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The Gods' Playthings

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The Gods' Playthings

Post  The Sub-Creator on Sun Jul 25, 2010 10:26 pm

Shoby relaxed in the warm, morning sun just north of Milbourne, giving his hammer a long-overdue polishing. Lady had received a thorough rubdown already because of her work in the mines the day before. She typically preferred spoiling more so than the hammer, and, even now, flaunted her lustrous sheen beneath the doting sunbeams beside him. His other weapon had crushed in the evil priest’s cranium, however, prompting the gnome to show it some proper respect this morning, as well.

The dangers that awaited him--awaited all of them, he supposed--in the near future settled like a mountain of anvils upon his shoulders. They had located and defeated the kidnappers plaguing the area, only to learn that those taken were passed along to orcs in caverns farther below the mines. Naturally, the consensus was to go after the orcs now, which happened to be a clan this group had past troubles with, and was the primary reason they had spent all that time searching in the north for ways to get underground to begin with. That reconnoiter of the gorge boasted some good finds, and some bad. They virtually wiped out a goblin tribe while there, which he proclaimed loudly to be the highlight of the time spent there. They also recovered a holy relic of the Morninglord from a clan of orcs, and not those that had precipitated the journey to the gorge in the first place--those they found no trace of. Before he knew about its secret, the thought of robbing the orcs of their play thing had pleased him. In fact, he took some measure of pride in engineering its removal from the fifty foot deep fissure that had swallowed the monolith. Then they discovered exactly what it was . . .

What an utter disappointment that turned out to be.

Had he any notion that Fate were a true, sentient woman, he’d happily track her down, bend her over his knee, and paddle her backside until she was red in the face and squalling over that little twist. Harsh, perhaps, to blame her for what was no doubt Lathander’s big guffaw at the gnome’s expense, but the Morninglord far surpassed any ability of his to touch. When a deity of that power chose to manipulate his kind, not even Gaerdal Ironhand had significant strength enough to step in the way. “Bend over and take it like a gnome,” his Pappy used to say. Shoby figured he’d leave that sort of exposure to the deceiving priests of Baravar Cloakshadow.

Instead, he lowered the hammer, peaked up toward the rising sun, and flashed it a couple stubby fingers. “That’s two,” he growled, then sighed. Apparently, gnomes were destined to be under-appreciated and spat upon by other mortal races and their gods.

Which immediately brought his thoughts around to the debt he still owed to the Morninglord’s faithful. He needed to get that paid off soon as possible, and not only because he loathed being in debt to them. Something about this whole setup with humans handing off their acquired prisoners to orcs gnawed at him as being all wrong. If it were happening the other way around, he could see it. Orcs played the part of hired muscle and patsy incredibly well, but not the brains behind the operation. Someone else factored into this equation that they knew nothing about yet; someone capable of making potions of domination. Maybe followers of Loviatar, or maybe someone else, but certainly not orcs. Whoever it might be, he had the feeling they’d discover a longer trail once they overran the clan in question, and who knew where that might lead them?

Shoby Nobonoozor would not die in debt to the Church of Lathander, and he’d be damned if a payment got in late! Humans lorded enough over his kind to give them more ammunition.

Tucking away the warhammer and slinging Lady over his shoulder, the gnome climbed up off the ground and started back to Milbourne. All that treasure they had collected from the kidnappers should give him more than enough to pay off the last one hundred twenty-five gold he still owed those swindlers. He knew that Darya sent tithes to them regularly, and figured her to be the best one to talk to about sending that final payment before their adventure continued.

An abrupt thought crossed his mind and stopped him dead in his tracks. Slowly, Shoby swiveled about to squint at the mid-morning sun again and wag his finger in accusation.

Somehow, it wouldn’t surprise him one bit if it were Lathander, himself, inserting the sudden urgency to pay off that debt in his head right now.


Last edited by The Sub-Creator on Tue Jul 27, 2010 12:30 am; edited 1 time in total

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Darya

Post  Wynnsaren on Mon Jul 26, 2010 10:26 pm

The doomed bovine plodded along placidly behind her, with no reason to believe that this would be the last morning it would ever see. She was a little scrawnier than the paladin would have preferred...Szeraal was a growing behir after all, but the pickings were slim in Milbourne this time. Darya had half a mind to take the great beast out and go hunting for boar at the Hog Brook, maybe even run into some lizard men, though those were decidedly not for eatin'. However, there was simply too much business to take care of today.

