It was still early morning outside as the large half-orc woman moved through the hallway of the Ranger's barracks, looking for the new Rangers' quarters. She wore the black and silver uniform of her fellows, but with a sergeant's rank on her shoulder. The handle of the double-edged battle ax could been seen over her shoulder gleaming in the torch light. A frowned clouded her flat, light green face, she disliked dealing with Soren, always felt like she needed a bath afterwards. She could not wait for Marcus to return, it had been far too long since the Ranger's second had been missing. There had been talk that he may not return at all, but she refused to believe the rumors. Kenna had faith in the young human. Marcus had an uncanny ability to land on his feet no matter what upended him.
Finally finding the twin's adjoining rooms, Kenna pushed the thought far into the back of her mind and knocked on both doors.
Breakfast had been plentiful and loaded with fruits and breads. The twins had solidly enjoyed their meal, almost as much as they'd enjoyed their new status. They decided to go back to their rooms but ended up in one of them, instead.
Ayris was sitting in Cyrus' room when the knock came. She was startled and glanced over at him with a questioning raise of her dark brows. Cyrus shrugged and reached for the door.
"Can we help you?" the young half elf asked.
Kenna looked serious and her large muscular frame easily filled the doorway as she nodded to Cyrus. "May I come in Private Cyrus? I have your and Private Ayris' assignments."
The twins did not smile but Ayris did rise from the chair she'd been sitting in to approach Kenna. "Our assignments?" she asked as Cyrus stood to one side and gestured to the seat Ayris vacated.
"Would you like to sit down?" he asked.
Lowering her head, Kenna walked into the room past Cyrus. She easily stood several inches taller than either of them, and a soft smile graced her face. Unfortunately the enlarged canines of her orc heritage protruding from her lower lip proved to be somewhat unsettling. "No, thank you. Actually I have to correct myself. It is a single assignment for the both of you."
The twins glanced at one another and shared a single thought, ~We're working together?~ the idea was outrageous, but they liked it. "How interesting!" Ayris exclaimed.
"What do you want---" Cyrus began.
"---us to do?" Ayris finished. The way they completed the thought was unsettling in its own right.
Kenna glanced between the two as one finished the other's thought. Chuckling softly to herself with a small shake of her head, she pulled out a parchment from the folds of her vest and held it out for one of them to take. "Nothing really. It appears someone tried to steal a body from Eleazar's funeral parlor. Soren would like you to look into the matter."
Even though it was "nothing, really," the assignment left the two of them eager with anticipation. "Any mention of the fellow's name?" Cyrus asked, ever inquisitive. Ayris nodded and added, "What about the deceased's funeral attire? Any mention of jewels or fine fabrics?"
Kenna smiled at the twins' enthusiasm, remembering her first days as a Ranger. "The man's name was Sean Kell, a dock worker and friend to a.." She sound skeptical even as Kenna says the word. "...merchant named Bannion. It was he who requested we look into this. There was no mention of theft, attempted or otherwise, besides the body."
The twins looked at one another then looked back at Kenna. Beaming, the two nodded in unison and Ayris held out her hand. "We're ready and rearing to go, Ma'am! We'll begin..."
"...With a talk to his friend. And from there, some not-so-friends. He wasn't wealthy..." Cyrus pursed his lips thoughtfully.
"...But somebody had some reason to lift a corpse...!"
"Well, let's go!" Cyrus exclaimed.
~~~I hate this rain. I hate this ship. I hate these people. I think I hate you too.~~~ Teeka huddled miserably against the ship's rail, her travel-worn cloak clenched tightly around her, offering little protection against the cold, and none against the ever present sea-mist. She longed to return home, to the trees, the forest, the little meadow that she'd foolishly left behind. She glared up at her companion, who
gazed out at the never-changing view of water. ~~~Marten, are you listening to me?~~~
After a moment, green eyes turned towards her, alight with mischief, as usual. ~~~I can't avoid listening, luv, if you continue to talk straight into my brain.~~~ He crouched down to peer into her hood, his nose nearly touching hers. "You wouldn't want to turn back, when we're nearly there, now would you?"
