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More than one hundred monks stood in the village square; all of them wore tabards emblazoned with a red sword across the front. The three party members weren’t the only ones in town who thought coming out to see what was going to happen would be better than just waiting around. As they watched, one of the monks stepped forward. He was a thin and amazingly reptilian looking fellow.
“People of this village,” the man intoned. “We have come in your time of need to give you aid.” He paused, as if expecting applause or cheering. When there was none, he cleared his throat and continued. “We do not ask for much in return. We wish for a bit of land on which we might build a new home for ourselves.”
Ailbhe swore under her breath.
“What is it?” Iain whispered.
She shook her head. “Gonna have to stop them.”
“In my rules as a paladin. I don’t have to proselytize, but I do have to stop another religion from spreading into an area of potential worshipers,” she murmured.
“And here I was thought you didn’t have any rules,” the berserker muttered. “Better think of something fast before the town leaders agree to the request.”
Grimfaced, the paladin stepped forward. “Good monk, what misfortune has befallen you and your fellows that you are force to seek refuge in a beleaguered village such as this?”
The reptilian man blinked at her. “Ah, my apologies paladin. I did not realize there was the influence of another god in this area.”
“In most cases the influence of gods is immaterial in influences of man. I ask again: what brings you here?”
A murmur rippled through the crowd as they finally understood what she was asking. The reptilian man paled but recovered quickly.
“We heard of the village’s plight and came to offer assistance,” he said, waving his arm in a grand fashion.
“People usually offer help with no strings attached,” Seamus said, a frown creasing his brow.
The lizardy monk shrugged. “It is the villager’s choice. They can take it or leave it, though I suggest they take it.”
He stared at the man that seemed to have taken over in some kind of a leadership role if only because everyone else was looking at him. The poor fellow shuffled his feet and tried to look somewhere else. When that didn’t work he cleared his throat.
“Uh, can we think about it for a bit?”
A muscle in the monk’s face twitched. “Of course,” he said. “But don’t take too long there are plenty of other areas that could use our help.”
There was more muttering from the village peoples. “You won’t be wanting our food, will you? We don’t have much of it left.”
“Of course not,” the reptilian man purred. “We’re here to give, not take.”
“What are we waiting for?” someone in the crowd asked.
“We’re waiting to see if these are the kind of people we want to have hanging around indefinitely,” the defacto town leader said.
“Why not give them a trial run?” Seamus asked. Ailbhe elbowed him in the ribs.
“Knock it off,” she hissed. It was too late, though. There were many villagers nodding their heads. The monks looked pleased. The ‘leader’ nodded and murmured something non-committal that the lizardy monk took as a yes.
“Splendid,” he hissed. “We will set up camp here and start preparing something for everyone to eat. Please, returns to your homes and get anyone left behind. We won’t have anyone going hungry tonight!”
The party left the square and headed back to the inn. Iain shot a worried glance at the paladin as they sat down at one of the tables.
“You going to be okay?” he asked.
Ailbhe shook her head. “Not unless we stop these monks.”
“But they’re trying help, aren’t they?” Seamus asked.
“No, they’re up to something,” the paladin said. “And were going to find out what it is. We just need to get someone on the inside.”
Iain made a face. “How? Seduce them?”
“Sure,” Ailbhe said. “Can’t be me, though.”
“Why not?” the bard asked.
“For one, my paladin status is already in jeopardy. It’s best if I don’t push things too far right now. For another, I’m pretty sure that head lizard isn’t interested in women.”
Iain grunted. “Can’t be me; I’d kill him.”
The two of the, looked at the bard, smirking. It took a moment for him to realize what they were thinking.
“Why are you looking at me like that? No, no, no, no, no. I won’t, I refuse,” he said, backing away from the other party members.
“You have to,” Ailbhe said. “I’ll lose everything if you don’t.”
Iain made a face, but Seamus seemed moved by what she was saying. “Okay, Ailbhe. I don’t want to, but I’ll do it for you.”
The paladin grinned at him. “I knew I could count on you. Now go upstairs and get ready; you’ll need to put on your nicest clothes.”
Nodding, the bard got up from the table. The ‘serk and the paladin watched him go. When the bard was out of earshot, Iain turned to Ailbhe. “I could have sworn he was gay. He stares at muscular guys with me.”
“Bi,” she said. “But hasn’t realized it.”
He shrugged and looked around the empty inn. “So what do we do now? Wait?”
“Actually, I was thinking of finding a nice look out point and watching,” she said.
“Where did you have in mind?”
The two of them ended up on the roof of an old, now mostly abandoned brothel, Madam Heart’s House of Tarts. They chose the space partly because of it’s proximity to the monks set up and partly because of it’s unique architectural features that made it possible to both spy on those below and escape down the back if necessary. They sat for a while before Seamus appeared. The bard wore what had to be his most flamboyant (and ugliest) outfit.
Ailbhe covered her face with her hands. “Oh god, I’m doomed.”