The Demigodess and the Bard

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CreepyShutIn

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There is one particular prerequisite to being a successful bard. It's not a knowledge of history, or magical power, or even stories or music; rather, the most important thing for a bard to have is a way with people. A sense for a crowd's mood, the subtle ebb and flow of the unseen emotional tide around him, would make or break any such man. And even as he smiled and spoke cheerfully of the city's past his eyes darted about, picking up the little signs that showed the big picture. The subtle clenching of jaws; the way feet shuffled and eyes glared; the looks given not just to strangers like him, but clear natives. Tension hung in the air, like a spring wound too tight, and his muscles tensed in instinctive response, ready to start running at a moment's notice. But through it all he chatted and smiled brightly, just as if there was nothing wrong; an art he had honed in the courts of Kalaire, where the chaotic plots of courtiers were hidden beneath a perfect veil of civility.

When Curia whispered to him about the elf she'd just had her staring contest with he nodded and lowered his voice. "You picked up on that too, huh? Just keep calm and act like a tourist. Look around, see the sights. I'll get us to a good inn." He knew which inns were best in a lot of cities across the world. After a little meandering, just to point out some cool sights that were close to their path, he got them to a place whose name translated to 'the Shepherd's Cross" and arranged for two rooms with a few quick words in the native tongue, a handful of silver and a smile. After that he lead the way up the stairs without preamble, gesturing for Curia to follow him into one of the rooms. "So," he said once the door was closed. "Obviously we have a bit of a situation here."
 
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Ottriman

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Curia kept on alert as Lucky decided they needed a better place to stay, one as free of spies as they could manage. Knowing the way things went they were probably being followed by an invisible tracker, or perhaps the mastermind would try and scry on them. Curia felt the world around her as they went, faint ebbs and flows of the passage of the wind, the step patterns of those walking, the shifts and budges of hostile intent. Curia wasn't so much looking around like a tourist would but straining her senses to the very limits to seek out anything that might possibly be amiss. Curia absolutely, positively did not want to be caught in a sneak attack, especially not in one that might actually hurt her or Lucky.

Lucky brought them to an inn in short order, and they went to their room in silence. Curia was certain that trouble would befall them soon even if she couldn't quite predict its form.

"Yes, we are being watched, possibly by the one to awaken that creature in the desert. Lucky, xe will probably try to have us killed, though I don't know by what means."

Curia took in the possible entry and exit places of the room, one window opposite to the door, fairly normal openable window massive weak spot. The walls were solid stone, stealthy entrance through there unlikely barring incorporeal assassins or earth elemental assassins. The door was iron-bound wood with a normal seeming lock and the ability to bar it from the inside.

"If xe were to assassinate us in this room xe would most likely try to come in by opening the window or perhaps by misting in through the keyhole of this room. Breaking in by force would wake us up so if xe were to come from another direction than that xe would have to be incorporeal. What do you think? Perhaps we should sleep in shifts?"
 
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CreepyShutIn

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Lucky nodded, mostly to himself, as he followed Curia's gaze and took in her observations. She was right, of course; the entrances were the main weakness. "If we latch the window and bar the door," he noted, "I could weave them into an alarm spell that would make a loud noise if either is moved, or anyone enters the vicinity. It's a good start. But there are ways around that, and it could simply be dispelled by a clever mage; I know one spellthief who's an expert at infiltration, she deals with these kinds of defenses all the time. Luckily she's only interested in stealing, not killing, or we'd all be in trouble." He reaches into his backpack and pulls out a small, silver bell on a stand, about three inches tall. As he sets it down, the slight ringing seems to be magnified greatly. "Luckily, this little trinket isn't easily dispelled. The magical aura of the alarm spell will hide its own minute signature to any but the closest magic detection. If I set it by the door, it will be jostled and ring out loudly. Should be enough to wake us... but that's only a good start."

He paced towards the window and ran his finger across the rim thoughtfully. "I don't know any way to stop an incorporeal assassin. I mean, I do know of them, but I can't perform one. If a warlock dispels the alarm and ghosts through the floor, I've got nothing. Still, if we sleep in shifts then neither of us will be fully rested. I can go a few days on low sleep, and I know you can too, but we don't know how long we'll be here. Some assassins will wait months for a weakness. The room also isn't airtight; the assassin could conjure clouds of poison and have them seep in without ever entering the room. To say nothing of air or earth elementals..." Lucky shook his head. "There's no way to guard against everything. Not without hiring bodyguards at all hours of the night."
 
