A Familiar tale on an epic scale (Nivansrywyllian, Peregrine)

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Nivansrywyllian, Oct 10, 2014.

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  1. Clickety-clak clickety-clack.

    The small, blue fennec trotted along beside his bondsman as she walked. The air smelled of musty wood, and sounded of coarse men making rough jokes. He had one comically large ear turned towards her attentively, although his equally over sized tail was flicking to and fro jovially.

    He was a handsome little creature, with plush fur covering him from tail to nose, though his coloration shifted from place to place. He was mostly black, but for a streak of white fur that began at his jaw, and ran the length of his underbelly. His feet too were white, but for the blue pads at the very bottom, which matched the shade of his tongue, and the flesh inside his ears.

    The only thing to set him apart as unique from other familiars, was a line of luminous runic script that cupped each of his blue eyes, and ran the length of his muzzle on either side, terminating at the beginning of his dark nose.

    "Kiera," said the Astral Fox quietly, as they passed a pair of rowdy smugglers that looked as if they'd had a bit too much to drink. "It could be fun. We could stick a whole pallet to the ceiling, and watch them scramble." He said. He was always up for some mischief, and waiting was perhaps his least favorite activity of all.

    As it was, Kiera and Lethanielestan had been with the smuggling ring for nearly a week, with nothing to show for it. The Familiar had been bored of it by the third day, but for Kiera's sake, he'd kept his mischievous nature under wraps. For the most part.

    He leaned his side up against her calf playfully. "They'd never know. You're an excellent actor."
  2. Keira laughed softly, more at Lethan’s description of her acting abilities than at the thought of what the inebriated smugglers would do if a pallet of beer really did stick itself to the ceiling. She sat down on a small box a fair ways away from the various groups of people, patting the wood beside her to invite Lethaniel up. When he hopped up next to her she wrapped an arm around him and hugged him towards her a little bit, running fingers through his soft fur.

    “They’ll be here soon,” Keira replied, voice pitched so that it wouldn’t travel beyond the couple of inches separating her from Lethan’s fuzzy ear. Her answer to the question of her familiar didn’t seem to relate, but it was, in truth, a quiet plea for patience. “They’ve got a lot to set up. I’d be disappointed if they arrived too soon. It would mean that they aren’t as good as we think they are.”

    That didn’t change the fact that Keira knew Lethaniel’s impatience. Keira was not known for being patient. She had no regard for the rules, and always understood that her way would work, even if no one else thought it would. But this time, her way required that she didn’t rush into this with all the grace of a charging bull. People had tried that before her, and it had ending with their dead corpses being found, sometimes as much as half a year after their disappearance. Her way required far more subtlety. She had to be patient. She and her familiar both.

    So far she had survived by remaining completely under the radar of everyone of significance, and she would have to maintain that until the end of this part of her job. If she ruined it now, if she got caught, or gave anything away, her one shot at finding the people for whom she was waiting would be lost. She would have to come up with a brand new plan, and it would inevitably be a lot more dangerous.

    Her current location was the home of a smuggler’s ring, specializing in luxury clothing and goods. Keira had to give them some credit; they knew how to stay under the radar. Somehow, the leader of this whole operation had managed to base his operation in one of the ruins of the pre-Finding civilization. It was buried underground, and impossible to find without first being taken there by someone who already knew its location via some sort of teleportation magic. It was a strange and alien space, and felt more like it had once been blasted out of the ground through force and manual labor than shaped naturally and intuitively by familiar magic. The architecture was all square edges and sharp corners, strong enough, but ugly. If it wasn’t for the fact that the whole structure had been reinforced with familiar magic to keep the place from collapsing on top of precious cargo there was a very good chance that Keira would not have felt safe down here.

    But it was reinforced, and it was the only place that she was going to get to call home until they arrived. How she prayed it wouldn’t be too much longer.
  3. "Mmmm," The fox enjoyed the sensation of the fingers gliding through his fur. People took for granted little pleasures like that. It was a shame. He'd have to return the favor some time. "Good. Bad. It doesn't matter. We're the best." Nobody would ever claim that Kiera's familiar was humble. He sat back on his haunches, when it became clear that his bondsman was finished adjusting him.

