Dec 12. The expedition members are debriefed by Venerable Officer Miriam
(Chiaroscuro) (Envoy) (Mircus) (Pawtuxet) (Rephidim) (Roho) (Rephidim Temple) (Quest in the
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After many days at air, and a brief refueling stopover, the _Blaze of Glory_ has docked once more in Rephidim. Orders are given to the expiditionary crew to proceed immediately to Miriam's office, for a debriefing…


    Rephidim Temple
    Of the sights to be seen in the city of Rephidim, one of the most impressive (if not THE most impressive) would be the legendary Temple. More so than any palace or castle or fortress to be found on the surface, the Temple is an embodiment of ancient and almost timeless authority. Yet, it is also an embodiment of corruption, for anyone who knows any of the truth, and the state of disrepair of so much of the Temple is a standing testament to this. Nonetheless, Templars and Inquisitors and Auditors and Priests make their way through its gleaming corridors, tending to daily business and personal agendas. Like it or not, here can be found the driving force behind Rephidim … and much of Sinai at large.

Naomi looks up and down the passageway. "Is this where it is, Mr. Washuu-Scarfer?"

Envoy peeks over the top of the box she's carrying. It's full of her reports.

Chiaroscuro nods to Naomi, wearily. "Apparently so… and please, just 'Chipper', Lady Naomi. Please. "

A slightly-disgruntled looking warrior Zelak follows close behind Envoy, head swiveling back and forth as if suspecting every passing Temple Savanite of harboring assassin's tools.

Chiaroscuro opens the door, stepping through… and nodding. "Yes, I think I recognize the Officer's assistant… " he says.

Mircus follows quietly behind the Zelak, hands stuffed into pockets; more subdued than usual.

Naomi nods vigorously. "Yes, Mr. Chipper." She looks back at Mircus, as she squeezes through the door and looks around.

A Savanite looks up from shuffling piles of papers about his desk as the wayfarers enter. He surveys them, nods a polite greeting, and then motions for them to follow as he walks toward the back of the room. He apparently recognizes the group from their earlier visits to the Office of Review.

Chiaroscuro trails the Savanite down the hall, Envoy, Naomi, Roho, Pawtuxet, and Mircus following behind.

Naomi wrings her tail, looking as if she'd like to tell someone off but too shy to actually do it. She stays close to Roho.

Envoy keeps peeking over and around her box to make sure there's still a floor in front of her.

The Savanite stops in front of what is apparently a blank wall. Ensuring that no one has wandered too close, he leaps toward the ceiling and slams a fist into the wall at the apex of his leap. For a moment, apparently nothing happens. Then a section of wall retracts inward, the apparently-blank wall section begins to recede into the floor, and a rumble becomes audible.

The rumble grows in volume quickily until it is barely tolerable and shakes anyone close by down to the bone. But the Savanite seems to be indifferent to the sound and merely stands in front of the 'wall' patiently.

Folding her ears down, Envoy watches the hatch make its slow decent.

Mircus flattens and covers his ears, wincing at the excessive volume.

Chiaroscuro sighs, and focuses through the noise as best he can… treating it like he used to his skullbuzz.

Naomi jumps! "AHHHH!" She zips behind Mircus at the sound of the rumbling.

Roho's heard this before, but it still hurts him, and he pulls his ears down to the sides.

Cute little Rath'ani eyes peek out from the mapmaker. Oh. It's just the door. Naomi peers suspiciously at the Savanite, in case there's a squid hidden somewhere.

The 'wall', perhaps better described as a door, now becomes part of the floor. A final hissing sigh is heard from somewhere as some ancient mechanism grinds to a halt at last.

From inside the office comes a creaky voice. "Ah, very optimal. Do come in. There's catterbite tea on the desk, please do help yourself… "

Mircus shrugs and trudges into the office. Noise or no noise, the ears stay flat.

Envoy peeks around for a spot to put down her box.

Naomi moves back to Roho's side, looking a bit abashed. "Sorry, Mr. Roho," she says. "I'm just jumpy."

