MAIN STORY The Cult of Thieves

Discussion in 'THE ASCENDER CHRONICLES' started by Effervescent, Dec 21, 2016.

  1. The North Estate

    The fire burst into a brighter glow than the fireworks display could muster even at the finale. Flames sparked to life from the cocktail Quinn had thrown in the direction of the Tainted before ducking back into the estate accompanied by the calculated barrier crafted by Tamerlin. The wind, it seemed, was in Quinn’s favor, for the angry dance of fire curled and twisted its smoke and embers towards the howling beast too wounded to make a run for it. It gave a slow descent, stiff and fighting against the effects of the Night Elixir before ultimately succumbing in a groan upon collapse. No one at the party wanted to stick around to see the skillful effects. No one but Betaley North.

    Taking a step forward, her eyes were transfixed on the flickering span of fire that engulfed a significant portion of her back yard that threatened to spread to the gardens where she stood. The oil lamps that lined the shrubbery walls glowed in muted jealousy of the inferno with not but a jig in their wick to give to the chaos. The screams were getting further away as the masquerade turned its tail en masse to the other side of the estate.

    Tamerlin danced before the fire as if in ritual tandem, his shouts directing the frightened away from the steadily forming elemental wall. He was too close now to the fire raging upon the once-Tainted, the naked body of a man resting upon the bed of grass behind Tamerlin’s barrier. Betaley couldn’t see if the man was breathing through the waves of heat. She couldn’t recall the name the Crowned Prince had used when addressing the short partygoer dressed as a wood nymph. He hardly looked as drunk as he acted before.

    When the crowd had cleared leaving only herself in the garden, she rushed towards a watering can and shoved the tinny base into the lily pond. The metal clinked in protest of its newly acquired weight as she pulled it from the depths, careful to avoid the fish that scurried away from her sudden submergence. Labor of any kind was uncommon for a woman of her birth and stature, and it was unlike anything she had ever endeavored to do in her life. Her arms immediately ached in protest to the activity, and she quickly closed the distance between her and Tamerlin to set the watering can before him.

    “Help me put out the fire!” she commanded. “I want that man alive!”

    She rushed away to find another basin or bucket to fill with water. It was a lucky find, that watering can, and Betaley had to decide in a matter of seconds whether to look through the gardens for another means or to look inside the house. The heels of her dress shoes tore through the grass as she turned to her left and headed for the door that led into the estate. She knew the table lined with food and drink would yield fruitful results, and from such prospects she grabbed a bowl to test its weight with the bits of fruit tumbling over the golden laced edges.

    The sound of footsteps calmly crossing the wood floor caused Betaley to halt. Her eyes met with Prince Jerian as he crossed through the dining hall towards the central green. Another howl, distant, yet very much indoors, echoed from the stairwell leading down to the Servant’s Wing.

    “Lady North,” Prince Jerian addressed politely. It prompted her to bow lowly in mechanical displays that were second nature to her. The act, she felt, held no regard or respect for the Prince. He carried with him an eerie calm in the face of it all, unphased by the bestial call that echoed in the halls behind him.

    “Your majesty,” she said in return. He said nothing more to her, parting ways with nothing but the sound of his footsteps joining with his personal guards. Once he was out of sight, she dumped the fruit on the table and rushed back out the door.

    @Doctor Jax @Red Thunder

    Half a second passed before Milly’s decision was made. Acting on instinct, the brutish cry having snapped her fraught mind into focus, she lunged forward, silently, to block Nadrid and Lenna from leaving the threshold. Her arm, invisible still, was thrown out as well, though she was unsure whether or not it had made contact with their chests. Adrenaline coursed through her veins as the Tainted’s resonance grew near, but she was aware of what had to be done. She just needed to be alive in order to do it.

    “Stop.” Milly said aloud, softer than a whisper, but forcefully… desperately. She took a step backwards, towards the threshold. “Get back inside…”

    Kylar watched as the two attempted a breakout, as well as watching Lenna whisper something into Nadrid's ear, though he was too far away to hear what was said. His eyes followed them and as they moved towards the door Kylar followed from above, his every step being carefully placed so that he made as little noise as he could. As the duo drew closer to the door he watched as they paused, either reconsidering or from an outside force, though with the people that were around tonight, he wouldn't put it past being the latter over the former.

    As slowly as he could he lowered himself to the ground, his feet hitting the cold ground with a light thud, the soft leather of his boots absorbing most of the landing and making it quiet. He walked onwards and stopped just out of striking range if Nadrid had a sword or dagger to stick him with. "I cannot allow you to take her, it is too dangerous and you endanger far too many just for the sake of one. So I will ask nicely, please turn around and go back to the cages. It's safest for everyone considering current circumstances." He said raising his voice just enough so that he could be heard clearly from behind his mask, his hands held in a non threatening manner.

    The pair had halted before the doorway as it seemed to tell them to stop. Lenna's hand slipped down to the hilt of Nadrid's dagger at his side between them. He did not move, but heard the click of claws against the stone floor and the huffs and sniffs of the nearing beast. And once Kylar's voice chimed in behind them, Lenna unsheathed the dagger and spun about to meet the man that threatened her.

    "I'll not go back in there," she spat threateningly. "Back off."

    Just as the Tainted rounded the corner, Milly, still invisible, managed to enter the threshold and swing the door shut. She was shaking, but whether it was due to anger or fear, she could not tell.

    Releasing her spell, Milly blinked back into existance and immediately took a few steps forward, eyes aflame with anger and indignation. Level with Lenna, Milly raised a finger at Kylar's chest.

    "Have you forgotten what we stand for? How dare you tell her that!"

    Glancing and gesturing around, where people in cages dominated the room, Milly shivered, and looked back at Kylar wonderingly. She made a face before turning away.

    Plucking a small set of lock picks from within her heeled shoe, Milly looked to Nadrid. "Can you get the door to lock from the inside? We need time to free these people."

    Kylar looked at Milly and sighed, annoyed with Milly though at least he now knew why the two had stopped. "I forget nothing, but let me ask you, have you thought of the risks that come with this? Because I won't have a dead innocent on my hands because of your negligence." He said, his voice not reaching above that of a whisper for her ears only, he took a breath, oriening himself before focussing back on the matter at hand.

    "I'll lock the doors, I'm better suited to this in case the blasted creature gets in here. When we leave, I suggest that all of you come with us, we can keep you safe and hidden from the nobility." He said as he rushed to the door, pulling out his own set of picks and getting to work on the door.

    Nadrid placed a hand on Lenna’s shoulder causing a flinch and a sharp inhalation of air. The haggard woman was clearly on edge, reluctant to draw away from her stance and focus on Kylar. “There’s another way,” she said through the dark. The caged servants held their breath and quiet sobs.

    “I can’t see a thing,” Nadrid said. It was remarkable the conditions to which these people were subjected to, all for the Cabal. But Lenna had spent enough time in the pitch black of the room to orient herself even from the cage. Another howl billowed from outside the door from the champion beast that hunted the lot inside the room. It had not caught on fully to their whereabouts, but by the sound of its howl it was getting close.

    A soft glow filled the room as Nadrid removed a stick of everglow from a runed piece of cloth. It was no more than the length of his finger, slightly thinner, and carried the faint blue hue of arcane. It was enough glow to light up a portion of the small room to reveal about thirty cages stacked in threes along each wall. Not every cage was occupied, and those that were had varying degrees of the abuse evident upon their bodies in hashed scarring and bony structure.

    “Put away the dagger, Lenna,” Nadrid said lowly. “Hold this for me.”

    She still held reluctance, and it took her a second more to exchange the dagger for the everglow stick. Nadrid sheathed his weapon and politely took Molly’s offered set of picks. “Do you have another set?” he asked as he motioned to the locks upon the cages. “It would go faster with the two of us.”

    @rissa @RiddL

    Windfeld Castle

    Fireworks crackled and sparked within the view of the balcony the king chose for his private viewing. The clouds in the night sky held higher in the atmosphere allowing the vibrant colors to strike without being masked. A cushioned chair and footrest was brought out for his leisure with a bottle of wine. It was a humid night in Windfeld with a welcoming breeze at such heights to make the venture a little less unbearable.

    The king looked content, legs crossed over the footstool in not but his stockings, a lavish robe draped over his shoulders. His head carried the crown even in his relaxation and beading sweat, silver hair wisping from the wind of his fan. The soft padding of steady footsteps caused his head to turn ever so slightly, though he still kept his gaze to the fireworks display.

    “What wonders from Estwynd,” he said to his guest. “It is unfortunate their political system is flawed. I would have liked to marry off one of my own to the High Ruler.”

    “You could still do it,” Sothal said as he approached the chair his father sat upon. The king looked up at him with a smirk.

    “Ah, I was hoping it was you,” he said. “No, marrying the High Ruler is a pointless endeavor. Once they die, their children do not become the successor. It’s a mess.”

    “Their people prefer it,” Sothal said in return. “It seems to have its benefits. A king or queen picked by the people for the people.”

    “Mark my words,” the king muttered, “Estwynd will fall by their own doings. There’s a reason Kong’s and queens here are ordained by birthright. Faledrin would fall to ruin if the throne is usurped. The knowledge of how to do better, how to run this kingdom, is passed on by birthright.”

    “Wasn’t it your great grandfather who usurped the throne when he was Jerian’s age?”

    “From his tyrant uncle,” the king defended.

    “And still the people suffer in less than desirable living,” Sothal stated. “That tyrant uncle insured the completion of the underground sewers and your great grandfather took the credit for the decrease in disease.”

    A frown formed on the king’s already disgruntled expression, and he looked up at his son in offense. “Shouldn’t you be at that party?” he asked as he nodded to the fireworks. The last one popped in the sky, bursting into an array of purples and blues before crackling into nothing leaving only a trail of smoke that quickly disappeared into the night.

    “I was,” Sothal began to explain. “I've come to inform you of what I had witnessed. It appears our nobility have aligned themselves with the Cabal in efforts to create Tainted from their servants.”

    The king hummed in thought and heaved a sigh. “Emrys,” he began, “the Cabal is a financial asset we need. Do you know what we have too much of? The common folk. The men and women who disease our kingdom because they weren’t fit for anything else in their miserable lives. Do you know what we have too little of? Money. Money is how we can feed all these greedy mouths and clean our streets. We’re the laughing stock of the Allied Kingdoms. We can’t even forge a decent army from the weak metal of my people. You need to learn how to make sacrifices for the greater good, Emrys.”

    It took every ounce of his will not to lash out at his father, his king, for such an ignorant and uncaring mindset. Instead, Sothal grabbed the bottle of wine and began to drink from it, instigating a rumbling chuckle from his father at the sight.

    “Jerian says you drink too much,” the king said. “Says it fogs your brain.”

    “The common folk are the backbone of this society,” Sothal challenged as he ignored his remark. “They are the ones bringing in the fat and oil from the whales out on the Glassy we use to trade with our allies. All their hard work goes into parties and imported glittering and pointless explosions while we allow their disease ridden lives to perpetuate creating a cycle of distaste towards the very people keeping our heads above water.”

    “Watch your drunkard tongue,” the king spat as he snatched the bottle away. “If they’d done their jobs better I wouldn’t have had to call for the Cabal to bail us out of debt.”

    “Where did our reserves go?” Sothal demanded. “Last quarter it was there per treasurer. We were still in the clear.”

    “It’s been longer than a quarter, Emrys,” the king said with a dismissive wave of his hand. “Lord Trennan and I discussed matters of the treasury in private when he noticed it was on decline. I saw no need to alert the council until I could figure out if there was a solution or if there was none.”

    “Innocent people are dying due to your exchange with the Cabal,” Sothal noted. “How did we lose that much of our reserves so quickly?”

    “What matters is we have nothing to fear,” the king said as he rose from his chair.

    “I am your successor and yet I feel as though you’re leaving me in the dark,” Sothal said.

    “You’re in the dark because you choose to be,” the king said simply. “Let us hope for all our sakes I don’t die anytime soon. You’re not ready to rule. Not fit.” As he stepped back into the castle, he turned around to look back at his son with a cool expression. “Oh, I am remarrying in a fortnight. My future wife will be in town in a few days. I want you here to meet her.”

    “As you wish, my king,” Sothal said dutifully, and bowed his head respectfully as he took his leave.

    It was late into the night by the time Jerian De Genisos graced the halls of the castle. He didn't seem in much of a hurry as he meandered and conversed with a few individuals as he passed. His guards were no longer at his side having been dismissed practically as soon as he stepped over the threshold. There was an air of confidence, both in security of his surroundings and in himself as he walked. At this hour it was practically just him and the midnight crew about their duties, mostly comprised of guardsmen at their stations.