She turned east out of town to take the meal out to her scaley mount who'd found a comfortable place to sun himself in the long grasses along the Churnett River. When the Lady saw the Fellowship's newest companion pacing toward town from the north, she slowed and bowed her head respectfully intending to continue on her way. Much to her surprise, the gnome continued towards her instead of heading into Milbourne.

Darya stopped and greeted him with a polite smile, while wondering what in the world he could want with her. The two hadn't had much interaction since he'd been rescued from the bandits in the ruined keep...apart of course, from some tactical planning they'd done before combat on the road. Shoby didn't seem the type to approach her simply for a pleasant chat... Actually, as much as she knew of him, which wasn't much, Shoby didn't seem the type to approach anyone simply for a pleasant chat!

"A good morning to you, Shoby," she began with another tip of her head and curiosity scrawled across her features. "Is there some way I might be of service to you?"

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Shoby the "Strongarm"

Post  The Sub-Creator on Tue Jul 27, 2010 1:29 pm

“It’s a morning,” he returned gruffly. “I see the sun’s shinin’ bright ‘nough, so tithing must be meetin’ quota, huh?”

Shoby’s eye twitched slightly, the only outward sign that perhaps he realized such a greeting as not the best in present company. His short time spent in human lands had not ingratiated him at all to their kind, and being so close to physical representations of Lathander invariably soured his mood even more. Despite that, even the gnome felt a twinge a guilt for his attitude when around this woman. Darya had treated him civilly since their first meeting under strenuous circumstances. One might say courteously! Either she walked a different line from her brothers and sisters of the Dawn Faith, or she just concealed it better. He prayed the former, if Daergal conveyed such blessings. Shoby expected the latter, because, from his dealings with those human faithful, Lathander reserved such blessings for humankind, at the expense of all others.

“As ta bein’ of service: don’t think I’m asking for you to reach beneath your station, whatever that might be,” the gnome proclaimed in his typically delightful demeanor. He retrieved a silver coin from his coin purse and hefted it in hand, showing it to the paladin plainly. “Ain’t never known you as one ta ask for pay for services rendered, but I’ll keep this here coin in favor, just in case. There’s ‘bout seven more where this one came from, so’s you know ahead o’ time.”

He clenched fingers around the coin, lowering the hand back to his side. “As ta the business I come ta discuss, I’m sure you’re not without knowledge o’ the debt I owe that sun over there,” he stabbed a pointing finger animatedly toward the searing golden disc lethargically gaining height in the sky behind her. “Well, I got no intentions o’ dyin’ still owing it, and givin’ your folk some claim ta my kin in Tempersedge!”

The gnome desisted for a long moment, screwing up his countenance in a physical admonition to his temper. He reminded himself again that this woman had done nothing to earn his enmity. He breathed a long, calming sigh. Shoby rarely spoke to Darya when not working toward an endgame of survival in the field. Keeping tabs on his prejudices came easier to him at those times!

When he felt comfortable and in control enough to continue on with his request, Shoby said, “Anyway, my thinkin’ was that we prob’ly found enough treasure on and ‘round them bandits that I could be done with the debt, but I’m in need of a way ta get the gold to ‘em. Bein’s how they expect tithes from you too, I thought you’d have an idea as ta how I could do that--you know, through folk I could, at least, semi-trust.”

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Darya

Post  Wynnsaren on Wed Jul 28, 2010 2:33 pm

"Of course," the paladin answered with a nod. "I was hoping to send along my tithe before we leave tomorrow morning as well, so it would be best if we sent them both together. If I'm not delivering the monies in person, than I see Squire Marlin in Thurmaster who exchanges the money for a note that can be easily and safely transported down to Turelve. From there the priests can take the note to the temple of Waukeen to retrieve the gold.

"Since we've no time to visit Thurmaster, I can give my tithe and the remainder of your debt to Sir Garyld whom I trust implicitly. He will see to it that the funds get to where they need to be. If it would be preferable to you, I will ask him to see that two notes are drawn up. One for myself and one for you. Dawnlord Redleaf will undoubtedly know the reason for the funds you intend to send."

