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Northern Tuscana, Lycia – about half a day’s ride from the Sacaen border…
Inquisitor Gerrard clutched at the wound on his arm as he led the remnants of his squad through the forest.  His spearpoint shone with a golden light, illuminating the path ahead.  As he ran, his mind flashed to the frowning face of St. Elimine, her immaculate complexion threatening to break under the weight of bitter tears as the church’s warrior-priests retreated from the blasphemers.
Discretion is the better part of valor, he thought.  But then his mind flashed to an image of the Emperor.  Gerrard ran faster.
Finally, exhausted, Gerrard and his men slowed to a stop.  Panting and wheezing, the three Keepers turned to look behind them.  There were no pursuers.  Apart from the occasional stray call of wildlife, there was nothing to be heard, save for the Keepers’ harried breathing.
“Are they gone?” asked one.
“Inquisitor, your arm… let me mend it.” The second Keeper scurried over to Gerrard and produced a healing staff.  Gerrard looked away – the sight of garish wounds being undone by magic was somehow more repulsive to him than the wounds themselves.  The Keeper mumbled a prayer, and the Inquisitor felt the pain in his arm begin to wane.
“Inquisito-urrggkkk!” The other keeper’s cry was suddenly mangled by a purplish-black tendril spouting from his neck before contorting back inwards into the man’s chest cavity.  The blade fell from his hand, and his eyes rolled back.
Gerrard was able to bring up his weapon crossways and project a golden shield just in time to intercept a second strand of dark magic.  It slammed into the ward, driving a shooting pain into Gerrard’s head as he struggled to maintain his concentration.
“Beloved Saint Elimine, shield me from the forces of darkness, and embrace my unworthy soul…” He struggled to utter his prayers.  Never before had heretical magic borne such strength!  The healer behind him could only watch helplessly, his mouth agape.  Finally, out of the darkness of night and through the glimmering ward, Gerrard watched a figure approach.  His face was hidden from view.  One hand held a magic tome, the other was outstretched – the source of the black tendrils.  Gerrard could not see his eyes, but was certain that this person was staring right through him.
Finally, with a primal bellow, the dark mage pushed forward with his outstretched hand.  Two more powerful ribbons of magic erupted from around the first, slamming into the Inquisitor’s ward and pulverizing it into a wash of muted light.
Gods… This was Gerrard’s final thought as his vision went black.

Two days later…
Yuri closed his prayer book and set it back in his belt pouch, heaving a large sigh as he peered outside.  The daylight was trying its best to pierce through the fog that had surrounded the village, but all it seemed to do was change the sky from “dreary gray” to “slightly less dreary gray.”
I should probably get a move on before the rain comes… he thought.  Yuri reached for his ecclesiastical hat on the bed, setting it on his head and grabbing his spear.  He paused briefly to stare at the Keepers’ emblem on the blade before making his way to the inn’s exit.
The air was heavy and damp.  It looked like it could rain at a moment’s notice.  Yuri frowned at the sky and began trekking through the fog, headed south along the road.  It didn’t look terribly busy on the streets, but that was probably because the dense fog made it hard to see much farther than a couple yards.
This doesn’t bode well, thought Yuri.  I’ll be lucky if I make it out of Tuscana before the rain-
“Gods alive!”
“Someone get help!”
Yuri’s attention snapped in the direction of the harried cries.  He could make out some commotion on the road ahead of him.  Without thinking, he started running into the fog.
A cluster of people were gathered around a severely injured holy man.  His face looked weary, but his body looked far, far worse.  Cuts and scrapes of all kinds shone beneath his tattered robes.  His face was pale.  In his hand, he gripped what looked like most of a healing staff.  The glass orb at the head was chipped.  Yuri dropped his spear and rushed to the side of the priest as he listed and fell to the ground.
“Somebody get a healer!” Yuri shouted, cradling the man in his arms.  He lowered his voice so that only he could hear.  “What happened?”
“D-demons…” the priest’s face was alight with shock, and his voice was hardly above a whisper.  “Th-they’re demons…”
“Who?” asked Yuri.
“Witches… they kidnap the children… take their stones… and… and..!” Terror washed over the Keeper’s face, and his breathing grew quick.  Yuri grabbed his hand and squeezed, trying to bring him back.
“Where?!” asked Yuri.
“North… the f-forest… Ah… forgive me, Brother…”  Yuri felt the man’s grip go limp, and his panicked breathing slowed to a stop, his eyes frozen open in shock.
Yuri felt his heart sink.  “Rest in peace, Brother…” He solemnly laid his hand down across the dead Keeper’s eyelids and began reciting a prayer.  Some of the onlookers bowed their heads.  Others began to talk amongst themselves.
Yuri looked back up the northern road.  If the dying man’s story was true, then it would be his duty as a Keeper to bring Elimine’s justice.  But in light of his recent encounters with well-meaning mages, how could he be sure that he'd be doing the right thing?
There was no doubt about it; a short spear would be the best weapon for this excursion. Lighter than a lance but still packing its own heft, the weapon was perfect for quick, deliberate thrusts and had enough ballast that it could be thrown in almost a completely straight line as a last resort.

