Post by conumbra on Aug 16, 2013 1:19:34 GMT
The Kutandans had attacked during the night; thankfully she’d been somewhere relatively safe. The inn she’d found was close to the docks and away from the walls. A few of the Kutandans had found their way into the city during the fighting outside, but the Falorans had been prepared. Rifles had quickly taken down the interlopers, their bodies left in the street where they fell. She hadn’t seen the battlefield itself, but she’d heard remarks that it had been a massacre, with bodies from both sides mixing in with the soil. The ravens certainly had a feast, if anything else.
After being victims of a siege for several days on hand, some of the less experienced members of the Faloran military were growing desperate. This was rather convenient for Lucrezia, because she was able to bend some of the more desperate soldiers with some precise bribes. She didn’t bother mentioning that if they perished in the siege her money would be worthless; she figured they didn’t really need to know that.
There were, from what she could tell, some very interesting rumours floating midst the army. The most prominent was one involving the recent deaths of both the General and Lord Magister. Apparently men with runed blades had sneaked into the city during the battle, and had managed to kill both of them. Thankfully one of them had been apprehended and was awaiting justice in the dungeons. That, plus the fact that a certain Mercus Vitina was also there had prompted her to approach some of the guards. With a few changes of coin they’d gotten her; most of the other soldiers were busy repairing the damage done to the city walls during the siege. This left her with plenty of time to ask some important questions.
So she, Nicholas, some mercenaries and a few bribed guards marched down the dungeon, headed towards the cell block. Senusa's dungeon hadn’t been maintained all that much before the siege had started, and now no one paid any attention to it. The ceiling was constantly dripping murky water onto her as she passed; she’d worn a rather dull dress today to prevent any of her others from being dirtied. It only had a single sapphire in the bodice and that was it as far as ornamentation went, and the blue fabric had faded. She wasn’t looking to impress, not with who she was going to see today.
As they approached the cells she could hear talking but unfortunately it ended as she approached, preventing her from eavesdropping. Ah well, it was only a minor missed opportunity. Her answers were much more important. She strode up to the cell Mercus occupied and peered in. It was barely big enough to hold a person sitting down from what she could tell. She spoke to Mercus through the cell door. He and the other man’s cell were right next to each other; she had to be careful what she revealed about herself. The other man was going to be listening in, by sheer proximity.
"So Mercus, you were there, in Aras when The Smiling Man arrived, yes?"
"Madame, who are you? Do you work with the Lord Magister?"
"The Lord Magister is dead. Even if I did work for him, only a fool owes loyalty to a dead man. Now, were you there when the Smiling Man arrived or not?"
Mercus Vitina's eyes flashed dangerously.
"Yes, I was Madame. As I have told the Lord Magister many times. The Smiling Man came a year after the cult began. And as far as I'm concerned, he never left. I...I think they were waiting for something, the whole time. We would get visitors from other parts of the Dominion at times; Nalbinians too. But they never came with whatever the cult was waiting for."
"Who, or what, is the Smiling Man?"
"Pits if I know, Madame. We never saw him up close. The cult was careful. Only reason I remember anything is because a Magister lifted the curse on me. I'm the last sane man from the Aras Isles. And not even I can tell you that much. If that Taniel fellow hadn't come along and killed the Plutarian pacter, then Archons help us... I'd not be here now."
"You said he killed the pacter? Describe them both for me, if you please."
After a brief description, Lucrezia remembered the man that was spoken of - a man from the Grand College of Atheese, a pacter and his black cat.
She nodded, her suspicions confirmed. "What was this pacter’s role in the cult?"
"He was one of the leaders of the cult, Madame. Arrived with them. They may have all been Plutarian, but he was the only one to mention his homeland. The rest were more private about their business, when they weren't preaching."
“I see, thank you for that."
She turned back to the guards with her "This man hardly looks like he’s been properly fed during his stay. Do you think I could provide some of my own to help him?"
Nicholas Fervine put an arm on Lucrezia’s shoulder and leaned in for a whisper.
"Miss Dreyal, he's the only man alive who has seen and remembers the Smiling Man that we know of. We may want to keep him alive, at least for now."
She gave a small nod, giving no indication of what Nicholas had said, and whispered back to him "Very well. Still, I wouldn't put it past some of them to 'forget' their prisoners. And backing out now would seem even more suspicious." She returned her attention back to the guard and spoke "So? Can that be arranged?"
The guard swallowed.
"Take him with you for all I care. Uh, Madame."
Then his brow furrowed.
"If you'd take me too."
She smiled, in a smile that did not reach her eyes. "Very well, I’ll take both of you." She walked over to the next cell, peering in at the other man, the one who’d been arrested with a runed blade.
"Rumors are spreading about you. You helped kill the General with a runed blade then did in the Lord Magister too. So, what prompted this murderous display?"
The man inside scratched his chin, taking a moment before speaking.
"I'd say the rumors are going off the road already. Nikodimus was the one who killed the General, and I tracked him down and killed him in return."
She looked him over steadily. "Even if what you say is true, you are a murderer either way. So murderer, what's your name? Who are you?"
"My name is Dan. And who I am depends on what the officers decide to do with me. Until then, I'm just a prisoner rotting in a cell."
"How did you come to be in possession of a runed blade?"
"I took it from one of the Godslayers. But they probably can't confirm they're missing one, since I saw the bunch of them boarding ships shortly after they killed the General."
"Who are these 'Godslayers’ that you speak of?"
"As far as looks go, they carry the famed runed swords and at least some of them are binders. They were allowed into the city last night, coming from the Dominion outposts to the north. The soldiers on the walls were told not to fire upon them. Got told they were spies returning with information. If you want to know more than that, you'll have to ask the officers."
"If you're telling the truth this is all very interesting.”
She paused for a moment, seeing if there was anything else she could ask. Then it hit her.
“You said that now, you're a prisoner. What were you before you were summarily arrested?"
"Heh, a soldier."
"There are many types of soldier. What type were you?"
"The type that thought he'd die in a trench on a battlefield and not behind bars in a hellhole like this."
"Please, regular soldiers don't have nearly that much initiative. Regular soldiers, when they see their commander dead, don't take down his killer in the middle of a crowd with an enemy's weapon. Since you're not a regular soldier you must be something special. So, I’m going to ask again. What kind of soldier are you?"
"Well when put in those terms, I seem to be just a regular soldier as much as you seem to be just a bored socialite who asks very specific questions. So unless you have a way of getting me out of this cell, let's agree that we both have things to hide and leave it at that."
She stared straight at Dan, not blinking for several moments, before she turned to the nearby soldier. "I don't suppose I could take this man and his sword with me as well?"
“Take them both for all I care, just as long as I get out of this shithole.
Lucrezia turned back to Dan. "Well? Unless you're willing to elaborate on your special status, I'm taking the sword and leaving you in a cell."
Dan sighed then pressed the palm of his right hand against his cell's keyhole. He focused for a moment and then projected his magic into the mechanism, solidifying it into a lump of metal that caused the lock to burst open from within.
He pulled open the now ruined cell door and stepped out, dusting off the grime from his clothes.
"The name's Danton Redwind, Warden of the Arbiter. Pleased to make your acquaintance, miss-?"
Lucrezia's eyes showed visible emotion, widening as she saw his trick with the lock, her mind quickly re-evaluating the man before her. She gave a slight nod to him, regaining her composure.
"Dreyal, Lucrezia Dreyal. Quite impressive what you've just done there. If you are a Warden of the Arbiter as you say, why did you not do that earlier? I hardly think being locked up in a Faloran dungeon helps you do your duty."
