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The day was overcast, and a chill autumn wind was breezing leisurely through the area. It was Santaruz, just inside the border. Ambrose, though his hood was up, kept an eye out for others on the road. Traveling with two others, both of whom would be prizes for the Church of the Preservation of Sanctity, kept him alert to the presence of anyone, though the striking beauty of the Lycian countryside in autumn was very distracting. Leaves were changing from brightest green to yellow, and orange, and red in an enchanting, swaying mosaic of beautiful colors. Still, they were approaching a village, and needed to not get caught off their guard.

His companions, or more likely, wards, went by the names Paige and Shad. Paige was a bookworm, and her job in Castle Pherae had been the upkeep and organization of the library. It was thanks to her diligence that Ambrose now had a name for his ultimate target: the emperor of Lycia and conqueror of Etruria. Speaking of which, his other companion, Shad Hyperion, was a native aristocrat of the latter nation, and a fugitive, furthermore.

Both of them were about half his age, and while they all seemed to get along quite well, it was heavily apparent that he knew more about traveling than either of them, though Shad had some hard-won experience with the roads. They came to rely on the older man. It was a strange feeling for Ambrose, who'd never found someone to love and make a family with, to suddenly be counted upon for their survival at no cost to them. Then again, he was used to being a mercenary, rather than a public-minded assassin, so his perplexity made a modicum of sense.

As the village and its houses came into view, he had to suppress first a growl and then a sigh. It was crawling with Lycian soldiers, at least a regiment, and as they got closer, he saw that all of them bore the seal of the Church.

"Hoods up. Word of our escape hasn't yet reached here, but it doesn't hurt to be careful," Ambrose whispered tersely. He kept his cloak pulled closed, and his sword's hilt never left his hand's grasp.
This was Shad's first time in the Santaruz area. It looks beautiful this time of year, but Shad would much prefer being in a peaceful Etruria than Santaruz in autumn. Shad and Marcus avoided central Lycia, keeping near the southern coast after bypassing Ostia. The only city of note the duo passed on their way to Pharae was the port city of Badon.

Unbeknownst to his companions, Shad had discovered that he was being followed by two people since they left the village. One was an ally and the other's allegiance was still being determined. Cassandra Carvax, Shad's former betrothed and spy master, was sent to keep an eye out on the noble by her husband and Shad's regent, Leon Hyperion. Shad knew she was around from the nightingale calls when they left, and the two spoke when the others were asleep.

She revealed to him the presence of the spy following him, and revealed said spy tried to shake the Church off their trail. Due to this peculiar situation, Cassie said she'll keep an eye out and take out the spy when she deems it necessary. She made sure to note that the spy seems to be sympathetic to an extent, and may be coerced into joining them eventually. Before she left that night, she left Shad with some of Leons hand-me-down Sacaen clothes, a Sacaen sword, and a sizable sack of gold. He hid the gold in with the clothes, but carried the sword on his waist. He still wore his coat however. His outfit isn't the most secretive, but he's been okay so far.

While Shad was contemplating letting them know his spymaster was watching their backs, Ambrose alerted them to the soldiers. Relieved he didn't make the switch yet, he pulled the hood over his head, took out his 'cane' and began walking with a limp. Hiding that sword like this was one of the best ideas his father had. "Got it."

The young Keeper gave no response, his gaze fixated on the other pairs of holy warriors moving briskly from one residence to another – speaking to the citizens, checking through books, searching houses…


“Ah! Yes sir!” Yuri snapped out of his daydream and acknowledged his senior officer. This was his first raid in eastern Lycia – specifically, Santaruz – and the intensity of the Keepers’ search thus far had been kept to a surprising low. “Where are we to go next, Inquisitor Faulkner?”

“The homes on the south side have all been cleared,” Faulkner replied. “So we’re going to check through these houses along the northwest corner.”

“What about backup?” asked Yuri. “If they fight with their magic-“

“We are the Keepers of Sanctity,” the Inquisitor interjected. “It is Elimine’s wish to protect us, and it is our duty to accept that protection and purge the darkness from this world.” He took up his spear with both hands. “Ready?”

