Rise of Nations

And then there were Four
Fen and Pavel go nuts...

Pavel stowed the ring is his tunic pocket for now, making a mental note to repair the cord later and the three prepared to leave the tavern when the silence was broken by a loud burst of laughter, It seemed to come from a hulking figure in the shadows a few tables away. Having already lost a perfectly good leather cord and one of his most cherished secrets in the last few moments, it seemed that his dignity was about to follow.

“Something funny?” Pavel asked, turning toward the laughter, barely concealing his annoyment.

“Sure,” a deep voice bellowed, apparently quite amused, “…that little guy just just kicked yer butt, no mistake!”

Rallo, smiled ever so slightly but stayed silent, curious as to where the conversation would travel to.

Pavel began to stomp off toward the table to confront his accuser but Johannes’ hand on his shoulder slowed his pace and gave him a moment to regain composure. Getting the hint about curbing his temper, Pavel swallowed once, then spoke slowly, calmly-

“Had I sensed any peril in his strike, I would not have let his rapier near me.”

“Yeah,” the stranger smiled, “…righhhhhht…,” and then in a mocking tone, trying to copy Pavel’s accent-

“Had I sensed this much bullshit in you, I would not have let your comment near me.”

This time Rallo and Johannes both stifled a snicker. The seated human took a long swig from his tankard and popped a few nuts in his mouth from a bowl on the table. Pavel got the feeling he would have wiped the foam from his chin with a sleeve…if he had been wearing a shirt. Instead, an elaborate set of tribal tattoos covered his chest.

“Apparently the sign by the door that says ‘No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service’ is a bit beyond your reading level,” Pavel snorted.

“I read just fine, " the human answered, rising and grabbing his axe handle, “it’s just that anyone here acquainted with me knows not to make anything of it.”

The bartender put his palms up and shook his head rapidly back and forth, apparently not interested in enforcing the dress code at the moment. The hulking human, set his axe back down.

Pavel was still fuming and Johannes sensed the young monk was about to do something very stupid. The elf smiled and quickly stepped forward, offering his hand to the newcomer and defended the young monk.

“I dunno, Pavel’s got quick hands, it might have been a close contest. My name’s Johannes…”

“Fen. Nice to meet you, lad,” the barbarian answered, taking Johannes offered hand, “Let’s see, just how quick this youngster really is-”

He grabbed a handful of walnuts from the table and tossed them at Pavel’s head. What happened next suprised everyone- including Pavel. Reacting instinctively, Pavel’s limbs became a blur, and the first two walnuts were slapped aside, redirected toward Johannes satchel and the halfling’s hat, which he now held in his hand. Pavel caught the third and fourth walnut, one in each hand. With a squeeze and a loud crunch Pavel cracked them, dumped the fragments into one palm, then began picking out the edible parts to pop into his mouth. He tried hard not to look too surprised and instead behaved like that was exactly the outcome he expected.

Fen burst out laughing again, this time nodding his head at Johannes.

“You’ve got speed and pluck,” he smiled, “I’ll give you that! Yer little group is only missin one thing-”

“What’s that?” Johannes asked.

“Me.” Fen smiled.

“Funny, Johannes answered, “I was just thinking the same thing.”

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Johannes and Pavel meet Rallo
An elf and a half-elf walk into a bar...

Johannes and Pavel began peeling off their soggy cloaks as they soon as they exited the rain shower into the tavern. The room was dark and quiet but for the murmured conversations at a few scattered tables.

Walking up to the bar, Johannes leaned across the bar and whispered his request in the bartender’s ear.

“The Pilgrim?,” returned the bartender, expressionless. Turning his attention back to the tankard he was rinsing, he pointed toward a dark corner of the tavern where a small humanoid sat alone on the edge of a large, oak chair. He seemed to be studying a dagger, turning it over carefully in his hands as cold eyes squinted at it from beneath the wide brim of the hat pulled down low over his forehead. He hadn’t been there long- rain still dripped from his cloak and hat, forming a puddle on the floor.

Sensing a pair of strangers approaching, the halfling swung around in his chair to face them and the dagger mysteriously vanished somewhere beneath his cloak as he dropped off the tall chair to his feet.

Pavel cast a concerned glance at his elven companion before turning his attention to the rain-soaked halfling.

You are Rallo the Pilgrim?!?” Pavel queried,, peering incredulously at the diminutive rogue.

Almost faster than the eye could follow, the stocky halfling’s sword was unsheathed and it’s tip parted Pavel’s tunic and sliced the leather cord beneath it with one deft motion. With his free hand he caught the falling silver ring that had been suspended from the cord. The sword skillfully shifted position in the halfling’s hand and was thrust into the floor next to him with a satisfying ‘thunk’.

He peered at the signet curiously, raising an eyebrow as he looked up at the tall half-elf.

“And you are Pavel, Monk of the Whispering Wind?”, he smiled, flipping the ring back to Pavel, “…it would seem there is more to both of us than the names we hide behind.”

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The Stony Prison
Clerisaana and Pavel make a new friend.

The graceful elven woman stopped near a particularly dense copse of trees at the edge of the river bank and pointed to something stuck in the embankment. Looking closer, Pavel could make out what looked to be a sculpture of an elf, part of it buried beneath the moist soil at the rivers edge, the rest mostly obscured by thick leaves. He cleared away the ivy with his hand and turned back to his mother.

“This old thing?” Pavel asked, tapping the half-buried statue with his shovel?

“Yes- isn’t he handsome?” Clerisaana smiled, rubbing her hands in anticipation of the revealing.

Pavel shrugged, nodded and began digging, tossing earth carelessly aside and absently humming a tune he had heard at the monastery while stopping occasionally to wipe his sweaty hands on his tunic. His mother waited patiently, quietly speaking the required incantations as she began cleaning the exposed head and upper torso of the statue with a simple spell.

Suddenly, Pavel stopped digging. He tossed the spade aside and reached down into the dirt to retrieve a small object. Studying it carefully he brushed off the dirt, then offered the tiny device to his mother.

“Mother- I don’t think that this thing is a statue…,” Pavel said, tentatively, “…he was holding this in his hand.”

Clerisaana gently turned the object around in her hand and stared at it intently for a moment, murmuring a cantrip.

“It is a compass, Pavel. It has a magic upon it that keeps it pointing North,” she whispered sadly, “…a magic that must have protected it from whatever fate turned this poor elf to stone.”

“Can you bring him back to life, mother?”

“Pavel, he is alive,” she responded, “…even now he watches us with the hope that we can free him from this stony prison-”

The elven matron knelt down and put a warm hand on his cold, unresponsive brow.

“By the morrow you will breathe the air with us and feel the warmth of the sun- I swear it!”

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