There's a number of possible spots- Miriam's office is quite expansive, even with five chairs now around the desk-front. However, on the desk is an unlikely spot, as it is covered foot-deep with papers, and a Creen-skull paperweight.

Chiaroscuro steps inside, looking around… taking one of the seats by the desk. "We were told you wished us to report, Venerable Officer?"

Envoy just sets the box full of papers down beside the desk, as out of the way as possible.

Miriam Nuttenbolschen's chair swivels around slowly, the time-etched features of the Rath'ani coming into view behind a pair of thick glasses. "Very much so, it'un. I should like to hear the archaologist's report first, however." She glances up at Pawtuxet.

The Savanite steps across the threshold after the group has settled themselves. He bows formally to Miriam as he assumes a station just inside the doorway.

Naomi stays nervously next to and a little behind Roho.

Bem rasps.

The black fox'taur hands a slim written volume to the Officer, and relates a brief summary of her part in the mission.

Miriam takes a few notes as the fox'taur relates the tale. "I see… excellent. The Temple is quite grateful for your services, it'un, you'll recieve your bonus shortly by courier." The Rath'ani coughs a bit, and stops to sip some juice, before continuing. "No need to stay here, Archaeologist, you may go. Next… "

The black fox'taur departs as asked.

Miriam shuffles some papers. "Ah yes, Envoy, our recorder. Do begin."

Envoy stands up, and gestures to the box. "I've brought a written record, and translations of the recovered logs from the Paquebot. You probably want a summary though… "

Miriam glances at the box. "Quite thorough, I see. Well, it will give something for our department to justify its late-night lighting budget, at least. Do summarize." she say, while toying with her paperweight.

Chiaroscuro shifts uncomfortably in his chair, and listens.

Mircus, on the other hand, remains completely unmoving. It's unclear if he's really listening even.

Envoy quickly relates how a team of scientists captured two juveniles of a hitherto unknown species, unaware that they were intelligent. The paquebot was then besieged by the creatures, called Cepheids by the researchers, and fell to the creatures' chemical attack.

Envoy says, "The paquebot crew's attempts at defense were all ineffective, and after sealing themselves inside they soon succumbed to madness induced by either the Cepheid chemicals or an accidental spill of a poison they were developing to use against them."

Miriam's wrinkled ears listen to each word. She scribbles some notes in a loose scrawl on a sheet of paper.

Envoy describes how the weapons were recovered and contact restored with the Blaze of Glory, the failed attempt to use the poison against the Cephieds, and how the creatures stopped their attack once the bodies of the two children were returned to them.

Naomi shudders delicately, trying not to listen. It would only remind her of horrible shadows all around.

The Venerable Officer frowns slightly, and taps her quill on the parchment. "I see… so you disposed of the evidence of these creatures' existence. Pity, but I suppose sacrifices had to have been made."

Envoy says, "Oh no, ma'am. I have lots of samples stowed aboard the ship, and a giant black pearl they gave us."

"I see… " Miriam says, writing down, apparently unfazed by news of the pearl. "If you wish to study those samples, I expect a written report to be delivered to the Collegia Pharmacia's veterinary division. Otherwise, simply deliver the samples."

Envoy nods.

Envoy says, "I've already prepared a second report for the College Naturalis… without any of the information about the paquebot itself."

Miriam hmms. "Rather… rash of you to do so. I'll consider allowing that inormation to go their way, however." She dips her quill into the inkwell. "Now, as for this pearl you mentioned… a more full description, please."

Envoy holds her hands about a foot apart. "It's this big around, and black. I think it is a gift or a token of some sort from the Cepheid society."

Miriam's eyes widen. "My. A foot around? No exaggeration?"

Envoy blinks, "Why should I exaggerate? The object is stored with the rest of the samples and the original copies of the logbooks."

"Aboard the ship still?", Miriam inquires pointedly.

Envoy nods.

Miriam nods, and calls "ReppiI!" in a shrill tone.

Mircus' ears, still flat, twitch slightly.

The Savanite in the corner, the Reppi in question, has been watching his master the entire time. He approaches her desk and bows deeply.