She groaned, her stomach flipping over at the thought, once again, as it had been doing for days, ever since they'd set boot to planks on this conveyance of misery. Marten nearly fell in his haste to pull back and help her to the rail, having seen her change color often enough to know the signals. She wiped at her mouth angrily, pushing him away, once she was done. She had her dignity, after all.
"This is all your fault." Teeka hissed at him. Her lavender eyes were dull as she stared at him contemptuously.
He sighed.~~~If I recall correctly, my dear, you were a willing participant in the events leading to your present... condition. I didn't have to coax you to my bed, you found your own way there.~~~ He smiled at her.
She kicked him in the shin. Turning on her heel, she stormed off, her hood falling back as she stomped to reveal the only light of sunshine on this otherwise gray, fog- enshrouded day. Her blonde hair glistened, even without the sun, drawing the eye of every sailor on deck.
Marten smiled again, rubbed his abused shin, and wished she was his. Oh, she shared his bed, traveled with him, kept him company, that was true, but she wasn't really HIS. She had never given him her heart. She'd never given anyone her heart. Poor Teeka. Marten wondered if she even knew how to love.
When one of the roughneck sailors moved to intercept his lady's path, Marten swung his lute around from his back and lightly strummed the strings. It didn't take much effort to cast a slight spell of redirection. He didn't even need to raise his voice above a whisper. This was a simple spell, he was even able to mumble it under his breath. To the casual observer, he looked like any minstrel tuning his instrument. The sailor moved away, distracted from Teeka, who slammed the door to belowdecks behind her.
Marten Pale was much more than he appeared to be, however. To the sailors on the ship, he looked like a human traveler, no one of consequence. That was the way Pale wanted it to be. In the land he'd been raised in, his appearence had caused him instant prejudice. Though he was half human, his elfin heritage was apparent in his features, his stature and his accent. Though he had been able to train his voice through the years to eliminate the high lilt, he could do nothing more than throw slight "glamors" to convince people to look away from his pointed ears and wide eyes.
Teeka would sulk all day in the small cabin. Marten was almost as anxious as she to make landfall. Too many days at sea in bad weather, with a nauseuous, ill tempered bunk mate had worn on him. He put up his lute, and looked around the deck, for the other tax on his already taut nerves. His eyes fell on her, sitting cross-legged on a roll of rope. She was laughing at some jest made by a deckhand.
Marten strolled over to stand behind her. ~~~'Ke, you shouldn't lead them on so, it will end badly for you... for all of us... again. Yinike, I'm warning you, I'm not bailing you out this time, if you go too far, you'll have to clean up your own mess.~~~
The tiny brunette waved a hand in dismissal at him. She was too busy flirting to pay him any heed. He sighed, and stood back to watch, as usual, as she wove her web. She wove well, the problem was, she couldn't maintain all the edges of her spells. They tended to come undone, and at the most inopportune times.
The simple-minded sailors amused her, for some reason. Then again, all human men seemed to amuse her. She gloried in taunting, teasing, getting them all worked up, then dropping them cold. He knew she was using elfin magic, but he had yet to figure out how she did it, or a way to counter it. Luckily, it didn't work on him.
'Damn. Why doesn't it work on him?' Yinike thought, not for the first time. She didn't care a whit for these big, hulking, awkward human men. The one male whose attention she wanted did not want her, he'd made that quite clear. She had tried for years to draw Marten Pale's attention, to no effect. So Yinike of Wolfkin had forced herself to try to find contentment in his company, to travel with him, and accept some measure of friendship from him. She lapped up the small dregs of attention he gave her like a lapdog, and hated herself for it. But she could do no more, so had to settle for this.
This business with "Her" had irritated Yinike to no end. Irritation had grown to outright hatred. The feeling was mutual. Teeka hated Yinike's elfin guts, as much as 'Ke hated the human female's. The stupid man they traveled with was totally ignorant of all of it.
'Ke grew bored with her dalliance, and broke down her own web, shooing her ugly suitors away and back to their work. She uncurled herself from her perch and pranced over to Marten, who shook his head at her hijinks, but offered no further comment. She pouted her lip, since the entire performance HAD been for his benefit, after all.
