After Shallan's departure, Godrich continued to stand watch near the building that Clair had been cooped up in. Nervously, he searched up and down the street, watched the entrance of the building, and stalked the guards that were perched nearby. There was little else he could do. The fear of Clair's demise did not allow him to leave, but he could not risk raising suspicion and putting the enforcers on high alert by approaching. All he could do was wait until Shallan returned with word that they could execute their plan, or until nightfall.

Eventually, he succumbed to the urge to sit, finding himself an acceptable space atop a short stone fence. He was but a helpless bystander, at least for the moment. The feeling was familiar, and he did not have to ponder for very long to remember when he had last felt this feeling. "Will it always come to this?" he said, eyes transfixed on that building, that fortress. "Will I always fail to be their shield?"

The memories rushed forward like a tide engulfing the shoreline. They violently crashed over and sent Godrich back to that time, only years ago, when the Misfits lost their previous leaders. To that time when he had also tried so hard to save and protect those that he loved and trusted. Enric had grown ill, his body slowly faltering and growing thin during the Misfits' travels. One night, while the Misfits were traveling between cities, he completely collapsed off of his horse, the majestic chestnut that he always rode. They hurried to the closest town, a small, derelict place, to seek help. Although they eventually found lodgings with some kind peasantry, there was no doctor in town, and the nearest doctors was several towns away. Godrich himself took the reigns of his mentor's chestnut, forcefully kicking it with its ankles and spurred off on a mission to bring back a doctor. When he did eventually return, it was too late.

It had not been much more than a year later when Teresa had also begun to succumb to her own illness. Her passion, her memory, her mind, quickly began to fade after Enric's death. Eventually, she reached a stage in which she spent the majority of her days lost without her memories. Everyone had become a stranger, she never recognized where she was, and a fear would seize her. At the worst of it, she required sedation in order to calm her fears to prevent her from tumbling out of bed and wandering off, or injuring her weakening body. Other times, there were moments of clarity. They were rare, but Godrich was present for some of them. Those were nearly as harrowing as the other moments, as Teresa's rational mind would try to seek help with one thing: to join her beloved Enric. She was eventually rewarded her wish. No one knew if she had help, or if the gods had taken pity on her.

The waves of memories rolled away when Godrich was grounded back to reality, staring down at a pair of children that stood in front of him. They watched him curiously while occasionally brushing off the dirty from their skin and clothes. The smaller of the two children, a tiny boy with freshly sheared brown hair, held out a large leather ball to him. When Godrich hesitated to accept the offering, the taller of the children, a girl who was slightly older than the little boy and sporting a pair of pigtails, spoke up. "Are you okay, mister?"

~~~

Vana tugged lightly on the reigns of her bister horse, slowing it to a stop. She stared down at the device of wood and glass in her hands so intently that she did not notice Gaxeel pull up next to her on his own dark-haired steed. They remained halted for a while, stirrup to stirrup, while Vana continued to carefully observe the compass. Finally, she looked up. "It seems our luck with our supposed path has run out. We have two goals, to deliver a message to the Silver Priestess and to locate the puppet or whatever magical artifact has an attachment to this compass. So far, were lucky that the directions were one and the same, but it seems that has now changed. The compass points westward, towards the forests, while the path to the the priestess's temple remains northward."

Gaxeel remained quiet for a long time, mulling the sentiments over. "We should continue northward," he eventually concluded. "Our objective there is a known, finite distance away from us. Once we have succeeded, we can focus our remaining energies on the compass's target, no matter the distance." No longer restricted to having Vana lead the way, he gently squeezed his stirrups and urged his horse forward, towards the path of the grand city and its temples.

"Wise," Vana concluded out loud, glancing down at the compass one last time. It would be even wiser for her to continue to watch the artifact as they hurried forward, in case she noticed any strange changes in the direction it was pointing. There was a small chance... a very small chance, but one that existed all the same... that they may pass by the compass's target. She kicked at the horse beneath her, urging it to spring forward and catch up with Gaxeel.


~~~

"So much for plausible deniability." Ella's voice rung out from behind Shallan. She shut the door behind her before approaching her former member of the troupe she now led. "What the devil are you making? Potato sacks?" Her wet eyes watched Shallan calmly while she patiently listened to the explanation of Shallan and Godrich's intentions.

"I think I have seen some of these temple stewards not too long ago," she commented, glancing down at the work Shallan had done so far. "Pathetic looking things, they were. Such droll bowl-cuts, fingers worked to the bone, and so scrawny and bony. It's no wonder they are abstinent, lest they keel over from over exertion. But I digress." She ran a hand over the outfits. "Godrich is a rather large lad, so you will want to make sure he appears much thinner than he actually is. Have him hunch slightly, but not too much as to reveal his musculature through the robes. Speaking of which, one of these will need to be much looser to hide that woodman's frame of his. You both will want some makeup to help convey the sickly, pathetic appearance of those tired, and probably sun deprived, stewards. Not anything quite as visible and obvious as something we would need for stage work, but just enough so that anyone who is face to face with you recognizes that doggedness without noticing the use of flesh paint."

She quickly got to work mixing up such examples of makeup. She combined ingredients, occasionally stirring vigorously while working towards the right colors. Occasionally, without warning, she would smear a glob of liquid or dusty paste on Shallan's cheek or arm, and eye the color critically. The "No, no," she would say, turning back to her work. After only a few attempts, she would finally click her tongue in approval, and turn to bottle up her concoctions. "Here, this should be helpful. One bottle for the skin, and one to help feign puffy, tired eyes." She set small glass bottles before Shallan, before rising to turn away. "Godrich's skin is much lighter, so tell him he does not need to use very much of the first bottle. If he does, it will give away that you are wearing makeup."

Having concluded her explanation, Ella rose. "I will leave you to it then," she said.