a strange land where they probably still collect corpses for the army. Now, ah yes, here we go."

Dr. K unfolded a piece of paper that had a carefully illustrated picture of a halfling, dressed in leaves and bark, with a seed replacing one eye and an expression that spoke of the lack of mirth one found on a halfling's face only when House Jorasco informed you your coin purse was empty. "Well, he won't be hard to find. Where to?"

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Lysa listened to Ezi, and conflicting emotions roiled inside her...the kind that were hard to express, even when she had a face of flesh. She was doing good work in Sharn, and there was still more to do. There would always be more to do.

But this Benjamin Droth was mixed up with dangerous people by the sound of it. If she didn't follow up quickly, there might not be anything left to follow up on.

She looked at her friend and said, "Ezi...this is amazing work. You have no idea what this means to me. Do you have any information about where this Order of the Emerald Claw operates from?"

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"If we knew that, they wouldn't be much of a terror organization. That said: Karrnath's capital, Korth, might be a good place to start. There was a recently uncovered cell there - they fled, burning the building, and the local guards confiscated whatever was left - whatever they could find, anyways. You could try talking to them. Alternately: you could go to the building and see if they missed anything."

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Tobias turned to Melv from where he'd been working, perplexed by the half-elf's comment. "What bread? Are you saying this is literally the only food available in the District?" Low District or not, surely in the capital food could not be so generally scarce unless it was a major civic problem. And the Karrnathians would never let it get that far.

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Faz nodded thoughtfully. "You'd think pickpockets would be less common in a place where breaking the law can get you chased down by zombies. I'll keep an eye out."

He glanced at the picture and smirked. "I dare say we'll be looking for him in the seedier parts of town. Might be worth checking with the officials, seeing if they have any idea where the fringe nut-jobs gather. We should also consider if we want to do the direct approach or..." He didn't shift his facial features, but rather his expression, into one of unhinged insanity, "...infiltration. You know which one I find more entertaining."

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On 5/11/2016 at 10:41 PM, Charlotte said:

"If we knew that, they wouldn't be much of a terror organization. That said: Karrnath's capital, Korth, might be a good place to start. There was a recently uncovered cell there - they fled, burning the building, and the local guards confiscated whatever was left - whatever they could find, anyways. You could try talking to them. Alternately: you could go to the building and see if they missed anything."

Lysa chuckled ruefully. "That seems like it should be obvious when you say it like that. I need to start thinking in straighter lines, I think."

She paused, then said, "Well, I suppose I don't really need to pack anything. Take care of yourself while I'm gone, Ezi."

It felt weird and awkward to say. She'd come to rely on him when not in the lab. He was...savvy, in way she wasn't.

But maybe it was time to start working on that.

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Tobias

"Well, there is food, but there is also a food shortage. This drives up the price of all food, and that means that the more expired food remains all the poorest can afford." Melv sighed. "It's the way of things. Though... hm."

He thought for a moment, then spoke. "Tobias, I'm not sure what's causing the recent food shortage, but my bondmate heard rumors of a supernatural blight - one that has even the Houses Ghallanda and Jorasco scratching their heads. Maybe this is something you can help with?"

Faz

"If our seedy friend here - " Dr. K smirked thinly at the joke. "... is up to what we think he is, maybe a mix of both. If he's spreading blight among crops, perhaps the distribution centers in Korth for that sort of thing may be a good bet. Or see if there's any stories of tainted crops making their way into the sickbeds of the city?"

Steel Falcon

Initially, she tried the rail, but once she'd exhausted her reading material Lysa found she could outpace the lightning rail. Still the marker stones that conducted the elemental carriages still made for a nice guiding path. It didn't take her long to make it to Korth, and once she'd touched down, the question of where to go first presented itself.

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"Let's plan on hitting Korth in a day or two. I would like to mingle and get the lay of the land here in the city first. Plus, meandering around the sanitariums, maybe we'll find a good turn or two that needs doing." He bit his lip. "Have you heard from any of our 'old' 'friends'", a phrase by which he meant 'newish frienimies', "operating in town? We might be able to get a lead if we can convince them we aren't trying to overthrow the government this time."

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After deliberating...not dithering!...for a few minutes, Lysa decided that starting with the local guard would be best. Not only would they know the city better, but they'd surely appreciate an effort on her part to work with them, not try to sneak around them. And lets face it...sneaking was not her strong suit.