    His first stop was, as predicted, Alyse’s quarters. He knocked on the door, waiting a moment for an answer and finding not even a peep. After confirming with the guards she was in her room for the night, he turned away to head for his own quarters just down the hall. This hall created a blind spot between the guards stationed at Alyse’s door and the guards at his own.

    It was an odd feeling, lying in wait. Idly, Cordelia wondered how people like Kylar stomached it. Of course, he was used to it, and no doubt it still weighed heavily on him, but even knowing she did not intend to harm him, there was a strange sense of anxiety… a dread.

    Getting in had been surprisingly simple. She had flashed a little ankle to one of the guards with the veiled suggestion that Jerian was expecting her arrival. His boldness at the masque had seemed a fairly key indicator that he was the sort of man to entertain even a lowly housemaid, and the guard hadn’t batted an eye when she’d slipped in.

    And there, she waited. She felt small in the massive chamber, decorated lavishly with ornately carved furnishings and luxurious fabrics. A fire had been stoked to life, and a small silver tea set sat on the table by the hearth. Sitting in the large upholstered chair, she sat… silent, anticipating his arrival.

    There was no verbal exchange between Jerian and the guards outside his door. The only indication he had approached his chambers was the clattering of armor as they formally stiffened their stances, and the oak door groaned upon entry. A sigh could be heard from where Cordelia sat accompanied by the shuffle of feet headed for the foot of the bed.

    “Where is that damned manservant,” he muttered, and then called out. “Morgan!”

    “You gave Morgan the night off. Or well, that's what the schedule says, anyway.” Rising, Cordelia turned to the prince with a wan smile, “Hello, Jerian. Best not make a fuss. Not if you want answers.”

    There was surprise initially on Jerian’s features, but only for just a moment before turning to a pleasantly pleased smirk. “An unexpected surprise,” he said, and held out his arms wide. “Come to have another dance?”

    “Hm. No.” Shaking her head, she stepped around the chair, watching him with an amused expression, but watching nevertheless, “I make it a point not to dance with men who've tried to kill me. Tends to spoil the fun. I need some answers, myself, incidentally. I'm proposing a trade.”

    His smirk widened to a toothy grin, a huff of a laugh escaping him. “Propose away,” he said with an outward motion of his hand, and propped his boot upon the trunk at the end of his bed to begin to unfasten the buckles.

    Taking a step, she lifted her shoulders in a shrug, “The way I see it… we've no need to be enemies. I'm willing to forgive your impulsive behavior… and tell you what you want to know. If you're willing to tell me what exactly you've got planned in that pretty head of yours.”

    Once the buckles were unfastened, Jerian sat upon the trunk to remove the boot, and then the other, his head turning over to look at her still carrying his amusement. “I plan to give you a good time,” he said melodically. “Consensual and non-sexual, of course. Unless you feel inclined.”

    A brow lifted, and Cordelia met his eye with a smirk, “That depends, I suppose, on how cooperative you are. And, decidedly, what your definition of a good time is. Curious change of heart, though. All things considered.”

    “What can I say?” he said as he set his boots aside. “So what is it you think I want to know?”

    “The Cabal’s intentions. And my own, I imagine.” Her eyes flickered to the boots, then back up to Jerian, “Something, by the way, you could have asked me, privately. Instead of before your little circus of nobles.”

    He slowly stood, eyes fixed on the gaslight blue eyes of the woman before him as he bridged the gap in a confident stride. “Close,” he said as he neared enough for his breath to brush against her hair. “I'm more interested in your relationship to my brother.”

    His hand rolled out and next to her arm nearly touching the fabrics of her garments. “I give you permission to look at whatever you like,” he whispered. “However long you’d like.”

    Unmoving, Cordelia tilted her head to view his face, dangerously close, “What makes you think I've a relationship to your brother? Maybe I'm just a really good dancer?”

    “Final offer,” he said sweetly. “Either speak up or get out.”

    Smiling coyly, Cordelia shrugged, “I've known Emrys for some time, now. I suppose you might say our relationship is complicated. He's privy to some of my secrets. As I am, his.”

    He kept his hand barely against her arm, palm upward in offering as he kept his fixed stare upon her. “Vague it is, then,” he whispered. “I've done this before, you know. People make what you do seem more complicated than it really is. It's like dreaming. Just like dreaming.”

    “Like dreaming…” Cordelia agreed, and shifting, she reached up, fingertips brushing his palm, before laying flat against it. Cautious, still, she closed her eyes and with a breath, sank into the man's mind.

    @Elle Joyner
    • Love Love x 2
    • Nice execution! Nice execution! x 1
  2. [​IMG]

    It always began in darkness and silence, colors and light blurring more like paints spilling on a canvas as memories could be sifted through at the will of the Caster. A mess of muffled sounds and indistinguishable shapes required the skillful tuning only Cordelia could bring, and there seemed to be no resistance from the infiltrated mind of Jerian De Genisos.

    The memory focused, slowly at first with the sound of music as if played underwater only surfacing once the scene became refined with clarity. People didn't often have such clear and vivid memories, though most details could be formed from what wasn't consciously registered. Jerian, on the other hand, painted a near pristine picture. The song and setting placed the memory at the North Masque in a secluded room with most of the noblemen eagerly listening to a proposition. Though upon any closer inspection it would look as though each face but Jerian’s was smeared, like fingers had struck through wet paint in a fit. Their voices were muffled when in response to Jerian, and even his own words rolled in and out of clarity.

    “...They think us pawns in their little game,” he said to his audience. “Under… that is because they underestimate… send a message…”

    Jerian's eyes suddenly met with Cordelia in an impossible awareness of her presence in a memory. “Vague it is, then,” he said with a grin.

    The clarity was terrifying, and for a brief, flickering moment, Cordelia seemed thrown. But the moment passed and she shook her head with a smirk, “That's not playing fair. Why should it matter what my relationship with Emrys is?”

    The memory seemed frozen as Jerian stepped away from his audience and walked over to Cordelia. His eyes searched over her features as if to map its details in the moment to savor. “Because that was the bargain,” he said simply.

    Watching him carefully, she rolled her shoulders, “But what does it serve you? Of all the questions you could ask… and I'd answer any honestly, why that one?”

    “Because you are vague and implying you won't answer it honestly,” he replied. “I'm a curious and focused man.”

    “He's a friend. When I was a girl, he saved my life and I am indebted to him for it. Good enough?”

    For a brief moment, Jerian didn't speak as he considered her end of the deal. When he finally spoke, he began to meander back over to his audience. “I plan to protect this kingdom,” he answered. “I plan to do what is necessary. What my drunkard brother neglects. I plan to show my father I am more capable of liberating this kingdom than a damnable birthright that will only condemn this kingdom. I’m a highly intelligent man. A strategist. I see more than the average person, as I'm sure you've noticed. And I'm far more intuitive than most. I plan to go to war. Tell me, how are you feeling?”

    A brow lifted, and Cordelia turned to face him fully, considering his words, “Your brother has drive, but he lacks focus. Ambition. But you're making a grave mistake if you try to appeal to your father this way. By insinuating to him that he's made the wrong decision. All you'll do is run the risk of insulting his ego. War is well and good, when it's necessary… but what if it wasn't? I'll be honest… when we first met tonight, I thought you were a spoiled, petulant and arrogant man. But you surprised me. Having the gall to put me in there with the Tainted. Knowing what might've happened. I admit it was… an unexpectedly admirable move. Strategic, as you say. I appreciate strategy and ambition… and I can help you get what you want. But not if you're going to align yourself with wrong sort. North and her idiot friends… This is all a game to them. A bit of sport. Something to while away their miserably dull and vapid lives. You were wrong about me, as well. Of course, I wanted it that way. The Cabal for what they're worth, are remarkably good at intimidation and having the right eye color makes it all very easy. I suppose I have my mother to thank for that. At any rate… you know what I'm capable of and if you let me… together, we can make this kingdom what it ought to be.”

    “Every move I make has its purpose,” he guaranteed as he set himself back into place before his noble audience left in suspended animation. “Every move. And I'm very good. So good, in fact, that you still haven't caught on.”

    “Caught on to what? That you're manipulating all of this? It's impressive… but I'm pretty intuitive myself. No one in your position would allow someone like me into your head unless you were in control. You like it, don't you… control? Power. Well… all I'm offering is a chance to cut out those in the middle who, let's be fair, just aren't worthy of the attention.”

    His smile widened once again, and he leaned against the table he stood in front of. “You know, I'm not always completely sure of things,” he said. “Sometimes I have to take a gambling move. What's life without a little risk anyway? But I noticed at the masque something particularly intriguing that made me wonder. You see, your kind rely heavily on your magic, especially in the type of situation I placed you in back there. Yet you did nothing. Not a single spell. Not one. Had Emrys not intervened you would have been ripped to shreds. And he was the one that conjured that clever jump. And so I wondered if you just had the eyes and no other trait. I wondered if you even practiced Shadow Magic. And as I neared you my suspicions grew. The eyes are remarkable, but around them? Corruption. Fatigue. You're spent, and you've just revealed to me you can indeed cast. So here we are in my mind counting down the moments to your death. I'm killing you.”

    Smiling, she shook her head, “And yet I still did it. When a man like you opens himself to someone like me, I'm not stupid enough to think he doesn't have ulterior motives. If I wanted to avoid this, it wouldn't have been difficult. The point, dear Prince, is I saw no other way to gain your trust, than putting my life in your hands. I can help you… if you let me. Otherwise, I suppose you'll have to kill me. Moving bodies is a damnable pain, though. I assure you.”

    He shrugged indifferently, arms crossing over his chest. “I haven't thought of a use for you,” he said. “I don't really see you as useful. Unless you have something to bring to the table I'm not seeing? I'm only human, I'll admit. I’ll entertain a proposition.”

    Pulling the chain from around her neck, she held it out, finger looping through the ring on the other end, “I have your brother. He doesn't trust you. Told me so, himself. After what you did to your other brother, I imagine something there was damaged. But he trusts me. He might be a drunkard, and he might lack ambition, but he won't make things easy for you, and he has plenty of connections… Ways to stop you. But I'm close to him. It's something I worked hard to achieve. It's a position you need… Someone on the inside. And it's yours… if you want to win, anyway.”

    Another bout of silence, though Jerian watched Cordelia with his smirk still faintly at the corner of his lips. He stood back up, repositioning himself back the way his memory would have had him, though he never broke his gaze from her. “I’ll hold you to it,” he said.

    “I'd expect no less.” She mused, “Shall we, then?”

    He motioned towards her with a wave of his hand. “By your leave,” he said.

    TAGS: Collab with @Effervescent
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    • Bucket of Rainbows Bucket of Rainbows x 1
  3. Tamerlin Edelva

    Tam, in his attempt to create the barrier of fire, flinched back as -- very suddenly and without warning -- a massive blast of fire erupted around the Tainted. He glanced momentarily at the oil lamp he was holding and grimaced with gritted teeth. This whale oil was a little more potent than he'd originally thought. Surveying his handiwork, he could see that beyond the wall of fire, the Tainted had reformed into a man, naked and open to the flames.

    A young woman - Betaley, he recognized now from his time at the Estate, the woman who'd been with Sothal earlier - rushed to him with a tin watering can to put the fire out, expressing her wish to keep the man beyond the wall of fire alive. Tam took the jug of water with some trepidation, unsure of how to feel in this instance. He had thought his work largely done - after all, as much as he had compassion for others, he was running out of room to put all these blasted Tainted. The other problem, of course, was that there were perhaps more Tainted to be found around here, if that room full of cages was anything to go by. Not to mention, the thought that he should obey another noble - especially after three days of abuse as a servant - riled his petty pride.

    His heart won out, though a small rebellious seed buried itself in him as he trudged with the can of water.

    "Fine, I'll do it, but I'm doing it for the poor bloke, not you," he petulantly muttered under his breath.

    However, as he stood in front of the wall of flame with the can of water, a recollection came to mind. He'd seen an oil fire start on a dock after a lantern fell on a large slick, and the poor man who'd chucked the nearest bucket of water had ended up flash-steamed, his face a red mess of peeling skin.Tam glanced at the can of water and tepidly tossed a small amount just in case, only for the oil to spread and spark, steam nearly taking off his eyebrows. Well, we're not doing that.

    The man beyond the wall of flames remained in danger still, and Tam rubbed his face with his free hand as he tried to think of a way out of his "solution." He saw Lady Betaley reemerge from inside the hall with a large bowl, and he ran towards her.

