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Hunt for the Silver Stag

Archduke Consort Talen of House Velenosa is leading a hunting party into the forests between the Lyceum and the Oathlands. In the area north of Tor, where the Lycene Split leads into the West, there is rumoured to be a stag with hide as silver as the moon.

Date

Feb. 3, 2018, 8:56 p.m.

Hosted By

Talen

GM'd By

Eleyna

Participants

Darren Victus Niccolo Hadrian Stefano(RIP) Alistair Edain Eleyna

Organizations

Location

Outside Arx - Chevalle - Forest at the Oathlands/Lycene border

Largesse Level

Grand

Comments and Log


Hunt for the Silver Stag has started at Outside Arx - Chevalle - Forest at the Oathlands/Lycene border.

The merry band of noble hunters has been traveling since hours before sun-up, heading deep into the woods on the word of both an Oathlands AND a Lycene hunt master. When the two eventually agree on a location for the elusive silver stag, they point in the general direction of the heart of the forest and advise the group to seek it out near dawn. So, the spend hours in the dark together, attempting to keep warm and hoping they are headed in the right direction. As the sun finally peeks over the horizon, casting the sky in vivid shades of orange, violet, and crimson, the forest is transformed into a winter wonderland. The underbrush and trails are dusted with a powdery coating of snow. The bare tree limbs glitter with a thin coating of ice in the early morning sun. It's still cold enough to see one's breath. A Lycene would find this temperature positively frigid. A Northerner might consider this almost balmy.

Talen is atop horseback and stupidly chose to wear a lot of platemail, which makes everything just that much louder, which he has vehemently noted so that others can't blame him. If you speak about your own mistakes, after all, nobody else can point them out-- right? "I thought I'd fit in better if we meet any Westerners," Talen says, "and if they see Edain and hopefully don't recognise my face, we'll be without trouble. Otherwise, I'll just shout at my own subjects," was casually announced. The grey gelding he rides is carrying an extra fur spread to keep the chill off its coat, while the dark prince himself is wearing a thicker wool cloak for himself. "Didn't know you fancied yourself a fan of high-end Oathlands spears, Darren," he calls out to the Northern High Lord.

"Are there no mystical and legendary silver stags further south?" Stefano has seen his breath before, but not very often. He can likely remember very clearly each instance of the cold-weather reality. He's wearing a huge cloak and, like Talen, a lot of steel plate armor that is going to catch the rising sun just right and blind someone. Hands clasped together around the reins of his horse, he looks about the frigid woods and squints over in the direction of the sunrise. The baron keeps by Talen's side. Not to protect him or anything. That's silly. He just knows the DARK PRINCE better than the others.



The Mourning Isles weren't known for their warm and welcoming climates, the name itself probably would have been enough of a giveaway to that. The weather wasn't much of a concern for Victus and most dress he'd owned already included fur, or plenty of patches. Thraxian severity at its finest. What the Mourning Isles did not have however was a taste for road-trips, given that all roads led to the sea in short order. The only element he was out of was horseback. Goliath, a Blanchard Destrier was the exact kind of specimen one would expect him to own though. Big and muscly for a horse. "Wonder how many people out here would even recognize my mug." He comments aloud to the group. "Not a lot I imagine, eh? Not a lot of good either. Heh."

Alistair checked perception + survival at difficulty 15, rolling 30 higher.

Alistair checked dexterity + archery at difficulty 20, rolling 9 higher.

Darren was one of the first awake, this is perfect Redrain weather after all. He is standing near his horse, his gear all packed up in a saddle bag he's thrown over the animal. And with it, is that Oathlands spear Talent points out. Darren grins widely at Talen, "Edain lent it to me." he motions towards the Oathlands High Lord, "Since all my other hunting spears were in Farhaven. It's a damn fine spear... except every time I touch it I get a craving to convert heathens and drink syrup straight from a bottle." Darren pauses a moment and looks at the spear, shrugging his shoulders. He pulls himself up in to his own saddle, inhaling deeply. The icy air fills his lungs, bringing a feeling in his chest he misses every morning in Arx. "We could not have wished for better weather, friends!" He says, his own breath swirling about his face. "I have not felt cold like this since when I was last home. It is wonderful." He makes a whistling noise, summoning his dog who had wandered off to in some nearby brush.

Hadrian concludes his latest pull from a waterskin and extends it out to his side. Just as he seems prepared to release it, his turns his attention aside to find the space vacant. Neither Duckling nor Master Luigi there to claim the skin. He tucks the skin away, takes his reins in both hands, and comments back to Stefano, "Our mystical and legendary beasts always tend more toward scales and fangs, than antlers and pelts," he says with good natured humor. His own horse hails from Ostria, a stock build for endurance races in their famed cross-country race. Absently a hand lifts up to draw his heavy fur cloak just a little tighter around himself even as Darren's thoroughly pleased commentary regarding the weather is announced.

The Prince of Sanctum sits atop a brown courser, his hunting spear laying across his lap, while his hunting dog and hunting 'falcon' sit patiently next to the horse. He looks at the clanking and clattering Archduke and looks down at his own leather armor, that he wears for hunting. "Are silver stags larger and more agressive than I have been lead to believe?" he asks. "The cold air is refreshing, I like it. Good evening." he says bowing his head to the others.

Alistair walks about on the forest floor, following along with the party of hunters. He has made no claims of being a hunter, despite his former time in the wilds of the world. But there is a bit of home field advantage. Or at least... former home field advantage. The forest never leaves one, even if one desperatly wishes to leave it behind. The man seems light on his feet, carrying a rubicund bow in one hand and a quiver of arrows at his waist. He suddenly stops, looking around for a moment. His eyes narrowing before he runs a hand along a nearby tree. "I will be but a moment. Continue on." The prodigal man, and soon prince to be, remarks before he suddenly disappears out into the brush. Has he decided to finally return to the wilds? Will someone have to inform his poor future wife that her barbarian of a husband has reverted to his barbarian ways. In a sense... yes they will. As when Alistair returns he returns with one less arrow... and a sizable wolf draped upon his shoulders. Withotu a word he steps up to one of the attendants and a pack horse and secures the kill to the back of the beast of burden. It is said Alistair was once part of a tribe called the Gray Forest Howlers - perhaps he is extracting some vengeance from the forest. He continues on, as if he did not have a lapse in civility.

"To be fair, they rarely remember mine," Talen calls to Victus, without complaint. "Trophy husband Archdukes," he proudly boasts, "turns out they can be just as deadly without being on the coins." The comment regarding the spear causes a small twist of his lips in faint amusement, the visor of his helm happening to be lifted to permit it to be seen. "I'm planning for all everythin--" Talen starts saying to Edain, as Alistair just... wanders off. After a long stare, he glances back to Edain, not finishing the thought and instead saying, "If he ends up dead, do I get blamed, since it's my trip? Even if he just wanders off? I don't know how these things work." Then, lastly, an aside to Stefano: "I have a feeling neither of us are going to catch it." The armour is the clue, you see.

"Your ability to wish is a bit underwhelming, your grace." Stefano ventures as Darren takes far too much enjoyment of the frigid conditions. But his mild complaining ceases and he gives Hadrian a nod and a flash of a smile. "True. Next time we can sweat the northerners our of their skins and find a proper beast. Where the hell is he going?" he is distracted by Alistair's disappearance, but doesn't make any attempt to see where the man's gone. He'll probably be back? There he is! "Don't they travel in packs? Should we be anticipating a wolf attack now, Inquisitor? They are remarkably quiet animals!" Stefano prefers roads. And taverns. And shrines. Not that he seems particularly afraid of the impending wolf massacre, "No, I don't think we will. Are bows helpful? I can't fire one so that's likely moot."



"Ah, then this'll go much smoother." Victus replies in kind to Talen, taking heed of the fact that the larger Alistair had just... wandered off and returned with a wolf. This earns a little shrug of the shoulders from the Thrax. "You ever spear fish? It's not as dangerous as killin' wolves, but there's something awful nice about just digging right into some live sea-food. When it's wriggling around fresh outta water. Yum." He recounts this as he leans back on the reins of his stallion, who gives an unappreciative buck back in response. Thankfully he keeps his grip. Meanwhile down by one of the saddle-bags, a pair of ears gently pops from the opening, followed by some amber eyes that look out with disdain across the hunting party. He'd brought the cat. What better animal to hunt than one that catches prey already, eh? Not that she'd had the size to fell a stag. "Any animal can fuck you up with the right amount of coaxing, Edain. Prettier the animal usually means the deadlier too."

