(16:13:43) [GM]: ----------
(16:13:43) [GM]: Miriana and Micah are investigating a suspected cult of the fallen stars at the Crane Knights' request.
(16:13:43) [GM]: After investigating the house of the murdered Father Konrad, they managed to track the poison to its maker, the apothecary Tivadar Mehltal.
(16:13:43) [GM]: With some friendly encouragement, Mehltal pointed them to one Hristina Balan, caretaker at the apple orchard of Frederic Menheim outside the city walls. He described her as a well connected repeat customer, who ordered the poison for purposes unknown to him.
(16:13:43) [GM]: Come the new day, overcast but oppressively hot and windless, Micah and Miriana have a testimony. But what will they do with it?
(16:19:30) Micah_Whiterune: All else exhausted, Micah opts to look up this Hristina, starting with checking out the rumors on her.
(16:23:17) Miriana: Miriana follows along to make sure Micah's direct approach doesn't get the pair of them into hot water. Asking the wrong people for rumors on a poisoner is bound to end poorly.
(16:31:57) [GM]: Outside the city walls, the orchard in question is part of its own little outskirt, a picture of beauty more like the elven district than the busy streets of most of Ostend. There, Hristina Balan is known as a respectable and hardworking person who does her job well.
(16:31:57) [GM]: A small handful of peasants, though, intimate between furtive glances over the shoulder, that her acquaintances, if not she herself, are to be feared. She performs her trade entirely legitimately, but also earns money on the side through nebulous means, and is part of an entire network of people who have been systematically hiring on at the orchards.
(16:31:57) [GM]: Perhaps predictably, druids of the surroundings regard them less than fondly, when aware of them.
(16:36:03) Micah_Whiterune: "Hmm, no mysterious disappearances. Think we should hit up the druids next to see where she might have been using this poison?"
(16:37:47) Miriana: "They'd probably have some information," Miriana agrees.
(16:44:28) [GM]: The house and orchard of Alter Blumstein is a bit removed, but not unreasonably far away. The door is answered by the same thin man, long hair tied to one side and beard as before, dressed in a simple, fine robe. He immediately recognizes his two guests, bushy eyebrows shooting up questioningly. "Hmm?"
(16:45:59) Micah_Whiterune: "Good day, Alter." Micah gives the man a polite nod, "We're doing some investigating this time around, are you free to help?"
(16:46:35) Miriana: "It's very good to see you again, Alter," Miriana says. "One of these days, I promise, we'll just be paying a social call."
(16:48:36) [GM]: "Hmm. To the extent I can. Please, come in." Alter lets the two inside and a servant in similar robes, hair worn long also but too young for the same sort of beard, offers wine to the visitors.
(16:48:48) [GM]: "What is the issue, then?"
(16:50:02) Micah_Whiterune: Micah shuffles in amiably, opting for the direct approach as always, "What do you know about a Hristina Balan?"
(16:52:07) Miriana: Miriana accepts the proffered wine, sipping at it slowly.
(16:52:46) Micah_Whiterune: He then doesn't wait before taking a large sip of the wine, checking out the druid's taste in alcohol.
(16:53:38) [GM]: "Hmm." Alter strokes his beard, eyebrows furrowed. "Caretaker for... what was his name, Frederic. Silk hiding steel. Rusty, dirt-smeared steel. I've tried and failed to convince the man to kick her out, but she and her friends are like a burr."
(16:54:30) Micah_Whiterune: "Friends?"
(16:57:30) [GM]: "There's a surprising number of new hires around this area who all just so happen to know each other. One of them even managed to fool my staff into letting him in. He had a disagreement with the plants and quit." The old man smiles conspirationally.
(16:58:22) Miriana: Miriana rolls the name Frederic over in her thoughts. "And she's caring for an older man? Who is this Frederic?"
(17:05:39) [GM]: "Hmm. Her employer. The same age as I and twice as wide. Somehow, he manages to be both a trusting fellow and a worrywart. I don't have the heart to be any more insistent with him." Alter deeply contemplates the wine in his cup. "May I ask what has your interest? Not that she doesn't deserve it."
(17:07:56) Miriana: Miriana ponders that question for a moment. "We've discovered that she's been purchasing poisons regularly from an apothecary who deals in the stuff on the side. And we suspect strongly that it's connected with a death that we're looking into."