"Well, I barely had time to evaluate my situation before you walked in. And besides, I had to pick a convenient moment to do it or I'd be caught in an instant. Your proposal seemed convenient enough."
"I suppose you're right." she turned to the guards. "Would you kindly go and unlock this other man's cell and retrieve the sword? And, get some spare uniforms to disguise these two, we’ll be noticed otherwise. We’ll be leaving now.“
After the prisoners were suitably dressed and everything was ready, they left the prison. Lucrezia readied Lokan’s power inside of her, in case they were spotted or disrupted on their way out. However, the guards on the way out barely paid any attention to them. The two former prisoners kept their heads down. With their disguises, they looked like regular members of the army so the already bored guards didn’t pay them any heed. They strode out completely unchallenged. Only when they were far enough away did Lucrezia take a sigh of relief. They had made it, at least for now.
Back at the inn, Lucrezia made sure both her and Dan were given a private room in the back where they could discuss things further. Mercus was already prepped for heading back to the ship. They’d retrieved a spare set of clothing from the Sea Siren. He’d head to the ship dressed up as one of her own mercenaries along with a few of her others under the pretense of them changing shifts. Danton however required further discussion. A Warden of the Arbiter could be useful, especially if turned towards the proper activities. She sat opposite him at a small wooden table, her hands clasped before her. She took a few minutes to think over her words before she spoke.
"I'm glad you've decided to be cooperative. However if you're going to go with me, there are things that need to be established. First, that sword of yours? You are not getting it back. I can give you one of the weapons I have, but that runed sword is going with me."
"I don't think I am in any position to haggle, but I have to say that I would really like to take that sword back to the Sanctum. Stopping the Godslayers is of utmost importance to the Wardens and that sword might be of great help."
"Yes, I'm sure it would be important for the Wardens to have the sword. However, I hold no loyalty to them. It sounds like there are many others, I am sure the Wardens can retrieve another one."
"Now as for your destination, as long as you are on my ship, you go where I go. After my business in Senusa is concluded, I will be headed back to the Plutarian city of Jambha. You are of course free to leave now and try and make your way out of the city yourself, or dive off the ship and swim for shore once we leave Faloran waters."
"And once in Jambha, will I be free to go? Will I be able to just get on a ship back to the Holy City?"
She shrugged. "If you so desire. I'll give you some coin so you can book passage to the Holy City on whatever ship you choose, plus some clothing of course."
"All things considered, this is all very kind of you, Miss Dreyal. Though I wonder, is my sword the only thing I have to thank for this generosity? Or am I also being rewarded for dispatching the Lord Magister?"
"You mistake my intentions Warden. I did not care for the Lord Magister's death any more than he did. This is simply a twinge of generosity, nothing more. However, it certainly can be something more, if you wish. Consider this a job proposal. You go into my employ, I provide for you, and help you with your work as a Warden. I am an influential woman; do not discard this opportunity lightly."
"I wouldn't want to slight you after what you've done for me, but I have to be honest and say that I won't hold any allegiance higher than that for the Arbiter. It's part of the job description, in a way."
"Very well Warden, at least you are frank about your loyalties. Now, how reluctant would you be towards ending a few Falorans? They are residing in Senusa as we speak, along with the rest of the army."
"Well" Dan started, wetting his lips. "I guess that, since I'm already here, any casualty I can inflict on the Faloran army helps the Dominion's cause. Who are they?"
"They are 2 men, one Taniel and one Levi, currently serving on board the Faloran ship Dauntless. The two of them have murdered several villagers within the town of Aras, including at least one pacter and his familiar, and must be put down for their crimes." She paused and gave Dan the same descriptions the villagers had spoken of. "They are quite dangerous; do not underestimate them, they have killed men and spirits numerous times."
"From what I remember of your little talk with poor Mercus, the men those Falorans killed were a bunch of crazed cultists and that pacter was their leader. Why shouldn't I thank them for putting down a dangerous cult?"
"Besides that, they are still Falorans and have likely killed many citizens of the Dominion during their stint in the army. If my reason isn’t good enough for you, then I'm sure that is."
Dan looked at his lap for a moment, shrugged, then met her eyes again.
"I guess you have a point. I will help you get those men."
"But now that we breach the subject: that cult seemed to be tied to the Faloran binders somehow, and they are tied to the Godslayers too. There's a bunch of strange factions popping up in the Dominion and they are related to each other. Do you know anything about all this?"
She shook her head "Believe me, I wish I did.”
“Hmm, what about that pacter? Mercus said he was from the Plutars. Can you trace that back to any group over there?"
She seemed to think about it for a moment. "You know, now that you mention it, I think I'll be able to do just that. I'll have to look into it further, but I already have a few suspicions."
"I hope they bear fruit, because this is the best lead I have on the Godslayers right now. My brothers and I have followed them here all the way from Kutanda, where they stole the knowledge of a terrible weapon. Now they've slipped right through my fingers and pits know what they might do."
“Unfortunately I don't have any idea on where they might have gone. The ships they were on could have been headed anywhere in Solumaros for all we know, and not even an archon can locate every ship in the world. What can this weapon do that makes it so terrible?"
"I only wish I knew. The information was stolen from the Burning Man himself. He never sees anyone, but he personally called me and tasked me with making sure it doesn't get out. And now it has."
"Well, I suppose you'll simply have to track down where the knowledge has gone, and ensure it doesn't spread further than that. What I know for sure though is that it's not going to leave on any of my ships."
Dan sighed in frustration.
"Very well. Let's look into those two Falorans then."
After the Warden left, she leaned back in her chair, raking her fingers through her hair. Things were growing more and more complicated every day. Godslayers who wielded strange runed blades? A weapon that scared an archon enough for him to send Wardens after it? Factions popping up in the Dominion with some relation back to the Grand College? She’d managed to discover something far deeper than she could have expected. She didn’t know everything. But she did know that she wanted that weapon. Anything that could scare an archon was worth having. Just then Lokan’s voice spoke up within her head.
Are you sure this is wise Miss Dreyal? The Warden owes no loyalty to you. If he is captured, surely he will reveal your involvement.
Perhaps, but as we saw in the dungeons, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to hold him long enough for that. And besides, he owes far less loyalty to the Falorans than to me. Not to mention that if he talks about my involvement, nothing prevent from revealing everything about him.
I still feel it is a risky thing to do
If worse comes to worse I will use our abilities to escape the city. I am not completely helpless Lokan, especially not with you. Have you ventured out from the inn at all?
No Miss Dreyal, I have made sure my presence has remained unnoticed. I have remained here, hiding away in the back away from prying eyes.
Good, but be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. I fear things may be getting dangerous soon.
Just then, she heard a loud BOOM from the harbour, the sound rattling the windows. That was likely the Dauntless going up in flames. She hoped the assassin had been unlucky enough to trigger the blast while still on the ship. That would remove one of her problems. And despite the explosion, she did not relax. Her targets may have survived, or they may not have been on the ship at all. Only time would tell.
Post by conumbra on Sept 21, 2013 6:16:05 GMT
City of Jambha, Dreyal Estate
Lucrezia strolled through her family's garden back in Jambha. The sun hung high overhead. She was currently in one of the side paths, which had remained hidden from view until she'd approached. Then the flowers and bushes had retreated from her presence, revealing a path of marble, each stone inlaid with gold formed into shapes pleasing to the eye. Spirals, intertwining patterns and gulls greeted her feet as she walked. She came across a clearing a ways in, the marble giving way to a circle of rosebushes at its edges, each of the roses a different colour within the rainbow, ranging from red down to violet. None were dyed, each had been grown, cultivated and tinkered with just so to create the pleasing effect. In the centre of the clearing was a statue.