When he didn't rise to the bait, as he never did, for feminine wiles from her never affected him, she took his arm and led him to the rail. "Tell me again why we go to this city, this Storms - point?" She raised her face to the wind, inhaling the salty air. Her blue-green eyes danced with mischief, curiosity, and buried passion as she waited for him to answer.
Pale leaned on the rail, and looked to the sea. "It's pronounced Stormpoint, point-ears, and we're going at the request of an old friend." Marten reached inside his cloak, to his vest pocket, and pulled out a folded piece of parchment. "It must be important, for Kell to have paid a scriptor to write this out for him."
She let the 'point ears' pass, it was an old nickname, and it didn't seem to matter that his ears were as pointed as hers. Yinike took the letter and read through it. "He didn't write this himself?" She handed the paper back.
Folding it, he replaced it in his pocket, shaking his head. "Kell was a simple man, he worked the docks, he worked hard his whole life, he said he didn't have "No time for fancy stuff." Marten mimicked the gruff voice of a common laborer, which made Ke giggle.
"I wonder what he wants? The letter doesn't say much." Yinike leaned on the rail, unconciously mirroring Marten's posture.
"I wonder too. We shall see what Stormpoint has in store for us."
And the ship sailed on, carrying two travelers to a beginning, and one towards a final end.
She heard the shout of "Land Ho!" from her bunk. Truth be told, it didn't matter anymore, nothing did, he felt so miserable, nothing could reach through the fog of depression that surrounded her. Teeka rolled over, not that the change in position did anything to alleviate her discomfort. She glared once more at the mound of her belly, hating it, the child within, as well as herself.
This was all her fault. She couldn't blame Marten, as he had only taken her up on the offer she'd made. It was her error in judgement in making the offer to begin with. So she could hate herself. She felt a twinge of guilt at her animosity towards her own unborn child, but she could not help the feelings. It was not the child, per se, that she hated, but what it represented; a permanent reminder of her folly, the embodiment of her faults and mistakes, the end of her independence, and the deepest cut of all, the cause of her banishment from the court.
How her father had known of her condition, before she herself was even sure of it, Teeka would never know. Paternal ties severed forever with the last words he'd spoken to her, his dying words as he'd collapsed of heart failure on the marble tiles lining the queen's corridor. "I have no daughter."
He'd disowned her, before the court. All eyes had turned from her, no one cared what the reason, to hear her side of it, they simply treated her as if she didn't exist. She'd stood alone at the funeral, no one would meet her gaze. The tears had started that day, and had not ceased. Teeka had left her position as a lady in waiting that same day, she could not bear to stay another moment.
She'd sought out Marten Pale, who had been engaged to perform at a local inn, and begged him to take her in. Of course he'd said yes, he'd always cared for her, and would do anything for her, including taking her to his bed, which had started this whole chain of events in the first place.
It was a mystery to her why she could not love him. She had been attracted to him, and he was always kind to her, but still, she felt no more than warm friendship for him. As time wore on and they traveled together, he had seemed happy when she told him of the baby. He was always considerate of her. But her tongue had turned acidic, her manners wore thin, her temper grew worse. He provided for her, gave her what she needed, she did little in return, but still he kept on. No matter that he treated her like royalty, she had treated him like dirt. It was if a spell had been cast on her, that her loathing would grow the longer she was with him.
There was a rattling at the cabin door, rousing her somewhat from her meandering thoughts. The door opened and Yinike poked her head in, cautiously. The elf had learned after having crockery hurled at her in the past to proceed slowly around the temperamental Teeka. When no water pitchers or bedpans were thrown, Yinike slipped into the cabin.
"I have to start packing, we're leaving the ship today." The dark-haired elfess started to gather the possessions that had become spread around the small cabin during the long sea voyage, tossing them haphazardly into a leather satchel.
Teeka made no move, and did not speak to the elf. They had a truce of sorts worked out, the human girl kept her mouth shut, and the elf didn't cut her throat. It was an equitable solution to their early troubles.
After pulling some more clothes from the trunk, as well as grabbing a second bag from her bunk, Yinike gave a last look around the cabin and crossed back to the door.
Before she let herself out, the elf rolled her eyes at the lazy, bad-tempered blonde cowering in the narrow bunk. "I suppose Pale will come down and pack for BOTH of you." That last verbal arrow slung, she slammed the door.