    "Lady North! The water won't work. It sparks the flames higher, nearly took off the hair on my head. We need shovels, spades, anything to smother it. Even cloth will do, just something other than water," Tam stressed, looking up at the woman.

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  4. Quinnis Travers
    the North Estate Gardens

    The firelight cast odd shadows on the oddly shaven face of the Baladuri, highlighting in weird pattern the contortion debate he wrestled with mentally. What were they doing? The point was for that Thing to die, for gods’ sakes. Who knew for a fact that the Night Elixir would work as advertised? Quinn snorted at the thought. With their luck, it had only knocked it out to bring it back so much stronger. Tamerlin really ought to-

    But that was the issue, wasn’t it? Tam was far less mercenary than was strictly good for the Cult’s well-being, and while it did great things for their PR amongst the street dwellers and ruffians of the city, in times like these, where the Cult was stretched thin as it was, they had little time for pity. Perhaps Betaley’s insistence that the Tainted remain alive had prodded Tam into action.

    They would do as they would do. Tam was smart; he wouldn’t place himself in harm's way without due consideration. Quinn ground the ball of his left foot into the floor, putting his worry aside. The sole remaining bottle of Elixir in his hand, he turned and hurried back into the house, forcing his feet to move forward against the increasingly insistent protestations of his brain. His ears pricked; an inhuman howl echoed faintly from further in. He quickened his pace, making his way unknowingly toward the Servant’s Hall and whatever awaited him there.

  5. milly lecadre

    “Of course.” Milly replied to Nadrid, reaching into her other shoe to reveal a second, even smaller set of lock picks. She nodded at his comment but refrained from speaking further. Turning on her heel, the arcane mage took a deep breath and walked forward, towards the cage closest to her.

    Picking a lock was an art form she had mastered at a young age. And though every lock was different, like an artist and his canvas, she had a different stroke and a different technique for each. Therefore it wasn’t lack of experience that unsteadied her hand as she worked the first lock open. It was fear. The fear of dying at the jaws of a Tainted. Fear that she wouldn’t be able to save these people…

    As the lock clicked open Milly’s eyes found those of the terrified servant within the cage and it steadied her heart. Removing the pick and discarding the lock, she swung the cage door open and helped the woman to her feet, like Nadrid had done.

    “Stretch if you’re able,” Milly said softly, “It will help you in our escape. Help me with the others as they’re freed, please.” She repeated the latter to Lenna as she worked on her second lock, hands steadier than before.

    Between Milly and Nadrid’s efforts, they managed to free everyone in a surprisingly short amount of time. A swell of hope was forming in her chest, but before it took hold, she bit it down.

    They weren’t safe just yet.

    Milly herded all the lost souls to the back of the room, to the second exit Lenna had mentioned, and the way her fellow Cult member had entered the room. Glancing around, she looked to Nadrid and Lenna, and the stick of everglow within her grasp. It would aid them in their descent.

    “I will go first,” Milly said to those gathered, her voice soft but loud enough to carry. “Follow the glow.”

    She motioned for Nadrid and Lenna to follow after her first, so others could better see the steps of the spiral staircase. Milly, rather unladylike, reached into the skirting of her dress and removed a small, runed dagger that had been strapped to her thigh all night. And then she took a step up, and then another, and the farther she went, the more footfalls she could hear as they followed in her wake.

    #125 rissa, Dec 10, 2017
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2017
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  6. Word Art (1).png

    Kylar used his lock picking skills efficiently, locking the door while Milly and the others freed the prisoners, consequences be damned but he would do what he had to to keep them alive. He turned after finishing to see them all leaving, not even bothering to wait for him. "Well, that's more than a little rude. Even if I was against letting them all out..." He muttered under his breath before pulling out his rope spear and following them, albeit at a distance. His ears were constantly straining at every noise he heard, though some of the prisoners were obviously malnourished and couldn't help but cough and moan now that circulation was flowing through them all again.

    Kylar watched as one of the girls fell over and quickly moved to get her to her feet again, placing her arm over his shoulder for support and picking up his own pace to make sure that they all fell behind. As he got closer some of the prisoners who were in better condition took her from him and supported her themselves, leaving Kylar free to move forwards to where the form of Milly lead, a glowing stick in her hand. "If we happen upon a Tainted, I'll distract it and try to lead it away, get these people out of here." He said before holding out his journal with everything he had came upon during his explorations. "Get this to Sothal or Oracle, it contains everything I've found so far. You have more of a chance of getting it to them than I do if this goes pear shaped. I'm sorry about earlier Milly."

    With his piece said he slowed and let everyone pass him, some of them giving him dirty looks, thinking he was leaving them to fend for themselves, others, including the girl he had helped, nodded and muttered their thanks as they passed him and descended further into the horrors that awaited them.

    @rissa @Effervescent
    • Nice execution! Nice execution! x 1
  7. [​IMG]

    With the wave, Cordelia released the spell. Almost immediately, the sensation hit like a fist and with a small cry, she collapsed, barely bracing before she hit the floor. Sucking in a gasp, she squeezed her eyes shut against the intense pounding in her chest, her head. It was a vulnerability she didn't care for, and her fingers clenched tight as she tried to regain some semblance of control.

    He watched the fall in detachment, noting the pain yet caring little about it. Jerian lowered himself to lay next to her to meet her at her eyes whether she looked at him or not. “A word of advice, my dear,” he said sweetly. “Try not to underestimate how much I know. And what I don't know, I will find out. Maybe not now. Maybe not the next day. But I will find out. I guarantee I have and will always be honest with you. Play your hand well and you may catch on.”

    His hand reached out, hovering over her hair thoughtfully before pulling away to instead push himself to a stand. “You may have use of my chambers for your recovery in peace,” he said, bare feet padding for the door. “If I happen upon Emrys I'll let him know you're here.”

    Gritting her teeth, Cordelia stared fixed at the ground, relaxing her palms against the floor in a concentrated effort not to show the physical tax… or emotional.

    “Goodnight, Jerian.” She breathed, with forced courtesy, “It's been a pleasure.”

    The door shut, again without any conversation on the other side that could be heard. The servant’s door opened across the room in a soft groan, footsteps crossing the stone and throw rugs until they reached Cordelia’s side. Crouching beside her, Sothal turned her over to look at her face, concern masked with focus as he studied her over. “This is the last time,” he murmured. “What happened?”

    For a moment, just a moment, fear registered, but it relaxed as Cordelia recognized Sothal, and her lip twitched into a dry, weary smile as she shook her head, “Oh… he'll be disappointed. Pretty sure he wanted to gloat that I was here.” The smile faded as she pushed herself up with a grimace, “He… I don't know how he did it, Sothal. I've never felt anything like it before. I was trapped there. In his mind” Shivering, she curled closer to him, “He would have killed me… I'm sorry, Love… I… I had to use you, as leverage to get out. Fairly certain he believes I intend to help him usurp the throne from you.”

    He hesitantly held himself back as she rose, giving her space yet staying close in case his support or aid was needed. It was news he expected to hear at some point, and something Sothal had suspected himself for years. “We can talk about that later,” he said. “How are you feeling? Do you think you can stand on your own?”

    Pressing fingers to temples, Cordelia nodded slowly, “I think so, yeah.” Curling her feet beneath her, she pushed herself upright, wavering just slightly as she straightened. Cautiously, she kept her arms extended just slightly, hovering near Sothal, “It's… it's not like last time, in the tannery. It's different… I… I feel drained.”

    Sothal placed his hand at her back gently to guide her towards the servant’s door, his own steps light to accompany his quiet voice. “I need you to go back into hiding,” he said. “And when you’ve found a secure location, send the card out to the vets. Do you remember that Maldviri we’ve been watching? I’m going to send him to you.”

    Frowning softly, Cordelia glanced over to him, “I remember, yeah. But Sothal… Hiding? You sure that's best? I know I haven't been well, but I have an in here, Sothal. We're better off knowing his moves… Right? If I disappear, so does this opportunity...”

    “I can’t always be here,” Sothal pointed out in a more defensive tone as they walked through a more narrow corridor and down a small staircase. “And how am I going to bring in a Maldviri to check on you without raising suspicion? A Maldviri is a little more conspicuous.”

    “Then what was any of this even for? To find out he wants to overthrow the throne? We already guessed that, Sothal.” Pinching the bridge of her nose, Cordelia paused, leaning against him a moment, “I’m tired of being one step behind. And who knows if Quinn will have any luck infiltrating North’s circle.” Looking up at him, she smiled pointedly, “It’s not like he’s asked me to move in. I can meet with our Maldviri friend in Windfeld. Though they probably won’t like it much. Prissy sort, aren’t they? At any rate, Jerian’s already tried to kill me twice. A third time would just be dull.”

    “Fine,” he resigned a bit bitterly. “If he kills you I will murder him. And then I’ll learn necromancy just to raise you back from the dead so I can murder you for the idiocy. I’m going to find Quinn. A debriefing with us all is going to have to wait. Too many time sensitive issues.”

    Sothal pauses at the end of the staircase and looked back at Cordelia more with concern. “Don’t trust anyone,” he warned. “At least no one in this castle. My father sanctioned the exchange with the Cabal and is purposefully leaving me in the dark. Be careful.”

    Blinking, Cordelia’s expression softened as she considered his words, nodding, “...I’m always careful, Love.” Reaching out, she took his hand, shifting just slightly closer, to meet his gaze, “This isn’t just about the Cult anymore. Or even Faledrin. What we’re doing… it’s still important, it’s always important. But if Jerian is making a power play here and if your father’s allowing it, even if he’s not fully aware…? I don’t think for one second your brother would hesitate to kill you, Sothal. And I’m not going to let that happen. I can learn necromancy, too, but it’s a pain, and I’d rather just keep you safe while you’re alive.” Stretching her free hand up, she brushed a thumb over his cheek, “You be careful, too. No point fighting to live, if you’re not a part of my life.”

    Sothal didn’t linger, and only huffed a small laugh at the sentiment as he continued on. “Faledrin is the point, Cordelia,” he reminded, his smile still remaining faintly on his lips. “I’ll be back after I get with the others.” Without looking back, he continued on towards another door to leave Cordelia to her endeavors alone once again.

    TAGS: Collab with @Effervescent
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  8. Ilias Aranthon
    As much as Ilias had come to dislike the city of Windfeld itself - from her muddy streets to the oppressive odours oozing from the bay - he was beginning to find that the people of the city were even less hospitable. From the pervasive damp to the cold stares of strangers, there was nothing that exuded welcome.

    Cloaked in darkness, he moved slowly along the base of the wall between the reality of a harsh world, and the oblivious Noble District. The construction was laughable even to think about, the very incarnation of elitist snobbery. In his limited experience, it was rare for those who deemed themselves above others to take such bold measures to be physically distant from those they deemed lesser than themselves, unsatisfied by the gaping distance in social status alone.

    Ilias scowled irritably, pausing to heave a weary sigh. Even more irksome in his present condition, however, was his inability to gain access to them. There was Shadow afoot in this city, connected to the Noble District, and all discrete attempts he had made thus far to determine the nature of it had met with little reward for his extensive efforts.

    Perhaps it would be best to indulge his rampant inadequacy and abandon the hunt.

    His scowl renewed, he slumped to the ground with his back braced against the wall. As difficult as it was to resist, there was more to lose by giving up than may have been comfortable to acknowledge. Willfully turning a blind eye to the dealings of Shadow Casters for the sake of personal benefit could easily lead down a dangerous path he was loathe to tread. Over the past months, he had felt it, slow yet certain - a subtle draining, flowing stronger each time he made a choice that led to abandoning the cause he had traveled so far to pursue.

    As if cued by his mental discourse, he felt a strong wave with the unmistakable pattern of Shadow Magic. He straightened, eyes bright with vibrant alertness. He quickly bowed his head and closed his eyes, focusing in on the sensation, and more particularly, it’s source. It came from the other side of the wall, yet further confirmation that the Nobles of Faledrin could not lay claim to any nobility of character, and more importantly, it existed as irrefutable fuel for his suspicions. Latched onto the direction of the surge like a compass drawn north, he bolted to his feet.

    To the hells of every faith with discretion.

    He rose and turned back in the direction of the nearest gate at a run, heedless of passersby and obstacles in his path. If this was to be his only viable lead, it would not escape him so easily. With renewed vigour, he felt the edge of fading light begin to soften, ever so slightly.

