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Prospecting in New Stetvan

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Prospecting in New Stetvan

Post  Wynnsaren on Mon Jun 03, 2013 11:00 am

15th Pharast, 4711

"Tea?"

The word emerged from the man's throat as roughly as if it had first been dragged down the cobbled streets of New Stetvan, and it was offered in equal parts statement and question.

Wynnsaren had just finished blanketing and affixing the feed bags to the horses, when she startled at the sound. The first her companion had uttered in hours. Patting the neck of her grey mare, she moved toward the meager warmth of the low-burning fire and took a seat beside the ranger.

"Thanks, Kaz, that would be lovely."

It had been eight days since the pair left Akiros. Nine days since the oracle received word that Jokun Yeldiakiv was back in New Stetvan from his prolonged business trip, and tomorrow afternoon they would arrive in Brevoy's capitol city for the long awaited meeting with the moneylender.

Her first attempt to visit the man responsible for hiring the mining expedition to the Stolen Lands had been a complete bust. In spite of having set up a time with him, when she had arrived eight months ago now, she found nothing but a note apologizing for his absence and a promise to make contact with his appointments when he returned in the spring.

Hoping to salvage something of note from the journey, Wynn and her assigned guard at the time, traveled to Medvyed country to speak with Coranious, the king's eldest brother, to relay personal well wishes and his intentions for Novastasia. King Thaddeus, unable to get away for a face to face meeting, simply desired to deliver the news of his ascension to Lord Medvyed before too much time had passed so as not to cause any offense to the family.

Unfortunately and to her great frustration, the aasimar ambassador wasn't even able to provide her king with so much as an assessment of his brother's reaction, for upon their arrival at the castle, they were informed that Lord Coranious was traveling and would be indisposed for some time. All she could do was to leave word in the form of a sealed scroll to be given to him when he returned. While she might have had some suspicions about the truth of the lord's absence, the butler's stoney face betrayed no guile. Wynnsaren chose to keep her doubts to herself.

This visit to the city would be different she assured herself. This time she'd get some answers to the questions that had been troubling her since Matsuro Shi had first discovered the meteor crash site.

The ranger took the pot off the coals and poured the steaming water into one of the battered tin cups he carried. After upending the remains of a small pouch of herbs into the mug, he handed it to the oracle.

Wynn pushed back her fox fur trimmed hood and breathed in the minty aroma of the tea. That he'd given up the last of his favored herb was not lost on her, and she smiled as the steam curled into the chilly air of the early spring evening.

She'd first met Kazimir the summer past, when she joined a caravan on an official capacity to travel between all the small settlements cropping up in Novastasia. The ranger worked as the guide for the merchant troop. Initially he was perturbed that she'd come along, muttering something about politics, time schedules and yammering women, but after six months of traveling he'd stopping shooting her suspicious glances and discovered they'd developed a comfortable working relationship.

Wynnsaren watched him over the rim of her cup as he poked at the coals between sips of his hot water. He was a hard man, weathered and roughly hewn by the Stolen Lands and a life of travel, but she did not need a vision to know that he preferred this life to one of comfortable ease. Kazimir's joy was the journey. His caravan was his castle.

It was for this reason she'd been so surprised he'd offered to travel with her to New Stetvan. Not offered... Perhaps, notified her would be a more accurate telling of events.

She'd wasted no time gathering her things together once Jokun's message arrived and it was no sooner had she put out the word that she was looking for a guard to go with her, that Kaz showed up at her door. He was competent, efficient, an excellent tracker and hunter, and when the need arose, good with his blades. Not to mention that he and Glas had become fast friends over the past months. Wynn could think of no better choice. Not that he'd given her that choice...

"Why did you come with me?" The aasimar shattered the silence with her blunt inquiry, which by far was the best way of communicating with the man. "You know you're going to miss the first caravan of the season out of Akiros."

Kazimir lifted his steel-grey eyes from the fire and turned to reply to what he apparently believed to be a ridiculous question.

"And who do you think would have gone if I hadn't?"

"One of the castle guards," she considered with pursed lips. "Destin again maybe."

"A mewling child," the ranger stated, shaking the tousled brown hair from his eyes. "You'd still be four days out of New Stetvan after having to stop every few hours to change his nappy."

Wynn almost spat out her tea at that, while Kaz just scoffed, shook his head and took another sip from his cup.

"Do you even need to ask? You're an oracle aren't you...don't you just know things?"

"Maybe I do know," she blinked her silvered eyes impishly in his direction. "Maybe I just wanted to hear what you'd say."

Kaz grumbled and threw a hand helplessly in the air. "Women and their games!"

She smirked. "But...I'm not a woman..."

"Half is woman enough," the ranger complained, "and if I didn't know any better I'd think the other half was devil, which would make you no different than any other woman."

"Tiefling then!" Wynnsaren laughed and pawed through her blue-black hair looking for the points of burgeoning horns. "Maybe you know something I don't..."

Moments later Glas came bounding out of the wooded area in which they'd made camp for the evening, with three sticks wrapped in his tentacles. The akata walked through the fire and dumped the sticks in front of the ranger, his tails twitching in anticipation of the game.

"Get off my fire, mutt," Kaz growled, thumping the akata playfully on the head with one of the sticks before hurling it as far as he could into the darkness. Glas leaned back on his blue haunches and leaped from the burning coals to chase after the stick, launching sparks every which way and sending the pair reeling backwards so as not to get burned. Cursing loudly the ranger quickly kicked the embers back into place.

The stick-tossing game went on for a few more minutes before Kazimir signed for Glas to go hunt, and he turned his attention to the oracle.

"So, you should probably tell me about this man we're to meet tomorrow. What's your business with him?"

Wynnsaren nodded and took another swallow of tea. "His name is Jokun Yeldiakiv. He's a moneylender who's earned something of a reputation for unusual...even questionable ventures dealing in the rare and exotic. He's the fellow that assembled the miners that dug up that site I told you about before we left. The one where I found Glas."

