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Phaedara

The Ties Left Behind

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Late noon swept in gently like the warm press of a mother’s tender hand, satin rays of sunlight gliding softly over Aelyria’s freckled cheeks and coaxing her to wake from the cozy, lazy slumber. Naturally, she fought against the call to wake, grimacing against the invasive light that beat against her closed eyelids and turned her head away to escape the blinding threat. But as she remained there nestled in the small alcove, pressed against the cool stony leg of Kelseth’s marble likeness, discomfort settled in her bones and aching muscles, the consequence of the awkward angle of which she slept coming to unfortunate fruition. Succumbing to the waking world’s demands, she stretched her gangling limbs and grunted as the muscles sung agreeably to the release of their sleepy confinement. Hesitantly, her eyes fluttered open to soak in the sunlight as soft waves rather than drown in it’s unrelenting vibrancy that swallowed the courtyard whole.

Aelyria leapt down from the alcove, taking no extra pains to ensure her silk-linen dress did not tear, and heard a heavy thump fall beside her fine slippered feet. A curse slipped through her lips and upon quickly realizing her mistake, her head spun around to make sure no one one had heard lest they thwack her with a stick for such vulgarity. With the coast clear, she sighed a breath of relief and restored the book to its temporary place beside the god’s marble feet before inching out from the pillared overhang and towards the courtyard. 

The aromatic scent of blooming wisteria struck her as if running straight into a brick wall, its profuse fragrance nauseatingly sweet yet enticing at the same time. She stepped towards the central fountain, it’s modest size and gleaming antiquity boasting of her family’s lineage and wealth, a similar sentiment shared by the rest of the courtyard’s well manicured hedges and opulent masonry. Without much forethought, she scooped her hands under the fountain's glistening flow and splashed cool water on her cheeks as if it were any other ordinary wash basin. As she patted her face dry with the hem of her dress, she heard a scream.

Startled, she spun towards the cry to see a boy, perhaps only a year older than her thirteen summers, charging at her with such determined ferocity that she nearly forgot to leap out of the way. The boy, obviously without much of a plan in mind other than to run her down, realized the fountain's placement a moment too late and without the girl to catch his fall, he tumbled into the lower basin with an exuberant splash. Aelyria squeaked with dismay as water soaked her through the front of the azure dress and had to stumble away lest the scrambling boy wet her further in his attempt to escape.

“Jonell! What in the world are you doing?” she shrieked as she took another step back, just in time to avoid another splash. “Mother is going to kill me if I go back in like this!”

Jonell, having finally managed to clamber out of the fountain, pointed a finger at her with such eager accusation that water caught her on the face and she smacked his hand away with retaliation. He quaffed air at the slight, but pointed again with just as much fervour as before. 

“You! You stole my book, Ly! I went looking for it this morning and when I searched, it was nowhere in sight!”

Aelyria rolled her eyes and crossed her arms defensively, but quickly lowered them again, opting to keep her dry arms away from her wet chest. “And what makes you think I stole it?”

“Oh, don’t play coy with me,” he scowled and if just realizing how drenched he was, shook his wet sleeved arms as if somehow it would help. “I saw you eyeing it yesterday after father gifted it to me. I told you I would let you borrow it after I finished, but you took it anyway! You always do this!”

Nonchalantly, she shrugged and began to wring out the front of her dress, trying to drip away some of the excess water. “Yeah, well, I knew you weren’t going to read it any time soon and I wanted to get a chance before you ruin it to pieces like you always do.” She held up a hand, seeing he was about to argue, and then pointed to the statue. “Before you start getting all hissy, it’s fine. I left it over there. I also finished it already so you can have it back and start neglecting it as usual.”

With a huff, Jonell stomped with wet heavy slaps towards the alcove and snatched the book into his hands. “Yeah, well, I don't care how fast you read, don't take my things. And I do not ruin them!” In that moment, he realized his mistake as the water from his clothes dripped onto the book, its pages already warping from the moisture. “Oh! Velmesh!" Panicking, he shook the book as if to dry it in the same attempt as his arms, but instead only made things considerably worse. 

Another roll of her eyes indicated she had expected as much from her older brother, a mocking scoff rumbling in her throat. “Idioott,” she muttered amusingly, turning her back from him. Regrettably, that would be her mistake.