(17:10:19) [GM]: Alter nods and strokes his beard, frowning. "Hmm. I am unsurprised," he says conservatively.
(17:15:02) Miriana: Miriana raises her eyebrows fractionally, filling the lull in the conversation with another sip of her drink.
(17:28:41) [GM]: Alter remains silent, allowing the silence to extend. It is broken first by a dog, a fairly large wolfdog presumably belonging to Alter sticking its head into the guest room and sniffing the newcomers with a mixture of curiosity and suspicion.
(17:32:06) Micah_Whiterune: "Unsurprised? Have there been mysterious deaths?"
(17:32:45) Miriana: Miriana smiles and extends her hand to the dog.
(17:38:27) [GM]: The dog sniffs Miriana's outstretched hand carefully, and then licks. Alter, meanwhile, strokes his beard again. "Not as such, that I know of. But it fits what I know of her little group."
(17:42:01) Miriana: "Clearly, they have their fingers in a great many people's businesses, yourself included." Miriana gently scratches the dog. "This might be a good opportunity to take a little revenge by sharing some of that knowledge so that we can proceed to be a thorn in her side." The corners of her mouth quirk upward.
(17:52:28) [GM]: "Hmm."
(17:52:28) [GM]: Alter frowns, but speaks. "They came out of the poorer quarters and want a piece of the fruit prosuction, among other things. I am not privy to their operations, but I assume they embezzle money where they're employed, and cover for each other and their associates in other parts of the city, and vice versa. I have heard of people being savagely beaten in alleys, but nothing can be proven beyond the work of ruffians."
(17:54:49) Micah_Whiterune: "Suspicious, but I suppose poison users would be hard to identify. No rivals mysteriously vanishing?"
(17:57:38) [GM]: "I imagine tactics like that would be used sparingly. I wouldn't be surprised if I just hadn't heard of someone complaining about their number because they quietly expired, though."
(18:00:06) Micah_Whiterune: "Makes sense. And if they have a guild of some sort, anyone asking questions would go away, one way or another"
(18:01:46) Miriana: Miriana drums her fingers lightly on the dog's head and sends a thought to Micah. <Like us, if we go blowing up the door and demanding to know who hired them.>
(18:05:02) Micah_Whiterune: "Which leaves us out of safe places to stick our nose into." Micah toys with his beard as he considers, "We'd need to find the next step up covertly, or a different angle."
(18:12:49) Miriana: Miriana mulls it over. <Let's speak with Father Ulf again. He's had some time to inquire among the congregation, he might be able to hint at why Konrad needed to die.>
(18:14:10) Micah_Whiterune: <Fair enough. > Micah finishes off the wine , "Thanks for the assistance, Alter. I think we're going to be looking out for how to get the bottom of this without singing our bottoms."
(18:14:53) [GM]: Alter nods. "Hmm. Wise. I wish you luck."
(18:16:13) Micah_Whiterune: "Thanks, and Mya's blessings to your endeavors."
(18:20:25) [GM]: It is afternoon by the time Miriana and Micah return to speak with Ulf Starkheim. They find him at the altar of his squat church, preparing for the mass at sundown. He nods gruffly at the duo as they approach him. "Light with you. How go things?"
(18:22:55) Micah_Whiterune: "Found the likely poisoners, but they sound more like organized crime doing it for pay and lack any motive of their own." Micah outlines their discoveries to date, though also mentioning the promise not to go after the alchemist directly.
(18:29:09) [GM]: "Colluding to murder a priest, just for money? Unbelievable. Not that he was innocent." Ulf shakes his head. "I've managed to get some of Konrad's old congregation to visit me for the time being. Among them, there's a man called Uther Stonehead who apparently talked very much with the late Father. He's been meek and quiet in masses, but..."
(18:30:15) Miriana: "But something's still troubling about him?"
(18:31:39) [GM]: "Yes."
(18:35:56) [GM]: "I talked to him after mass the other day. It's the same feeling as with Konrad."
(18:36:46) Micah_Whiterune: "So they might be deviant in the same way?"
(18:37:52) [GM]: "Yes. Didn't seem as shocked as most of the congregation, either."
(18:39:46) Micah_Whiterune: "So there is more than just the one heretic, and from the sound of it, likely a full blown hidden cult. With only one man as a lead."