It didn't take long to locate a guard patrol. The capital of Karnath was very security-minded, by the look of it.

She waved at them as she came towards them...not hurrying or anything, but very clearly trying to catch their attention. She'd learned the hard way that guards rarely appreciated feeling like she was charging in.

"Excuse me, I'm new to the city and I need some help?" she said. "I need to speak with...well, someone with authority in the city guard."

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"Supernatural?" Tobias asked, while already having his attention drawn. "Yes, it's something I can look into. When did this start?"

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Tobias

"Started far out in the farmlands that feed the city, and it's been a minor problem for over a month that's blooming into a major one. They say the wheat grows crooked - or just doesn't grow at all. I'm not sure which areas. There may be a division of the city guard looking into it, since a food shortage affects us all. Or the distribution centers for House Ghallanda may know more, as well?"

Steel Falcon

For a moment, the guards looked intimidated. Once they reckoned that Lysa wasn't about to attack, they started to get a little dismissive.

"Oh yeah? What's so important, then? You just tell us and we'll pass it along, all right?"

Faz

"One we'd be most likely to run into would be Ebeneezer, and..." Dr. K frowned. "All else aside, I just would rather avoid talking to him. Beyond who he is, and yes, I know that's bias on my part, but beyond who he is I have heard he has not taken the destruction of Cyre very well." He sighed. "Not that anyone has. Don't think he had family or friends there, though. More that he was having existential troubles grasping an entire nation lying dead and bloated in the sun.

"You can talk to him if you want. I understand he's plying his trade as an investigator now."

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"It involves the Order of the Emerald Claw," Lysa replied evenly. "And what I have to say is very long and detailed. Do you have a parchment and inkpen? The consequences of failing to write it precisely could be catastrophic...to your careers I'd expect, even if nothing else."

"Or, and I leave this entirely up to you, if you'll point the way to where your commander is I'd be happy to simply go tell your superiors myself...thus not wasting your time any further, and not getting you entangled in what will almost surely be a very dangerous situation."

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At the mention of the Order's name, one of them straightened up. "All right, okay. Tell you what. The guard house is just down that way..." He rattled off a series of directions. "When you get there, ask for the Special Liason from the Order of Rekkenmark. Three k's in Rekkenmark. If you're not just doing whatever you all do for fun, you can tell it all to them. Aright? Aright."

The other one looked as his partner askance. "You're taking this seriously?"

"Rather not lose another building to those sons of buttfucked dogs. Yes, I'm taking this seriously." He nodded at Lysa. "That should do you, then?"

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"Right. I'll see if I can track him down diplomatically but I won't bank on it. Main focus is hunting for word on our mark. I figure I may as well get started. Unless you need me to run a face in support of your own investigations I'll make myself scarce and drop you a line whereever you decide to bunk down by tomorrow afternoon."

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While the House might well be placed to know a bit more, something in Tobias' thought elected him to steer towards the guard. "I'll see the guard. They should know we're here willing to help." A little more work and nudge towards confirming the seeds of peace in their minds, one step at a time. "None of the people here absolutely need my attention anyway."

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Faz

"Tomorrow afternoon it is. See you then!"

A little poking around revealed that Ebeneezer was spending a lot of time at the office for the Special Liaison for the Order of Rekkenmark. Rumors abounded that his coffin had been moved into the station house, but no confirmation was made. It seemed the wisest course of action, because the Order was the one that tended to deal with the more pressing and unusual threats that Karrnath faced...

Tobias

"Okay. Be careful, Tobias. Anything that can poison an entire field... well, you might be okay, but be careful anyways.

With that, Tobias set out towards the guardhouse.

I'll rule that the three of you arrive there more or less at the same time. If you wish to interact, you may; otherwise, the next phase begins with the next update.

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On 5/24/2016 at 10:27 PM, Charlotte said:

At the mention of the Order's name, one of them straightened up. "All right, okay. Tell you what. The guard house is just down that way..." He rattled off a series of directions. "When you get there, ask for the Special Liason from the Order of Rekkenmark. Three k's in Rekkenmark. If you're not just doing whatever you all do for fun, you can tell it all to them. Aright? Aright."

The other one looked as his partner askance. "You're taking this seriously?"

"Rather not lose another building to those sons of buttfucked dogs. Yes, I'm taking this seriously." He nodded at Lysa. "That should do you, then?"

Lysa smiled for a moment, but even though her face was sufficiently detailed to have the expression, it still felt stiff and insufficient to her.