"Yes, of course he will." Teeka whispered. He would do whatever was needed, as always. She turned her head into the pillow as the painful tears came again.
Marten Pale stood by the gangway, looking out over the city of Stormpoint. It's harbor and docks had the look of most of the other ports he'd seen in his life. The waterfront area was lined with the typical businesses that catered to travelers and the shipping industry.
They had traveled light, and so had no need to hire anyone to help carry their bags. Pale hefted his pack, as well as Teeka's satchel. His instruments were slung over his shoulder in their protective cases, designed specifically for his needs as a traveling minstrel. He hated to waste energies on anything he could do physically, so there was no lightening of their load by magic. The weight was not unbearable, however, he needed to be careful as he balanced himself walking down the gangway, lest he tumble into the murky harbor waters.
Teeka followed, holding a scented handkerchief to her nose, apparently the city's stench was a bit too much for her tender nostrils. Yinike had no such problem, fairly dancing down the planks in her excitement to be in a "real" city. Marten sighed and "sent" a warning to his elfin companion.
~~Don't even entertain the idea of dumping Teeka in the drink. Slow down and stay away from her.~~ He watched Yinike's face fall at his telepathic chastizement. Yes, he'd interpreted that correctly, an "accident" had been exactly what Yinike had been planning. Her pace slowed considerably, and she pouted the rest of the way down the gangplank. But she cheered again as she approached him, her quicksilver moods never lasting long.
"What shall we see today? I'm hungry for real food, not sea rations. I shall never eat salt pork again!" Yinike jabbered away, much to Teeka's obvious irritation, which was exactly why the elf did it.
Pale took Teeka's arm, steering her towards a nearby shop. "We're going in here first, to try to find my friend, and to inquire after decent lodgings for our stay in this city."
Even the thought of shopping did not lift Teeka's sagging spirits. She tottered along after Marten, ignoring everything and everyone. She moved listlessly, and was thoroughly apathetic about her surroundings.
The jovial Yinike, on the other hand, was thrilled. She ran ahead to stand before the shop, staring up at the sign. Her lips moved in childlike fashion as she sounded out the human words. "Curse-ity Shop? Pale, can we really buy spells here?"
Marten chuckled as he moved to the door. "Curiosity Shop, Yinike. I doubt you can buy magic here." He opened the door and held it as Teeka then Yinike passed through.
~~Pity, I know just the person I'd buy a curse for.~~ Pale smirked and playfully swatted her bottom in mock punishment.
~~Too late, I think someone beat you to it.~~ He replied, instantly regretting teasing Teeka, but an opening is an opening, his nature couldn't let it pass.
Teeka stood just inside the door, waiting. Yinike began meandering around the shop, slack jawed as she handled objects, felt cloths, and generally behaved as the bumpkin she was. Pale made his way to the counter to make his inquiries.
The chimes sang a bright welcome as the shoppe door swung open, and their gentle peals drifted with near mirthful glee over and around the labyrinth of counters, shelves, and cases that resided with aged contentment on floor of the shoppe. Past tapestries, books, and trinkets, the sound floated, past toys and jewelry and maps of all sorts until it tickled playfully at the tip of a decidedly pointed ear, announcing the arrival of the two, no, three visitors.
The ear's owner, engaged in the writing of what might have been a letter, judging by a line of salutation, hastily scratched a few more words on the nearly full sheet of parchment before letting the dark-quilled pen drop from her fingers and back into the inkwell with a small splatter of ink. She sighed. She should take greater care, she knew, but there was never enough time . . . never enough time . . and though it was oft said that patience is a virtue, it was one she currently couldn't afford; and so she sighed again in resignation of the time, of the slowly spreading ink stain, and of the contents of the letter--for it was indeed a letter--that she had been writing. She began to scan the last few words of the document, but realized that such thoughts would have to wait. She would return to them later--after she saw to her visitors. Rising from a leather chair well worn with contemplative use, she began to weave her way through the shoppe and towards the front door. She was not, however, fast enough.