    Some minutes later, he hesitated just short of approaching the gates, craning his neck upwards at the flashes of exploding light. So soon after a surge as strong as the one he'd felt not a quarter hour ago, it was easy to assume a connection. Or, perhaps it was nothing, a mere coincidence. Regardless, he couldn't be bothered to take the time to politely talk his way through the gate.

    He took a few steps closer, mentally mapping a clear path to the other side. Seconds thereafter, a blinding flash ignited the street, erasing the night vision of anyone near enough to see it, and inciting brief panic in the nearby guards. Eyes averted, Ilias bolted across the street and through the gate before any notice of him could be taken. Once across, he moved to the edge of the street, clinging to the shadows once more. This time, there would be no escape.

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  9. The North Estate - Gardens

    Tamerlin’s words filled Betaley with alarm and distress only furthered by witnessing her futile efforts upon the fire. The heat still blazed high only hissing at the touch of water she had splashed over the flames. She didn’t know where the garden tools were held. It was a detail the noblewoman had never thought upon, nor did she ever consider such knowledge to be of any use.

    And so she was left in a quick internal debate as to what could be used to smother the fire if dirt was out of the question. Once she came to a conclusion, she rushed forward and grabbed Tamerlin by the hand. “I’ll need your help!” she explained as she raced towards the mansion. She took a turn through to the entryway and towards the stables and through to the other end, pointing to the pile of manure stacked within a cart. It’s distinct smell carried the musk of moisture left to permitted the pile from the previous day’s shower.

    “Will it work?” she asked Tamerlin. “There are wheelbarrows kept in the barn we could use for transport. And… their tools should be close at hand. The pitchforks. Will this work, sir?”

    @Doctor Jax

    The North Estate - Interior

    Most of the party goers had vacated the premises by the time Quinn reentered the mansion apart from a few stragglers who decided to indulge a bit further in the fine food. One of the noblemen standing about the tiered trays of pastries grinned sheepishly at Quinn as he passed, cream dusting the edge of his mustache to line his smile. The woman across from the nobleman waved for his attention.

    “Walter,” she said to him, and he looked over at the woman attentively. “Hand me an eclair, will you?”

    Even if they did know there was a vicious, man maiming beast just down the stairs beyond them, they likely would not have cared. Quinn’s path towards danger was hardly a thought as they turned their attention away from him in favor for their delights, and so he was left without even a guard to deter his hunt.

    Down into the Servant’s Quarters and around the corner towards the curve of the oval room exterior echoed the clacks of claws against the stone floor. The Tainted was sniffing out the scent of his next prey, attention drawn to a closed door. With its weight it clawed at the wood, fingers grasping towards the edges in an attempt to pry it open by force.

    @Red Thunder

    The North Estate - Interior

    Scrapes tore down within the wood of the door far too thin to hold up for much longer. The now freed servants rushed up the darkened spiral staircase with Milly at the lead, scared for their lives yet too weak to stampede. The beast was on their scent, eager to find its next victim with a direct line headed two stories upwards. Through the light emanating from the sticks of everglow they could see the narrow stairs worn with age yet sturdy in structure. It seemed to twist upwards for ages until they breached another dark room.

    “I don’t want to look at it!” one of the formerly enslaved servants said in distress as the light dimly filled the small enclosure. Lining the walls and draped from the support beams were devices made of iron and chain designed to inflict pain in ways a glance could not discern. It was clear the sight caused distress among the servants who rushed for the door as soon as Nadrid opened it.

    The door, hidden behind a tapestry, led into a grand and opulent room likely owned by a North. “This is Saleith’s room,” Lenna informed in a bitter tone. Nadrid looked from the tense servants in rags to Milly and Kylar.

    “I bid you all favorable fortune,” he said to them in a quiet tone, “but I cannot be seen escorting these people. Politics are involved.”

    Without another word in the matter, he headed for the door leading to the balcony that faced westward overlooking the hill of the Noble District and the closest wall. Lenna climbed onto his back, wrapping her arms around his neck for support as he climbed down a floral column and onto solid ground. Lenna slid off, returning to her feet to run at his side away from the estate and towards the blushes lining the westward wall out of sight.

    @rissa @RiddL

    The Underbelly

    The lamps were lit in the hidden headquarters of the Cult of Thieves. It was the only real safe place for members to be open even when not conducting business, yet to Sothal’s knowledge all members were otherwise occupied. It was near impossible for a commoner to stumble through the labyrinth under the city to find their way into the Underbelly. It was still a thought he considered as he neared the passage into the main room.

    There were footsteps on the other side of the wall, and the sound of one of the chairs scraping against the stone and creaking with added weight as the visitor took a seat. Sothal rounded the corner to meet the possible intruder, and was faced with a veteran.

    “Caleb,” Sothal addressed in amusement. “You shouldn’t be here. You’re retired.”

    There were still hints of the dashing man Caleb was in his youth, but time pulled down at his jowls and creased his leathering skin that deepened as he smirked up at Sothal. “The Noble District is on fire,” he reported in amusement. “Just came to see what the hell is going on.”

    “Don’t get involved,” Sothal said, more out of concern than in warning as he masked the shock of the news. “It’s better for veterans the less they know. You know this.”

    “And you know it’s difficult to let all this go,” he replied. With a sigh, Sothal fell into the chair across from him heavily and shook his head.

    “I don’t know why the Noble District is on fire yet,” he admitted. The two sighed in tandem, resting back in their seats in a quiet, shared contemplation on the matter.

    “Rumor has it you made an appearance as the Crowned Prince,” Caleb said more in curiosity as he glanced over at Sothal. “Do the others know now?”

    “Something is amiss with those in power,” he said in return. “They were eventually going to find out. I wanted it to be in a place where they would know I was on their side. That I’m still a member of the Cult.”

    “The king’s not involved, is he?”

    When Sothal didn’t immediately answer, Caleb straighten in his chair and leaned forward against the table to look at the man across from him. He extracted the answer through observation, head shaking somewhat in disbelief.

    “It’s not been the first time the Cult of Thieves sought to commit treason,” Caleb noted quietly, “but it’s been what… Eighty something years? Your grandfather took over with the Cult’s help, and now…”

    “I don’t want to kill him,” Sothal said. “That won’t fix the problem. The Cabal is the problem.”

    “The Cabal is too big to take on, Sothal,” he warned.

    “We just need to drive them out of Faledrin and find a way to compensate for the monetary loss.”

    Sothal stated his words as if it would be an easy task to take on, but they both knew it would be complicated and challenging. It weighed on him, dominating his mind as he considered the tasks ahead.

    Tapping his fingers against the table, Sothal rose with determination. “I have business to attend to,” he said.

    “Per usual,” Caleb said with a chuckle. “I’ll see myself out.”

    Windfeld Castle

    The Royal Wing was quiet at this hour of night. The king had retired to bed, for he was never one to stay up much past sundown claiming it would age him. Jerian had been away from his chambers for nearly an hour, and it was uncertain when the prince would return to where he had left Cordelia. The stony spaces of his lavish room felt cold and stiff even with the summer’s night and a fire stoked in the hearth.

    Jerian’s room was unremarkable and quite typical for a prince, or at least what was largely considered a Pauper Prince of Faledrin. Decorations were mostly of aged tapestries long dated and hanging far longer than he had been alive. It had a utilitarian air about it, as if Jerian’s only interest in his quarters was to bathe and sleep.

    A voice, muffled yet distinct, cut through the quiet castle as it addressed the two guards stationed outside Jerian’s room. There was a soft exchange between them, the guards likely explaining that the Prince was not present in the room. But the voice insisted, and the door opened to frame the lithe silhouette of a man adorned in fine, dark robes and hair down to his shoulders. Most remarkable about him, however, were the gaslight blue eyes that stared straight at Cordelia in a moment of hesitation and confusion.

    “They always say you can never leave the Cabal,” he said in a cool tone as he shut the door closed behind him. “Perhaps that is just a scare tactic.”

    The man stepped into the room, closer to Cordelia yet keeping his distance so as to refrain from a threatening stance. He was young, possibly around the same age as her, with smooth, unblemished skin and hollowed eyes shaded by a thinned brow causing the shadows cast upon his face to give him the appearance of a skull.

    “Apologies, this is quite curious,” he admitted genuinely. “My name is Desten. We’ve never met, and yet I was led to believe everyone like us is in the Cabal.”

    @Elle Joyner

    The Barrows

    Orange pierced through the dense night as the fire raged beyond the wall, its roar matching the crash of waves to the shore of the port city. Sothal was drawn to it as soon as he emerged from the labyrinth beneath the city. Concern mulled inside him as he noted the location of the fire: the North Estate. Commoners crowded in the streets to gander and gossip about what was happening behind all that stone. Some claimed retribution from a higher being often preached by the church, others speculated an uprising. Their lives were often too mundane throughout the day to want to consider the possibility that maybe it was just a candlestick too close to a tapestry or a firework that had gone wrong.

    Pulling his hood over his head, he wandered through the small gatherings and streets, headed for the hidden entrance yet finding a few people gathered too near it to risk going through. And so he looked for a location in which he could pass through the wall with magic, but closely to the North Estate. Through his search he passed by a pair discussing the night’s happenings with near wonderment as they recounted a light that didn’t quite match the rest of the scene.

    “It was a light as bright as the sun,” the girl said to the boy. “It wasn’t a sparkle blaster I swear!”

    “I didn’t see nuffin,” the boy said with a shrug. “Or maybe you saw the fire star’en.”

    “It happened by the gate,” she challenged. “You’re just pissin’ ‘cos you didn’t see it.”

    While he gave mental pause, Sothal did not stop. They had been monitoring a Maldviri in town for some time, interested in the man’s endeavors yet unsure if he would fit well within the Cult of Thieves due to their usual moral standards. But their magic would be an incredible asset against the Cabal, and it was likely the man was drawn to such a surge in Shadow Magic.

    Reaching the wall, Sothal shifted his soul, accessing the Darkness to channel into Shadow within an instant, slipping through space in the blink of an eye over into the Noble District. The North Estate could be seen above the garden wall, though the flames were not upon the roof as he had anticipated. Perhaps this was a good thing, or perhaps it was only a matter of time before the estate was engulfed.

    Sothal slinked through the garden and Shadow Jumped through the garden wall to the side yard leading down the hill to the west. He didn’t know where to look for the Maldviri at this point, but he knew how to garner his attention. It was risky to cast so much Shadow Magic in his partially drunken state. Should anyone connected with Inner Light magic be near, they would feel his magic cast from the garden.

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  10. Tamerlin Edelva

    The blackmailer turned as the young woman - she's hardly little more than a stripling, he thought - suddenly grabbed hold of his hand and began to drag him off. He stumbled after her as she lead him to a large stable, and he grimaced as she gestured to the stables, asking if the manure within would work. It... it isn't dirt, but... I guess that will work as well.

    "For a short moment. It's damp enough. B-but if it dries out, it will start to fuel the flames instead. This will do in a pinch," Tamerlin said, making a snap judgment. He'd seen stables go up in flames during summer when an unfortunate mix of manure, sawdust, and hay somehow sparked a flame, and it began to rage out of control. Spread thinly - and wet as it was from rain - the manure should serve to smother the flames, though he was sure the North Estate would not appreciate their yard smelling like a stable.

    But, better that than on fire. Beggars couldn't be choosers.

    Tamerlin grabbed hold of a pitchfork to begin shoveling the stuff into a wheelbarrow, making a face at the putrid smell.

    "Apologies, Lady, but it seems you'll need to get your hands dirty and rough," Tamerlin said, half in sardonic jest as he began to sling the stuff into the cart.

    • Love Love x 4
  11. Ilias Aranthon
    Ilias halted. A light frown settled on his features, his fingers closed more tightly around his staff. He could feel it - even more strongly now, as he drew nearer; someone was casting Shadow Magic, and they were close. Certain of his direction, he started off again at an even jog, mind alert and body poised, ready for a figure to spring from the darkness at any moment, from any quarter. There was no guarantee that he was dealing with someone capable of Shadow Jumping, but he was determined to err on the side of caution regardless.

    With growing concern, he glanced up at the burning estate. If his estimation was correct, his quarry had made their last cast quite close to it - perhaps even as near as the adjacent gardens. He slowed, taking more time to evaluate his surroundings. He could hear the chaos raging nearby, flames crackling and humming as they performed their destructive work. At this point, it was hard to ignore the potential connection between the two events - a Shadow Caster, and a burning estate in the noble district. Whatever was going on in this city, it seemed to be escalating.

    As he approached the gardens, Ilias kept his staff held loose and ready in one hand. Ideally he would be able to observe and gather information without confrontation, although his better instincts warned that it was a futile hope. If possible, he needed to catch up with the Caster he was chasing, and if he succeeded in doing so, there was no scenario where either of them walked away without a fight.