Darren makes a noise that is a cross between the word 'bah' and a grunt, showing his displeasure at those who don't just love this weather. But of course, he'd be whining if they were in the south and it was warm and the sun was blazing down. As Alistair wanders off, then return shortly with a dead wolf, Darren snorts. "Don't think we don't all know you snuck off last night, had that thing killed and hidden in the bushes, and just went to retrieve it." He says, offering the man a joking grin. Darren tugs on the reins of his horse, his horse trotting up beside Edain's. Darren leans over in the saddle, his hands resting in front of him. "I brought a spicy black winter tea Valery makes, along with some smooth Farhaven whiskey. You know. For diplomacy later." He tells the Oathlands High Lord.

Hadrian checked perception + survival at difficulty 15, rolling 1 higher.

Edain checked perception + survival at difficulty 15, rolling 19 higher.

Darren checked perception + survival at difficulty 15, rolling 11 lower.

Alistair checked perception + survival at difficulty 15, rolling 3 lower.

Victus checked perception + survival at difficulty 15, rolling 12 higher.

Niccolo checked perception + survival at difficulty 15, rolling 1 lower.

Talen checked perception + survival at difficulty 15, rolling 2 higher.

Hadrian maintains his grip on his reins, though he remains alert and watchful of the forest around their hunting party. Victus' commentary on fresh fish draws a sudden grin to the mouth of the Marquis. He nods once before his attention drifts back to the forest.

Stefano checked perception + survival at difficulty 15, rolling 18 higher.

Niccolo has been riding silently with a slight turn to the corner of his mouth. Never one to talk for the sake of talking or to fill up silence with nonsense, he watches the party quietly. Alistair perhaps attracts the most of his attention, and be pulls up his horse when the man disappears. When the inquisitor returns with the wolf, he quirks a brow: “That is quite the trick.”

"Alistair, is that going to be for food, or something else?" Talen inquires, with intense curiousity, eyeing the dead wolf. "Cloak, maybe?" Either way, he only ends up snorting a small amount at what Darren indicates, as if it was all staged. As he listens to the banter across the party, his eyes trace the brush, absently curious as he adjusts the way his quiver of short boar spears sit, so they stop clacking against his pauldron at the shoulder. "For fuck sake, I need a squire or something who knows how to strap this piece of shit on, it's bothering the everloving fuck out of me." Also, seeing the cat Victus brought, that just gets a neutral look. "Seriously? Victus, no wonder your wife complains about that thing, you love it more than she."

"No wolf pack is going to come charging at a large group of hunters. Especially one of their numbers down. At least not normal wolves." Alistair gives his kill a little pat... as if to check it is a normal wolf and not some corrupted dire wolf or shard wolf. He seems content that his kill is free of any corruption, otherwise it would not make a good gift or meal! "I have never speared fish... when I would hunt... it was mainly land game. Deer and such. Though that was many years ago." Clearly not so long ago he has forgotten about the needed skills. As to Darren's jest Alistair makes a sound of amusement. "That is more believable..." he remarks as he reshoulders his bow. "No trick. Spend half your life in the woods... and you learn what to see and what to look for. As for the kill. Food. I want the fur. Isn't it a cliche that the barbarian give his wife a splendid fur cloak?" Seems Alistair wishes ot live up to some cliches.

Stefano laughs as Darren outlines his conspiracy theory, "I like it. That reminds me.." whatever it reminds him off will have to wait because his attention is drawn off to the northeast. The horse slows as the baron peers through the snow=dusted wilderness, "I saw something. Or caught it out of the corner of my eye. A shimmer. Metallic, maybe? Probably the stag! Who else would be out here attempting to hinder such a party of luminaries and myself? I mean, we're just out here for a relaxing hunt!" he continues to look in the direction of whatever he saw so that he doesn't lose track, "We could head that way?" he suggests, having very little woodsense and very little rank in this group.



Hadrian's eyebrows quirk as he glances from Victus' cat to Talen and expels a short chuckle, "Mine is jealous of a giant cup, Archduke". Soon enough the Mazetti marquis turns his attention around to the path ahead once more. One gloved hand slips from his reins to pull the furred hood fixed to his cloak up in order to provide him additional protection against the winter's chill. Just as his hand begins to lower once again, Hadrian's head snaps around to look to his left and he hisses out a quiet warning to those traveling, "I just...", he nods along with Stefano's information.

"Look it was either bring the cat or leave the cat home alone with 'Rissa. When I got back one of them was gonna be fuckin' dead." Victus fires back at Talen with plenty of conviction packed behind his tone. "It ain't as simple as 'a snake ate it', nor as accepted an excuse..." He's crossing his arms which hold the reins of Goliath, his eyes scanning the horizon. Just as he's about to blink, something catchies his eye. Not easy to make out against the snowy background, but it's /something/! "I saw it too. It was headed north." He points outward. "... North is that way, aye?"

"Oh that sounds wonderful Prince Darren." And then he looks to the north east, and he looks down at Keaton's Faithful Shadow and gives a sharp whistle. "To the north east.. I saw movement. See if you can pick up the trail girl." He says to the hound and then looks to his fellow hunters. "Shall we good Lords?"

Darren inhales deeply, letting the cold air fill his lungs as the others spot something. "Well then," Darren says, "It would seem the hunt is on, gentlemen." And with that, Darren turns his horse in the direction they indicated, giving it a nudge with his heel and moving off in the direction they indicated. "You know, maybe hunting a white stag in the snow wasn't the best idea this group has ever had. Close, mind you, but not the best."

Victus checked command + ride at difficulty 15, rolling 23 higher.

Edain checked command + ride at difficulty 15, rolling 24 higher.

Darren checked command + ride at difficulty 15, rolling 1 higher.

Talen checked command + ride at difficulty 15, rolling 47 higher.

"I see." Niccolo nods slowly to Alistair. "Half a life is a long while. I suppose you will need to count today as well. I am not certain I have ever seen Isolde in wolf's fur. . ." He trails off at the commotion. "You know it likely doesn't help to shout at the stag..." He recommends to the group.

Niccolo checked command + ride at difficulty 15, rolling 9 higher.

Hadrian checked command + ride at difficulty 15, rolling 21 higher.

Alistair checked command + athletics at difficulty 99, rolling 80 lower.

Victus checked command + athletics at difficulty 99, rolling 66 lower.

Stefano checked command + ride at difficulty 15, rolling 28 higher.

Hadrian's comment causes Talen to incline his head, saying, "Well, that's fair. You know your wife also sent a letter around to all of us telling us to hold your hand as well, yes?" Kicking in his heels, he urges the horse forward in the direction the consensus seems to be, clacking down his visor. Since stags with axes for their antlers are a thing, honest. "I don't control the weather, Darren!" he yells, before shooting past Victus, with a thrown comment to him, "Either way, you'll still have pussy!"

Talen checked perception + empathy at difficulty 30, rolling 18 lower.

"I mean..." Hadrian begins after Talen's comment, "...do you want to, Archduke?" And then Hadrian releases his reins from one hand to extend a gloved hand toward Talen, in offer.

Alistair checked command + ride at difficulty 15, rolling 8 lower.

Talen shouts from nearby, "Father! The Prodigal is struggling to ride a horse."

Alistair is about to respond to Niccolo, but then someone calls a spot of the horse. And soon the hunting party is darting off in that direction. Riding off! "We ride bears in the wild!" Alistair growls out at Talen. Is that the truth? Clearly the man has no sense of a horse. Likely just another kind of demon for the Inquisitor to slay.

After that glint of silver is spotted in the distance, the hunting party starts to give chase. While everyone except poor Alistair are strong riders, it's Talen that takes the lead. He'

Niccolo shouts from nearby, "What am I supposed to do about it!?"