“By Her will,” Yuri replied. The two of them jogged across the road and headed towards a pair of lightless cottages. As they passed by a pair of fellow Keepers, Yuri could overhear their conversation:

“Looks like it was Elimine’s wish to give us a little raise, eh mate?”

“Too right! Let’s double back and count our loot!”

“Inquisitor…” Yuri said quietly as the two of them arrived at the first house. “Is it really necessary for us to… to take money from these people?”

“Yuri, you know as well as I do that His Grace has mandated heavy fines for anyone found to be studying the dark arts.” Inquisitor Faulkner rolled his eyes and knocked on the door of the cottage. Yuri waited and heard nothing. His grip tightened on his blade.

The Inquisitor pounded on the door. “Keepers! Open up!”

Yuri could hear a muffled gasp coming from within the darkened house.

“Inside!” he cried. Hastily, he and Faulkner readied themselves a couple steps from the door and lowered their shoulders. *WHAM!* The door flew open, snapping the rickety lock off the frame. It was too dark to see inside, but Yuri could make out the shape of two figures fumbling about, scrambling away from himself.

“Reveal yourselves, in the name of Saint Elimine!” yelled Faulkner. He extended his lance, and a light began to pulse from the tip. It illuminated the room, and finally, Yuri could see their prey – a naked man trying desperately to help his equally unclothed female companion cover herself up with a blanket.

Yuri bit his lip and stole a look at Faulkner. “Sir?”

“Don’t just stand there, Yuri! Search them!” Faulkner began making threatening jabs with his weapon, carrying the light with it. The townsfolk shied from the Inquisitor’s magic, fearing for their lives.

Yuri paused for a brief moment, then lowered his weapon. He hurried over to the couple and snatched at the blanket. The woman resisted. Yuri threatened with his spear and tugged back.

“Hrrrg… let… go!” Yuri struggled. “Heretic wench, let go!” Finally he was able to yank it free, tripping backwards over his feet and landing on his rear. The woman, now exposed, gasped in embarrassment, and her lover hurried to reach in front of her to obscure the Keepers’ view.

“Under order of the Keepers of Sanctity, you are under arrest for resisting men of the cloth,” said Faulkner. He walked past the couple and reached for a book that lay on the bed. Yuri watched his face contort in disgust, and he slammed it on the floor, eliciting another gasp from the lovemaking couple.

“Tie them up, Yuri,” said Faulkner. The Inquisitor headed for the door. “Mikhail and Erik will pick them up.”

Yuri watched his officer leave, then reached for the silk rope in his rear belt pouch. I twinge of regret pulled at him as he reached toward the man with the rope. The man swatted his hands away.

“Church dogs! Get away from my wife!” he snarled.

Yuri’s conscience vanished in that instant, and he punched the man square in the face.

“Please no!” cried the woman. “Leave him alone!” The man staggered and reached for his nose, which was now bleeding.

“Both of you, be silent.” Yuri bound the pair with contempt in his voice. “If you witches had just cooperated, none of this would have happened.” Leaving the two of them in the dark, he exited the cottage.

May She have mercy on them.
As a light brown courser trotted towards the village, its rider looked ahead with glazed eyes, lost in thought. If this had been mere months ago, the beauty of autumn in Santaruz would have left Morgan in awe, but her current situation left her with no desire to admire the scenery. Besides, despite the lovely sights, she did not want to spend any more time in this Elimine-forsaken country than she needed to. She hoped she could conclude her business in Lycia before long, and not just due to her bitterness towards their empire.

Her family had disappeared. Despite all her attempts to track them down, the trail had gone cold.

Tracing her family's path through Etruria had been remarkably easy. She'd managed to follow their route almost exactly up to the border, using information gained from villages they'd passed through on their way. As soon as she reached Lycia proper, though, such information grew sparser and more spurious; by the time she'd made it to Badon, Morgan couldn't fish out anything on their whereabouts. Coming to Santaruz was nothing but a hunch, and one that Morgan was dreading would lead her even further off the trail.