Another pair of ears had heard the chimes as well, and a pair of small black eyes opened from a quiet and long-awaited nap. Feathers rustled testily with the disruption as a dark-plummed bird, untimely awoken, leapt from its perch and winged silently above the maze of the shoppe. The bird was a complex sort, and could be both more kind and more dour than its mistress in turns. Today, it was the latter, and the squawk that issued from its rough beak as it alit upon a shelf above one of the visitor's heads, was clearly one of reprimand. When the elven girl below ignored admonition, the bird squawked again to emphasize its point, leaning forward and staring hard at the visitor with eyes of solid obsidian. It held its post for a small cluster of heartbeats before diving from the shelf and snatching a small wooden disc from the visitor's inquisitive and busy fingers.
With the object firmly in claw, the bird squawked once more and swept away from the young elf, winging vainglorious towards the approaching form of the shoppekeeper. Smug in its accomplishment, the bird dropped the disc into her outstretched hand before alighting on her shoulder with an expression of extreme self-satisfaction. For her part, the shoppekeeper appeared less than pleased with the bird's performance, and her tight-closed lips twisted to one side in a barely perceptible motion while her fingers wrapped slowly about the trinket. When at last they had completely ensconced the object, the woman's expression grew more pleasant, a small but welcoming smile spreading across her distinctly elven features.
"Anar kaluva tielyanna," she began, greeting her guests in the ancient tongue of the elves, as the two visitors she had seen were certainly of that heritage. There was no direct translation of her words into the language generally spoken by Men, the closest perhaps being, "the sun shall shine upon your path." Elven was a language rich in colour and texture--a complexly-subtle tapestry of sound and imagery that wove its message with both poetry and precision. She continued in the common tongue, however, when her eyes set upon the third, human, member of the trio. "Please accept my apologies for my friend's behavior. He's rather proprietary and tends towards impulsive behavior."
If possible, the bird appeared to sulk with its mistress' comments and moved in such a way that it might have been stamping a foot against the shoppekeeper's shoulder. It was, however, impossible to tell as the precise contours of its feet were lost against the backdrop of the woman's hair which fell, dark and loose, behind her shoulders. Whatever its action though, the shoppekeeper blithely ignored the bird and added, by way of final apology, "Welcome to the Kuriousity Shoppe . . . and to Stormpoint," she continued, having noted the visitors' bags and travel-weary features. "My name is Eowyn. How may I be of assistance?"
Yinike's ire at the presumptuous bird dissolved at the appearance of the proprietress of the Kuriosity Shop. The trinket she'd been fondling before the feathered thief had absconded with it was forgotten.
"Anar kaluva tielyanna," the beautiful woman said, in a dialect of the old tongue.
Being from a band of woods elves far from the "civilized" world, Yinike stuttered out what she hoped was an acceptable response to the traditional greeting. "Manaya… tuwote… abula." Which translated to something approximating "and may the rain not fall until after nightfall…"
Since Eowyn didn't outright laugh at Yinike's accent or mangling of the old tongue, the young elf figured she must have gotten close enough to a proper response.
Standing near the door, Teeka said nothing, she was uncomfortable, and miserable, and wanted nothing more than to find some warm water, some hot food, and a bed that was not swaying beneath her. In response to her mental wishes, the baby within gave a healthy kick, perhaps in agreement.
Marten stepped over to the shop-keeper, gesturing to the solemn and quite road-worn Teeka, and the disgustingly pert and perky Yinike as he said "We've come to Stormpoint at the request of an old friend of mine. My name is Marten. Marten Pale. These are my companions, Teeka, and Yinike. Would it be an inconvenience if the ladies passed a few minutes in your establishment while I procured rooms?"
Reaching into his pocket, Pale pulled out a few coins, which he passed to Yinike. He said over his shoulder to Eowyn, "I promised my young friend here a trinket or bauble, of her choice, once we made landing. Perhaps you could assist her in finding something …appropriate."
"I'll go with you." Teeka said to marten, as he reached for the door handle.
He sighed. He was in no mood for a confrontation, not here, and not now. If he'd had the energy, he might have tried some form of mental persuasion on her, but he was drained, of both physical and magical energies at the moment, thanks to too many weeks at sea, away from the energies he could draw from the earth to revive himself. He was still puzzled over Yinike's abilities, which hadn't been hampered by their time spent on the water. His thoughts started to wander on that path for a moment, before the sound of Teeka's impatient foot stamping snapped his attention back to her.