It was the last gift she'd received from her father before his passing.
She'd received it as a present, a gift for her eighteenth birthday. To hear her father tell it he'd hired an expert sculptor, said to be the best in all of Jambha and certainly one of the best in the entire known world at the time. He'd spared no expense in the project. Since there were no whole blocks of marble with the colours he'd needed, he'd simply bought smaller chunks of different colours, had the sculptor craft each piece, then used a pacter to bind the different part together into the final piece; her.
The statue had been meticulously carved. Her head had been reproduced using a family portrait to almost exacting detail (imperfections excluded of course). The statue's long hair had been carved from red marble, different shades of lending the illusion of shadow to the hair, caught behind her head as if blown by a brisk wind. Her eyes were small dots of red marble with a minuscule onyx in the centre for her pupil. Her skin was faultless white marble, the stone gleaming in the noonday sun. The sleek dress on the statue was actually made from one piece of yellow marble, the sculptor having managed to use the red veins flowing through it to his advantage, causing the dress's far edge to seem buffeted -like the statue's hair- by a breeze. She clasped her hands in front of her, holding them down towards the ground. On one of the statue's fingers was a single ring similar to the one she wore, crafted from pure gold, depicting her family's crest. The first time she'd seen this (her family having blindfolded her on the way to where he'd placed it), she'd broken down and cried, amazed at the gift.
The last statement penned by her father was on a plaque in front of the statue:
"To my jewel Lucrezia, scion of the Dreyal family, I give you this trifle. You are everything I have dreamed for and more. Have this gift and remember that I shall always be with you."
Of course, within the month after he'd been found dead in his study. The tragic irony was not lost on her, and just for a moment she had to fight back tears as she remembered her father's proud face. Then the feeling passed and she composed herself. Lokan slithered down the path, followed swiftly after by Nicholas. Her cobra familiar disappeared into the bushed, presumably to to hunt some vermin. She stood in front of the statue, took in a deep breath and concentrated on her power.
She built the illusion in her mind, trying to make sure everything was accounted for. Illusions, as she'd discovered, were far more than simply making others seem an image. If their eyesight was fooled, sure it would look real, but that wasn't the only thing. It had to sound real, feel real, act real, otherwise a careful observer could see right through it.That was why Nicholas was here; he would be able to determine imperfections in the illusions. After a few seconds the illusion was completed and a second Lucrezia stood beside her. He stared at it, walking around as she began to make it perform simply actions like walking, tidying her hair, checking her pocket-watch, snapping her fingers and so forth, The criticisms began almost immediately.
"The motions of your chest and nose aren't synchronized with regards to breathing."
"The gait is too stiff."
"The pocket-watch is much too small"
"It doesn't blink regularly."
"It feels much too cold to the touch."
"The dress doesn't move as it should with the breeze."
And so on and so forth they went, her fixing every aspect he brought up until he couldn't think of any more. Of course, next month he'd manage to find other imperfections, as he should; this was how she would improve her abilities after all. This kept going for an hour until she dismissed the illusion, leaving the two of them alone in the clearing, her standing in front of her marble duplicate.
"Are the papers in order?"
"Exactly as you requested Mistress. They look practically identical to the Bank of Valin's handiwork. Same ink used, same paper, and an expert forger replicated the handwriting. They're indistinguishable. Nothing too obvious, but they implicate a lot. Plus, a few judicious witnesses are on their way to Atheese as we speak, ready to look out for our Warden if he arrives and provide expert eyewitness reports."
"If I may ask, aren't you worried about the...legal repercussions of this? Alexhil might get annoyed."
"Do not worry Nicholas. Alexhil does not care as long as he receives his taxes. He'll look away until we get too disruptive to ignore and I intend to be as quiet as can be with this."
"What about our former resident of the Aras Isles? There's only so much time we can provide him free room and board after all."
"Offer him a job, if not as a guard, then as a servant. If he refuses, provide him with some dosed food, new clothes and some money, then turn him loose. He won't live long enough to speak of anything."
"As you wish Mistress. Shall I...leave you in peace for a few moments?" His eyes darted towards the statue.
"If you would, thank you Nicholas." She said. He retreated back down the path and out of sight, leaving her alone as the serpent approached from the bushes, mouth wet with blood and belly bloated. He'd obviously caught something at least.
Why do you do this? Lokan spoke within her mind.
Do what? She replied.
Lie. Steal. Cheat. Kill. Why are you not happy with what you have? I have inspected the estate grounds. You have marvellous statues, a garden even the Doget would envy, and loyal supporters who would see to your every whim.
My father was happy with what he had, and he's now in the family mausoleum.
I don't quite follow.
Despite all this, his life was undone by a lone assassin. He did not have the power to prevent it. I will have that power, whatever it takes. No one will ever kill a Dreyal if I have anything to say about it.
She looked up at the statue, and reflected on the plaque, her eyes misting as she read the words, and spoke out loud. "I may not end up leading, but I will rule. No matter the cost."
She turned her back and strode out of the garden, leaving her bad memories behind. Her mind refocused, now turning to the strange runed sword she'd obtained from the Warden. Now that was an interesting puzzle.
Post by Timeon on Oct 4, 2013 23:22:42 GMT
Dreyal Estate, Jambha.
Almost five years ago, Lucrezia Dreyal met with Martuk, of the Red Sun Shipping Company, and agreed to a deal that gave the Bank of Dreyal access to every market touching the Mesegian Sea. As a gesture of their alliance, Martuk had sent stolen ironclads to Jambha. Sali had not responded to this grand theft with suitable outrage, because its mercantile trade was regulated by the Red Sun Shipping Company. Martuk let the Dominion take the blame for the theft. They were the obvious scapegoats.
And so, Lucrezia Dreyal had set about replicating ironclad designs, and selling some copies for enormous profit.
Almost five years ago, Lucrezia Dreyal had met Danton Redwind in Senusa. She had taken his sword, Oathkeeper. And then she had framed the Bank of Valin for the cult in the Aras Isles, and sent Danton Redwind back to the Dominion, not to hear from him again.
That left her with fragments of information about some conspiracy in the Dominion - a conspiracy relating to mysterious Godslayers. She had one of their swords.
And that made Lucrezia Dreyal curious. She investigated the College of Binders in Atheese, of course, but the magi there informed her subtly that they were aware of her meddling. She knew they were responsible for the cult in the Aras Isles, but the truth was, she did not care. Her relationship with the College was productive and profitable, and she did not want to jeopardize that.
So she forgot about the College of Binders, and focused on the Godslayers.
She sent a message to them, informing them she had their sword. And they responded, in January of the year 2485.
They sent an emissary. He was thin and elegant, with a magnificent moustache, his skin pale, his dark hair slick. His name was Bertom Allsworth.
"I believe you have my sword." Seated opposite of Lucrezia in a quaint and well-lit room, Bertom teased the side of his mouth with an olive as he spoke. "It was stolen from me by a Warden, in Kutanda."
Lucrezia Dreyal nodded to a servant, who brought Oathkeeper forward, and placed it upon the table.
"Let's talk business, Mister Allsworth."
Bertom ate the olive, stiff jaw grinding the flesh off of it. He spat the pip into his hand and tossed it into a bowl.
"You know who we are. You know what we did at Myrnium."
Coldly and calmly, Lucrezia Dreyal inclined her head.
"Yes. I know you would make valuable partners. And I know you believe the same of me, else you would not be here."