After that glint of silver is spotted in the distance, the hunting party starts to give chase. While everyone except poor Alistair are strong riders, it's Talen that takes the lead. He actually gains on that silvery shimmer, getting close enough to it to discern that it's something that is vaguely deer-shaped and running fast. Alistair takes a horse from one of the servants, but this isn't a beast that's used to the trail. The poor old nag runs Alistair into a tree. Twice. Luckily, it doesn't go fast enough to do anything but bruise and bump. But it is headed in the right direction, at least!

Niccolo shouts from nearby, "Inquisitor, you should aim to avoid the trees!"

Victus makes a noise and smacks the reins. Then his horse is the one roaring down after the rest of the pack. From what little he knew about riding horses, this was the intended result. But really he's just going off of what he's seen others do, the horse is probably in far more control than he is at the moment. "Speaking of pussy, I think the Carlotta might rock a little too hard. Should get that checked. See if there's any holes I didn't plug." He calls back to the Dark Prince from his position, somewhere deeper into the pack. His poor cat was jostling about in the saddlebag like she were apart of some futuristic game that involved balls hitting pins.

Darren is intentionally not springing to the front of the pack, yeah, that's it. He stays with the group well enough as they tear off after the deer, but far enough behind that he's chasing Talen as much as anything else. Bear, Darren's dog is giving chase, but given the hooves of the horses are pounding the mud and snow, he stays outside the pack of hunters. The Northlander has fallen silent now that the race has begun, his blue eyes watching the treeline carefully and looking for an opening to get closer to the creature they are chasing.

Talen looks over his shoulder as he chases the thing down, only to spy that Alistair is having trouble. In the end, Talen has decided that his brother-in-law is less interesting, apparently. He's in no mortal danger, so surely Isolde won't count -this- against him, right? Especially if she's got a pretty wolf cloak. Continuing through the trees at break-neck speed, he slowly starts to reach back for one of those three-quarter length spears, designed for ease of handling. "We found the fucked up table already, you asshole," he calls to Victus, "and the bill trumped what we paid for Darren's couch," he growls, gripping his mount's reins otherwise. "If I hit your dog, Darren, I'm not responsible!"

Darren can't resist that, "You hit my dog and you're going to be fetching my slippers every morning!"

Alistair seems more annoyed he is going to have to learn to ride if he is to join in these hunts in the future then anything else! WOMP. One tree branch cracks into him, followed by another, as the old horse he has chosen to hop on is not one fit for chasing down mythical forest animals. Right now he is not trying to keep up with the pack of hunters... just maneuver the beast in such a way that he eventually can meet up with the others. He doesn't even think of trying to fire a bow from horse back. He grow up in the woods. Not some steppe. Ghengis Alistair he is not.

As speeds increase, Hadrian's grip tightens on his reins, even as he continues to hold his free hand out toward Talen. Fingers flex, making a grabby-hand in the direction of the Archduke with a subdued grin plastered across his sharp features. Eventually though the jest has met an end and Hadrian's hand returns to his reins in order to stabilize himself. Only after the silver shape begins to take on greater clarity, even if only slightly, Hadrian's hand reaches down to pull free his own hunting spear while he strives to put his focus on staying in his saddle.

Stefano pays scant attention to the follies of the Inquisitor and his nag as the chase begins. As he rides behind and to the side of Talen, he can see that the thing they chase is indeed...deerish? Sure. The baron doesn't call out or yell, he focuses on keeping his eyes on the animal they pursue, trusting his horse and his skill to bring him along safely through the woods."



Talen is totally not holding Hadrian's hand, that's why he's so fast.

Edain looks back as he sees, Alistair, fall, he looks down and sees that Shadow has the trail and he looks to Talen surging into the lead... annd so he falls back and says to Talen and Darren, "Follow the dog!" and he circles back around towards Alistair and offers a hand, "Hand up, Inquistitor?" he asks as he offers a hand and to let the man ride with him.

Niccolo is trading shouts between Talen and Alistair. Whatever badassery is involved in the casual killing of a wolf is quickly erased by riding a horse into a tree. The former archduke focuses on his own riding, keeping pace with the group but luckily missing the joke about 'plugging the holes' of the ship that bears his widow's name.

"Yeah I bet you did." Victus calls back to Talen with a most arrogant grin on his face. But as the beating of hooves continues to echo down the trees, he's getting another look on his face. One more 'feral', for lack of a better word. That kind of look one gets when the adrenaline of survival instincts start to kick in. He reaches behind himself, he'd brought a harpoon to the foray in the place of a spear. After all if he was going to hunt, he had to represent his Islander ways just as well!

"There's no way I'm chasing this thing down by coming from behind it, it isn't that lazy of a hunt," Talen calls back, "so if any of you feel like going to the far right, or left, we could pincer it in and hopefully spook it somewhere amongst us," shouts Talen back, as he judges the race, coming up with the distinct understanding it isn't that straightforward. "You're not all riding in to trees, right?" Since, at this speed, he can't look back. "I'll go left." Then, he swerves off.

Alistair is a bit surprised as Edain choses to lag back a bit to give him a help. Then again its Talen who is stag obssessed. Alistair is not sure how dedicated the others are. Alistair yanks on the reigns of the nag, which causes the poor beast to come to a bumbling halt and almost throw Alistair from his saddle. "I believe that is best..." the High Inquisitor remarks and soon joins Edain on his horse. One figures the Valardin knows how to ride best of all.

Darren nudges his horse to the right. "I'll take right!" Darren shouts, nudging his horse to the side a bit, "Keep it from doubling back on you!" Darren's blue eyes dart between the direction Talen is going along with the others in the front of the pack, where he thinks the stag is going, and the path forward to make sure he doesn't run full speed in to a tree.

Edain bows his head to Alistair and spurs his courser to catch back up with the hunt. Coming up alongside Niccolo and Stefano, "Archduke, Baron." he greets them with Alistair in tow, "Shall we veer to the left and chase it towards then Prince of Farhaven?"

"Your Grace." Stefano greets Edain without looking over at him, focusing on the prey. At the suggestion, he nods and immediately tugs the reins to the left and veers off in that direction without discussing it. Charging hard, Stefano has at least a rudimentary understanding of hunting and a good grasp on horsemanship. So he moves to try and prevent the animal from escaping to its left.



"I'll join ya', Darren." Victus calls as he veers Goliath onto the Redrain's tracks. Safety in numbers and all that. "If we come across an actual bear out here, I'll let you handle it yeah?"

"A fine idea." Niccolo kicks his own horse and heads off to effect the maneuver suggested by Talen. Before out of line of sight though, he is careful to flash a dry smile to Alistair, "Hold tight now!" He shouts.

The attempt to trap the creature is successful. The trees begin to thin and, finally, break into a clearing bisected by an icy stream. The silver stag stands at the other side of the frigid water, staring at the group with wary eyes. Deer are fast animals, but they can't maintain that speed for long, lacking the speed paired with stamina of horses, especially since Talen is kicking his into higher speeds. The stag is absolutely majestic, with a silvery hide that seems to gleam in the burgeoning sunlight as it filters through the leafless trees. An impressive rack of bone white antlers crowns the animal's head. It skitters back and forth, unsure of where to run now that its avenues of escape are blocked.

"If I can just get ahead, in front of it, it'll be boxed in I think," Talen manages to verbalise as he beats his horse, pinches in his heels, the cutting talons of his sollerets used to awful effect. The man might be good at riding posture, yet he's never been the most empathetic towards animals, and it shows. Assuming he doesn't kill his horse sometime during the hunt or on the ride back, it'll be considered a miracle. The clearing is his moment, so when they end up staring it off, he whips around until his horse struggles with the sudden twist and then tramples to a spot, nostrils flaring and breath fogging up the air in front of its face.

Alistair has rolled a critical success!
Alistair checked dexterity + archery at difficulty 25, rolling 20 higher.

Alistair simply holds on tight as Edain leads the horse on the hunt. He is just along for the ride, though he makes sure to check that his bow and quiver are secure. Niccolo's dry smile is caught and the man grunts slightly. "Get me into a position and I can try to corral the beast further with my bow. You're not going to be running anything down with my weight slowing you." Alistair rumbles out as they explode into a clearing and their prey is before them... skittering and wary. When Edain's horse is half way in the clearing, Alistair dismounts with a little pop and roll. It is not graceful. The man is not use to any aspect of hunting from horse back but he takes a moment to recover before he unshoulders his bow, checks the string, and knocks an arrow.