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Ottriman

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"We will just sleep in shifts for now, use your bell, I can take first watch."

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Curia lurked in the darkest corner of the room, the bell was in place and both the window and door were firmly shut. She kept still and strained her senses, avoiding the lure of sleep.

Nothing of note actually happened, at least until it was Luckies turn.

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The priest had just written down his ideas, ways to defame them and to turn the communities anger against them. He was fairly pleased with the result if he said so himself.

Now that scout that was supposed to follow them wasn't supposed to try anything rash, but he was a bit overconfident. At least if he did something foolish like striking then at least he would be rid of a fool.

The priest smiled, some benefit either way.
 
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CreepyShutIn

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Lucky yawned when Curia woke him up, scratching his head lightly. A glance up at the stars confirmed it; four hours had passed. He got up, still dressed, and yawned again as he stood by the wall, one eye on the window, one on the door. After she went to sleep he continued standing like that for thirty minutes, occasionally with a stretch, a yawn or some other sign of tiredness. Eventually, though, he slid down the wall with one hand still on his staff, sat against it and closed his eyes. His breathing slowly evened out as his chin came to rest on his collar.

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The scout grinned to himself. Here was an opportunity! He'd been growing restless, just watching these two sleep and keep watch, but now the boy had fallen asleep on the job. Perfect. It took only a quick incantation to dispel the simple alarm placed on the area - not even a challenge, really - and another to teleport him into the room. He drew a long, thin blade. The sheath was daubed with felsorrow extract - a poison strong enough to cripple most outsiders - and enchanted to keep it fresh. That should make this much simpler. The hooded elf turned to the sleeping girl. His Arcane Sight spell earlier had confirmed that she was far more than she appeared, and likely the more dangerous of the two. He lifted his blade and stepped toward her-

"Stasi!" The yell came from behind him, and before he had a chance to check he felt his limbs halting, as if he were encased in solid stone. At the edge of his vision he saw the boy stand up, not even looking tired. A trick! Worse yet, the yell was loud enough to wake the rest of the building, including that girl! Still, he wasn't about to give up that easily. With a fierce heave of effort, the elf pushed through the magical binding on him and tossed his blade at the girl, hoping to hit her before she got up, then drew a fresh, venom-free blade to deal with the new threat.
 
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Ottriman

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Curia was not someone that could be easily caught off guard by an attack, she opened her eyes and glimpsed a projectile headed her way, she slapped the offending item aside, briefly coming into contact with the poison, which didn't really enter her body.

She quickly got out of bed but not before snatching that blade up from where it lay. Curia grinned despite the minor pain coming from her left hand.

"Nice try, amateur! I felt that!"

She promptly shifted her grip on the knife such that she held it by its blade the edge facing her palm, then she squeezed with a slight huff of effort she deformed the blade, which gave out with a creak of protest. The knifes blade had been crumpled, almost like a soda can. Curias palm was slightly discolored around the edge but no blood had been drawn.

"Ready to surrender now, idiot?"

Curia was fully prepared to hit him if necessary, she ignored the mild pain in her right hand.
 
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CreepyShutIn

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"Amateur?" The hooded elf repeated furiously, whirling to face Curia. "I am a-"

And there he stopped entirely as he watched his knife crumple like tinfoil. Lucky stepped up behind him, remarking "It was at that point he knew: He fucked up," in the voice of a narrator. He did a really good narrator voice. The assassin turned again, looked from one assailant to the next, and promptly tried to cast another teleportation spell... only for Curia to hit him in the gut, cutting off his incantation instantly. As he doubled over, clutching his stomach, Lucky patted him on the back softly. "You'll be alright. She knows her strength. She also knows how to hit a lot harder than that." The assassin looked up to find an easy, conversational smile on Lucky's face as he said all this in the same pleasant tone as one might remark on good weather.

After a few tense moments the elf dropped his remaining dagger, kicked it to the side of the room and stood up with his hands in the air. Lucky paused to roll down his sleeves, checking for dagger braces and magic tattoos (he wasn't falling for that again) before nodding, satisfied the man was not about to draw a weapon. "So," he continued cheerfully, "who sent you?"
 