"You do have something we need." Bertom said, palming his sword gently. "There is a place in the Plutars, made known to us by a young and foolish man by the name of Kusalan. Infiltrating this den of vipers is possible with what resources we possess, but we do not hesitate to make new friends when possible."
Lucrezia decided to make an accurate guess, and see what response it evoked from Bertom.
"Allies, such as the College of Binders in Atheese?"
Bertom blinked, holding his eyes shut for a moment too long.
"Perhaps. But they do not possess the resources you do. But all three of us, our efforts combined? Now that is an alluring prospect. And that is why I am here."
After some more conversation, the beginnings of a deal were hammered out. And so, Bertom was plain about his intention.
"There is a place in the Plutars known as the Archive. It was founded by Librarians of Kutanda, fleeing the wrath of the Burning Man. It contains forbidden knowledge, which we need. We captured one of its Librarians, an endearing fool by the name of Kusalan. We know where the Archive is. Help us crack its vaults open, and we will share its secrets with you."
Bertom placed Oathkeeper in a scabbard at his back, and accompanied Lucrezia Dreyal into the gardens, to further discuss their deal. Kusalan was already in the Plutars, held in a den in Laksh, too drugged to escape. He would be brought to the Dreyal Estate within the week.
As they finished discussing that part of the plan, Nicholas Fervine interrupted them. Lucrezia knew it must be important, for he knew better than to intervene during such a critical meeting unless the matter was equally weighty.
"Miss Dreyal." he stated darkly. "There has been an attack."
Lucrezia contemplated sending Bertom away, or speaking with Nicholas in private. But then she decided it would be a poorly gesture to the Godslayers, and bid Nicholas to speak.
"It was an attack on the headquarters of the Bank of Valin." Nicholas Fervine said.
That was a surprise.
Nicholas Fervine looked shaken.
"Several ships unloaded a company dressed in black beside the Bank of Valin in Laksh. They launched a frontal assault on the Bank. From what we can tell, they penetrated deep into the Bank before they were stopped." He paused, for emphasis. "We managed to smuggle a body off the scene. It was a Tenkou body, Miss Dreyal."
And for some reason, Lucrezia Dreyal remembered the lone Tenkou ship she had seen in Jambha so many years ago.
Post by conumbra on Nov 4, 2013 2:02:29 GMT
The Tenkou, making such a bold move as this. Why? What had they hoped to gain from something like this. From what she knew of the Tenkou they may have been...strange in their outlook but they weren't stupid. The Bank of Valin had something that the Tenkou wanted, and if it was enough to draw out the famously closed-off and xenophobic Tenkou, it was enough to make her curious. Whatever the Bank of Valin possessed that drew this response, she would have it. There was no question on that score; she would possess it, and thereby have a bargaining chip with the Tenkou. There was always the possibility they'd launch such an assault on her, but she felt it was worth the risk.
She nodded to Nicholas "Thank you Nicholas, you were right to bring this to my attention." She turned to Bertom, a pleasant smile appearing on her face. "It appears we have a common interest in this."
Bertrom's head tilted a bit to the side "Oh, and how would you figure that Miss Dreyal? No offence to you or your ilk, but why should I care how another Bank fares? Doubtless you will use this to increase your station but frankly I'm here for the Archive. The Bank of Valin does not matter to me one way or another."
"Of course sir, but I was not referring to the Bank. You may not care what happens with it, but its attackers are a different matter. Doubtless you're well aware of the Tenkou's attitude towards spirits and their ilk. From what I hear they're worse than the Dominion in that regard. If the Tenkou are growing bold enough to launch assaults against far away targets, it's only a matter of time until they turn their eyes upon you. The Godslayers would be an affront to them; once they're aware of you they will not hesitate to move their forces against you. True, you may weather them, like you've weathered the Dominion so far, but they'll make your mission that much harder."
"Now, I'm going to head to Laksh to look into this attack. If the Tenkou launched a full-frontal assault on the Bank, there's something in there valuable enough for them to be so public about it." She didn't mention the alternative she had considered, that the Tenkou wanted others to know of their presence, as a sort of message or warning for things to come.
You are welcome to come with me while I do so, or you can stay at the estate as an honoured guest. Still, I would welcome your abilities in this matter, if you wish to lend them. If you help me, you may be able to learn why the Tenkou are here and relay this information back to your brethren."
She returned her attention back to Nicholas "Anything interesting found on the body?"
Nicholas shrugged, and took out a small rock with an unfamiliar rune on it. "There was no identification on him, no symbols of any sort. The only thing we found was this." He handed over the stone to Lucrezia, who puzzled over the rune. "I tested it out myself and it appears to provide some measure of concealment when activated; it blurs the wielder's shape, making them harder to pinpoint and land a hit on. I've never seen anything like it."
Stranger and stranger still. She stared at the stone, and sent out a message to Lokan
Have you seen a symbol like this before? Can you tell what it means?
Lokan stared out of one of her sleeves, then responded.
Unfortunately not Miss Dreyal. The rune is unfamiliar to me, and while I can hazard a guess as to a few spirits that could produce the described effect, I have no way of knowing which has been placed within the item.
She sighed, and pocketed the stone. "So Bertom, do you wish to journey to Laksh?"
Post by Timeon on Nov 11, 2013 17:58:05 GMT
"There was a great slaughter, you know." Bertom Allsworth was saying as their ship docked in one of the seedier parts of Laksh. The smell of body odour and odd spices wafted in from the bazaars and brothels as Lucrezia Dreyal allowed herself to be helped off the ship and onto the marble docks.
"I presume you speak of Nalbin, from whence you have come."
Bertom's lips were puffed into a look of contemplative disapproval whenever he was not speaking. To a fool he would appear as a petulant child with a moustache, but Lucrezia knew he was dangerous. His eyes shone as he spoke of the slaughter he was about to speak of.
"Nalbin, yes. On the night of the new year celebrations, the Arbiter's Wardens there were put to the sword across the country. The work of the Godslayers, of course. But it will tear Nalbin from the Dominion. You wait and see."
"You want to destroy the Dominion, and it would seem it is a religious cause." Lucrezia remarked, a statement more than a question. "But there is always profit to be made from chaos. And when an empire is destroyed, something must take its place. There will be people to feed, and gold to be spent on reconstruction."
With a sage nod, Bertom looked up at the sky.
"Yes, your wealth will be needed, dear ally."
He presumes much. Lokan said.
As intended. Lucrezia answered.
Lucrezia had come wearing clothes that would not give her away as a Dreyal. The investigation at the bank would have to be more subtle than that. They found devastation at the Bank of Valin. Its massive front doors had been blasted open, in what seemed to have been a direct attempt to fight straight into the vaults. A trail of corpses littered the way, amidst rubble and fires.
Posing as a mercenary, Lucrezia offered her services to the Bank, and tried to uncover what she could. The managers, however, had not the slightest idea why the attack had occurred, and they had no intention of trusting her. The investigation would have to be more subtle. Bertom urged her to wait to speak to Kusalan in a week's time rather than immediately, to avoid raising suspicions. Lucrezia was not convinced of his argument, but let him feel he had the reins of power in his hands, and agreed.
Lucrezia Dreyal returned to Jambha with more questions than answers, but there was still Bertom to contend with. She agreed to let him have his runed blade back in exchange for a fresh one to study, and he agreed. He promised Kusalan would arrive within the week.
Kusalan's arrival was overshadowed by another arrival entirely. A small fleet of ships from the Red Sun Shipping Company sailed into Jambha one evening. Their arrival had not been announced in advance, and came as a complete surprise. Lucrezia Dreyal did not like being surprised. Her allies made no effort to contact her, either. Their ships simply sat in a formerly derelict shipyard on the city outskirts, and Lucrezia's spies could bring back no useful intelligence on them.