The Venerable Officer writes a quick note, folding and sealing it. "Take this to Sendrick on the Glorious Wildfire. You know, the one with the hair." Miriam commands. "That's Sendrick. Glorious Wildfire. Go."

Reppi takes the note, careful not to damange it. He signs assent, bows, and hurries away with the note. The sound of claws upon floor fades into the distance.

Chiaroscuro remains quiet in his seat, occasionally rubbing at a scar on his left ear.

Miriam shuffles a fresh sheet of parchment to the top of her cluttered desk. "Continue, it'un. After these creatures left the paquebot… "

Envoy turns back from watching the Savanite leave. "After that, we had the weapons transferred to the Glorious Wildfire and made sail."

"Except for an encounter with a Babelite warship along the way," the Aeolun says, "the journey was fairly uneventful."

Miriam frowns. "My, I am sorry about that. I had calculated only eighteen percent chances of any encounter, you see." She dips her pen in the inkwell. "Apperently you were victorious… ?"

Envoy blinks. "Not me personally, no. Captain Sendrick managed the encounter without undue bloodshed."

Naomi gasps! "Eigh- Eighteen perc… " But she is soon silenced by a stern glance from the Venerable officer.

Mircus glances briefly at Miriam, then at Naomi, before returning his gaze to the floor. He shakes slightly.

Envoy says, "There had been a previous Babelite attempt to capture the unmanned paquebot, but it failed."

Miriam nods, and makes a note. "Let me surmise- the Captain of the Babelite ship was also of the Order of Captains of Stuff and Nonsense?" At word of an earlier attempt, her blue eyes focus with a sudden ice-purity behind her glasses. "How do you know there was an earlier expidition?"

Roho answers for Envoy, "There was evidence of a Babelite expedition. Some supplies seemed to have been stolen from the warehouses, and we found some dead Eeee. It seems they arrived, but were driven off by the toxic air."

Envoy opens and then closes her mouth. Finally she says, "Yes, Captain Sendrick and the Eeee captain dueled to a draw."

Miriam sits back in her chair, pressing her palms together a moment. She coolly says "I see. How are you sure it was an attempt to capture the paquebot, then? It may just have been sailors not yet informed of the Paquebot's trouble."

Chiaroscuro interjects, "We… assumed the worst, Venerable Officer. We are at war."

Envoy just blinks. Maybe Miriam won't read through the full report.

Roho chuckles softly, "If you were a sailor, and happened on a paquebot where everyone was dead, and a choking poisonous gas hung in the air, would you stay to see if you can still get your resupply? I am fairly confident that they were either looters, or as Envoy said, and given that they were all Eeee, the latter would seem more likely."

Envoy turns to Roho, "Really? I had wondered if sailors were as superstitious as rumored."

Roho nods to Envoy, "Very superstitious, but even that aside, they're not likely to take a chance on a ghost paquebot if they have a full cargo and a schedule."

Miriam's quill scratches a few more times on the paper. "Very well. Anything more of significance to report, Envoy?"

Envoy turns back towards the Venerable Officer. "The Cepheids appear to be intelligent and organized into a society. I reccomend that the Temple try to initiate contact with them once the Paquebot has been repaired."

Miriam taps her quilltip on the paperweight, a blot of ink slowly forming on the Creen's skull. "An interesting theory, Envoy of Lothryn. I will make note of the recommendation for possible future investigation, after a deetailed probablity calculation by this office."

Envoy smiles, "What would you like calculated?"

Miriam replies, "An *independent* probability calculation. Not one by a biased observer, who claims to be able to find Sky Islands and finds empty air." She frowns. "Unless there's anything further, your report, Doctor?" she says as her chair turns to face Roho.

Chiaroscuro looks up at Envoy. "Sky islands?"

Envoy sits down next to Chipper and looks chastised. "I plotted the course of a sky island based on an ancient artifact for tracking them, but it wasn't where it was supposed to be," she whispers to the mongoose.

Chiaroscuro pats Envoy's arm supportively, and whispers back, "As Rik'Tik'Tav says, Envoy, the longer the path, the harder to know the destination."