"Okay, but why is it important that you speak with him? Meteor crash sites aren't unheard of and from what you told me, the king and his companions cleared out the danger from the area."

"That's just it." Wynn's eyes drifted toward the singing canopy above them. "Meteor crash sites are not uncommon in Numeria, but in this region they are unheard of. More than that, there's no record of any meteors hitting ground in this area...ever! Somehow Jokun knew where to send his miners, and they were sent there for a purpose other than star metal.

"Maybe Jokun didn't even realize what he was getting into," she considered, "in fact, I'm betting he's just a middle man. Someone was after something specific...they wanted to release something specific, and they told him where to dig. What they may not have told him was that what they wanted to release would kill all the miners that were sent there. At least I hope he didn't know that when he hired them." The aasimar winced at the thought.

"So the ones who had him organize this expedition, wanted to release the akata?" Kazimir asked, confused what purpose that might serve.

Wynn shook her head. "No. I believe they wanted...and succeeded...in releasing something much, much more powerful. Something alien and of ineffable evil that may have been imprisoned and buried for millenia within that meteor."

Now it was the ranger's turn to lift his gaze to the darkness between the stars. What other monsters were out there? By his reckoning, there was already plenty of trouble to deal with in this unsettled land, and after learning a bit about akatas, he had little desire to fight anything originating from up there.

"I don't know how culpable Jokun is in this plot," she admitted, "but at the moment I don't care. All I want from the man is a name..a clue to lead us to the next piece of the puzzle. I want to know who hired him. I want to know what was released, and I want to know why! Only then can I begin to assess the true threat to the land."

"You had a vision about this didn't you," he grimaced, only to have his conjecture confirmed with a nod. "You know you could be painting a very large target on your back...on our backs, with this line of inquiry."

Again, Wynn nodded, this time sullenly. "I realize that yes, and that's why this can't be official business. I don't want to take any problems back home with me. Glas is too recognizable now and could easily label me as Novastasia's ambassador to anyone who's heard of him, so he'll have to stay outside of town. You are free to stay with him if you so choose. It was never my intention to drag anyone else into this potential trouble."

"And risk the business end of Auchs' axe if you don't come back in one piece??" Kazimir looked wounded by the very suggestion. "I hardly think so! No, I said I'd join you on this journey, and that's that."

The ranger shifted to a more comfortable position and put the pot of water back on the coals.

"Get some rest now, m'lady," he said, drawing a close to the conversation. "I'll take first watch."

After another day of hard riding, Wynnsaren had no intention of arguing with him. She crawled into her bedroll, turned her face toward the sky and closed her eyes.

"You're a good man, Kazimir," she smiled as the celestial symphony lulled her slowly toward sleep.

From across the fire Wynn heard a barely audible chuckle. "Aye, I know, but don't let on or you'll ruin my reputation."


*****

16th Pharast, 4711

The hours of riding that morning went by in the usual comfortable silence and before she knew it, the city of New Stetvan grew large on the horizon.

Wynn halted her horse briefly. Go run. Hunt. She signed to Glas, and pointed toward the forest just north of where they stood. Stay hidden from people. We will meet you at the clearing when the stars fly.

The aasimar held her hand out to her leonine friend and Glas wrapped a tentacle around it briefly before barreling off across the plain and into the forest where he would be able to play until nightfall.

"I have a feeling Glas may have more fun on this stop then we will," Wynnsaren grinned as they kicked their horses into a trot, "but let's go see if we can't get some questions answered."

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Jokun

Post  The Sub-Creator on Mon Jun 03, 2013 11:43 pm

The burly man leaned back in his black, velvet-cushioned chair and stroked his grizzled black beard once before framing his face with thumb and forefinger, elbow resting upon the comfortable chair's arm.  Eyes as green as an aspen forest lightly frosted over glared unblinking at the pair of men dressed in wolves' hides before him.  A long stretch of discomfiting silence lingered before he finally commanded, "Explain how you lost them."

All around the trio, a gallery of wild eyes stared accusingly from the assortment of animals and monstrous beasts stuffed and mounted.  One of each type of bear, a dire mountain lion, a dire wolverine, a large variety of great cats, an aurumvorax, and two massive megatherium occupied the large room, the last of which slouched down on all fours just to squeeze in beneath the twelve-foot-high ceiling.  The younger, blond-haired man appeared quite unnerved by the display, but the older, hairless one paid his surroundings little heed.  It was the experienced one that spoke up.

"Dire bear mauled 'em both," he stated nonchalantly.  "Was draggin' 'em 'way when I got there t'deal wit' it.  Killed the rear guard too, but that's 'is own fault.  Bastard fool don't 'ear a bear comin' up on 'im deserves t'die."

The burly one raised two bushy eyebrows at the simple declaration and ever-so-slightly nodded his concurrence.  "Be that as it may," he said gruffly, "'the bastard fool' is hardly my concern.  The two mauled, however, concern me greatly."

"No need to," the bald man shook his head.  "I'barians ain't diff'cult t'git.  Have a coople more t'ye in few days' time."

"At what price?"

"Me boys lost 'em.  No charge t'ye."

Another moment of deep silence followed before the burly man smiled behind his coiled fingers.  "Done."

"Be seein' ye in a few days," the bald man declared.  He swatted his younger companion in the chest with the back of his hand, and the two departed out the single door to the left of the room's primary occupant, as opposed to the primary double-doors located some fifty feet before him.

Not a moment after the door closed behind them, the bearded one beckoned forth an unseen occupant hiding amidst the taxidermy.  The figure stood only a hair's breadth above five feet in height.  Everything about him was white--from the silk that covered him head-to-toe to his pale skin and snowy hair, as well as the intricately-fashioned hilts of the twin kukris at his sides.  Only the wisp of an icy blue tattoo poked out of the figure's tightly-wrapped headdress in the center of his forehead.  "You summoned, Master Jokun?"

