[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Taverns. The vast majority are sombre, miserable and dangerous places. A meeting place for the refuse and brigands of society and those of ill repute. And The Green Apple in New Harlan was amongst the best of the worst. Only lit by a few candles and a small fireplace it was very squalid and dilapidated within. There is not one inch of the floor not coated by phlegm, tacky dried beer that stuck your boot to the ground, mouldy pieces of bread or the body of a patron left comatose either through voluntary inebriation or via the fist of a fellow alcoholic.
And alcoholics they all were. To the right of the entrance and the path to the bar was a long table. There sat a general throng of older men, farmers mostly, laughing and joking animatedly. But at that moment they were in a heated debate over the precise time and method to harvest a potato. It seemed split even down the middle but one particularly moronic individual dictates; [+orange [i 'fuck potatoes, what about a good yam?']] and he sticks by his assertion. That is until he is summarily rounded upon by the others in unison. He will come to the next morning, outside, missing his left boot and a tooth.
To the left; a myriad of groups at multiple smaller tables. One is taken up by a group of mercenaries, so identified by their weapons and light leather armour. They tell tall tales of conquest – both of a battle and sexual nature – and each time a story comes to end they roar together and clash their wooden cups. You see glass breaks far too easily and is expensive to replace on a regular basis. Around them are dotted several couples. Well, men and women together. They could just as well be whores and that nights drunken fool with some spare coin. Beyond these is a small wooden platform supporting several booths raised up and away from the other tables. It is cleaner and less crowded. Several have curtains pulled across to give some privacy to the lewd, unsavoury acts behind – imagine what you will, it likely is happening.
Except at one booth where behind it's curtains sits our lovely, kind hearted, compassionate and dashingly handsome Elf. At least in comparison to everyone else in the tavern.
The soft tinkle of coin prickles the ear of one or two close to the booth. Anyone who knows financial hardship knows the sound as it coins rub against one another especially when muffled by that of cloth from say; a coin purse. But no-one dares peek behind the curtain what with a semi-lucid man already sat on the floor outside it nursing a rapidly swelling eye.
In his semi-seclusion Alloen sits with another man. A human, wearing armour similar to the mercenaries previously mentioned. A sword lay between them; Captain Gerald's sword. The scabbard lays there at least, a beautiful piece of leather scored with patterns and several brass pieces with an iron chappe. The sword itself is in the man's hands, turned over, inspected closely, it's handle particularly. The pommel holds two opal gems either side of the grip. Unbeknown to the man they had taken the place of an emerald and ruby retrieved by the Elf. Regardless he was impressed and nodded with satisfaction.
[+deeppink “A very good sword, beautiful work as you said. I approve!”] His grin widens as he places the sword back onto the table alongside a bag of coin. The latter was produced for Alloen's benefit to show his genuine interest before he could even handle the blade.[+deeppink “Why would you sell such a fine piece?”]
[+green “I simply have no need for it,”] a hand clasping a wooden cup is swung off to his side in gesture of his Elven glaive,[+green “but also it is a human blade. It is heavy and cumbersome. Too much so for my liking.”] He sups at his wine slowly. The man opposite shrugs at the response - [i [+deeppink 'his loss']] he thinks – and he returns his gaze to the table for a moment.
[+deeppink “Well then it is good luck I happened upon you.”] He grins again and looks up into the violet eyes of the Elf, licking his lips before proceeding with his opening offer;[+deeppink “I'm thinking fifteen gold.”]
[+green “No.”] The response is swift. His gaze remains unyielding causing the human to place a hand atop his bag of gold responsively.
[+deeppink “Alright, a man who really knows his swords, I understand. Twenty.”]
[+green “No.”] Again; no change. The man takes a deep breath in.
[+deeppink “Well then how about you give me a number so we stop this bloody back and forth!”] His irritation boils over, fingers tightening on the coins in anger. Again Alloen seems indifferent and takes a small sip.
[+green “Fifty.”] He says quietly and the human scoffs. The Elf's free hand raises up to shush and wave off any retort.[+green “You approached me, remember? I do not care if it sells today or a year from now. And, I do not care if that is too rich for your blood. If you dislike my price then feel free to return to your table.”] The hand continues up and brushes his raven hair back as the man simmers over his words.
The silence is a ploy to let the offer sink in and become more digestible and agreeable. He knows the man wants the sword. His body conveyed a greater desire than the words from his lips. Truth be told, he could had the sword for thirty if he had played his cards closer to his chest. But he had been brazen. He had tried to flaunt his wealth before Alloen like a peacock on display. And he had lost. Seeing sense in the Elf's words at last he opened the pouch, withdrawing several coins before it is quickly tied back up and rolled across the table. A brief shake of the hands between gentlemen and the sword is slid back into the scabbard and taken away, curtain's left open now.
It was only a few minutes and a sip or two later, having counted his coin and with the mercenary warmed from his tepid mood by his friends swooning over his new sword, that the door to the tavern slammed open and a gust followed with it. The flames flickered in the room but remained lit but the joyful and harmonious atmosphere died in a moment.
[+firebrick “Where is tha' no beard, tree fuckin', knife eared bastard? Where is 'e?!”] In the doorway stands a small man. Most would call them dwarves but Alloen has taken a preference for little-human. It upsets some of them to his delight. This particular little-human is wrapped in a splendid wolf pelt, barrel chested and as wide as the door – almost. Bald as the sun is bright his braided beard reaches half way down to his waist where he rests worn and stumpy hands.
The Elf in question, given everyone else here was human, shuffled from his booth after a moments pause to tuck away the gold. With narrowed eyes he met the Dwarf's gaze. He folded his arms across his chest, standing tall as those around shifted their gaze between each man in the expectation of what was going to come. It was the shorter being who strode forward first, heavy boots stomping as he made his way across and up onto the raised platform. The duo came before one another and the Dwarf balled his hands at his side as he stared upwards.
[+green “What do you want door-stop?”] Alloen said with dripping sarcasm and someone to his left gasped. The Dwarf stared up with fiery eyes transfixed upon the Elf. The tension simmered as if awaiting a means to escape. When it seemed at it's peak the Dwarven man stepped forward and wrapped his thick arms about the Elf with a deep booming laugh that broke the unease in the room.
[+firebrick “Ah, ye bloody stick-throwing girls blouse, it's good t' see ye!”] The spell dismissed, Alloen grins and returns the embrace.
[+green “And you as well my height-impaired friend.”] As the two old friends eased from their friendly encounter the expectant crowd waned in interest and went back to their conversations. The dwarf looked across to the bar, holding up four fingers;
[+firebrick “Four pitchers o' ale miss! And a lemon slice for the Queen 'ere.”] His body shook with his laughter, face lighting up as Alloen afforded him a roll of his eyes and guided him to the booth to take a seat.[+firebrick “So,”] he shuffled along the bench, feet dangling off the floor,[+firebrick “gone for two long bloody years an' w'en 'e comes back, nary a word ta 'is friend? Where 'ave ye been Ally?”] The Elf had never particularly liked nicknames from others but the Dwarf got a pass this time.
[+green “Well, I thought of coming to find you but I figured why not just frequent your local alehouse and wait for you to come to me. Aside from your outhouse it's the only guaranteed place to find you.”] It was fair reasoning and came with a wry smile.
[+firebrick “Aye.. tha's true enough.”] He grins.[+firebrick “Say, speakin' o' which; did ye hear tha' big boom yesterday? The one from over by Temlis?”] The Elf shakes his head.
[+green “I only got in a few hours ago.”]
[+firebrick “Lets jus' say, lucky I was already in the outhouse!”] He barked a laugh and slapped the table joyfully and the Elf stifles a laugh.
[+green “Yes, than the heavens. Anyway. As to where I have been; stuck out in the west for a long time.”] He lets out a deep sigh.
[+firebrick “Ah, damn typical of ye lad. Ne'er could keep ye in one place too long. Still, cannae believe ye would strike out west! Bunch o' backward, twelve toed, sheep shaggin' crazies the lot of 'em.”] The pitchers are delivered to the table by a servants girl without a drop spilled – she was rather skilled in her work – and the Dwarf began rubbing his hands together in delight. Alloen softly sighs, for he see's a sliver of golden lemon is floating in one of the pitchers and it soon draws table shaking laughter from the short man who pounds his fist on the surface.
Beer, especially this hop variety, did nothing for him which doubled down his displeasure. Like a flat-chested whore it left him unsatisfied and naught much else. But, for his Dwarven friend, he would indulge and took up the one with the fruit slice inside. The servant girl stood looking at the Dwarf for payment but seeing that it was a frivolous endeavour, his eyes lost in the golden liquid already, turned her blue eyes on the Elf instead. He knew his friend would not pay and so fished a golden coin from his new wealth. He requested her to bring him a few bottles of wine before handing it over. She bowed her head and moved away, biting the coin as she left; good practice.
[+green “Whilst yes, it leaves something to be desired culture wise, it is quite a lucrative market Ingulf. No competition to speak of, a lot of untapped wealth, incredibly simple people and some of the women are,”] he hesitates as he tries to find a positive to spin on the latter,[+green “well they don't have extra digits. Most of them.”] He grins.[+green “If you can stave off the numbing boredom you have an easy life. And it's cheap too which I imagine would appeal to you.”] The first pitcher has been half drank by Indulf before Alloen finishes and frothy beer suds run down his facial hair whilst he smacks his lips happily.
[+firebrick “Nah, 'am good 'ere in New 'arlan, 'specially wit' this 'ere rebellion goin' on. It doubles me work. Though, it's annoyin' havin' ta play one side off against t'other, it keeps the forge lit an' the coffers full.”] He licks his lips as he stares into his frothing beverage. The notion he has wealth is not lost on Alloen as he eyes the other pitchers but he pours himself a cup and takes several mouthfuls, nodding thoughtfully.
[+green “I'm glad you brought up the rebellion, you see-”]
[+firebrick “Oh do we 'ave ta? Cannae we jus' drink?”] The Dwarf opined, brows furrowing in disdain.
[+green “Do hush Ingulf, I have one topic to ask about and then we can continue drinking. Is that agreeable?”] He takes another small sip, pouring the rest back into the pitcher with disgust; far too syrupy.
[+firebrick “Fine, fine. 'urry up.”] The dwarf raises the pitcher to drink deep once more as he listened.
[+green “Too kind. Well, I am looking for a human male. I have nothing other than he is missing an ear, his right ear. Might be a bit of a gambler I'm led to believe. Known to talk with some of the merc's running about here. Keen to know if he's seen a friend of mine.”] The dwarf finishes off the pitcher and slides it aside with a large belch but nods.[+green “Know him?”]
[+firebrick “Aye, aye. Drav. Sneaky little pissant. Gone for the week t' Kerin. Should be back tonight or t'morrow. See, 'e got some girl up the duff an' the father was none too keen for 'im ta run off an' leave 'er, so went with 'im. Dumb fuck.”] He chuckled at the man's predicament, all whilst sliding the second pitcher before himself and sipping just to wet his lips a touch.
[+green “I don't know, sounds quite the fine gentleman to me.”] Alloen grinned and his eye caught the servant returning this time with his wine. He thanked her with a few silver loose on the table from earlier drinks. Pouring a cupful he nestled it between his hands, small emerald flickering flames licking up from his palms as he warmed the wine. The air between them became quite perfumed and fruity.
[+firebrick “Ah, bloody ponce.”] The little man grumbles upon smelling the wine.
[+green “Ingulf, learn some manners or hush and raise that pitcher.”] He raised his cup to the man who in turn raised his ale curiously.[+green “A toast. To old friends and new friends. Great friends and dead friends. May we kiss who we please and please who we kiss!”] They both grinned at one another and each downed their respective drinks not stopping until they were drained. Wine was a downfall of Alloen's. His Elven body was very susceptible to it's intoxicating ways. After this first full cup of heated wine, his second cup of the night, he felt his senses slow a degree or two.
And so the two old friends set about getting drunk. Alloen forwent his cup when he started on his second bottle, biting off the cork to spit aside and taking long gulps at a time, his flames licking around the neck of the bottle warming the drink as it poured out. Ingulf was not one to be drank under the table, especially to an Elf, so he made sure he kept apace. They ate bowls of thick, steaming stew to quell rumbling stomachs and drank on until several empty wine bottles and pitchers of ale scattered the table between them, each man left laughing hysterically at inside jokes and the like and hammering the table when their own old memories and fables were brought up.
