As the group enter the main army encampment, overlooking the valley, there is a general hubbub to be heard, exaggerated tales of heroes, presumably stories of the fighters at the front lines. The sharp eyed Chris and Serra spot a guard trying to get their attention and simultaneously nudge James forward towards him. The guard Farthight… Err… Farsight or something, of the Night’s Watch or the nightwatch, takes their details and notes they are a lot fewer than there should be. He then directs them to the medical tent so Chris can get his leg looked at.
As they approach the medical tent James recognises Janus, one of his old childhood friends from Erebaster. The two embrace and catch up briefly, with Janus surprised that James is here and an officer no less. Apparently he was taken to the front lines and now spends time healing troops in the camp. James queue-jumps and gets the squad looked at. Chris being the first to be checked, Janus heals his leg, being careful not to remove the troubled young man’s scars, then gets to the subject of the rash that is spreading over Chris’ back. Apparently it’s incurable but an ointment he can provide can slow its progress, but it’ll ultimately drive him insane. Chris demands he not tell anyone about it and leaves.
Brody is next in, Janus noting that apart from some minor scarring he’s a picture of health. He then uses magic to remove the scars, an act that Brody takes as being the sort of magic he can get behind. James follows and Janus notes he’s got a rash as well, but his is healing, something he’s never seen before. He thinks the rash is caused by the taint in the forest they passed through, and that it affects the weaker willed people over the stronger ones. Ultimately sufferers become mindless and are sent to the front lines where the stronger clerics tend to them. He then confides that Chris is suffering but is not recovering.
They then get assigned a billet. James manages to negotiate a private tent for the group and they rest for the night, for the first time in forever not setting a watch. What could go wrong?
As it happens, nothing. The next day they get a fitness test, which they excel in, and are placed under the command of General Hawthorne, first ranking upper class general. Top general of the camp. James is now a full officer. After setting the troops to training, they go about exploring the encampment and eventually find a forge. The forge has another old friend of James: Adrienne. James’ childhood sweetheart from Erebaster. He’s distraught over the prospect that she doesn’t recognise him, but she eventually realises who he is. She is also astounded that he’s an officer. They catch up for a while, then mentions that she never expected to be working in a forge when she joined he army, but nobody else can do it. She hates it, explaining that she mainly works with scavenged materials from the front as the trade route is closed. She explains more about the camp, pointedly mentioning the moaning coming from the front lines at night. As they part ways, James plans to return with some wine and plans to catch up more fully.
As they head towards the front lines, they hear a yell and a scream. Someone runs off with a bloody knife and pearls. Serra, Chris and James pursue her and Brody goes to investigate the wounded woman. The thief is cornered, obviously tainted with the rash forming a skull over her face. She makes a swipe at Chris and gets stabbed repeatedly for her troubles. Chris takes the pearls and gets confronted by Serra about the extremity of his behaviour. Meanwhile Brody finds the fallen victim and is extremely irritated as she expires before he can heroically save her.
Sandra. Her name was Sandra.
They investigate the wounded woman and take her back to the tent. James and Brody head off to find Janus, a ruse to fill Brody in on the subject of Chris’ taint. Janus explains that he got the ointment from his old temple in Erebaster and it slows the rot but doesn’t stop it. He seems different from the other priests there.
They then hit the subject of Brokai, Brody is incredulous that he could be a twin, horrified that it might mean someone is as great as him. Janus manages to get it into his head by referring to it as a medical marvel. A Medical Marvel.
He then grabs all the remaining pots of ointment until James investigates where the supply came from. It’s from the temple in Erebaster and there isn’t any more. After finding that Chris already has some he gives it back. James asks what they can do to prevent it, and where Janus gets his blessings from. He suggests prayer, pointing that he prays upon the sunrise, and his god grants him powers via the queen.
Meanwhile, Serra tries to stop the turning of the woman to a zombie with a wand. She fails, then sneakily tries again on Chris. She sees a bit of rash fade then reappear. Then Chris reacts violently and tries to disarm her. He fails then Serra tries to cast the spell again, this fails and Chris tries to stab her. This attracts guards who try to drag him off to the front lines. Serra bluffs them into hesitating long enough to get him under control. She fails and he gets dragged off.
Serra turns to the zombie and in exasperation asks what’s wrong with her.
James and Brody get back when Chris is being pulled off. He’s going to the naughty tent. Brody wants to have dinner and let him stay overnight to learn his lesson, while Serra and James realise he’s not himself and time is of the essence. They go to the naughty tent and find a sullen, murderous and most horrifyingly, nearly naked Chris in a wooden cage. Chris reacts violently at the idea of Serra using more magic to make him do what she wants. James replies that she won’t. He will. He then “Suggests” that Chris wants to let Serra do what she has to do to cure him and the newly compliant Chris walks calmly and chattily back with them.
They head back to the tent and after putting the ointment on Chris’ back, with James playing music quietly in the corner, Serra keeps jabbing Chris with the stick until the rash starts to disappear. As she does so, Chris starts to remember things… The things he’s done! All culminating in his most heinous crime: betraying Trixy in Erebaster.
The rash faded and the wand exhausted, Serra symbolically snaps the small wooden stick. Chris retrieves his clothes and walks out to be alone with his guilt. Sadly for our poor, downtrodden ex-psychopath, the moaning heard outside suggests he’s not as alone as he might want to be…