You return to the cabin, and instead of investigating the stove as before, you search through the entirety of the kitchen. It doesn’t take you long to find a battered tin box in a cupboard of rotting wood above the stove. Inside the box are three matches.
Hurrying back to the slain form of the snake-thing in the woods, you strike a match, toss it on the corpse, and watch as the flames slowly build, then swim over the thing’s body. Soon, it is completely engulfed; its skin pops and sizzles as the fire does its duty.
Using the longest branch you find, you lower it into the pit, and one by one the children take hold, and climb out. The youngest are helped along by some of the older ones before they climb out themselves.
Four children aged ten to fourteen (by the looks of them) stand before you, frightened, dirty and hungry. The two oldest thank you, while the two younger ones--a boy and a girl--cry and hug themselves to stay warm.
One of the reasons Dahlia didn’t like the heroine business was for moments like this. How was she going to get these children back to their homes? More importantly, how much trouble would they be en route? It was much easier being a Lone Wolf, lurking in the shadows and skirting the law. This was a newfound responsibility she didn’t care to engage.
Her grand decision was to think about it later. "All right, listen now. You older kinds look after the younger ones. I have to go to the cabin above, and find some things about the man that abducted you."
Before she departed, she was struck with a thought. "Tell me, how did this ... thing come to capture all of you?" After their answers, she’d 'tell' Dog to watch over the lot of them, and then she'd return to the cabin, and search for the clues the ghost of Paolo Ruminoff told her to take back to Florence.
All of the children tell a similar, strange tale. They were in their homes, sleeping away the night when he came, abducting them in the foggy lands of their dreams. When they awoke, they were here, marked for death and hearing the insane babble of the man that had captured them and taken them away from the comfort of their families and homes.
As you ponder this, you venture to the cabin, collecting the wadded pieces of paper off the floor---the pages from the journal the strange man kept, speaking of his crimes and his own mad thoughts as he carried out his depraved acts. You also take the journal itself. The damning evidence collected, you leave, returning to the burning corpse and the children, and ponder what to do next.
Dahlia watches the corpse until it’s burned beyond recognition, and then tells the children of her immediate plan. "I don’t know what to make of your stories, whether the threat is over or not. Nonetheless, we have a long trek ahead. I will do all in my power to protect you, but you may have to help yourselves out at times along the way. Be watchful and look out for each other. Let me know of any danger you see, regardless of how harmless it may seem."
She glances at Dog and closes her eyes, to see if she is still able to see through his eyes. Afterward, she begins the walk home. As they go along, food will be a concern, no doubt. She will eat her rations, but look for places along the way, knocking on the doors of farmsteads if she has to and asking for handouts, in order to feed the children.
You close your eyes but find you can no longer see through the eyes of your faithful retriever. Children gathered around, evidence and the head of the murderer collected, you set off to leave the forest. When you get to the fringe of the wood, you spy movement in the brush. Peering into the dense greenery, you see the fox that’s possessed by the spirit of Paolo Ruminoff watching you closely, its eyes glowing with the insight and knowledge of its host. Then, after a head-snapping sneeze, the glow vanishes; the fox dashes away into the wood.
For the next two days you journey through the hinterland. Relying on the hospitality of the local farmers, you spend nights in their barns before the journey ends at twilight on the third day at Florence’s city gates. Four children, starving but otherwise unharmed, in tow.
You’ve thought ahead, of course. You don’t wish to be identified as the rescuer of these missing children, and the notoriety it would bring you, and perhaps your guild, the Azzuri. You quickly depart, leaving the children on their own from here.
But there’s no avoiding it. Too many eyes have seen you---the farmers, whose barns you’ve slept in, the gatemen, the shop owners, and the ever watchful eyes of the everyday citizen---not to mention the children themselves.
When news of your deed spreads, you’re identified, and treated as the heroine you longed not to be. The families of the children lavish you with gifts, and your tale is chronicled in the news sheets, becoming the most popular story ever published. Everyone in Florence wants to know more about the shy, enigmatic young lady that rescued the missing children, and brought an end to a psychopath’s killing spree.
But not everyone is happy in Florence. You’ve proven the City Guard and the judicial system to be incompetent, having arrested and executed an innocent man. Moreover, The Halo Killer is still at large, having claimed two more victims while you were away, making the Guard even more apprehensive. You, too, perhaps aren’t too happy, either. Your newfound popularity brings attention to you and your background, your “story,” something that you prefer to keep in the dark.
As your tale continues to be written, you will have to tread even more cautiously, being careful of who to trust and who to avoid, and to be acutely aware of every word you say.