[+green “Hey.. hey Ingulf..”] Alloen whispered as he finished his fifth bottle and the moon was reaching it's zenith. The tavern was at it's most boisterous now. The Dwarf looked up from eyeing his wooden spoon, wanting something more to eat. Alloen began to thump on the table with his hand and built a steady rhythm before his foot joined in banging on the floor.
[+green “There's.. an.. Inn..”] The Dwarf grinned at those few words, eyes lighting up and he immediately began to pound upon the table with both his thick hands in delight. It quietened those around their booth and the eerie hush spread quickly through the rest of the drunken throng that remained. Alloen, ever the showman, slid from the booth and on remarkably steady feet turned to the silenced crowd as Ingulf kept the rhythm;
[+green [center “There's an inn, there's a merry old inn
Beneath an old grey hill,
And there they brew a beer so brown
That the Man in the Moon himself came down
One night to drink his fill.”
“The ostler has a tipsy cat
That plays a five-stringed fiddle;
And up and down he runs his bow,
Now squeaking high, now purring low,
Now sawing in the middle.”
“The landlord keeps a little dog
That is mighty fond of jokes;
When there's good cheer among the guests,
He cocks an ear at all the jests
And laughs until he chokes.”]]
Others begin to take up the beating of fists and feet, drunken minds syncing with the pleasant melody. He continued like this for several verses more, moving about the floor amongst the crowd drawing more in. He found himself beside the bar and using a free chair to step up onto it, began stomping his feet as he continued singing;
[+green [center “So the cat on his fiddle played hey-diddle-diddle,
A jig that would wake the dead:
He squeaked and sawed and quickened the tune,
While the landlord shook the Man in the Moon:
[i "It's after three!"] he said.”]]
There was a great cheer and laughter, eyes turning to the very landlord of this tavern who was busy laughing at the fable being sung, nodding and joining in on the joke at his expense as Alloen neared the end;
[+green [center “With a ping and a pang the fiddle-strings broke!
The cow jumped over the Moon,
And the little dog laughed to see such fun,
And the Saturday dish went off at a run
With the silver Sunday spoon.”
“The round Moon rolled behind the hill,
As the Sun raised up her head.
She hardly believed her fiery eyes;
For though it was day, to her surprise
They all went back to bed! Hey!”]]
He raised his hands as the song finishing. You could feel the earth rumble as the place erupted in cheers and chorus laughter. The people were in rapturous applause for the show and Alloen dipped down to grab a cup of beer that had just been poured, raising it up in cheers to them all, drinking heartily before grinning, a frothy mustache left behind. Several golden coins were fished from his pouch and thrown to the landlord to catch;
[+green “Now, a drink for all!”] He called out triumphantly; and that garnered the greatest cheer of the night yet.
Insae's tail swished, only the very tip of it slowly moving from left to right and then back again. She hoped that Yui would answer in the affirmative to the given question, but if not then she'd work with an answer in the negative.
So far, the only reaction from Yui had been to look around the village. Whether that was a move on purpose to scout around the surroundings or it was something to do while thinking on a reply, one could only really guess one or the other. But Insae was prepared to wait for as long as it took to wait; you don't pressure a potential business partner, especially if you don't know them.
And then Yui started to walk. Insae started following her, keeping up with steady, monotone sounding steps.
As they walked, Insae glanced around as if she were checking out a city that she was visiting for the first time. This glancing around wasn't only for the beautiful views, it was also to scout the surrounding. With the present times being as crazy as they were, surprises, both good and bad, hid everywhere. One would be always glad of a good surprise, but no one enjoyed being badly surprised.
A flower shop, a curious choice indeed. Insae glanced at Yui, hoping for some insight; there was none. All Insae could do was to go along with Yui and whatever her plan was.
Now the cemetery, that was a key piece to this whole puzzle. By themselves, the cemetery or the flowers would have made no sense together. But together, the puzzle was finally solved.
The two of them would appear to be honouring a dead person. Anyone who even looked in their direction, curious as to what they were doing, would only see two people remembering a dead person.
But they would not hear the conversation, which was the whole point of this deception.
Insae merely nodded her head to Yui's inquiry. Insae settled into a comfortable stance facing Yui, ready to explain everything.
There was nothing to lose by telling the truth, so that was what Insae told to Yui.
Insae explained that she was merely a middle agent, sent by one of the Torn Army members to negotiate a deal with a mercenary group. She also explained the request; as many mercenaries hired as possible. It was indeed quite the request, but the Torn Army was willing to pay for it in gold.
The whole time Yui had listened, paying attention to every word. This seemed a good sign, as it meant that something about this whole deal interested Yui.
After she had finished speaking, Insae once more waited for Yui to reply. It seemed a bit funny, this whole 'talk-listen-talk' cycle. But that was the way any conversation normally worked.
There were no words at first, only slow footsteps. Then Yui replied as both of them continued to slowly walk out of the cemetery.
Insae once again nodded her head, she definitely was not going to leave this town until this whole business was sorted out. She couldn't pull out of such a deal, for she'd be leaving two very pissed of groups in the wake.
INsae let Yui walk off first before going out herself. She took a completely different direction from the one Yui had took.
With nothing else to do, Insae just strolled through the city. Now that she had the time, Insae looked around and took in the view. It was quiet and beautiful, two things which she liked.
But this peaceful stroll came to an end. A voice called out, [b "Lookie what we have here, a half-witted half breed"] Insae turned around to stare at the accuser; there were a total of three of them, all of them humans and all of them had their swords out. Out of all the races, humans were the most annoying when it came to being racist.
[+purple "Is it a fight you wish for?"] The looks in their eyes was enough to understand that they would not be backing down.
Insae took a step back with her right leg, drawing out her sword. As she drew it out, the three of them sprinted at her hoping to catch her before she could pull out her sword.
Insae managed to pull out her sword. But she did not commit to a defensive stance just yet. Committing to a defensive stance would be hard with three opponents, for she would not be able to block all three of them at once.
The leader, the one who had called her out, was in the middle, while his two 'henchmen' were on his flanks.
As they closed in, Insae lashed out. She delivered a strike cutting up and to the left hitting the guy to the left, while whipping out her tail at the guy on the right. The guy on the left was knocked out when the flat part of the blade him in the head, the guy on the right was hit in the head with a tail which knocked him out as well.
Which left the 'ringleader'. He seemed a bit shocked that his two friends had gone down quickly, but he did not seem to want to back off. This was good, for it meant that this guy at least was not afraid to follow through.
After the quick strike, Insae committed to a defensive stance. She stood at an angle to him, her sword pointed diagonally and slightly towards him. She was not going to be making a move, which would mean that he would have to make a move.
Make a move he did, a wild cut from Insae's right-to-left. She blocked it with ease, and then twisting her hands as she angled her sword downwards, disarming him in the process. Even though it was completely unnecessary, Insae tripped him by hitting both of his legs with her tails at the same time.
With a quick jump, Insae was standing over him with her sword near his neck. She could see the fear in the eyes, even almost taste it.
It would have taken no effort to slice his throat open. Just a little shove into his neck and he would be bleeding out to death.
But Insae instead sheathed her sword and stepped back. She turned around, and walked off leaving the guy and his two unconscious friends where they were.
Insae was fuming. She had wanted no participation in that fight. Fights attracted unwanted attention, and all her actions up to this point had been to attract as less attention as possible. What made her even more angry was that there had been no way out of the fight, the humans had wanted to fight.
Racism at its finest.
Insae wanted to move to a more private location. She supposed it made sense as the halfling was associated with the Torn. Yui wasn’t sure how yet, but she was curious to find out. Tucking her mail under her arm she glanced around the village, and determined she’d have to run her errands later in the day. At least from what she could see, the book she ordered on Human anatomy and pressure points had come in as well as a package of rare herbs for her tinctures and poisons. As far as Yui knew, there was really no place that was private in Temlis, but there was her room back at the inn. However, people would see them huddled together, or they might insist something else by their retirement to her room. Either way, people were going to talk. Silently Yui led the way towards one place she did know would be free of eavesdroppers and other people. She made only a single stop and purchased a small collection of flowers from a cart and led Insae towards the cemetery on the southern edge of the village. There it was empty of people, and Yui led her through the gates and wandered between the crude sticks and stone tombstones.
She stopped by a tombstone in the farthest point of the cemetery and placed the flowers upon the earth. To anyone else, they simply looked like a pair paying their respects. [#87CEFA “Alright, we are in a cemetery… no one will bother us here…”] she motioned around them to the lack of individuals. Their only company was the dead and the dead don’t speak. [#87CEFA “Private enough for you?”] Yui stood up straighter. She didn’t know the person buried at the grave they were speaking at, but she wasn’t about to conduct business over a strangers grave without leaving something in return, thus the flowers. How would they know if she did or didn’t know the corpse under the earth she stood on? Insae seemed to be accepting of their location and proceeded to explain herself. Yui listened closely, arms folded over her chest, and doing her best to look attentive and not allow her RBF to reign supreme. Then again, it couldn’t be helped, that was simply how her face looked.
From what Yui gathered, Insae was looking to purchase a collection of mercenaries for hire for the Torn army. Yui found that interesting, and she had a feeling Vreal would as well. It was rather odd, yet convenient, that someone hoping to bolster the Torn’s army would arrive just after the conversation she and Vreal had. She weighed what the Halfling Liaison had to say, and finally they both began their walk out of the Cemetery with slow steps to prolong their discussion.
[#87CEFA “I will take in all that you’ve told me. I will have to take it to my Commander. He will have the final say. You are asking for a lot of manpower. He will want to meet with you, of that I’m sure. He will want the remainder of details, the name of your contact, and how they plan to pay. We’ll also need a final headcount of what you want.”] She stopped at the gate of the cemetery and gave Insae one final look. [#87CEFA “Do not leave town too quickly. I will arrange the meeting and come looking for you, or I’ll send a messenger to bring you.”]
There wasn’t much more to say after that. Yui had listened to her requests on behalf of the torn. Smart of them not to send one of their own people directly, and instead young Insae had found herself as a type of middleman. Yui’s little stunt with the graveyard had worked, no one had bothered either of them as they left the cemetery, and Yui was able to run her errands for the day. During her time in town, one of her brethren told her about Rezik’s challenge against Vreal, and his appointment of her new position as left-tenant. Her brother admitted the groups shock at hearing that Vreal had chosen Yui. She had to admit, she was surprised by it too, a part of her sure that Vreal had done so for tactical purposes. Keep your friends close, but your enemy closer… she wasn’t really a rival, but she could see how she was perceived as one. Her and Vreal had been at each other’s throats since the day the met, it was only recently in the past year they had begun to get along. Mostly at Acrius’ behest. Among the news, one of the letters she received was from one of her contacts. A Target was moving towards Temlis, but was currently in the neighboring Village. Yui had been trying to track this target down for months, and finally one of her contacts had spotted him and reached out to her. This meant she had to prepare to leave Temlis for the night, and gather a disguise. She hurried back towards the Inn, stopping at the stables and requesting her horse be prepared for travel, then made her way into the Inn. It was mid afternoon, and while it wasn’t terribly busy in the tavern, it was filled with people eating a late lunch, or afternoon pint. Vreal was among them, sitting at his own table and looking a bit roughed up.
She set her stuff down on the table and sat down across from him, raising a hand to be served her usual afternoon tea.
[#87CEFA “I heard about Rezik’s challenge,”] she stated right off the bat, she almost sounded as if she felt bad. Not that she did. [#87CEFA “Don’t dwell on it, Rezik was an idiot. Acrius chose you, because he knew you were the right person for the job.”] She smirked, assuming Vreal’s uncertain expression was due to the challenge and subsequent death of their comrade. She sighed thankfully as her tea was set before her, in her own dainty cup and she sipped from it, letting the full bodied tea of liquorish and bergamot touch her soul. [#87CEFA “Anyway, I spoke with the halfling. Her name is Insae, she’s a liaison for The Torn. I think you’re going to want to talk to her. She’s trying to make a contract for a lot of man power. What she wants would easily force this entire unit to work. No one will be able to get their personal contracts taken care of, if everyone is wrapped up in what she wants. Speaking of personal Contracts, I just got a lead on one of mine. He’s in the next village, one of my girls spotted him. I’m going to take him out tonight. I’ll be back by morning, and seriously, don’t let the Rezik thing get to you…. unless… it’s not Rezik… it’s something else…”] she said finally seeing it on his face. Rezik wasn’t what was bothering him. So what was it?