    Impatient though he was, at the end of the day, Lethaniel would always do what he thought was best for Kiera. And getting her killed messily because he was a little bored was certainly not one of those things that was best for her. Of course, that didn't stop him from having a little fun in the mean-time. He'd just have to be careful about which pranks he pulled on whom.

    "Y'wanna head topside for a few? Get some fresh air?" He suggested, resting his muzzle on his bondsman's knee, and stretching his jaws in a lazy yawn. "By the depths of the Plane, I'm having trouble remembering what sunlight looks like." It was an exaggeration of course, born of the familiar's general desire to be on the road, but heartfelt none the less.

    Lethaniel didn't like caves. He didn't like ruins. He didn't like sitting and waiting for the violent eruption of action and battle that he knew would come. Despite his apparent laziness, he was on edge.
  4. Keira nodded, allowing her fingers to fall out of his fur and curl together in her lap. “I would like to get out of here, even if just for a bit.” she replied. Her eyes lifted up, scanning the dark ceiling that was only partially illuminated by various lanterns. She knew full well that after several days underground the sun would hurt her eyes, but it would be a good kind of pain.

    “We’d need to go clear it with the foreman. If there’s any unregistered teleportation in or out of this place, who knows what they’d do. Might try and move the whole operation, thinking their location is compromised.” That earned a small laugh from Keira as she imagined the sight of them trying to evacuate this whole place before the unknown “enemy” could arrive, but she sobered quickly. “I hope he’ll let us out. Otherwise we might find ourselves having to dig our way to the surface.” It was said in a joking manner, but Keira meant it in all seriousness.

    “Come on, Le.”

    The two set off through the crowds, darting among and around those who were working, and those who weren’t. No one bothered Keira, even though she could see some who were tempted to try and drag her into the labor. It wasn’t for nothing that Keira had long ago managed to master the art of walking with purpose. It had saved her from many a frustrating situation in training, and it certainly freed her now. She did almost no work in this place, and still managed to be read as a superior by most of the other people in this place.

    The Foreman was not in his usual “office”, a pile of crates that had been stacked so as to cordon off a small area of the floor, which meant that he could be almost anywhere in the ruin, managing one of the incoming shipments, or even out of the area altogether on an assigned job. Keira let out a huffing sigh before glancing over her shoulders hopefully. She didn’t really expect to see his short figure waddling towards her, but nor was she quite willing to let go of her desire to see the surface.

    Finally, she turned to the fox. “What now?”
  5. Lethaniel had to step quick to stay out from underfoot, but it wasn't so great a task as to be dangerous. The worst he'd ever gotten for being too slow was a toe in the ribs. It smarted, but it wasn't ever with enough ire to do him damage. Nobody wanted to go around kicking a familiar whose teleportation form was a great, six-legged lizard larger than most horses. He never mentioned it to Kiera of course.

    His heart fell when they rounded the little cubicle of boxes, only to find the foreman absent of his post. The fox sped inside, and out of the hallway traffic, sniffing about the desk strewn with papers. Atop it rested an oil-lamp, still burning, Up to the chair he hopped, and then up to the table itself. "It looks like they're bringing in a big shipment today." He said, ponderously. "Looks like they hit some wealthy clothier. He might be down in the Traveling Grounds to oversee the new shipment."

    The fox hopped down from the table, with a flick of his bushy tail. He trotted back up to his bondsman, and leaned against her shins once again. "We could go to the traveling grounds, and find him there. Or..." He drew out the word, curling up in front of Kiera, just over her toes. "We could wait here, and I could burn a little fortune." Paws crossed, head went down, and one ear canted slowly up towards his bondsman. "I've got enough left." He added. "Nothing bad will happen, as long as he doesn't lollygag."
  6. Keira tilted her head to the side, for one moment seriously considering Lethan’s offer. They had both done their best to keep the general knowledge on his forms limited at best, and the Gambler was, thus far, unknown to the smugglers. No one was watching, and the temptation of the surface vibrated through her heart like a song.

