With Veri now awake, she asks them a few questions about what happened: was she possessed by Sanila? Did they really come after her? Why are they talking about her changing clothes? After attempting to sidestep this little mishap, and Rogan complaining that Veri complains too much, especially about having her robes changed by the mercenary whilst unconscious when he does not find her attractive at all (her sister, though…) they then discuss what they will do about the books, the gold and their next steps forward. Veri says that she can teleport back to civilisation… but obviously she can’t just take the gold with her without doing something more. What’s the plan? Well, the first part of the plan is to rest the night inside the fort and set watches. This should give Veri a night of rest, and allow her to be able to rememorise her spells, planned for whatever their day is going to find them doing. It seemed that the party’s priority was the books – those dark, necromantic tomes of Sanila – and ensuring that they were placed into the hands of Utuk as soon as possible. Veri would be able to teleport with the books, and five blocks of gold were she to item them and turn them into pieces of cloth, and she could even take Rogan along with her, as he was having something of a continued burn along his soul after being touched by that shadow in the dark room.
With a night passed in darkness (since orcs do not use torches), and the cooking fires of the fort lit once more (so that the orcs did not think anything was amiss) Veri spent a good part of her morning memorising her spells for that day, and then set out to begin itemising the blocks of gold for them to carry to Sanctuary. That is, she was about to, when suddenly a woman appeared. She was dressed fairly raggedly, as though being a slave, and she looked a little undernourished on top of that. Her face showed that telltale sign of someone who is in a state of mildly terrified panic. Veri, who was just about to start her work with the gold, jumped a good three feet in the air and let out a yelp of surprise. The stranger asked for food and water in a parched, desperate voice. Everyone (because let’s face it, pretty much all eyes were on the gold all the time… even if you’re not greedy, it’s not every day you see 24,000 lbs of gold) had seen the rather mystical appearing of this woman, and the party being the distrustful, canny group they are, wanted answers – answers that this girl seemed rather reticent to give. Mellvin checked the tracks coming up from the river – the only real way anyone could have come to this area – and though he did find some fresh tracks made in the last hour or so, it could not have been the slave girl, because the tracks were from someone with shoes. Vargas, the superior ranger, likewise checked the tracks, and determined that they definitely fit the gait of this newly appeared woman, but concurred that yes, she wasn’t wearing shoes. Veri, realising that she was quickly becoming less and less the centre of gold-working attention, gave the slave girl some water and the holy preserved provisions she obtained from Utuk, and then went back to itemising five of the gold cubes.
Rogan, however, had other plans for detecting the strange situation of this new arrival. Reaching into his packs, he pulled out Carna and Hesed, his ferret and chinchilla, and essentially tossed them towards the slave, figuring that his pets would perhaps discover something he had not. And whilst the poor chinchilla scrabbled and scrambled upon her before finally falling to the floor, the ferret seemed to dig itself into her illusory clothing, disappearing into folds and crevices that should not have existed in the slave girl’s simple garments. Now that it seemed magic was definitely involved, the mage was more interested, and so Veri reached out and touched the woman, discovering through touch that she is, in fact, wearing a robe, and a fairly nice one at that. After continued accusations, the woman finally revealed her ‘true form’ -a normal, not starving human wearing nice clothes. She introduced herself as Surri Coodgee, and explained that she really had been enslaved, but had managed to keep her clothing and the like hidden from the orcs when she was captured. Though she likely could have escaped, she thought it would be interesting to see what happened to the slaves, and had been using her skills (no, she wasn’t a mage, not really) to help out the slaves with little things here and there. And things had been fine – well, as fine as they can be when one is enslaved by orcs – until the last few weeks, when all the orcs had moved themselves up to the central south coast of the Bitto, and started to board ships. At first, the slaves were being used to move the massive amounts of food, water, and other items to the loading docks. But the food began to dwindle after the first flotilla, and was completely gone by the second… and though Surri did not speak orcish, she had heard some of the mercenaries talking distastefully about the fact that the orcs were considering using the human slaves for meat on the last flotilla, and how they weren’t paid enough for this sort of thing.
Of course, this was not the first time, but the third time the party had been reminded of this situation – Rogan had told them as much when they met him outside Pachia, and they had even walked past the loading docks where the remnants of the orc horde were waiting for the third armada. But this reminder was timely, and now, after having destroyed Sanila, freed Kl’kayt and regained Veri back to the party, they sprang into action. Veri returned to the underground study to memorise another 150 minutes worth of item spells, so she could move more gold. Rogan NubNub created food and water for the party, and everybody ate and drank their fill.
After the next five blocks were itemised, Mellvin began to bother Veri about the books, and the importance of getting them back to Utuk. The plan has not changed, after all – take the itemised gold with Rogan, give the books to Utuk in the Mausoleum at Sanctuary, where Rogan can hopefully get his mojo back. Now Veri did not know Sanctuary very well, and the number of places she could safely teleport was slim. However, she had spent several days studying in Wanda’s room in the Wizard’s Warmth Tavern, and decided that at the very least, she could teleport there and apologise for interrupting Wanda in whatever she was doing. And so, with half of the gold cubes in their possession in cloth form, the two teleported into Wanda’s room… or what used to be Wanda’s room. After all, that had been well over two months ago now, and there is always a call for wizards to travel here and there. Oh, there were wizards in the room, if the robes scattered upon the floor were anything to go by – two of them, if the occupants of the bed were anything to judge. The waking man saw a blue robed mage and a barbarian suddenly materialise, and began to scream, but Rogan convinced him with a boisterous wink and a manly nod that they were, in fact, messengers of the gods. After a quick chat to further convince the man, the two adventurers left, to make their way to the mausoleum to see Utuk.