Vreal stood up from where he was sitting and walked back into the town itself. He had intentions of looking for Yui and checking to see if she was good with the newcomer but that thought passed when he realized who the hell he was thinking about...she could be quite scary at times. Instead he walked to the blacksmith and had her sharpen his blades for him. He stood looking at some of her work and was relatively impressed with her handiwork. She had definite skill that was worthy of being a royal court blacksmith. When he received the blades back he paid her handsomely as she was well worth the cost.
He decided to head over to the field where the undead battle took place and investigate something that had always interested him but he just never had the time. [+blue [i Permeating magic is still a mystery to the people of this land I wonder if I can learn something about it by observing it closely maybe there is something there...]] He thought while approaching the area that seemed to waver the most on sight. Magic itself was fascinating and in places like this the air seemed visible but also colorful. It was like a distortion that shouldn't be there yet was completely natural.
He observed it as it shimmered a vision he had never expected. Something was there but it...wasn't. He watched a battle waging in the long past. Only bits and pieces at a time but what he did see...was terrible. Like something happened here that decided the fate of many men. He looked around at the field now and there were no signs that a fight like this ever occurred. [+blue [i What was that exactly? It's like these areas of intense magic can show you the past....or maybe...could it be the future?]] He thought to himself. None of those cleaning up here seemed to notice what Vreal had. He looked back into the distortion and saw one last thing. A hooded man with eyes as red as lit coals and a smirk he raised a sword and beheaded a young soldier who had yielded. Evil had lived here or...it would one day.
Vreal took a drink from the wine skin and looked away. He thought on what he had seen but didn't let his mind stay on it for too long. He had to see one more thing here but before he could step away something whispered out to him. He turned slowly to the distortion. [i [+red Death...famine....all will perish...all will enter the void....all is lost...fate decrees so....the torn....the throne....and...you young prince...success is your salvation...the only way to right....magic...the only way to prevent....the end.]] The voice was gutteral, deep, and...chilling.
Vreal stood there waiting to hear more but it became obvious that there was nothing more it would say to him. [+blue [i What just happened?]] He thought to himself stricken with the feeling of despair. [+blue [i Who was that?]] He thought while reaching towards the distortion with a free hand. He moved his hand through it watching it fold around his hand and suddenly a chill ran up his spine from this encounter. He noticed the magic had numbed his arm from touching it. Then his adrenaline surged when the numbness faded his magic was igniting inside him. He could feel it. He pointed his arm towards the sky so he could release it quickly before it overcame his reserve. A powerful burst of white light erupted from his palm and a gale force forced him to slide back from the released energy. It was the noise that caught everyone off guard the most though. It was incredibly loud and forceful. Everyone that was cleaning up the field was startled and hit the ground expecting an explosion.
Vreal started to feel normal again and even noticed none of his stamina had depleted from something that would have killed him had he cast it without that feeling of surging power that had overcome him just moments ago. [+blue [i I need to find Yui now.]] He decided while walking quickly back into the town. People were all looking around now quizzically about what had just occurred. He walked towards the Inn where he had last seen Yui but she wasn't there. [+blue [i She always comes back here sooner or later. I will wait here.]] He thought while taking a seat and ordering some cooked venison and something to drink.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat A glorious light streams through thick opaque windows bathing the room within in holy golden rays. The air is thick with a smoky haze and the scents of amber, jasmine and honey intermingle from multiple incense burners dotted about the room, lazy wisps rising from lit tips.
It is quite a sparsely decorated room save for a scattering of pillows and rolls of cloth towards one side, a small desk in the opposite corner. Currently the latter is adorned in a well tailored set of clothing – boots, trousers, shirt and the like – but also a beautiful mail shirt wrought of Dwarven silver and an Elven glaive sits propped against it's side.
A man with charcoal hair and eyes like moonlit lagoons lounges chest down upon a long and padded table that runs down the middle of the room. Deprived of clothing save for a thin satin towel across his lower half, he soaks in the rich and luminous glow from the windows, arms draped over the side of the sturdy furniture. Though not overly muscular his figure is well defined, lean and in the light glistens in a thin layer of perspiration. His breathing is shallow, eyes closed, quiet and still to the world.
With no vision it is his peaked ears that take account of what is around him. A wooden board creeks softly under pressure. A discreet breath from behind him toward the corner, air whistling as it is drawn in. Fabric is ruffled and metals scrape together as an object is removed from the table. The boards take further strain as the weight shifts and moves back toward the table. Finally the ears visibly twitch on the sound of flesh being scored. His shoulder leaves the fabric for only a moment before an ivy coloured hand pushes down on it rather forcefully.
[+coral “I rather like the blade, Elf.”] It is a throaty voice, quite deep though the end tapers up. The pressure on his shoulder increases and the Elven male groans softly.
[+green “You do?”] He speaks quietly, curiosity dances in his tone, no fear.
[+coral “Sharp, a little light, good for slashing I imagine.”] The pressure on his back increases and the table lurches at the increased load. Warm skin settles either side of his chest as the rocking table stops still again.
[+green “Mm, yes,”] he retorts slowly, tone airy and loose,[+green “it is rather beautiful isn't it?”] The pressure on his shoulder lessens and he eases open his eyes, lips curling in a devilish smile and then part to accept a sliver of peach proffered from the tip of his own blade lowered before him, a feminine hand pulling it away.
[+coral “Beauty is pointless on a weapon. Definitely a trait of a filthy Elf.”] Stern, authoritative in tone, yet her voice teases in nature. More flesh is cut and the man chews thoughtfully on his fruit for a moment.
[+green “I seem to recall,”] the fruit is moved so he can speak,[+green “that you are a half-elf, no?”] His head lifts up to turn and look back at the woman but the flat of the blade smacks painfully off the crown of his head.
[+coral "Oi! More orc than Elf, pretty boy. Don't forget.”] She spits back with a little venom as he chuckles heartily and a hand brushes through his hair.
[+green “Ah, of course, how could I forget Feluni – what with such a strong physique.”] His other hands come up to his side, grasping at a smooth green calf and squeezing affectionately. The mischievous grin remains.
He does manage to roll under her frame, maintaining his modesty and his place upon the table though she seats herself back down above his hips. She is as described both elven and orc; a very powerful and chiseled physique but with delicate and more feminine facial features melded as one in a buxom woman. Small tusks curl over her upper lip and toward inattentive eyes encircled by smoky paints that make her auburn eyes all that more prominent. Her cheekbones are highlighted in rouge and black flowing locks end in a decorative undercut on one side. She watches him as his hands come to rest on her bare thighs, seemingly lost in deep thought as she takes a piece of the fruit herself.
[+green “I was thinking-”] He begins in a soft and delicate tone. Fingers creep slowly up the smooth skin patterned with more paints like those around her eyes. The dagger slashed down again, connecting with his wandering hand this time, a satisfying dull ring as it hits bone.
[+coral “And I have told you numerous times Alloen; no! I am not one of your countless whores dotted about this world from town to town!”] The point of the blade jabs toward him with added intent.
[+green “You think so little of me dear, it pains this man's heart.”] The man, now revealed as Alloen by name, retrieves his hand from her and massages the swelling on his ring finger knuckle. The silver ring that sits there catches the light, numerous small emeralds encircling a beautiful star sapphire scatter the ray.[+green “I had thought given the many hours spent together that I was your most treasured client; a favourite perhaps.”] Hands retreat from her, ringed hand resting on his chest and the other loops back to support his head.
[+coral [i “A favourite?”]] She snorts at his suggestion and the short maroon nightgown she wears ripples with her laughter.[+coral “You may bring me good business and coin – a good amount of coin as it may be – but a man who has only told me his name and naught much else cannot be a favourite.”] The fruit is cut further.[+coral “Beside the fact that I have not seen you in six months; why the sudden disappearance and subsequent return?”] As if in apology for the two strikes against him she offers another piece of succulent peach to him and he accept the token gesture with a nod of his head.
[+green “True,”] he pauses to mull his words and chew,[+green “but I am a man who it is best knowing little about.”] The hand on his chest idles in slow circles, circumventing her question of his whereabouts. He kept his cards close and divulging that her name appeared in a list of Torn Army allies from papers taken out of Captain Gerald's room would raise further queries. Not least, how did he come about them.
[+coral “Not a man but an Elf.”] She holds the next piece of food on the knife as he looks to her to improve on her reply.[+coral “Well, your kind aren't exactly prevalent in these lands aside from your ambassadors or rare traders. Given the armour and weaponry you hold I'm dissuaded from pinning either of those as your profession.”] She speaks bluntly and the gruffness of her voice belies a hidden intelligence that Alloen had come to admire. Her assertion brings a raise of his brow in surprise.
[+green “Well done, but what does that have to do with being an Elf?”] A gentle smile returns.
[+coral “The fact your kind are so sparse is the point I am making. So many men mean conflicting stories, backgrounds and histories that they mix and distort from the truth. Some exploits are taken by others and likewise forgotten by the rest of the masses. Ask about John the Human and you have a hundred stories. But an Elf? You stick a name to a history and they bond. You ask around about a specific Elf and people know who you mean, they know which person you talk about.”]
[+green “So you have been asking around about me?”] He winks playfully and she rolls her eyes in return.
[+coral “Yes Alloen, I spent the last six months trying to find out anything about you.”] She plays mockingly to his jovial tune and his ivory teeth show his humour.
[+green “So then you know more than just my name.”] His eyes close back over as he swallows and waves her off as she offers to cut more to eat.
[+coral “No. Seems you're more folklore than reality. I guessed at that though. Pays in this business to learn about clients. Learn what they do for a living to tailor the experience.”] She shrugs nonchalantly and continues eating still straddling the elf below.
[+green “Hm, I don't like to think of you having other clientèle aside from me. I prefer to live in a world where you sit and wait my arrival. Makes me feel.. important.”] There is no humour in the voice, just a flat statement that brings further laughs of incredulity from Feluni and her entire figure shakes.
[+coral “Oh my, is the little Elf feeling insignificant? You make me laugh. Do you forget that anyone who isn't a King is? We're all scrabbling around trying to make a living whilst we can. Why should you be any different than the rest of us?”] She rolls her head, neck cracking as she adjust her attire to sit more comfortably.
[+green “Because I am.”]
[+coral “You're a humorous being true. But do tell me, how exactly are you different?”]
[+green “I can take power when I am ready for I never relinquished it to begin with. Remember, Elves live much longer than most, we can take patience and choose where to act. We enjoy the luxury of time, especially over you half-breeds.”] He feels the point of the blade rest against his navel just below his hand and it depresses the skin but does not pierce.
[+coral “I suggest you watch your tongue. Half-orc or not I don't put up with that kind of talk. Especially not from you.”] The blade eases off slowly as the silence between them grows, an uneasy air between them.[+coral “Pfft, I know all about your type.”]
[+green “I have a type? Oh how lovely, do tell me what I am [i great soothsayer].”] His eyes remain closed and though she chastises his mocking tone she does reply.
[+coral “The type so hard on self-gratification that they have deceived themselves into thinking they are destined for greater things.[i 'I'm going to become a rich merchant and buy grand estates and farmland to the horizon.' 'I will travel the world and become a true adventurer, fighting beasts and monsters and finding lost treasures.' 'I will help the Rightful Heir fight back and claim his throne, and when I am done I will marry you!'] All the same. All wishful fools trying to inflate their ego. Amongst other things.”] She speaks in mock versions of the original voice and cuts into the peach a final time, nose wrinkling with annoyance at the recall of such previous conversations, numerous more to tell but all equally as droll to her.
As she cuts the flesh a droplet of juice drops off onto the stomach of Alloen and his eyes spring open as if awaiting the touch, staring upward and his brows pull down. She continues to eat the peach without interruption, believing the conversation over. With the peach finished she shifted to throw it away along with the knife but an Elven hand reached out to restrain her wrist.