"Those two should not see the light of day again as free men, Danaru.  The Chelaxians paid for a dozen slaves delivered to them on the morrow.  'A few days' time' is too long on this occasion, I fear.  I'll not have my reputation sullied by men incapable of living up to their promises."

The figure of white bowed low.  "It will be done, Master."

The master ran a hand through his thick, black hair and released a weary sigh before waving his servant away.

The figure disappeared from plain sight at the moment of dismissal.

With that business completed, Jokun picked up the small bell sitting atop an oaken end table beside his chair and rang it; the signal to his servants without that their master awaited his next guests.

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Wynnsaren

Post  Wynnsaren on Tue Jun 04, 2013 1:01 am

Waiting in the small parlor, Wynnsaren fiddled anxiously with one of the white jade hairpins that held her locks in the elaborate twists and loops crowning her head in traditional Tian Xia style.

The oracle and her ranger companion hadn't gone immediately to their destination, but instead made a stop at the nearby inn to wash off the grime of the road. At least that was Wynn's plan. Kazimir insisted he was quite clean enough to be presented before (what he assumed to be) a 'swollen-headed lowlife'. There was a good chance he was correct, given the rumors circulating about the man, but seventy years as a wayfarer had taught her how important first impressions could be and she needed information from this man. Information he would not be inclined to give. A bath and some fresh clothes couldn't hurt.

A full two hours Kaz waited for her to be ready and she certainly heard about it between his power naps in the adjoining room. For all his complaining though, when she finally stepped out of her room all clean and shiny, with her hair fancifully rendered and wearing the form fitting, blue and silver embroidered silk cheongsam dress, the ranger suddenly had nothing more to say on the matter. Wynnsaren happily accepted that as approval.

It was late afternoon by the time the companions were called in by the servants. The oracle had ensured they were the last of his appointments for the day by allowing two other groups that had come in afterward to precede them. She was hoping to set the stage, making provision for other opportunities should they arise. Or...it could completely backfire. Time would tell.

The pair were ushered into the businessman's office...or trophy room as the case may be. Kazimir's meager respect for the man was easily doubled as his eyes drifted to each of the great beasts. A few of them which he himself had cause to tangle with before, but only in a large group. No doubt this is what the man had intended his own first impressions to invoke in his visitors. The aasimar however, had her silver-pupiless orbs trained directly upon the man himself. The man she'd spent so many months waiting to meet. As the great animals that surrounded them, Jokun too, did not fail to impress. He was larger than she imagined and rougher of form, with large hands and calloused fingers. Not the sort of man she expected would find life behind a desk very fitting.

A soft and forthright smile lifted the corners of her lips. "Mister Yeldiakiv," she began, offering a curtsy as deeply as the dress would allow. "It is an honor to finally meet you. I am called Wynnsaren and this is my companion Kazimir," she motioned to the ranger in polite introduction. "Might we sit?"

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Jokun

Post  The Sub-Creator on Sun Jun 09, 2013 11:04 pm

Mister.

Despite his long experience in negotiations, Jokun nearly smiled at that. It was almost as if this woman greeted him as an equal. Surely she realized the only reason she and her bodyguard would leave this room alive was by his good graces. Not that he harbored any ill-intent toward her in any way, of course, but that hardly mattered. Business was business, after all, and who really knew what turns business might take?

"Of course," he replied to her in an almost jovial tone, motioning toward sturdy, wooden chairs far less comfortable than his own. Though his voice proclaimed welcome, Jokun rather exclusively locked his strong gaze upon her own without bothering to admire the rest of her. The exotic dress fitted her form perfectly, undoubtedly, but beautiful women were not a rare thing in his trade . . .

Neither were deadly ones.

"So, Lady Wynnsaren,"--he applied the title purely out of politeness for a guest--"what purpose brings you here to me?"

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Wynnsaren

Post  Wynnsaren on Sun Jun 09, 2013 11:08 pm

"Business of course," she smiled as she took a seat, folding her hands comfortably in her lap. "Information to put a finer point on it."

Kazimir followed her lead and sat, albeit less comfortably. The ranger couldn't help but see Jokun as some enormous spider perched upon his web eyeing the two morsels that just flew into his sticky strands. No, there was no way he'd be letting his guard down here and it annoyed him to no end the way that Wynn sat there as easily as if she was meeting an old friend for tea. A far cry from the anxious oracle that waited beside him a moment ago in the parlor.

Pleasantries behind them, Wynnsaren got right to the matter at hand. "It has come to my attention that you were hired to send a mining expedition to the Stolen Lands about eight months ago, that succeeded in unearthing a meteor. You see, I have an abiding interest. . . .one of a scholarly nature," she clarified, "in all things related to the heavens, and until recently I had neither heard, nor seen record of a meteor ever impacting those lands to the southeast. You can imagine my surprise then, when I learned of this discovery!

"It is this that brings me to your door, to ask if you could relay to me your source of this fantastic information. Given your well-earned reputation for dealing in exotic enterprises, I assume that you were approached and employed to the task. I would very much like to meet this employer, Undoubtedly I could learn much from him or her on this topic."

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Post  The Sub-Creator on Sun Jun 09, 2013 11:19 pm

"Oh, undoubtedly, you could," the burly man chuckled with amusement. "I'd wager an enormous amount of wealthy information could be gleaned--a proverbial gold mine, if you'll pardon the phrase." He grinned deep after a few more chuckles, then let out a long sigh while stroking his thick beard. "And how fortunate would you be if I disclosed such information to every passerby that came calling . . .

"But I've known less than a few venture partners in my day that find such disclosure advantageous to their profiteering." Jokun settled back into his chair, calmly resting his calloused hands down on its skillfully-crafted arms. "I look at you, Lady, and I easily see a brain to match your beauty, so you've obviously not come to me with such a preposterous request without something else to offer. That I sent miners to the Stolen Lands is no secret. I've not heard from that company of miners for months now, but such is the risk one takes when such ventures arise. An opportunity existed, and I'm a man of opportunities."

