A spot light is turned on in the black void, showcasing a wingback chair. A man walks over wearing a smoking jacket and sits down on the chair, retrieving a large leather-bound book that rested against the chair’s left legs. He smokes his pipe as he opens up the book and turns the heafty pages till he reaches the selection he wants. He looks up at the camera and in a deep, somewhat soothing voice, states. “This is the tale of the Shifting Peak, where a group of wayward travelers and a dwarven patrol encounter a situtation that could have forever altered the lands of the Shattered Star.” He pauses and smiles, “We open this tale with the scene of two black birds squaking at eachother …”
A tengu paces in front of her nearly identically dressed companion, idly twirling the weighted end of her belt in one hand. “So tell me again why you had to flee from a guard despite having not been here for more than two hours?”
She turns, the plane of the sphere’s rotation shifting around her gracefully. “I mean its inevitable given we’re in dwarflands, but that was awfully fast.”
Her companion chuckles under his breath, and shrugs, “Honestly? I thought it was your fault, My dove.” He turns back towards the street that he’d just recently been fleeing down, “Though apparently I was wrong. Someone stole a shiny. and if someone stole a shiny in this part of town, it was most likely a tengu. Perhaps they just can’t tell any of us apart. Stupid things they are, huh?”
The sister shifts the plane again, passing the weight over her head occasionally. “Of course, One magpie is every magpie. Sound dwarven logic. Did they say what got stolen at least?”
“They were awfully rude. Said i’d pilfered some sort of legendary headband from the museum, then flew the coop. Which is hilarious, considering I cannot fly and I prefer pocket-picking. You know me, Pigeon.”
Kou thinks for a moment before stalling the weight, halting its movement. “Headband of Adar? That’s at least a two day walk from here. Darn shame, too, I was hoping to see it myself while we were in the neighborhood.” Kou shrugs before sitting down on her heels, arms resting on her knees.
“Wonder what the sentence is for a lift like that.”
“I’d say a fair bit. I mean, it sounds fairly priceless. Also we’re apparently demon spawn. Hard to defend against ’You’re a goddamned bird’”
“Very true. So, goslng, your fault so your choice. Fight, fly or wait?” Kou rummages through her bag, running her feathered fingers against the mass of beads and metal emblems.
“Well, Lets wait for now. It seems to have died down, maybe they found another poor soul to persecute.”
Kou nods closes her bag, hoping that the symbol of Torag dosn’t shift around too much before she needs it.
Off in the distance, you see a group of about five Dire Rams riding down the side of a nearby mountain to the east. Kou notices that they are likely being riden by … well heavily armored humanoids.
Kou smiles at the approaching visitors and puts her hood up, hiding the discolored pattern running along the back of her head. “Let’s play the ‘twin game’, pigeon.”
Gou pats his comrade on the shoulder after glancing over at what made her so uneasy. “Of course, Chickadee.” He whispered back, smirking at her.
Kou stands up, raising her hands in the air and gesturing to her brother’s hood before gently waving at the newcomers. “’Lo, travelers! What lovely rams you have!”
Gou does the same, and mimics his friends speech, sticking close to her
The patrol, which had seemed not to concerned with the little black birds, sharply change course and proceed to encircle the “twins” before stopping. The most heavily armored of them stopping infront of the twins and lowering his adamantine guisarme. He speaks in a rough tone, “Identify yourselves. Now.”
Kou bows deeply, her long beak nearly touching her frontmost leg. “Such hospitality, offering to escort two lonely crows through the harsh mountains. We are but simple missionaries on a noble pilgrimmage…”
“Simple missionaries on a noble pilgrimmage. May I ask, noble dwarves; Have you heard… The word?”
The obvious leader of the patrol holds up his guisarm and dismounts his ram. He walks towards them, seemingly not minding the full-plate he is wearing. He stops about 6 feet in front of them. “Do pray tell, crow. What is the Word.”
Gou turns to his friend, “Do pray tell, Chickadee, What is the word?” Wheel of morality turn turn turn tell us the lesson that we should learn.
Kou slips her hand through her pocket and takes out a rosary bearing the image of a winged glowing human, holding it in front of her dramatically. “In this life we learn from the holy dawnflower, the goddess of the sun Sarenrae! Have you been touched by her healing embrace, noble knight?”
