Heading towards the south, Argenius cannot find a grog with any real knowledge of the lands further south, though Lares' wife Barshako apparently comes from that area...
Before setting out on his journey, Argentius takes time to seek out Barshako. He uses his ring to help cross any language barrier, and approaches her carefully, having cast Aura of Ennobled Presence earlier in the day.
"Barshako, I am Argentius. You may not recognize me, I suppose," he chuckles softly in greeting.
"Could I ask you a few questions? I am heading south to try to find an animal that I might befriend and connect to as my familiar."
"If you seek my assistance I can let my children know and accompany you on your journey."
"That would be very helpful, Barshako," answers the handsome artificer. "Your help and knowledge of the lands ahead would be very helpful. Would your sons like to join us?"
One corner of her mouth turns up to smile "I believe my sons will be more comfortable here. With this great age reversal most of the life I remember was spent to the south of the covenant, while they have lived almost exclusively within its confines."
Argentius nods slowly. "What timeframe do we have to work within for this excursion? I don't think we need to take any risk that we'll catch you during the days of the moon when you might be at risk of turning. Am I right in assuming it's associated with a lunar cycle?"
"at this point I a able to control when I change, though in coming years this will not always be the case, and I expect before I reverted to my current age I had far less control. I wonder many nights if this great reversion occurred to try and spare my family from the curse of my later years."
The artificer listens intently to Barshako, his expression opening in surprise at her ending comment. "Now that is a very interesting thought. Love has been behind a great deal of mischief and good, so you may be right. Lares strikes me as one who is both loyal and of a singular focus when he puts his mind and heart to something."
Argentius pauses for a moment, looking off toward the horizon.
"Thank you for being willing to journey with me. I have felt.. I don't know how to express it really. I see a record of my old self having a familiar, a small rodent, named Fingers. He is there in my old notes and then no more mention of him. And I feel sad about it, even though I don't have any memory of him or her. I haven't been able to shake the feeling or shake the desire to find a familiar of my own. I can't quite explain it, but I'm still driven to search." He drifts off and then turns back.
"We'll take a few of the covenfolk with us for protection and help. Do you have any suggestions or recommendations on what else we we should take to help us on our journey? You are far wiser and knowledgeable about such things than I am. I've hardly left the forge in nearly fifteen years."
"I would suggest we take exclusively Berber covenfolk, Arabic and Cathars are likely to be less popular the further south we travel."
"A very wise suggestion, thank you. We'll make that happen. I'm sure they can coordinate any gear and provisions that we should take with us."
The artificer pauses.
"Lady Barsako, I'm afraid I don't really know what gifts you possess… What with my memory being… absent. Anything I should be aware of?"
"I can speak with animals and see through the veil over this reality. I would suggest you not underestimate my powers simply because they are not of your order."
"Far from me to underestimate you, Lady Barshako. It is clear that you are an integral part of Al Kufra. We all have our areas of expertise, I would venture," answers Argentius.
"Shall we set out then?"
You head mostly south for two days with 5 berber grogs to accompany you before you arrive at an oasis where a trading post has been set up, and Barshako goes to speak with them a bit before they invite you to dine with them, she informs you they trade with people from further south, who are likely to be able to supply magical animals.
Even though he has the aura of ennobled presence cast, Argentius stays polite and follows Barshako's lead, not wanting to allow the Gift to overly influence any of the hosts or traders. He uses his ring to understand the conversations about him, but he doesn't do so in an overt way and doesn't use it to engage in conversation while he assess the group at the oasis. He also looks around to see if he can spot an aura at the oasis or any regio entrances.
"Lady Barshako, can you ask these traders what goods they trade in? Perhaps we can establish or re-establish a mercantile relationship with these good desert people," suggests Argentius.
During the meal, he is careful and watchful, ready to cast Touch of the Pearls should he suspect anything foul in his drink. Even so, Argentius remains polite and respectful.
Later in the evening, the artificer asks Barshako, "Do you have familiarity with the magical animals of these deserts? I'm curious what you might recommend for an artificer like myself given your gifts with animals."
Does Lares become aware, at some point, of Argentius departing with Barshako? Probably when she is gone, at the latest - he has been trying to get through to her by meeting with her every once in a while.
She takes long enough to prepare that his sons would have mentioned it.
He does not interfere with Argentius' plans. When they are gone, however, Lares finds his sons and asks:
"Having lived with Barshako for the year, do you think she has developed any loyalty to the covenant or to our family? Does she still perceive herself a prisoner?"
He furrows his brow and brushes his beard absent-mindedly.
"I am reluctant to interfere in the expedition. Barshako has found a worthy form of service and Argentius a capable companion - for this I am happy. Yet I cannot shake a worry. Where does her mother live, again? To the south?"
"Her mother lived to the south, before she was taken by the family curse. I believe she is dead now. she has been talking a lot with other Berber's of the covenant, and I think she feels like part of their community."
Argentius listens in to what the others involved may believe to be a private conversation as Barshako and the three grogs explain to the traders that you are one of six tyrants who rule a land deep in the mountains, that you have come south looking for a magical animal to enslave, and that they would like the help of these traders in throwing off the yoke of your rule, as well as the preference that you and the other tyrants generally show for the Arabs and those whose skin is paler still.
If he doesn't hear from the expedition, Lares will contact Argentius after a few days as agreed via the arcane connection pebble he gave him. He will cast the formulaic Tunnel, then lifelink spont IntIm hearing and seeing - it should be easy in his laboratory with rest in between - then, having made sure Argentius still holds the pebble and there aren't others around, CrIm for voice. You can have it happen whenever it suits you, @silveroak , or if Argentius makes a contact attempt, it could happen at a time of his choosing.
Argentius's expression tightens into a grimace as he hears the discussion among the grogs and the traders and even Barshako. This betrayal is clearly a surprise to the innocent artificer.
"Tyrants!?" interrupts Argentius, looking at Barshako. "Tyrants? What a notion! We're scholars and artists and craftsmen, for pity's sake. Not tyrants. We've done our best to provide haven to all who live among us." The artificer looks over at the traders, his aura of ennobled presence still active and his ring making his words clear to all gathered.
"And you would invite these good traders to join you? To sacrifice the favorable arrangements of trade they could have with us? To give up our gold?"
The artificer looks back again at Barshako.
"You, Barshako? You would betray us and put your own sons at risk? Turn back from your husband? Poor Lares will be devastated."