Nichol let such thoughts occupy his mind as he trudged from the inn to the heart of the grey little town, having left his horse behind at the local stables. His life up until now had been little more than a series of assignment changes: first an enforcer of holy doctrine, then an imperial guardsman, then a common soldier, marching this way and that for seemingly no reason, and now... something else. I'm not expected to come back alive from this. The thought pried its way into his mind as his fingers absentmindedly ran over the hilt of his sidearm, a dagger holstered in his belt that was barely long enough to parry half-reliably. There was no doubt about it; someone had found out that Nichol was Etrurian by birth— never mind that he was a loyal and willing subject of the Empire. His blood itself, apparently, was damning enough that he had been sent to investigate this place in Tuscana (Nichol wasn't sure if it even had a name) that had fallen thrall to a plague of witches, necromancers, sorcerors... Presumably every type of forbidden mage under the sun...

... Gods, this miserable climate really doesn't mix with armour.
He adjusted his helmet once again. Like clockwork, the other soldier behind Nichol followed suit and adjusted his own armour as Nichol's motions reminded him of the clamminess of it all. Nichol had been sent here with two others: he hadn't been able to get much information out of them but their names, that they were both from Ostia, and that they had both suddenly been promoted to imperial guardsmen for this mission. He supposed that their purpose was to keep tabs on him, since there was otherwise nothing stopping Nichol from making a quick and easy escape to Sacae to become a mercenary for the rest of his life... but knowing his luck, mercenary work would simply lead him back into the simmering pot that was the Lycian Empire.

"Captain Nichol!" His other ally, a spindly young man barely big enough for his armour, came running up the street with fear in his eyes.
"Get a hold of yourself, Donovan," Nichol barked as he closed the distance. He was technically these boys' superior, but he didn't feel very much like a leader. "What's happened?"
"I found a— a victim," Donovan stammered.

Any description of the spectacle was useless. Nichol and his comrades hurried to the scene of the priest's fall, but it was clearly too late. "Where are the other guardsmen?" Nichol wondered aloud, alarmed to see a crowd of only civilians gathered around the dead man, who bore telltale glowing scars. Before leaving, Nichol had been told that he would be rendezvousing with a larger party of guardsmen, but they were nowhere to be found. "This doesn't bode well..." he muttered. "Jerome, pay a visit to the mayor," he commanded his other comrade. "Find out if this town has a militia. They've got to have something." Jerome saluted his understanding, and Nichol felt his heart sink as his comrade ran off in search of the local authorities. He couldn't shake the feeling that, as usual, something was about to go horribly wrong.

"Nichol Kless, Imperial Guardsman," Nichol introduced himself to the other priest on the scene as if his rank meant anything around these parts. "We've been sent to investigate rumours of sorcerors. What's happened here?" If the Lycian authorities had sent guardsmen, and not valkyries, to deal with these sorcerors, it doubtless meant the valkyries were already preoccupied with something else. Could this plague of sorcery be more deep-seated than just the backwoods of Tuscana? Nichol didn't want to find out, but he was going to have to.
"It's... It's really black magic, isn't it?" Donovan visibly shivered as the words escaped him, his eyes fixed on the corpse.