    Eventually she shook her head, demurring. “Better not. Let’s save it for...” Her words were interrupted by a sudden loud whistle that ripped through the caravan. The newest members to the smuggler’s ring, those who had yet to hear the Gathering Call clapped their hands over their ears, desperately trying to protect their ears. Even the veterans flinched slightly. But the sound ended as suddenly as it had begun. There was a moment of ringing silence, before a general sound of commotion began throughout the ruin. Everyone, drunk, sober, newly awakened, on duty or off, began to make their way towards the largest cavern in the ruin. Their illustrious leader wanted to address his peons.

    Moments later she and Lethan were just another two in the crowd. They moved with the tide, before shuffling into the cavern. Familiars in a large form shifted to a more manageable size, many of them jumping into a bondsman’s arms to avoid being trodden upon. Keira bent down and scooped up Lethan, before placing him carefully on her shoulders. The last thing she wanted to do in this place was get separated.

    Despite the massive size of the crowd, the cavern was strangely silent. It was interrupted only by the occasional cough or sound of metal rubbing on metal as someone shifted their weight. Their boss was not a patient or understanding man, and they had all learned to remain silent in his presence.

    As it turned out, Lethaniel had been right. Somehow the ring had managed to acquire several new sweatshops in the Island Nations, most likely all under the management of a single man. The clothes were going to be coming in like a tidal wave until the group found a new seller. Everyone needed to be in peak performance, alcohol was being rationed, etc. etc.

    There was a strange look of concentration on Keira’s face, but it wasn’t the clothes that interested her. No, Keira’s eyes were locked onto the figure of a voluptuous woman standing just offstage from the boss. Every part of her radiated boredom, and her eyes kept flicking all over the room. It wasn’t so odd for the boss to have a new woman, most of them never stuck around for more than a week. But this one was different. Around her neck hung the form of a snake, half black, half white, each end with it’s own dragon-like head. Keira rolled her shoulders slightly, getting Lethaniel’s attention, and nodded in the woman’s direction.

    They both knew that form. It had been described to them in intimate detail before they joined this infernal smuggler’s ring.

    They were here. The Silent Wanderers had made their entrance.
  7. Lethaniel's large, sensitive ears clapped to his scalp when the summons blasted the whole of the ruin. Even by his admittedly canine expression, it was clear that he didn't much like the system. The time to move had come. No sunlight today. With a sullen huff, he trotted to keep pace with Kiera once again.

    The Astral Fox was quick on his feet, and able to keep from being trod upon for the most part through agility and the judicious application of his abilities, but he was grateful all the same when his bondsman scooped him off the ground to ride her shoulders. He curled up around the back of her neck, watching the crowd rather than the platform on which the ringleader stood. "Bondless spawn of a three-legged goat..." He muttered sourly, his ears still laid low to his scalp. They were still ringing.

    The shrug however brought him around, and he swung his muzzle in the direction that Kiera nodded. He narrowed his eyes searching for whatever had triggered Kiera's internal alarm. And then he spotted her. His eyes then glossed over her, searching the crowd for anything else out of place. Unfortunately, there were just too many smugglers to have learned over the week they'd been among them.

    Lethaniel's attention glossed over a slew of likely suspects, but in the end, nothing set off an alarm bell. Twisting around on Kiera's shoulders, he searched the back of the crowd. Still nothing.

    When he turned back to the platform, his eyes caught on a tall, dark fellow standing beside an intriguingly colored, and horned wolf.

