Odiri returns to the Rose Shell after a much needed bath. Deconstructing a Chimera was messy work. The Rose Shell was quiet that evening despite the upcoming festivities. Making her way up the stairs to her room she passes Eucarion’s door and pauses long enough to consider knocking, but realizing she could not sense Charka’s presence she knew he was not yet back from his foolish outing into the bamboo sea alone. He told her not to worry in his letter, but she could not help it. Upon entering her room, she was greeted by a familiar face. The house maid was lowering a stack of fine lacquered boxes onto the side table in her room. “Madam Saru got your note and decided to throw in a little extra, you lucky little thing. Get a good night’s rest you’ll need your beauty sleep” the maid chuckles and turns to leave.
Odiri was rather abruptly awoken the next morning by the maid’s perky demeanor throwing open the paper shades letting the sun in. “I have my work cut out for me so get up and eat some breakfast” she snaps as she sets out an apple and a small pastry. Odiri rubs her eyes groggily and messily throws her magicks out until that intangible force found Charka’s life energy. With a sigh of relief, she tucks into the pastry. Odiri hesitates mid bite and realizes she doesn’t even know the house maid’s name despite the regular interactions they’ve had over the last month. “Shei! Open the door my hands are full!” an elegant voice exclaims. As Shei pulls aside the door Madam Saru bustles into the room with her arms filled with nearly a dozen individually cloth wrapped packages. Odiri can do nothing but look on with horror instantly regretting asking to borrow something to wear for the festival.
“Soooooooo, Odiri! Tell us about your adventure! I’m just dying to know!” Madam Saru says with a voice dripping with a little too much interest. Both Shei and Saru’s backs were turned to Odiri as they set about unwrapping packages and relieving the lacquer boxes of their contents. “Well…” Odiri starts hesitantly as Madam Saru has never directly asked her about her trips beyond the wall. “At any other trip starts we started here…but I guess you know that. I woke in the early hours of the morning to the sound of footsteps near my door. I saw a folded piece of parchment slip under my door. It was from Eucarion. Telling me he was going beyond the wall alone. Like a fool. He says not to worry! How could I not? And if he signs it ‘Yours’ does that mean…yours, ‘yours’? Like together ‘yours’?” Odiri abruptly stops and blushes realizing both Saru and Shei were chuckling at her. “But enough of talking about him. Anywhoo, I go downstairs and I was surprised to see Kodu for the first time in what seems like forever. He and Naligor were off talking about those relics that everyone seems to be obsessed over. No one has really taken the time to explain it all to me so… I just…shoot what they need me to shoot and we call it a day. But that new girl, Syd.” Odiri narrows her eyes as Saru smiles neutrally over her shoulder. “Oh yes Syd, quiet the scrappy young thing eh?” Saru titters as she turns around brandishing a blackened metal comb and a block of perfumed wax. With a grimace Odiri continues while Saru hands the perfumed wax to Shei to set by the window to warm.
“Syd is an interesting one. She has signed her name to the charter so I feel obligated to trust her but there is something in my gut that tells me not to. Anyways, that evening as we all sat for a meal we had a rousing conversation of finding purpose. So many of us are on so many different paths but they all met here. Kodu seems driven to put a name to our purpose. Naligor and Oranssi seems so driven to push the council into change. Then there’s the wall’s sentient magicks and apparently there’s a dragon out on the coast and some old fort waaaay out there and and and!” Both Shei and Saru stare at Odiri with cocked eyebrows as she quiets and stuffs the last of the pastry in her mouth. “I’m sorry… I know all this would be much more interesting if I had an ear for politics but… I just don’t…”
“Dawn came the next morning and we set off after that wonderful breakfast. I was startled to see a horse and cart outside! Apparently Adi had come into a decent sum of money to be able to afford such niceties but I am rather excited with how much help this will be to our adventures. No more strapping bloody kobold wings to our backs! We set off into town but with Syd at our side I felt like I blinked and we were at the farmlands. I wonder if this is what it feels like with the rest of them when I lead them through the forest. While the jury is still out on the nature of her, I do feel like she may be quite useful to us. We made it to the waystation with ease. Though I could have done with a little less ribbing from Naligor about the last time we traveled this road. He means well but he frustrates me so. I felt a swell of pride upon seeing Soveliss, Kodu, Adi and Syd’s reaction to the yurt. Regardless of what was going on while it was built I am so proud of the accomplishment. I can’t wait to bring Albion, Roth and Frivolity so they can see how tall we made it for them. Much to our surprise we discovered Oranssi inside the yurt meditating, but then I saw the cauldron he commissioned set over the fire I realized why he had ventured out alone. Still foolish.” Odiri shakes her head slightly and looks up from the apple core she had just finished to see Saru advancing towards her with the metal comb now liberally coated with softened wax.