((Donovan/Jerome are cannon fodder; they're there because it would make no sense for Nichol to be sent here on his own without some sort of investigating party. You can do as you please with them))
Lycia was dangerous. Extremely so, given the fact that he had been technically a refugee. That he had been helping a mage–his sister–escape what had been her homeland. Very few people would recognise his face, but if his father or his brother happened to be here...he wasn't sure what they would do. His father would probably try to get him to come back, and his brother...well, could he bring himself to kill him as he had said he was going to? Either way, his associations with Bern were well-hidden. He was in his non-descript travel armour, and he was on foot. Mori was staying with him in the forest, and he only went into town to buy supplies and listen to gossip. He missed being able to relax in a tavern...but he supposed this saved him money, too.

Tobias grimaced at having to return here, as different as Tuscana was from his homeland of Ostia. But he'd been given a task, and that task was to bring his cousin back safely. His cousin had flown into a rage with the closing of the wyverns' stables, and in his rage, he'd fled. It was irrational, but Leopold was like that when he was extremely angry. Perhaps due to the fact that he held it in so much...

If Tobias had been more understanding, perhaps he could have prevented this. But now was not the time for regrets. He didn't want to make another mistake.

Someone had said that a young man with his description had been seen heading this way with a cloaked man. Tobias wondered what Leopold had gotten himself into, and he hoped that he could bring him back safely. He might be able to turn into a dragon, but he was far from invincible. Even worse were the rumors of this dark cult...or movement of some sort. Tobias had only been able to catch snippets of the conversation about it. And rumors were rumors.

At the time, he'd been at the market. He'd just bought some new arrows for his quiver. he liked to keep those stocked, as he was primarily an archer – whether mounted or dismounted. That was when it met his ears. He heard some commotion, and made his way past a crowd to where it had come from. Mentally he cringed when he saw Imperials. There seemed to be a priest as well...and what appeared to be a dead man. At closer glance, Tobias could see the obvious effects dark magic had upon a body. The corrupting, corroding nature of the kind of magic that gave magic a bad name...

Tobias shivered as he got closer, gauntleted hands in his cloak. He fully expected them to push him aside, and say this was 'imperial business only', but this was a chance to search for his cousin. "Dark magic for sure. Look at how his flesh is corroded. I do hope something is done about the dark mages. Should you need my bow arm, I'm ready and willing to hunt these killers down..."
Lennox was sitting in a dark corner of a tavern, wishing to be alone with his thoughts. However, he had a companion at his table, and not the one he started his journey with. Across from him sat his brother's spy master and former fiance, Cassandra. He doesn't know how Cass found him after he left Tania. He would have preferred her find Carla instead so he can finally be alone, but instead Carla was off tracking her cousin, and Lennox was stuck here with her. "Cass. Why are you here? How did you find me? Shad told me you were in Tania with him, but I must have left hours before you did."

"Lord Tyber wanted me to send a message to you. He figured you'd be able to take care of the task," Cass said as Lennox narrowed his eyes. He was weary of Tyber, despite his help in Shad's affairs and raising his cousin Maria. After all, this man was responsible for the deaths of most of his family, even if they were set up. "As you know-"

Lennox cut Cassandra off. "I don't, actually. But go on." He left Etruria before it's capitulation to Lycia and hadn't been back since.

"-Tyber is trying to raise an Etrurian based resistance under the guise of a mercenary company. He's heard word of a sect of mages in this area that have been hiding out. He sent someone to try to negotiate some alliance...but. No one returned."

"Big surprise," Lennox dryly replied. "Let me guess, Tyber wants me to recruit them."