Morgan shook her head, trying get herself out of her funk. From what she'd heard, Santaruz could potentially be hostile towards a traveler like herself, and she needed to be aware if that was the case. Taking a brief look at the village ahead, she spotted a number of Lycian soldiers marching from building to building. From what she could see, at least some of them were warriors of Lycia's church. A knot formed in her stomach at the sight; the last thing she needed was potential arrest at the hands of zealots like these.

Morgan dismounted and led her horse to a tree at the edge of the village, tying to to one of its lowest branches to stop it from running off. A sudden impulse to remove her bow from its pack washed over her, but she dismissed it as foolish. Leaving her horse behind, she walked at a brisk pace through the streets, scanning the the buildings for an inn or tavern of some kind as she went. She clutched her pack in an iron grip and prayed she didn't look too conspicuous.
Paige really wanted to believe that this was all a dream. That this adventure was just a figment of her imagination drawn up by late nights of research. Yet she woke up on the road, traveling with Shad and their companion Ambrose. Both of them were fugitives to the empire and, by association, she was likely joining them. She couldn’t ask for better partners, particularly since she could never figure out how to start a fire with rocks. Paige imagined her journey across Elibe in search of books would have been filled with more inns and cart travel. Now, she was lucky they made it to Santaruz at all.

Despite her current travel arrangements, Paige was glad to be in this particular city. This library was supposed to have a copy of the Ostian bloodline. If she couldn’t get her hands on that, there was a local monastery. The monks there often transcribed books to create multiple copies. In fact, the copy in Pherae originated from this monastery. If she couldn’t get a written history, perhaps she could settle for an oral one.

That is, if they could get past the guards.

The fact that there were Imperial soldiers patrolling the streets didn’t bode well for Paige’s research. Had they already confiscated the book? She couldn’t dwell on these thoughts for long: Ambrose warned of soldiers approaching. She did as she was told and raised the hood of her cloak. The librarian kept quiet and listened intently for clues about the status of the city.
Ambrose saw from the shadows under his hood that these soldiers with the seal of the Church on their uniforms were watching them. Malice, suspicion, fear, and excitement colored their expressions in varying combinations. Mm, not good. They're hungry for blood, and we're travelers. No one would cry at our deaths, were they to decree it. Need to find an excuse, though. Probably confront us soon.

"Take me, if you must, but let her go; she's done nothing wrong!" a man cried out off to his left. He turned to look, seeing a fellow, shorter than him, naked, and bound hand and foot being carried over the shoulder of a soldier, while the also naked and bound woman on the shoulder of the soldier behind him was sobbing.

"Pity for them," a soldier remarked in earshot. "If they'd've just complied with our search, they could've finished, at least." He laughed. "Well, at least now we can have some more fun."

Ambrose's blood boiled as he scowled, his frown the only thing visible under his hood.
Shad just froze in place at those cries. He turned his head towards the soldiers carrying the naked citizens. He began tapping his 'cane' on the ground, trying to keep himself grounded before he does something that might endanger the others. He had managed to avoid seeing travesties like this, leaving Etruria when he did, so this scene was being etched into his mind. Shad had ignored the 'could've finished' comment. He processed the situation as the zealots being the ones that forced them to strip.

Based on his interpretation of events, one thought blazed in his mind. Would these monsters have done the same to his little sister? That single thought almost sent Shad barreling towards the soldiers with reckless abandon. He roughly shook his head. Cooler heads will prevail in this situation. But even his urge to help them was winning out over reason.

Shad's glance went to other hand, which was subconsciously reaching for the fire tome secured under his coat. Suddenly an idea shown through. He was probably much faster than they were. He had a hood to obscure his face, and a change of clothes for when he loses them. The only thing missing was a point to meet back up with Ambrose and Paige.

"I...have a terrible idea," He whispered to his companions."I'll need input soon, because I'm about to go through with it regardless of your opinions. I'm going to shoot a fire spell near them and force them to chase me. I don't know how many will give chase, but that might give you an opportunity to help those people."