Jokun glared hard at the woman for a long moment, his face stoic. "Why don't you explain to me what opportunity you've brought today?"

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Wynnsaren

Post  Wynnsaren on Sun Jun 09, 2013 11:21 pm

Without turning her gaze from the man, Wynnsaren, bearing a soft and self-assured smile, deliberately fingered the delicately worked silver chain that hung about her neck. A weight...a pendant of some sort held the chain taut, and she pulled it from the supple silk of her dress just enough for Jokun to see the top of a metal vial.

"I do indeed come bearing a gift, my good sir, but I think you will find that tickling the flower a bit would produce an even sweeter nectar, so if you could be so gracious to indulge me a bit further." Beside her, Kazimir cleared his throat, disapproving of the provocative expression in such tentative circumstances as they were in.

He was promptly ignored.

The oracle let the vial slip back down the chain to rest safely between her breasts, and then sat forward in her chair. "I have some information that you might find interesting...

"You see, I know exactly what happened to your miners. I've seen their remains with my own eyes...helped to bury them in fact, and while you may accept their deaths as necessary risk, I cannot believe that you are the type of man who would intentionally send those miners to their deaths, especially when it could be traced back to you. That is hardly good for business after all. Your employers however, have no such qualms." The oracle studied his face a moment before continuing.

"What did they tell you? That they wanted you to mine for siccatite in the Stolen Lands? Did they give you a wooden box with a shard of the skymetal inside that radiated such cold that it burned to the touch? Have they inquired about the progress on the mine, I wonder?"

Wynnsaren sat back in her seat once more and folded her hands in her lap. The self-assured smile was replaced with one of concern.

"I fear that this employer was less than forthright with you... At least that is what I've argued on your behalf," she stressed. "You see, this mysterious employer of yours had no desire to harvest skymetals. This employer put you to task to open that meteor, knowing full well what was inside. They knew what would be released, and they knew that there would be no miners left to tell the tale, only a single thread of evidence which leads directly to you. Which," she added, sympathetically, "I think is deeply treacherous to do to a businessman of such stature and reputation."

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Post  The Sub-Creator on Sun Jun 09, 2013 11:32 pm

"How considerate of you to show such concern for my reputation," Jokun replied, and while his intonation sounded oddly playful, the sudden tightness in his jowls and neck revealed a hint of something far more sinister underneath. He considered himself a very easy-going individual, always willing to inject levity in meetings where things became too bogged down with seriousness, but treachery soured his mood--whether learning of it for the first time or being reminded of it.

Regardless, she had brought new information about the venture to the table, and he detected nothing in her manner that screamed out deception . . . Still, she was a woman--undeniably so, and deception and manipulation came naturally to women. Jokun hardly held that against them; in a world so cruel everyone needed some inherent gifts to survive. Men relied upon their brawn, women their guile. Over the years, he'd learned how to decipher the lies of the fairer sex, but only to a point. It ever remained difficult to beat a master at her own game, and this woman was a scholar by her own admission. Playing mind games probably excited her to no end.

"Mayhaps I have a name you'll be interested in," he teased, lightly tapping his left ring finger against the wood armrest. "I wonder, however, how it is a pretty scholar so interested in heavenly things might have come across and subsequently buried my dead miners, as well as why? It also makes me all the more curious when I hear quiet rumors spreading about another group that's started mining the exact area where my people were sent to prospect. Odd, don't you think, that my people get silenced just before another lucky late-comer reaps the benefits.

"You see, Lady," Jokun smiled wide behind his sable beard, "I'm certainly not opposed to tickling such a beautiful flower, as I have a taste for sweet things. Too often, the line between sweet and tart gets blurry, though, and I'm not keen for the latter."

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Wynnsaren

Post  Wynnsaren on Sun Jun 09, 2013 11:57 pm

Kazimir's scowl deepened at the moneylender's presumption, but Wynnsaren's grin reached her silvered eyes. With her elbow propped on the arm of the chair, she drew an index finger across her lower lip as she considered his questions.

"You are a careful man with a discerning palate, Jokun," she noted with a smile, "and I understand that it has been necessary for you to be so, but I do hope you will not deny yourself the satisfaction of the sweet for fear of the sour.

"Perhaps I can set such fears to ease. As I'm sure you are aware, the King-Regent of Brevoy sent out companies just under a year ago to establish new nations to the south. The Stolen Lands are no longer as unsettled as they once were and the area to which your miners were sent, is now occupied by one of these nations. It's possible that the Regent's machinations were the very spark that set your employer to have the meteor mined before additional...complications arose."

The aasimar crossed her legs modestly and smoothed over the silk of her dress after the motion.

"Now, while the answer to your inquiry about my personal involvement in the matter may be inconsequential, I am pleased to satisfy your curiosity in this regard. It is no accident that I discovered that meteor site, in fact you might say more properly that I was led to it. While my pursuit of the heavenly realm is indeed scholarly, it is first and foremost of an oracular nature." She let her words hang in the air, briefly studying the man's reaction before continuing.

She hated this part... Hated it every time.

"I have received many visions concerning that meteor and the alien power that has been released from its prison. It was those visions that led me to the meteor and the carnage that was found...carnage that was perpetrated by a lesser alien threat that was put down in my sight by the company that has founded the new nation there. It was the evidence of the dead miners that led me to you."

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Jokun

Post  The Sub-Creator on Tue Jun 11, 2013 5:49 pm

A seer. She had bated him, and while he had only dangled the carrot before that lovely face, he chastised himself for showing even that much. Now the woman knew without a doubt that he had information relevant to her search, and who's to say what ungodly ways she had of extracting that which she desired. Promises had been hinted at in their dialogue--promises not all together unpleasant to think upon, but this woman had just become the deadliest threat to enter his hall in some time. Damnation.