    He curled his bushy tail softly around Kiera's collarbone, and murmured softly into her ear. "In a week we can't have learned everyone, but I'm sure that I've never seen that familiar before. All sorts of black and orange, ram's horns. Standing next to the dark fellow on stage. Either he's a new hire, or..." Lethaniel let the idea hang. He wasn't positive, but the way the Wanderers kept their cards close to the chest, a vague idea was the best he was going to get 'til things all went downhill.
    #7 Nivansrywyllian, Oct 15, 2014
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2014
  8. It didn’t take Keira long to find the dark-haired man after Lethaniel pointed him out. Keira was careful not to make it look like she was staring even as she studied every line of his body. She didn’t like the fact that she had so little information about the whole situation, but she trusted that she and Lethan would be able to adapt to anything that was thrown their way.

    In many ways, she was relieved that the wait was finally over. This was going to be the dangerous part, but she could feel the adrenalin flooding through her system, heightening her senses. Finally she and the Wanderers would get to enter their dance, even though the team didn’t know that they were following the music.

    When the meting was over Keira hung back, dancing carefully from empty spot to empty spot with Lethan swaying on her shoulders as she desperately worked to keep from being pushed out of the room with the crowd and keep her eye on the woman.

    Once the speech was over she walked up to the boss, draping herself on his arm like her own snake-like familiar draped over her shoulders. She smiled up at him, and he leered down at her, cupping her butt with one large hand and squeezing. She giggled.

    Kira nearly gagged. She had to give the Wanderer credit. There were very, very few situations where Keira could imagine doing such a thing for a job, no matter what was at stake. There were always other ways around it.

    The boss departed the stage, bringing the Wanderer along with him. As they left the room Keira watched the dark-haired man shadowing their movements, eyes darting around warily. Finally Keira allowed herself to be swept away by the remainder of the crowd, gently rubbing a sore spot in the small of her back where someone had shoved an elbow in their hurry to get out.

    “It looks like the dark-haired man is her bodyguard,” Keira said softly. “That’s no guarantee that he’s one of them, but it seems like a wonderful way to get an ally in place. We will need to do a bit of careful snooping tonight to find out for sure.”
  9. The lewd display on stage brought a cool distaste from the astral fox. He wasn't quite as sensitive to that sort of thing as his bondsman was, but he thought that it was ridiculously unnecessary all the same. His response was a pointed sniff, and a curl of that bushy tail around his bondsman's collar.

    The idea to go snooping around on his own flashed through Lethaniel's mind, but was disregarded out-of-hand. It wasn't practical enough to merit arguing over, and there would certainly be an argument, just the same as if Kiera got it into her head to go off snooping without him. They were a team.

    "He'll be dangerous, whether or not he's part of their team." The fox said, as they exited the landing area for the goods. The hallway was getting quickly clear enough of people, and it took him all of a moment to slip down from Kiera's shoulders to walk beside her once more.

    "We're going to need a bit of luck tonight, I think." He said. "I could shift, and increase our pool just a bit. Nobody would know." By his tone, Lethaniel was making a more serious suggestion this time around, rather than one of his pleas for jubilant mischief. "Not enough to raise suspicion, of course. Nobody's caught on about Gambler, yet."

    He and Kiera had -of course- been playing their cards very close to the vest. The smugglers at large were readily aware of their transportation abilities with The Biggun, and not a whole lot else.
  10. Keira nodded along with everything that Lethan said. Yes, there was no doubt that the man was going to be dangerous. As sweet as his face was on the eyes there was something cool and deadly about him. The last thing she wanted was to be caught somewhere she wasn’t supposed to be by him. Not only would that ruin her plans for this whole operation, but she would likely wind up having to fight her way out through the Wanderers and then the whole of the smuggler’s ring.

    These thoughts on loop on her mind, Keira was quick to agree to her Familiar’s suggestion. “I think we had better,” she replied. “There’s a lot to set up, and we don’t know how much time we have to do it. The sooner everything is in place the better. That way we can be ready no matter how much, or little, time it takes.”

    This was going to be a good opportunity for it. With the big shipment coming in most of the people in the ring were going to be in one location, and it would make it significantly harder for her ‘superiors’ to notice that she was gone. That, and the large pool of people would provide a massive quantity of luck, and any negative consequences that would arise from their actions would be spread out over everyone there, instead of all being concentrated on a single person. The worst that would happen was probably a papercut.