    With the garden wall in sight, Ilias crouched down and steadied himself, scanning the area to ensure he would not be easily seen. There was a chance that he wouldn’t be able to focus thoroughly enough to project, but it was safer to try than exploring the area blind would be.

    He closed his eyes and evened his breathing, gradually slipping away from the physical world into a calmer sense of determined focus. The passage of time became more difficult to measure, marked only by a slow count in his head. Then, he felt a familiar sensation, the separation of body and soul. When he opened his eyes, he was standing about two yards away, looking at his own hunched form in the darkness.

    Pleasantly satisfied, he began moving quickly. He only had a minute or two if he was going to make any progress while still retaining at least some of his reserves. Moving at a run, he skirted the gardens in the direction of the estate’s entrance. A brief examination of the exterior confirmed that entering would draw a massive amount of attention, and that was precisely what he didn’t want. Chances were the Shadow Caster would have the same idea - which meant he would likely have headed the opposite way.

    Ilias reversed direction, still slowly counting in his head as he ran. He was almost out of time to return to his body and still be functional for a fight. He rounded the edge of the garden towards the side yard, and his mind was made up. Satisfied with his course, he lurched directly back to physical form.

    When his eyes opened for real, he instinctively shot out a hand to brace himself, struggling briefly with the disorientation of his perspective changing so suddenly. I’ll have to work on doing that more smoothly. Filing the thought away for future consideration, he rose and started towards the side yard.

    • Nice execution! Nice execution! x 3

  12. Of Whispers
    Written with: @Effervescent

    Word around the docks was a nobleman was willing to pay a handsome price for a one-way trip to Krei. He would be interviewing captains in one of the warehouses owned by the Exarch Trading Company to map out terms and agreements and insure his cargo. It sounded like a lucrative job that a lot of businesses were eager to interview, though none stopped to question as to why they did not take a ship with the Exarch Trading Company.

    Nadrid Kalset sat in the modest office with Lenna, the two given privacy in the use of the office after the exchange of a hefty coin purse in the night. No one guarded the doors by his request, allowing anyone to knock should they wish an audience. After all, he was expecting company, but there was one captain in particular he wished to see.

    Five knocks sounded on the door, like the cheery song of a drum; the first couple slow and loud, the following trio following in rapid staccato. A voice boomed from behind it, almost obscene in all its loud bawdry. “You interviewin’ someone in there? - you needn’t be. ‘cause the very greatest rider of the waves and storms has just arrived ‘pon your doorstep, yeah?”

    It was the voice of one Captain Cersiana Caliviser.

    “Come in.”

    Nadrid, despite being a nobleman dressed in fine garments of Krei, stood next to the desk pouring tea for a more haggard looking Lenna. Most of her frame was covered by the thickness of a blanket, her raven hair a toss of a mop tied back away from her face. It was she who looked to the door first, curious as to the owner of such gusto in a dreary place like Windfeld.

    “Do have a seat,” Nadrid said to the captain as he motioned to an oversized chair. This office was likely the only lavish place in the warehouse, and stood out in stark contrast to the musty and dull exterior. “Would you like any tea as well? I brought it with me from Krei.”

    “Seems a square deal to me,” The Captain sauntered towards the chair, her cobalt hair swaying. Dangling from her left hand was a hunk of flesh, red and pink, covered by the sheen of grey scales and the brown of rope-twine. She hoisted it as if a trophy, before dropping it upon the desk, the sounds of the impact slimy and slippery. She continued, “Got some whale meat for you in ‘turn. Cook with onions, garlic, ginger, and thyme.”

    Cersiana sat, assuming an easy, confident comfort, “Cersiana Caliviser, ‘ever at your service.”

    He poured the woman her own cup of tea and gently set the kettle on a tray. “Thank you,” he said, though did not speak again until he shut the door, and even then it was in his native tongue. “We’re the only ones here. I made sure of it. Have you seen any strange activity from Dradmidan ships yet? War, it seems, is more imminent than we had predicted. I would like to brief you after you've given report.”

    The Captain’s bluster turned to professional restraint as she answered in kind; she was Lyriana an’Benat now, faithful servant of House Kalset. “The Dradmidan vessels come and go largely as expected, my Lord; the whalers, the fishers, and the smugglers. There are rumblings amongst the docks-people, of ‘the Tainted’. Doubtlessly they did not escape you.”

    His head nodded somewhat, though he was content in the answer despite there being no strange change on the Glassy Sea. At least, not yet. They all knew it was a matter of time. “Unfortunately, it did not,” Nadrid confirmed. “Lenna’s suspicions were correct. Faledrin has been attempting to create an army of Tainted by which can be turned on command. Or rather, the nobility of Faledrin have been commissioned to create this army by the Cabal’s desire. There was a woman present at the masque last night who was rumored to be a member of the Cabal and the reason for a demonstration last night that had gone awry. I need you to investigate this matter further.”

    “The Cabal…” Lyriana’s visage, a mask beneath a mask, betrayed a hint of surprise, “I understand. Do you have a name, my Lord?”

    “Her name, from what I heard, is Gima,” Nadrid stated. “But she may be a defector of the Cabal. I suspect it is a pseudonym, if my assumptions are correct. Lenna and I encountered individuals who liberated the enslaved intended to become subjects for the testing. It is perhaps the rumored Cult of Thieves the natives speak about. If the organization is true, I want you to band with them. Find a reason to stay landlocked. Hm. Perhaps a rumored outbreak of plague carried from your stock?”

    “That story should prove sufficient, my Lord.” Lyriana mused, “Travelling landside, attempting to salvage agreements with concerned clientele and merchants would do in concealing my search for this Cult. In what capacity am I to be embedded?”

    “Try to be as discreet as possible to your ties with Krei,” he said. “Even with the Cult of Thieves, it does not bode well if the Cabal has a hold of Kingdoms this far out. This rogue organization is rumored to want to work for the betterment of Faledrin, and judging by the two possible members Lenna and I ran into we could use them to find out more in what we are up against and possibly dismantle the operation here further. They seem to be against the efforts of the Cabal.”

    “One of them is named Milly,” Lenna said to Lyriana. “She’s a half-elf. Short. Dark hair. There aren’t many half-elves in these parts anymore so you should have an easy time asking about. There’s a man who owns a tavern with ties to a brothel that employs a full blooded elf. It seems that man has eccentric ties, and it is likely the elf would be aware of any half-elves around Windfeld. I don’t know the owner’s name, but the name of his establishment is called The Laughing Eel. It could be a place to start.”

    “It may be difficult to garner trust,” Nadrid reminded, though in a tone suggesting he knew his agent was well aware and merely reiterating. “You do have information they may find useful into the Cabal and their interests. You could use that as leverage and still maintain your cover as a landlocked captain. I trust you can find a way to infiltrate their ranks to some capacity. If you need anything to earn more favor, you know how to reach me.”

    “Very well, my Lord.” Lyriana rose, and so too, from her throat, did the words of the sailors that came and went in these lands, “May the tides grant us fortune.”

    And so the Whisper left as swiftly as she had entered, once again Cersiana Caliviser, the Whaling Princess.
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  13. Quinnis Travers
    the North Estate Servant’s Quarters



    Clack clack clack.

    Quinn flung out a grasping hand, searching for some kind of purchase on the wall. The Tainted was a great deal closer than he’d anticipated, and the last thing he needed was to go barreling into the thing. Desperate fingers found purchase in a grout-absent crevice, and he bounced against the wall, clenching his jaw to keep from releasing a gasp. If the noise of the claws were any indication, it was close. Very close. Close enough that it’s likely have been on to him already, were it not for whatever distraction it had concerned itself with at the moment.

    Not unlike those idiots still in the ballroom, Quinn thought ruefully. After all the noise from the garden, after all the chaos in the damned main hall itself, if they were still foolish enough to allow their frivolities override any sense of preservation, they signed their own death warrants.

    Not that he was one to judge them. Carefully, as if trying to walk the thin edge of a precipice, Quinn crept forward, watching the horizon of the curving wall for the first sign of excessive amounts of hair. He paused, a new sound meeting his ears. Sniffing? Had it found him?!

    The creak and small splintering of wood calmed that fear, and a few more steps forward validated that relief, such as it could be. It was at a door, and had with its inhuman strength managed to cleave deep gouges into its body. Hefting the remaining bottle of elixir in his hand, he readied his arm to heave it towards the beast.

    But no; this close, there was no guarantee that he could escape the fumes before they overwhelmed him. And the last thing Quinn wanted was to be unconscious near a Tainted, regardless of whether the thing itself was unconscious, too. Better, maybe, to wait until it had made entry into the room. Then at least he had a bit more time to run.

    It was, it increasingly, and distressingly, appeared to him, his best skill.

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  14. [​IMG]

    As she watched Sothal leave, Cordelia shook her head with a small sigh. It was her hope he wasn't gone long, because it seemed they had a lot to discuss, starting with something of a plan for dealing with their multitude of issues with the Cabal and his family... but notwithstanding what had happened right before Alyse had discovered them. Turning back to the stairs, she glanced up and grimaced, before slowly making her way back in the direction they had come from. A few minutes later found her back in Jerian's room, through the servant entrance.

    She loathed the idea of being there, even on her own, but the alternatives were too risky - If Alyse discovered her on her own, or a guard, there would be too many difficult questions to answer, and she was in no state to get herself out of trouble. Jerian had given her his room to recover, and while she hardly trusted he was anything less than trouble, himself, he was at least a known factor...

    Exhaustion hanging like a weight around her neck, she returned the back way and slipping inside, she curled up in the chair before the fireplace, her eyes falling closed. It was not her favor that a moment later, the door creaked open. Her hope was Sothal… her luck was Jerian. But as she opened her eyes to see neither man, she straightened, forced herself upright, her gaze lingering on the stranger’s face… on those damnable eyes.

    “My mother tried to talk me into it, but I’m told I’ve a problem with authority…”

    “And a problem with cordiality,” he remarked, though more in amusement than in disdain for her lack of introduction. “Did you run off then? And they didn’t come looking for you?”

    Smiling dryly, Cordelia shrugged, “Quite the opposite, actually. Mother ran off. Fairly certain I disappointed her.” Shifting, she set her legs back to the floor, watching him still, warily, “You can call me Gema. Seems to the name of the evening, anyway. What brings you to our dear Prince’s chambers?”

    “I was sent here,” he answered plainly. “Since the Prince is not here, I suppose I’ll need to go back and report a defector… unless you can convince me not to.”

    A brow lifted, and Cordelia shook her head, “That’s an awfully long trip to report someone who was never a member to begin with. But you don’t believe me, do you? So tell me, why so much curiosity about it? Looking to get out, yourself?”

    Confusion struck the man’s face briefly at her words initially. There was a more revealing nature about him through the expressions he showed that were very unlike most in the Cabal. But he still played his cards like the rest.

    “I never said I didn’t believe you,” he said. “I will take your word for it your mother ran off. It makes you no less or more of anything but a defector by nature. Your eyes show you were born to this life, but you refused to take part in it. I’m surprised your mother didn’t kill you, honestly.”
    “Hm…” Her shoulders tipping in a shrug, she sank back into the chair, rubbing her forehead with a faint grimace, “I’m sure she tried, in her own way. Truthfully, I expect she imagined the Shadow Magic would kill me. Probably revelled in the idea. I suppose I’m resilient like that. But you never answered my question. Why so curious about my… defection?”

    His fingers slipped into a pocket in his outer jacket as he calmly stepped towards Cordelia. “As I said, I was led to believe it was impossible,” he stated, and removed a vial of glistening crimson that made the simple bottle almost look like a gem. “Seems like you got fortunate. Here, drink this. You look like you need it.”

    Looking at the bottle, a brow lifted and while she reached out to take it, concentrating to control the tremor in her hand, she didn’t initially uncork it, “I’m not so sure fortunate is the word for it. Comes with a hell of a downside. But nothing is impossible… What it is?”

    “There’s a rare sort of creature that lives in Yedi,” he explained. “It’s blood, when imbibed, has healing properties. It isn’t much, and it won’t cure the sickness our magic ails us with, but it helps. The Cabal has things like this. Incentives, I suppose.”

    Breathing in, she studied the bottle, “Dying, anyway, I guess…” She muttered and pulling the cork, she took a draw of the liquid. It was surprising, the taste… sweet, though with an unpleasant metallic tang, yet oddly satisfying… the way wine went down, but thick. Sitting back, taking another slower breath, she looked to the man, her expression curious, “The Cabal make it a habit to help defectors, then?”