"And while I thank you for your offer of payment, Shoby," Lady Darya added with a genuine smile, if only a small one, "being of some assistance is payment enough, I assure you."

Bessie the cow started getting antsy and lowered her head to the trail to graze on a bit of the trampled grass at their feet. A sorry last meal...

"I also have an inquiry of you, if I might be so bold..." Her eyes stayed locked on the gnome's while she paused briefly to pat the cow's neck. "I'm unsure if it is I that you generally dislike, or if it is the clergy of Lathander himself. If the former, than while I am unaware of any offense I may have caused you, you can rest assured that you are not alone among our companions. If the latter, I would like to try to resolve any issues you may have with the servants of the Morninglord. Dawnlord Redleaf and the young Awakened Kadeth were nothing but kind to you when we were last in Turelve, and I can't imagine what they might have done to offend, but if they have said or done something that upset you, I will happily speak to them on your behalf."

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Shoby

Post  The Sub-Creator on Thu Jul 29, 2010 1:51 pm

“Uh-huh,” Shoby said flatly to her genuine impression of charity. He deposited the coin back into its purse and patted it twice. “Well, it’ll be right here should you wake ta find t’morra mornin’ cloudy.” The religious texts he’d pondered over swore some human churches performed acts out of charity for the poor and helpless, and some just for the sheer kindness of the deed. An Ilmater cleric he’d met traipsing about the countryside offered respite to the former, but if such a church existed that acted on the latter, he’d yet to find it.

Naturally, if any cleric deemed to help him under the auspices of his being poorly or helpless, the fool would have to learn how to cast spells with a broken jaw.

“But the shippin’ plan’ll do,” he consented. “My thanks for taking the time.”

A bold inquiry stopped his turn, and her unwavering stare demanded his full attention. Strength and conviction within those slate grey eyes humbled the gnome enough for him to square his shoulders and listen intently---and, even more impressive, quietly---to what the woman had on her mind. Those same qualities, combined with the courage she displayed in confronting him honestly and without prejudice, despite his own, galvanized an immediate respect for the paladin. Unlike any other amongst the human faiths he’d met, she sought to discover the problem and fix it, not assert blame for his general attitude. Maybe he had something to learn from this one.

His left eye squinted just a touch as the gnome thought about her words. “. . . while I am unaware of any offense I may have caused you, you can rest assured that you are not alone among our companions.” That part interested him more than a little. Had he any issues with her faith, she would gladly seek to alleviate them as best she could. Apparently, if his issues were with her, however, so be it; get it out in the open and walk away. This one had copious amounts of faith in Lathander, but only a modicum amount in herself. Knowing what he did from past interactions with Lathanderians, he pondered if such a self-deprecating mentality was “encouraged” in that church. Having seen the potential in this woman on the battlefield, and more valiantly at this very moment, he believed such encouragement a true crime. Maybe he had something to teach this one, as well.

“All right,” Shoby said after the brief pause, “Let’s talk plain, then. Kindnesses in interaction with your clergy ain’t never been the issue, see. Seems I recall a couple wanderin’ clerics of Lathander expressing all kinds o’ kindnesses fifty-eight years ago when they came walkin’ into our Community with big hopes and grave news. Fools that we were, we forgot ta question their intentions---uh, you know, the ones deeper down, below the good surface ones.” He patted placating hands in the air before her. “Prob’ly our own fault in hindsight. Trustworthiness seems ta be one o’ those stereotypes for the gnomish race, and, on that account, we certainly fit the bill in them times.

“Yeah, well, anyway . . . some of our engineers helped ‘em with their grave news, an’ six months after, a dozen o’ my kin lost their tongues, with another separated from his hands, in payment for our charity.

“Which, by the way, the note written in blood with the dismembered hand of our top engineer proclaimed to be heresy against the Church of the Morninglord.”

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Darya

Post  Wynnsaren on Fri Jul 30, 2010 3:32 pm

The young woman's mouth slowly dropped open as Shoby mentioned his previous dealings with 'clerics of Lathander.' Her immediate impression was that those wandering clerics were merely posing as followers of the Morninglord to possibly take advantage of that gnomish trustworthiness that even her companion had to begrudgingly admit to. If they were clerics of Lathander... Storm clouds rolled over her features as she contemplated the implications of such treachery against the faith.