This time, he charged her without warning and when they collided onto the grassy floor beside the paved walkway, they wrestled and grunted against each other without a care for their finery and manners. They cursed each other without restraint and rolled, kicking and shoving to gain the upper hand. Eventually, the anger washed away from them both and now it was merely a competition to come out on top as the victor of their childish play. Surprisingly, though Jonell was bigger and stronger than she, Aelyria was nimble enough to wriggle her way on top and was about to declare victory when a voice roared, chilling them to the bone.

“Aelyria! Jonell!” Above them in the steps that lead down into the courtyard from the main hall, towered a man finely dressed with keen, pressed edges and slick jet-black hair, peppered with silvery grays that trickled all the way down to his razor-sharp trimmed beard. His left hand wound tight against the ball of his black-lacquered cane, the peaks of his knuckles nearly whiter than the polished silver accents of his exquisite velvet vest. The two children scrambled hastily to their feet, trying not to trip over one another as they stood, freezing in place under the icy glare of the man’s turquoise eyes. After all, when their father gave a command, they were meant to follow it without delay.

In chilly silence, the children bowed their heads as their father climbed down the steps, the click of his walking cane in rhythm to the heavy footfalls of his polished boots. Aelyria, wet and plastered with dirt and grass, shivered as he neared them, his steps in the grass reminiscent of a snake slithering through the blades. When he stopped, she could almost feel him reel back, coiled and ready to strike. Instead, he held them under his stony gaze for a time, both of them well aware of what would come if they dared to speak unbidden.

“Despicable.” The iciness of his voice struck them like as if falling on a bed of needles, a pain so finite and looming with the threat that any attempt to escape would only mean more pain. “I see you’ve already taken care to destroy the gift I had given you, Jonell. You've had it for what? A day? That must be record timing, though I should’ve expected no less by now. You always find a way to disappoint me.” 

Aelyria cringed as she could see Jonell shrink at the slight from the corner of her eyes, but in hindsight, if this all he would have to suffer for the day, then it would be a good one. But she knew better than to hope for such little grievance for as soon Jonell lifted his head to apologize, the cane came whipping through the air, striking him violently across the face. Aelyria involuntarily winced at the sound of the hard crack and with her eyes still drawn downwards, she saw blood splatter onto the grass at her feet. 

“How revolting. Inside with you,” their father continued, his tone still frigidly calm. “I’ve had enough of your disappointment for the day.” The sluggish sound of pained footsteps signaled Jonell’s departure and she could practically feel her father's eyes, so much like her own, burying themselves into her small, frail form, digging for the remnants of her withering soul as if to devour it whole. The sun continued to cast its rays down on her, as if to encourage her and muster her strength, but she could no longer feel its comforting warmth. All there was left was bitter cold.

“Look at me,” he commanded after an extended period of agonizing silence. Aelyria, without resistance, did as told and found a scowling face bearing down on her, abhorrence in plain sight. “Ugh. I didn’t think you could ever get more hideous than you were, but here we are. What a pathetic looking creature you’ve turned out to be, and yet I’m expected to somehow make some use out of you. Without a doubt, we’ll have to be rid of you at a loss when the time comes--hopefully soon. And I had such high hopes for you with your mother’s beauty, but I should’ve known better considering her crossed lineage.” His nostrils flared and she half expected him to spit at her with disgust, but her father was a gentleman after all and did not participate in such crass activity. Instead, he stepped forward and grasped her shoulder with such intensity that pain flared from the pressure, forcing her to her knees with a cry. He leaned towards her, drawing her upwards to meet his loathsome eyes as he hissed. “You are lucky your only worth is in that plain face of yours or else I would’ve struck you there long ago, much like your useless brother.” 

With one last powerful clutch, he tossed her down into the grass and pivoted on his heels to walk away. “Get inside and clean up. You need get ready for dinner. We have guests.” 

But instead of rising, Aelyria lay in the grass watching the black silhouette of her father fade away, his figure blurring as her eyes filled with tears, hot hatred spilling onto the cool green blades beneath her cheek. Not once did he turn back to see if she followed, confident she would do as instructed without refute. Instead, the door to the main hall slammed shut behind him and with it, her eyes fell closed into heart-wrenched slumber.

When she woke, the sweet perfume of wisteria was replaced by the musty odor of wet rotting wood and pungent, stagnant water from the docks of Mezthaluen. Turning her head to the squat window of her room at the Bumbling King Tavern and Inn, she could gauge it was late morning and she had mistakenly slept in. Aelyria looked to the other small empty bed just across the room and noted Caliben had already left this morning. Hopefully he was still downstairs, dining on whatever passed for breakfast in the poor south district. She pulled the hole-ridden wool blanket from her body and groaned, her muscles aching from poor sleep on a mattress so thin that she might have well have just slept on the floor. Well aware they had still a long journey ahead of them, she threw her legs over the side and gathered her things to leave the room. Without a brush on hand, she ran her fingers through the long locks of her dark auburn hair and began to weave it into a braid, a habit she found hard to break after her time spent in Valjer. 