How to continue now? He could call forth the assassins and end this little parley immediately, but had she already foreseen such an action and even now awaited it? The one he trusted most to successfully carry out such a quick killing had already been sent away on another mission. Damn his luck! Why hadn't these two preceded the last two? Perhaps they had, but she sent the other pair in first knowing what he'd do otherwise. No, calling for a quick end to this meeting could be most disadvantageous.

Yet, she had professed that his slain miners had led her to him, not her foresight. Could he take such news at face value, however? Would she tell him otherwise, truly? He detected no lies spoken . . .

Gods, he hated seers!

Jokun took in a steadying breath very slowly to not make it obvious to his guests that's exactly what it was.

"Aren't you just full of interesting revelations, then?" He nearly cringed at his poor word choice, but managed to keep himself from any outward signs of distaste. Instead, he gripped the ends of the armrests and pulled himself forward in his seat for emphasis. "You've been forthright with me, Lady, and so I feel compelled to reciprocate in kind. I do not take kindly to being toyed with. If you've seen something about me in that third eye I'll know of now. If you play me for a fool, a legion of old bastards such as the one you've brought to protect you today won't stop me from plucking your alluring pedals one-by-one until all the beauty has been leaked out of you."

A part of him believed this rant moot; if this woman had foreseen this event, would his unveiled threats have any significance at all? Undoubtedly, no. But falling back on his intimidating manner had worked many times in the past . . . though he'd never had the gall to try it against a seer. Perhaps not his wisest move in hindsight.

Right about then, Jokun wondered if he hadn't fallen victim to a succubus's attentions. This one had all the charms for it . . .

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Wynnsaren

Post  Wynnsaren on Tue Jun 11, 2013 5:54 pm

The ranger's little finger twitched ever so slightly, the way it would just before drawing the first of his blades. He could have them both drawn before their burly host could react, and Wynnsaren knew it. She was not about to risk further inflaming the already tenuous situation.

"Stay your hand, Kaz," the oracle commanded in a soft voice, without turning her gaze from the man across the desk.

Long moments passed between the two dancers with naught but their eyes in communication. Jokun was unnerved by her admission, that much was clear. He was a man who broke his fast on intrigue and there was little doubt that the claim of visions struck a nerve. She couldn't blame him for that, and it was hardly the first time she'd been threatened, though never in so creative a manner!

It was always either fear of her visions, or mockery of them... Still, Wynn felt she'd made the right decision in not attempting to lie to a man who could undoubtedly sniff them out like a bloodhound.

"I am disappointed, sir..." Wynnsaren finally broke the silence, her lips turned down in the slightest of pouts. "You are correct when you say that I've been forthright with you. Entirely so. I have freely given you information about myself and about the ill-fated venture into the Stolen Lands. I have come here after defending you to those to which I am bound, understanding that you are a man of opportunity and prospects, and would not have tarnished your reputation by knowingly unleashing an evil that could ravage the very lands in which you work.

"I have no desire to dig into your personal affairs, Jokun, nor do I have any interest in your secrets . . . save one."

Leaning forward in her mean wooden chair, she drove home her point with steely intensity.

"Give me the name of the employer who has truly toyed with you...tell me what you know of him, and I will see to it that all his schemes are undone along with him personally, and through me you will taste the sweetest nectar this world has to offer..."

The aasimar's eyes flashed with silver fire.

"Vengeance."

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Post  The Sub-Creator on Fri Jun 14, 2013 5:08 pm

There it was.

The gift.

A newly-formed smirk erupted into a series of hardy guffaws as the beastly man virtually flopped back into his chair.  "Vengeance!" he wheezed out before breaking into another round of gut-wrenching laughter.  This atmosphere-dissolving behavior continued for a long moment before Jokun finally managed to regain some semblance of control.  His body shook occasionally as he fought off any other such outbursts while wiping away gathered moisture at the corners of his eyes.

Jokun blew out a long sigh, expelling the last of the fit from his lungs, but could hardly erase the massive, toothy grin that hid poorly behind his thick soup-catcher.  "You have a gift for oratory, Lady," he complimented offhandedly.  "You must provide me with your place of residence; I'd pay good gold to have you at my arm come festival season!"

This one was a seer; he reserved no doubts on that score.  Her confidence in the game she now played professed much to him.  But the more she talked the more Jokun grew confident in her inability to lie to him--not that he tossed out the possibility completely, of course, as that would be utterly foolish.  She truly had not come to this meeting having had a vision about it, however, else she would have come with something more to offer besides "vengeance."

"My apologies for my recent manners, Lady Wynnsaren," he expressed honestly, though his biting back another snicker may have hindered his sincerity somewhat.  "It's never my intent to show disrespect within my hall.  Admissions such as yours too often lead down the road of dishonest dealings, however, and such strong-arm tactics must be put to bed immediately."  Jokun grinned at his clever choice of words, then finished with, "I'd advise against such blatant honesty in the future.  Too many pillars in this community would not be so forgiving, I fear."

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Post  Wynnsaren on Fri Jun 14, 2013 6:04 pm

Wynnsaren sat back in her chair and smiled sweetly, refusing to be baited by this swine of a man.
 
"I must apologize to you as well, Master Jokun, for I falsely assumed you to be a man of business and you have yet to even listen to what the compensation for your information would be.  My gracious opportunity to allow you to save face in this matter has fallen upon deaf ears as well.  So be it.
 
"Seems you had the right of it, Kaz," she shrugged to her companion, who appeared to be gnawing on the inside of his cheek in rage, "I'll have to chalk that one up to hopeful naivety."
 
With a sigh, she faced forward again and folded her hands in her lap.
 
"It is known that you are involved in this debacle and as I most clearly pointed out, and as you yourself have said, I am not the only one who is aware that it is your hand that sent those miners to their deaths and released an ancient power that will soon plague this land.  It is also known that I am here visiting with you now.  If you wish to conclude our discussion before the tree has even borne fruit, then the choice is yours, my dear man, but know that your employer may not look kindly upon you, knowing that I was here.   And they will...most assuredly know of it.
 