Either way, the High Morninglord at the Tower of the Golden Dawn would need to be alerted. Even if this incident did happen fifty-eight years ago, the harm that had been done to the gnomish peoples of Tempersedge and also the affront to the faith itself would have to be answered for. An investigation would need to be initiated... Perhaps her mother might be useful with her divination magic. It was even possible that she might be assigned to lead such an inquiry into those events if the mission here was resolved in a timely manner.

Picking up her bottom jaw, Darya shook her head slowly. She was getting ahead of herself by miles...

"Shoby of Tempersedge," she began formally and with a weight of pain and anger in her voice, "I am so sorry for the tragedy that was inflicted upon your people! I doubt not at all your story, for you've only ever proven yourself a gnome of your word, but I have difficulty believing that those clerics were who they claimed to be. Charlatans perhaps?"

The paladin sighed and shook her head once again.

"Forgive me for my...eagerness to seek out an explanation before I've even been presented with the facts! If you are willing to tell the extent your tale, sir, I'm very anxious to hear it!"

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Shoby

Post  The Sub-Creator on Sat Jul 31, 2010 3:06 pm

An apology.

And not the common, deprecating apology given by so many of the human theologies; the kind that brushed off any wrong-doing of their church onto the ones done wrong. How often had he heard those? “We’re sorry one of our faithful accidentally harmed you in some way. Certainly your illogical, heretical, bigoted, misunderstanding, insert some reason why your thinking is obviously twisted and confused here please, gnomish mentality has gotten it wrong because our followers would never do such a thing to you or yours, but we still will say how sorry we are you let yourself be affronted by self-perpetuated lies so that everyone will be happy and I won’t have to speak with you any longer.” Hmm . . . that was a drawn out thought. Hardly the point. He’d heard all those excuses hidden behind their sincerest apologies before.

This one actually was sincere. Sure, she struggled to make sense of the offense he hinted at too, believing it strange that one of hers could do such a thing. But she never blamed him--not anywhere in her tone, and that meant something. Another mark in her favor, perhaps.

“Charlatans,” Shoby repeated with a casual tip of the head. “Might be so. I reckon you could inquire with their successors,” he indicated southward with nod back over his right shoulder. “I hear they’ve built quite the Lathanderian temple in Ulara, a prosperin’ city almost due south o’ here. Forgive my inability ta recollect the temple’s name, if you’d be so kind. Since I ain’t never been there, I’ve not bothered ta hold it in memory.

“The facts, as I recall, bein’ a youngin’ o’ no more than twelve summers at the time, roused from a drought that had plagued the area for a couple years.” As if that remembrance had subconsciously dried out his tongue, Shoby wet it again with a short pull from his wineskin, then offered it to the woman as a gesture of kindness. “Ulara resides some distance from any natural water source, see, ‘cept what falls from the sky, and when that stopped comin’, their lands dried up right quick. My kin thrived in a valley carved outta the Thrulaliel Mountains--uh, your kind name ‘em the Toadsquats, though only the gods know why--some eighty miles distant ta the northwest. Understand,” the gnome extended a placating hand, “Ulara was only a small city, barely more than a town, back then, and my people rarely had cause ta go there. Glitterguard was the Community’s name at the time, and we spent the majority o’ our days minin’ the gem-rich mountains in our region. From my own mind, I recollect only a handful of occasions we dealt with humans at all. Water wasn’t any concern for us, so we had no reason ta suspect it might be for anyone else, either.

“Well, gettin’ on with it, them Lathanderians previously mentioned wander on inta Glitterguard one day, talkin’ ‘bout the drought in general, and Ulara’s problem specifically. Our Head Engineer in them day, one by the name o’ Debezner, overheard the talk, and got ta thinkin’ ‘bout it. We gnomes knew of an underground river flowed through, so our prospectors escorted them sunshine boys along, showin’ ‘em where that river ran close by ta Ulara. Upon return, Debezner gave ‘em a drawing depictin’ an idea he’d been working with for a while. It involved some labor-intensive hours fittin’ pipe together and gettin’ it into the ground, and two waterwheels usin’ the river to power water through them pipes ta the surface for an ever-replenishin’ source o’ water. Engineers were assigned ta help with the excavation and construction, but the Lathanderians assured us there’d be no problem with that.”