As Aelyria transcended down the steps, taking care to avoid other guests that climbed up the stairs, she mulled bitterly on the dream she had just witnessed. They came frequently these days, memories of her past slipping through the cracks of her subconscious mind and re-living themselves in her dreams, paving way for a restless sleep. They often put her in a somber mood and not even the thought of food to satiate her rumbling stomach was enough to spur her away from them. Admittedly, this had been the first time in a long while she had ever dreamt of her father. Even now, she thought she could still feel the pain resonating in her shoulder, the curling tips of his fingers leaving behind deep bruises that hurt in more ways than just the physical fashion.

Emerging into the busy atmosphere of the tavern below their rooms, she searched for the dark tousled hair of the man she had become acquainted again with these past few weeks. The tavern was nearly bursting to the brim with lazy dock workers and early drunks, but she spotted Caliben seated with a plate full of the sub-standard grub that the tavern had to offer, eager to devour something other than roasted, gamy hare. He caught sight of her and grinned in his usual fashion, waving her over to sit across from him at the tiny round table. Aelyria returned the smile, pain in her shoulder dissipating, and took him up on his offer to sit without a second thought. 

Edited by Phaedara

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Caliben awoke from the darkness, looking around to see the familiar room he was once in. The smell of wet wood invading his nostrils and the waters of Mezthaluen did no justice to entice any curious tourist coming to the port. Caliben stretched as silently as he could to be sure he didn't wake Aeylria. He's learned in his travels that she is a light sleeper, but a force to reckon with if you wake her from her slumber. As he inched his way off the so called "bed" he laid in, he reached for his pants at the side of the bedpost, so that he wouldn't disturb her in more ways than one. He grabbed them, put them on, and quietly exited the room. He used to not care, but after some weeks travelling with someone else. It is sometimes best to acclimate to new rhythms; For the greater good of course. 

Caliben headed downstairs as he was greeted by them aroma of breakfast being prepared for the incoming patrons, who at this hour, would be port working folk, or even a homeless fellow who decided to wake early for the work on the corner begging. He looked to see he was nearly right, but no homeless yet it seemed. As he maneuvered his way to the bar past idled dock workers, he signaled the bartender with a tap of his coin in between his middle and point finger. His trademark he couldn't seem to break, but it did get the attention of the man. He turned to Caliben and made his way to the counter, and crossed his arms as he looked over him with disdain.

"What is it you want?" Said Klive, Caliben found out his name through his rough negotiations to haggle the price of their room, which he was happy to say it had worked. Caliben flipped the coin in between his knuckles, as he talked to Klive.

"What's on the menu?" Caliben asked, as Klive pointed to a sign right above. Shit, I must look stupid. He looked up, to see a variety of ales and beers to be bought. But, the choice of food however, was very daunting. 

"What would you.. Recommend?" Caliben asked, afraid of any choice that was up there. 

"Well, Mystery Meal is whatever we catch out back, can't guarantee it'll be good. But I can vouch for it's freshness."

Caliben swallowed a rock, and looked up at the menu. Disgusted, he looked back at Klive. "Can I just have eggs, and a piece of meat, prepared preferred." 

"Of course." Klive pointed towards the tables behind him, and Caliben turned and quickly made his way to the seat. He looked around, enjoying himself as he watched people move about, or talked to one another. He could only guess what kind of lives they lived, either boring ones, or some filled with dangers at every turn. He tried not to stare for too long, as he was sure others would find it worrying, or even disgusting. As he looked over a few dock workers entering the inn, Klive snuck behind him and placed his plate right under his nose. Caliben lurched backwards with surprise as Klive smiled to himself, happy from the reaction he got from Caliben. "The meat is Crab, we got lucky this morning." He turned, not waiting for a response, and went back to his business.

Caliben eyed the plate, almost drooling at the sight of food, that was different than his usual bug or hare. He grabbed the fork hastily, but stopped as the sight of Aeylria coming down had surprised him. I was certain, she would be sleep a little longer. Caliben knew they slept in, the prospect of of sleeping on a bed was a luxury. So, they both had slept in, she not much longer than he had.