[+green “That last one,”] he give a fake laugh,[+green “someone claimed they would marry you, after they got the Forgotten Prince back to the throne?”] He asks as if dubious of her claim. She looks momentarily at his hand around hers before up his body to meet his gaze. There is something brewing in those violet eyes of his and she hesitates a moment until the grip tightens a little.
[+coral “Yes. One of those human mercenary guys was mouthing off. Just the typical nonsense you get from men wanting a woman to swoon. Why do you care? Afraid they will actually do it and marry me, perhaps of losing me?”] She laughs at her own joke and once more tried to pull away. Again she is held in place, with ease. The grip tightens. Her upper lip twitches with growing displeasure.
[+green “I care because it's very interesting. Truly. Now, tell me more about this mercenary. What was his name?”] Her hand tightens around the dagger pommel as they stare at one another in silence. He remains laying down though at her hesitation to answer he lifts himself up to rest on his elbow, fingers encircled around her small wrists tightly.[+green “What was his name Feluni.”] The smile falls again and it is no longer asked inquisitively but as an order.
[+coral “Let go of me now Alloen or I swear I will-”] Her threat never sees completion as he springs forward at that moment.
Despite her orc genetics he overpowers her superior positioning with his surprise movement as she is thrust back against the table. Her back smacks against cushion but the wood groans beneath with the force. As he swings his legs around to pin her down his free hand grasps a handful of her hair and forces her head back, flush to the table. He manipulates the hand with the dagger to rest firmly to her throat, her hand unable to release it given his grasp around her tendons. She regains some of her sense, attempting to throw him off, hand to his chest and bucking like a wild animal, thrusting her hips as if she can reverse his movement but his weight holds her in place.
[+coral “Alloen- no- just get off-”]
[+green “Shut. Up. Feluni.”] Alloen speaks in a slow whisper as he had to Captain Gerald in his final moments. He leans in close to her. The dark look in his eye as he stares down on the woman strikes a primal chord in her mind. She cowers back, attempting to meet his gaze defiantly. He can see the fear. It is as clear in her gaze as it was in the tremble of her body beneath him. She had been cowed.[+green “Give me a name.”]
[+coral “I don't know his name. Please just get off me.”] Her chest is compressed by his.
[+green “Who.”] There is no choice in his tone. His intent is obvious. It was like a dark haze descended over them and the light from the windows dimmed.
[+coral “Rezak. That is all he said.”] She cowed to his dominating presence.
[+coral “Alloen please.. don't..”] She draws a shuddered breath as the fear only grew.
[+green “When!”] He hisses.
[+coral “A week ago.”]
[+green “Where is he.”]
[+coral “I-I don't know.”] Her voice cracks, falters and loses the hard edge to it. The knife presses against her smooth skin.[+coral “I swear Alloen, I don't.”] The knife continues pressing, her fist about the weapon shaking as she tries to fight it but he only presses the tip forward and pricks a droplet of blood.[+coral “But,”] she offers as her eyes begin to sparkle and shimmer staying his movement,[+coral “he came from.. from the South.”] The dagger steadies then eases off a touch, the Elf raising his eyebrow for her to continue.[+coral “New Harlan! New.. he mentioned New Harlan. Some-something about a-a human missing his ear.. his right ear! Bought some.. some.. some dice, something, I don't know-”] Her voice creaks and a tear escapes off toward her hairline leaving a trail of smoky paste behind in her make-up.[+coral “Please.. Alloen..”]
The Elf remains atop her glaring down as the knife remains close to her neck. Her hand has stopped trying to force the knife away though the tremble remains. The other presses to his bare chest as if it protects her at all. Though her eyes brim with further tears she watches him closely, offering a look that begs for leniency. Her lower lip trembles as she thought of the knife and the pain and the blood to follow. But his face softens and the dark haze around them seems to vanish.
[+green “Good girl Feluni.”] His gentle lips press against her forehead. The hand that clasps her wrist draws the knife away from her neck and the pressure eases enough where she is able to release it to clatter against the floorboards. The impact on the floor jolts her from her stupor and she is overwhelmed by the release of fear and desperation. Her eyes close tight and she sucks in a shuddering gasp, body trembling and eyes close tight, further tears tumbling after the first.
His weight shifts to one side and draws her into his embrace. Alloen's hands stroke across her silken hair and the other leaves her wrist to wipe away at the tracks of tears smearing the paint further. Like a doting parent he coos and shushes her whilst consoling her from her traumatic experience. She fights him off at first when she realises the danger is over, hand catching his face several times in feeble slaps, scratching at his chest and trying to push him from the table. But this was a man with a silver tongue, capable of talking his way around many issues. Offering her plausible and sensible half-truths, that the man was dangerous and was not to be trusted, she settled down slowly. He took extensive time to calm her and ease her fears knowing to hit upon certain soft points in her personality; [i [+green 'I could never harm you, I only worry about those around you'], [+green 'you are a strong woman, but he is a despicable human'], [+green 'we're both from rare races, we must look after one another.']] This racist rhetoric wore down her defenses slowly and methodically until she was curled up alongside him, eyes closed, legs entwined, arm draped across his chest and clutching to his being protectively.
To find the location of hidden Prince, the wily Elf would utilise all avenues of approach.
Her approach had been picked up by both individuals, both of them tracking her as she moved steadily towards them before she had even spoken. Her words had only served as a conduit for a reason to approach the two of them.
She did not mind being scrutinized in such a manner. In the current state of things, one could experience robbery, kidnapping, killing, or some other crime. The only way to avoid any such experience was by careful observation of one's surroundings, as to lessen the chances of being surprised.
The male was the one who answered her query. It appeared she had managed to ask the right person, which was good. That meant she did not have to go around and ask others, which had a good chance of attracting unwanted attention. She was not seeking unwanted attention, for that would lead to suspicious, and then she'd be followed which would make her tasks harder.
But the conversation would have to be carried one with the female, as the male had some business to attend to.
Insae shifted her attention to the female. The female, as well as the male, was a fighter and experienced. If it came down to a dance, no doubt the dance would be quiet interesting. But that was not the purpose. The purpose was to figure out whether it was possible to buy a mercenary army.
So halflings, no insult taken at this word for Insae was indeed half-human and half-dragon, a rare sight when it came to hiring mercenaries; Insae hoped this would not make the dealing more difficult.
It seemed the female had some business as well, but at least the female was willing to walk and talk simultaneously.
And Insae knew that mercenaries never came cheap, they always charged a heavy price. That was a given.
The talking stopped after they began walking. Insae quietly trudged behind the female, calmly keeping up with her pace to wherever she was going to.
There was not anything interesting to see. Temlis was just another city, and Insae had traveled to many cities.
So the female wanted to check her mail, there was nothing wrong with that at all. If one received mail regularly, it only made sense to check it.
It also gave an opportunity to respond to the female's questions. But before Insae could respond, the female wanted to know her name. And now the female had a name, Yui Azii. Insae returned the favour, stating her own name.
And now she could reply to all of Yui's questions.
Insa began to talk, but she could see that Yui didn't appear interested. Yui appeared to be more focused on the letter than her words.
But that changed as soon as she mentioned the Torn Army, Yui's attitude shifted. But that begged the question of why Yui had interes in the Torn Army. If Yui had no interest, she would not have shown it. Or was it a trap, a way to trap?
Life was full of risks, and this was one of them.
[+purple "Before I continue, any places where we could talk which is a bit more private?"]
The sun was bright and last night’s storm was a distant memory. Not even puddles remained, but the humidity of the air did. Yui could already feel her hair starting to frizz. She wasted no time in pulling it back into its usual ponytail while she walked with Vreal. She knew it was going to be a day, she just had no idea until a young woman approached them from the Inn. She was certainly not human, a halfling for certain. Yui was instantly curious about who and what she was. Though for someone to openly admit to searching for mercenaries, made her cautious. Most people were shady as hell when looking for someone to off their treacherous lover, or steal something of value for them. Vreal turned to Yui to handle the inquiry, which was shocking… he knew she’d never done this before right? She had handled her own contracts before, but she never accepted a contract without Acrius’ approval. Now Vreal was trusting her to handle a contract with a new client…. Oh Boy… being personable was not her forte.
She watched Vreal walk away and turned her attention back towards the woman. She supposed she ought to go and talk first.
[#87CEFA “Not everyday a Halfling comes looking for the services of a Mercenary. So are you looking for? An army to hire or just some strong arms for protection?”] Yui asked waving to the woman to follow her on her own errands. Yui had her own things to do, and standing around to listen to someone moan about their petty reasons for needing a Mercenary was not one of those things. She could compromise though, and so the halfling would have to walk if she wanted to talk. [#87CEFA “I might be able to help you... for the right incentive. I hope you’ve got coin on you, because the Brotherhood... does not come cheap,”] she warned a devilish smirk playing on her face.
Yui had lead the young woman all the way to the Post Master’s shoppe in the main thoroughfare of Temlis. Villagers milled about as they ran their errands, even some of her fellow brothers were out and about. Many of them no doubt visiting the smithy. The dwarf who had helped last night owned the place, and from what Yui had heard, was a master of her craft. The Post Master was thankfully not busy and she was able to walk right up. She let the woman mull over her answer as she reached for her mail, a tidy little stack of folded letters was handed over. A total of five, and Yui counted them as she turned to the woman, and realized she’d never given her name. [#87CEFA “Before you tell me what it is you want, what’s your name? I can’t work with someone if I don’t know what their name is. I am known in these parts as Yui Azii.”] Yui introduced doing her best to seem kind, if nothing else indifferent. The last thing she wanted was to come off as generally irritated to a potential client.
Yui came to learn the halfling’s name was Insae. That was certainly a unique name, and she wanted an army for hire. An Army? What lowly power hungry lord or baron did she serve? Yui began to lose interest in what Insae had to say about why she needed a contact to bring back an army, but Yui had decided to open her mail and see who had wrote to her. However, that was halted when Yui heard Insae mention the Torn Army. From there Young Insae had Yui’s undivided attention.
Vreal shook his head and looked around the inn watching every person his eyes laid upon just to see if there were indeed any threats still lingering here. It wasn't likely but in the instance you let down your guard someone could always place a dagger well into your back. He noticed a stranger eyeing them but did not make it obvious himself. He had a lot of business to take care of today. Many things were going to change here. He discreetly watched the stranger approaching she didn't seem to mean harm as she wouldn't have made herself obvious by speaking to them when she made her decision to make a less subtle approach. [+red Excuse me, but you would not happen to know where I could find a mercenary company for hire??] She asked politely. Vreal sized her up with a steely gaze. [+blue We happen to in fact know.] He stated cautiously. [+blue But you will have to take up business with my friend here I have many things to address to our warriors...] He said while looking at Yui and leaving her to the stranger. He gave her a look that said everything. Watch your back around her she is an unknown after all. Vreal bowed slightly and excused himself from them.
Vreal made his way out of the inn and made his way to Acrius's war tent he grabbed the war horn and blew into it making a summons of all mercenaries that weren't busy to the outer encampment of town. It wasn't long until they arrived as the war horn was an immediate summons for important news and they all knew what that meant. Something big was either about to happen or happening now. When they were all gathered Vreal looked at the group with a sullen gaze. He didn't know how to say it. He and everyone here had respected and looked up to Acrius. [+blue My friends...there has been an unfortunate situation and all the detail as to how are not yet known. I hate to say it but...Acrius has passed into the void.] He explained calmly to them. They stirred at that knews. [b Don't mess with us like this young man.] Acrius's right advisor said with a stern voice. [+blue Do you think this is something to joke about Rezik?] Vreal asked with steel in his voice now. [b No indeed it is not. A bad joke it would be. The details are unknown you say. So who is to succeed him as the leader of this group of bloodthirsty misfits?] Rezik asked while narrowing his eyes at Vreal. [+blue The letter delivered to me has appointed me leader by his own decree.] Vreal stated bluntly. Rezik snorted at this. [b You are too young to lead this faction. It is odd that Acrius would just die and you would suddenly get a large promotion such as that. Foul play maybe?] Rezik accused. [+blue He taught me everything I know and was like a father to me I have no hand in his death I assure you.] Vreal stated. [b Right so you wouldn't mind putting his decision of ascension to leadership to the test. I don't trust you because it seems odd that this would happen and you would gain to profit from your masters death.] Rezik said with a smirk now. The other mercenaries looked between the two. The fire was rising between them. Vreal stared Rezik in the eye. [+blue Is this your official challenge?] Vreal asked Rezik. [b Yes I challenge you for leadership by Trial of the Embers.] Rezik challenged. Vreal walked over to a burning fire and pulled a burning stick out of it. [+blue If you can best me by the time the branch has turned to ash I will pass leadership unto you. Fair combat no magic, no enhancement spells, steel on steel and finality of lethally drawn blood or forfeit of contest.] Vreal said setting the challenge by placing the burning branch in a torch stand. The mercenaries set up a large rectangular perimeter around them and the branch.