    “You’re more than welcome to report it,” he said with a shrug. “Then again, something tells me you won’t. Why did you turn your back on the Cabal anyway? It doesn’t sound like you have a grasp on what we do. What we can achieve.”

    “Achievement at what cost, Desten?” Her eyes moved to his, lips twitching down in a frown, “I saw what my mother was training me for… The things that she was willing to put me through? She gave me a death sentence, when I was only a child. And if she could do that to her own daughter? I couldn’t imagine what she would be willing to do to someone else. I wanted nothing to do with her. With it. But Shadow Magic? It’s not all bad. It can be used for something better. And that’s what I wanted. To be better… to do better.”

    “I’m curious,” Desten began thoughtfully, “I may know your mother if she is still part of the Cabal. Or did she run off as well? Hmm, well, we have been known to harbor some… extremists. For the most part we have humanity’s best interest at heart. The other part is… cultish? They’ll do whatever it takes for their beliefs. Kind of silly, I suppose, but that is the nature of power when given to those with tunnel vision.”

    “Ambition is a dangerous tool in the wrong hands. But I have a difficult time seeing humanity's best interests in what’s been happening here in Faledrin. Unless by humanity you mean the nobles?” With a soft scoff, she handed the empty bottle back to him, but as she did, a brow curved upwards in thought, “Or is the Cabal even aware what they’ve been up to, here? I do wonder how far Mother Dear has strayed from course. Why are you here, Desten? In Jerian’s quarters…? What business has the Cabal with a half-mad prince?”

    Desten seemed rather casual in their exchange, almost speaking to Cordelia as if they were friends. “Is he really half-mad?” he asked. “I’m just a lackey. A damned raven, if you will.” A chuckle bubbled from his throat and he rolled his eyes. “I have a message for Jerian. He isn’t expecting a visit, however. So here I am. And here we are. What is your mother’s name? That might clear up some things.”

    “...Maybe more than half. It’s difficult to tell, honestly. We’ll just say he has his moments. At any rate, best to be careful, even if you are just a raven. He’s certainly not what he seems. It’s likely I’d be dead right now, if he wanted it… Possible he still does, and I’m just overestimating my fortune...” A sigh escaped, and she pushed herself upright, curling her feet beneath her legs, “Farrah. Her name is Farrah.”

    Surprise crossed Desten’s features. “Farrah?” he repeated. “I know of her. One of the extremists, in my opinion.” He took the empty vial and slipped it back into his inner jacket pocket. His eyes thoughtfully cast to the door, and he turned away from Cordelia altogether.

    “It may be my presence could compromise your endeavors,” he said. “I’ll come back at another time.”

    “Desten, hang on…” Her feet touched the ground and Cordelia pushed herself to a stand, holding the back of the chair for balance, surprised to find it wasn’t needed. The liquid he had given her had done its trick, at least for the moment, “Your message for Jerian. What was it…?”

    He paused at her inquiry, turning to look at her over his shoulder curiously. “Do you plan to relay it?” he asked. “If so, I might as well stay.”

    “Just… curious, I suppose… what the Cabal’s business is with him. Do they know that he’s working against them? That he tried to have me killed tonight as a message? Of course, it might’ve worked better if I was actually a part of it… but all the same, I wonder if the message still rings true?”

    There was hesitancy that stiffened his stance, his deep eyes casting up to the coffered ceiling in conflict as he debated within himself. Desten turned with a shift of his feet. “I’m a man of self preservation, Gema,” he said matter-of-factly, yet still carefully choosing his words stemming from his hesitancy. “You’re not exactly someone I can trust.”

    His head tilted in thought as he continued. “It was you, then, that he tried to kill? Who was the caster that saved you?”

    He was right of course. But it was two way road, and her own hesitancy shown as he continued… Trust was not a word used idly by those in Faledrin, and there weren't many who she held in that regard, only one she trusted explicitly.

    But potentially dangerous information, especially in the hands of Jerian put so much at risk, too much… “His brother. The crown prince.” Reaching up, she brushed her fingertips across the ring beneath her collar, “A man who means everything to me. A man Jerian believes I will betray, to aid his own rise to power. You can imagine then, what this information is worth to me… The risk in telling you. Maybe you don’t think you can rely on my word, Desten… but now you hold my life in your hands. I’ve no logical reason to dishonor your trust…”

    Desten had to shake away his surprise at her answer, completely flummoxed by her openness in reveal. “Well that was indeed unexpected,” he said. “The Cabal actually already knows it’s him. He and his siblings are...protected. And honestly I’d say they’re the only reason the Cabal has given financial aid. The extent of it all is beyond my position, mind you. Have you… traveled through the Gate yet?”

    A brow rose at his words, “...The Gate?” She considered for a moment, before nodding, slowly, “I think so. Is it like… like another world? Metal beasts that ride the roads… and buildings that touch the clouds? And…” A small smile formed, as the memory returned, “Ice cream?”

    The subject lit excitement in the man’s eyes, glistening with energy as he took a step forward with a more animated approach. “So you’ve been there in the Other World,” he said. “The Gate is what takes us there. It’s in the Darkness. Or…she is. It’s all rather new to me. I only just learned the traveling spell. But… So the Prince took you there, then? Was it a complete picture?”

    “New to me, too. I’ve only ever traveled with Emyrs a few feet at the most. I think it was complete. There.. there were people there, too. People who weren’t like us. And my magic… it was gone. I couldn’t feel it anymore. Not at all…”

    “That is the goal,” Desten explained. “That world. Being there is the goal. No magic, no elves, no orcs. They thrive on intellect and have advancements we haven’t even considered that cure illnesses and give a better life than what we could have on Estyr. But we all can’t reach that place so wholly like Prince Emrys. He’s of a select few in this world.”

    Noticing his ramblings, Desten chuckled at himself and toned back his childlike excitement. “Finding one is rare,” he continued more calmly in tone. “It’s why the Cabal recruits and teaches Shadow Magic to so many. It unlocks this ability in them. If Emrys can do it, so can his siblings. Thus why I’m here. To make amends with Jerian and win him over, or at least plant the seed.”

    Frowning, Cordelia shook her head, “Jerian believes the Cabal intend to take Faledrin. The way… the way they’ve taken Dradmida. He doesn’t trust them… and he means to prove that Faledrin doesn’t need them. He may be mad, Desten, but he’s brilliant… A strategist. Even if you’re able to convince him the Cabal has his best interest in mind, he’ll never fully commit to them… Everything he does is for his own goal, his own benefit.”

    “They’ll use that against him,” he said. “They use weaknesses as a form of manipulation. I’m not sure how he could counter that, but maybe he will. Perhaps I’m not fit for this duty, who knows? I’m just a pawn I suppose. A player in this strategic game. I think we both should watch our steps. Be careful with who sees you, Gema. You look to have put yourself in a compromising position.”

    “Story of my life, sweetie. I can't seem to escape it, trouble. But I wouldn't be very good at my job if I avoided it, either.” Nodding, she sank back down in the chair, “You be careful, too. Don't underestimate Jerian… And don't underestimate the Cabal. What they're capable of. Most importantly, though… don't underestimate yourself. You're more than a pawn. A lot rests on what you do here, in Faledrin. Could be you're more important than you'll ever know.”

    Eyeing Cordelia with a careful look, Desten turned to head for the door. He did not utter a comment or add in a quip. The guards did not turn their heads as the man exited, and the only time he spoke afterwards was to address them in a quiet tone as he shut the door behind him.

    TAGS: Collab with @Effervescent
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  15. milly lecadre

    Her disappointment didn’t last for long; as Nadrid and Lenna traversed the balcony, Milly herself turned on her heel and set her mind to what needed to be done. She understood the necessities of politics, but she couldn’t help but damn them. Quickly, Milly made her way to Saleith’s bedroom door, cursed under her breath as she bolted it, and pressed her ear against the hardwood. A quick inhale of delight later, she grabbed a vanity chair for good measure and tucked it beneath the handle.

    She turned instinctively to her fellow Cult member, but his words from before still burned hot in her gut and instead, turned to one of the servants. “Find something to block the stairwell door and keep an ear on it-- If that Tainted is following us we need to know.”

    On swift feet Milly made her way to the balcony to see just how far they were from the ground and slowly an idea blossomed into her mind’s eye. There was an impossibility to the task and for a moment her heart sunk, realizing she might have just decided upon her fate. But in the back of her mind an old voice spoke to her, low and husky and filled with warmth. It reminded her that ‘ain’t nothing impossible if you work hard enough.’

    Making her way back into the bedroom, Milly began to strip the room of it’s fabric. The servants caught on quickly and began to help, striping the bed, the curtains from their hooks, and even the canopy hanging from the four poster bed. Within minutes they had the room cleared and Milly began to work. Thinner fabrics were quickly cut into three, plaited, and then knotted together while thicker fabrics were simply knotted together tightly.

    When she was satisfied, she explained the process of how she’d lower them down and quickly made her way onto the balcony to begin. A couple freed servants helped her wrap the cumbersome bundle of fabric-rope around a few of the columns and when that was done, Milly took a deep breath and nodded her head, finalizing her fate.

    “Anyone who feels as though they can make the climb down should do so now. Go to the bushes you saw the others run to and go in pairs to help each other.”

    A few servants opted to climb down, though one decided against doing so last minute and shakily climbed his way back onto the balcony. He was the first person Milly chose to lower down. She spoke to him softly and convinced him that this was the only way she could see them all getting to safety. It took a minute or two, but in the end he complied and Milly smiled brokenhearted, wrapping the end of the sheet between his legs and around his waist. When she was sure he had a firm grip on the end of the sheet and her end was nice and taut, Milly had the man step off the edge of the balcony.

    He exhaled sharply, worriedly, but didn’t make a sound. Milly lowered him quickly and both she and the servants helped raise the fabric-rope so the process could repeat itself. And repeat it did, until she was the only one remaining on the balcony.

    She smiled faintly, quite proud and possibly a bit delusional. Fear, elation, and pride swarmed through her veins and as she hauled the fabric-rope up for the final time, Milly’s heart skipped a beat as she realized she hadn’t a clue on what to do once they were all beyond the wall. She wasn’t Tam-- she didn’t have enough safe houses to store so many people in and taking them underground seemed a bit unwise.

    Sighing deeply, Milly stretched her back, cut loose a shred of red fabric long enough to wrap around her head to cover her ears, and climbed down the wall as quickly as she could. She could hear every heartbeat drumming in her ears and every moment that passed she waited for someone to spot them… waited for the Tainted to come tearing out of the stairwell… To hear guards hacking down Saleith’s bedroom door.

    But no one did.

    And Milly herself managed to run across the yard, to the bushes and the westward wall unseen.

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  16. Of Dark and Light
    An @Effervescent & @Starlighter Collaboration

    The use of the spell that lurched him through the Darkness in the blink of an eye churned his stomach sour, and as soon as his feet brushed against the grass he stumbled forward. The overindulgence of alcohol never settled well in tandem with Shadow Magic, and made Shadow Jumping particularly precarious considering its applications across worlds. He fought back the sick gurgling in his throat, hand reaching up to cover his mouth as if the gesture alone could keep the wretching at bay.

    But in his battle against vomiting he saw the shimmer against the dark, faint like a ghost, yet recognizable to Sothal having seen it once before. It was a hard spell to catch, and an even more difficult spell to follow. Sothal focused as much as he could, gauging the direction of the shimmer of a silhouette that bled in and out of the darkness, leading him to the gardens yet disappearing before he could fully follow to the exact location of its caster.

    Quietly, his boots tread against the soft dirt, rounding a corner of bushes that brought him face to face with the Maldviri.

    “We need to talk,” he said.

    The Maldviri stumbled back half a step in surprise as he automatically whipped his staff upward to a defensive position. His heart pounded erratically in his chest as he assessed the shadowy figure before him, every muscle tense and poised in anticipation of an attack.

    Slowly, he took another step back to increase the distance between them. Although the opportunity for a surprise blow had come and gone, his better instincts warned that this could still be some kind of trap -and yet, if there was even the slightest chance of avoiding an outright confrontation, he couldn't afford to let it pass.

    He drew in a long breath of night air, and released it slowly. "Do we, now?" he answered shortly, his voice low and guarded.

    Sothal took a step forward in hopes the closed distance would allow the Maldviri the chance to see the earnestness upon his face. “I’m sure you’ve felt it,” he said. “That pressing, dark surge of Shadow coming from the house behind you. We’re up against something far greater than we have ever faced. We need the aid of a wielder of Inner Light. Would you help free Faledrin of this blight?”