“The holy dawnflower,” Gou echoed, “Have you been blessed by the word of the glorious Sarenrae? Our time on this world is short, barely the blink of an eye! Will you take the time to spend it bathed in her wonderful light?”
Kou raises her hands in the air again, palms out and head tilted back in imitation of the goddess’ image.
Gou does the same, and coos in a heavenly bird like tone.
Brennek rolls his eyes.
The captain takes off his helment, placing it slowly on the ground. You can see his magestic greying beard flow freely from its contraints. Gou notices several gems with the symbols of Kol, Folgrit and Torag attached to the braids of his beard. He smiles a bit, “I have heard the tales of Sarenrae, young crows. But like the sun’s travel through the sky, your adventure has also set.” He takes a swing with his guisarme, tripping both of the birds. “Guardsmen, please restrain the pilgrims.”
“Hold on! Hold on!!” Squacks the male bird, “On what grounds are you restraining us!? What did we do!?”
Kou makes a grunt of paint but doesn’t do anything besides raise her arms up for restraint. “It would seem that the kind captain is already taken by another word, my dove. A simple misunderstanding, I’m sure.”
Brennek dismounts deftly, and along with another one of his fellows, he restrains the twin birds. He doesn’t say anything, but his enormous canine companion growls intimidatingly.
“How dissapointing,” Replies Gou in a sad chirp, and looks up at brennek, “Well, whatever god you have chosen must be quite incredible to keep your loyalty. Pray tell, Dwarf, what is this god who has your heart? Or is there a way I can win it?” He gives a bird smirk towards him.
The captain picks up his helmet and puts it on his head, “You two are passing into the boundries of the Kingdom of Janderhuff without, I assume, proper paperwork. As such, you will be escorted to the city and held until your story checks out.” He mounts his ram, “Things are currently rather tense in these lands, and all potential threats must be dealt with according to dwarven law.”
“Not a chance,” he murmurs, but nothing more ast the captain speaks.
“Who says we do not have proper paperwork?”
Gou states, “I do believe you didn’t ask, dear captain!”
The captain looks down at the two birds, “Well? Do you have the travel papers from Korvosa’s Department of Commerce? Or maybe a letter from our brethern in the north?”
The crow’s face goes blank for a second. “Wait, I thought this was the Tourundel river, we were supposed to be heading for Skelt. Kou!”
The tengu turns her head sharply to the side. “You led us astray again! Why do I even trust you with the map?!”
Brennek cocks a fuzzy eyebrow. These people are fools.
“Is this not south? Oh dear. That IS an excellent question, Gou. I believe we took a wrong turn at albequerque. Looks like we aren’t going to make it south for the winter.”
“Kou!” The dominant tengu seems to explode with anger. “Alberquerque isn’t even on this continent! You weren’t even
looking at the map, were you?!”
“Of course I was. I drew a lovely picture of a tree we saw, and the long haired girl we saw screaming and running from it.”
“I said we should ask for directions, but no, the genius Kou and her
legendary sense of direction had it all handled!”
The captain just sits on his mount, turning his head back and forth as he watches the two bound crows yell at eachother.
“Theres no need to be so catty! I mean, you had /THREE/ Weeks to fix it! You didn’t do much better, brother dear!”
“Oh no, don’t you pin this on me, you—” they both continue arguing heatedly, but they seemed to have switched as some point to Tengu, peppering in Common explatives here and there.
Brennek stares at the captain, then calmly asks, “Permission to utilize my friend, sir.”
You can’t quite tell what they’re saying but they seem to be quite passionate or possibly irate.
Gou finally gets sick of it and skips language altogether, squacking loudly in his sister’s face.
The captain sighs and rubs the brow of his helmet. “Please.”
The enormous bear of a dog leaps over to the Tengu prisoners. With the flick of a finger from his dwarven companion, he sits directly on top of them, panting.
Furious bird screeching commences.
The captain yells out, “QUIET. NOW.”
Kou starts making sad bird whimpering noises.
Gou makes a small crooing wimper but otherwise immediately stops shouting.
The captain sighs, “Thank you. Now, Brennek. Please ready the two for transport. We’re headed back to Janderhoff.”
Brennek waves the dog away, then slings them across his back. He scratches under his chin happily. “Good dog. Who’s a good doggy?”