"No. He wants you to try and put them down before Wolfram contacts them," Lennox cocked his head at that. Before Wolfram contacts them? As in, uncle Wolfram? "They are messing with some terrible magic. The kind that a scholar like Wolfram would love to learn. We don't need any more Lycian attention on your family. Especially after everything at Santaruz and Tania. They thought Shad was responsible for the incident in front of the church in Tania." Most of this isn't my fault, Lennox thought to himself.

"So you want the guy actively being hunted by relic seekers to take down a group of dark mages?" Lennox replied scratching his head. This was going to be a pain. But perhaps it'll give him a bargaining chip so he can get out of an altercation with them.


Lennox got up to his feet and looked down at the much smaller Cass. "I'll be the monster they same I am and I'll take them out." He began walking past her and Cass grabbed his cloak. He looked back at her.

"We don't know how many there are. This was Tyber's mission and they weren't able to get any information to me before I left to meet up with Shad. So, you may want to find others also targeting these men." Lennox looked forward, trying to think in his head how long the travel time from Arretium to Pharae could be. "Yes, that's how dated this information is. But I guarantee they are still a threat. On my way here, I've put my ears to the ground. They-"

"Fine." Lennox said leaving the tavern, Dyrnwyn heavily wrapped up on his back over his dark purple cloak. He didn't care for magic, but the worse they are, the more justified the hatred of magic gets. Wolfram, despite all of his posturing, would probably love to get his hands on their records, their spells, or their means of fending off the Church, if they are doing that. He'd probably align with them if push came to shove.

He was lost in his thoughts about this situation when he came across a large gathering of people. He stood at the back of the crowd, both to keep anyone from grabbing Dyrnwyn and because he had no obstruction of body they were looking at. He heard someone mention dark magic, which prompted Lennox to move through to crowd. If people were going to volunteer for this mission, he wanted to be front and center for it.

Lennox chuckled to himself. "This is like one of your terrible ideas, Shad." He said under his breath, imagining his cousin in front of him.
Slowly Raye stirred from her sleep. It was probably sleep, right? It was hard to tell at this point. One time she had thought about napping for a hundred years... or did that really happen? Not that it mattered. She opened her eyes to see an unfamiliar scene, a somewhat new concept for her. Looking around she tried to move but that was difficult. Oh, her arms were tied behind her back and her feet were bound as well. She appeared to be in some form of a tent and given her position it was hard to move or see. ”Oh... It seems like I've been kidnapped...” She said, very matter of fact, noticing she wasn't gagged or anything so she could talk. ”How bothersome...”

Pulling at the restraints they seemed too strong. If that were the case then she merely needed to break free the hard way. After another moment she said, ”Oh... It's missing...” Her Dragonstone was gone. She was captured and defenseless.
Yuri's attention turned to the close-approaching footsteps behind him.  A man clad in black armor, with dark red hair, had stepped forward from the group of onlookers.  Yuri had half-expected the man to lay a hand on his shoulder and express condolences or something similar; instead, he knelt beside him and pointed to the fallen Keeper's wounds.

"Dark magic for sure. Look at how his flesh is corroded. I do hope something is done about the dark mages."

Yuri looked again at the dead man in his arms.  Nasty burns, almost like acid had etched away at the skin, bore through the tattered robes.  This man was right.  Yuri felt a pang of shock well up in his throat.

"Indeed..." he replied.  "Someone should stop these... mages..."

The armored man stood up.  "Should you need my bow arm, I'm ready and willing to hunt these killers down."

Yuri laid his fallen comrade on the ground gently, picked up his spear, and got to his feet.  He looked the stranger up and down.  This one isn't like the rest, he thought.  Not like the ones I met in Santaruz.  He looked back at the crowd.  They had started to rumble and gossip amongst themselves.  He saw a mix of fear, anxiety, and sadness... for this man of the church, who Yuri had recently come to understand was not as righteous as believed.  If he didn't at least volunteer to investigate, it would cause even more dissent.

Yuri heaved a sigh.  He had no way of knowing what, if anything, this dead Keeper and his fellow lightbringers had done to provoke a black magician to commit such an atrocity.  But for the sake of these villagers, he felt compelled to help.  He addressed the armored stranger once more.