Niccolo checked dexterity + medium wpn at difficulty 25, rolling 12 higher.

Victus checked strength + huge wpn at difficulty 25, rolling 53 higher.

Talen checked dexterity + medium wpn at difficulty 25, rolling 35 higher.

Hadrian checked dexterity + medium wpn at difficulty 25, rolling 4 higher.

Darren checked strength + medium wpn at difficulty 25, rolling 29 higher.

Edain manages to bring the courser around on the left flank as the stag starts to get boxed in with Talen moving into position in front, and Darren and Victus coming up on it's other side... Shadow barks at it.. but she's a finder not a fighter. When he sees the majestic slivery stag in all it's glory, the Prince of Sanctum looses his nerve just a bit and his spear lowers. Something about the beast just... seems to noble for him to strike right away. But still he doesn't wish to ruin the hunt for everyone else, and he guides his horse so he can keep it corralled.

Darren pulls back on the reins as they enter the clearing, moving his body weight with the horse as they suddenly slow. Darren's bright blue eyes stare at the creature for just a moment, it is a beautiful animal - and it has the look of a creature that knows what is coming next. Darren looks to his compatriots, then back at the animal, well aware this ends just one way. He pulls the Oathlands spear from his saddle, leveling it down towards the animal, nudging his horse forward to attack. It gave good chase, it deserves a fighting end.

As Victus swings around on his horse in none too gentle fashion, the Thrax's eyes narrow at the sight of the stag in the midst of the clearing. He's not wasting the opportunity to have this sorted out fast, which leads to him slowly raising that steel harpoon. He's brought a few more, this one wouldn't be missed. Whether or not it would /miss/ however, was another story. As he cocks his arm back, he gives one hard kick to the sides of Goliath. The horse is trouncing down into the clear as Victus rears that harpoon to strike true.

Stefano helps Edain keep the stag boxed in, declining to strike at it with his borrowed hunting spear. It has little to do with the majesty of the thing and more about knowing his place amongst the high lords. So he just keeps his horse moving on the periphery to try and prevent their quarry from escaping.



As Niccolo and his horse burst into the clearing, it is near to the stag. Near enough that it moves to bolt past him. Pulling up hard, the Archduke smoothly draws his blade and slashes down from horse back. He does not mortally wound the beast, but it is enough to turn it back to the others and keep it from breaking free.

Talen clenches his gauntlet around the haft of his spear, lifting it, drawn back much like that of a javelin. With his horse moving uncomfortably under the pressure of his spurs, he lifts in his saddle and tries to keep a balance. When he launches his weapon, it sails in time with those of his fellow hunters. The poor deer is facing a barrage of assaults, of course, not least the steel tipped spike launched for its back haunch, to slow it if nothing else.

As Hadrian and his own horse lurch into the clearing, he catches the flash of silvery-white pelt as he attempts to dash by. Reacting without thought his arm shifts and stabs forward with his own short spear. His form is clearly at least moderately trained, though likely quite unpracticed. He twists at the hips as the spear lunges forward to graze a narrow line along the flank of the fleeing stag. The motion is followed by Hadrian's posture shifting in his seat and his knees squeezing as the hand gripping his reins attempts to slow-and-turn his own mount in a bid to pursue or otherwise harry their quarry.

As the group converges around the stag, panic begins to set in and the creature runs from one edge of the clearing to the other, veering this way and that in frantic effort to escape. Alistair's shot catches the creature in the left rear flank. The arrow buries deep enough to slow the creature down but not stop it. Niccolo's slash leaves a shallow rent in that silvery hide and keeps the creature from escaping as it turns wildly to run into the other direction, straight into Darren's spear that catches in one of those powerful shoulders, making the creature buck. Talen's own spear catches it in the back haunch to further slow that frantic struggle. Hadrian's spear manages to graze the deer's hide, leaving a dark red slice into the bright fur. Even with all these injuries, it's Victus that lands the killing blow. The harpoon catches it in the chest, powerfully enough to shatter bones and rend flesh. The creature teeters into the snow, blood steaming in the cold air as it gasps a few last times, shudders, and is still.

Talen looks around the icy clearing as the animal sinks onto its forelegs, then teeters onto its side, causing him to stare balefully toward the silver stag. "I suppose this would be a bad time to tell you all that you killed the Seraph of Petrichor, right?" Blaspheming is probably bad, but, he adds in that vein, "I'm kidding, I'm kidding," before he slinks off the back of his horse and smacks the haunch of the beast to let it away after securing a second spear. "I've had that joke in my head for too long it needed to be said, but honestly, Edain-- I'm kidding," he reassures, hands up, stalking his way across to get a better look at the beast as the others come down from their own hunting highs. "This thing is massive," he growls in quiet acknowledgement to its manificence, if nothing else.

Darren allows his horse to circle the creature once, the animal stomping it's hooves as Darren pulls back his spear, his eyes watching as the red blood stains the white snow. "That my friends, was a very beautiful creature." Darren says simply, before fastening the borrowed spear across his saddle. He turns his attention to Talen, straightening his back. "So what are you going to do with it?"

Edain's eye's get very very very wide at Talen's joke. "Archduke Talen.. Can I ask you to assure me one more time that was just a joke?"

Alistair does not bother to ready a second arrow, as the group descends and swarms around the majestic beast - he is more likely to hit one of their number then the stag. If there is some affinity for the woods and the beautiful creature, Alistair shows none of it. Talen though gets a clear frown for his jest and possibly blasphemy, but Alistair does not chide him, as it was a hard fought race to down and tire the creature. "It best be a joke or I have to find a cell for my soon to be brother in law the day before my wedding..." The High Inquisitor rumbles out.

Talen is overheard praising Edain for: Promise. Cross my heart and hope to die. Stick a viper in my eye. Pinky promise.

"Hmm." Stefano murmurs to himself as he calms his mount and remains on the periphery. Second thoughts about hunting such a beast? Maybe. Regardless, he pats the horse's neck and turns it around slowly to take in the surrounding area, see what's about while the rest of the party focuses on the downed stag.



"Whoa..." Niccolo comes to a stop with the command to his stallion, steam rising in a cloud from the horse. Heeling the steed to a slow walk, he approaches the fallen beast as he sheathes his sword. "Son, I do not believe I have seen a beast like it." He observes, swinging a leg over and hopping lightly to the ground for a closer look.

Victus is breathing quite raggedly for such a small part of his own in the ravaging of the stag. His cold fingers now a little marred with blood as his harpoon digs in deep. Seems that just that little bit of excitement had really riled him up something fierce, as once the animal lays dead he's still holding onto the weapon that fells it. Eventually though he let's go, the 'hype' of the moment ebbing away after a moment. The cold air quenching the passion. "Ahhh... Talen." He gives the man a grin. "I didn't catch it first but I think this /still/ counts. Ya' know what you gotta call me in the Assembly, right?" He puts his hands to his sides, stepping back a moment. "And I can tell you this thing is definitely /not/ a Seraph or anything. Sir Matthew told me so, and all those Otter pirates." He pauses. "Don't ask me questions about either. Anyway, what are we doin' with this thing?"

Hadrian remains mounted and his spear in hand even after the stag crumples to the ground. The Archduke's joke though draws a subdued chuckle from Hadrian, though only after a brief wide-eyed stare. As the excitement begins to bleed away, Hadrian's attention drifts around the gathered hunting party before he offers a soft dip of his chin, "Excellent riding, everyone..", and then Hadrian spares a glance toward Alistair. He considers him for a moment before he offers a nod toward the someday-prince, "..a keen eye and fast reflexes, Inquisitor. Well done." Then Hadrian reaches out to pat the neck of his own horse as he comments toward it, "And excellent work on pitching me on my face, Five Legs."

Stefano checked perception + survival at difficulty 15, rolling 3 lower.