The branch crackled furiously with flames. Rezik drew his blade as did Vreal. They took up their respective stance. [+blue I respected you Rezik as Acrius's right hand and recognize your strength in combat but I will not hold back as I know you would do the same for me.] Vreal said while they circled each other. [b Indeed I recognize your youth and tenacity in combat and your steadfast sense of honor and your connection to Acrius as his apprentice from a small age. I will not hold back and I will put all my knowledge of combat against you.] Rezik said while looking at Vreal. Now the challenge officially started. Rezik closed distance and swung his blade at Vreal viciously and precisely. Vreal parried and stepped into Reziks guard and stepped on his foot while also pushing him back with his free hand. Rezik lost his balance but rolled out of the way as Vreal drove his blade downward. When Rezik stood again they circled each other once more. Vreal acted first this time locking blades with Reziks own sword. Sparks and the sound of steel on steel reverberated through the small combat zone. They stared at each other with fire in their eyes. Vreal took in Reziks scarred face and dark tired eyes. They began the dance of blades now. Vreal disengaged the lock and swung violently at Reziks left side the older man blocked it and counter-attacked with a stab. Vreal spun to the side and returned the counter with his own stab. Rezik deftly parried it and sparks showered the ground. They were going for blood and the longer they exchanged blows the more tired they grew. It started to show as sweat drenched their foreheads and their breathing grew labored. Reziks combat experience put him at the obvious advantage. He was able to block, dodge or parry everyone of Vreals strikes but that was likewise for Vreal who had the energy advantage and was fast on his feet.
The branch burned brightly but was getting noticeably smaller. Vreal charged in and stuck again and once again it was parried albeit this time their energy had dropped and it was a slower parry. Vreal took advantage of this knowledge and let his adrenaline take him into a series of slashes and stabs that were becoming harder for Rezik to block or parry. He wasn't giving him the distance to outright dodge it. Rezik was on the defense as Vreal let out a merciless onslaught of attacks. Rezik bid his time well though and when Vreal slipped up he took advantage of that. Vreal shifted his foot slightly and at that Rezik swept it forcing Vreal off balance. The older swordsman lunged in at him with a stab. Vreal had time to bring his arm up and with the armor he had on it smack the broadside of the sword away from him. It dented the armor with ease but evaded a blood bringing blow. He regained his balance. Vreal and Rezik were tired at this point and both were using their blades to prop them up. Vreal ripped the dented armor of his arm as it was hindering movement. Rezik smirked at him. Vreal jumped at him which caught him off guard. He grabbed Rezik with strong hands and put him on his back. Before Rezik could raise his blade to force Vreal off the younger warrior used his knee to pin the warriors wrist to the ground and then twisted his stance to make him release his grip on the blade. Rezik used his free hand to reach for his boot knife. Vreal saw the blade as Rezik stabbed at him desperately. The younger warrior grabbed Reziks wrist as swiftly as a striking viper. He used his dominant position to turn the knife towards Reziks neck and pushed it downward. He didn't let it pierce though. [+blue You can forfeit now and be spared or I can drive this downward.] Vreal stated with fire burning in his eyes. Rezik stared up at Vreal with reserved defiance [b Acrius taught you mercy and ruthlessness where they need be. I see what he saw in you for someone so young you possess the warriors heart. We both know how this has to end Vreal.] Rezik said while exposing his throat. [b We mercenaries expect no mercy when the Trial of the Embers has been invoked the loser dies honorably. I will keep my honor so finish this.] Rezik said accepting his loss. Vreal accepted his last wish by driving the dagger into Reziks throat and standing up unsteadily. He looked at the branch and it was burning out the embers at the base of the torch-stand glowed lightly. Reziks blood flowed underneath Vreals boots.
The mercenary group began the rites. One of them put what was left of the branch out and placed it in a cloth sack. Another pair of mercenaries started to build up an unlit pyre for respect. When they completed that they all placed Reziks body on top of the pyre and lit it with the embers from the branch. It was a practiced ritual. Vreal as the victor placed the cloth with the branch atop Reziks chest and paid his respects as a worthy challenger. The mercenaries crowded around the pyre and each paid their own respects in the form of stories and some in the form of gold. When the ritual was done they faced Vreal and took a knee he had officially assumed leadership as those who had doubts had those doubts put to rest. The words Rezik spoke before the trial were fresh on their minds though. [+red Vreal, Rezik stated that you would oddly be the only one to seem to reap a benefit from Acrius passing into the void and it does. This accusation is a steep one. However we were with you during the invasion last night and know you could not have done it. Rezik was not there with us so he could not have known where you were. It is also impossible for him to have committed this crime as he arrived back in town this morning from his contract. We will follow you and we ask we be allowed to investigate Acrius's death thoroughly.] One of the mercenaries spoke up. Vreal was tired physically and looked at the man. [+blue I was going to have it done anyway so you and two men of your choice proceed with that.] There were other things that needed addressed now.
[+blue I chose Yui as my second in command. You will receive standard contracts from here. I will issue the harder ones. In regards to the undead attack last night i'm sending a detachment into the woods to hunt for traces of a necromancer or more. Who I send is not to engage unless the advantage is theirs don't get caught up.] He said while issuing the order to a small detachment. They made their way out immediately. Vreal looked at those who remained. [+blue One more thing...] Vreal said while pausing and looking around. [+blue I am sending you two as envoys to the Torn Army I need you to deliver this letter I wrote last night and request some of them come to this village to reinforce Temlis. You will become our link to the Torn army.] Vreal said calmly while handing two men the letter explaining their situation here and holding a proposition to the Torn Army. It didn't hold any of his sensitive information in it though in case they were intercepted and killed by chance. Vreal sat down in a chair and looked at the burning Pyre. [+blue The next few days here will be critical and...we will be leaving this place when our business here is concluded.] He stated while picking up a wine skin and drinking deeply from it. He let this information sink into those that remained. They each had duties to perform and they went to do them in earnest.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Waking with a startled gasp within in his bed, a hand reaches up to his alarmingly dry mouth, his eyes half closed to the room. His throat tightens on drawing a breath and he rolls over stiffly in his bed. Reaching out toward the oak stand beside his bed for his cup of water he finds it meets him much sooner than he expected, pressed into his hand and a cold finger grazes his own. He recoils back, blinking repeatedly as he sloshes some of the contents across his bed wear and his free hand reaches out to his side.
[+green “You don't think I would leave your weapon close to hand, no?”] The voice is quiet, light, calm - foreign. Yet all about the man is only darkness, curtains drawn and door shut. He draws another painful breath as his chest constricts, the smell of smoke permeates around him but nothing is alight.
A small green flame lights to his right hand side, illuminating the face behind the voice; that of a man. An elf to be exact given the tapered ears. His jawline is smooth and well defined, his cheekbones high and in the glow of the chartreuse flame his eyes seem more reflective than a moonlit lagoon. A smile dances on his lips, tugging at the corners. The rest of him is bathed in black as if the light cannot pierce the fog around the elven figure yet he can see he sits straight backed in the chair from his desk.
The light draws his attention once more as it separates from one large single flame to five smaller ones. The realisation that the flame comes from his hands and not a match dawns on him, the tiny embers now dancing along the elf's fingertips. One by one they are brought to his palm and extinguished with no sound, leaving only his little finger aflame. Drawing it over to his other hand sheds light on a beautifully carved dark oak pipe, a lighter perhaps ivory material for the stem. Both hands lift to his mouth as he dips the finger into the chambers, igniting the leaves within and taking several sips on the bit to draw air inside. Several small quick puffs of smoke are expelled before he is satisfied and the pipe retreats from his lips.
[+green “I hope you don't mind me partaking of your pipeweed. If it is any consolation, it is a very fine stock. As a Captain I suspect it is one of many perk's of the job.”] As he speaks he turns to his side and reaches to the night stand beside his seat. Lighting the lone candle in it's holder the flame grows to illuminate them both in an olive hue and he smiles contently.[+green “Ah, there we are. Now we can all see.”] Once the candle has lit he shakes his hand to extinguish the fire and seats himself back. Lifting a foot to rest on his knee, taking several long draws on the pipe and holding his breath before it lazily escapes his lips, the smoke spiralling away like a spring. Watching it gleefully, he remarks,[+green “it's all in the tongue see-”]
[+gold “Enough already!”] He hisses with distaste though also with pain. The man in the bed has seemingly lost his patience, or at least awoken fully to the situation now.[+gold “Who are you.. why are you here.”] His left hand grazed across burning throat as if the words stab at him like tiny daggers.
[+green “Apologies dear Captain, time is of the hand of course.”] He bows his head in a deft apology before directing the lip of his pipe to the man.[+green “First thing's first, second thing's second. It doesn't matter who I am only that I am here for a purpose. And the purpose for why I am here is the reason you are struggling for breath, for which I suggest you take a sip if you wish to ease the pain some.”] The as described Captain eyes his warily.[+green “You can trust me my dear fellow.”] The words drip with humour though his face does not belie any acrimonious nature. Reluctantly, the man finds himself following the command and it does seem to cool the heat.
With some of the pain relieved his lips move once more.
[+gold “What have you d-done to me?”] He sputters out with a sharp cough.
[+green “What I was paid to do.”] For a master tactician he was not particular bright. Though perhaps the sleep, the fatigue, the panic of a stranger in his room; these could all explain his flustered and slow thinking.[+green “You are Captain Gerald are you not? The same Captain Gerald who led the ambushes at Lear-Hae and Ollis? The famed tactician of the Torn Army?”] He takes a slow shallow draw of the pipe and embers flare in the bowl. Defeated again, the man in the bed lowers his head a fraction in acknowledgement.
[+gold “That I am. I suppose you.. are one of the Bastard King's evil brood?”] His hazel gaze looks across to the elf who only shows a humoured expression, pearl white teeth shining between wisps of smoke.
[+green “Oh I have no doubt he is the puppeteer in this situation but I was merely propositioned by someone with a tangible connection to him. Well.. a connection and a hefty payment.”] He exhales the remaining smoke and nods as if to confirm the fact to himself.[+green “See gold, silver, even copper, is what makes this world tick over. Enough of it, and you get whatever you want.”] He catches the man glance over to his doorway, a flickering orange glow from the external candles creeping under the door.[+green “Perfect example. Your bodyguard. A few quality whores for an hour, a handful of coin and a wineskin or two was plenty.”] Looking back he sees the Captain shaking his head, disbelieving of such words.
[+gold “Lies from a serpents tongue. T-they would never.. abandon their duty-”] His mouth opened to cry out an alarm though he falls to convulsions and sputtered coughs, hand covering his mouth only to come away speckled in bloody droplets.
[+green “I know, I told you it was all in the tongue. Many a woman has remarked in the positive.”] He speaks with an assured tone and chuckles at his vulgar joke, the smile lingers on.[+green “Sorry, but you must realise you lead a rabble of farmers and sell swords and not much more. They fight not through some sense of pride and justice to see this fictional 'Forgotten Prince' ascend the throne. They fight in the belief that should they succeed they will be rewarded. Greatly. Why should they risk their lives in battle for little more than a pat on the back or kind word from you and your like?”] He furthers his point through gestures with the pipe in hand, jabbing it toward Gerald.[+green “No. You offer them a physical reward of women and drink and payment, something they can use here and now, and they forget past affiliations quickly.”] His brow raises in mock surprise, as if he too shares in the Captains despair that men are so easily bought off.