"In light of this recent.... incident..." he started.  "...any able bodies able to stand in place of fallen men of the cloth are.... appreciated."  Yuri extended his hand to the red-haired man.  "I am Inquisitor Yuri," he said.  "You have my thanks.  May Elimine bless your bow."
Nichol nodded firmly until he heard "May Elimine bless your bow" and realised that it seemed he had been ignored in favour of the more colourful strangers volunteering to investigate. "I'm not about to turn down help," he retorted to Donovan, who was mumbling some sort of objection to civilians getting mixed up in this business, "especially when we don't know how long it will be until our comrades arrive." Donovan looked back to the victim of sorcery in fearful acquiescence.
"I arrived here from Ostia yesterday," Nichol said as his attention turned back towards Yuri. "How long have these occultists been at large? Do you know?"

"Make way!" A bearded man in hastily thrown-on brown coats waddled his way through the crowd, Jerome at his side. "The mayor," Nichol's ally, a surly man of few words, informed him. It was difficult for Nichol not to be fascinated by how similar mayors looked across Lycian towns: although this one wasn't as stereotypically portly as usual, it was clear he was better off than most of his subjects.
"Are you the commander?" the mayor asked Nichol. "Thank goodness! Where's the rest of the legion?!"
"Legion...?" Nichol murmured. "It's only the three of us guardsmen here, mayor. We were sent from Ostia to rendezvous with another party, but I'm afraid they haven't yet arrived. Where's the local militia?"
"Militia?!" The mayor accidentally slapped a passerby as he spread his arms wide in exasperation. "Does this place look like it has a militia to you, Commander... Master Lieutenant Corporal?!"
"Unit Captain, mayor," Nichol softly corrected the mayor. "It's not an official rank, but—"
"Thank goodness! An inquisitor!" The mayor noticed Yuri and his spear as he made his way to the front of the crowd. "Brother... er, Father—  Uncle? No matter! It's madness, I tell you! All these witches and wizards and—" The mayor's speech was interrupted by a cascade of vomit as soon as he laid eyes on the corpse around which the crowd had gathered.

"Citizens!" Nichol turned to address the crowd, deciding to make himself useful while Yuri worked things out with the mayor. "I would not normally ask this, but extraordinary situations call for extraordinary measures. In lieu of a full investigating party—" Nichol took care to break the accidental eye contact he had made with Lennox, who had reached the front of the crowd, "the Imperial Guard asks that all who are able and willing lend their strength to this township's protection."
"C— Civilian conscription?" Donovan mumbled. "But that's..." Jerome, having caught on to the fact that Nichol's lack of authority meant as little here as any actual authority he had, simply frowned. Whether or not Nichol had the sufficient rank to help in the recruitment of volunteers meant nothing when they would all likely soon be fighting for their lives against dark mages... and if the town didn't set up a guard of some sort, it would be without warning.
The crowd's murmuring changed its timbre after Nichol made his request. "... Protection? I'm no soldier..." "... But what about the vegetables?" "Are we gonna die?..." The mist danced on Nichol's breath as he sighed.
The body before looked pretty banged up, but it was nothing compared to Dyrnwyn's fire. Lennox looked almost disinterested looking at the body, so desensitized as he was. When he realized he didn't feel anything towards the body, he took solace to the knowledge he's become some monster. The man could still be recognized, he had most of his flesh. Though he wasn't with them anymore, at least someone would be able to recognize him in this state. Dyrnwyn's victims, however, don't have that. These mages can't be that powerful. He turned to try to leave, but an epiphany came to him. Just because that man survived long enough to make it to this town, doesn't mean that all the mages aren't that powerful. He just lucked out and was victim to the weakest. He still felt compelled to just take care of it, but he felt someone tug on his sleeve.

"I wasn't done talking!" Cass yelled in a hushed breath. She didn't seem happy to be left behind. Lennox looked forward, drawing her attention to the center. She looked at the body briefly before looking Yuri straight in the eyes. She began tugging on Lennox' sleeve rapidly. He looked down at the spy, confused. "It's Yuri. He helped us out in Santaruz!"