"Yes, that's exactly what I needed. Thank you both."

She followed the directions, deciding for the moment to remain on foot. Partly because his directions had been for someone on the ground, and partly just because she didn't want to cause TOO big a stir. A warforged walking around, even an unusual design, was something few people really noticed unless trouble was afoot. A warforged jetting on streams of light would occasion...comment.

And truth be told, Karnath's capital city was interesting! It was big, but big in a different way than Sharn was. It was much more...horizontal. Sharn was a forest of towers connected by support beams and walkways, sustained by the magic of the planar overlap that reduced the weight of its structures. Here the buildings were rarely more than a few stories high, but spread out across a sprawling array of roads that felt like the meanderings of a maze. Trees and little gardens were everywhere; luxuries one couldn't generally indulge in when the earth was leagues below. The architecture was different as well, full of intricate carvings and statuary.

She almost walked right past the guardhouse, so absorbed was she in taking in the sights of a new place. It seemed suddenly perverse to her that she could travel faster than a horse and needed no food nor water...but she'd never really traveled!

Well, happily that was something she could fix. Later.

Lysa walked into the guardhouse and when a man in armor came to greet her...or perhaps demand what the hell she was doing there...she said, "I need to speak to the Special Liason of the Order of Rekkenmark, Is that something you can help me with?"

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The man in the armor frowned. "Possibly? He's a night owl, so he's currently resting. Is it particularly urgent, worth waking him up, or should I get one of his assistants instead?"

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Tobias arrived at the guardhouse and asked for the person in charge of the investigation into the tainted crops.

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On 6/1/2016 at 9:02 PM, Charlotte said:

The man in the armor frowned. "Possibly? He's a night owl, so he's currently resting. Is it particularly urgent, worth waking him up, or should I get one of his assistants instead?"

That set Lysa back for a moment. Well, she didn't want to start things out on the wrong foot...and it wasn't urgent really. It was important to her, but she didn't think there was a ticking clock.

"Oh. Well...if he's unavailable, I can speak to one of his assistants."

She was just about to name-drop the Order of the Emerald Claw, when abruptly she didn't. Maybe Ezi was rubbing off on her after all, but it occurred to her at the last moment that the more people knew that's what she was here for, the sooner the Order would find out. If she could delay that reckoning, she'd make much more effective progress.

So instead, Lysa finished with, "Thank you."

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At Tobias' inquiry, the guard that had just finished talking to a tall, unusually designed warforged turned to him. "Seems to be a popular gentleman today - well, gentlebeing, I suppose. Tell you what, you wait over there with the other one waiting to see him and I'll see what I can do to get one of his assistants out here."

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Faz was a human today, done up like a tradesman visiting from the mountains. He picked up a steaming meat-filled pastry as he meandered toward the Rekkenmark Order's local headquarters. He didn't care much for Karnathi cuisine but found the accent delightful and was glad at a chance to practice. His plan had been simplicity itself: he would imitate an official, sneak into the facility, leave an un-ignorable message for old Eb in an impressively conspicuous yet hard to access location (he had been aiming for inside his coffin lid) and then sneak back out to wait for contact.

But then as he began to case the locale he became aware of others who, although more direct in their methods, were of similar intent. He decided to hang back, going with a hastily yet cunningly concocted plan C. (Plan B was telling the truth and going through the proper channels. It was reserved for only the most dire of situations.)

He approached Tobias, "'Scuse me sir. Couldn't help but overhear you're here about some trouble in field of agriculture. Hah! Field." He cleared his throat, "I've got some related business I need to put forward. Maybe even the very same business. Do you mind if I sit in? A united front might get more attention, eh?"

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Lysa backs up a couple of steps to let the man work, then looks around for a seat. Of course, most chairs weren't structurally sound enough for a warforged, and she didn't exactly get tired of standing. But it was awkward sometimes.

In the process, her gleaming red eyes happened to glance at the other two men there, who apparently were hoping to talk to someone about...what was it? Crops or something?

Huh. This office seemed to cover an eclectic mix of jurisdictions.

They were talking to each other already, so she didn't interrupt...but as she found a spot to stand that didn't put her right in the middle of the room, she couldn't help but listen. There wasn't much else to do after all.

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Before too long, someone in an official-looking uniform came out, and beckoned for the three of them to follow.