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Ottriman

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As Curia looked at the hunched over would be assailant she had to admit to being disappointed, this seemed less like a planned assassination by a powerful shadow organization, and more some random idiot eagerly jumping at the chance to knife someone.

He manages to wheeze out a sentence after a few moments.

"I can't tell you that."

Curia smirked, she strongly doubted he could hold the information in for too long, even if he didn't give it up to them law enforcement would have a field day with him. She looked him right in the eye and made sure he didn't flinch away by pressing her left foot down on his forehead.

"Now then, let me tell you something you brash fool, even if I weren't inclined to hurt you or take much time interrogating you, which I am. There is still the lingering issue of two cases of attempted murder, I'm certain that law enforcement will have a field day demolishing your braggart self and getting the information from you."

He was exerting his feeble strength to try and get her off him to no avail. There was commotion outside the room, presumably due to people going to investigate the noise.

"Hmm do you get how outclassed you are yet? This is just getting sad."

She stepped off him and hauled him onto his feet. There was a knock on the door as residents and staff clearly wanted to know what was going on.

"Lucky, could you handle the explaining? This looks really strange to most observers I imagine."
 
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As he hovered just by the door, Lucky thought up half a dozen possible explanations for this mess and dismissed them all out of hand. Well, no keeping this quiet. He let out a sigh, plastered a bright smile on his face and opened the door. "Evening, folks," he said cheerfully. "Sorry about the noise, we're having a little trouble with an assassin. Nothing to worry about, but someone might want to get the guards." Naturally, people seemed to feel that this was indeed something to worry about, so he raised his hands soothingly. "Don't worry, it's just me and my friend being targeted. You're all perfectly safe. And as this poor fellow just learned, the two of us can certainly take care of ourselves." The words were not encouraging, but the way he said it - smooth and self-assured, as if it was a minor matter - seemed to calm down the frightened faces peering at him from the doorways.

He turned to the innkeeper, who seemed caught between worry that his establishment would look unsafe and outrage that they'd brought this kind of trouble. Lucky's calm, pleasant manner was honestly disarming in the face of all that. "If you could do a man a favor and get a guard or two? Tell them there's an assassin to take in, bit of a magician."
 
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Ottriman

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With the awkwardness of the scene soon forgotten, Curia and Lucky ended up looking over the would be assassin as they took him outside and met the police officers. The police had one of these fancy new automobiles Curia had seen occasionally in this city, this one though was big and blocky, more of a mobile prison than a rich mans ride. The officers were also very heavily kitted out and strong looking compared to what Curia would expect, the tiny fist symbol on their chests gave her some ideas as to why that might be.

The two of them had partial plate armor made from mithral polished to a mirror finish, Their arms and legs were covered in tough red fabric, probably silk or nylon based. Currently they had the visors on their helmets raised but when closed the would look like kite shields over their faces with eye holes. One of them had handcuffs ready while the other was currently empty-handed. Both had a baton at their hips and dull grey shields on their back, the dull grey color possibly indicating cold iron. The currently empty handed one also had a polished gem lens at his hip, possibly an enchanted sensor of some kind.

They seemed fairly gruff and overbearing, the current of tension rose to the surface again between them and the owner of the inn (who was clearly intimidated). As they looked over Curia she noticed that they were gauging the fighting strength of everyone on the scene, as she was not a dishonest person she made no attempt to conceal her fighting strength. They briefly froze when laying eyes upon her before continuing.

After a bit of talking they took the would be assassin and cuffed both his hands and feet in cold iron. Curia and Lucky were asked to come along and give a testimony. One officer, Curia, Lucky and the unfortunate would be assassin rode in the rear. The would be assassin also had his mouth taped over to prevent casting based on that. The interior of the rear section was a dull grey indicating mana and psyna resistant cold iron interior.

This honestly seemed a little overkill for someone who had already been subdued.

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The Police Station was almost like a castle keep but built with modern sensibilities in mind including a garage, multiple checkpoints and a lead coated exterior to prevent scrying. Once they were inside the unfortunate would be assassin was rudely hauled and carried off to the holding cells. Meanwhile Curia and Lucky were directed to wait in front of the Police Majors office, several times different police officers would pause to observe the duo for a bit before resuming their duties.

Curia spoke softly to Lucky as they waited.