Envoy blinks in confusion over that statement.

Roho remains seated, "There were no problems enroute to the paquebot. Upon arrival, one Savanite inhaled the station air. After treatment, he recovered completely, and I prepared medicated masks for all entering the station. Mr. Mircus went in maskless, and he too suffered breathing trouble, but recovered fully after treatment."

Chiaroscuro whispers again, "Well, perhaps not the best metaphor for the situation… time can change the paths of people beyond what can be predicted, perhaps it can change the paths of these islands of the sky similarly." The mongoose then grows silent to let Roho talk.

Roho continues, "There were no casualties aboard the paquebot, save for minor bruises and scrapes. As stated earlier, we were attacked on the return voyage. There were numerous casualties. Three Savanites, two Vartans, and a Jupani are still under Temple observation for their wounds, they are expected to live. There were many other lesser casualties, which were treated aboard ship and required no further attention."

Envoy nods to Chipper. Personally, she thinks she just needs to establish a baseline setting using the Hands that track Rephidim, but she doesn't say so. The Temple still has those hands, supposedly.

Roho concludes his report in a cold, even tone, "Two Vartans named Zepik and Tasok, a Jupani named Holn, and a Savanite named Marritch did not survive. Had this mission been properly equipped with combat medical supplies, one or more may have survived. That is all."

Miriam writes this down with care. "Well, doctor… " She lower her pen. "Lest you forget, I did inform you at the beginning of this mission there was a war going on. I provided you with an assistant… " pointing a finger to Naomi, "And a sufficient payment that you might have purchased additional supplies."

Miriam says, "And what supplies were aboardship for you were standard, given the probabilities of injury on this mission."

Roho nods at Miriam, "Naomi was a highly capable and diligent assistant, and it is likely thanks to her that as many survived as did. But you deliberately misled the entire crew about the likelihood of attack… you were very clear in that the ship could outrun nearly any Eeee vessel, but did not mention it would be laden with many tons of weaponry." He takes a breath, and considers a moment, "I did not forget there is a war. We had to spread the sutures terribly thin, and even then, ran out. There were enough field dressings… barely. And you suggest that I was supposed to use my own funds to second-guess that the supplies would be inadequate, and buy more? I would have gladly, had I known."

Miriam says, "Misled?" in a hurt tone. "You must not have listened, doctor." The old Rath'ani rises from her chair, stepping around to come face to face with him. "You were never supposed to be even needed. You had two air mages here in Rephidim speeding your passage to the paquebot, the third finest airship captain in Rephidim's fleet." She jabs a bony finger at Roho's chest. "You had no casualties aboard the paquebot, due to the crew I personally selected- who dealt with giant squids nothing was known about.

Miriam wheezes, "Any other officer would have send Templar ninnies, who would have died like yiffles at a Naga convention. But because I made the decisions and calculated the probabilities, you hit a worst-case scenario and lost only four men." *jab* "You had equipment enough for nineteen out of twenty times this mission would have occured."

Roho pushes the finger poking at his chest away – gently – and continues in a less harsh tone, "Miriam, do not insult me, and speak to me like a child. I have lived almost as many years as you, and I think we've both seen enough blood spilled for reasons we disagree with that we should be perfectly happy to never see it again. I did not complain about the captain, he was extremely courageous. I did not complain about the crew. But I disagree with your decision to equip this mission as an exploration mission. I'm sorry you felt security was more important. If it is possible, I would like to know the names of the next of kin of the dead, to pay my condolences in person."

Miriam replies tersely, "Security was more important, doc-" before braking into a fit of coughing, having to turn back to the desk to drink a glass of some red-colored liquid before speaking again. "It was more important, doctor. The Eeee have their ears to every wall in this city. Not even the Bridge can be wholly trusted at these times… " she says, leaning back in her chair. "Which is why every silver, copper, tenner, shekel, and quarter-shekel spent on this mission was from my personal funds."

Roho leans forward in his chair, forgetting his argument for the moment, "Are you all right, Miriam?"