She ordered a watch to be kept on them, while she spoke with Kusalan. The Librarian was loath to admit anything, but Lucrezia had her methods. He admitted he was a Librarian, who had travelled to Kutanda in search of lost lore. His timing was awfully convenient, for him to get wrapped up in the schemes regarding the weapon that the Godslayers had stolen, but if it was more than coincidence, Kusalan seemed oblivious. If the timing was intentional, then his superiors were likely responsible. He eventually admitted that the Archive was in Atheese, but prying more than that off of him would take more time.
Eventually, the Godslayers sent Bertom Allsworth back to act as their ambassador to the Bank of Dreyal. He cautioned Lucrezia to be patient, and postpone the matter of the Archive for a time. The Godslayers would make it clear when the time was ripe to penetrate the Archive. They would need a couple of months yet. Lucrezia got little more out of him than that, but did not press the issue. Patience was her ally.
Meanwhile, she had managed to get a couple of guards employed in the Bank of Valin in Laksh, who could act as her eyes and ears.
Nicholas Fervine interrupted Lucrezia Dreyal's breakfast by simply striding into her gardens, bowing low, and displaying a twitchy face.
Lucrezia Dreyal instantly thought to the myriad things that could have gone wrong to make Nicholas lose his calm. Was it Godslayer business? Had the Red Sun Shipping Company unveiled some scheme? Or had the authorities she had so long bribed and influenced put their heads together in the Republic? She could guess what was most likely, however, and it was none of those things.
"Sit down, Nicholas." she said, and Nicholas pulled up a chair with a shaky hand.
"Our lookouts in the Bank of Valin spotted a pair of Tenkou escorting Martuk, of the Red Sun Shipping Company, through to the vaults."
"Martuk?" Lucrezia asked, pouring herself some tea and offering Nicholas a cup. He agreed, and she filled his cup as he spoke.
"Yes. The guards report that Martuk had come bearing a strange necklace. From the way it was handled by the staff, it can be assumed the necklace is some sort of key."
So, the Tenkou were in league with Martuk - or were they in league with the Red Sun Shipping Company as a whole? If the Tenkou had attacked the Bank, why would they now walk into it so casually? Unless... what they had tried to procure through force of arms could now be attained with diplomacy and law. If this necklace was the key to the vault they seek - had they taken Martuk prisoner? If so, the rescue of her ally would catapult her into an ever greater position of power and influence.
"Rally the House Guard. We are going to Laksh."
By the time they arrived in Laksh, it was sundown. Disguised but heavily armed with infused items and other gadgets, Lucrezia and an escort of twenty of her most trusted and skilled retainers began to weave towards the Bank of Valin. With any luck, they would either find the Tenkou there, or find a trail that lead to them.
As they crossed through the Avenue of Simple Pleasures, a shape slid from an alley to block their path. Lucrezia heard crossbows and pistols levelled, and felt Lokan surge with magic. The shape, however, did not attack. It was a woman, leaving a trail behind her, a trail of blood. She wore green skirts and armour, striped and lined in a downwards pattern. Her garb alone betrayed her as something exotic, but her face had been painted darkly as well, hiding most of her features.
"Madame Dreyal." she said in a sharp accent which Lucrezia could not place. "Your help is needed."
Lucrezia met the stranger's viridian eyes.
"We know all about you, Madame Dreyal."
"Who is we?" Lucrezia looked to her retainers, who still had their weapons readied. Nicholas had a pistol cocked, and he kept glancing to the rooftops, silhouetted by the setting sun. The rest of the avenue seemed deserted.
"We. We are the Watchers of the Central Court." the woman stated, holding one leg before the other, chin high. "We are here to stop a great travesty. Your ally Martuk has betrayed you. He works with agents of the Resplendent Voice, to steal knowledge which will incite a catastrophic war."
There were too many unknowns. Lucrezia Dreyal knew that in such a situation, decisions could only be made rashly. She had been taught to remain calm, and gather intelligence until such a time as intelligence could provide a clear choice. Yet in this moment, with the Tenkou in the Bank of Valin, she knew that time was running out.
"Be less vague, please. I'm in a bit of a hurry."
"Generations ago, a relic was stolen from the Central Court of my land. A relic meant to uphold the balance between the Courts. A relic containing the knowledge of the weaknesses of each of the Judges of the Five Courts. With this knowledge, the five Judges are vulnerable. This relic was stolen, and locked away in a foreign land, only recently rediscovered. The relic is here. But the Resplendent Voice, the caretaker of the Central Court, is on the verge of stealing this relic. With it, he will control all of the Courts, and rise above his station. They have the key to the vault, Madame Dreyal. We must stop them, or the world will never be the same again."
Martuk... perhaps this was a wave she could ride to profitability. Why stand in its way? Martuk had not betrayed her, not exactly... she could yet profit from this. This knowledge, worth a fortune greater than a mortal mind could comprehend... Could she seek to profit from this, even here and now?
Post by conumbra on Nov 17, 2013 3:47:39 GMT
Lucrezia's mind had to work fast to process all this new information. She hated having to make such split judgments like this; she worked best with time to carefully plan out her decisions. Unfortunately this time she could not take too much time; this situation required decisive action. She could only hope that she'd make the right call. She felt a nervous feeling in the pit of her stomach. One wrong move and she might be ruined, or worse, killed.
All this talk of Courts and Judges had her intrigued though. If what this Watcher told her was correct then the secret to an entire nation was within her grasp. Of course, there was that 'if'. She had no indication that this Watcher was telling the truth about any of this; this could just be a ploy to draw her out into the open for some purpose of there's. Also, she didn't believe for a moment that this woman was the only Watcher present. There would be others around, she knew; she would have done the same.
She needed more information before she made her final decision, and the only way to get more reliably was to go along with this woman for now. Once inside the vault then she could find out more; get Martuk's side of the story, discover just what this relic was. One thing she did know; it would take something extraordinary to convince her to work with the Tenkou. Dreyals were slaves to no one, man or spirit, and that wasn't going to change under her watch.
She took in the Watcher and gave a hesitant nod. She drew the pistol tucked under the folds of her dress. Wheel-lock, loaded, and she knew how to fire it. Her years of training in Jambha had ensured that. She hadn't been that skilled with heavy swords or weapons, but with the quicker weapons she'd shown quite skill. That was why her father had made her undergo the training just like all the other citizens of Jambha. He'd wanted his daughter to be able to protect herself after all and now have to rely on others in an emergency.
"Very well Miss...Watcher. I'll help you in this quest of yours. But only because I want to find out just what the hell Martuk is doing. Lead the way Miss; this is your artifact after all."
Lokan, if possible try to keep our connection as hidden as possible. She says she knows all about me but I'd rather not reveal any more than necessary. Unless she shows signs that she's aware of your presence, try to hide our link.
As you request Miss Dreyal, I shall keep my presence as low-key as possible.
Now it was time for her to change the world. She followed the woman into the Bank of Valin, her expensive shoes clicking against the expensive marble steps. She regretted bringing such fine clothing here; more than likely it would get ruined in whatever confrontation would come soon. Still, she could always get more, if need be. All she had to do was ensure she survived; surely that wouldn't be so difficult.
Post by conumbra on Jan 6, 2014 4:30:00 GMT
Along the way to the bank, Lokan hissed softly in her ear. 'This so-called Watcher wields magic that I have never seen before and cannot begin to puzzle out. Be very careful around her; that one will be difficult to predict.'