    Ilias ever so briefly glanced in the direction of the house, as if to confirm what he already knew - that this stranger spoke the truth. He focused on the man before him. Could he afford to trust the intentions of a stranger - of a Shadow Caster?

    No. No, not quite so easily.

    "I would," he said slowly, "But what guarantee do I have of your motives?"

    Given the circumstance, and given the goal of the Cult of Thieves, Sothal knew he had to gain trust as quickly as possible, or the Maldviri before him would slip out of reach for an alliance. Were it not a wielder of Inner Light, his next playing card would be shuffled back into the deck in favor of more secrecy. Taking another step closer, as non-threateningly as possible, he moved to a distance where even he could see Ilais's expression in the dim light of night.

    "You have no guarantee but your own instincts," Sothal answered. "My name is Emrys de Genosis. I will inherit this kingdom when it is my time, but I fear my line is no longer in control. The darkness looming here was our rude awakening, and we barely pulled through with our lives. Faledrin is being used for something sinister that needs to be stopped. You're an expert against the Shadow, are you not?"

    Gradually, Ilias began to lower his staff, and his guard along with it. He took his time responding to the question while considering what he'd just been told. As skeptical as he wanted to be, this was undoubtedly the best opportunity that was going to come his way and as such, no matter how he felt about the particular circumstances.... taking the chance would be worth the risk.

    At last he said candidly, "Not so much as some, but enough that I can help you." He paused briefly then added, "Where do we begin?"

    Relief visibly relaxed upon his features as his shoulders lost its tension. “That is a good question,” he said. “And perhaps one to discuss in a more secure location.”

    He motioned past the hedgeline and roaring fire to the North Estate on the cusp of being engulfed in flame. “This is the result of our nobility dabbling in Shadow Magic to create Tainted,” he continued. “That I can say openly, as the evidence has been revealed publicly. I’m sure you can derive conclusions on your own, but we can discuss it in more detail away from possible prying ears. I can arrange a meeting with an associate of mine if I may have a name - any name you wish.”

    The thought of giving a false name occurred to him but briefly - so far removed from all who knew him, an alias or his true identity would make the same amount of difference; namely, none whatsoever. "Ilias Aranthon," he said, offering a slight, stiff bow. "Approximately when should I expect this meeting to take place?"

    Looking over his shoulder, over the tall hedges that lined a portion of the garden facing the estate in flames, Sothal thought for a moment, though made it quick. “If you give me an hour to set it up,” he said, and then looked back at Ilias, “I can also insure a roof over your head for the night. Is that acceptable?”

    Ilias answered with a slow nod. "Aye, I could accept that." Such an offer might never have occurred to him, but he was more than glad to take advantage of it. He would not be grieved by failing to return to the inn which had been his lodgings since arriving in Windfeld. "In an hour's time, then - where shall we meet?"

    "The castle gates," he responded lowly. " I'll have the guards expecting you so you won't have to give explanation. Only the name Ilias Aranthon. "

    With a meeting now in place, Sothal gave himself no window to lend aid to his comrades. But it was not why he was here in the first place. It was always to find this very Maldviri the Cult of Thieves had been monitoring since he came into Windfeld. Beyond the shouts and unintelligible calls and through the roaring fire, he had to remind himself the other members were capable of handling the situation. There was no room for blind heroism or believing himself to be needed in every sticky situation, and it was a difficult pill to swallow.

    Faledrin needed Ilias more than Quinn or Tamerlin or Milky or Kylar needed Sothal. And Ilias needed the Prince to get in the safest place in Windfeld that wouldn't compromise the Cult of Thieves.

    "Trust it will be done in an hour's time," he assured. " And then we can discuss matters more freely. "

    Ilias' eyes widened slightly, but no other expression of surprise revealed itself. It was a strange notion, to think of a name as meaningless as his own being made relevant by someone royal, no matter the circumstances surrounding the situation. Never in his wildest dreams would he have seen himself ending up here.

    "Of course; I look forward to meeting again. Until then, your Highness." He bowed deeply to the Prince in parting, praying for all his worth that his instinct to take this man at his word would not fail him.
    • Nice execution! Nice execution! x 2
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  17. [​IMG]
    Kylar watched as Milly and the others fled the grounds, making sure that they weren't followed by anyone, human or otherwise. After the went beyond his sight he clambered out the window and instead of going down, he instead moved up, a shadow fluidly moving up the stone walls.

    As he swung his body up to the roof and stopped to catch his breath before standing tall and scanning everywhere he could for any fellow Cult members that needed to leave the premises with aid. His mind flickered back to his decision to leave the human Tainted behind and shook his head to clear the thoughts and memories, he believed he has made the rational decision, especially since they had nowhere that they could hide so many people safely, let alone those that were afflicted.

    He turned his mind back to the job at hand and pushed onwards, feet rising and falling in a precise way so that he wouldn't slip over until he reached what he thought was close to the servants quarters, where he figured noone would be with all the chaos going on, before making a cautious climb downwards to a window that was locked. With a careful hand and a sure grip, he pulled out his long stilleto blade and pushed it into the small gap until he found the latch that held it closed and lifted it up, angling the blade to pull the window open and putting his blade away before clambering into the window closing them behind him again.

    His eyes darted around the room he was in, which appeared to be the childrens quarters, which made sense for the size of the mansion and the amount of servants that were employed. He made a quick search of the room, not finding any children but judging that with the size of the party, the children must have been helping out in the kitchens or running as pages for various guests.

    Shrugging it away he moved to the door and placed his ear against it, hearing muffled sounds on the other side and pulling dagger and rope spear out, placing the handle of the blade in his mouth and letting the rope slacken and spool from his hand until there was enough to get a pendulum motion.

    With his free hand he pushed the door open minimally, darting back several feet to give himself room to attack should the sound on the other side of the door be less than friendly.
    • Nice execution! Nice execution! x 1
  18. The Race
    Quinn and the (Second) Tainted

    Was Olivier Whyte broken? Probably. At the hands of Faledrin's nobility he had gone through far too much to ever feel completely intact, to ever taste the sanity he once held, but that didn't stop him from pretending to. Olivier liked to put on a front, to approach the curse he unwillingly bore with a lightness that, unfortunately, mattered very little.

    In the end, no amount of wit could stop them from forcing him back out into the arena. No amount of quips could stop him from feeling that lull of magic. His stomach rolled as the sensation grew and his throat became deathly dry. Olivier noted to himself just how dearly he hated the part to come and as if on cue, the pain surged through him. Shadow seared his veins and through the hurt, it forced his transformation.

    He shouted out terrible things. He shouted until his tormented cries were replaced by the roar of a beast. Olivier tore into those around him with brutality, relentless in his assault as his thirst for domination felt nearly unquenchable. There was no telling how much blood he drew by the time a hole was made and a battle was to be won in the hall. Succumbing to his nature, Olivier hurled himself into the fray without second thought and fought tooth and nail through the interior, leaving a whirlwind of destruction and bestial carnage behind him.

    Soon enough there was no Tainted left near to challenge him, but Olivier's need for blood refused to tire. It was for that reason alone did he find himself barreling into the servant quarters. He had to turn elsewhere to satisfy his thirst, he needed to, and a young serving girl was unlucky enough to have cut herself amidst the chaos all along the lower levels. Out of fear for the beasts prowling the halls she fled, hiding in the room that once held her fellow workers and there she remained petrified. His nose found her out, but her scream from behind the door caused his frenzy against the wood.

    She screamed once more and Olivier's flurry returned as a result, along with alerting Quinn to her rather untimely presence.

    Godsdamn it.

    The scream was like veritable fingernails on a chalkboard. Instead of running like any sensible person, some fool broad had gotten herself trapped between a dungeon hard place and a rock with razor sharp teeth. Back pressed against the wall as tightly as he could, Quinn lifted the Night Elixer to examine it with a frown. It’d been his thought to wait until the beast had forced entry into that room, but he couldn’t risk the woman within. Easing forward, risked a glance at the Tainted. Deep furrows were being rent into the door, its paneling clearly not meant to withstand such an assault.

    Damn. Where were the fighters? The soldiers? Hell, he’d even take Kylar right now. Anyone with some modicum of skill in combat. The stiffness of his knife still pressed against his side, offering minor comfort, but against such a foe, it wouldn’t do a thing. And the Elixer was far too dangerous to use in such cramped quarters.

    Running was his best skill.

    So he’d run.

    “You pissant!” Quinn stepped around the curve, admittedly as far back as he could manage while still being in view, and gestured at the Tainted in a way that would have earned him a stern reprimand from Cordelia. “Looking for fresh meat?”

    And Quinn bolted.

    The door splintered and ached, each swing of Olivier's forepaws tearing through wood and rattling metal bolts. He was close, deathly close to breaking through, when the voice of a new arrival found him. Olivier could not understand his words, not in this form, but the man's presence alone granted what he wished--a chase.

    The Tainted's ears quirked and he spun around with a snarl, teeth stained with the blood of his cursed brethren and the fur surrounding his maw wet and matted by the very same matter.

    Olivier let out a gruff snort, Quinn turned to run off and then the Tainted tore after him.


    This was the end. Quinn was sure of it. With every stride, impressive though they were (it he’d had the wherewithal to think about it, he’d have given silent thanks to his Baladuri ancestry), the Tainted seemed to come closer, an avatar of inescapable doom. At least, he mused, at least that fool broad will live a few moments longer.

    He found the stairs back to the main level. His chest screamed in protest at the struggle of fueling the iron bars that had replaced his legs, but Quinn pushed on, taking the steps first two and then three at a time, all sense of self preservation in their ascension abandoned as he fled the beast behind.

    The West Wing. Get to the West Wing.

    Over and over the thought recycled through his mind, as relentless as the predator behind him. Had Quinn the moment, he might have paused to wonder why it was the room Saleith had mentioned to him for secret rendezvous had been his first and indeed sole consideration as to where to flee. Certainly he needed somewhere to lead this Thing that pursued him. Preferably such a place would give the man a chance at smashing the Night Elixir and immolating the Tainted without fear of sharing its fate.

    The persistent and indeed rapidly nearing clack of Tainted talons on stone steps drowned that dream in rancorous reality. He would be lucky to make it a few paces into the ballroom, where that noble fools were still no doubt indulging themselves. No, he would be caught well before then, his doom met by gaping maw or crushing claw. And the Night Elixir would have been for naught.

    The Elixir! The thought came like a cannon shot. It was a foolhardy move, certainly; there was absolutely no guarantee that the smell of it would work quickly enough on the Tainted to prevent his death, and Quinn would almost certainly be overcome by the fumes at the very least. At least he wouldn’t burn; the book of matches he’d taken from the soldier still sat in his pocket, ineffective in fulfilling the second stage of the Elixir.

    But unconscious and maybe dead was far better than distressingly conscious and disemboweled. His chest expanded as he took a deep breath, hoping to give himself just enough time. As he had before, Quinn reached his arm back and hurdled the bottle of Elixir at the wall ahead of him, doing his best to ensure that the fumes were concentrated enough to overcome the Tainted behind him.

    Quinn kept running, desperate to gain as much ground as he could before his lungs gave out in favor of that precious air. The bottle shattered against the stone, spraying shards of glass and noxious smelling liquid across the stairs.

    A few more steps.
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  19. The North Estate - Interior

    Glass shattered across the stony wall of the lower level sending the contents once contained splattering across the smoothed surface and cascading down to the floor. But as Quinn had cast out the vial towards the beast that viciously clamored towards him, it reached out as it to swipe the glass container away in annoyance. The swiping claws missed entirely, snagging the handle of a sconce instead that shattered the crystalline lamp like chimes. The wick ignited the rest of the oil soaked cloth sent careening down towards the floor between them.

    The fumes ignited before the wick could find its purchase. The combustion plumed in the stale air, hot and vibrant in the dim that, possibly for just a moment, made Quinn look just as beastly as the creature that hunted him. The Night Elixir would reach the nose of the Tainted, flames reaching up to lick the ceiling in angry colors of red and orange. If the Tainted was still there and conscious, the fire would not give Quinn long to linger. Even Kylar as he opened the door could hear the raging flames over in the West Wing.

    It was clear the Night Elixir was designed to hold no regard for the people who were forced to turn into the Tainted beasts. Their servants were expendable, and if they were to get out of hand their lives were intended to be extinguished. Any hope of taking one of the Tainted for questioning would be smothered. Quinn would have to risk his own life to save that of the man he once fought as a beast.

    It was time to leave. While there was little in the way of wood, the fire in the hall would likely rage on until it drank of every vapor.