    “We’d better get out of sight for you to shift. We don’t want anyone seeing the Gambler and asking questions.” Keira looked around. There were only a few people in the area, but even that would be too many. “We also want to try and find the rest of the Wanderers, at least to the best of our ability. There’s a chance they won’t be here yet, but in that case they’ll be showing up soon. Their entrance will likely be more noticeable than their presence.”
  11. "I agree," He said, idly. "I'll be burning a bit of luck as we go, and we'll see just how things fall. Let's head back to our quarters, and I'll grab my cloak and my hat, and we'll make the rounds." He suggested, suiting his words by action, and heading off towards their shared chambers.

    The trip to the chambers was relatively uneventful, and the quarters were emptied of bodies, with all the men bustling about in response to the huge haul that was coming in.

    Lethanielestan made his way to the middle of the floor, and transformed without preamble. In a flash of light, the small, runic fox was replaced by what at first glance might have been human, if you could ignore the darkened claws of it's hands, and the gaping hole in it's chest where only a single coin replaced the heart that might have been there otherwise. He wasted no time in bending to fetch from the chest at the foot of Kiera's bed a set of slacks into which he climbed, a shirt which got thrown on casually, and which he didn't bother to tuck in, and a narrow hat that he pulled low over the vacant, bandage-wrapped sockets of his eyes to hide both the wrappings, and the runic script that sided his nose. The hat was still somewhat conspicuous, as the dark hair of the familiar occasionally rustled along the brim's underside, but it was less conspicuous than a huge all-encompassing hat all the same.

    "I miss my old hat," Complained the Borrower. "And we've got to pick up some gloves soon. Pockets are no good place to keep your hands." Even as he spoke, he stuffed his dark-skinned claws into his pants pockets, before turning to his bondsman. "How do I look?" he asked, awaiting review. The shirt he'd put on hadn't been laced up quite high enough, and the edge of the cavity in his chest showed.
  12. Keira let out a faint sigh, but a small smile tugged at the corners of her lips. Shaking her head she walked up to lace up her familiar's shirt the rest of the way and tug slightly on his hat. She stepped back, eying him critically once more, before nodding. "It will do. We will simply have to pray that everyone else is too busy to notice that you just don't quite fit in, and I no longer have a blue fox tailing me."

    With a sigh and a brief stretch, Keira turned back to the door. “We’d better get going. It’d probably be for the best if we split up a bit, so that it doesn’t look like we are traveling together.”

    When she stepped out of the sleeping area Keira took a deep breath, bringing her mind to stillness. Serendipity was a fickle thing, and worked best when there were no influences other than itself in place. If she worked too hard at it, she very well might counter the effects of Lethaniel burning the luck, and mess them both up anyways.

    Her mind calm and foggy she set her general destination in mind, the port where the shipment was coming in, and began to walk. To her surprise she found herself turning down a corridor that she almost never traveled. She paused for a brief second before shrugging, unwilling to question the serendipity.

    The corridor was completely deserted, and Keira made good time. Well, as good of time as she could make considering the fact that this was one of the most roundabout ways to her destination she could have picked. But the powers of the Gambler had gotten her far before, and the time they had spent together in Keira’s teenage years had taught her how best to use the abilities.

    Keira felt herself slowing a little bit as she drew close to a blind corner, stepping more carefully, the sound of her feet making almost no noise. Around another corner and she expected to see someone, but the corridor seemed empty. Shrugging she began to walk quickly again, before she collided with... something. Something she couldn’t see.

    There was a surprised “oof”, but it didn’t come from her. Desperately she reached out, trying to grab the invisible person, but her fingers only closed on open air.

    “Who’s there?” she cried, remembering her cover as a smuggler. There was no reason for her to be expecting invisible people. “Come out now!”
  13. Lethaniel tried for an amicable grin, but remembered only a hair too late that the Gambler's long, needle-like teeth were an unsettling vicious display that left most people reaching for a weapon. The grin vanished, replaced with a tight-lipped smile of thanks, as his bondsman adjusted his outfit. One clawed hand rose to scratch at the edge of the bandage around his vacant sockets.