Understood; thank you Lokan.
“Miss Dreyal, be very careful. More agents will converge on the bank. Do not interact with any of them; their words are honeyed lies.” The Watcher said as they made their way through Laksh’s streets. They were drawing plenty of looks, but with an illusion masking her features, the few that knew her would not recognize her. Most that saw them moved out of their way and returned to their business; they had learned long ago not to disturb armed mercenaries or, even worse, disturb their patron.
Puzzling over the possible entry points to the bank, Lucrezia realized that, as much as she wished it were not so, the front entrance was the only option she could consider. It would be the quickest way inside, and doubtless the back entry would have defenses she could not anticipate or counter. The only downside would be that the front would be extremely visible and that a direct assault on the place would be suicidal. She directed her forces onward; as they came upon the Bank she saw that it was predictably under heavy guard and Martuk was nowhere to be seen.
The Watcher drew near to her and held her weapons close. “With that necklace it is likely Martuk has already gained legal access to the vaults. We must act, before he escapes! “
'Mistress,' Lokan whispered in her ear, 'I suggest an ambush. We can draw them out into the open and then close in on them. Out here, there is more room to move.'
Lokan was right about that; in front of the bank was a large open square in front of the bank’s main entrance. If she placed her men correctly, there was more than enough room to maneuver. She could see it in her head; a simple flanking maneuver could trap Martuk as he came out of the bank. She knew the bank itself would heavily warded against assault, but out here there would be no such protection. She directed her force to split up; Nicholas would direct the other one and would only move when her force did. If she were lucky, she could manage to time it just right.
As her men sat in wait, Lucrezia could tell that the Watcher was growing agitated; she was clenching her fists and rapidly scanning her surroundings, her fists clenched. 'Uncertainty is painful, even for such as her' Lokan whispered in her ear. But still, Lucrezia had to be patient; nothing would be gained from reacting impatiently.
More time passed and the Watcher stared at the rooftops beside the bank, away from the square. “More come”. She whispered.
“How many?” Lucrezia asked “And who do they work for?”
“The Court has many factions; I do not know for sure which one these belong to. We must kill them.”
“I agree we can't let them retrieve the amulet but so far they have done nothing. We shall proceed with the plan for now, but keep an eye on them and watch their movements.”
Suddenly, her eyes were turned back to the square. A group of soldiers draped in red, a few in black, march out of the Bank of Valin, their armour foreign in design. Most likely Tenkou soldiers then. Behind them were gentlemen dressed in finery, silks and gemstones easily marking them as members of the upper class. Martuk was one of them, standing in the middle beside a hooded figure. The two of them seemed to be speaking to one another but their eyes were focused on the square.
'I am afraid they seem to have noticed us' Lokan warned.
"Alright, be patient.” Lucrezia said “Only attack on my command but keep your weapons close. Move forward." On her command they obeyed and brought themselves into view of Martuk.
"Martuk, I didn't know you were working with the Tenkou! You should have told me about this, I would have loved to be a part of it. Now, who are these lovely people?"
Martuk stared in her general direction then nodded his head, slowly and deliberately eying her. "Miss Dreyal. I fancied you might arrive.” He said “You are welcome to stay where you are, and we can talk like this."
The Watcher grabbed Lucrezia by the arm and leaned closed to her, whispering in her mind."He will poison your mind. We must kill him now." She said,, keeping her nervous gaze fixed solely on Martuk. "My mind is my own.” She responded “For the moment, we talk. We may be able to resolve this without unnecessary violence. And don't lay a hand on me again." She moved her arm away from the Watcher’s grasp and turned her attention back to Martuk, halting the mercenaries. "You still haven't answered my questions."
"The situation is delicate, Miss Dreyal. These fine folk are here to take back something which was stolen from them. They represent the Courts in its entirety. I was asked not to involve you. Our alliance should not be affected by this."
"I wholeheartedly agree, the alliance shouldn't be affected by this. However, if I am to believe these men represent the Courts in their entirety, then might I ask why someone working for one of those same Courts seems to be wholly against this idea? Or why these soldiers seem to only be flying 2 colors when I know there are more than 2 courts? Where are the soldiers for the others? I'm having a hard time putting together the facts Martuk."
As if signaled by her words the other finely-dressed gentleman beside Martuk started to gesture frantically and spoke low enough for him to be entirely beyond hearing range. Martuk nodded a few times then raised his voice over the plaza.
"Who is this that is wholly against the return of what was stolen? But you are correct, two colours are represented here. But where the others are should perhaps not be shouted across a public square?"
At that moment Lokan hissed in her ear 'Up above Miss Dreyal.' As she scanned the rooftops the other agents rose slowly, revealing the yellow amidst their armour. They made no other moves but it was a clear sign of hostility. Were they here to acquire the amulet as well? She couldn’t tell for certain; she cursed inwardly at her lack of knowledge about the Tenkou; if she had more then perhaps the situation would be clearer.
"Last chance." the Watcher said, standing by her side with a blade in hand.
Lucrezia hated split-second decisions but it appeared that one was needed in this case. One way or the other, it looked like violence was going to be inevitable. If she didn’t fire the first shot, then the yellow agents would, or more likely one of Martuk’s Tenkou friends would betray her if she went with them. ‘Lokan, kindly hide me from the view of others please? Only reveal me if asked or if Nicholas needs to see me.’ she thought, quickly pulling the pistol from her dress and firing it at Martuk.
Reluctantly she gave the order.
The Watcher grinned and, blade in hand, pulled herself up onto the rooftops to deal with the agents up there. The Tenkou, seeing the clear message of intent, charged at her own forces. They wore metal armour and carried no firearms, but the volley did not cause as much damage as one would imagine. Most remained upright, though a few stumbled.
'Magic.' Lokan hissed
The mercenaries had time for a second volley, which finally took down a fair number of the Tenkou, before they entered into melee. The rooftop warriors jumped down, but instead of fighting the guards around Martuk they charged at her own troops. So, she had miscalculated; best to deal with the current situation as best she could. Right now her forces were about to get flanked by some more Tenkou. Nicholas's troops were on the other side of the square; they wouldn’t get there in time to stop the assault, but she could do something to weaken them. In this case some trickery was warranted.
She looked at the warriors and went for the simple approach. With a thought she gathered the energies requires for the spell and left it loose; the effort left her body feeling weary. The illusion of a blinding white light right appeared right in front of their eyes; only these new warriors would perceive it, and even if the light didn't actually hurt their eyes, they still wouldn't be able to see much. They’d be rendered blind.
Lokan approved. 'A complex choice, mistress. I would expect nothing else.'
The light seemed to have the intended effect - at least for a moment. The Tenkou were resilient however, slashing through the mercenaries like butter, blind or no. Still, while blind they didn’t notice Nicholas’s forces moving to flank. Nicholas ordered a volley, taking the Tenkou in the back and breaking them, leaving most severely injured and turning the tide. However Martuk had been hurried inside and the Bank of Valin’s troops were gathering near the front, carrying halberd and rifle. There were a limited number of options here but the priority remained the amulet. Martuk could just hole himself up in the bank entirely if he wanted to; she had to get in there and retrieve it. If an army wouldn’t be able to get inside, then maybe a smaller force could.
Using her power to reach over the square, she gave Nicholas the illusion of her voice in his ear, providing him orders that no one else could pick up because the sound didn’t technically exist.