Miriam coughs again a few times. "Oh, this comes and it goes." She drinks again from her glass.

Chiaroscuro whispers for a bit to Envoy.

Roho sighs, and finally gives a shrug, "If you paid for what we did have out of your own funds, then I'm angry at the wrong person. I apologize." He smiles slightly, "If you wanted to avoid critique, perhaps you would have been better off with a less seasoned Temple-flunky." His smile fades, "I don't like the sound of that cough… would you consider letting me have a closer look? At your convenience, of course… "

Envoy perks an ear and leans in closer to Chiaroscuro.

Miriam replies a bit more smoothly, "No apology required, doctor. Don't think I've got a Zelak's heart underneath, I'd have rather had those crew living today." *sip* "Along with the hundreds lost already in this war." She takes a deep, raspy breath, and then smiles a bit. "And I would appreciate a second opinion, I think the division healers might have an early bet in the pool… "

Envoy begins to wonder now what Miriam will do with the giant pearl, remembering that one of the crewmen said it was valuable.

Bem rasps, looking up at the mention of Zelaks, but subsides.

Roho chuckles, "They don't know that those of us who make it this far, usually are tough and stringy enough to pull just a little farther. I don't have an office here in Rephidim, but I can see you at any time. Now, if you prefer."

Envoy perks up at the possibility of seeing a real medical examination…

Miriam Nuttenbolschen shakes her head. "I am far too busy today, Doctor Roho. If you would care to meet me here at dusk, after my duties are completed, perhaps?"

Roho nods, "Very well, I'll come then."

Naomi has remained respectfully quiet so far, with her eyes downcast and her paws stuffed into her apron pockets, to keep them from fidgeting. She looks up as talks shift away from the debriefing, hoping she can bring up something more trivial. Well, trivial to the Officer, at least. "Ah… uhm… Venerable Officer… "

Miriam nods, and turns to Naomi. "Yes, it'un?"

The young Rath'ani shuffles her feet, trying to avoid looking at Miriam. "Well… er… I would like to… uhm… if it's not any t-trouble… I mean, if my performance on this assignment was good enough… I… " The nurse swallows hard, and summons up what gumption she has. "MayIrespectfullyrequestbeingassignedtoDoctorRoho?"

Envoy blinks… that's not what she expected Naomi to ask for at all!

The flood of words continues. "I mean, I think I'm good enough now to where I don't need guild classes, and he lets me practice my recorder, and he knows Lady Envoy, and she said she might teach me, at least I think she said she might teach me, and I know Great Aunt will never let me out of the Guild to join the Bards… " The Rath'ani trails off, and gives those assembled a pleading look.

Roho blinks surprisedly, and grins, "But what about your music? Well, I'm not assigned to the Temple, so Miriam can't really assign you to me… but I'd be willing to take on a 'prentice, if she is willing."

"I wanted to ask to quit the Physicians, I really did," sighs Naomi, fingering her recorder. "But all the suffering on the Blaze… I… I couldn't let things like that happen if… if I know I can do things about it." The nurse brightens. "But this way, I won't have to let Grandma down, /and/ I can still practice! Please? May I? Pretty please with sugar-fir on top?"

Miriam cackle-chuckles. "Of course, of course, it'un. Have your instructor at the Collegia Pharmacia come to my office in two day's time, I'll make sure they approve your independent study."

Naomi claps her paws gleefully! "Oh, thank you, Venerable Officer! Thank you, Doctor Roho!" She hugs her mentor joyfully. "I promise, I'll be the best assistant that's ever brewed Vartan's ear leaf… I mean, niknik berry… that is, willow bark tea!"

Roho tries to respectfully disentangle himself from the Rath'ani, "Well, just so long as you realize that I don't make much money, so neither do you," he says with a grin.

Envoy blinks, "I thought you were rich from all that treasure you brought back from – oh, right."