“Uhhh what’s that for?” Odiri askes ask she shifts uncomfortably on the wooden stool Shei had perched her on. Madam Saru smiles unnervingly “Don’t you trust me? I promise, you’ll walk down those stairs and Eucarion won’t know what hit him.” Shei pipes up from behind Saru as she is unwrapping the cloth packages “Like the time you got him in the back of the head with the coin pouch!” There was a shared laugh before Saru began to rake the waxy comb through Odiri’s wild mess of hair. Trying to concentrate on the sweet spicy smell of the wax instead of yelping with every brutal rake of the comb as Saru flattened her hair into a soft waves Odiri continues on “After a night’s rest and a filling breakfast we headed directly to the Dwarven Ruins. It had been decided the night before that the expeditions beyond the wall for the near future should be focused on sites referenced in the Romance of the Seven Kingdoms as it may lead us to better understand this land. Though the boys and I had been here several times before only once did they go down into the caves under the hatch and that was a whole mess with a troll from what they told me. I was eager to explore the caves and continue my map making. Before even opening the hatch I used my magicks to check below to see if any natural beasts lay below. What made me truly nervous was there was nothing. The forests around me were overflowing with the life energy of natural beasts but there was nothing below me. Not even a rat.”
“Upon going down the hatch I was shown where the Troll was burned and I set to work sketching the layout of the first massive room of the cave. It was empty but a light shown from a corridor beyond. We followed the light out of instinct only to be stopped suddenly by the sound of Goblin being spoken . We spied two hobgoblins in the distance sitting watch at a henge. In an instant Soveliss was disguising himself as a hobgoblin using the tabard we took from the elf eater in the Kami Mines. Kodu was none too pleased with the blasphemous nature of Soveliss’s collection of spiritual trinkets he uses in his trickery. I will admit watching him mouth agape like a landed fish was entertaining for a moment. Soveliss spoke at length with the hobgoblins before stepping away, bringing the leader of the two towards us hiding in the shadows. OW!” Odiri grit her teeth after a particularly hard yank of the comb through her hair. “Soveliss true to his nature blindsides the creature as Naligor transformed into a wolf so closed to me it unseated my arrow and I missed the shot. That Syd girl finally showed her worth as she slid from the shadows like ink and stabbed that hobgoblin with speed rare to see. My Xiao hit that nasty hard enough to knock a few teeth loose. Then Adi and Soveliss finished the job with their fire magic. Soveliss’s deception was far from over though. He quickly made it look like he had been injured to convince the other hobgoblin run and tell their mistress they had been betrayed. As the Hobgoblin ran by us I let an arrow fly over his head to put a little more fear in his pace.”