To say that Utuk was nonplussed at seeing them was an understatement. Of all the people who could have come to visit him from the party, it was not his brother, nor a fellow cleric. It was not even the centaur who was bound to his soul. No, it was the bloody mage, and some other blow in from who knows where. But the meeting turned about quickly enough when the books were handed over to the Qodeshi, without hesitation. Veri even informed him that the books were trapped on their covers. Utuk, of course, could deal with that. He took the books and, holding the three tomes flat in his hand, called out to Qodesh, who smote them with a bolt of holy fire, consuming them in a pure heat. The smoke that rose off them as they burned seemed almost alive with shrieking shadows, that crackled and twisted as they made their way to the dimly lit roof of the holy place, and once the books were nothing but ash, the shadows that writhed and stretched seemed to fade, and dissipate, and the area once again gained that calm, cleansed sensation that it was known for.
Now came the next request – the barbarian needed the High Priest’s help dealing with the results of having fought one of these shadow beasts. But Utuk, of course, did not want the Rogan’s money. He said that if Rogan wanted to trade money for such healing, he should go visit Hesed or Ra’a. But if he wanted the help of Qodesh, he would have to serve a holy purpose. Qodesh, after all, was not interested in money, but in purity, and this would mean that the barbarian would have to tie himself to the party’s goals – though not necessarily the party themselves – in seeking to rid this world of the dark magic of necromancy, and its shadowy creations and undead machinations. Rogan saw this as a fairly simple and straightforward mercenary bargain, and so agreed to take the necessary purification rituals. Veri was not keen on hanging around for this, and needed to find a quiet corner in Kitar’s library at the council chambers to study her teleport and five more item spells.
By now it was well into the afternoon, and the party were beginning to wonder how long this was going to take. After all, wasn’t teleport instantaneous? Well, eventually she did teleport back, and itemised five more cubes of gold, before then going in to talk to her fellow party members… and this strange girl Surri, who was still there. After an interrogation from Roland, Mellvin convinced the group to just let her memorise spells and get on with the job. By now evening had well and truly come, the sun was low in the sky, and a new night was coming, and with it rest would be needed. Surri had been acting just a little strangely the whole time – as strangely as one who appears out of nothing and just hangs around does, one supposes – but she had been eyeing off Mellvin all day, following him around discreetly, but always looking at him. Mellvin, of course, who had his confidence shattered by Jethro’s singing in the past, assumed that the girl must just be interested in his silksteel armour, and so ensured that he found himself places in the shadows of the fort to hide away and get some rest. The two of them never saw each other the whole night, and perhaps that is for the best.
Later in the evening, after converting the last of the gold blocks to cloth, Veri teleported back to the same room again. The people were asleep this time though, and so she was able to quietly sneak her way out of the room without disturbing them. Rogan had nearly been drowned in the purification rituals – perhaps a way for Qodesh to remind him that his life belonged, at least in part, to holiness now – but his service had been accepted, and his lifeforce renewed within him, which was a relief. Veri arrived just in time for the end of these rituals, and while she was a little peeved that Rogan had not done what he was supposed to do in finding a merchant to change the gold with, and being reminded that he did not actually have the gold to deal with them, they thought it best to just get some rest for the night. But oh, wait, Veri in her rush to return had forgot, again, to bring any coins with her, having given them over to Mellvin for safekeeping. Thankfully, they could go outside the city limits and summon a magical hut to share… with two single beds. And two separate rooms. And ensuites. And different entry doors.
With all the gold moved, it was a clear part of the plan that Veri and Rogan were not coming back, but that the rest of the party would travel overland to meet them in Sanctuary. Roland, in his paladinly and wise fashion, asked those who were there, “Do you think we need to do anything about the orcs eating the humans?” Vargas, taking the heavy yoke of leadership as always, replied that no, this was a distraction from their main task of getting over to Manxiga and stopping this war and Cherrock and the orcs, and added that they could tell Sarkon to go deal with it when they passed through Geren. NubNub agreed that they just did not have the resources to deal with such a problem at this point. Surri remained awkwardly silent. And so, the party, along with their new mysterious acquaintance, decided to travel back to Sanctuary, over those mountains once again, taking a ten day trip over the mountains, through the dangerous Wilds full of kobold-eating dragonflies, into Geren, where they could talk to Sarkon about the orcs, and then go onward to Sanctuary.
Meanwhile, Veri wanted to make use of this time sitting around waiting for the rest of the party by scribing her spells, hoping to study in the library, and to move her house around every night so as not to attract too much attention. Unfortunately, after three days of constant study, Kitar asked her to move on, as this was a place of learning and wisdom, not magical study, and the flashes of lightning and dark sounding words were scaring off the other library users. Veri gave a sob story about having no friends or any blue disciples because they’re all dead, but it only warmed Kitar’s heart to the point that he would allow her to stay till the end of that day. Rogan meanwhile had wanted to go and take care of the moneylender business, but he struck a problem – there was no money lender in Sanctuary who can handle all this gold. In fact, even one block was seeming to be a bit of a problem for the merchants in Sanctuary. They suggested he go to Bazaar, where there were far more big-time international currency players – and if nothing else, they could probably sell it to the Merchant Mage guild. Veri had other plans though – she wanted to take the gold to Nubton, where she could do the rest of her study in peace, and keep it safe. So, with Rogan – being Utuk’s new best friend – going in and politely explaining the situation, and asking him to pass on a message to the rest of the party when they pass through, the two of them headed down to Nubton, where the gold could be safe, Veri could do her study, Rogan could twiddle his thumbs, and the next two weeks could pass.