"Hey, hey, it was just a joke, I just needed to see Edain's face for once. The Oathlands and the Lyceum haven't been at war for some time, the best I can do is make him have a near heart attack on the borders between our lands." This land is, after all, a point of contention. As he looks over to Alistair, he shrugs once, as if to say, 'I mean, more than fair', before his eyes return to the beast. "It is," he agrees with the group on the huge animal, "but," he looks to Darren and murmurs, "I'm open to ideas from the group. We could pitch something here for a time, first," he proposes, "and grab a drink while he pull together some kind of sled." As he moves past the animal and Niccolo, he slaps his father on the shoulder with a nod, then calls to Victus, "Uh, I seem to forget, it doesn't count if I don't remember right?" There's a smirk, as if he's hoping to wriggle out of it, like those dodgy Lycene always do.

As the hunting party is admiring its kill, or, as in Edain's case, perhaps mourning the poor creature's passing, there comes movement from the west, just beyond the edge of the clearing. A slash of bright red cloth through the trees, the sound of a laugh on the frigid winter breeze.

Darren leans over to Edain, lowering his voice. "If you want to kill him, I'll help you bury the body. Ground ain't frozen yet, we can get him deep enough they won't find him." Darren notes, though the grin on his face says he /may/ find Talen's antics at least a little amusing. When the sound of laughter crosses his ears, Darren immediately perks up with one hand falling on to the pommel of his sword, his blue eyes scanning the cleaning.

Alistair is about to say something when he turns sharply at that laugh from beyond the edge of the clearing. Laughing in the forest? Laughing in the forest is never bad. Its either demons. Crazy shavs. Or Gods forbid and spare them... elves. He nocks a bow and crouches low. "Where exactly are we Prince Talen? I have not been keeping track."

"It was about oak-" Victus began to explain, though the hallow laughter that echoes from the forest immediately draws his attention. To a lesser extent his ire. His hand moves to the straps that fastened his axe close to the back. Already his cold fingers were wrapped strong around the handle. "It definitely ain't Thrax-red colors..."

Niccolo appears to enjoy the moment with his son - blasphemy and all - but the moment is fleeting at the sound from the trees. One hand goes to his hilt and the other to the reins of his horse before it goes skittish. "Men." He is all command. "Circle up. To the center. "

Stefano doesn't waste time when he hears and sees signs of approaching people. He just draws his sword. The steel one for now, leaving the Mirror Blade sheathed at his other hip. The Sword doesn't get into the center of anything despite what Niccolo says. Instead, he rides a few paces toward the sound of the laughter, placing himself in the front and closest to the potential threat. Then he stays quiet and watches. And waits.



"It doesn't really have a name," Talen voices to Alistair, "yet." The land has been in dispute for so long, after all. When people indicate there's something going on, including his father, he turns his eyes toward the movement, watching as his Sword moves up to serpate the distance. "What's up, Stefano?" he calls out, from the man who has a vantage point.

For an archer like Alistair, a familiar whisper of sound is head. The knocking of arrows. From between the trees that surround the clearing, archers emerge from the cover of trees, arrows pointed at the hunting party from every side. At least fifteen archers to their eight. And, just behind them, as many fighters with swords drawn, all dressed in fairly drab clothing that blends in with the colors of the winter woods.

Victus checked perception + survival at difficulty 40, rolling 22 lower.

Hadrian checked perception + diplomacy at difficulty 40, rolling 9 lower.

Stefano checked perception + survival at difficulty 40, rolling 27 lower.

Darren checked perception + diplomacy at difficulty 40, rolling 2 higher.

Alistair checked perception + survival at difficulty 20, rolling 5 higher.

Talen has rolled a critical success!
Talen checked perception + survival at difficulty 40, rolling 32 higher.

"I think that will not be nessecary." Edain says to Darren, "This time...." But then there is that flash of red and Edain turns to try see what it was.

Niccolo checked perception + diplomacy at difficulty 40, rolling 14 lower.

Edain checked perception + survival at difficulty 40, rolling 10 lower.

The call for ranks to shift results in Hadrian stepping his own horse around and his short spear to be shifted around to face the direction which Baron Stefano moves toward. As the drab clothed fighters begin to filter from the trees, Hadrian spares only a momentary glance toward the other nobles and their token Inquisitor, before his brilliantly green eyes turn back to those armed with their blades and bows.

"Well, I can tell you all one thing," Talen drawls absently, hands still unoccupied by weaponry, save that spear with the point toward the ground. "They're Silver Harpies," he says. "Bounty hunters. Marquis Acheron mentioned them in the past." That's all he says.

"And also Ravashari..." Alistair remarks, narrowing his eye sat the seeming nomad bounty hunters who have come upon them in their moment of victory at the end of the hunt. "Though I have no mind why they are this deep in the forest. Did you put a bounty on my head to draw out a few nomads deep into the forest? Possibly as a joke?" Alistair questions with a glance to Talen. Its totally a joke Talen would enjoy.

Niccolo dismounted at the wrong moment. Instead of being able to watch the woods and the new visitors, he is forced to calm his horse, which is quickly growing nervous at the tension in the air.

Darren narrows his eyes a bit, peering through the trees as he begins to see who they are facing. "Archers and swordsmen. A whole hell of a lot of them." He mutters under his breath, turning his horse so his back is to his comrads. Darren waits for one of the others to address the new visitors - they are a long way from the Northlands, these ain't his people.

Victus narrows his eye further in the vague direction of their laughter. "I did have a feelin' that a hunting trip with this many of you fuckers might attract attention." He even journal'd about it and everything! "I'm kinda glad actually. Maybe they're a little miffed we took the Stag's trophy before 'em, eh?" He doesn't waste anymore time in keeping his weapon sheathed though, the large axe just rolling off his back and into his hand.

"I'm out of jokes, believe it or not. I know I'm incredibly funny but even I have my limits," drawls Talen, mentally ticking up the number. "I'm assuming starting a fight here would be a bad idea, since I need to send you all back to your wives or they'll get mad at me, right," he asks Darren, pointedly, with a short shake of his head. "Anyone want to find out if they're after our friend here?" he asks, nudging the stag with his boot.

From behind those with weapons currently pointed at the hunting party, another burst of laughter is heard. A flash of red is seen between the bodies of the drably dressed archers before a figure steps free from them, weaving gracefully through. "Well, well. Wonderful work downing that poor beast. I'm sure he'll make a pretty cloak for one of you, hm?" The woman, for she is a woman as are all the rest of them from archers to those that back them up with swords, she wears a smile on her wine-colored lips. She's not young but neither is she a crone, instead trapped somewhere in the doldrums of middle age. Laughs lines gently seam her face, especially around her eyes; one is a bright, vivid green and the other the brilliant blue of the winter sky. Her dark hair is loose down her back, streaked liberally with white strands and tieds with a bright red scarf that matches her similar hued dress.

"I can use the 'universal greeting'" Edain says, "My brother taught it to me when I was his squire...." Edain says to Talen and then he looks to Darren, Alistair and the others, "Does anyone know their language? I am afraid I am not very gifted linguist..." of course then the woman comes forward and he says, "Ba weep grama weep ninny baum!" He clears his throat, "Oh. um...." they speak Arvani, "Yes... we had been on a hunt for the stag."

Talen says, "Edain... I... don't even know how to follow that."

Victus stares at Edain. He just stares. "I have never been so embarrassed for another man, Dragon-lord." He murmurs in kind. "Holy shit."

Hadrian spares a glance toward Talen only briefly before he begins to walk his horse forward, while one hand lifts from the reins to draw his heavy fur cloak at the throat. As Hadrian's horse steps forward until it comes to stand at the side of Stefano's, Hadrian offers a friendly bow toward the collection of onlookers as just as he prepares to belt out a greeting to their newfound friends, laughter bursts from their ranks. Hadrian remains seated and silent, watchful with a subdued smile tugging at the far corners of his mouth while he awaits the source to present itself. When she does, Hadrian watches on with attentive harlequin eyes. He glances off toward Talen and Niccolo both, seemingly option to look to his social superiors before he began the potential of engaging in conversation with the new arrival.

Darren raises an eyebrow as Edain gives his greeting, shaking his head slowly but unable to contain his amusement as his friend gives a greeting. Darren nudges his horse forward a bit to keep with Edain, by his side. "I trust you weren't also hunting this creature?" Darren asks of the woman, motioning to the dead animal on the ground. "I'd hate to think we stumbled across a rival hunt and stole a kill."

Alistair glances to Edain for a moment. He always thought the universal greeting was 'Klaatu Barada Niktu.' He is going to have to get his money back from that old shaman.