Madam Saru finally finishes manipulating Odiri’s hair to slick it against her head and takes her two small braids from the back of her head and crosses them across her crown pinning them into place with a tiny metal fork. Shei brings a delicate hair comb with a waterfall of small pale purple flowers made from silk to Saru to fit into braids. Odiri bites her lip, feeling awkward with the adornment as it was much heavier than it looked. Shei handed yet another ornament to Saru, this time one a mother of pearl rose to settle on top of the cascading purple flowers. Odiri takes a deep breath and tries to focus on the story rather than the fact that now Shei was starting to take a knife to her fingernails to clean the day to day grime out from them. “Once all was said and done, Kodu became absolutely unglued at Soveliss! I tried to mediate the conversation as Soveliss was explaining the ‘usefulness’ of his holy symbols to Kodu and Oranssi but they would take none of it. Oranssi spit out ‘The human in you is showing’ and the tension in the party was palpable. Honestly, I am again offended by Oranssi. He can be so compassionate and strong one moment and the next he is spitting out racial slurs in front of our human companions! He should honestly be ashamed of himself. We recovered a fair number of missives to these hobgoblins detailing something to do with The Fangs of Scotos and the Artifacts that they were being paid off with. I’m told they are a radical sect of spies loyal to the Goblin Queen. I am not sure exactly what happened but somehow Kodu and Soveliss found an awkward peace between them. Our peace did not last long as we moved forward to the next cavern noting a chamber to the right to be visited on the way out. The next cavern greeted us with an eerie cold mist that chilled you not only in body but in heart. The sound of footsteps was followed by a haunting shout of protest as two undead nasties came from the shadows. It was a Wraith and what looked to once be a Dwarf but was now a Wight.”
Odiri watched Saru and Shei mix dried red safflowers and oil in a mortar as she went on “I was instantly anxious. Undead rarely mind the attentions of physical blows so what were my arrows to do? It was then that I remembered the silver tipped arrows myself, Oranssi, and my Eucarion commissioned from Kenten. My arrow flew true and I hit the wraith and it hissed in pain. I was so happy that I was not to be entirely useless in that fight. Naligor summoned that wicked moonbeam to assist but it just pushed the Wraith to my direction and I got hit. Bad. I was stabbed right in my left side where my tunic rides up and I felt like I had been stabbed with a blade made of ice and dread. In that moment I felt like I could fall dead if I breathed wrong as I watched black veins spread from the wound. I wasn’t ready to die. I had so much more to do…to say. As if a miracle the black veins receded and only the wound was left to kill me by blood loss rather than undead magicks. Oranssi pulled a blanket from his satchel that was apparently imbued with the light of the sun which put those undead arses at quite a disadvantage. In the flurry of our group's attempts to take down our threat I see Adi materialize a sword of silver for Syd as she had nothing to defend herself against these beasties. With Soveliss and Adi’s magicks along with the speed of Kodu and Syd, the Wraith was weakened enough for Naligor to burn it to a crisp with the moonlight.” Madam Saru takes a fine calligraphy brush and paints the resulting brick colored oil and flower mixture onto Odiri’s fingernails with deft practice strokes with a warning not to touch them to anything while the color is soaking in. Odiri spreads her fingers wide and holds them out stiffly as the Madam instructed looking much like a startled cat. Shei passes a small wooden box of pale face powder to Saru with a brush made from rabbit fur. In between swipes of powder across her face Odiri presses on “After a much needed healing chant from Oranssi and a few more spells slung the Wight called in his ‘Master’ from what I assume was the chamber on the right we passed up as this creature came at us from behind. I was expecting a bit more from a ‘Master’ not some floating skull on fire. I was creeped out sure but this thing was tiny.”