Lennox knelt slightly so she was closer to his height. "Shad mentioned him back in Tania. What about-"

"YURI!" Cass yelled, trying to get the inquisitor's attention. She then pushed Lennox into the circle that was made around the body. "His cousin and I owe you a favor, so accept his help and we'll be even!" Lennox looked back at the silver haired woman, acting really out of character for the stoic spy she tried to be. She then darted off through the crowd, presumably to where she was staying.

Several members of the crowd had their eyes on him, and that was before the Unit Captain made eye contact with him. Now that Cass drew attention to him and pledged an offer of help to the inquisitor, they seemed even more hopeful that he'd take the task off their hands. He scratched the back of his head and turned towards Yuri. "I am Lennox Hyperion. I humbly offer my sword on this mission. No pay required...", Lennox paused, turning towards Nichol. "No conscription required." He looked back at Yuri. "What do you say, Inquisitor?"
As he stood, Yuri’s attention was drawn to a familiar voice from the crowd.
Yuri blinked as Cass pushed a young man to the front of the congregation and stepped out from behind him.  “Cassandra?  What are you-“
“His cousin and I owe you a favor, so accept his help and we'll be even!"
“What-“ was all Yuri could muster before she slipped away.  The man she volunteered stepped forward, introducing himself as Lennox Hyperion.  Yuri heaved a sigh, though whether it was one of relief or exasperation, he couldn’t say.
“Elimine’s blessings to you all,” he said to Lennox and the somewhat mercurial Imperial guards.  He lifted his spear high and gestured to the crowd.  “Retreat to your homes!” he cried.  “The Emperor’s shield protects you.”  The crowd slowly dispersed, leaving Yuri with the volunteers and conscripts.  A pair of villagers approached.
“Please… let us provide your friend with a proper burial.  It’s the least we can do,” said one.  The other nodded his head in agreement.  Yuri nodded in gratitude, then gestured to the group with his weapon.
“Let us make haste to the north,” he said.  “If my brother’s dying words hold truth, there is no time to waste.”


Several hours later…
Yuri stepped carefully over the gnarled roots and brush that littered the forest floor.  The fog hung low in the air, preventing much vision beyond the first dozen meters or so.  Still, the commotion of the people behind him brought Yuri a sense of calm.  His comrade’s dying words tumbled in his head as he walked.
The children’s stones…, he thought.  What could he mean?
Hyperion. Hyperion. Hyperion... Nichol repeated the name in his head as he marched at a staggered pace, Jerome at his side. He had recommended to both of his Ostian allies that they remain in the village to protect against unseen threats, but Jerome, knowing that Nichol had no actual power over him, had elected to come along, which Nichol took as a sign that his taciturn comrade didn't trust him. He stumbled as a gnarly tree root on his boot jolted him back into the moment, following up with a frustrated glance in several directions: a vain attempt to peer through the thick fog. For all I know, Donovan's following me too, Nichol thought. Although his timid young comrade seemed, well, timid at first sight, perhaps that was just a front. Despite all these thoughts, there was one that refused to be evicted from the top of his head: Hyperion.

Where had he heard that name before?

"Pardon," Nichol said in Lennox's direction before he could stop himself. "Hyperion, was it? You seem an imposing character. Are you a traveling mercenary?" As expected, Jerome perked up and swiveled his head ever so slightly towards Nichol's attempt at conversation. This was, of course, bad: the two guardsmen could only grow more and more suspicious of one another, but Nichol at least was aware that it would scarcely matter were they to suddenly find themselves in a battle against the heathen sorcerors.
Yves was certain of it now: he absolutely hated this forest.

Three months on his own had given the vast, armored man something of a taste for woodland. He'd slept under pines, and under oaks, and under aspens. He'd hacked through underbrush with an axe, and passed through parklike, open spaces with little more than leaf litter in his way. He'd been through woods with deer and with boar and with bear.