Marten whispered near her ear, quietly, but firmly. "No. Stay here. Make sure she doesn't get into any trouble. I mean it Teeka. She's never been in a large human settlement, or a town of ANY kind. Just make sure she stays here in the shop. I sense that Eowyn is kind."
To Eowyn herself, he called out, "Is there somewhere Teeka might sit, to rest? Perhaps a bench?"
Meanwhile, with a fistful of Marten's gold, Yinike had eagerly begun to examine the possibilities laid out before her. She had never, in her life, had so much money, or so many choices. The only "shopping" she had ever engaged in had been with the traveling tradesmen, the tinker who came through their area a few times each year, or the occasional merchant on their way to or from festival or fair, willing to part with some of their wares.
What should she buy? It had to be something small and light enough to carry, for they were on a long path, with no end in sight.
A book? She ran a finger over the exquisite leather tooled binding of a nearby tome. Pulling it from it's place on the shelf, she carefully cracked it, leafing through the crisp, handwritten pages within. Just as carefully, she replaced it. Too valuable, and too fragile. One day caught walking in the rain and her investment would be a moldy pile of inky sludge.
Clothing? Crossing to another display, Yinike caught up an airy handful of a sheer material. It shimmered and caught the light with its iridescence as it spilled over her hand and across her arm.
Noticing Eowyn watching her, Yinike gasped out "Oh, my, 'tis wondrous fair!"
Teeka gave a feminine snort, tossing her head at the elf's naiveté. Raised in a wealthy household of influential people, Teeka had been accustomed to the finer things in life, and usually had little patience for the woods-born elfess, or her backwards ways.
Ignoring Teeka, as usual, Yinike fingered a few more selections of fabric. Once again, she reasoned out what she would do with such luxurious fabrics as she traveled. They wouldn't wear well on the road. Not practical enough. She gave a wistful sigh, and started to pass on them. Still eyeing the riot of colors.
In a rare moment of near-kindness, Teeka walked over and lifted a scarf from a basket. It was a smaller version of the dress lengths Yinike had been drooling over. Light and sheer, it was a beautiful combination of turquoise, blues, and lavender that matched the elfess's blue-green eyes perfectly. She marched over to Yinike, grabbed the younger woman's shoulder and spun her around.
Yinike was too startled to protest when Teeka draped the scarf around Yinike's neck. She then, in a series of quick movements born of years of practice working with her own waist length hair, tied the scarf and arranged Yinike's hair, all in the space of a few heartbeats. The result was a pleasing concoction of color, knots and even a braid or two that even Teeka had to admire. It made Yinike look less… wild. She nodded briskly at her work and pulled a coin from her own pocket. She placed it on the counter and went to search for a chair. As she passed Eowyn, she said quietly, "I've been itching to do that for months. It was worth the copper."
Thinking about how Teeka had just been NICE to her would have made Yinike extremely uncomfortable, as it would have made her more kindly disposed towards the human woman. That train of thought threatened to ruin her good mood, and her shopping experience, so Yinike pushed the thoughts aside and returned to her perusal of Eowyn's goods.
The dark haired woman must think the three of them mad. Yinike thought as she walked past vials and bottles of perfumes and scents. Too much for her sensitive elfin nose, she was not tempted there. She supposed they were.
The tame bird gave a sudden squawk from it's perch on Eowyn's shoulder. Yinike tried to ignore it, it made her nervous. Something shiny caught her eye, and Yinike crossed to the display case to peer at it. It was a tiny glass globe, slightly iridescent, suspended from a silver link chain. As she leaned closer, a strange feeling washed over her. Her senses seemed to narrow, her focus drawn to the pendant. It was only slightly larger than the pad of her thumb, there seemed to be something etched into it's surface, but when she squinted to try to determine what it was, she could no longer see it. She leaned back, and the design returned, she caught it from the corner of her eye as she turned towards Eowyn to ask it's price. If she looked at it straight on, it wasn't there, she could only see it indirectly.
The twisted logic of the design appealed to her, there had to have been magic in the making of it. Magic… She could feel the presence of magic around the tiny globe. It was magic. It was not too cumbersome for travel. It was practical, for something reeking of magic like this was certain to have some purpose. She had to have it.