Biting his tongue to stave both curse and pain, his now shaking hand brings the cup to his lips once more, easing the fire that has burns in his chest now though his water shimmers with crimson tones.
[+gold “Why tell me this.. do you seek to belittle me?”] His voice is quiet, reserved.
[+green “How so?”] He drew on the pipe slowly, considering of the human.
[+gold “Tell me my men.. are so easily bought.. to make me feel alone.”] He spoke slowly, clearly the pain getting at him now.
[+green “Oh,”] he pauses and quickly ejects the smoke,[+green “I had not thought of that approach. I only wished to show you I was an honest man, gain your trust in these final precious moments.”]
[+gold “And why would I give you my trust?”] He voice growls but he soon simmers back down with a wince.[+gold “Why.. why should I believe you.”] The elf's head tilts to the side and he nods in agreement.
[+green “Simply, I gain little by lying. The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing – especially when there is money involved.”] The dying man chuckles a moment.
[+gold “Ah, the truth for once. You tell me.. because it may pay off for you..”]
[+green “Correct.”] His shoulders rise as if this matters little to him, but the captain watches him and nods his belief in the elf's words. Perhaps he does trust him partly.
[+gold “So truth-teller.. you proffer truth like honey to show you are a good man.. and yet poison me in my sleep.. like a coward..”]
[+green “No. I didn't poison you. Rather I ignited your very being.”] His smile had dropped quickly and his jovial nature dies away.[+green “In my lands, quite far from here, we call it [i Faer -o iúl], Soul of Embers.”] The Elven words, for that is what they were, flowed like poetry.[+green “It scorches your lungs, burns your throat, searing your heart before boiling your blood. It ignites your very breath, as if your soul, you very life force is aflame. Milk from a Hedia cow eases the suffering. Water calms it some. Speaking of which.”] He points with the pipe once more for the man to raise the cup again, though he struggles, two dark lines of darkened blood running from the edge of his mouth now.[+green “It takes a lot of energy to burn a persons soul. Thus the added expense paying off your guard.”] The pipe is clenched between his teeth as his hand returns to the night stand, taking a red apple from a platter of fruit, drawing a dagger from his boot resting upon his knee and slicing off a piece.
[+green “But,”] the elf continues,[+green “back to the accusation; were I to poison you in your sleep, I would be an intelligent enemy all the same. Would you not do likewise to the King if you so could?”]
[+gold “I would sooner.. ram my sword.. up his arse.. than let him die peacefully.. in his slumber.”] He retorts quickly but his head lays back now, free hand spasms at his side as breathing staggers. The elf only laughs aloud once more, around the pipe, airy and light sounding as he withdraws the pipe and lifts the sliver of apple to his lips from the dagger's edge.
[+green “Perhaps you would dear Captain,”] he speaks whilst taking in the fruit and chewing though it distorts his words,[+green “but unfortunately, should that day come, it will not be at your hand that he succumbs to death.”] Finishing the piece of fruit in his mouth he then takes a long draw on the pipe, enjoying the taste of the apple with the smoke. Tilting his head back he sends several red smoke rings climbing up to the rafters, delighting in sending the next chasing the previous.
[+gold “What now then elf.. what reason do you have to sit there.. and mock me as I die.”] The pain lessens as if his body had fought free of a spectre, the spasm ceases.
[+green “Oh you misjudge me. I do not sit here to mock you. It is a form of.. respect, to allow ones foe to see you before you die. Much why I dislike archers. They attack from distance.”] He clicks his tongue against the roof of his mouth, muttering a soft curse in ancient tongue.
[+gold “Respect?!”] He forces a rasping laugh though the pain sends tremors down his back.
[+green “Yes respect. You are dying but not in vain. Not slain by a stray arrow nor a, a lucky punch in a drunken brawl. You die to to fulfil a purpose; I get paid and I continue to live. I would much rather die for someone's continued existence than out of petty spite, jealousy or worse through no reason at all. It is nothing personal I assure you.”] Again the pipe is replaced between teeth and apple cut in the same manner as before, this slice into his mouth immediately.
[+gold “Nothing p-p-p-”] He sputters blood across his bed linen, lips coated in black droplets.
[+green “Don't strain yourself Captain you only increase the pain. Death is near at hand. No sense in fighting it now.”] Though his words are serious, he speaks with a full mouth whilst the dagger is placed back into his boot.[+green “However,”] his voice drops an octave,[+green “I wish you to fulfil one final request before death. This information is not for the King, but my own curiosity. I give you my honour on that.”] He dropped his foot to the ground carefully and leaned toward the bed.[+green “Tell me.. what do you know of the Forgotten Prince?”] He leaned closer, apple put back on the stand, pipe contents tipped to the floor where it extinguishes, left hand now free to brush back blonde locks of hair from the mans perspiring face and rest his cooling hand against his forehead.[+green “Tell me and I will ease your suffering Captain Gerald.”] He whispered, coaxing him softly, a cooling aura ran down his body.[+green “Tell me what I wish to know and the pain ends now; does he live?”] He could feel the man relaxing beneath his hand into the bed covers, body easing as the final stages of his death came.
No answer came. Or rather; no verbal answer. Instead the man began to laugh. Despite the pain of his voice box grating against his throat he laughed on. The elf snapped back his hand with a fury smouldering in his eyes and a sneer on his lips, wiping his hand off quickly on a loose piece of bed cover as the fiery agony returns and the laughing turns to agonised cries.
[+green [i “Have it your way human. You will feel the sun burn within your heart and die in agony.”]] He pulls away from his chair grasping a bag he had left at the foot of the bed. Moving across to the Captains desk he pulled the bag close and packed away what he saw as useful or profitable to take; any coin he could find, a set of writing quills and ink, a stamp bearing a unique coat of arms, a jewelry box and the rest of the pipeweed of course. Looking at the papers left to one side he took one up, calmly reading it over as the Captain sputtered and cough uncontrollably, gargling as his throat filled. Deeming the papers useful, the elf placed it into his bag of treasures along with several rolled up scrolls. Finally he return to the bed, bag pulled over his shoulder as he stoops to grab the humans sword that he had taken, left resting against the chair – it would fetch a good price with the scabbard.
Satisfied with his haul he casts a disgusted look back to the bed, leaving the man to his agonising death. Black blood bubbled at his mouth, hissing and spitting, steam rising as it gushes down his cheeks and stains the bedding further. Opening the door to the room the gust of air blows out the olive candle light within. Unlocked, the door swung inwards to the room, golden candle light shining on the still body of the Captain. The elf gives an annoyed sigh. He steps carefully across a set of bodyguard that lay in dried tacky blood, throat's cleanly slit, mouths agape and glazed over eyes staring ahead quite peacefully.
The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you've got it made.
Her tail flicked from side to side. Left, right, left, right, and again. Over and over again. But it wasn't out of impatience. She was waiting patiently, her arms relaxed by her sides. Her left arm merely touched her left side, but the right arm calmly rested on the scabbard and hand grip of her overly long sword.
In front of her was a wagon filled with various materials. She did not care about what the materials actually were. Her attention was elsewhere.
Off to the side of the wagon stood two people. One of them was the wagon owner, and the other was a dealer. The two of them were haggling over the price that the wagon owner should get. On the one hand, the wagon owner wanted to have a higher price. But on the other hand, the dealer wanted a lower price. It was quite an interesting interaction to oversee and overhear.
But why did all this matter to her? Well, the wagon owner had been looking for a guard to help him safely to get to Temlis. She had offered her services to him. He had been skeptical at first, probably thought that females could not fight, but after having to show off he changed his mind.
She could have gone to Temlis by herself, but going here as a guard would not look as suspicious.
She had come to Temlis to recruit a company of mercenaries to help out the Torn Army.
Before jumping to conclusions, she was not part of the Torn Army. She had no direct association with them at all.
But, and a big one, that did not mean she did not help them out. On her own free will, she did various actions to help out. From quiet things like gathering intelligence, to more decisive actions like supply raiding and troop interception.
The wagon owner and the dealer had finally decided upon the price.
The wagon owner walked up to her. From the big bag of coins he held, he poured an amount into a smaller bag. He then stopped pouring, looking down into the small bag. Setting the bigger bag onto the wagon, he took a fistful of coins and dropped them into the smaller bag. After tying up the next of the smaller bag, he handed it to her.
After nodding her head in a respectful manner, she said goodbye and walked off.
She knew where the inn in this city was, and she headed there for a drink. She was not hungry at all, having eaten a good meal recently.
The inside of the inn was relatively quiet. There were people sitting alone, and there were people sitting in group of two more having a quiet conversation amongst each other. Just the atmosphere she needed to have a drink.
Walking up to the bar, she waited until the next available bartender was available.
A minute later a bartender came up to her and politely asked her if she wanted anything. Looking up at the bartender, in a quiet but steady voice requested a pint of beer. A short time later, the bartender handed her a pint of beer and she handed the bartender a few coins to pay for the beer.
She walked to an empty table, sitting down behind it. A quick glance around the inn, no one was paying attention to her. That was good, the less suspicion she drew on herself the easier her mission would be.
She had taken a few sips from her pint when two people walked through the inn and out the doors. Both of them wore arms and armour, and had this serious atmosphere around both of them. Was it possivle that they were mercenaries?
Only one way to find out.
She stood up slowly, pretending to stretch. Finishing the act, she, with a steady gait, walked out the door.
The two people, one male and one female, were standing outside. Both of their backs were turned to her. It would be a bad idea to surprise them, even on accident, as that resulted in a high chance of starting a fight she did not need.
Taking a deep breath, she slowly walked up to them. As soon as she was a few paces away, her voice rang out. [+purple "Excuse me, but you would not happen to know where I could find a mercenary company for hire??"]
Yui was shocked to feel his hand on her chin, chiding her to never kneel again. Slowly she rose to her feet as he guided her. She was touched by his humility, Gods knew she wasn’t capable of such humility. She stood apart from him, her arms now crossed over her chest and listening to his plans to seek out the magic of his bloodline and build his guard, but at mention of passing the Brotherhood off, Yui shook her head. She did not think it was a good idea.
[#87cefa “Do not let the Brotherhood fall into tainted hands, they are best with you. I do not put it past some of them to join legion with the False King for the right amount of gold. However, I do believe that many of them would come and fight for you, gold or no gold. Personally, I’d rather not risk it. At the end of the day, this is their home, and their fight too. They would kill for you.”] Vreal did not want that, no matter how honored he was that she did so willingly. Was it willingly? Or was it second nature at this point, to slit throats and ask questions later?
She shrugged off his shame, and turned towards mending her sliced arm. She’d see a medic later, for the time being she pinched the skin together, and adhered it with a tincture of tree sap and boiled down hooves. It was incredibly sticky, but managed to hold the severed skin together, including the fingers Yui used to apply it. Once it was cleaned up and closed, she grabbed bandages and wrapped it up nice and tight. As she mended herself, she listened to Vreal’s request.
[#87cefa “Regardless if you don’t want to ask, I can not give you my answer without your question,”] She minded him, but when she looked up his back was to her and he was brooding over her map.
[b “I need you to stand by me...”] and then some. At first she scowled at him, her nose turned in disgust as his simpering words of regaining his honor, and if the cards were too stacked against them for her to flee with as many refugees as possible. That if they should win, her future was one of her choosing. He wanted her help, but he didn’t want her to die for him.
First of all, she wasn’t buying the honor bullshit, Vreal had always been honorable. It was his most annoying quality, after all. It also amused her that he thought she would seriously flee combat with the opportunity to die in glorious combat. She wasn’t a humanitarian, and she didn’t like the idea of having to lead a bunch of defenseless civilians, but she supposed if she really had to... she would make sure contingency plans were put in place. There was no guarantee she would actually make it out of this alive, herself. If they did manage to win, Yui wasn’t about to swoon at the prospect of a life of her choosing, she was already living the life she wanted, a life full of adventure.