Assuming they did, they were escorted into a gloomy room with no natural light. There were chairs arrayed before a very messy desk, and a pale, weary man sitting behind it. He regarded them all.

"My name is Ebeneezer. I'm Special Liason to the Order of Rekkenmark. Forgive me if I look tired, but I'm usually not out and about in daylight on account of not wanting to explode like a jar of alchemist's fire that's gone bad. I understand you all have an array of concerns to bring to my attention, however?"

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It took Lysa a moment to realize what was going on, and the realization sent chills down her back, even though she no longer had the specific dietary requirement this creature craved. So they really did embrace the undead in Karnath. Even putting them in high positions. She couldn't help but wonder how that worked out, in the long run.

Well. When in Karnath...

"My apologies," she said. "I was told I'd be talking to one of your assistants. I've come to you because an investigation of mine has put me on the trail of the Order of the Emerald Claw, and I was told that you are the local authority on such matters."

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"The Emerald Claw?" Faz turned pale and gulped, "I, um, was here to present some concerns about agricultural tampering." He lowered his voice conspiratorially, "I've heard whispers that the Children of Winter could be involved." He reached into his coat and produced an unmarked envelope which he placed on the table. On top of it he placed a small, cheap looking, personal calling card embossed with the name 'Marvin Tavish', underneath which was printed 'Slate & Chalk'. "Not my sort of business at all, you see, but I owe a favor to some freelancers looking into the matter."

Inwardly Faz cringed. The Emerald Claw were a rotten bunch but they weren't his rotten bunch. Not today anyway. He hoped old Eb wouldn't focus on the home-grown rotters to the exclusion of his vendetta. At the same time, he wondered if he would have an opportunity to get an eye on any of the Warforged's leads. It was always good to have the makings of another project on hand.

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"Who are these Children of Winter?" Faz drew an immediate query from Tobias, who stared intently at the man. "My name is Tobias. I came to offer the aid of the Church of the Silver Flame in putting an end to this supernatural rot, so I want to hear what you have to say."

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"Ah, um," Faz replied, returning Tobias's stare with a nervous grimace that might have been an attempt at a smile of greeting, "A dangerous druidic cult, I'm told. Obsessed with death and decay. I'm afraid I haven't got many details; I'm just a messenger. But if you're interested I might be able to get you a word with my troubleshooting acquaintance." He mopped his brow with a handkerchief from his pocket, leaving a smear of chalk dust on his forehead.

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"All right, one at a time. One at a time. You." He pointed at Lysa. "Words like 'Emerald Claw' are thrown around far too lightly nowadays. People see them around every corner and down every sewer grate. I hear tell warforged aren't prone to exaggeration so that's why I'm going to let you speak directly to me and not my assistant.

"And you - " He pointed at Tobias. "I've heard about you folks from Thrane, handing out bread with one hand and getting ready to convert the unfaithful with the other, and the word's spreading around that they're running out of the former due to some magical famine affecting crop yields."

He sat back, and took a moment to read the documents Marvin had deposited on his desk. "Children of Winter, you say? Hmm." He clucked his tongue, sniffed the air, then paused, then leaned forwards.

"Marvin, thank you, I will take it under advisement. Tobias, and what's your name, or designation I suppose to use warforged terminology: tell me what you know. And I want you to stay in this room as you do the telling, because I have a feeling your concerns may be linked."

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"Name," Lysa said, a little prickled. "Name will be fine. Mine's Lysa. I'm capable of exaggeration, but in this case I've no intention of engaging in it now."

"I'm trying to find a man named Benjamin Droth. My leads suggest that after he was disgraced and left the public eye, he fell in with the Order." She paused, thinking about how she wanted to put this. "My reasons for finding him are mostly personal. I've no evidence he presents a threat to Karnath, except for his possible involvement with the Order. I suppose I mostly wanted to make sure the law here was aware of my investigation, and to ask if you had any leads on the Order you could share."

Ugh. That sounds like it's a waste of his time! Maybe some exaggeration would have been a better idea...

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"Our goal," Tobias stated while diplomatically concealing his miffed feelings, "is to help repair the ravages of the hundred years of war. Nothing more. And I have nothing to give in terms of information. As I said, the Church mission here has heard and is offering its aid. I came to tell you this, and to seek greater details on the nature of this plague."

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At hearing the mention of the name Benjamin Droth, Ebeneezer sat up a little straighter. "Well. There's a name that hasn't been made public. So... hmmm."

