Carrion Crown

The Invitation

O’ck sits at the campfire, munching on dragon jerky much to Leah’s consternation. To hear her muttering curses under her breath is exactly why he does it. In his other hand, a small ruby earring twirls. He is playing with it anxiously when suddenly the forest goes quiet for a second. Stepping out of the campfire is the most beautiful woman he has ever seen… He is momentarily shocked at how different she looks then when he last met her. Her golden hair is now flame red, twice as long and she is taller… Gone are her military armaments, they have been replaced by a sheer dress, staff and unwieldy heeled shoes that don’t seem to sink into the freshly muddy ground. She is wearing a single earring, a match for the one in O’ck’s hand.

O’ck’s surprise is gone quickly. “Milady, you came!”, he says in his best common, obviously making an extreme effort. Taking her by the hand, he leads her into the forest, talking all the way in Orcish. She nods at times as he tells his tales.

“Are you sure he is a good fit?”, Verla asks him once he is done. “You know that the Blue Ravens have high standards.”

“Metal-Man is good man, but sometimes he too good”, he slips into his usual broken common. “He right over there”, he says as he points towards a rock where the paladin is sitting, deep in thought.

“Thanks, O’ck. I’ll talk to him, if you’ll give us some privacy?” she asks. O’ck nods and heads back into the woods. She walks up to the paladin and clears her throat in order to get his attention. The paladin jumps in surprise and turns to face her, taking in her beauty, supreme confidence and evident power. He can’t help bowing.

Before he gets a chance to say anything, she smiles and says, “It’s nice to meet you, Metal-Man. My name is Verla and I am a representative of Forzega’s Blue Ravens. O’ck speaks highly of your prowess, and higher still of your honour.” She stalls any response from him and goes through her spiel of who the Blue Ravens are. “We are a guild of adventurers that have been tasked with investigating and closing portals that have been opening in our world and also, yours. We’re stretched really thin at the moment and we’re looking for people of the utmost morality to help us by defending he world, since we cannot be both here and defending our home at the same time.” She takes a quick breath, and continues. “We cannot guarantee you items of power to aid you at this time, but you’d receive the same considerations as we ourselves do. Knowledge is something we can offer now. Are you interested in being Galorian’s voice for the Blue Ravens?”, she asks and waits for his response.

Fedifensor looks around – thinking of the young heroes in his charge, the dashing ninja, the scrappy sorcerer, the daring ranger and many others. It has been hard getting the weapons and equipment that the party needs. No more begging clients for gear or haggling with townspeople. A tight smile peaks from his lips as the strange lady begins tapping a foot impatiently. I guess she thought my acceptance would be automatic. Life is never that simple or straightforward. Plus stalling might tune the arrogance down a notch. Additionally the support staff would be beneficial for his people. Finally it is being able to better help his world exceeds the cost of surrendering his team’s sovereignty. “Well, milady. We accept. You are joining with some of the bravest warriors I have ever met. Now let’s talk about how soon my people can get scrolls, arrows, potions, weapons and armor.” Stunned at his forwardness, Verla nervously twirls a red lock. “Milady, the Church is my first love. Even your beauty pales before that. Now let’s get to the matter at hand…”

Verla, feigned her shock, knowing full well how arrogant paladins can be. “The invitation is not extended to them. It is you we want, the rest are… unknown entities. O’ck does not trust them yet, and frankly, neither do I. We want a leader on this side, in O’ck’s adopted world, nothing else at the moment. You’d still need to prove yourself to us before we can just give you anything”, she finishes. “This is what we offer: you and O’ck find warriors and other would-be heroes to join our ranks, and supplies will follow, if you meet expectations.”

“So, let me get this straight. You want just me and not my team and we get none of the “Blue Raven perks” for putting our lives on the line and incidentally adding your enemies to our own. Oh, and by us taking your name we would be building your reputation and not our own. I vouch for every member of my team. If you can’t accept all of us than I will continue building our reputation in this land. I’ve already made a good start. How about you?"

She looks him over. “You fight your own battles, because of who you are, not who we tell you to be. If our own enemies were to come to your world, be sure that you would fight them on your own, without our help, much as we would fight yours, should they wreck havoc on ours. We’re not looking for beggars here, we’re looking for accomplished adventurers, people who know how to fend for themselves while still doing good in the world. The Blue Ravens have never received such handouts, and we don’t expect our chapter leaders to expect them either. You must be willing to fight evil wherever it stands, hides, or crawls, with or without the help of others. That is the courage of the Blue Ravens”, she says. She never really did mention any of the monetary perks of membership… all she mentioned was the aid of knowledge, other members and the possibility of cheaper goods, should the guild successfully build relationships with those that produce them. The fact that he assumed that membership was a monetary reward upset her, when she was simply putting out a hand in friendship. “Maybe he isn’t Blue Raven material, after all”, she quietly wonders to herself.

“Ok, no support personnel. No additional equipment access. For an organization that is unheard of in my world. I have committed my life to bringing justice to my land. This other realm has heroes even as we do here. Two can not walk together if they don’t agree. “Unfortunately milady, I will decline at the moment. When my team becomes better known and when their courage and deeds inspire the local villages, we might discuss this further. Until that time, I will continue doing what I am doing: saving lives in this realm and making long lasting changes one day at a time.”

“Fine”, she says, as she turns around and motions for O’ck to walk with her. “He’s impatient, arrogant and doesn’t have what we are looking for, unfortunately”, she tells him when she joins him in the woods again. “Without the will to rely on only himself, he is weak, as we can’t always be relied upon to be available in a pinch. You know how small we are.” This was said with a note of remorse, and loud enough for Fedifensor to hear, purposefully so.

Further into the woods, she stops and roots around in her bag, pulling out a gleaming mithral shield, a stunning Blue Raven depicted on the face of it. “This was to be our symbol here, this shield for the man brave enough to embody our ideals. But selfish was he!”, she says as she puts the heavily enchanted shield back in the bag, once again rooting around. A small pouch is produced next, full of golden rings similarly emblazoned with a Blue Raven. She hands one over to O’ck, which he puts on.

Verla hands O’ck a small pouch of items, which he takes from her without bothering to look into it. He smiles at her, a brutish, toothy smile. As she walks away, O’ck storms off into the woods and doesn’t go far before running into the paladin. “Lady is very good person, Metal-Man. She saved O’ck many years ago. Was different lady, but same lady, and lady is nice!”, he shouts and tosses the bag at the paladin, who catches it without thinking. Fuming, O’ck turns around and runs to catch up to his friend.

Fedifensor, stunned, looks in the bag. A dozen potion vials clink inside, alongside a wand, and a handful of scrolls. He cocks his head to the left and picks up the bag, gingerly returns it to Ock’s friend. “I disagree. Forging a team isn’t a sign of weakness, its one of humility. I know that I can not defeat the foes that we face in my own strength.” Squaring his shoulders, the young Paladin straightens before assuming parade rest. “However, given time, temperance and persistence – these youth that stand before you will not always be wet behind the ears. We will work, cry, pray and play as a team. And when this darkness that you speak of comes to this land – we will face it…as a team.” Fedifensor bows and calmly walks back into the forest to continue his search.

Verla hands O’ck the bag again. “It’s yours. He means to face the wrath of the planes on his own, with or without our help? You trust these companions to not… betray you?” As she says this, there is a brief flash of pain in her countenance. “I hope your travels are full of success, my friend.” She gives O’ck a quick hug and then disapears in a flash of light.

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JCServant

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