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( Bastite Jessily in the Wessex Arms )

She crept nervously into the bar, looking around with wide eyes at the adventurers with their weapons and their armour, their drinks and their banter. There didn't seem to be a bartender as she cautiously approached the bar.

"Hey there, pretty lady," purred a slightly gruff voice from one side, "fancy a drink?"

"Oh," she said, turning around to see a fairly short, bearded sailor in nondescript black clothes. "Yes, I would, thank you. I couldn't work out how to order."

"There's no ordering here," he explained, "drinks're free on a Friday night." She watched him take a glass and look at the range of bottles. "Upstream? Downstream? Apples?"

"Um, apples, please," she replied, somewhat daunted by his forthright manner. He shook a couple of cartons and poured her a glass of something vaguely apple-juice coloured, handing her the results.

"Where are my manners?" he exclaimed, as she took the drink. "Sorry, girl. I'm Capn' Bob. Who'd you be?"

"Jessily," she replied, taking a cautious sip. It wasn't bad, actually.

"New in town?" he asked, turning to pour himself a drink.

"Yes, actually." She wondered how much she should tell him.

"You'll be looking for the temple of Bast, I'll wager?"

Her ears perked up at the name. "Oh, there is one here? I was hoping, but it's a long way from home."

"Sure there is," he replied. "Have a few more drinks, settle in a bit, and I'll take you right there when I'm ready to head off."

( Thea joins Havocstan )

She strode up to the group of soldiers loitering around the ballista with the confidence of an immortal, but there was nothing on her forehead to suggest this might be the case. One of them stepped forwards to challenge her and she gave them what she hoped was her best winning smile.

"Good afternoon, gentlemen. I hear your nation might be interested in adopting the odd stray or two?"

The musket-wielding soldier looked slightly confused, but after a brief conferral, a mostly-black wemic stood up.

"You'll want to talk to the Imperator," he said, "that is, if you're any use, of course."

"I'm sure he'll find me all kind of use," replied Thea, carefully businesslike. The wemic gestured for her to follow him into the camp, after eying her sword and armour with a little suspicion, and into one of the tents.

"Olrich, sir, a petitioner for you," he said, before fading back into the outside world.

The room contained two large, heavily-armoured gentleman and one tall, thin, and similarly armoured lady, who all looked up at interest at the lightly-armoured stranger who had just been led in. She performed a very slight bow, somewhat ironically.

"And who might you be, then?"

"Thea Chalice, lately of the Thirteenth Flembic Irregulars, sir," she introduced herself. That atmosphere notably cooled. Something in that had been the wrong thing to say. "Don't suppose they'd be very happy to see me again, you might be pleased to hear," she added, hoping to redeem herself.

"And what did you want with an audience with the Imperator of Havocstan?"

"I heard you might be looking for useful citizenry," she said. "Being between employers at the moment, not to mention slightly unpopular at home, I'm rather looking for a new start, and apparently this is the place to get one."

This seemed to soften the mood slightly. "What can you do?"

"I'm a pretty competent medic," she explained, "humans only, I'm afraid, and I know my way around a forest or trackless waste or whatever kind of terrain you have out here. Can swing a sword a little, but not to any great standard."

That went down well. "Welcome to Havocstan, Thea," said the Imperator. "Don't relax quite yet - we don't know where your loyalties lie at the moment, after all - but we'll give you a go. Flip, is Vaughn in camp? He might like to have a word with this young lady."

Despite orders, Thea visibly relaxed just a little. It looked like this was going to go quite well.

( Myrmidon Study skulks in the festival's shadows )

Study didn't stop moving until he was safely inside the native camp, behind Hacker and Slasher with their big flint spears, and then he only slowed until he could dump the suit of armour, slightly out of breath, at the feet of the warrior in charge of supplies.

"Study brought you shiny things," he said, hoping for some sign of approval.

"Where did you steal this from?" demanded Sorter, inspecting the goods.

"Havocstan," he explained proudly. "They just left it lying around out by their fire. Probably had some kind of party."

"Ugh," replied Sorter. "Let's not wear it at the festival, then. I'm sure some of our drones will be glad of it though."

Study scuffled around in his pockets and consulted a pocketwatch in the uneven light of the tiki torches. "Gotta go. Think the Flembic are having some kind of meeting in a few that I wanna overhear."

"Ant guide your feet," replied Sorter formally. Study made a kind of self-deprecating noise as he headed out of the tent. Ant didn't have much use for these feet, other than to carry equipment for his warriors.

( Gumallan Jessily travels with the Coalition )

She was still twitchy around the Raggard, even though they had journeyed together for some time now. The litany of signs she had followed to this path - had they not emerged from the treeline just as her hopes of rescue were fading? had they not fed her when she was in need? had they not been looking for just such a medic as her? - were barely managing to reassure her.

"Pick up yer feet, kitty, we're almost there."

It was clear she had been destined to pick up with some group or other of the wanderers out from Archway. Why else would the Guide have led the rest of her party of tribal explorers into the ambush set by the Orkus? It was clear that the Coalition had been sent to retrieve her from her perilous situation, to feed her and give her much-needed allies.

"Look, there, just over the rise."

She just wished, she just thought it would not have been too much to ask of fate, that she could have picked someone less hopelessly inappropriate.

( Kobold Study wants to go to the Arms )

"Hey, hey," said the kobold, "we're friends, right? Me and you?"

"Ye-es?" said the adventurer cautiously, wondering what Study was going to ask next.

"You know that bar you go to?" he said casually. "The one where all the fun stuff happens?"

"The Wessex Arms," clarified the adventurer. "And no. No, no, no. You'd only get yourself killed, or start a fight anyway."

"I can be polite," protested Study. "And I'm quick on my feet."

"You know how people are about it, though," argued the adventurer. "They don't see Study. They just see another bloody kobold who burnt down their barn last winter."

"But they're never going to see Study if Study can't go and talk to them!" protested Study.

"Okay, okay," the adventurer conceded. "Just don't say I didn't warn you. And at the first sign of trouble we're getting out of there, okay?"

"Study isn't stupid," the kobold reminded them with a long-suffering tone.

( Thea Shard )

She had always been one to charge down the hill just behind the front runners, to be ready to pick up the fallen. When she'd lost the Land and found the Traveller, she'd been pretty ready to pick up a sword and fight whatever presented itself as a challenge today, too.

She'd fight whatever tried to make her stop moving forward, but she knew when to cut her losses and live to fight another day, or so she'd thought. As she crawled through the tunnel hardly daring to breathe, she wondered if she'd left it too late.

The trecherous thought crossed her mind that if she had not rejected the Land's blessings, she might be a druid today, and be saving lives as she'd always done rather than abandoning them and trying to outrun her fate. But she banished it as unworthy. If this was where her travels on this world ended, she'd travel off gladly into the great unknown without thoughts of regret in her heart.

They found her body lying just out of sight of the entrance tunnel, clutching at the ground as if to claw her way to freedom.