"Perhaps they will simply trust your discretion," she batted her eyelashes and held the innocent smile, "but as I've seen the remains they left of the men with the tops of their heads sawed off and their brains removed...  Perhaps not.
 
"So I suppose the choice is yours," she lifted her hands, indicating that it was his move.  "If you would be interested in hearing my offer, wonderful.  If not, then I would wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors."

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Post  The Sub-Creator on Fri Jun 14, 2013 10:41 pm

Though his grin maintained, Jokun's eyes quickly darkened.  "I will confess to having a certain appreciation for your showmanship, girl, but do not mistake that kindness for weakness.  We can play this mysterious little game of yours through to its completion, but I will not be threatened in mine own hall.  That I do not take kindly to."

This woman should count her blessings this day, as he knew a great many powerful men that would adore having her as a personal slave.  And if she spoke of him to that old bastard in such a fashion again, that man's chances of ever setting foot outside of New Stetven alive would drastically diminish.  Lady Wynnsaren would be worth more alive than dead in virtually every way, but the same could not be said for some elderly, decrepit ranger who thought himself tough.

It would be a back alley refuse pile for him.

"You've entered my presence with the promise of sweet nectar," he growled, "but thus far have chosen to spew forth prophetic threats about my demise because a few miners whom I hired in months past met their end.  You've shown yourself to be little more than spoiled fruit.  Enlighten me of your opportunity, woman, and make it worth my while, or I'm done with you."

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Post  Wynnsaren on Fri Jun 14, 2013 10:50 pm

"I am delighted by your choice to continue," she returned Jokun's smile, albeit much more honestly than the man himself.
 
Wynn had given him ample opportunity to play nice, even after being openly threatened with having her 'petals plucked'.  After seventy-four years, of pristine petals, there would be no 'plucking' unless she bloody well allowed it and she swore that the stars would stop their celestial song before this wretched beast came anywhere near her petals . . .
 
No, the aasimar much preferred a more playful dance but he'd burned that bridge thoroughly, so they would have to find an alternate route.  Unfortunate, but not an unplanned for event considering the profession of the fellow she knew she'd be dealing with.  Hope still remained.
 
Without further maneuverings, Wynnsaren pulled the silver chain from around her neck and took the vial into her hand to show him.
 
"This is my opportunity.
 
"This vial contains a fluorescent blue substance that I painfully removed from inside the meteor that we have been referring to.  It has a terribly interesting property that I know you could make great use of."
 
Carefully, Wynn uncorked the metal vial and exposed it to the open air.  Immediately all sound in the room just ceased to be.  The old chairs he'd sat them in didn't groan.   Kazimir's teeth stopped their grinding.  The sounds of the bustling city simply cut out.   She tried speaking in her normal voice, but it came out as a barely audible whisper and beyond the two of them it was as if nothing at all was said.  Then she yelled at the top of her lungs and it sounded as if she was having relaxed chat.   After corking the vial once more all sound returned and their voices could be heard normally.
 
"I see that you are a cautious man, so you will understand the great benefit of having your conversations anywhere be completely unheard by any ears except those you intend.  Or perhaps, certain business opportunities require a more stealthy hand.  This vial would all but ensure your man go unnoticed, for when the substance is exposed to air, it powerfully absorbs sound into itself up to a range of forty feet.  It does some damage to anything of an organic nature however, so it must be handled properly.
 
"I trust this is an opportunity more to your liking than my spoiled fruit?"

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Post  The Sub-Creator on Fri Jun 14, 2013 10:56 pm

Removed from inside my meteor, then, you half-witted harpy, he thought vindictively, but his face betrayed no such emotion.  Instead, Jokun glared at her with an unnerving, deadpan pensiveness.  The promise of such a unique substance offered many avenues of use, and if it contained no magical properties so easily detected then its value to him would soar.  Still, it rubbed him wrong that this woman brought a trade item that--in his own mind--should have belonged to him anyhow!  More than a slight, it was a slap in the face . . .

Albeit, a creative one.

"Explain what damage you speak of," he commanded her.  "What's the lifespan for the potency of this substance?  Also, how much are you offering?  A vial may buy you a name, Lady"--he decided it best to be at least somewhat genteel once again, now that there appeared to be some upside to this meeting--"but a name might not be enough for you."

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Post  Wynnsaren on Sat Jun 15, 2013 6:48 am

"When touched to flesh, the substance produces a painful blackening. . . a withering effect to the exposed area," she explained, tackling the first of his aggressive barrage of questions with calm assurance.  "As to the lifespan, it has likely survived millennia within the meteor, but even after being exposed to the elements, the first sample that was taken is still effective after eight months."

Wynnsaren uncrossed her legs and leaned toward the man, holding up the small metal tube between thumb and forefinger.

"This vial contains five drops of the ooze.  Each drop being as effective as I've exhibited to you."  She paused a moment, and clasped the precious substance back into her palm, running her thumb over it in thought.  After a pause, the aasimar looked back up to the businessman.  "While one dose may be worth a name, Jokun, I am willing to offer you these five for the name or names of your employers, plus . . . if what you say is true and you can provide me with information that will see me to them as quickly as possible, then I will provide you with another two doses to be delivered to you upon the successful location of the perpetrators of this trouble."

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Post  The Sub-Creator on Sat Jun 15, 2013 9:54 am

Jokun snorted a chuckle as she finished her bargaining.  "How quickly you work has no bearing on me, girl.  You've legs, a calculating mind, and the gift of foresight--while those certainly aren't your best features, they'll undoubtedly get you where you need go in their own time.

"Otherwise," he proclaimed, sitting straighter in his chair, "I consider the bargain accepted.  I'll provide you the name and location of the one whom I worked with, as well as a small gift to you for the memorable time we've spent together.  I believe, Lady Wynnsaren, you'll find it indispensable for any further investigation into this matter," Jokun smiled casually.