"So, the tension around this arrest is more than normal, I felt it."
 
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CreepyShutIn

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Lucky nodded, as if to himself, his expression calm and unperturbed as it had been the whole ride. He looked more like he was quietly reminiscing or even taking a nap in his seat than riding to the guards' station with the man who tried to kill him not half an hour ago. When he spoke it was in a practiced whisper that hardly carried or moved his lips. "An assassination is serious business," he said quietly. "This town doesn't mess around with security - one of the reasons all the tension is still simmering. Nobody wants to start something when they're all on alert." He glanced up at the would-be assassin. "Well, almost nobody. I'm guessing they suspect there's more to this. They can't see how a couple of newcomers fit into the tensions, but adventurers can be kind of a wild card."

His eyes flicked from the assassin to the guard, then the wall between them and the driver, before returning to apparent rest. "I expect they'll hear us out, but there's no keeping a low profile after this. It's official: Someone's drawn blades. The tension isn't going to get better. And since we're in the middle of it all, people will connect us to the moment someone looked at all this oil and wood, and lit a match. Best case scenario, something distracts them, makes a bigger scene than us and we'll be forgotten. Worst case, a mob pins this on us and we're running from people with knives and torches." He sighed, sounding tired in a way that had nothing to do with how little sleep he'd had. "I'm gonna have to make up another name by the end of this. What do you think of Jace Talryn?"
 
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Ottriman

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"Hmm, don't know, that name sounds Australian somehow. Not to sure since it has been a while, but wasn't that place a dumping ground for artificial beasts gone horribly wrong? Might give the wrong impression."

Curia jested, but quickly returned to silence, the atmosphere of this place wasn't very welcoming. While it seemed like a long time they actually didn't have to wait for long until they were admitted into the majors office. The major herself was a fairly short and thin orc at only 1,7 meters, she was not suited up for battle but had many scars on her bald, flat face. her desk was quite large, and yet seemed to be mostly taken up by a writing area, an electric lamp and many files. To the side of the room were several small arcane devices, Curia guessed ones useful for information work.

She acknowledged the two travelers with a short grunt and a gesture to sit, two plain folding chairs having been put in front of her desk for the occasion. Her face was almost unreadable except for a slight scowl that almost seemed to have been eroded into the structure of her face.

"Hmm, Hmm, Hmm, yet another incident involving attempted murder and travelers. It doesn't seem like this city can have peace from incidents for just one month the last few years!"

Her voice sounded almost like it was very used to being much louder, accompanying an incredibly mighty warlord as opposed to an orc of short stature like her. She sighed, cleared her throat and picked up a pencil to write with before continuing.

"My apologies but there has just been a huge amount of trouble related to travelers the past few years, it's almost unbelievable. Apologies if our treatment has seemed extreme. Frankly the town actually felt kind of relived when people stopped coming from the south, even if it wasn't very just to think so, simply because there has been so much tension that this new traveler tension on top of that is making it hard for the people here to really relax."

The pencil snapped in her hand, and she huffed before grabbing another one. She wrote on two sheets and then handed the forms for witness testimony to Curia and Lucky.

"Do you have anything to add in particular? Because if not we can get this over with quickly by you simply reporting this case as you saw it."
 
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CreepyShutIn

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"It has a native population," Lucky started quietly, but he was forced to stop whispering to her when they arrived. They would have a lot more eyes on them in the station and a lot more people who could potentially overhear, even with him being as quiet as he could. At least the wait wasn't long; they were in the major's office in just a few minutes. He took a few moments to assess the area (the well-traveled adventurer recognized many of the arcane devices from his previous stints helping the law, but there were a few odd ones) before smiling at the major herself in a comfortable way that seemed to say 'Ready to help, however I can.'

Out loud he said "Believe me, I know what a powder keg situations like this can be. I'm just hoping we can get through this with as little trouble as possible. We'll start with just the facts, see if we can help at all." He settled into a chair and began to explain. "My name is Jace Talryn, and this is my companion." He paused a moment to let Curia introduce herself, wondering if she'd go for a pseudonym. It seemed unlikely, but one never knew. "We were on a bit of an expedition to the south and we're taking the land route back to Europe. I'd heard there was some sort of trouble on the road south of here, but it seems somebody took care of that. In any case, I can't say for certain the reasons, but the man who attacked us came in at night using magic, I was just lucky to wake up in time. We managed to subdue him - well, she subdued him, I woke her up - and got the guards. That's about all I know, though if I had to guess a motive I'd say the death of some random travelers is just the spark to light up the tensions around here."
 