    You’re welcome to try to get the Tainted to safety, but note Bear is no longer around to play Olivier, so treat it like a NPC. Do write your characters leaving the North Estate at some point!

    @Red Thunder @RiddL

    The North Estate - Exterior

    Getting her hands dirty in such a manner was not fully comprehended until she watched Tamerlin begin to shovel through the pile and throw it into the cart. Betaley’s soft and delicate hands curled around the wooden pole of a pitchfork with unease, not entirely sure how the man she assumed to be noble could take to the task with such ease. Thrusting the tool into the potent pile, the resistance and heft took her completely off guard. Pulling through the damp pile of manure and muck was a challenge that immediately ached her untrained muscles. She was not as quick and efficient as Tamerlin, but she was without complaint.

    The cat was filled and ready to be towed and unloaded on the fire. She was at least of more use hitching the cart to a horse, but by that point her palms had already become tinder from the blisters. Manual labor was unbecoming of a Lady regardless of the efforts. Her home was on fire, and she could surely save it, but would also surely suffer the lashing of harsh reprimand.

    Betaley steered the cart towards the fire, the horse protesting the closer they came until the creature refused to move entirely. “I don’t…” Her words halted before she shared with Tam her distress. The orange flames engulfed the Western facade of the mansion. They could only put out the flames on the lawn, but her home would surely be consumed.

    Were it any other location, the threat of the fire would be a moot point. The original intent was to save the North Estate, but they both knew of another victim. “If we don’t at least put the fire out on the lawn,” she said to Tamerlin as she turned the cart around, “it will reach the Commons and set the whole city ablaze!”

    It appeared Betaley was familiar with the hole in the wall just beyond the garden bushes. That breech in the stone structure would be enough to allow the fire to spread beyond the Noble District walls. The horse, now no longer facing the fire, obeyed Betaley’s commands to back the cart towards the fire. They needed to be as close as possible to dump what they could on the flames quickly.

    And together it was achieved. The pair dirtied their hands with the task, snuffing the flames with the damp manure at first in a perimeter and piling its way closer to the estate. The smell was ungodly and threatened to cause the girl to gag, but it did not dry out enough to combust and further the blaze. They managed to empty the cart and save the lawn and the rest of the city. The mansion, however, remained a beacon in the night.

    Rain pattered in a sheet of mist too light to quench the fire, yet inviting a storm brewing above. Betaley found herself feeling relieved and ran up to give Tamerlin an appreciative embrace. “Thank you!” she said as the mist cooled her skin from the exertion of labor. “Oh, it smells awful!”

    Pulling away, she looked back up at the western side of the estate. “This is in the Creator’s hands now,” she said, and then looked out on the lawn covered in steaming waste. A body was among the remnants, charred and covered in muck, and she looked away from it quickly.

    “I have duties to attend to,” she said to him. “You’ve been an incredible help and I owe you a debt. If you need anything, you know where to find me.”

    She ran off towards the main hall and ball room where it was likely anyone left would even be aware the house was on fire. It didn’t dawn on her to catch her helper’s name until she entered the home and her lack of forethought struck her. But it was pushed away to force the remaining party goers from the estate. Perhaps their paths would cross another day.

    @Doctor Jax

    The Island Monastery

    Milly’s rescue of the Tainted servants was a success, but they would not be granted a place back in society just yet. Their unfortunate ailment was too much of a risk, and even they were a bit hesitant to return to their families just in case they turned. They followed their escorts willingly to the docks, collecting on a boat quietly in the night to head for the abandoned island monastery. It wasn’t the most ideal place to hold so many at risk of turning, but it was the best option they had for the time. Gerald helped settle them in, greeting Lynn gratefully before turning to Milly.

    “In exchange for food, we’ll tell your people all you want to know,” he said. “We won’t be able to survive long here without it. If you give us seeds for a garden, we could perhaps sustain ourselves in time. Something to consider.”

    With the entirety of the Tainted now at the fingertips of the Cult of Thieves, it was only a matter of meeting their request to gain the wealth of information they seek.

    Wasn’t sure if you wanted Kylar there, RiddL, so I tagged just in case! This sets things up for the Thieves to consider if they want to utilize any information these servants may hold. Bear in mind since they are essentially property owned by nobles, eventually they will be hunted down.

    @rissa @RiddL

    Windfeld - The Commons

    News of the fiasco at the North Estate spread as fast as the fire from the previous night. It was the talk of the entire city. The wealthiest noble house lost it all. Most of the rumors centered around the fire having been started by an unruly party goers who couldn’t hold their drink. There were a few flying about regarding the involvement of Tainted, but none of the stories seemed to line up quite right with the truth. None at the party seemed to have witnessed it all, and those privy to the secret affairs kept under wraps would not dare speak of their business.

    Even though most of the city did not attend the party on the other side of the wall, it was still the most exciting thing to happen in months. Patrons of the Eel couldn’t stop talking about the fire and the rich losing both their goods and their minds. The Rumor Mill fixated on the fire moreso than the appearance of the princes. It seemed the common folk were not as enamoured with their royal house as the nobles were. Hearing of the fall of even one noble, however, was satisfactory entertainment.

    There was one speculation that the fire was started by the workers in an uprising. A wiry woman calmly walked the Barrows spouting her theory as if it were fact, her voice quiet to those who would listen in a hushed, intimate tone. “They mark a rebellion,” she said. “I’m gathering folk of a likened mind. It’s time we rise with them, my friend. We meet in the Sevens and Sixes tonight.”
    This information can be picked up by anyone tagged if you feel your character would have overheard it or heard through the grapevine. The Sevens and Sixes is a small tavern between the Barrows and the Commons often occupied by local fishermen and sailors before or after their work on the sea. It’s known for looking like a beached ship, as it is made from recovered parts. At this point in the day, however, it would be hours before nightfall.

    @Red Thunder @RiddL @Doctor Jax @rissa @Shizuochan

    Just Outside Windfeld

    It took the quiet hours of the morning for Alyse to slink from the castle unnoticed. She had been attempting all night even after her encounter with Gema and Emrys until she eventually became to frustrated and gave up the night’s attempts. Satchel clutched tightly to her chest, she set forth to find the shae who allegedly held the answers she may seek. Alyse had lied about possessing the Ambrose Tome when she confronted Gema in the Baladuri’s tavern, but she endeavored to make it truth.

    There was no way to slip beyond the castle walls without the guards taking notice forcing the princess to pay a handsome sum for a fisherman to take a course around the coastline. The fisherman didn’t ask questions, taking the money eagerly before helping her stow away under a tarp. The journey around coastline beyond the city’s reach took about an hour. They parted ways, Alyse relinquishing another set of silver for his continued silence.

    As she walked across the beach, she checked the contents of her satchel to be sure she did not leave anything behind. It would be half a day’s journey on foot to the ferry. Food tucked away in fine napkins presided next to a canister of coffee grounds and a tin of hazelnut; the perfect exchange for the location of the Ambrose Tome.

    There is time to intervene or get ahead of Alyse. Quinn has the supplies, but perhaps Captain Caliviser also knows the details due to her connections with the Whispers. Finding the tome would suit her well, and she possibly even knows its significance and importance. They could also have a head start if you so choose, or run into her. I’ll leave that up to you, but if you want to get to the pier first just let me know and I’ll shoot you a description!

    The Castle of Windfeld

    Ilias would have found himself welcomed upon speaking his name to any of the guards who would have halted him in his path before the castle wall. While the Maldviri would have been escorted to lavish guest quarters and treated well, he would not receive the presence of the Crowned Prince that night.

    The morning, however, would be met with a quiet knock on the door by a servant and an invitation given by note from Emrys. He would be granted as much time as he needed to make himself presentable for the breakfast meeting, the servant available for any of his needs before escorting him down to the dining hall.

    Cordelia would have found Jerian absent the remainder of the night and eventually escorted to her own quarters for rest. The same invitation would be presented to her in the morning as well, and just like Ilias’s note, she would be assured her breakfast would remain warm and the servant ready for her every need before escort.

    The dining hall was occupied only by Prince Emrys and his footmen, the prince rising from his seat as they entered. One of the footmen excuses himself quietly to retrieve the food from the kitchen down below, exiting from a door to the left. Two places were set on either side of the Prince, and he motioned to the empty seats for them to sit.

    “Gema,” he began, “I would like for you to meet my guest, Ilias Aranthon. We have much to discuss, politics included, but please sit and mingle with me. Food will arrive shortly.”

    The table was long enough to fit at least three families making their seating at one end feel simple. Even the room itself seemed off. A few candlesticks were missing from the chandelier and only half the lamps were in use. The castle itself was rather dreary and cold, even in the warmer months, and so a fire softly crackled in the center fireplace providing warmth and ambiance. If one were to have paid full attention to their trek to meet with the prince, they might have noticed the castle was severely lacking in a few less traveled corridors.

    Have a seat! You can NPC breakfast being served, but note it wouldn’t be as lavish or extensive as perhaps one might expect from a royal kitchen. Feel free to have some ice breakers. Sothal will get right down to business in my next post.

    @Elle Joyner @Starlighter
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    • Nice execution! Nice execution! x 2
  20. Tamerlin

    The diminutive blackmailer stood in the kitchen of the orphanage, peeling potatoes. The skins fell into a large pot as he carefully denuded the tubers, his mind on other things than soup. He had arrived back at far, far late an hour, so late as to almost be considered early morning, and all he could think of was Betaley's promise - If you need anything, ask me. I owe you a debt. He looked about the place he considered as close to home as he'd ever had, and his mind turned the leaking roof, the crooked doorways, the draft. To ask was to out himself, to reveal his hand to someone with far more power over the courts than he cared to associate with. Then, there was also the fact of the Cult to consider as well.

    But he did dream of giving these children a better place. If just a bigger larder and potato-and-ham soup more often.

    "Mister Tom!"

    His gaze lifted off the potatoes he was peeling to the small face in the doorway. Odessa beckoned him with a tiny hand, the girl's hair falling out of the pigtails he'd put them in. Her hair was just too fine for the poor excuse for ribbon he'd used, and he was probably going to have find her better ones... He walked into the hallway after her, smiling as he wondered what the child could want, but his smile faltered as he was led to the front yard where he saw none other than Jamison Cook.

    He gestured for Odessa to go back inside, knowing that her 'job' was done, and he walked out to meet the young boy.

    " 'lo Jamie. What's the matter? Here to take up with us again?" he asked.

    Jamie shook his head, his countenance grave.

    "Jus'...wanted t'know how's m'sister?" Jamison asked, and Tam felt a moment of relief. He hated to think it but they just didn't have enough beds, and turning away children was not something he was fond of.

    "She's fine. I can't tell her where she is - it's a secret - but she's safe, and she's warm," Tam assured, and his eyes flickered to the gate. Damn. I should have told him not to come directly to the orphanage to talk. Anyone who knows his sister can rat on the place.

    "Let's go for a walk, shall we...?"

    Tam and Jamie began a short journey then, and Tam said, "Was it just about your sister, or...?"

    Jamie shook his head, and he hesitated before saying, "Some people's talkin' in the Barrows. Real worrisome things, and I knew you like hearin' things around town, so... I think people're real mad 'bout the high folk."

    He gestured to the plateau that held almost every noble in Windfeld, and Tam nodded. The fire that took North manor was no doubt a great symbol to the working folk, and he could guess what Jamie was getting at.

    "They're talking about doing something bad, is it?"

    "Yeah. They wanna fight them."

    "What do you think of it?" Tam asked seriously.

    Jamie shrugged his shoulders, but it was clear the situation worried him.

    "I dunno what it means, really. I was just told by someone to tell people I trusted 'bout it, 'n I trust you. They... they's meetin' at the Seven and Sixes tonight, said to invite people who might be wantin' to hear about it."

    Tam frowned as they reached the docks, and he said, "Thank you, Jamison. If you want, you can stay for dinner tonight, unless you've other plans."

    The mention of dinner lit up the young, wan boy's face, and he dashed off back to the orphanage, and Tam watched him go with a heavy heart. So - a revolution was afoot. That could either be a boon or a bane to their plans. If he could get a message out to Sothal to let him know... but no, there was no time. They would meet near nightfall, when it was harder to track people's comings and goings. He'd have to take a look himself. He might have to invite someone, perhaps Quinn, just in case, but he wasn't about to go to this thing alone. Oh, no, he'd had enough of doing things solo.

    "I hate surprises," Tam said to no one in particular with a sigh as he leaned against a building on the docks, thinking about what this uncertain future could hold.
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