[#87cefa “I think you lack faith in my abilities...”] she smirked playfully, and continued, breezing over his “death wish”, and moving forward. [#87cefa “I think you should reevaluate the brotherhood. There has to be a better option.”] There was, and it was The Torn Army. As he spoke about his idea to send the Brotherhood to join the resistance and cause chaos, she grabbed her clothes and stepped behind a dressing screen to get dressed. His conversation then moved towards Acrius after she voiced her support to send the Brotherhood to the Torn. He wanted to honor the man, Yui agreed, he truly was like a father. By the time Vreal had finished speaking she was done dressing in her standard black leather gear. The moment she stepped out from behind the dressing wall, he voiced his request for her to stay at his side and this time because she wanted to, not because Acrius had asked her. Not because of her birthright, because she wanted to help her friend. She arched a brow at him, needing to see the sincerity of his face, because she was having trouble believing he really thought of her as such a close friend. It was genuine, and she sighed walking over to him, her socks muffling her feet on the wooden floor, until she stopped and put her hands on his shoulders and looked him dead in the eyes.
[#87cefa “Vreal, as your friend I have to tell you to shut up. Okay? I’m helping you, and not another word.”] That was it, end of story. King or not, she wasn’t afraid to still tell him to shut his mouth. She grinned, and patted his arm firmly before turning and stepping into her boots, and grabbing her gear to go.
She hadn’t realized she left her hair down until they were outside the inn and the wind whipped it about. Normally she would have thrown it right up into a tight severe ponytail, but she let it slide today, there was bound to be drama and recoil when they informed the rest of the Brotherhood about Acrius’ death, the new chain of command, and what their plans were. At least the weather was nice.
Vreal stepped back from the inn keeper and started to leave but was swiftly interrupted as Yui came out of the bath house and dropped gold on the table. She was pissed. Vreal looked down for a moment but didn't say a thing as she apologized to the inn keeper about a mess she made. He made a note of the blood and concluded there were corpses involved. This didn't bode well. It wasn't long into her swift apology that she yanked him away by the jerkin. [+blue [i Oh shit what did I do this time?]] Vreal thought to himself as she shut the door and secured it behind her.
[+red Temlis, it isn’t safe,] She blurted out, rolling up her sleeve and reaching for her med kit [+red I just had to kill two rouge mercenaries. They were looking for the lost heir of Azealean…] Yui said hurriedly. Vreal leaned on the wall and understood immediately that she was in full knowledge of his blood line now. It didn't really shock him that their master would make her privy to this information. It was something he should have expected actually. [+blue Your loyalty was never in question Yui.] Vreal stated while she undid her robe to show him the tattoos. He was shocked to discover her heritage however. It wasn't something that is shared lightly. Druids were famous kings guards and of the highest grade. He knew she was different in regards to her combat prowess but to be a druid. [+blue It changes nothing.] He said while she fastened her robe again. [+blue I knew it would come to this. That one day I would be routed and the fight would be on. I understand why Acrius gave you insight on who I am...I came here today to divulge this information to you myself. You are the only other person besides Acrius I knew I could trust wholly with this...burden.] He watched her step back and then kneel. It actually angered him a little. He took a knee right in front of her and raised her head with his hand. [+blue You do not kneel before me ever again. You will not kneel for anyone that is the only order I want you to follow to the end.] He stated with steel in his eyes. [+blue For one I am not deserving of it. I did not have the power to save my kingdom and to this day I still do not possess it. Not yet. I won't stand idle by while the false king imposes death upon our people. If Temlis is no longer safe then I am leaving. It is about time I start hunting for the Kings magic passed down to my blood line and those I appoint as Kings Guard. I suppose this merry band will have to be passed onto another mercenary whom I will anoint.] Vreal stood up and sighed deeply. [+blue Killing someone in my name isn't something I am proud of. I am honored that you would do that so willingly but shamed because you were made to do it.] He walked over to her table in the room and looked at the map of the Azelean realm. [+blue Yui I know how we have been rivals since a young age and at this point I would trust no one else to have my back without a doubt. I am going to ask something difficult of you that I don't wish to.] Vreal said while picking up a dagger off the table and flipping it.
He stood there motionless with his back to her now. Staring down at the dagger in silence. He moved only to cut his palm with it over the map. [+blue I need you to stand by me. Have my back for a little longer. Let me bleed for my land and regain my honor. That doesn't sound so difficult but that is the easy part. The difficult part is as so. If it seems I will fall in combat and there is no way for you to save me without it killing you in the process...I want you to walk away. Leave this land because it will not rise higher under the current ruling. Save as many people you can and escape. Don't return here ever again and if possible sail to a different land. If everything works out and we succeed in overthrowing this bad regime then...you are free to choose your own path.] Vreal said while balling up his cut hand into a fist and letting the blood droplets hit the capital. [+blue I will bleed for this land and I will bleed for those who have been lost and those who will be to come. I will do everything in my power to drive back this evil and when it is all said and done I will purge this land of darkness that looms over it. I want you to help me but don't kill yourself doing it.] Vreal said while turning to face her again.
He felt guilty for many things but her words inspired him. Her loyalty inspired him and her level of devotion solidified her presence as his only true friend. He would bleed for her in a heartbeat and he knew she would do the same. What he asked was a hard thing to accept and he knew even then she might decline it and do as she pleased in that regard. He also knew that if she decided not to she would follow his wish and protect as many as she could. He didn't want it to be like this and would fight like hell to ensure things would work out for the best. [+blue The torn is fighting a losing battle right now. I could recommend our men go join them because when all is said and done they have the best chance of causing chaos among the kings men right now. We add the mercenaries into their mix with their combat prowess we can extend their odds albeit not by much but enough to make a difference.] He sat down in a chair and rested his head on the back. [+blue Acrius has given us much growing up and learning from him the skills to really fight back..mentoring us in the way of this world, and acting toward us like a father. He was our guiding post and the mortar that held us all together. Without him we never would have met and without him it's possible we could have met later down the road in combat even against each other. His presence changed the fate of this world. I want to honor that and give him something no one else will get the opportunity to. I want his death to be the turning point for this land if we win...he will get a tomb a king would be jealous of.] Vreal said with a grin. [+blue As King I ask of you this. Stand by me. Not of your own blood given right but of your own volition as my friend.] Vreal said while making it her choice whether or not she truly wanted to do this.
Yui did not sleep well, what little sleep she got was plagued with visions of gruesome battle, and death. All of it far too hazy to make out clearly, but left plenty of an emotional impression. She felt defeated, frightened, and nervous. Never a good sign. It did not help either that just before her startling jolt awake she heard her grandmother’s voice in her head repeating the same words she had said the day Yui left.
[i -You’ll be back…-]
There was a bathhouse behind the Inn, and Yui intended to use it before the day got moving. The bath would help her feel refreshed and more awake, it would also help her to forget about her dreams and her grandmother’s words, not to mention Acrius’ coded death confession. She went in the early morning and submerged herself under the hot milky water that was perfumed with oils, soaps, and herbs to help relax her sore muscles. Her head floating above the surface while her mind finally quieted all the noise and voices in her head.
Her tranquil moment was harshly interrupted by the sound of pleading outside the door, when it finally burst open. Yui’s tranquility was harshly abandoned and her eyes snapped open to stare in a deadpan expression at two road roughened men. By the way they carried themselves she pegged them as mercenaries, but they were certainly not with the Brotherhood.
“No sir, you mustn’t! She will be most irate-“ The inn Keeper’s daughter tried begging the men who pushed her aside. Yui looked between the two, covered in mud and sweat, their hair greasy and unkempt, one was large and portly, bald with a beard. The other was tall, rail thin, and looked more like a rat than a man.
“Are you the one they call Azii?” The haggard ratty one asked as he and his partner came around to speak with Yui. She eyed them dangerously, which seemed to be enough of a confirmation for them. “We have a proposition for you.”
“Miss, I tried to-“ Yui held up a hand silencing the inn keeper’s daughter.
[#87CEFA “I don’t want to hear apologies from you, it’s not your fault these two lack manners. Why don’t you be a dear and step outside so us big dogs talk?”] The meek little thing hurried out of the room, and Yui turned back to the two mercenaries that had arrived.
[#87CEFA “You have my attention.”] She warned her voice cold and warning -not to waste her time. The portly man tossed a heavy bag of gold to Yui who reached up and caught it, water sloshing about. She arched a brow at the gold inside. [#87CEFA “I’ll accept this is a non refundable deposit to hear your bullshit, and excuse you for being rather invasive,”] she chided, arms up on the edge of the tub and watching them closely. They believed her to be unarmed, how dumb they were.
“We want to hire you to join us in capturing a bounty. You have a particular skill set we think could be quite valuable. We want you to help us find the lost heir. The king is willing to pay a tidy sum to the person who brings him in. Dead or alive.” Yui looked between them, her face stony and unflinching. They were hunting for Vreal, and began to willingly divulge what little information they had in the hopes of enticing her.
Yui laughed it off, scoffing at them with believable disbelief. [#87CEFA “The Last Soruria? You two must be incredibly stupid, or you’re not telling me everything. I think you’re hunting for a ghost. No one knows where he was sent off during the attack, you don’t even know what he looks like. For all you know, that little brat died a long time ago. Now, you are wasting my time, my precious hot water, and you are trying my patience.”] she growled at them, but they were unperturbed. The big brute of a man and scared to a disfigured state spoke next, his voice deep, dark, and dangerous.
“The King believes he’s still alive. We received intelligence that he’s actually here in Temlis. We believe if we can track him down, you can bag him with your renowned charms. The reward is higher if he’s returned alive. We’re willing to give you a third of the share.” Yui frowned. Did they know about Vreal?
[#87CEFA “Mmm, help you… help the false king… What makes you think any amount of gold would entice me to help the man who wants my kind destroyed?”] She stood up, her naked body coming into view, and the two men tensed at the sight of it. It wasn’t so much her figure, the taunt muscles or the bruises and scars. It was the tattoos that decorated her chest, and sides of her torso, signifying her clan, that she was a true Druid, and what her gifts were, who she worshipped and more.
“Druid…” the rat one breathed in surprise and awe.
[#87CEFA “I think I’ve heard enough, unfortunately you both know too much-“]
The two bounty hunters didn’t have a chance to act or try to run. Yui moved with quick and fluid motions, removing a pin from her hair that showed itself to be a small needle-like dagger. She felled the big one with a well aimed strike to the jugular in his neck. He choked and gagged as he rapidly lost blood. Falling back with a clatter and knocking several things over. The other only managed to run a few steps to the door of the bath house before Yui jumped over and tackled him to the ground. He quickly pulled a dagger on her, which caught Yui’s forearm, before she caught his wrist, and knocked it free. A powerful punch followed her disarming, slamming his head back down into the floor. He was stronger than he looked though and managed to pick Yui up and toss her. She fell against the tub, when an idea struck her. She pulled on the edge of the tub until it tipped and flooded the floor with bathwater.
[#87CEFA “Eclic”] she hissed right before her hand began to spark with lightning and she put her hand in the water. The electric current shot up through her assailant’s leather and steel plated boots. He shook and bobbled until smoke curled from his ears and Yui released her magic. The second man fell to the floor with a heavy thump. Yui sighed, sitting back and catching her breath as her stamina had to regenerate. Looking at the dead bodies, she knew there was no turning back, or waiting for Vreal to tell her. She would have to confront him herself.
Inside the inn, the Owner listened to Vreal’s request and nodded with a grin. “I sure will, Sir. Though, she’s already awake. Was up bright and early this morning and is in the bathhouse. When she returns. I’ll be more than happy to forward your mes-“
They were both cut off by the back door of the Inn opening and Yui walking in, damp and clean from her bath, draped in her bathrobe, but a murderous glint in her eyes. Her hair was back up with the same pin she had used to kill the brute with, but there was less ease in hiding the blood that stained the sleeve of her robe, the fresh blood still trickling down from it, or the shadow of a bruise that was forming along her cheekbone. Her murderous glint was directed at Vreal as she stormed towards him and the innkeeper. She shocked the innkeeper by dropping the mercenaries’ bag of gold on the man’s counter, and spared nary a glance his way. [#87CEFA “For the mess I made in the bathhouse.”] The Innkeeper looked at the bag of gold to Yui speechless, and horrified by what he might find in there. Yui looked about the rest of the Inn making sure her two kills didn’t have friends waiting for them to return. When she saw they didn’t , she grabbed Vreal by the front of his jerkin and dragged him from the counter, up the stairs, and into her room. She didn’t say a word, regardless if Vreal demanded an answer. She simply checked the hallways and locked the door before turning on him.