Something inspired him to throw the woman a sincere grin, which surprised him more than a little. “Word has it you Mornin’ folk are creative in your own way. Bright, some say. Artistic-like.” He winked in an almost playful way at his ribbing, then went sober again. Suddenly, he pondered whether it had been the time such a comment.

He shrugged. “Anyhow, they palmed the plans and set off with a smile o’ thanks and many kind blessin’s from the Morninglord, and the like. Such things as your familiar, I’m sure. Found out later they got it workin’ proper in just over a year’s time. Coulda gotten it goin’ faster with the right gnomes doin’ the job, but, as my kin learned half-a-year later, gnomish hands had no business muddyin’ the waters o’ Lathander’s divine inspiration.”

Shoby eyed her closely, using that stern gaze infamous amongst the clerics of the Stern God, Gaerdal Ironhand. “Six months after their leavin’, Debezner saddled a few other engineers and laborers from the Community--a dozen all told, and journeyed on ta Ulara just ta see how the folk faired. Bein’ his baby, after all, the Head Engineer had int’rest in their progression. The lot came back a month later, not a one able ta speak bein’ that their tongues were cut out, and a handless Debezner weakened from blood loss. They carried a note, penned in their presence usin’ a dismembered hand o’ the Head Engineer, that stated we had a tenday ta clear outta the region for heretical proclamations against the patron deity of Ulara. If we did not, an army would arrive on our doorstep soon. Well, that’s the shortened version o’ the letter, but you get the drift.”

The gnome’s chest heaved as he inhaled a deeply, then exhaled a long, angry sigh. Patience had never come easy to Shoby Nobonoozor, but he reminded himself that the Lathanderian before him now had done no ill by him since the two had crossed paths. In fact, he demanded to diminish his anger, she had done many things right.

An unbidden growl escaped him as he opened his mouth to finish the tale, though he attempted to disguise it by leaving no pause between it and the first word. “The eleven that could still write corroborated the same tellin’ later. None of ‘em had gotten ta see the clerics that came callin’ in the city. Excited as he was ta hear news o’ his design’s development, Debezner asked the first folk he come ta. One o’ high standin’ happened ta be nearby, took immediate offense ta him claimin’ ownership, and soon they was all in shackles bein’ led ta the nobility’s personal dungeons. Housed in dismal conditions for over a tenday, barely fed, given little water, exclaimed as blasphemers by the high-ups of Ulara . . . not once were they visited by an clergyman or any other associated with your church.

“As best our maimed kin could spell it, the whole thing was bein’ toted as an idea o’ divine origin. Inspiration struck like lightnin’, creativity at its deepest root, a matter o’ faith come callin’.”

He turned away from her briefly to peer southward, eyes smoldering. “Ain’t no place for gnomish invention and ingenuity when a god comes callin’,” he warned in a low grumble loud enough for her to hear. Whether he had intended for her to or not was another matter, but not one he ever spoke of after.

Shoby refocused attention back to the paladin. “Nobility ‘ventually let ‘em go. Escorted ‘em ta the northwest couple miles, then left ‘em ‘bout their way home. I’ve known plenty o’ human nobility in my time wouldn’t o’ done that, so s’pose that’s a kindness.” Those last words sounded heavy in sarcasm. “The eleven confirmed a new temple in the midst o’ construction when they was bein’ ushered out. That’s the one you can go visit today, if the bug bites you just right.

“As ta our Community, well . . . Glitterguard ceased ta exist six days after. We pulled up stake and headed farther east, buildin’ up Tempersedge in the Dustwall some travel east o’ here. Debezner died before the first year was done--not from medical complications, mind you. Our clerics done well for him when they traipsed back in. His heart just stopped one night when he decided ta call it quits. Seein’ the construction o’ Tempersedge and not bein’ able ta contribute takes the heart right out of an engineer, makes him feel useless.”