“That is an excellent question,” mumbled one of the birds.
“I just realized that wasn’t a bear, actually.” The other bird says slightly more loudly.
The dog seems to take this as a compliment.
“Its not? I thought dog was a name. What kind of horrible curse did you go under, doggy? Do you want to know the word, perhaps it might help.”
Brennek stares at them in confusion.
“I am unsure if bear-dogs are intelligent enough to discuss theological intricacies, dearest sister.”
“Dogs probably not, but you know I heard this crazy story about a bear once. Completely fooled everyone it met! Everyone thought it was people. Humans are so silly, brother.”
“Now then. It’ll be about a days journey to reach the gates of Janderhoff safely, crows. I expect you will be at least on your best behavior for the journey. If you cooperate, I can place you with a patrol or caravan to your destination.” He mutters in Dwarven, “Maybe then you can be someone else’s problem.”
“Yes Sir! Of course, Sir! Or… Or Madame. Not quite sure to be honest.”
Gou nods, replying in scratchy dwarven. “Of course, noble knight, but as the Torag scripture says, ’one’s problems will remain even when left behind’.”
“Well spoken, my dearest dove.”
Brennek states, “Don’t quote the scripture at us, we know that.”
“you were quoting scripture without me?” asked the one bird under his breath.
“In my travels I am never ceased to be amazed at those who unrightfully claim knowledge of scripture. No offense meant, simply an observation of the lands. ’Tis why I spread the word of all gods.” He says in slightly more confidently in dwarven.
“Well spoken, my dearest dove.”
“Shut up, I bet you don’t even know what she said.”
Gou states, “Yes but he said it in a very pretty voice. Like an angel’s coo.”
Brennek questions, “Wait, you’re male?”
Confused, Gou states, “Wait, you’re male!?”
Kou tilts her head. “You’re male?”
Brennek thinks, “Goddamned birds.”
The captain sighs and shakes his head before motioning his polearm foward, “Emerald Patrol … and company, move out.” He kicks his heels against the ram’s sides, starting it in a steady trot to the west, into the setting sun.
Kou lets out a yawn. “Excuse me… sir? Pretty sure you were a sir, but may I walk alongside? I wont run, but Desna’s doctrine states I must travel the roads without burdening strangers.”
“May I request the same? Ones beliefs must be taken very seriously.”
“The dog’s name is Jas, and trust me, he isn’t burdened. You weigh less than my hammer.”
“If it makes you feel more comfortable I can give you a… deposit, to prove that I will not run.”
“I cannot give you a deposit, but I have a very cute butt.”
“It’s not in our policy to allow captives.. to…” He pauses. “Maybe if one was into feathers, but I wouldn’t call that a cute butt,” he says with a smirk.
“Its not hard to get into feathers, you just need to buy me dinner first.”
You can hear the smile in the crow’s voice. “But I have your attention. Let me down and I will let you hold a rare treasure, one important to me.”
“Is it an egg?”
“Of a sort. Let me stand and I will show you.”
“My dear sister would never leave without me. you can trust her.”
“I don’t trust you,” he says with a laugh. “First of all, if you’re serious, you need to be more transparent.”
The crow shrugs and sits upright on the back of the dog, crossing her legs over one side. “Ah, that’s better. For what it’s worth, we were not lying about being missionaries, and we will not run from the law.”
Brennek double-takes. “What the-?!”
Tengu raises a hand to her beak. “I promised to lend you a gift. Watch carefully.”
The captain calls back as he leads the group, “Yes, Brennek?”
With a flourish the bird seems to pull out a fist-sized silver gem out of the air before holding it out to the dwarf with a small smile. “Would a ruthless thief offer such a treasure if she did not intend on keeping their word?”
“We’re gonna need the heavy cuffs.” He glances at the gem, but there’s no way he’d take it.
The captain chuckles a bit, “I would prefer not to waste them on the crows. If they try to run, we can easily catch them. Less they wish to be an orc’s dinner.”
The crow quickly tosses the gem up into nothingness again as she crosses her hands in front of her. “Sorry sir, was simply pointing out that your friend had made a technical error in his rope-tying. Would have been quite a mess were we to be something other than lost priests.”
He flips the crossbow off his back. “That’s where Bianca comes in.”