“But leave it to the halfling to underestimate something for its size. Despite our best efforts to subdue this creature, its spell casting abilities bested us with a massive fireball that brought me and almost everyone else nearly to death’s door. Our success was due to the unlikely team of Kodu, Oranssi and Syd. Kodu manhandled this skull into a field of silence cast by Oranssi while Syd bashed it clean through with a dagger. For safety we doused the beast in holy water and upon completing this task both Syd and Kodu’s keys began to glow and they, I assume, returned home.” Madam Saru takes Odiri’s brief pause as a chance to capture her face with one firm hand and she carefully apply the lightest touch of carmine powder to her cheeks and mixes the barest trace of it into the Safflower and Oil mixture to create a shocking red to stain her lips. Having never worn makeup Odiri was not prepared for the visage Shei shows her in a tiny hand mirror. Flustered and more awkward than ever, Odiri explains “We saw an encouragingly bright bit of natural light at the mouth of the remaining cavern and upon further investigation down the corridor to the forward cavern. We were faced with the largest monstrosity I've ever faced, a chimera. It had the hindquarters of a goat, the forequarters of a lion, a set of dragon wings and three heads, that of a horned goat, a lioness, and a dragon. Much to our entire party’s dismay, in our hurry, we did not take time to rest up our, by that time exhausted, magick men. It was finally time for me to try out my new pistol gifted to me by Frivolity. I took all the steps he taught me and it rang out loud and true hit that beast with not only a bullet but with a little spice I added my own magicks. As the bullet left the pistol thorns materialized from the projectile itself and spread out from its course and hit like rain falling on a tile roof. Directly after my shot Adi trapped that heinous monster in spider webs that seemingly appeared from nowhere. I am repeatedly impressed by his tactics and his ability to stay incredibly calm.” Shei wipes the excess oil and safflower mixture from Odiri’s nails leaving behind a delicate peach colored stain and pulls her tattered sleeping shift over her head replacing it carefully as to avoid disturbing the delicate hair combs with a shift made from fine linen.
“Naligor had to ruin everything by turning into a damned spider again. I couldn't help but scream but my fear of dying overwhelmed my fear of spiders as the Chimera’s dragon head doused us all with its fire. That one hit took Soveliss clean out. I was not sure if he was alive or dead but I had no time to find out as I had to keep my own ass alive to make it back to this damn festival.” Odiri cursed as she started to indecisively look over the now unwrapped packages revealing a number of gaudy silk yukatas “Xiao was hurt bad and all I could do was keep fighting alongside the men to keep the beast at bay. Naligor poisoned it and Adi blinded it. Oranssi pulled Soveliss back from the darkness in time for me to reload and take another shot with my pistol. Naligor felled the beast with a valiant leaping bite in his spider form from the ceiling. While my field dressing skills are more apt to deer and rabbit they came in handy tearing this monster into manageable pieces to bring home in the cart for Elder Yen."
"A tempting exit beckoned us from the back of the cavern up into the bamboo sea but we knew we needed to finish the task of exploring so I could finish the map. Upon a cursory look about the current cavern we found a broken hammer mended into fine weapon to be added to the case and an intricate Arcane tapestry. We found our way back to the corridor that lead right from the standing stones and came upon quite a curious room with a black and white tiled floor with a bookcase and a cabinet standing in the center and upon moving these plain pieces of furniture,we discovered a chest! Precautions were taken to check to see if it was a Mimic but we were relieved to find it was just an ordinary chest. Adi took his sweet Elven time to chisel the lock open and after and hour we were rewarded with the contents! A majority of it seemed to be personal effects, a small mirror, a decoratively carved staff, A fancy new hat for me and a book of spells and uhhh…” Odiri pauses hesitantly “Oh look at this beautiful green one!” and lifts a jade green yukata with pumpkin orange trim and a subtle grey wave patterning in the body. Madam Saru snatches the yukata from Odiri’s hands and helps her into it. While tying the matching orange obi Shei asks curiously “And uhhh?” Odiri laughs obviously uncomfortable by both the questioning and the constricting nature the obi “Oh, just some old coins. Nothing special… so! Yeah we were on our way back out to Adi’s cart and I shouted about wanting to go home and as if the wall heard me our keys began to glow and we made it back just in time for today.” Madam Saru eyes Odiri skeptically as Shei helps her into a pair of child size wooden getas. “Looks like it all fits. I’ll add the loan fee to your monthly bill and if you decide you’d like to keep it we can work out some sort of payment plan. Low interest of course.” Odiri smooths her hands nervously over the folds of fabric while staring at the door knowing she can't stay in her room all day. Madam Saru gives Odiri a small push towards the door with the parting words of “If you do not try, there is no opportunity to succeed.” Saru smirks back to the house maid, Shei, when Odiri gets out of earshot “Get all of this cleaned up and make sure her room is cleaned thoroughly. Every inch of it, I wouldn't want any…dust, to get away from us”