"This forest," he decided out loud, "is bullshit."

He'd felt it about an hour ago, when he'd hit the fog bank. For one thing, he didn't trust any fog that started as abruptly as this fog had; one moment he was picking his way past tangled roots he could see, and the next he had nearly wound up going ass over teakettle on something obscured by the swirling mists. Again, he amended ruefully. In truth, his relationship with roots could be better. His relationship with a lot of things could be better. He stopped to run a hand back through his hair. His footsteps continued to echo for--

The bottom of his stomach dropped out. If those are echoes, he thought, why am I hearing more than one set? 

Carefully as he could, he pulled up his lance from where he'd been using it as a walking stick and gripped it firmly in both hands. Paranoia set in; they obviously weren't going to any special trouble to conceal their movements; what if this was a Lycian search party, finally tracking him down?

"No, idiot. Obviously they wouldn't be just walking if they'd found you." Yves froze. Had he said that out loud?
Elimine's blessing to you all? You do realize your church tore down her altar, right? Lennox thought to himself at Yuri's greeting. But, he was playing nice, so he nodded in acknowledgement. This Yuri character was a mystery. He must know that Shad's a mage, but he let him go. Perhaps he had a crisis of faith. Lennox knew he had to get any preconceived notions about him out of his head in case that crisis has solved itself. But not now.


Lennox felt a bit uneasy with the sounds of the footsteps accompanying him. Too much armor for liking, at least in his companions. Carla didn't need armor and she was almost a paperweight compared to the combined weight of the trio with him. He's used to the loudest thing with them being the muffled clinking of the chain-mail inner weave of his cloak. But he wasn't here for comfort, this was a job. Lennox kept looking around, even turning a full 360 degrees multiple times to keep an eye on everything. Besides of being reminded of traversing the Isles just hours before reuniting with his father, Lennox noticed an engrossed expression upon the Unit Captain's face. When he finally spoke up, Lennox was almost relieved he didn't have to pry. "Please, Lennox. Hyperion doesn't mean anything to anyone outside of Etruria. And it doesn't mean much to to anyone in Etruria. To answer your question, though, Unit Captain. I suppose it depends on your point of view. The only real payment I need is a good fight, but I won't turn down gold if offered. I like traveling light, so I usually keep just enough for board or food and donate the rest to those most in need of it. The mother of one of my closest friends volunteered most of her free time at a church in Ostia, so whenever I saw her, she stressed the importance of looking out for the downtrodden."

Lennox wondered why he didn't start talking, but his not exactly regretting his choice of words. You have a man of the cloth and a pair of Lycian soldiers. They could probably tell his a foreigner to them, so offering his ties to both the church and to Lycia should calm any concerns about him suddenly backstabbing them at a moments notice. Make himself seem not too different from them. Hold on. This feels like I'm trying to lull them into a false sense of security.

When Lennox thought back to the soldiers, he realized something about the Unit Captain. Wait. That accent sounds...familiar. Can't place it. I'm certain Yuri's from Ostia. Can't forget that accent for the life of me. But...this guy... Lennox turned his attention to Yuri. He needed to tell him. "Hold that thought, Unit Captain." Lennox was going to approach Yuri when he thought he heard something. Heard someone. He drew his longsword, keeping Dyrnwyn firmly on his back. "Did you hear that, Inquisitor?"
Nichol's hunch about Lennox was seeming to be more and more correct: the man was well-traveled, mentioning both Etruria and Ostia in the same breath. He continued listening: it seemed Lennox had a lot to say, and Nichol wasn't about to cut short any potential clues as to how this man's surname was too embedded in his mind for it to be the first time he had encountered it. He could've sworn he'd heard another voice in the background, but it must've been his thoughts swimming again— until Jerome locked himself into a combat stance, the guardsman's armour clicking once before it became silent and his boots slowly sinking into the underbrush as they froze. Nichol assumed a similar position, holding his spear close. Was this it? His blood pumped a little faster and time marched a little slower as he waited for signs of noise or movement.