<This ends the proper story of this chapter. What’s left is for you to select the two contacts you wish to question.>
Last Edit: Jan 19, 2015 9:40:42 GMT -5 by vladtaltos
It wasn’t until they were a day out of Ciminian Forest that Dahlia felt the threat from the magician-murderer was over, such was his sheer aura of evil. Arriving at Florence’s gates, exhausted after the long journey home, Dahlia was neither prepared nor wishing for the hoopla that would arise from her returning the missing children. Later, she was also surprised at how easily it was for others to find her, but with so many eyes having seen her, and the persistence of the tabloid writers it was understandable.
She tried to reveal little about herself to those that wanted her tale of adventure. She still had questions herself about some of the things she’d encountered and when the first opportunity presented itself, she would seek those answers.
First, she would visit Anton, the acolyte at the Temple of Mercury. She wanted to tap into any knowledge he may have about the Man-in-Gray first, then follow up with additional questions. Afterward, she’d visit her friend from the Wizards’ Guild Academy, Andreas Grumby.
Post by vladtaltos on Jan 12, 2015 13:08:33 GMT -5
Past the idols and statues of Mercury lining the courtyard of the temple, you enter the vestibule of the church, and find Anton doing what many acolytes in the Church District do on any given morning---sweeping the floor.
He’s obviously happy to see you, but is it “you” that makes him happy, or a break from the mundanity of his tasks that’s the cause of his broad smile and the twinkle in his eyes? A question for the ages, perhaps. In the meantime, he welcomes you inside and escorts you into the privacy of the empty chancel, where you take a seat.
After cordialities, and a brief period to catch-up, you ask him about the entity you encountered in Ciminian Forest, the Man-in-Gray, whose lone arrow felled several trees, making a clear path for you to find your quarry.
He doesn’t recognize your description of him. "I could ask our High Priest, he may know something about this person." You ask him to do so, and he vanishes behind the door leading to the nave, only to vanish behind another door a few seconds later leading into the bowels of the temple.
When Anton returns, he says, "Our High Priest, Beludron, does recognize your description of this entity and believes it is of spiritual significance. He will research the matter for you and provide a detailed answer, but it will require a donation to the temple. Fifteen silver pieces."
Post by vladtaltos on Jan 16, 2015 10:00:22 GMT -5
"Don’t worry. You’ll be pleased. Come back in a few hours, Maria. The information will be available then." Anton scurries off to deliver the money to Beludron.
* * * *
You leave the temple and decide to pay your friend, Andreas the budding wizard, a visit. When you’re within a few blocks of his apartment, you see a familiar face walking toward you; it’s Marcelli, Sergeant of the Watch.
He doesn’t look happy. In fact, he looks seriously ticked. "Well, lookey here, if it isn’t our local heroine." His tone drips with deadly venom. He raises a finger, pointing it at you. "I’ll have a word with you, young lady." He gestures down a rough, short alley between two shops. "Now!"
Last Edit: Jan 21, 2015 10:18:43 GMT -5 by vladtaltos
Dahlia regarded the sergeant coldly. One hand straying to the pommel of her sword, she did as he asked, then barked at him, "Don’t talk to me like that, Marcelli. If you’re feeling fiery we can settle whatever dispute you have with me here and now, nice and easy, with nobody looking, just like you and your boys like to do business, right?"
Marcelli is unwavering. "Look, I told you last time I saw you that I’d pay you far and above the reward for finding The Halo Killer, and dealing with him. So, what do you do, you go off and deal with him on your own, and thumb your nose at me and my men in the rags when you get back. Are you nuts? You’ve made plenty of enemies now, sweetheart, and not the kind that quickly forgive and forget."
"Let me fill you in on something, Sergeant. The guy I killed out there in the woods isn’t your Halo Killer. The Halo Killer murders prostitutes, drifters, street people. This slime went after kids. Big difference. Didn’t notice that? No wonder your Halo Killer is still out there, and he’ll kill again unless you start figuring something out."
She was seeing red now and couldn’t stop herself. She took a final dig. "Oh, and as far as making enemies, if your men are as good at vengeance as they are at finding a killer on the street then I don’t have much to worry about."
Post by vladtaltos on Jan 21, 2015 10:20:25 GMT -5
The sergeant turns pale. He doesn’t believe you...at least not at first. "There haven’t been any murders since your time away," he offers as evidence. You tell him what you found in the Ciminian Forest, comparing that killer’s modus operandi and that of The Halo Killer. Different. Distinguishable.
Something else comes to you if you pass a 4/IQ check.