Caliben waved her over, she smiled as she made her way to the round table.

"Sleep well? I know I did. A big difference from the usual ground we laid on. This one I was incredibly happy to find, had no bugs in it. Quite lavish accommodations don't you agree? You can thank me later for the steal we got from it."

Caliben took the fork and cut around the yolk, being careful to not cut into it. Sliced off a piece of the white, and ate it slowly, savoring the taste.

"Saved up enough money to even get us breakfast. And don't even look at what's on the menu. It was horrible." Caliben shook his head, as he tore pieces of crab meat with his hands. 

"But if you aren't hungry, what's the plan to get us to Aelindra?" He stopped hunching over his food, and leaned back into his chair as he continued to chew his food.

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Tad hastily ducked behind a few stacked crates that were conveniently placed on the roadside, hiding from a group of guards that dutifully tromped past, scrutinizing everyone around them. He cringed when their eyes swept past his location, praying that they didn't see him or catch a sight of a nearby reflection that would give him away. As the squad rounded the corner down the street he let out a sight of relief, the rush of fear and anxiety at being caught had turned his already sweaty skin clammy, a most uncomfortable feeling. In hindsight, telling the local merchant, or maybe he was a nobleman, to go have relations with a pig, was not the best of ideas. He had meant it in jest, a slight barb, since the man was being woefully unhelpful and quite rude, but the man just had to start screaming about charlatans and thieves. It was only natural then, that an upstanding and stellar citizen as himself had decided to hightail it... no wait... that didn't sound right. Tad shrugged to himself and stepped out from behind the stack, returning to the street. He pulled a few sheets of crinkled paper from where he had hastily stuffed them and tried to straighten them out. He couldn't have made it more than a dozen steps before a shout rang out from further back up the street where he had come from.

"There he is! In the dark coat!"

His head whipped around so quickly he could hear the sound barrier breaking, the feckless nobleman had somehow managed to persuade two guards to follow him around and look for Tad.

He took off running, sprinting down the street headlong, backpack and helmet smacking against him with every step, eyes scanning the various storefronts that crowded the streets, praying for some place to hide. His heart leapt when he saw the stylized visage of a man with a beard and crown, accompanied by the words 'The Bumbling King Tavern and Inn'. He lunged for the door, bursting through and taking only a moment to scan the crowd before deciding to hide there. He chose two people sitting at a table enjoying their breakfast, a man with tousled, short, black hair, and a woman with her hair in a braid. They had the look of travelers, people out on an adventure, road weary. He scrambled over to their table, plopping down in a free chair facing away from the door with the grace of a buffalo. He nodded rapidly to them, cutting off anything they might have tried to say with a deluge of words.

"Oh boy, sorry for interrupting your meal, ran into a bit of trouble with the local guard, mind pretending like I have been here all along if anyone comes through the door looking for me?"

He placed the now even more crumpled stack of papers on the table, and carefully placed a red orb the size of an orange next to it. He cleared his throat, his ragged gasping from running away had caused a tickle. He opened his mouth to start speaking again when he got a better look at the two, they looked awfully familiar, he shuffled some of the papers aside, creating a mess, and pulled out two specific sheets. Each sheet held a different charcoal rendering of a persons face, he scrutinized the two people in front of him and compared them to the images, he even went so far as to hold the image of the woman up so he could see them side by side.

"Aelyria? Well... this is incredibly convenient. I thought I was going to have to search across half the continent to find you."

He slid the paper across to her on the table, and did the same for the other man.

"I assume that makes you Forest then?"

He leaned back in the chair and let out a frustrated breath, feeling that unfamiliar weight settling down on his shoulders again.

"We need to talk. Renkor sent me."

Edited by Grimshar

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Navigating the crowded tavern to get to her seat had proven to be challenging, but once finally settled, Aelyria planted an elbow on the tabletop and used her open palm to prop up her chin as she leaned forward, listening intently as he rambled on. He had a habit of it on occasion, but admittedly she found it rather endearing, the slight tug of her cupid-bowed lips curled into a grin. When he pulled back from his plate to relish in his meal and wait on her response, she took advantage of the opening and quickly snatched a morsel of crab meat, popping it into her mouth much to the appreciation of her grumbling belly. Appalled, Caliben shot her with what she figured was an attempt at an ornery glare, but she deflected it with a teasing smile and playful crinkle of her eyes before leaning in her chair, mimicking him as she too savored the stolen treat. As she drew back, Aelyria crossed her legs with careful contrivance, exposing the side of her upper thigh suggestively at a few wandering eyes she had seen not so discreetly watching her throughout the tavern. Her time in Union City had given her an opportunity to improve upon a certain set of skills she had severely lacked expertise in before, and it had proven useful in opening many doors. Today, if they had any hopes of getting to Aelindra in decent time, they needed a boat. She didn't necessarily plan to seduce her way onto one, but men--particularly these dockworkers that kept the tavern busy this morning--often found it difficult to think straight when the prospects of what a pretty woman had to offer was on the table. A realist, she intended to explore all possible avenues and setting up a foundation to build upon was important if they wished to haggle for low fare. Meanwhile, as a few sparks of interest came alight in some of the more amenable dockworkers' faces, Aelyria lightly tugged her shoulders in a placid shrug. 