“Unless I heard wrong, your captain just gave us permission to walk. As pretty as your love is, I would hate to hear her sharp wit.”
Gou gives a birdy grin, batting its ‘eyelashes’ at the dwarf
He smiles and chuckles warmly.
The guard laughs heartily, “The bird’s comebacks are starting to grow on me, Brennek. Go ahead and let them walk. I am sure Jas wouldn’t mind to walk without the load. We’ll be making camp soon anyway.”
“Aye sir.” He stops his mount and pulls the ropes from the harness, placing the still-tied bird on the ground.
Jas shakes off, despite being currently ridden still.
Kou neatly hops off the dog, holding the other crow by the belt as she falls.
“Thank you, most esteemed,” the bird squacks loudly in brennek’s face, assumedly calling him something in Tengu.
“…yeah, no problem.”
“Sorry, just clearing my throat. Thank you, most esteemed soldier.”
Brennek states, “…okay.”
Kou walks close to the ram, repeating the odd motion made before as she places the silver gem in the dwarf’s lap. “I’ll let you hold onto this for now. I’ll expect it back before this journey’s end, I am rather fond of it.”
“Did you steal this?”
Kou shrugs. “Would you believe a magpie if he said he did not?”
Gou lets out a dramatic gasp, “That is incredibly racist, and I feel triggered by simply the thought of it. For shame.”
“I just want to know. You’re the ones talking about being thieves.”
“we also said that we worshipped Sarenrae.” He smirks.
Kou smiles slightly. “A force of habit, you and yours are the first to not address us as ‘thief’ since entering the dwarflands.”
“I didn’t. So did you steal it?”
Kou shakes her head. “I bought it from a traveling merchant in Kaer Maga. Didn’t ask where he got it, Ioun stones are rare and expensive enough as is.”
“And what are those, exactly?”
Kou flourishes again, pulling another similarly-sized stones, this one a dull grey and jagged-edged, from the air above her head. “Rare, powerful gems with immense magic inside them. Worth a small fortune, few are left in these worlds that can still make them and even fewer that can find them.”
He doesn’t like magic very much, so he puts the stone in one of his pockets rather than keep touching it.
Kou stretches her arms in the air, stifling a yawn. “Not many know how to use them, either. Unless you know what to do with ‘em, they’re just ordinairy giant gems. Which are still pretty, to be fair.”
The captain motions for the party to follow forward to a nearby outcropping in the ridge of a mountain. Those preceptive enough will notice that there are several dwarven markings on the cliff-side. The party eventually arrives at the location, an opening in the side of the mountain with carven pillars supporting the entrance way. “We shall stay the night here and continue the rest of the way to the city in the morning.”
He helps his fellows to set up camp as soon as they arrive.
Gou takes his pack off his back, starting to take out their own tent to sleep in, “Well, I’d say this was a productive day.”
The captain dismounts and takes off most of his bulky armor, leaving just his chest-plate and shin guards. He sets up his tent at the back of the opening after lighting the dwarven torches. “Someone get a fire started.”
Kou nods to her brother. “I suppose we are still heading towards a new city.” The tengu glances around for a moment. “Sir, should I aid in gathering of wood, or would you rather us stay within sight? Just because we are… detained, does not mean we cannot be useful.”
“I get the feeling you have either never been prisoners before, or you have been way too many times.”
Gou suggests, “The world is a hilariously racist place.”
Kou shrugs. “We’re nomadic tengu, priests or no that doesn’t make us appear particularly trustworthy to others.”
The captain looks over and touches his guisearm to the stone floor, a solid cube of stone shooting up out of the floor. He sits down and takes out a pipe from his pack. “Brennek, you take them both to gather some wood. If they escape, they will have far worse to deal with than my anger.”
“Right.” Brennek nods to the Tengu. Jas gets up and follows the group of three.
Kou bows and follows Brennek.
The other tengu bows and follows the first tengu.
“I know we can get some kindling down by the river. This way.” He starts making a path for his companions, which is something he’s used to doing. Fighters and Paladins are great at arresting folks, but often trample, trip, and stomp in natural areas.
Kou follows closely behind, gently swinging the weight at the end of her belt in circular arcs around her body as they walk and collect kindling.
Gou whistles and makes vaguely song like bird noises as he walks, looking around the woods.