    "Don't go too far," He warned. "I don't want too much luck to find you while I'm away."

    When Kiera stepped out of the sleeping quarters, Lethanielestan began a slow burn on their luck pool. He waited to a count of twenty before leaving the quarters himself, and making a beeline for the loading-area, where the highest concentration of people were going to be. He couldn't help but worry about Kiera, but he was admirably competent at partitioning his concerns, thoughts, and desires away from the luckburn. He'd learned the skill early, as the luck simply kept leading he and Kiera towards one another if he didn't.

    The walk towards the loading area was direct, and uneventful for him. He kept his chin low, his back straight, and he had a purposeful stride that told people that he was in the middle of important work.

    When he got to the loading area, he was thrilled to find the bustling chaos of the new shipment. He could practically see the lines of fortune, swirling about each man. He began to draw it in slowly as he walked. When he found a particularly fortunate group of people, he found an excuse to linger. Double-checking a shipment manifest, or bending to tie a boot that didn't need tying.

    The way the luck was flowing, they might have been able to burn it all year at the rate he was going. Of course if and when things went south, the luck burn got considerably heavier, and more focused.

    Lethaniel was not immune to the burn of fortune it seemed, as he found himself not thirty yards from the leader of the smuggling ring, and the woman with twin snakes. A group of men was toting crates to a nearby pile, as the leader of the ring inspected one of the spools of fine cloth. Lethaniel joined them, and began to siphon less luck from the general populous, and more from the woman with the twinned snake, and the leader of the ring himself. That was about as focused as the ability got without touching the target.

    To keep the luck pool from overflow, he also began to burn the luck at a higher rate. He only hoped that his discovery wasn't going to get Kiera into any more trouble than she could handle. He wasn't going to draw enough from the two to kill them, or make their life horribly difficult. Only to make a fight -if it should come to that- considerably less fair.
  14. There was perfect silence in the corridor, but Keira felt every muscle in her body tensing. She knew she had run into something, and the only reason she could think for anyone to be snooping around in this place was if they were one of the Wanderers. A brief flare of panic touched her mind. She hadn't been expecting to find one of them so easily, and especially not in a situation where she was all by herself, unprepared, without Lethaniel to back her up. But moments later her rigid self-training kicked in, and the fear bled from her mind. This was why she hadn't created anything more than the most rudimentary of plans. Life was far too unpredictable for anyone to expect it to go the way they wanted. Keira would do what she had always done; adapt, and change the rules.

    She reached out to the Gambler, tugging on the luck, and brought some of it into herself with one bright flash. It was a heady sensation, easy to get lost in, but she closed her eyes briefly and pushed it away.

    “What was that?” she whispered to herself, casting her eyes up and down the corridor. Keira had no intention of drawing suspicion on herself so early in the game, but that didn’t mean that she wouldn’t take advantage of the situation. The luck clung to her like a second skin, and she knew that when she started to move again she would almost certainly run into the invisible Wanderer once more. In that moment, she would transfer a large portion of the luck to him.

    Without the ability to burn it, the massive pool of luck he had wouldn’t do him much good. He might find some things going a little better than usual, but nothing about it would seem out of the ordinary. However, it was very, very rare for an average person to have that much luck clinging to them. Lethaniel would be able to use it to track where the Wanderer went to after this, and it would undoubtedly give the two of them a large advantage to know where the group was concentrating most of their efforts at this point.

    Having finished her scan of the hallway, Keira shrugged, let out a sigh, and then quickly resumed walking. Less than two steps later, her arm collided with an invisible surface. This time, at least, the Wanderer had the grace to stay silent. Keira whirled around, staring squint-eyed at the spot. Suddenly, and completely unexpectedly, she laughed.

    “Saveth, are you doing this?” She looked around expectantly, clearly waiting for someone to step out of the shadows and have a good laugh at her expense. “I admit, you got me pretty good this time.” The corridor, unsurprisingly, remained silent and empty.