"I would like to have this, please. Do I have enough coins?" Yinike looked up at Eowyn , and held out the fistful of currency Marten had given her, the light shimmering off the gold coins as they lay in her open and outstretched palm.
The trio of visitors was perhaps one of the most unusual groups of traveling companions Eowyn had ever encountered. Not that their appearance was overly peculiar, though some points certainly did raise questions, but their actions and mannerisms were, by all accounts, extraordinarily curious. The first member of the group was petite, dark-haired, and fully
elven–brimming with the inquisitiveness that marked those of lesser years. She was the first of the three to speak, and her voice betrayed more than a slight uncertainty. "Manaya… tuwote… abula." Her accent suggested that she was of the wood and ill-accustomed to formalities. Still, her words were well-chosen and her attempt gratifying.
The second member of the group was a young man, a minstrel perhaps, judging by the lute he carried. He quickly came to his companion's aid and advanced himself as the spokesperson of the party. His appearance, however, told more than his words. Though he tried to conceal it, to discerning eyes the young man was clearly half-elven. It was a curious fact–not that he was half-elven, but that he attempted to conceal it. While Stormpoint had but few elven citizens, racial animosity rarely rose to an uncomfortable level, thus it was likely not his current locale which prompted his guise. It may have been his previous location, but this also failed to entirely explain the ruse, for the more diminutive of his companions made no attempt to hide her fully elven heritage. Perplexed, but intrigued, Eowyn mulled the matter over as the young man spoke. His words were brief, and he left quickly to inquire for rooms after seeing to the comfort of his companions. He did, however, impart a singular piece of information, the significance of which was perhaps not entirely appreciated at the time. They had come to Stormpoint at the behest of a friend–an old friend.
The shoppekeeper assented to his request and, after his departure, turned her attention to the third of the travelers, Teeka, as the young man had introduced her. Fully human and visibly expectant, the last of the trio wore a sullen expression that suggested more than mere physical discomfort. She hadn't wanted to remain behind, wishing instead to leave with the young man, but after his departure she appeared to make the most of her situation, conferring both a favor and a well-placed jab upon her remaining companion. She seemed to be satisfied thereafter, and Eowyn, taking full opportunity of her change in mood, offered her a seat in a small alcove off the main floor of the shoppe.
Whether owing to chance or something more inexplicable, a low table, nested beside a trio of chairs, held an assortment of fruits, breads, pitchers, cups, and plates. Taking a seat beside her visitor, Eowyn offered Teeka her choice in fare and prepared to elicit at least some small amount of information from her. She could tell, however, that the woman was no simpleton and, moreover, that she was ill-disposed to conversing with strangers. Seeking to cull a more amiable mood from her visitor, Eowyn smiled gently and began with an offer of assistance and a small gesture towards the child. "I've some herbs that may help ease your discomfort. I don't sell them," she added quickly, lest the woman think she was trying to capitalize on her discomfort. "I keep them and a few other sundries here as a favor for a friend of mine–a healer here in town. I can direct you to her clinic if you'd like."
Before the young woman had a chance to respond, her unlikely traveling companion came bounding towards the alcove with a fistful of coins and a gleeful expression. She pointed towards a nearby display case and asked eagerly, "I would like to have this, please. Do I have enough coins?" The question was innocent enough. Indeed, the young elf's exuberance was nearly contagious in its unrestrained curiosity. Her question, however, sent a unexpected chill down the shoppekeeper's spine as she rose from her chair and followed the young elf's outstretched finger towards the item she so desired. Any hope that she might have been mistaken as to the object of the young elf's request was dashed when Yinike approached the case and pointed clearly towards the necklace. Taking a deep breath, Eowyn regained her composure and, with a wan smile, retrieved the necklace from the case before escorting Yinike back to the alcove where Teeka still rested. She gestured for the young elf to take a seat beside her companion, and when she had done so, the shoppekeeper sat as well.