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Ottriman

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"Curia Hearthbell" Curia introduced herself using her real name and held back a grimace from Luckies dishonest introduction, she certainly didn't like that. She knew Lucky was better at this than she was, but she didn't like his lies and half-truths much at all.

She was holding back the urge to smack him or correct him as he kept explaining. Somehow she managed it, technical half truths being almost as annoying as flat out lies to her.

"I subdued the assailant easily, he seemed unprepared for targets with knife proof skin. He was quite pathetic once he realized how outclassed he was."

Curia added after Lucky was done with his part of the explanation.

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The police mayor listens and nods as Lucien explains, and to Curias additions as well and notes some things down. She then looks up from the note taking at the two again.

"You should fill out your reports to seal the deal, by the way, they are enhanced such that you cannot write what you believe to be false on them, trying to will simply fail to stick. It's not perfect but it does help us catch some dishonest folks."

She pauses a bit for dramatic effect.

"We don't like dishonesty, doesn't play well with investigations or the General.*"

She thumbs a small arcane device of sending on her desk.

"Sergeant Irons, how goes the interrogation?"

"The subject has proven resistant as of yet, our investigation has just uncovered that the mewling waterbag may be under a geas to not talk. With our current facilities that could take anywhere from an hour to several days to undo."

The voice sounded somewhat stilted and artificial, Curia was... curious.

"Alright, tell me when you have the info."

She stopped thumbing the device.

"Well then, you should probably head off now, I want those reports before the end of tomorrow. Try to have them match up to what you just described to me hmm?"

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* Local slang for Heron
 
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CreepyShutIn

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"Fascinating enchantment," Lucky muttered to himself, just loud enough for the major to hear clearly, as he left the office. "I wonder if it reacts to intended truth or intended deception..." As they left the station, Lucky seemed remarkably unfazed for a man who'd just been through an attempted assassination. He pointed out landmarks, threw in tidbits of local history and culture, joked and laughed just as he normally would. It wasn't until they returned to their room that the smile left his face and he looked around suspiciously. He murmured an incantation under his breath, then another; no spells active in the area, so nobody was scrying on them, and there was no one around close enough to listen in normally. He breathed a sigh of relief.

"Okay," the wanderer said, turning to Curia. "Before you say it, yes, I am playing around with the truth. It's better this way. Trust me, if people knew more about us then we'd only attract more undue attention. Right now we're the random victims who turned out to be tougher than expected; if we're also the ones who took down that giant psychic thing in the south then we become important. Personally, I think the major's on the level, but there's no telling who'll have access to these reports." He took a seat on his bed eyes closed, deep in thought. "I know you still don't like it. But do you remember that story I told you, about the hunt for the cult? When I started looking into that, I was as subtle as a fireball. Next thing I knew there was a warrant out for my arrest, then a bounty - both of them marked 'dead or alive.' Honesty is a fine policy when there's also trust, but until we know more about the situation..."

He looked up at her seriously. "The only people we can trust are each other."
 
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Ottriman

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The police major simply nodded and waved them out of the room as they left. They were followed by an unarmed police officer out of the building and past the outer perimeter, after that he went back in.

Curia was able to tell that he was acting innocuous in public, though the environment seemed low-tension for now, compared to the "norm" as far as she had noted anyway. The weather was pleasantly calm, sunny and yet not stifling and they actually passed some youths playing at some manner of ball-sport on their way back even! The ball ended up being tossed out of the area, but Curia intercepted it and slapped it right back to them without breaking stride. They just kind of stood there stunned (and some were blushing) as Curia and Lucky continued on their way.

When they got into their room Lucky quickly dropped the act. Of course he wanted to lie, of course his points had some merit, but this just wasn't right.

"I didn't speak up when you faked your name in the police station, and that was offensive enough. Lying under normal circumstances is distasteful enough, but to the police? Even to go so far as to come up with a way to falsify these important enhanced documents? Frankly I won't just take this lying down, we will be truthful with these reports."

Her hands were on her hips as she stood between Lucky and the doorway and was quite focused on him. Quite frankly she was not happy in the least about the prospect of lying to the police of all people.
 