"We need to find ourselves a boat," she said, letting her voice rise a little higher than usual to be carried over to nearby eavesdroppers. "Or at least someone kind enough to take us down the river to Aelindra. It'd be the fastest way, short of paying an arm and leg for airship travel. I'm so weary from walking that I'd nearly do anything it took to just be able to travel off our feet for a while."

The responses and second glances were just as expected. She had done her subtle part to get the idea drilled in some of the workers' heads, and she leaned forward with her arms folded on the table. "By the way, thanks for getting us a room. I know it wasn't easy with what funds we have on hand, but you came through and it was nice to be able to sleep indoors, away of the rain for once." She smiled and sat up straight with palms planted firmly on the table as if ready to stand. "And on that note, I'm going to order some grub at the counter and when I come back--"

With scarcely any time to react, a man in a dark coat manifested beside their table, tearing away a chair and depositing himself down firmly into it without so much as an invitation. Startled by his sudden appearance as she hadn't heard him approaching with all the bustle and noise of the active tavern, Aelyria quickly flicked a knife free from the garter belt secured to her thigh and flipped it around, ready to strike in case he proved himself full of hostile intent. Without even an opportunity to retaliate, the man nodded to them and in a hurried string of words said, "Oh boy, sorry for interrupting your meal, ran into a bit of trouble with the local guard, mind pretending like I have been here all along if anyone comes through the door looking for me?"

Dumbfounded, she didn't know what to say to him as he littered their table with a disheveled stack of papers and what looked to be a red, mystifying orb. He cleared his throat and in that moment she seemed to regain some articulation, firmly shaking her head to clear the befuddlement. She moved to interject and command him to promptly leave, not remotely in the mood or position, for that matter, to take on someone else's troubles. But when he peered up and his expression skewed after taking a look at them, she found her tongue caught with confusion once again. He rummaged through his papers and after selecting an appropriate one, pinned it up in the air near her face. She nearly slapped his hand away reflexively but instead, slunk back in her chair, as if to get further away from whatever it was he was about to do. Despite her grievances with the stranger, he didn't appear hostile and because of that, she didn't quite know how to respond. 

"Aelyria?" He asked, lowering the sheet. "Well... this is incredibly convenient. I thought I was going to have to search across half the continent to find you."

If she had felt disoriented before, now her head was spinning in circles in a relentless maelstrom of confusion. Her hand pumped the knife's handle, using it to steel herself against the tide, a cold reminder that she had to still be on guard. He slid the paper towards her, face up and oriented in her direction, only to find a portrait of her likeness on its crumpled surface. A second later, another sheet materialized from the pile and was presented to Caliben.  

"I assume that makes you Forest then?" He continued, the use of one of Caliben's aliases striking her as odd. The last time she had heard it was in Valjer. That meant this man wasn't involved with the crews in Union City where they had known him as 'Moss'. So... who was he? She stole a glance at Caliben, trying to discern if there was any familiarity on his face with the stranger, but none manifested itself. She turned back to the man, clenching her jaw as he leaned back, sighing with frustration for what reason she didn't understand.

"We need to talk," his voice a heavy contrast to just a moment ago. "Renkor sent me."

Instantly, her heart dropped. Not in a thousand years did she think that name would ring in her ears again. Without giving herself time to think, she acted on impulse and shot up from her chair, slamming her free hand on the table with enough force to clatter Caliben's plate, while her other hand still wielded the knife, now in plain sight.