"I should be able to outrun them. I have some Sacaen clothes I can change into as well," He whispered, speaking slightly faster from before.
"So...that's the plan. If you want to stop me, please be quick with it. I'm having some troubling thoughts swirling in my head urging me to act."
"I have a better idea," Paige replied to Shad. And by better, she meant worst. She had not wanted to take sides, but this was too much. As much trouble as this would bring her, she could not stand by silently while people were hauled away for unlawful searches. Paige didn't bother to tell her companions her next move. She simply walked up and gave a shrill whistle to catch the soldiers' attention.

"Hey!," Paige shouted, her hood still obscuring her identity. "How far has the glory of Lycia fallen that her own soldiers rape and pillage their own? Lord Hector's country, this is not!"

Admittedly, Paige did not have a follow-up to this misguided attempt at righteousness. She was making this up as she went.
Morgan continued on her way through the village, the tension in her stomach not subsiding even a little as she passed through the streets. She could hear the cries of the villagers, though she did not try to look for their source. It was bad enough to hear the rumors of what Lycian soldiers had done on their way through Etruria; to see those tales in action, in a Lycian village no less, was immensely troubling. A mixture of fear and guilt gnawed at the back of her mind. She felt selfish for continuing with her business while people were suffering nearby, but what could she do? If these soldiers treated fellow Lycians like this, she could only imagine how they'd react to a single traveler stirring up trouble. She was lucky they hadn't plucked her off the street yet.

She still hadn't spotted an inn or tavern in this place yet. No place for travelers to gather, it seemed. That didn't bode well for her hopes of gathering information on her family's whereabouts. It seemed like her hunch had been fruitless after all, and had merely brought her towards danger.

She was contemplating turning around and getting back on her horse when she spotted a trio of hooded figures. They were a short distance away, and Morgan assumed from their garb that they likely weren't from here. Morgan couldn't say if they were refugees or mercenaries or what, but if they weren't from Santaruz, there was at least a slim chance they'd know something.

It seemed almost an absurd thing to do, given the circumstances, but she decided she couldn't afford to be picky. At this point, she was desperate enough to take any potential lead.

Morgan picked her pace up a bit and headed in their direction. By the time she'd arrived, a bit behind them and to their right, she'd already figured how she would broach the subject. She'd just have to hope they'd care to dignify her words with a response.

Words which caught in her throat the moment one of them began taunting the Lycian soldiers.
Yuri was just about to meet up with the rest of the raiding party at the center of the town when a sharp whistle reached his ears. His head whirled around.

“Hey! How far has the glory of Lycia fallen that her own soldiers rape and pillage their own?”

“Who’s there?!” A Keeper behind Yuri stepped in front of him and held his spear out towards the source of the noise. “Show yourselves!”

Yuri watched as his compatriot churned up a light spell and hurled it into the trees. He caught a glimpse of three… no, four figures. Their hoods were up, but the light allowed him to pick out a couple of faces – a young girl with red hair, and an older man with a beard. As the light dissipated, the other Keeper began to run towards them.

“Keepers of Sanctity!” he cried in as authoritative a voice as he could manage. “Hands up! Stay where you are!”

Just then, Yuri felt someone shove him from behind.

“After them, you fool!” It was Inquisitor Faulkner, stumbling past to pursue the figures. “We’re all done here, let’s move!”

“Aye!” Yuri ran after Faulkner, and the three enforcers of the church were on the heels of the group. He saw the two in front of him prepare spells to light the way, and instinctively tried to do the same. His spearpoint shimmered briefly, but did not glow.

“Come on!” he sputtered to himself. He slowed to a stop, trying to channel his faith. Faith in Saint Elimine, faith in his beliefs, faith in the path he had chosen…


Defeated, Yuri gave up. He started running again, following the beacons of the other two as they hunted down the heckling travelers.
Ambrose froze at what Paige did, looking at her with naught but astonishment. The woman had stones, he'd give her that much. He'd planned to help those poor souls out later, when it was fully dark, but now they were being targeted.

"Run!" Ambrose declared, wanting to get into the forest surrounding the village before things got worse. The forest, he could work with. In the town? He was more likely to get skewered.