"Nicholas, order around a quarter of your half to fire at the rooftops, preferably at the rest of the yellow Tenkou but I won't be picky if they miss and hit her. As for the rest, get them to fire at the Valin guards with the intention to miss. Have most of the mercenaries retreat and back away, but order the ones without ammunition to circle around and head to the back entrance by way of the side streets to meet me.”
Nicholas seemed to not notice her voice but she could see him beginning to implement her idea. Just hold the Valin guard’s attention at the front and perhaps she could sneak through the back entrance. The Valin guards fired but apparently they weren’t as well trained as she might have thought; their first volley only managed to fell 2 of her men. In the future she’d find out which company they were hiring from and ensure she never provided them with any business.
Trying to block out the noise, she made her way around to the back of the bank. The back gates were closed which was problematic. She could hear footsteps on the rooftops above; had she been followed? Had they seen through her illusion? It was possible, but thankfully Nicholas had acted as instructed and some of her guards were there waiting for her. Lowering the invisibility, she was again struck by the screams; her own mercenaries, Valin's, or civilian? She couldn’t tell; most men sounded alike when dying it seemed. For now, she had to focus on the job at hand.
She pointed at the gate and stared at the nearest guard. “Strike it with your mace if you’d please.” He did so, and she wasn’t prepared for what followed. As he struck the gate, a flash of blue traced right through his weapon and right up to his wrists. A second passed, and then both simply exploded. The mace blew apart, sending bits of metal and wood streaking through the air, cutting at her arm but thankfully missing her head as she used one of her men as a shield. She peered around, and it wasn’t just the mace that exploded; the man’s hands up to his wrist had been shredded, breaking apart muscle, flesh and bone. All that were left were bloody stumps, with white bone contrasting against the blood pouring down.
He collapsed, and the rest of her men began to run; she couldn’t blame them, the scene had made her nauseous. She couldn’t stop herself from leaning against a nearby building and throwing up, sending bile and vomit to the street. Her own bank had similar precautions true, and she was no stranger to violence. But there was a world of difference between what she was used to and what she saw. This was excessive, unnecessary. That and she had been running her powers quite frequently, leaving her weakened. She was considering calling this off and going to meet with Nicholas, but she heard three sets of footfalls strike the ground around her. She gently moved herself off the building and eyed the three yellow Tenkou men arrayed around her.
"Surrender, Miss Dreyal. You will not be harmed." The one of her left stated. The sound of fighting was dying down in the plaza; perhaps Nicholas had managed to retreat successfully or perhaps every one of her men had been slaughtered. She didn’t know; right now she had to deal with these Tenkou. Despite what stock she put in her years of training back in Jambha, it would be of no use against three men with blades so close. Lokan was unusually silent though she could tell by the bond’s existence that he was unharmed. She reached into one of her pockets, causing the Tenkou men to tense, but she only withdrew a handkerchief to wipe the vomit off her chin. Having done so, she let it drop to the ground and lowered her arms. Whatever her fate was to be, she would at least face it with some semblance of decorum.
"On your knees.” one of them commanded. Another produced a long silver cord.
Only now did Lokan speak up. ‘Your tongue will remain a weapon, whatever may come. You are more valuable to all alive rather than dead, and deception remains your ally. This is merely a learning experience, nothing more. You are yet young.’ There was a hint of amusement in the serpent’s voice; at least one of them was enjoying this experience.
Seeing no other option, slowly got down on her knees, hands held outwards. ‘I suspect we shall have a very long discussion on learning experiences Lokan.’
She was summarily bound and lead by sword’s edge back to the plaza. The area was a mess; there were smoking bodies and scattered limbs every way she looked. All around her were the dead and the dying. Soldiers wearing the uniform of the Bank of Valin moved amongst the corpses. A few brave civilians were picking through the bodies for trinkets and coins; the soldiers only stopped those that dared to pilfer from the dead Bank guards; they let the ones stealing from her own men go free. Scanning the square, she saw no trace of either the Watcher of Nicholas; perhaps they’d made it out after all. She dared to hope so, though it was also possible their bodies were simply hidden from view. She wouldn’t mourn until she knew for sure.
The Tenkou led her into the Bank of Valin, which was a bawdily decorated and poorly designed nightmare, more fitting of a brothel than a bank. Colours clashed with one another, no hint given to coordination or design. Marble sculptures had lost most of their paint and were being displayed completely white! Thankfully she didn’t have long to appreciate the eyesore before she was lead down a small side passage. It led down and down, so far down that it was clear she was being led into the vaults themselves. Keeping alert, she counted the series of twists and turns they made, until they came upon a large door embossed with unfamiliar runes. The soldiers pulled the door open and then rudely pushed her in, slamming the door behind her.
Martuk stood before her, along with the finely dressed gentleman from before as well as the hooded figure. He was calmly smoking a pipe, the acrid scent offending her nose. Smoking was a dirty hobby; it produced an acrid scent that never seemed to leave whatever it settled on. She’d probably have to get a new set of clothes after this.
If she got out of this.
After a few moments of silence, she ventured to speak. "If you've taken all this trouble to kill me out of sight you might as well get it over with."
Martuk inhaled deeply from his pipe, closed his eyes and left a big long burst of smoke, frowning.
"Laksh is a place where men bet all. And they either win all, or lose all. I'd say you put all your cards on the table today, Miss Dreyal, but that wouldn't exactly be true. You've not lost much, yet. And if your strategy had been a lot more refined, perhaps..."
"Waste no more words!" the fancy Tenkou gentleman howled, shaking his fist and making gestures that meant nothing in Plutarian culture – but she could guess their meaning nonetheless. She had a feeling Martuk was likely going to be her only chance to get out of here alive. "She is treacherous!"
"No more treacherous than I." Martuk grumbled, taking the pipe from his mouth finally. "Although, Miss Dreyal, I did not lie to you."
"No offense Martuk,” she said “but the woman I spoke with said the same thing, or close to it. She said she represented the Courts as well. Why should I believe either of you?"
"Miss Dreyal..." Martuk said, exasperation clear in his voice. "I have no idea who you are talking about, or what she told you. The Red Sun Shipping Company is a friend to Tenkou interests, and is in exchange the only trading company allowed to get involved in the Tenkou market. The funny thing about the Tenkou, Miss Dreyal, is that they're fanatical about their religion, but they don't give a damn what its adherents think or feel about it. All they care about is protocol and obedience. I am happy to play my part. And that's all that matters to them. That’s probably why you appear quite terrifying to them right now. A harbinger of chaos."
The Tenkou gentleman cursed some more, but Martuk chose to ignore him and continued on.
"What did this stranger tell you?" he said
She guarded herself for a few moments but then decided there was no harm in revealing at least some information. Martuk was looking more and more like the more legitimate connection; that woman had brought no one besides herself, Martuk had troops and obvious connections. That didn’t make it any more trustful, but it did make him a better person to ally with for the moment. Besides, she didn't have to reveal everything after all, only enough.
"She said that the relic was used to keep the Great Courts in balance, and that it had been stolen and locked away in a foreign land. She said the caretaker of the Central Court wished to retrieve the relic and try to use it to seize power over all the others."
Martuk cut off the gentleman with a quick gesture before he had time for more profanities.
"Yes, it's true that the relic was stolen from the Central Court some time ago,” he said “and we have been looking for it ever since. It was locked away in this very vault all along, you see. Stolen by an exile, hidden here, and the key, a necklace, hidden away in Sali. We recently tracked the relic to the Bank, which accounts for the foolish and failed attack a couple of months ago.”
"I took it upon myself to gain legal entry. And succeeded. Along the way, however, I heard some dirty rumours about the caretaker in the Central Courts. It would seem you've heard the same rumours. We will investigate this claim, of course. But the Tenkou believe it is impossible that one of their own would turn rogue like that, especially their caretaker."