He stood, and paced for a few moments, just long enough to let those present grow slightly more impatient. Then the vampire spoke. "So I can tell you this much: we suspect, strongly, that your concerns are linked. We believe that the Children of Winter do have a hand in the blights that have struck our fields fallow, and we believe that they are getting substantial support from Emerald Claw cells, and we believe that Benjamin Droth is the key linking all this together. But we aren't yet sure how."

"I have an idea of where to start, though. There is someone I plan on meeting and I would like to bring you two along. You look like you can handle yourselves and it wouldn't be the first time we've relied on adventurers. Would you be interested in joining this meeting?"

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"If it can lead me to Droth, then definitely," Lysa replied. "I'd only ask that before he's imprisoned or...whatever you do with prisoners...I need some time to talk to him privately. After that...he's all yours."

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'Marvin' took out his handkerchief again, wrung it in his hands and replaced it without using it. "I'm, um, glad to see this is all in such capable hands. I don't know when I'll see my friend again but I won't breathe a word of what I've heard here to anyone else." ... "And not even to him if you prefer."

Faz smiled inwardly. This whole operation was starting to look like more fun than he'd expected.

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"Droth. All right. Once we find him, you can have your time alone with him. All of you - meet up after sunset at the Empty Socket. It's a watering hole on the other side of the city - here, I'll draw you up a map."

Ebeneezer withdrew a few scraps of paper that looked not as important as the other heaps on his desk, and drew out a quick map for Tobias and for Lysa. "Try not to get in any trouble between now and then."

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Lysa accepts her map and looks it over for a moment, then nods.

"All right. Thank you."

For a moment her unblinking, red-gleaming eyes hovered on the other map-recipient. He'd mentioned the Church...and while there was more than one faith in the world, she only knew of one that referred to itself as that. So. Fugitive magewrights. Doomsday druids. Silver Flames, and vampires.

Ezi was going to lose his mind that he'd missed all this.

"It seems I have some time to myself then. I will see you at the Empty Socket."

From there Lysa turned to address the others. "It was nice meeting you. I wish you well in your pursuits."

Gods, what a dry, boring thing to say. But she didn't know what else TO say. People skills had never been her strong suit, and being clad in metal wasn't helping.

So she left.

Out into the afternoon sun, to see what she could find in the big city before sunset.

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As the group dispersed, Lysa - the Steel Falcon - climbed higher, and hovered in the air above Korth, taking in the sights of the city below.

She found her gaze drawn to a pair of smokestacks, from a magewright production facility - tough to tell from this far up, but what they made wasn't what drew her gaze.

For a moment in time - and a moment was only how she could quantify it, it being anywhere from half a second to a full ten minutes - the smoke from the smokestack, buffeted by the random whimsy of the winds and the stray heat pockets of the hearth below, formed an intricate, spiraling shape, and...

... maybe it was just her biases, maybe, but she could have sworn, for that moment, it had taken a shape much like a dragonmark.

Then the moment passed, and the smoke continued to unfurl, and the pattern was lost in the setting sun of Korth.

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'Marvin' stood and bowed graciously to the others. "I'll be, er, distancing myself from this business now. It seems you all have the matter in hand and my obligation to my associate has been covered. I wish you all the best of luck! ... And please, remember Tavish Slate & Chalk, for all of your blackboard needs."

Faz was reasonably confident that nobody here needed slate or chalk, but figured it wouldn't hurt if he could send a little business in the real Marvin Tavish's direction. Plus it was in character. Now it was just a matter of deciding if he wanted to tail any of these interesting people, or just carouse in the Empty Socket until meeting time...

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The Empty Socket was the first warforged-run bar that anyone had ever seen.

The bartender, Squish, was a giant older-model warforged, and the name of the bar was apparent once visitors saw that Squish had an empty eye socket. They (Squish felt neither male nor female gender was appropriate for them) tended bar with the kind of efficiency you saw in warforged, with a list of drinks with very simple names and prices.

The new arrivals - and the one staying there - saw that Ebeneezer had arrived not long after sunset, looking healthier in body... though with one empty glass in front of him and with him already nursing another, perhaps not in soul.

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A bar for warforged. Tobias found that odd, but also new and different. And a sign that they too could have normal lives like he'd insisted to the now disgraced Commander Auriks. He probably did stand out in his religious vestments.Tobias sat down beside Ebenezer, noting his frown. "Bad news?"

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