"All I need is my recorder and a song!" replies the cheery nurse. She reconsiders. "Well, and herbal shampoos for my tail. Oh, and I positively couldn't do without candied pala fruit. It's an addiction! Oh, and… well, I'm sure Mumsy's estate would take care of that… "

Miriam grins. "Actually, doctor, you've earned hazardous pay duty over thi-" She stops suddently, eyes not moving from Roho, and says very slow and calm "Do tell me more about this 'treasure', Envoy of Lothryn."

Naomi quiets abruptly. Her training amongst the well-to-do has taught her to identify when something serious is about to be discussed, and remain seen and not heard.

Envoy blinks at Miriam. "Well, I haven't actually seen it, I'm afraid, so there really isn't anything I can tell you about it."

Chiaroscuro quietly taps his Rikkorel, muttering "Lord Rik', guide Envoy's words along the right path at this moment." under his breath.

Envoy switches topics, sort of… "Speaking of treasure though, what are you going to do with the pearl we brought back?"

Miriam hmms, and says "Doctor, even though you have offered a free examination to me… an offer I do highly appreciate… you still must turn over all salvage from the paquebot. Is that clear?"

Roho nods at Miriam, "The treasure that Envoy refers to is from a previous expedition. One which was, I will admit, rather profitable. I'm planning on using the money to try to raise some rare herbs here in Rephidim. I salvaged some medical supplies from the paquebot, but those remain aboard ship with the rest of the Temple supplies." He looks a trifle hurt, "I am not a thief."

The Venerable Officer smiles. "Of course not, Doctor. My apologies for any such implication, I do trust you are a loyal, tithing citizen." She turns to Envoy. "And as for the pearl, I shall decide on that when Reppi returns with it, and it has been properly valued by a jewelry-worker." Half to herself, she says "At worst it might be a potential paperweight… "

"Will I be able to borrow it later?" Envoy asks. "I want to show it to Queen Shkarkin."

"A paperweight! Do you know wh-… " Naomi starts, then silences herself.

Miriam casually says, "Regrettably, that will be unlikly, Envoy. If it is all you have claimed it is, studies shall need to be done."

Envoy smiles, "Will I be told the results of the studies then?"

A soft *click* comes from a box on Miriam's desk. "It appears this session must-" *coughcafcoff* "-must conclude. I do have other appointments this day."

Envoy peers towards the desk. "What just went click?"

Miriam says, "That box there." pointing a finger towards it. "Now do please depart… Doctor, I shall see you this evening. Chiaroscuro Themyst, Mircus Shadrackel, I will need your reports at a later time. Star watch over you all."

Envoy hmms, and asks Chipper as she heads for the door, "Where do we get paid?"

Chiaroscuro stands up from his seat, and says to Envoy, "Well, our first payyments were from the Savanite at the desk… " as he exits the room.

The direct command from Venerable Officer Miriam Nuttenboltschen manages to penetrate the haze seemingly surrounding Mircus in a way even the commotion caused earlier by Naomi could not. He stands slowly, and follows quietly behind the rest of the group.

Roho follows Chiaroscuro out, pausing at Naomi, "I'll finalize things with Miriam tonight, as to when you should report… " He smiles, and gives her shoulder a squeeze, "I think you'll do just fine!" then follows the mongoose out the door.

Naomi holds her clasped paws beneath her muzzle. "Oh, you think so! I'll do my best! Thank you for agreeing, this'll be so much better than that University, and Great-Great-Aunt won't be angry." She turns to curtsy to the Venerable Officer, and then joins Roho to depart, chattering so rapid-fire, she only makes sense to herself.

Miriam grins widely as the party leaves, and removes from a draw a piece of parchment… already thickly written. She adjust her glasses, reading the print… laid out in tables. Sendrick survives, 93%. Roho Survives, 97%. Weapons recovered fully, 35%. Weapons recovered partially, 40%. No weapons recovered, 25%…

Miriam scans down… moving past… Themyst saves Envoy's life, 72%… and finally reaches Naomi decides to stay with healing afterwards due to Roho. 37%.. With a light tap of her finger on the text, and a smile, she says "Sometimes it is good when my calculations are a bit off."

---

GMed by Chiaroscuro

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Today is 20 days after Candlemass, Year 25 of the Reign of Archelaus the First (6124)