    “Oh, come on.” She said. “Don’t be such a bondless coward.” The corridor remained silent. BY now, the Wanderer was probably racing away as quickly as his, or her, feet could go. Just in case the corridor did still have another occupant, Keira decided to finish her little routine.

    “If you don’t come out now, I’ll get you back for this.” A couple more seconds... “Fine. Just you wait. You’ll regret doing this to me, and then not even having the courage to admit that you did.”

    More than satisfied with her little routine, Keira huffed, before storming off down the corridor.
  15. For his part, Lethanielestan froze when he felt the pull on the luck. Something had happened with Kiera. His knee-jerk reaction was to go bolting after her, and it took his every ounce of restraint to keep from breaking into a sprint, and cover be damned. Instead, he began making his way back towards the personal quarters at a reasonably even pace. Once he was free from the press of the bodies, and the throng of pulsing fortune flowing within him, he broke into a run. He could feel Kiera nearby, and he slowed to a walk as he approached.

    Only a disembodied wellspring of luck drifting down the hallway clued him in to what happened. He brushed by the wellspring, idly, making a note of the size for later. It took him perhaps another full minute of walking to catch up with his bondsman, and he stopped burning luck when he laid eyes on her.

    "Kiera," He said gently, as he approached. "Are you okay?"
  16. Keira devotedly maintained her facade of indignant smuggler for a couple more corridors. It didn't take that much effort, and as unlikely as it was that the Wanderer would follow her, she wasn't willing to risk it. Not after how well things had just gone. But less than a minute after the encounter a small laugh slipped through Keira's lips despite her hard-maintained facade. It was like opening the floodgate, and she was forced to a halt as self-satisfied laughter began to echo through the halls. She leaned up against the wall before sliding to the ground, holding her head in her hands as she laughed, before wiping away the moisture in her eyes with a finger.

    A few deep breaths later to regain her breath, and Keira finally managed to get the laughter under control. She leaned back, the cold stone chilling her head even through a thick layer of brown hair. She knew that this whole thing would be a good idea. They had tried to tell her that it was impossible, that it was pointless, that it wouldn't do her any good, but she had known otherwise. Tonight, when she got Lethaniel to track the drops of luck the Wanderer would leave behind from his unusually large pool, she would get a peek into the inner workings of the group. It would prove completely invaluable in the days to come, as Keira would be able to stay a step ahead of the group the whole time, and turn everything to her advantage.

    It wasn't until she felt the serendipity suddenly vanish and heard the sound of hurried footsteps that Keira remembered that Lethan would have felt her suddenly pulling on the luck, and he would undoubtedly have become worried. She stood up quickly, brushing herself off with one hand, even as she reached out to Lethaniel with the other.

    "I'm good," she told him. "Great, in fact. I ran into one of the Wanderers. Quite literally ran into him. I'm almost sure it was a him, although I can't be sure because he was invisible. But the brief sample of his voice I got sounded masculine. I was able to use the pool of luck I took from you to mark him. He'll be extra lucky for the next couple of days, and he should be using enough of the luck that it'll leave a residue behind for you to track."
  17. Lethaniel took her hand, and gave it a grateful squeeze. He wasn't one for grand displays of affection, but sometimes, a little contact was needed. "Quick thinking," He mused. "I passed a veritable mountain of luck on my way here, apparently unattached to anything. I should be able to follow it again pretty easily." He suggested.

    "And," He said, brightening, "Since I've been draining the lot the smugglers, he'll be the only one with that kind of luck around. If he shows his face, we'll have him." Said the familiar, with satisfaction. "I've got a fairly-sized pool of luck to access," He added, after a moment.

    "Would you like me to go back to gathering? I was siphoning it from the Wanderer we saw with the boss. She still has more than I'd like, but it shouldn't matter if we don't end up in an outright fight with her."
  18. “Good,” Keira said, rubbing a hand through her brown hair in a habitual, calming motion. “We need to find out as much as we can about the Wanderers before they make any moves. Our engineered catastrophe needs to be flawless, and that means we can’t have any loose threads, or things we don’t know. Having their information gatherer in hand will go a long way towards accomplishing that, even though we still don’t know how many there are.”