"In return, I'll have that vial you've had neatly tucked between your breasts all this time, with the offered substance in it.  Upon completion of your quest, I'll be awaiting the additional doses promised."  A sudden glower substituted for the smile on his lips.  "No duplicity, please.  You have such a beautiful, sleek neck, Lady; it would be an absolute shame for some tragedy to befall it.  You have my word I'd weep f or such a loss to the world.  Beautiful and exotic things are to be cherished, after all."

His middle fingers began tapping out a soft tune on the armrests of his chair.  "You'll leave here and go to the Vanishing Dragon, a quaint little tavern set up along the docks.  Have a drink.  Start up a tab, as your refreshment will be on me today because I think so highly of you.  I'll brook no argument on the matter," he shushed her before any protest could be made, and his glare backed up the statement.  "You'll wait at the Vanishing Dragon until my man meets you there.  He'll bring your gift, provide the name and location as promised, and remain with you until all that has been agreed upon here comes to mutual fruition.  You will then provide him with the vial and go on about your business."

The burly man paused for a long moment, eying the woman stoically.  "Fire is everyone's ally, but no one's friend," Jokun quietly intoned an ancient piece of Brevoic wisdom.  "Remember, woman, that it was you who wanted this.

"We're done," he informed the oracle, waving her toward the doors through which she'd first entered the hall.

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Post  Wynnsaren on Wed Jun 19, 2013 12:43 pm

She was only too glad to oblige.
 
Skin crawling, Wynnsaren withdrew from Jokun's offices with a deeply scowling ranger following close behind.  Her eyes ached desperately from the strain of maintaining their hold on the moneylender and she could feel a massive headache blooming just in back of them.  The price for not wanting to appear weak, would be paid this night and well into tomorrow she knew, but there was nothing to be done for it, so Wynn simply closed her eyes and took her escort's arm as they exited the building. 
 
They'd gotten only a few dozen feet down the street when Kazimir reversed her grip and took her arm in an iron grasp.

"What the hells was that?!" He hissed into the oracle's ear as he 'escorted' her toward the docks. "Who the hells was that, because I certainly don't remember ever meeting her over these past six months! Was that some kind of game to you? Dressing like this? Speaking like that to that kind of slime? I looked in that man's eyes, Wynn, and he would've killed you without a second thought. You know that right? Why didn't you just give him that blasted vial in the first place?"

The aasimar stopped and turned to him, surprised considering she couldn't remember ever hearing Kaz use that many words in one sitting. . . not ever. She glanced down at where the ranger's hand was squeezing her arm and then back up at him. It was enough to loosen his grip.

"You're sweet to be so concerned," she grinned, standing up on her toes in order to kiss his cheek. Then carefully she uncorked the vial hanging around her neck. They didn't need anyone overhearing their conversation, so just in case Jokun was having them followed to the tavern. . .

In the area of highly dampened sound, she continued. "Kaz, I didn't know the man. I was going in blind and I had to be sure that I was prepared for whatever we were walking in to there," she explained, threading her arm through his as they continued on toward the dockside of the city. "I didn't want to give Jokun one drop of this stuff, but it was all I really had to bargain with. If I'd played my best card up front, he might have demanded more. Maybe even more than I had with me, and this stuff is dangerous!

"I had to play the game first, my friend. There are three things that kind of man is interested in. Sex, power, which hinges on his reputation, and money. I hoped that he'd be influenced by the first and sold on the second, barring those, maybe a healthy dose of fear, but he was more a business man than I'd hoped he'd be, to be honest. I still think we came out ahead in the end though. One vial and two drops. Better than what I'd feared, and when his information leads us to those involved in this alien threat, it will be worth the risk by far."

"Maybe," the ranger growled doubtfully, "but the risk ain't over yet, is it. . ."

He unclasped his cloak and threw it over her shoulders. "At least cover yourself up. You've drawn enough unwanted attention today."

"Kaz, this is a perfectly respectable dress!" Wynnsaren objected.

"Not for the back alleys of New Stetvan after dark isn't not, but that's not what I'm talkin' about. You've gone all glowy again."

The aasimar held up her hand and saw the blue light reflecting off of it. She couldn't help but sigh. Twenty years she'd lived in New Stetvan and avoided going outside in populated areas after dark. It was easier not to have to answer the questions and deal with the misunderstandings, but now she didn't have to worry about what the neighbors might say. Now she had a home of her own in Novastasia and a place among the people there who knew her for what she was and accepted her. For the first time in a very long time, she felt free.

Not free enough to risk getting mugged though . . .

Wynn pulled up the hood of the borrowed cloak and tucked away the vial as the pair quickened their pace toward the docks.

The Vanishing Dragon was just as Jokun described it. A quaint little tavern down by the docks and not nearly as seedy a place as Wynn had expected someone in his line of work to do business.

There were a couple of stares and whispers as they entered and ordered their drinks, but no one she recognized from her old life and no one that seemed too interested in their presence in this place.

Kaz found a table in one of the darker areas of the tavern where they sat and Wynn cast a spell over their drinks to be assured they weren't tampered with. Nothing seemed amiss and the red wine was actually not bad. The ranger favored his teas above all else, and though he might have preferred something with alcohol in it on this night, he wanted to be sure to keep his wits about him.

"So what now?" He looked at the oracle over the rim of his porcelain cup.

Wynnsaren pushed back her hood and pulled the white jade hairpins out of her hair, letting the loops and twists spill down over her shoulders. The hairpins were revealed to serve a dual purpose, as one of them was tipped with silver and the other, cold iron. She slid them into the side of the ranger's cloak that she still wore.

"Now we wait."