The group ran, and Ambrose made sure he was the last in line. He had the experience; best if he was the one to deal with these unworthy foes. He looked behind him for a second: one of the light-tipped spears was ahead of the other. He turned, drawing his sword. The long steel blade rang as it came free. He caught the first ranseur on its quillions, directing it up into the air. The Keeper it was attached to stabbed at Ambrose, but the ex-mercenary parried.

He gripped the weapon's shaft in his right hand to keep it from moving, angled his sword like a spear, and pierced the light armor of the Keeper. It was a young man, and Ambrose felt a flash of pity for him before he kicked the dying body off his sword, then ran before the other spearman could reach him.
Shad just glanced at Paige. He would like to say it was surprising, but she was the one who spoke up to that imbecile the day they first met. Even if Shad had a terrible idea, at least he likes to bounce that idea off of people to get input. Wolfram and Marcus were usually good at that, Kalin, not so much. But he never thought his idea would be countered with an even worse idea.

He didn't acknowledge Ambrose's order to run. He tried to take out his magic tome when a figure grabbed his arm from behind him. He turned his head to see a single golden eye staring back at him. He then noticed the silver hair covering the other one. Cassandra. She pulled at him, mouthing at him to run, to which Shad relented. As he figured, Shad was much faster than the men pursuing them, even his own comrades-in-arms. Only Cassandra kept up with him. The duo turned around to lend aid.

With Shad far enough away that they couldn't see his face at all, he took the tome into his hands and began a proper casting. He then shoot a single fireball in Ambrose's general direction, hoping he could use the distraction to their advantage.

"We have three of them chasing us. For some reason, the third isn't using a light spell. That might make it easier for him to sneak up on us," Cassandra relayed. "Hopefully that spell doesn't go to far either. Those three shouldn't make it back out, but it will be unmanageable if the whole of them turn their blades to us."

"Its fine Cassie. At least, it should be fine."
Paige followed Ambrose's call for retreat like instinct. If nothing else, they would draw attention away from the prisoners. She took off after her comrades, though choosing to stay closer to Ambrose.

Paige kept behind Ambrose while he engaged one of the soldiers. Shad's fireball lit up their general area, possibly attracting the other soldiers to Ambrose. Paige used the fireball to her advantage by retreating to the darkness and advancing towards the lagging soldier.

With Yuri's lack of light, Paige was able to sneak towards him even while keeping a brisk pace. Rather t than kill the man, the librarian extended a foot in his path, hoping to trip him. Regardless of success, Paige pulled out her rapier and pointed it at Yuri.

"Don't move, lest I end you like the brigand you are!"
Yuri struggled to keep up after his fellow Keepers. The ground was uneven, with roots and pits forcing him to practically skip-step between the trees to keep the forward priest’s light within view.

Suddenly, there was a glow of reddish-orange off to the left. “They’re mages! Cut them down!” Yuri could hear the order barked from the vanguard. His heart skipped a beat. These people were no mere hooligans – they were enemies of the Church, enemies of the Emperor….

“My enemies,” Yuri growled. He turned in the direction of the fire’s light, abandoning his pursuit. Just wait until I get my hands on you… The tip of his spear began to glow again, just as it had when Yuri had so desperately tried to channel his faith. Strange that it would happen now, but I’m not complaining! All the more to purge the wicked with, he thought. These and similar self-inspiring thoughts filled Yuri’s head as he charged toward the source of the fire spell.

So singular was his purpose that he failed to catch a figure out of the corner of his eye until the last possible instant. The hooded fellow reached out with a leg to attempt to trip him. Yuri leapt over the attacker’s foot and avoided contact, but landed awkwardly in a recess in the ground, rolling his ankle and sending him tumbling to the ground.

“Aaaahhhh!” wailed Yuri, both hands instantly clasping around his ankle. He rolled over and looked up at his attacker. The anger in his face quickly dissolved into fear as his eyes settled on the business end of a rapier, held by a young woman.

“Don’t move, lest I end you like the brigand you are!” she cried.

Yuri wanted to panic, but he fought it back and held strong. “Do your worst! You damn mage-folk are all the same!” he barked. “Better to die by your blade than one of your pestilent hexes!”