"If I stand in front of the bitch I might headbutt her," Talen drawls as he looks to the others preparing to be a little more... well, sociably acceptable, as he draaaags a foot off to the side to keep a good view of the onlookers and a nice meaty horse-shield to his flank. "If this goes south," he drawls to those closer to the stag, not including Stefano and Hadrian, "we're likely not going to get out of it unscathed. So, let's hope they can be bought to fuck off."

Talen says, "I don't like sharing my toys."

Victus crosses his arms over his chest, the glittering alaricite axe pressed into his shoulder rather than being hoisted at the ready. "I don't like where this is goin' anyway. They might not even realize the kinda people they're fuckin' with here." He shrugs. "Either way, lots of people are gonna be pissed if we don't come back. I'm proper shit at being charming, so, I'll keep ready in case shit gets rowdy."

Whatever Edain was trying to say earns the Prince of Sanctum a squint of mismatched eyes and she cocks her head before saying something in the lilting language of the Ravashari, which makes the women around her laugh. A almost sweet sound if it weren't accompanied by arrows being pointed in their direction. Kindly, the woman addresses Edain, giving him a grin, "You just asked if you could peel my eggs, my lord." She glances toward Darren. "Hunting, but not the silver stag. We venerate him in these parts." The woman's smile remains, friendly on the surface but as sharp as an unsheathed blade. "In a way, you just killed out guardian spirit, gentlemen."

Niccolo is taken off guard - not by the all-female band, but rather by the Valardin. Watching him for a moment with a frown, he is brought back to the present when Darren starts. Ignoring the threats from Talen and Victus, and frowning a bit at the former, the elder Velenosan steps forward beside Darren. "And why would any of you need a guardian? You seem to have that well under control." A brief smile of greeting, and a gesture to their drawn bows. "Are these necessary?"

Alistair checked perception + manipulation at difficulty 45, rolling 25 lower.

Hadrian finally clears his throat and offers a soft nod of his head toward the white-streaked woman, "You speak Arvani, so I'll not insult your intelligence by asking if you'd be more comfortable discussing matters in your own dialect - if Arvani isn't your primary tongue." The Marquis begins as he fixes the woman with a sorrowful frown before he continues, "Naturally it wasn't our intention to, in a way, kill your guardian spirit. Had we known it was, I imagine we wouldn't be here. May I ask your name?", Hadrian asks with a soft smile and a raise of his eyebrows in a look meant to convey genuine interest.

Niccolo checked command + diplomacy at difficulty 40, rolling 21 higher.

Hadrian checked charm + diplomacy at difficulty 40, rolling 16 higher.

"I am sorry that we have slain it then. But while flesh and blood can be slain with spears, the spirit cannot be, Surely that lives on and will watch over you still." Edain says with a calm, reverent tone. "I know what it is like to loose something dear to you...." He grows quiet then as Hadrian speaks, the man is far more silver tongued than he is.

Darren raises both eyebrows, rolling forward in his saddle a little, getting more comfortable atop his horse. As the southerners start talking, Darren falls silent and is more than happy than to let them take the lead - refocusing his attention on the archers and the distance he'll have to cross to get to them on his horse.

Alistair narrows his eyes as their leader speaks up, claiming this beast is their guardian spirit. Why would Ravashari have a guardian spirit this deep in the woods. But then again... Alistair only knows their kind by reputation. He can't exactly claim to know all who lurk beyond the walls of civilization. Not all Abandon know each other. He watches the opposite group closely allowing those with a more diplomatic tongue and ear to talk.

"Yeah, yeah," Talen conjures for Victus with a cant of his hear, gunmetal gaze turning toward his father as Niccolo walks forward, to join the negotiating party. "Thirty of them, eight of us. Enough arrows to hurt before we do anything. I don't think we cut ourselves out of this one, so let's see how the flirting goes." As he observes the ongoing diplomatic efforts, he turns around and kneels by the stag, looking it over. "If they're lying about the spirit thing, it'll be a ploy to increase their price. Or we can just give it to them. We've seen it," he muses, in the kind of voice that's internally moving through the options. "Don't relish the idea," he admits. When he stands up, he walks to Darren's horse, looking up at the High Lord, then back at Victus. "How much do you reckon they'd pay for us at ransom?" Clearly he means their wives, not the Harpies. Donella, Alarissa and Eleyna.

"Ransom?" Victus scoffs at that word with a shake of his head. "They wouldn't pay a damn coin, they'd sooner come down here themselves and start ripping their balls off till they got to us and then ripped /our/ balls off." He says with utter confidence. "Especially your wife. She seems like the biting type."

Talen says, "I'm not sure the Harpies have balls. They're all women from what I've heard and can see. Maybe catfights? Would you die happily if you got to see that beforehand?"

Victus purses his lips as if he were seriously considering such. "... Maybe."

Talen says, "Oh, and yes, she is the biting type."

The woman gives Edain a long look, eyes narrowed, yet it's to Niccolo that she speaks first, her tone genial enough despite the situation, "I'm too old to fall for that ploy, your Highness. I might be a shav, but I know what the High Lords of the Compact look like, hm? I could use about double the archers I have now. But, as one elder to another, I'll make a deal. You lot drop -all- of your weapons and I'll tell my archers to stand down." Hadrian catches her attention next, lips still curved into an easy going smile. "My name is Theodosia. And yours, my lord?"

Alistair makes NO COMMENT about Isolde's possible penchant for biting. Since her Father is currently engaging in some diplomacy.

Darren leans over to Talen, "Maaaaybe you don't give them ideas?" Darren says, nodding his head towards the women. "And I don't think Donella would pay a single coin for me. She'd declare me dead and claim herself as regent for our soon to be born child." Darren notes, "She's Thraxian, remember?" A side eye is given Victus with a smile, before he returns his attention to the woman that speaks for the group.

"Ouch," Talen comments to Darren, before he crosses his arms, stabbing his spear into the ground. In a fight, it won't do him much good. The sword on his back is far more preferable, and at the moment, it is undrawn. "I don't think they can hear us. I sure as shit can't hear them. Let's see what the others ride back with." There's a whistle, then he yells.

Talen shouts from nearby, "Hey, what are they saying? Are they going to surrender?"

Talen mumbles, "Always worth a try."

"What do you say, gentlemen? I believe they have the drop on us. Why not listen to what she has to say?" Niccolo calls back over his shoulder. His own sword is pulled easily from his side and tossed lightly to the ground. "No ploy, Theodosia." He turns back to the leader. "We did not come for a fight."

Victus rolls his eyes at Donella's alleged super treachery. "She might've been raised by Donrai but she's stone-cold too. And trust me. She likes you. Ya' know how many times I told her I was gonna beat your shit in the first chance I got if you ever did wrong? And she /still/ went through with it?" He snorts. "You got a keeper." A raised brow is also given toward Talen. "Somehow I don't think they're gonna buy it."

Alistair finally speaks up, "Ravashari are known for being thieves, swindlers and cheats. What assurances do we have that you won't just kill us the moment we lay down our arms and make it that much easier on you." Alistair rumbles out as he steps forward.

Hadrian's gaze shifts from Theodosia and toward Niccolo, though only for a moment before his attention abruptly returns to Theodosia. He offers her a polite bow of the head before he answers the question asked, "Hadrian, a pleasure to meet you, Theodosia. A lovely name, I may have to consider that for my next daughter's name". Hadrian clears his throat after the brief personal comment and offers a renewed smile before he continues, "Obviously we've offended yourselves...", Hadrian casually drops his short spear aside his own horse before his hand slooowly lifts up to ward off Talen's shouting before he continues once more, "...I apologize for that interruption, Theodosia. Obviously we've offended the sensibilities of yourself and your companions with our ignorance. How can we make amends for that transgression?"

Edain checked perception + empathy at difficulty 40, rolling 14 lower.

Victus checked perception + empathy at difficulty 40, rolling 14 lower.

Hadrian checked perception + manipulation at difficulty 40, rolling 14 lower.