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Post  The Sub-Creator on Mon Jun 24, 2013 8:23 pm

Danaru watched the pair below from his darkened perch just beyond the flickering lamplight in the corner rafters of the Vanishing Dragon.  Though his form-fitting, sleeved bodywrap, soft slippers, and thin leather gloves were all white as freshly fallen snow and in stark contrast with the darkness, he blended effortlessly with it.  Shadow loved him as a brother--even he knew not why--and sought to conceal him at every opportunity.  Danaru thanked the shadow for that, as it offered him a home away from the prying eyes and ridiculing smirks of those best left for dead, yet impermissible to be killed.  His brother had provided solace for the tears of his youth and now provided secrecy for his occupation.

A precious few had earned his respect over his many years, but only shadow had ever earned his love.

His brother had hidden him for hours now as he stared down at the pair.  Danaru had seen them as they walked in, predictably seeking out a table in the dimly lit corner--the table he had ensured remained open for them, and had studied them the entire time.  The man, Kazimir by name, was a dual-wielder according to the story told by his hands.  He favored caution over confidence, as his predilection for tea while they waited rather than anything alcoholic revealed, and he worried over his charge much as an uncle might a niece.  He moved deliberately, which would be expected of a warrior, but with imprecision, indicating that aches and pains from a long, harsh lifestyle had crept into joints and muscles.  That one would create affronts where none existed, would be quick to anger, and first to violence, through undoubtedly last to act.

The woman, Lady Wynnsaren, portrayed a calm, confident demeanor, but the brightness of her smile and lightheartedness of her conversation betrayed her uneasiness.  She painted a convincing portrait for those paying close attention, and moreso for her escort, whom she needed to keep settled.  She depended on tricks such as the hairpins to soothe the turmoil in her gut and grant her a perceived edge.  She masked her intentions better--not from training but practice . . . decades of practice.  Her hands were softer, more delicate, but not so delicate that they knew nothing of work.  No, she was a scribbler.  This one would work to keep her companion relaxed, be patient as long as possible for the benefit of information, but less certain about how far was too far.

If it came to blows, he would incapacitate her first; such would be her immediate desire for him, and that mustn't be allowed to happen.

The hour neared two bells before midnight.  The time had come.  Slowly, Danaru unwrapped the silken cloth from about his head to reveal hair white as cotton and placed it stylishly about his neck.  An ice-blue tattoo of strange, rune-like slashes resided high upon his forehead, though one of those exotic markings wandered far down like a dragon's tail to within an inch of the bridge of his nose.  The unique tattoo provided the only semblance of color upon his body, as even his eyes appeared an exceptionally pale slate.  Some had mistakenly believed them to be dead eyes, only to discover with regret their keenness soon after.

With a thought, Danaru beckoned his brother to carry him below, and shadow instantly complied.

"You await me," his soft, contralto voice spoke from behind Wynn less than a heartbeat later.

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Post  Wynnsaren on Tue Jun 25, 2013 12:51 am

The aasimar was beginning to believe that Jokun had played her for a fool. Had this entire trip for naught? AGAIN?! For two hours the companions had been sitting there staring at each other, silently praying that this would all be over soon, while prattling on about nothing in particular and slowly nursing their drinks. She'd nearly given up hope when the subtle voice from behind her startled her out of her skin!

"Y. . . Yes." Wynn clutched her chest, betraying any sense of calm that she had been trying to cultivate. "Yes, I have been expecting you."

She didn't turn around. Didn't dare really. Something about the voice was completely unsettling. While Kaz stared hard over her shoulder at the man behind her, he made no sudden moves, which she was glad of. Both of them just wanted to see this business come to an end, and both of them realized then that if this man of Jokun's wanted Wynn dead. . . She would be.

"I have what was agreed upon. Would you care to join us?" It was politeness out of habit, but what the oracle really wanted was to have the unseen fellow leave his unnerving position at her back.

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Post  The Sub-Creator on Tue Jun 25, 2013 10:48 am

"I will accompany you until what was agreed upon has been fulfilled," Danaru stated simply.  His eyes locked on those of the old man . . . watching, waiting, never blinking.

"The one you seek is Motsov Venere," he informed them stoically.  With intentional deliberateness, Danaru slid a hand beneath the wrapping of his chest and pulled out a folded piece of scratchy burlap held closed by two strips of twine tied together at either end.  Silence seemed almost to envelope him as he slowly reached over her shoulder--never touching her despite his diminutive size--and placed the package before her on the table.

"I will take you to him."

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Post  Wynnsaren on Tue Jun 25, 2013 3:07 pm

She stopped breathing as the yet unseen man reached over her shoulder to deposit the parcel.  Something about him was more threatening in silence than Jokun had ever been with his blustering (if wholly truthful) threats.  Wynn suddenly realized that this employee was the reason the moneylender could sit so easily in his fancy, cushioned chair. 

By the look on Kazimir's face, she wasn't the only one who was unnerved, though at this juncture he was doing a better job at hiding it.  That wasn't saying much. . .

Carefully, Wynnsaren untied each end of the burlap package and lifted the flap just enough to peek inside.  Her teeth immediately clenched and her brow furrowed when she recognized the contents of Jokun's gift.

"I assume that this is Motsov Venere?" 

She let the burlap flap fall open to reveal a polished human jawbone.


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Post  The Sub-Creator on Tue Jun 25, 2013 3:30 pm

"No," Danaru replied quietly.  "It is his jawbone.

"You wish to speak with him, yes?" he asked in earnest.

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Post  Wynnsaren on Tue Jun 25, 2013 5:22 pm

"I do," Wynnsaren replied after one long, slow blink.  He sounded so forthright with his response that in any other, less deadly situation, she might have laughed.

A jawbone. . .  It was polished in a way that made her wonder if Jokun kept these trophies as warnings or perhaps a sort of library.  If rejoined to its body, then magically, this jawbone of Motsov Venere could tell his tales. 

The oracle spoke again to the man behind her that she'd yet to see.  "You will take me to the rest of him then?"

It was almost too much to hope.  She'd been given knowledge of the spell months ago now, but hadn't understood at the time what purpose it might serve.  Could this be the reason?  The dead were usually pretty tight-lipped, but speaking with Motsov's body was nearly as good as speaking with the man himself.

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