The young woman kept her blade fixed on Yuri’s neck, but did not move.

“Well? What are you waiting for? Kill me like your cultists killed- aahhh!” Yuri winced and tightened his grip on his ankle, trying to squeeze out the pain.
Morgan hadn't waited for the man to suggest flight. Before the words were even out of his mouth, she was already sprinting out of the village. Retrieving her mount didn't even occur to her, and it was so far away it may as well have been in Ilia. She swiftly took to the woods, running fast enough to remain ahead of the other travelers as they fled from the Keepers.

One thing made her stop in her tracks; a sudden, intense orange glow. She turned towards its source behind her. The trees blocked much of her view, but she swore she could see a bolt of flame shoot out from elsewhere in the woods. From that direction, she could hear the sound of conflict between the Keepers and their current targets. Who was winning, she couldn't say, but perhaps they weren't as outmatched as she'd assumed...

She rooted around in her pack and removed her bow. She'd forgotten to unstring it, a thing she'd normally chastise herself for, but which brought a wave of relief to her now. With weapon in hand, she quietly moved towards where she thought the fireball had gone, just a short distance away.

The fading light of the autumn twilight made it a bit difficult to see, but she could make out a pair of figures just ahead. A Keeper was prone on the ground, a sword pointed straight at his throat. The holder of the sword, a young woman, held the blade firmly in place. A cursory glance didn't reveal anyone else to Morgan, though in truth it was too dark for her to really tell; at any rate, it seemed like the woman had managed to get her opponent alone.

The appearance of an unnatural, arcane light behind her betrayed the presence of another.

Morgan snatched an arrow out of her quiver and drew her bow, aiming near this glint of light. After she loosed it, it flew past the duo, passing the shoulder of the woman, and struck something in the shadows behind them. The cry of pain indicated her shot had found its mark. The light shook and sputtered, nearly going out. Despite this, she prepped another arrow without drawing it; she couldn't be certain the wound she'd dealt was fatal.
Ambrose checked behind him, and noticed that the light had halted pursuit in order to chase another target. The assassin grumbled before turning to find the opponent. His light was further back, so Ambrose ran, his eyes adjusting to the dark. He heard a cry of pain, off to his right. He found the former pursuer, his spearhead shining, just fifteen feet from Paige. "No you don't!" Ambrose gritted his teeth, charging the man.

He turned, meeting Ambrose's charge with a surprisingly fast spear thrust. The ex-mercenary dodged, leaping clumsily to the side to avoid impalement. Recovering quickly, he parried the strike of the lance, swinging a crushing strike at the man. It struck him, full force, in the left arm. The heavy cloth of the Keeper's robes he wore prevented the arm from being sheared off, but the man's arm broke.

Even so, it was not an easy fight. He was a veteran, that was certain. Almost as proficient in combat as the mercenary himself. In the end, it was luck that kept Ambrose alive. He stepped wrong, throwing off a thrust that would've hit Ambrose in the throat, and Ambrose cut his hand off, threw him on his back, and stomped on his chest. "We are the Vanguard," he felt compelled to say. "Where you attack Lycia's citizens, we will defend them. Where you hunt mages, we will prosper them. Where you abuse your power, we will set it right. Goodbye, fallen knight, and good riddance."

The combatant was executed, a thrust through his neck and into the dirt beneath. "Now, what's this?" he asked Paige, wiping the sword on his stormcloak. He eyed Yuri with suspicion.
Shad and Cassandra shot glances at one another when they heard a cry of pain. It didn't sound like any of the others. Did Cass really miss a forth pursuer? They did run pretty fast, perhaps the forth wasn't as quick to the draw as the first three, which would be why the missed him. They both moved to the source of the sound, Cass leading the way. They stopped suddenly, hiding behind the tree. Cass kept Shad from showing himself as she surveyed the zealot.