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"Wearing a badge doesn't make you a better person," Lucky said seriously. "I've known thieves and sneaks I'd trust with my life and guards who tried to take it for a crook's coins. And even if they're honest - which I know many of them are - they can still be manipulated, and often favor the law over common sense. It seems to me whoever is behind the attack is probably high up in the city, might have influence in the police ranks. Honestly in a city like this they'd have to be crazy not to get someone on the inside, what with law enforcement being so well-equipped to ferret out the truth."

He sat down on his bed and gestured across the room to Curia's, inviting her to sit. "Bottom line is, the police are like any other group, and you can't really trust groups that big. All it takes is one person with access and no qualms about using it for personal gain, or for a cause that pits them against us, or even for perfectly good reasons like a loved one held hostage. Just one person who can't quite be trusted. And in a police force for a city this size, there's at least a dozen people who either are or could be that person, with the right persuasion."

Finally the bard fixed her with a firm, even look. "We don't all have bulletproof skin. If I take a knife in the back, it will almost certainly kill me. I've learned from my mistakes one scar at a time, and if I have to lie to the law, to the whole city... if that's what has to be done to find whoever is stoking the fires of conflict in a city already on the edge, then it's not such a high price to pay."
 
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Ottriman

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Curia listened to what Lucien had to say, but didn't seem particularly convinced even as she sat down on the bed. The strength of trust and of integrity was vital, she hummed a bit as he continued about that.

"Think about this from their perspective, they might well scrutinize things even further. You could get away with this, but you might well not, and who then is your ally? Certainly not the now galvanized and angered militarized police. There is a reason I believe in integrity and honesty, why these are recognized as virtues far and wide. They work, and are the pinnacle of social function and teamwork."

Her posture slackened and became more relaxed, she smiled and took his hands into her own, leaning in closer to him.

"And besides, if daggers from the dark are such a weakness of yours, than you can count on me. We will be safe together and no wicked force can withstand the combined might of the trusting, for evil is self-destructive."

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The fool had been captured instead of killed, less than ideal but at least the geas should keep him from blabbing before he could be dealt with. Agent Maelstrom had already been sent to speed the plan along a little and start inciting chaos, spreading some baleful rumors to start with.

The fool would be dealt with by another.

The priest frowned briefly in his quarters before regaining a light smile as he poured himself a drink, if this somehow ended up getting out of control for real at least he had other ways to ensure he had the last laugh.
 
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For a while Lucky said nothing, and the expression on his face suggested he was giving the matter a lot of thought. Finally he gave a drawn-out sigh. "Fine. We do it your way. But I'm keeping the name. Trust me, that's a whole other bag of reasons I don't want to get into. Short version is I don't want my enemies connecting too many dots." He looked down at his still-blank form. "Well, best just write as we know. You can still call me Lucky, that's a pretty common nickname. Just try not to write 'Lucien,' okay? As a favor to me?" He plucked a self-inking quill from his pocket and started scribbling his version of affairs. It was stylized, but quite legible. "Of course the city already knows us as those outsiders who got attacked. Believe me, I know how stories spread and change. By tomorrow we'll be mercenaries brought in to fight a secret war, troublemakers who started some big fight, or we'll have fought off a whole gang of master assassins and their trained manticore." He paused. "Eh, give that last one a week. You'd be amazed what people will believe if it's repeated often enough, especially where there's alcohol involved."
 
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Ottriman

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"Don't worry about it, the incredible obfuscation from drunken bar tales would be enough so that even if your name were spelled out over the sky, people would "interpret" it to be something else given time. Honestly that tendency can be pretty sickening if you ask me."

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After filling in their reports the duo went back to the police station to hand them in. As they approached the front gate they saw a 2,5 or so meters tall iron construct, probably Sergeant Irons wheeling in some arcane device, probably for the interrogation.

Xe stopped and turned to face the duo as they approached, xe cocked xir head and pointed at the fridge-sized device.

"Your timing is quite good, we just received this geas breaker, It was delayed slightly by a flattened tire but now we can recieve information from your assailant at last. That pathetic waterbag will be talking before you know it!"

Sergeant Irons continued wheeling the device in as the duo went and handed in their reports. Curia couldn't shake the impression of a slight linger of hostile intent around the device.
 
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