“It's best not to assume something can't happen without proof otherwise.” She replied “Besides, it might not even be him doing this, especially if he's a pacter, or chimera. Though-" she interjected before the Tenkou man could swear some more "I find it unlikely, it's certainly possible."
"Yes. “ he said “They believe their caretaker to be infallible, but I do not. I simply obey, and that is enough for them. We will investigate. And business shall continue. But if this rumour is true, then sending the relic back to the Courts will only endanger it."
"Agreed. I doubt they want their precious relic destroyed or used in that way. But as we've seen there are dedicated people who wish to acquire it for their own ends. The Bank's going to be a target as long as people know it's here. Where would you propose it be moved?"
"I had considered the Bank of Dreyal. Before today's events. Do you remember when I told you it would be in my interests to see the Bank of Valin absorbed into the Bank of Dreyal?"
"I do, yes. I now see the purpose for doing so. However, you're correct, after this, the Dreyal bank is unsuitable. Perhaps an alternative then?"
"Before you brought news of this rogue agent, I would have been happy to ship the relic back to the Courts. Now it seems it was in a safe place all along."
“Yes, but now the rogue agent is aware of the relic's current location, so this place is no longer secure. I know of another place however. There is a group of monks that live in the mountain north of Atheese. They specialize in securing knowledge; give this relic to them, as a donation of sorts."
"Give the Courts' most prized possession to strangers?"
"The Courts' prized possession was already guarded by strangers. The difference between there and here is that the rogue agent knows that it's here and given enough time could retrieve it. There though is unknown to her. If it's moved without the agent's knowing, she'll waste all her efforts on the Bank of Valin while it's guarded somewhere else by people who have no idea what it really is."
I would be punished for taking such a decision alone - though I am sure that if you brought us the traitor, it would be a good start in your relations with the Tenkou. And if you wish us to hide the relic in Atheese, then we must see this place first, and...speak with these monks."
"Of course, that would be only sensible. And if you wish I will attempt to apprehend this traitor, assuming I’m allowed to leave."
"Always a pleasure, Miss Dreyal." Martuk flourishes and the guards lead her out of the vault, taking a new series of tunnels out the back door. One procured a key that was adorned with numerous runes but before she could inspect it he stuck it inside the gate’s lock, allowing the gate to be pushed aside. Standing in front of the gate was Nicholas, shepherded by another one of the Tenkou. He looked disheveled; his suit was stained in several places with blood, and one sleeve was torn close to falling off. There was a cut across one cheek that looked like it would scar and he was developing black eyes. Seeing her, he made a motion to step away from the Tenkou man before giving a proper bow.
“I apologize for the mess out front; some of the men were less reluctant to retreat than had been believed. I trust you’re well?”
“For the moment Nicholas. Come; let us head back to the ship.” The Tenkou guards retreated back inside the Vault as they walked, making sure to avoid the plaza. She couldn’t give them entirely new appearances but she could at least provide small illusions so their unseemly appearance wasn’t remarked on. As they walked she switched to Tradespeak in case they were being followed.
“Alert the estate guards that they are to keep close attention to anyone bearing a similarity to the Watcher we met. If they see her, tell them to apprehend her if possible though I’ll understand if lethal force is needed. Ensure that they’re on guard for any unfamiliar person that looks like they’re watching the estate. Additionally, we should try to get a message to the guest we had previously. The one we gave that weapon to.” Tradespeak didn’t have a word for Godslayers (having never needed one before) and she didn’t want to say the name in case it was the only thing someone picked out.
Nicholas seemed to understand, nodding his head and replying back in Tradespeak “What should the message contain?”
“That we must speak about the schedule.”
Post by Timeon on Feb 5, 2014 19:27:46 GMT
Once safely returned to her estates, Lucrezia was free to spend some quality time with her prisoner, Kusalan of the Archive. The boy was harder to break than most, but he cursed and confessed much of what he knew in the end. The Archive had prepared itself for the occasion when one of its agents was captured, though. Kusalan had only been allowed to learn very little about his own home. The rituals needed to gain entry to the Archive changed every week, as did much else that went on inside halls of that mountain. Kusalan's information was old, and mostly worthless. What he did say was where the most well-known entrances to the Archive were, and standard procedure for establishing contact with the Librarians inside.
If for nothing else, Lucrezia could use Kusalan to broker a deal between them and Martuk, so as to hide the Tenkou relic from the Bank of Valin.
Of course, nobody figured Lucrezia Dreyal had her hands in all this out of grace and good-will, but her enemies had underestimated her nonetheless, giving her this much control over affairs. She soon contacted the Godslayers, and let them know what they needed to know. The time would still come when the Archive would be broken into. If the relic was there at the time, all the better.
Bertom Allsworth and an entourage of Godslayers accepted rooms in the Dreyal estate, biding their time for when they could make their move on the Archive. Bertom suggested that the College of Binders of Atheese be involved, not only because they were mutual allies, but also because they would get involved in a possible sack of the Archive with or without invitation. An invitation would simply mean they might be kept on a leash.
The day came when Martuk, Lucrezia Dreyal and a plethora of Tenkou and Bank guards assembled outside one of the largest concealed doors of the Archive on Atheese. A narrow stair led up to a door which looked like a blank wall of stone, with only the faintest of runes visible upon it. Kusalan stood shivering nearby, his usefulness coming to an end now that he had been exploited to set up this appointment.
Ever so slowly, the stone doors to the Archive slid open just enough to allow a few shady figures to hobble out. They wore white and red, faces hidden behind hoods, scarves and masks. Their skin was the rich brown of Kutanda, betraying their distant and ancient origins.
"Kusalan!" one of them spat. Kusalan flinched. "You were sent to bring knowledge back to us, not thieving scum."
Martuk was smoking his pipe again. He did not seem impressed by the old men and women of the Archive.
"Miss Dreyal learned of you through this Kusalan, and I have learned of you through her. I did not come for banter or to thieve. I come because by what few accounts do exist, you are keepers of knowledge, guardians of secrets. Your walls are impenetrable."
If Martuk's words were meant as flattery or no, the result was that the Librarians of the Archive shuddered in gentle delight.
"We protect, and record, so that book-burners shall always burn in vain. There will never again be silence in the library..."
"I would hope not." Martuk said. "While my people conduct an investigation, I would have you keep a relic safe. Can you do this?"
"Can?" a Librarian remarked. "Yes."
"Will?" another chimed in. "No."
Martuk had come here with a cold expression, and nothing, not even refusal, made him appear any colder.
"The being I am investigating is much like the Burning Man."
Lucrezia was sure that the Librarians recoiled at that remark, as if they had actually put their hands too close to a fire.
"Your Archive is no longer a secret to us." Lucrezia warned them. "And if you do not help us keep our own secrets, how can we keep yours?"
The Librarians began to mutter amongst themselves.
"They are not unwise."
"We might learn something new from them."
"It has been too long."
Within an hour the Archive had given its assent, promising to keep the relic, though it would be accompanied by a Tenkou honour guard at all times.
"Well done, Miss Dreyal." Martuk remarked as they walked away from the Archive, its stone doors closing behind them. "I'll have the relic delivered by the morning. You have started the long journey working yourself back into my good books."
Lucrezia Dreyal raised an eyebrow purposefully.
Martuk took the pipe out of his mouth as they descended into the streets of Atheese.
"I've been good to you up until now. I'm giving you this one chance. Don't ever get on my shit list again."
Then he was gone.