He just shook his head, looking down to the ground. “Not that any o’ that matters now, and it ain’t what you wanted ta here, which I s’pose I’ve rightly told you all there is ta tell. The gnomes o’ Tempersedge keep ta themselves these days, ‘cept for trade through an undisclosed halfling family.

“And now,” he amended after a moment of hesitation, “with me bein’ where I am.”

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Darya

Post  Wynnsaren on Sun Aug 01, 2010 12:02 pm

It was at that moment that the young woman discovered an appreciation for Shoby that she could hardly have anticipated the day the Fellowship removed his shackles at the ruined keep. He was an impressive fighter, tactician and engineer, yes, and those admirable traits had not gone unnoticed by Darya, but it was this tiny glimpse into the gnome's heart that impressed her the most. From his perspective, she must have had at least three strikes against her before she even had the chance to introduce herself. She was human. She was a noble. She was a paladin of Lathander. Yet, this 'grumpy' gnome, who had every right in the world to be mistrustful of outsiders, had given her the benefit of the doubt. A sliver of a chance to prove herself to be something other than what his experiences dictated. By 'speaking plain' and telling his tale, Shoby had shown her an amount of trust and respect that honestly surprised her, and as she was generally terrible at disguising her emotions, that surprise was worn openly on her face.

The lady squelched her initial reaction to hug him.... The wall of grit and muscle that was Shoby the Strongarm, didn't really seem like the huggin' type.

"Ulara," she muttered trying to place the familiar name. In Estagund if she didn't miss her guess. A goodly distance to the South and West of Zelpir.

"This story is yours, Shoby, and as such I must ask your permission to tell it." Darya ran her hand over her mouth in thought as she maintained her eye contact with the gnome. "I would like to get this information to the High Morninglord at my home temple in Zelpir. He is as wise and as just a man as can be found in the realms, and if this betrayal perpetrated upon your people was done by Lathanderian hands, than he will want to see to it that they bear the consequences of their actions.

"I will admit that I hope there is some other explanation," she sighed, eyebrows crushed together in concern, "but either way a great injustice has been done and such treachery cannot so easily be swept beneath the rug."

High Morninglord Bachar was an older man, quiet and thoughtful in his approach to a problem. He would begin this investigation carefully and methodically. When her shieldmaster, Lord Gaspar caught wind of this though... A flicker of a smile played at the corners of her lips at the thought of her one-armed instructor. The old paladin was not known to be a man of easy temperament, and she knew for a fact that if given proper evidence and assignment, he'd single handedly tear down the door of the offending temple in Ulara and have those responsible discussing recompense through shattered teeth before the sun had set! Darya's heart squeezed gently at the memories. How she missed that grizzled old veteran...

When her homesickness passed, the paladin turned her attention back to Shoby. "With my tithe and your payment, I intend to send along a packet of letters detailing our progress in Haranshire. If you'll allow it, I will send along one more which I would ask you to read when I've finished, to account for the accurate telling of the facts as you've presented them."

The paladin smiled warmly at her stout companion. "As you have determined that you don't wish to die in debt to the those of my faith, so I have determined that I don't wish to die having kept the story of Glitterguard to myself! Not when I know someone who will act on this information..."

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Shoby

Post  The Sub-Creator on Sun Aug 01, 2010 11:22 pm

A shadow of skepticism danced across the gnome’s visage. This woman had gone a long way in proving her trustworthiness to him in the last quarter hour, but how many others of her faith possessed a modicum of the honor and dignity she exhibited? Alerting the paladin’s superiors to the truth he’d just imparted could very well send an army marching toward the valley that couched Tempersedge. After the deception of Ulara, the Morninglord had been accepted by the nobility there as the patron god of that city! How readily would the Lathanderians tear down all that they had gained in the region because of it?

On the other hand, what if they did? Shoby was hardly naive enough to believe that one as young as Darya held a great deal of sway in her church, but if this woman believed so fervently that those she knew would act to rectify what had been done . . . He had trusted her this far, and she had rewarded that trust a hundredfold. Might as well continue along that road and see where it led.

“I told you the truth of it,” the gnome informed her sincerely, “and I trust you’ll do with that what you think is best for it. That’s all I got ta say on that matter!”

For a brief moment, Shoby’s face lost its stern edge as he stared up at the paladin . . .

And smiled.

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