She didn't speak right away. Instead her eyes fell heavily upon the young elf, focusing not upon her visitor's appearance, but rather upon that which could not be seen through the limited vision of the physical. Silence held sway as seconds ticked by into minutes, and it seemed to the travelers that the shoppekeeper's eyes grew both darker and more keen with each bit of time that slipped quietly away. The silence grew stronger as the shoppekeeper's gaze became more piercing than the visitors had imagined possible, and a gnawing discomfort began to grow within the companions. It was a feeling of uncertainty, of sudden self-doubt beneath withering scrutiny, of defenselessness, and it held the travelers in rapt paralyzation. It continued for an indefinite period of time, for indeed time was without either meaning or essence beneath the dark and steadfast gaze of the shoppekeeper. When at last the gaze and the sensation it evoked rose to an overwhelming level that threatened to engulf the visitors entirely, the shoppekeeper finally, and mercifully, blinked and began to speak.
"What you ask, I cannot deny you, but I must warn you that the pendant is both more and less than what you suspect." She didn't explain the apparent contradiction in her words, but rather continued as if no contradiction existed. "I obtained it from an old peddler woman, wizened and bent, on the road to Tyral Deep. She told me the most . . . extraordinary . . . tale of its origin. She said that it was crafted in the court of Myrantyl . . . that it belonged to one of his children." The shoppekeeper paused and offered a brief smile as if to forestall her guests' reaction. "I know, Myrantyl was simply a figure of myth, a story told round the fires after the last bits of dusk fade and the evensong of the crickets rises from the woods. I used to think the same . . . once. Now," she paused again, taking a deep breath, and when she resumed her voice carried a more reflective tone, "now I'm not as certain."
She fell silent once more, appearing to ponder the matter with greater care, perhaps in light of her current guests, or perhaps simply because the pendant and its unlikely origin were concerns that hadn't occupied her thoughts for some time. Whatever the source of the silence, however, when her visitors reasserted their presence with uncomfortable shuffling, the shoppekeeper hastily resumed her history.
"In any event, when she gave me the pendant, the old woman advised that I must hold it for another, for one who would request it. You're the first to ask, and I sense that you're the one it's for." Handing the pendant towards her young guest, she added simply, "It's yours."
((posted as Dagen))
He'd spent the day waiting and watching...........waiting in a shadow-filled alley and watching a seldom-visted building across the way. The object of his vigil had little to distinguish it from its neighboring structures save a few extra chimneys poking crookedly from a sagging roof. Most likely ignored by the average passerby, the chimneys weren't there to provide additional warmth to those within the building. They served instead a grimmer purpose.....one directly related to the business conducted within the structure....one that few cared to think about. It didn't bother Dagen, who crouched patiently in the growing shadows of the alley. Few things did.
It was just after 10 o'clock when the last person left the building for the evening. His name was Eleazor.....the owner of the parlor. He was a tall, weasel-like man with hair oily enough to fuel a lamp ...... and a personality to match. He paused only briefly at the door to secure a feeble lock, an action which provoked a smirk from Dagen, and then continued on his way, never once looking back. It didn't take long for him to disappear completely in the swiftly-falling night, and in less than an hour, the street was utterly deserted.
Alone in the alley, Dagen waited and watched a few minutes more before leaving his ensconcement. It never paid to be hasty. When the long heavy silence of night continued to hold its sway, Dagen finally moved, slipping quietly out of the alley and up to the steps of the building. The lock was rusted, so rusted in fact that it would have been easier to simply break the lock rather than opening it. Not wanting to attract the type of attention the former option would create, however, Dagen opted for the latter. The task didn't take long, and soon the soft click of the lock was followed by the whine of old hinges on an even older door.
It was near pitch inside the room, forcing the uninvited guest to wait for his eyes to adjust after closing the door behind him; but he didn't need his sight to know where he was. A faint stench rising from the floor below told him that what he sought was downstairs. Following the odor and taking cautious steps, he crept slowly cross the room. His study of the building's exterior for the past few hours told him that it was roughly thirty-five feet from front to back, and his nose told him that the stairway was in the far right-hand corner. Fortunately, the room was sparsely furnished and Dagen traversed it with little difficulty. He paused briefly at the stairway. A draft was rising from the lower level. It was cool, dry, and smelled of death. A cruel smile rose on Dagen's lips and a feral glint sparked both his eyes and his steps as he followed the cadaverous scent down into the bowels of the darkened structure.
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