(18:40:20) [GM]: "You think so?"
(18:42:29) Micah_Whiterune: "Unless he is exceptionally wealthy, he wouldn't have been able to pay for such a poisoning, the poison itself is fairly costly even before the markup and middlemen for engaging a criminal guild to do it for them. And if the Father died in a way that he knew of, then he may have had second thoughts about his deviation or failed in some way."
(18:45:05) [GM]: "Rosa's, Ivan's and my assumption has been they might have caught wind of him being investigated and decided to amputate. Perhaps they feared he might break?"
(18:47:00) Miriana: "It certainly seems more likely than a pious member of the congregation suspecting heresy and paying a hired killer to murder a priest."
(18:48:29) Micah_Whiterune: "Then investigating this man would require stealth and discretion." Micah looks at his armor in dismay. "This sounds like a job for a cat, not a man."
(18:50:19) Miriana: "A cat who knows where to start looking." Miriana considers. "Your intuition has been good so far, Father. Perhaps we should make inquiries into our friend Uther."
(18:51:00) [GM]: "Hmph. A dwarf's intuition is always good."
(18:51:28) Micah_Whiterune: "Indeed."
(18:51:43) Miriana: "What can you tell us about the man?"
(18:55:43) [GM]: "Not very much. A stoneworker, with an interest in strange things and too much curiosity. Might be how Konrad hooked him. He lives near Konrad's church, and I hear he'd fallen on hard times. a while ago."
(18:58:07) Micah_Whiterune: "So he definitely couldn't have paid for the poison. Nor the delivery."
(18:58:34) Miriana: "Not unless he had backing."
(18:58:50) [GM]: "Yes. But he could have been a middleman."
(19:00:59) Micah_Whiterune: "But has he been seen dealing with suspicious persons or places?"
(19:01:11) Miriana: "Father Konrad, for one."
(19:08:53) Miriana_ [~androirc@Rizon-B1FEA6B1.sub-174-193-154.myvzw.com] entered the room.
(19:11:07) Miriana_: "We'll follow him around and see what he gets up to. If it's something suspicious, we'll be close by to investigate."
(19:14:24) [GM]: "Take care, then."
(19:17:31) Micah_Whiterune: "With the utmost care."
(19:21:21) [GM]: Fortune favors Micah and Miriana this evening, as they arrive where Ulf told them Uther lives right in time to see the dwarf leave his domicile after looking left and right. At Miriana's behest, Soot follows.
(19:27:09) [GM]: The black cat stalks the black sheep through the streets as the sun sinks slowly, until he stops at a lively square dominated by a decorative fountain, at the border between the dwarven quarter and the neighboring. There, he waits.
(19:28:22) [GM]: After some waiting time, he is approached by a tall human man, dressed to befit someone living in the inner city, or a servant thereof. They talk, but Soot can't make out the words from where he is.
(19:30:18) Miriana_: Miriana frowns in her trance and urges Soot to sneak a little closer if he can.
(19:34:19) [GM]: Soot approaches into earshot in the middle of a sentence. The two seem to be speaking generally about Father Konrad's death and how safe Uther feels, given anonymity by the multitude of people milling about and the burble of the fountain. The well-dressed gentleman seems mildly exasperated and less worried than Uther is, while Uther urges him for extra resources, or means of self-defense, for peace of mind.
(19:38:00) [GM]: Begrudgingly, the better-dressed man hands Uther four painted clay tokens, for which the dwarf thanks him profusely.
(19:38:27) Miriana_: Intriguing. Miriana studies the inner city gentleman through her familiar's eyes. What might these tokens be?
(19:50:01) Miriana_: <Follow that gentleman when he leaves.>
(19:52:19) [GM]: Soot offers no mental answer, but when the two part, begins following after the human.
(19:53:31) [GM]: As perhaps expected, he heads towards the inner city after stopping to buy bread and produce.
(20:00:33) Miriana_ left the room (quit: Quit: AndroIRC - Android IRC Client ( http://www.androirc.com
(20:04:02) Miriana: Miriana lets the cat wander to the end of her contact range before breaking off contact. She takes a moment to reorient herself.
(20:04:59) [GM]: Miriana and Micah stop outside the moat as Soot stalks off into the inner city, to find whatever may be found, leaving them alone to face the approaching dusk.
(20:05:18) [GM]: ----------