[#87CEFA “Temlis, it isn’t safe,”] She blurted out, rolling up her sleeve and reaching for her own med kit. The cut would need to be stitched. [#87CEFA “I just had to kill two rouge mercenaries. They were looking for the lost heir of Azealean…”] she gave him a look. She knew, and without having to say it, now Vreal knew she was aware of the truth. When asked, she answered. [#87CEFA “Acrius told me… that’s why I left in a hurry last night, his letter to me was written in code… I had to decipher it, even in death he made sure your identity was protected…”] She sighed, knowing it had to be a real shock to Vreal to know that Yui knew his deepest secret. She supposed it was only fair to tell him hers. Her temper stemmed, she frowned at Vreal. She felt sorry, and a little guilty that she knew his secret. She had thought to let him come to her, but the situation simply wouldn’t allow it. [#87CEFA “You can trust me Vreal. I know it might be hard for you to believe, but I’ve never once double crossed or stabbed you in the back. I might have robbed a bounty out from under you, but… that’s… different. Vreal, you can trust me because you’re not the only one hiding who or what you are. I’m no different than you,”] She then opened up her robe, just enough to show her druid tattoos, but not expose herself. Once Show and tell was over she promptly covered herself back up. She looked nervous albeit determined and stepped back from him to give him some room, because he was probably going to be shocked by her next move. [#87CEFA “Acrius asked me to protect you, I could say no… but this is my birthright as much as it is yours. I am a Druid of Kingsclan, my blade and my magicks are at your service…. My King.”] Then she went down to a knee before him and bowed her head. She’d already spilled blood to protect him, and she had no doubt she’d have to spill more in the months to come.
The clouds gathered dark over the kingdoms capital. Magical storms were lighting up the sky with fierce lightning. People generally did not venture out from their homes here unless they absolutely had to. Things had indeed changed and all for the worse. Taxes increased as did the hungry and poor. People driven out of their lively-hoods to adopt a life of poverty. Even nobles were feeling the effects of the current economy. The large castle stood no longer as a peaceful sight. Now...it was dark and daunting. An aura was now around it that was simply frightening. A cloaked man opened the doors and the guards allowed his passage. The looks in their eyes were not of those with free will. They were glossed over and without emotion. The man strode up to the throne nonchalantly.
[b My lord it is as you have predicted...he lives. The heir to the throne has been sighted or at least the one who thinks it was him has given us a location to scout out. I feel it prudent to act now before it is too late. I would send in your finest assassins you need only say the word.] The man said while kneeling. The king stood his eyes steely gray and his royal attire mostly black with a deep green jeweled necklace that seemed to swirl inside. He was a taller man standing at roughly 6'4. He had a distinguishable scar across his nose and a serrated blade attached to his hip. Next to the throne sat a pike with a skull on it. The crown rested on the skull. He walked down to the man calmly. [i Has the informant been compensated for his information?] The king asked in a deep icy tone. [b Indeed my lord he was made a worthy sacrifice for his...endeavors.] The cloaked man responded with a smirk. [i I advise you to get those three out in the field in order to track and kill the prince. A failure, as you are aware, will cost both your life and theirs. I highly recommend you make sure they do not fail. Send that sorcerers detachment with them. Five to be exact no less..] The king said while placing his hands on the cloaked mans shoulder. A chill ran through his body he knew this was a mission he could not afford to fail. The man nodded and stood to his full height and backed out of the throne room. [b Guards make the preparations for a mage detachment and...the brothers they will need horses and a wagon, food and water, pile three bags of gold with that and send them towards Temlis...] The man ordered the mindless guards. They nodded and made haste to get the preparations done.
The cloaked man smiled and turned to face the castle. He stared at the structure and chuckled. [b You are not as powerful as you seem to believe. Someone someday will show you this and then it shall be you who kneels...to the sword.] The man said as lightning struck the ground behind him. In that flash he disappeared without a trace.
Vreal stood up from the table and made his way around it. He walked outside to get some fresh air. The sky had cleared up significantly in the past few hours. He felt the wind brush against him. This was a feeling he had come to like. It was nice out and he needed the time to think. He walked around the town slowly. There had been too much happening lately and the feeling in his gut told him that this would not slow down. There was an army close by and who knew how they would treat this town as they passed. He looked at the letter in his hand and torched it with a small magical ember. These words would be engraved in his head. He had made Yui his second in command but he hadn't really thought about whether or not she wanted that responsibility. He decided to get her opinion on it in the morning and if she truly wanted to she could decline it and he would pick another.
Vreal sat down on a bench and stared up at the sky. He was definitely woozy from all the alcohol. [+blue Thas...great.....the man I..I looked up ta is gone...my me..mentor the one i trused with...with my uh...was it called....identintly...no thas not right..well now what..] He said drunkenly while looking at a cat that just stared back while licking its paw. [+blue I'm a talggin to a fugkin cat.....] He said while closing his eyes and sighing. He stood up with a slight stumble and made his way back to the tavern. He was gonna need to sleep this off if he was to do anything in the morning. As he walked to the inn people that were also drunk tried to talk to him but they couldn't get out what they wanted to say. It sounded like sorry about the news but he wasn't entirely sure. He went to his room at the inn and fell asleep on the bed.
The sun shined through his window at dawn and that irritated him enough that it woke him. [+blue Who the hell let me drink so much...] he said squinting and making a gesture at the sun. He dressed himself and walked out to the dining room here at the inn. He sat at a table and ordered a light breakfast of bread, cheese, and an egg over easy. He held a hand on his forehead as it was killing him. When the food arrived he wolfed it down and drank two cups of water. It seemed to help but he knew a better way to be rid of a headache or rather..a hangover. He held his hand up to his head and cast a minor cure spell that eliminated the headache entirely at the cost of some stamina. Feeling refreshed he stood up and stretched. He ordered a few mercenaries to start combing the woods for a ritual site and had them fan out in order to increase the range of the search. When they left he made his way to the counter. [+blue When Yui comes out of her room or shows up have her come see me please.] He said while paying for his food and for the request.
All the talk about the attack and what was behind it, put a bad taste in the air. It was one Vreal quickly tried to change by insisting the Bard play them a song to toast their victory as he gave an impassioned speech to honor those who had come together on this night. Yui watched him with a bored, if not melancholy expression. He was far more personable than she was, and the people of Temlis had come to adore him in the past few months of their being here.
She only half listened as Vreal went on about how to handle the necrotic threat. Yui began to think of a plan for investigating the forest when she was caught off guard by his next comment. He told her she was right about the rightful king. She nearly choked on her mead and stared at him shocked. Her face twisted in a comical way, and only wiped back to its persistent scowl at the words of the elven archer who had been a great help earlier. She watched the elf suspiciously as he left, but was distracted by one of her brethren, approaching and looking as if he’d rode nonstop through the earlier storm. Yui wasn’t about to pay much of a mind to anything. She was tired, covered in grime from the rain and battle that she wanted a bath, her mouth was still sour from vomiting earlier that the mead wasn’t as enjoyable. She honestly just wanted to lay down and close her eyes, but that wasn’t about to happen either, as their brethren came to a stop at their table and held out folded and sealed bits of parchment to her and Vreal. Yui frowned taking it and looking it over, by the wax seal she knew it belonged to her mentor, Acrius.
[i “Acrius is dead,”]
Dead?! Yui felt as if ice cold water had been flushed through her veins, her mouth felt dry, and grief welled inside her. She didn’t hear anything else, didn’t recognize that Vreal shook hands with their brother, or that he’d accepted it. Yui had yet to open her letter, almost too afraid to do so. Opening it and reading its words would only make Acrius’ death that much more real.
[#0000FF “Looks like you are second in command now.”] Yui heard the words and for a second time that evening was shocked by Vreal. Her brow furrowed, and with shaking hands broke the wax that sealed the letter and opened it to read. What she saw was not what she expected. It was pure gibberish. None of it made sense, but as Yui looked over the contents she realized one half of it was written in code. She quickly folded it back up and crumpled it into her hand, and in a move that was wholly uncharacteristic of her, she stood up abruptly and stormed out of the tavern. She nary the time to side step the small fairy approaching their table, and giving a halfhearted apology to her in passing.
One of the other mercenaries called after her, but Yui ignored them and out to the dark and muddy street. Thankfully none had followed her, and she was glad to be alone. Acrius was dead, and the revelation, mixed with her exhaustion and drunkenness led her eyes to water -much to her frustration. She ignored the pain of loss and instead made a sharp turn sprinting to the Inn where she had kept a room for the past few months.
It was there she retired as usual, the crumpled letter sitting on a small vanity. One lonely lantern illuminated the space. It empty of anything personal save for a single locked trunk at the foot of the bed, a chair, wash stand, and a wardrobe, which Yui did have clothes stored, among other things. She deliberately took her time to ready for bed. Cleaning herself up, stripping out of her armor and dirty clothes into a long night shift made of white silk, and a sky blue robe to keep her warm. She was halfway through brushing her hair out, eyes glued on the crumpled letter when she knew she couldn’t wait any longer to decode the letter.
Acrius would not write in Code unless he absolutely had to. It was something he had taught her when he learned she could read and write. Thankfully she had his codex hidden and stored under a false bottom in her trunk. She had it in no time, and with a small crude quill and a spare piece of parchment Yui set to work using one of his deciphers in the small black book, and began to decode his letter.
It took her only a moment to figure out which of Acrius’ many ciphers he’d used. A surprising sentimental, it was the one he’d first taught her. She spent the remainder of her night rewriting the letter, that by the early hours prior to dawn she finally had it. She sat back and looked over her shaky handwriting to read what had been sent to her.
[i My Dear Yui,
If you are reading this letter, it means I’ve trained you well, and that I am dead. First I will tell you that you were one of the great joys in my life. You are the daughter I never had, one of my greatest pupils, and a loyal soldier. Now, I have an important mission for you, one I am confident I can entrust to you. I have kept your secret, and I have kept one for Vreal. By fate or coincidence you are tethered to the other. I need you to take care of him, protect him. I know he ires you as no other, and that since the day I brought you into our camp you two have been in a never ending rivalry. I have made him leader of The Brotherhood, but it is you who I trust to keep him alive.
I know you want to know why.
Vreal is the lost heir of the Azealean Throne, and the rightful king.
I know you have the mind, and the ability to help him reclaim it. He needs your steady counsel, even when he does not wish to hear it. You must speak it. Be patient with him, and keep your eyes open. He has enemies everywhere, and they are hunting him. He can not hide forever. The fate of Azealean and Vreal now rests with you.
I know the real you, Yui. I know that under your bold and frigid exterior is a woman filled with compassion and justice. Find it in yourself to help him, to be what you were born to be. Be more than his sister in arms, be his friend. You are a Druid, and the Druids have long served kings in the past. I know you are but one in a few remaining of your kind, but you must pick up your own birthright. I believe if you help him, you will help yourself in finding what it is I know you seek.]
Vreal was the lost prince. Acrius wanted her to protect him and lead him to his birthright. How the hell was she going to do that? In the midst of reading the uncoded letter, Yui had moved to sit in the open sill of her window and looked out as the sky began to turn from a dark purple to the subtle peaches and lavender of dawn. She sighed heavily as she took in the coming dawn. She should have gone to bed, try to sneak in a few hours of sleep, but Acrius’ letter had her mind buzzing faster than a hummingbird’s wings. Her own words in the tavern were now haunting her. Acrius was the only reason she had remained with The Brotherhood, now he was gone and Vreal had made her his second. It had been shocking, and she knew she’d have to confront him eventually. With Acrius gone, would Vreal tell her the truth? She decided she would not mourn Acrius, instead she would do as asked of her and honor him by keeping Vreal’s head on his shoulders. Acrius wasn’t just asking that she keep Vreal alive, he was asking her to save Azealean by showing Vreal he needed to reclaim the kingdom. Yui wasn’t certain how she was going to do that, but she’d try.
The sun was just about to start its rise over the horizon, and Yui moved from the window to burn her deciphered letter in the flame of her oil lantern. There could be no written account of Acrius’ words. She knew what it said and that was all that mattered, even if it did pain her to burn the letters. Then she drew the curtains of her room and finally laid down to sleep. Knowing within a few hours, someone would no doubt be knocking on her door to get her ass out of bed.
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