He was nursing his shoulder, his lance on the ground. She spied an arrow piercing him. "Does Paige or Ambrose use a bow?" She questioned, having not noticed their new companion during their run. Shad shook his head when she looked back. She returned her gaze to see a second figure reveal themselves. Her eyes widened a bit. It was that spy from Pharae. The one that was tried to shake the church off of Shad's tail. She watched her take out a knife.

"Who are you? Are you with the mages?!" Shad's body jerked at the man speaking. He tried to look, but Cass stopped him. "N-no wait. Get back! Ahh!" Cass just watched as the spy cut open a huge gash into the knights throat. The spy then looked towards their hiding spot. Cass ducked her head back, while Shad used the opportunity to look. The spy was gone before he got a chance to look.

"Coast's clear Cassie. Let's find the others."

"Let's go," Cass replied, still quite unsure of what to make of that woman, Alice Richter. Alice was still following them, but for some reason felt no qualms against deceiving her own allies. Does she have an issue with the Church? It was her only explanation for her actions that Cass could come up with.

The pair ignored the dead body and Cass led them in the direction she believed that the arrow came from. That's when the pair came across the archer. Shad stopped first and put his hands up. "Hold. I'm not with the church," he said, his Etrurian accent coming through. Cass came up right next to him, doing the same thing. Shad looked around a little bit and saw Paige and Ambrose not that far away. In fact, he was confused about how he missed them. "Those two over there are my friends. We're kinda the reason those knights attacked. You know, besides them dragging people naked out of their houses."

"Your target is dead. A third party slit his throat after you shot him," Cass informed. "We should regroup with the others," she directed towards Shad. "Besides, you still have to introduce them to me. I know you haven't told them yet."

"Fine, fine," the lord replied. "Why don't you tag along for now?"
"I'm don't want to kill you," Paige said to Yuri. "I want answers." She kept the sword on him in case he made a move beyond nursing his broken ankle. Her focus only broke when an arrow passed by her shoulder. She instinctively looked over her shoulder, watching as another soldier was taken down. Where did that come from? She turned back to see Shad (and someone else?) investigating the source. At the same time, Ambrose joined her with Yuri.

"T-this one broke his ankle," Paige replied to Ambrose, still a little wary of any more arrows. She then turned her attention to Yuri.

"We can get that fixed up, but we'll need you to answer some questions," Paige said, calming her tone. He didn't seem to be much of a threat at the moment and so didn't feel the need to be rough.

"What is going on here and how many of you are in the city?"
Yuri gave the woman a confused look. "You mean... you're not with the cultists?" She had been joined by a muscular, sword-wielding man. Yuri hurriedly looked around himself, trying to pick out the telltale glow of his fellow Keepers' magic. There was none.

"What is going on here?" the woman asked Yuri. "And how many of you are in the city?"

Yuri said nothing; he merely glared at her while keeping his hands clamped around his ankle. A suspicious staredown from the man next to her changed his mind.

"We... we are doing Elimine's work," Yuri stammered. "There was talk of black magic activities in the area, and we were sent- ennngh!" He squeezed his ankle to suppress the pain. "...sent to purge it."

The woman regarded his words, but said nothing.

"But what they are doing... it's more like banditry than missionary work." Yuri looked down, almost ashamed to be calling his actions as they were. "There's nothing here."

He waited for a reply.
Morgan turned her attention to the approaching pair at the sound of the man's voice. The man's cloak seemed familiar; she assumed he was among those she'd seen earlier. The woman was new to her, but it was pretty clear the two of them were allies. Evidently these people had had things far more well in hand then she'd believed when she fled. She lowered her weapon and returned the arrow in her hand to the quiver while the man spoke.

The man's Etrurian accent was unmistakable. It'd been a little while since she'd heard one; she'd been trying to disguise her's since she crossed the border. When she replied to his offer, she didn't bother hiding her own accent.

"Don't worry, no need to explain this mess to me. I was there when they charged you" Morgan said, a very slight, casual smile forming on her face. "I'm sorry we didn't get a chance to talk before all this bloodshed. I suppose introductions can wait until we're with your friends over there."

She unlaced the leather straps holding her pack shut and gently placed her bow within, saying as she laced it shut again "Lead on and I'll follow."
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