"Well, killing four High Lords seems like a bad way to stay alive, if you're just out for stealing some shit," Talen does note. "Since everyone knows where we are and they're surrounded by potential armies of those High Lords that they've just murdered--" Talen goes on to muse. "That said, I don't know if they're that smart, even," drawls the dark prince. As he spies Niccolo drop his weapons, alongside the rest of the diplomatic group, he groans inwardly. "My -father- might have planned this though," he finally notes. "Everyone'll think it was me, but hey, he's the one with his daughter marrying Alistair." Just to reassure everyone.

Darren checked perception + empathy at difficulty 40, rolling 31 lower.

Despite the attempts to determine if the Ravashari is playing them false, it's hard to tell. After all, according to Alistair, they are infamous for being skilled thieves and swindlers. Theodosia's mismatched eyes glimmer as Niccolo takes the lead in setting his sword down. She bows her head in a show of... respect. Yet, it is Hadrian to whom she speaks, offering him an easy grin. "I don't want to hurt you. I'm just here to offer you... a choice." From the bag slung at her hip, she pulls out a small object that gleams golden in the sunlight. "A trade, if you will. The hide of our ancestral guardian for this puzzlebox which contains something you might really, really want. Especially if you are looking to win the war."

Eleyna drops An intricate golden puzzle box, dented and streaked with black soot.

Victus lets out a groan that echoes the Dark Prince's, turning his axe on its head and letting it dig itself into the dirt till the earth pushed back. "Kinda makes me glad my parents are dead... Well. Glad that one of 'em is dead at least." He murmurs, squinting at the diplomatic crew and this Theodosia. The box catches his attention, though he can't quite make out what's being said. "Looks like they got some kinda box they dug outta a latrine."

As a show of trust Edain spikes his spear in the ground, and then draws his sword and leans down the side of the horse and spikes the sword in the ground as well as he pulls himself back up fully in the saddle." He looks between, Darren and Hadrian before finally looking to Niccolo, "What do you think." he looks back to Talen and says, "He called this hunt, shall we ask him to come forward and offer his input on the trade?"

"I mean..." Darren trails off, "I mostly came for the chance to get the hell out of the city, enjoy some drinks in the woods, and forget about the impending end of all mortal life." Darren says, his eyes flipping between the others. "So, you do whatever you want. Won't hear me complain."

Hadrian gives the puzzlebox a cursory glance before he quietly mutters, "If it contains something veiny or throbbing, I'm going to sigh". He clears his throat after a moment and his smile renews itself and his attention shifts from the puzzle box, then toward the stag, and back to Theodosia finally. He considers the Ravashari for a moment before he continues, "May I have a moment to confer with..." Hadrian trails off with a nod toward Edain and then back to Theodosia, "...what he said, Theodosia. He may want the antlers.." Hadrian begins to step his horse aside, as if preparing to turn away in order to ride the short distance to Talen in order to confer with him, as indicated.

Theodosia graciously nods her head, still smiling as she says in a low, smoky voice, slightly rasping, "By all means. Take as long as you need."

Alistair is keeping his eyes locked on the Ravashari. He doesn't even look at the puzzle box. The High Inquisitor is untrusting as always, especially the likes of which he might have previously had some affinity or kinship for. Alistair's bow is still held tight, though no arrow is nocked to be let loose. "Preferably not so long their arms get tired and a few arrows are loosed." Alistair grunts to the rest of the party.

Once the agreement is given, Hadrian turns his horse and begins to trot back toward Talen. Once in close proximity, he leans forward and down to speak quietly with the Archduke.

"I used to have a box like that, only it was better, and it contained Dust, and I lost it," Talen says in a voice that, for any normal mortal, would be one of pining. For Talen, it just sounds like another dry toned complaint, as he watches them confer up front. "Do you think I could hire the Silver Harpies? I really kind of just want them all dead, though. Like, with my own hands." Clawed gauntlets make an outward choking motion, even as Hadrian rides back. This gets a glance up, a tilt of his head, looking toward Alistair, Niccolo, Edain and Stefano who remain-- all as he listens.

Niccolo glances up to Edain, and speaks in a low voice. "I would be interested in what he thinks of that stag. Odds are they take the box and the stag, or the box is a trinket. Or a trap." To Theodosia, however, he returns his gaze with a light smile after Hadrian finishes with the pleasantries. "Do you know us?" He asks, arching a brow as he steps closer to her.

Theodosia offers Niccolo a toothy smile and says in that husky voice, "Of course I do. How could I fail to recognize the man who ruled the Lyceum as Archduke for what... twenty years or so? How could I fail to recognize the man that led his men on campaign after campaign to annihilate any who failed to bend the knee to his Archduchess? How could I fail to recognize a man who is so soaked in blood that he reeks of it?" Despite her words, they are lightly spoken and her smile never changes, as easy as it as ever been, almost casually friendly.

Hadrian checked charm + empathy at difficulty 40, rolling 6 lower.

Alistair checked charm + empathy at difficulty 40, rolling 29 lower.

Edain checked charm + empathy at difficulty 40, rolling 7 lower.

Victus checked charm + empathy at difficulty 40, rolling 36 lower.

Talen checked charm + empathy at difficulty 40, rolling 32 lower.

Darren checked charm + empathy at difficulty 40, rolling 23 lower.

Niccolo checked charm + empathy at difficulty 40, rolling 32 lower.

After Hadrian speaks, he regurgitates the inforatmion. "She wants to offer a puzzle box she says'll potentially help us win wars, which is absolute garbage, likely. In exchange, she wants the pelt. Any idea of a challenge, such as a duel, seems like a terrible idea as she'll just ignore that if she loses-- if their reputations mean anything." With a scratch of his cheek, claw to rough stubble, he murmurs, "Offer them the hide if they give us the antlers and the box, then. Also, ask them if they're for hire."

"Try dodging some arrows and you'll get the chance." Victus replies back to Talen, starting to pace with impatience at all of this diplomacy and what not. Definitely far from the realm of what the Thrax lord was used to in dealing with these problems. "Shit I hope they cut a deal soon. I kinda wanted its antlers..."

Talen says, "You killed it. I'd say you're owed the antlers. If anyone else disagrees, brawl over it."

Hadrian offers a firm nod of his head before he leans up and back into his saddle once more, seemingly finished with the brief conversation with Talen. Reins are given a tug in order to wheel his horse around once again. He trots back to the gathering of Theodosia, Niccolo, Stefano, and Edain. Upon his arrival he awaits an opportunity to speak before he fixes Theodosia with a renewed smile, charcoal-paste whitened that it very nearly glistens, "We would like to accept the offer of your taking the hide. In exchange we will accept the box which you've offered and request the antlers - so that they may be given a place of prominence and respect. As well, no doubt, as a reminder that sometimes it's best not to hunt first without first asking questions." Hadrian goes silent again with a polite bow of his head as he opens the floor for Theodosia's counter offer, if one should be presented.

Hadrian checked charm + diplomacy at difficulty 20, rolling 37 higher.

Looping a thumb in his belt, Niccolo draws within a few strides of Theodosia. He is calm, cool even. Those who know him well may detect a bit of impatience. "I see. No offense intended - and I bathed before we left, I assure you. Who are you?" He keeps up the conversation while the rest caucus, and turns slightly to look up as Hadrian reapproaches.

Theodosia hears the Marquis out with a cool, almost disinterested expression. She doesn't answer Niccolo. Instead, she focuses her attention on Hadrian. She is silent after the offer is made. Then, she raises her hand. The archers tense all around them, almost as if ready to loose thos arrows, and then, on the left side of the clearing, they part briefly to allow a tall woman with white feathers in her dark hair and an axe in her hands to step through followed by a quartet of similarly built women. With a stony expression on her face, the axe-woman lifts her blade and with three hard strikes of her axe, severs the stag's head from its body. She nods at Theodosia who signals to the other women. They lift the deer, half carrying and half dragging it toward the trees, leaving that severed head and red stained snow in their wake. "You have a deal," Theodosia says in a voice that sounds almost warm. She presses the puzzlebox into Niccolo's hands and winks at him, leaning in to murmur, "I'm a ghost, your Grace. A phantom. Nothing more. Nothing less." She laughs again, that deeply unsettling laughter, as she turns her back to the hunting party and makes for the tree line again. The archers hold until she disappears behind them and then, slowly, they bleed back into the trees until the woods are silent and still once more.