    Thinking carefully about Lethaniel’s final statement, Keira finally shook her head. “No, we’d better leave her alone now. I know you are very careful and very accurate about how much luck you take, the Spirit only knows how many times we’ve practiced, but the last thing we want is for some unexpected disaster to wind up harming one of the Wanderers. We want them humiliated, not injured or incapacitated. If it comes to a fight between them and us, we’ve already failed.

    “As long as we’ve got enough luck,” Keira said, knowing she didn’t need to say more on the matter. Lethaniel knew this plan just as well as her, even if Keira liked repeating it to make sure they were always on the same page. “We’d better start working as smugglers again. The last thing we want is to draw any unnecessary attention to ourselves at this moment.”
  19. Lethaniel gave his bondsman a quick nod. He glanced about the hallway. Fnding it vacant of unwanted onlookers, he stepped back from Kiera. In a flash, he was once again the diminutive blue fox, shrouded in a puddle of clothing that had fit him just a moment before. Wriggling out from beneath the hat , he began to nose the clothes into a compact pile, easy for Kiera to transport. After all, the smugglers were used to seeing her with the fox in tow. It wouldn't do to get careless now, even if he did miss his opposable thumbs.


    The rest of the day was filled with various intelligence-gathering, discrete trailing, and an effort to stay generally unnoticed by the Silent Wanderers. Even when he wasn't the Gambler, Lethaniel could still feel the amassed fortune of the wanderer that Kiera had run into in the hallway. The fellow certainly seemed to be a busy body, traipsing through the smuggling ring like he owned the place.

    Lethaniel brushed Kiera's calf with his tail again, to signal that the invisible one had passed near, as they passed the office of the overseer. "You know," Said the fox, "We could be taking a nice, long nap under thick, warm covers right now. My tail is particularly fluffy today," He suggested. Of course, there was no heart in the suggestion. He knew that Kiera was set to accomplish this mission, and he was going to do all within his power to help her do so.

    Even so, his canine jaws stretched in a yawn that curled his tongue.
  20. Keira laughed faintly, reaching down to brush her fingers against the tip of his tail. “Your tail is always fluffy,” she replied, very little of her attention actually committed to her conversation with her familiar. “And haven’t you had enough time to nap over the last three weeks? All that time you were complaining about wanting action, and now that the action is here you want to nap.” Her reprimand was far more teasing than heartfelt, and, just like Lethaniel’s own suggestion, was done more for the sake of conversation than because the words were of any real import.

    It was getting late enough in the evening that most of the workers were starting to set aside their work and turn to the gathering rooms. There they would be able to drink and gamble away the rest of the evening, before falling into a stupor for the night. It was not the most efficient method of maintaining a workforce, but it kept them happy even as the boss got more and more demanding of what needed to get done every day. This made it both easier and harder for Keira and Lethaniel to perform their scouting, because the crowds could both allow for covert blending, and force keira and Lethaniel to actually work for a little while. Now that the crowds were gone they could move more freely, without having to worry about whether one of the supervisors was going to try and grab them for a job, but it also made it that much easier for any of the Wanderers to spot them.

    By the end of the day, to Keira’s carefully contained frustration, they had still only managed to find the three wanderers. Consciously she knew that the elite group was going to be doing everything in its power to keep its movements secret, but subconsciously she had expected to find something else. No matter. The invisible Wanderer had almost completed his exploration of the self-contained underground ruin from the old age, which was the first thing Keira herself had done upon her arrival. Now they, like Kiera, could start implementing their plans. Tonight, once everyone else had gone to sleep, the Wanderers would likely meet, listen to the invisible one’s report, and figure out what had to be done next.

    “The invisible one has been true to his title today,” Keira said quietly. “He’s wandered all over this place. Are you still going to be able to track him, with his path all overlapped and crossed?”
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