"Well..." Edain says as he looks amongst the hunting party. "All things told, I think this counts as a successful hunt." He looks to Talen, "Congradulations on your trophy, and your box."

Niccolo picks up An intricate golden puzzle box, dented and streaked with black soot.

Hadrian looks to the rank of archers and offers a smile in their direction, even as one gloved hand lifts from his reins. A palm presses to his chest before he offers a shallow bow in that direction. He sits upright once again before his attention shifts around the archers, toward the treeline, and then back to Theodosia. Then the women in the white feather headdresses appear and Hadrian remains motionless. Watching as they set to their gruesome task. Hadrian's hand returns to his reins as the puzzlebox is pressed into Niccolo's awaiting hand. Only then does Hadrian prepare to wheel his horse around, but pauses only briefly to ask of Theodosia's departing self, "Theodosia? Are you and your band available for hire?", he asks with a faint twitch of his head in the direction of Talen, as if to indicate it was a final question posed by the Archduke.

Alistair looks displeased at how the whole event played out. Then again he always looks displeased at something or someone. "Did you all enjoy your first robbery?" The High Inquisitor remarks, having lived in the Lower Boroughs, he knows a good mugging when he sees one! Even if this was just dressed up in theater. His lips turn to a frown though, maybe he was wrong. He eyes the head of the deer, their prize from the long hunt.

Niccolo frowns thoughtfully, turning the box in one hand while watching the women go. He murmurs something under his breath, before he turns back to the rest of the group, walking toward the severed head and Talen while scooping up his sword in one hand. With a flick of his wrist he tosses the box to Talen. "Looks like someone has been frustrated by this before."

"Considering what most of my past run ins with Abandoned have been, this honestly was not that bad." Edain says, "In general comparison that is High Inquisitor."

Talen checked wits + riddles at difficulty 15, rolling 2 lower.

Talen does not unlock the puzzle box. Next!

Talen looks aside, to the head of the stag, then to Victus with an upnod. Nothing like riding with a head hanging from your horse Witcher style. As he stands silently awaiting the party to regroup, he crosses his arms and studies the retreating archers and their charges. We probably shouldn't have been so public about our plans in the journals, but hey," he murmurs to Edain, with a wry half-smile, briefly bitter and not at all mature enough to hide it, before he rolls his shoulders as the tension eases out somewhat. With a step forward, he moves to greet his father, brother-in-law and Hadrian. "Well, all in all, you didn't get us killed. Well done, men," he congratualtes the diplomats, even the stern-face-and-grumpy Alistair. As he catches the box from his father, he steps back, then eyes it. "Is it going to fucking explode?" he asks the group, before removing his gauntlets and playing with it for a moment, then giving a grunt and tossing it to Hadrian. "Hot potato, keys to winning a war, don't drop it!"

Victus blinks in mild surprise when the pair of women lop off the head of their target. He looks like he wants to say something, but good sense trumps whatever complaint he had. They were left with the head, which the Thrax looks over. His calloused hands gripping one of the antlers and hauling it up as it drips blood onto the snow. "Well. It's better than nothin'. We probably screwed the pelt anyway..." He murmurs, more to himself than anything as his black eyes roll toward the box. "And we got... That thing. Dunno if I like more random Shav artifacts turning up to help out our war though. Something is bound to be fucky with it."

Alistair checked wits + investigation at difficulty 15, rolling 12 higher.

Hadrian checked wits + investigation at difficulty 15, rolling 15 higher.

By their powers combined, Alistair and Hadrian manage to figure out that tricksy box together. In fact, the puzzle box required two people to solve it. The box opens with a creak and... there is a peace of paper rolled up within.

"Its a Bank of Arx note for 100,000,000,000 Silver Coins." Alistair rumbles out before even reading the paper. Of course its paper. His joke is said. He doesn't even look at the paper.

Hadrian trots his horse back to the gathering of hunters and exhales a low sigh, clearly the hidden tension finally bleeding out on that expelled breath. Once done, Hadrian clears his throat and lifts his hands from his reins to catch the tossed box. He takes a moment to consider it while his hands begin to twist and manipulate the box, a finger sliding this way and that before he comments without looking up from the box while he and Alistair finger it, "Things went well, but after this war's over, we'll have to come back here and...", he glances up as the box clicks. He holds it out and away from himself and nods toward Alistair, as if silently indicating that he would take custody of it or return it back to Talen. Afterward, Hadrian's gaze sweeps over the gathering before he comments quietly as though he were concerned about being overheard by the trees themselves, "...keep a watchful eye, please."



That request for a watchful eye would seem to be on Hadrian himself as he climbs down from his horse and begins to walk toward the trees. Head canted to one side, he rests a hand across the grip of the rapier at his side, while his opposite hand lifts to rest near the clasp of his cloak as he peers toward one of the trees.

"Yeah right. If I can't count that high, neither can Shavs." Victus hollers back to Alistair, retrieving his axe from the grime as well and strapping it onto his back once again. Though there is a curious glance to the now open box, he seems less enthused about what's inside. "I bet it's some magic bullshit. Careful that it doesn't explode."

Talen looks up and over to Hadrian as he wanders off towards treeline and calls out, "Are you going for a piss? Was it that much of a close call, my lord?" Even then, he looks to Alistair, who blatantly ignores the paper. "I can read, but father, can you take a look for me?" he says, as if he'll finally be useful, yet defers it to Niccolo as he moves toward the elder statesman, to peer over his shoulder.

On the paper is a teeny, tiny drawing. On one side is seven exquisitely drawn stick figures standing a row of different sizes. On the other side, there are four stick figures standing. Two are on their sides with tiny Xs for eyes. One is in pieces. Cheerful!

Hadrian glances back from the tree toward Talen, though he doesn't smile or laugh at the question. He walks with a purpose and as he arrives at the tree, he squats down to inspect the trunk, running a gloved hand over the bark. Finally he reaches into a hollow and withdraws something from within. He brushes his hand across it before it's tucked away beneath his arm, beneath his cloak. He rises up as though he'd never knelt, turns away, and begins the short trek back to the gathering of hunters and horses. Only after Hadrian arrives at the side of his horse and may utilize its bulk and the shielding effect of his own cloak does Hadrian's gloved hands shift and is a ledger evident within his hands. He considers the front for a moment before he opens it. He nods slowly to himself before he turns back to the gathering and asks of Talen, "Shall we be going back to camp? Likely a number of eyes and ears around here". That comment made, Hadrian begins to walk his horse forward toward Talen and his own horse, though as he brushes near Talen, the ledger is held out for him to claim.

Niccolo takes the paper back in a gloves hand, and unrolls it. "Interesting." Enlightening. Keeping it open, he passes it to the rest of the group, watching their reactions carefully. He opens his mouth to speak again, but Hadrian returns before he begins. "From inside a tree?"

Hadrian nods once in answer to Niccolo, "Seems this forest grows them," he answers, likely in jest. He continues with an explanation, "One of the archers...", Hadrian begins as he prepares his horse for travel again, "...I thought for a moment she was making eyes at me. She was signaling me toward the tree though. Planted there, deliberately. She also didn't seem exactly..mm, happy, with her place. Makes me wonder if they're bound to serve Theodosia."

"What the fuck is this," is Talen's oh so eloquent comment on the paper, before he passes it on, looking at his father in a quizzical manner. Of course, as Hadrian comes back to the group, he stares at the man a moment before collecting the ledger in passing. It's turned over, before he nods up, distractedly. "Yes," he says, before looking around. "Come, let's get on our horses and ride for the closest stop this side of the border. Something with walls, I think," he decides, ticking a finger at Alistair, nodding to the box. "Anything up with that?" There's a spooky hand signal, as if to convey meaning. Otherwise, he seeks for them to ride to the nearest place of rest, for drinks and-- well, likely a chat.

Victus is just about down mounting the stag's head onto the saddle of his ride before the paper winds up in his hands next. He looks it over once, twice, thrice... Flips it onto its side and upside down. He just shrugs. "No fucking idea what this means." He asserts before passing it back on down the line. The ledger and whatever else do catch his attention, but he doesn't seem in the mood to ask questions. They did a hunt, got a trophy, didn't get killed by Shavs. Pushing for more was not his desire. "I need some sleep after all this shit."



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