"Who the fuck do you think you are, walking in here with those portraits and throwing that name around?" The tables in their nearest vicinity went silent for a shocked moment, but after seeing the dispute did not immediately turn to violence, they returned to their meals and conversations, though stealing sidelong glances on occasion. Admittedly, even Aelyria was surprised by the intensity of her voice. Heat rose to her cheeks, turning a red against the faded freckles, and she returned to her seat with steamy embarrassment. She turned her head to the side to avoid the mens' eyes as she ran a finger along the ridge of her brow, attempting to stabilize her emotions to think clearly. With a defeated sigh, she returned her gaze to the stranger.

"Okay. Okay... Let's track back a bit," she digressed, slipping the knife back into the thigh belt. "Start from the beginning. Who are you, how did you find us, and how do you know Renkor?"

Edited by Phaedara

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Caliben shot her a look of anger, as his food was plucked away by Aeylria's grubby hands. He couldn't hold the anger for too long, as the teasing smile slowly defused him. He shook his head in disappointment, and continued to enjoy his meal. It did not take too long to see some of the dock workers nearby glance over at Caliben and Aeylria. He always knew they both stuck out like a sore thumb, but the looks today were different. Caliben saw a man walk by, and glanced over at Aeylria. Caliben looked at him, trying to figure out if the look given by the stranger was one of remembrance of a wanted poster, or.. Caliben's face drooped when Aeylria said they needed a boat. And how she's "Ready to do anything for a moment off of her feet." He smiled, knowing the game she was playing. And doing well at it, as the other people in the inn took notice of her. 

"By the way, thanks for getting us a room. I know it wasn't easy with what funds we have on hand, but you came through and it was nice to be able to sleep indoors, away of the rain for once." Said Aeylria as she smiled at him, and moved to stand. "And on that note, I'm going to order some grub at the counter and when I come back--"

Before Aeylria could finish her sentence, a black coated figure sat at their table, looking down as though he was trying to avoid something "Oh boy, sorry for interrupting your meal, ran into a bit of trouble with the local guard, mind pretending like I have been here all along if anyone comes through the door looking for me?" Caliben stayed seated, but palmed the dagger hidden within his right sleeve. Ready for whatever this man could conjure up. Before both of them could get another word in, he littered the table of his own trash and gadgets. He reached into the pile and rummaged through the papers he had on hand, pulling out one and was trying to compare it to Aeylria. Caliben, though shocked. Couldn't help but choke on the reaction of Aeylria, who seemed like she was trying so hard to not smack the man.

"Aelyria?" He asked, lowering the sheet. "Well... this is incredibly convenient. I thought I was going to have to search across half the continent to find you." Said the man in the coat. Caliben's eyebrows shot up, very surprised for him to know her name, and gripped his dagger even tighter, trying to anticipate any attack on them both. As he pushed the paper forward, he produced another one. This portrait had Caliben's face on it, but did not seem like the handout he had seen back in Union City.

"I assume that makes you Forest then?" Caliben's heart pitter-pattered from nervousness, knowing that Forest was the name he had used in Valjer. But Mr. Lyles should'nt know that, he hadn't reached to Valjer yet. Or, he thought he didn't. He breathed out heavily as he waited for the mystery man to make his next move.

"We need to talk, Renkor sent me."

Caliben moved back as he saw Aeylria shoot up from her chair, slamming her free hand on the table while her other hand wielded a knife. "Who the fuck do you think you are, walking in here with those portraits and throwing that name around?" roared Aeylria. The other people around them stared in shock, but not seeing anything more dangerous follow up, they focused back on their meals or conversations. A moment passed and Aeylria calmed herself, and stared at the man with ferocious intensity,

"Okay. Okay... Let's track back a bit," she slipped the knife back into the thigh belt. "Start from the beginning. Who are you, how did you find us, and how do you know Renkor?" Said Aeylria. Caliben wanted to interject with his own question, but he didn't want to bombard the man. For now, Caliben eyed the crowd. He wanted to be sure that he wasn't working with anyone. If Renkor did send him, this couldn't be good news.. Caliben bounced his foot while sitting in his chair, anticipating what the man was going to say next.

Edited by RentedRed

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Ted jumped in his seat when Aelyria slammed her hands down on the table, startled, the table jolting like it was possessed. His eyes completely missed the knife in her hand, the implied threat, his eyes instead immediately flicked to the orb, tracking it. It had jostled free of its position, and was now rolling across the tabletop towards the edge. A flash of heat ran up his neck, past his ears and into his scalp, tingling as it went. Fear, of the thought of what would happen should the orb roll off the edge of the table and shatter on the floor. He lunged for the orb, snatching it from the tabletop and cradling it in his hands, stroking it like a beloved pet.

"Who the fuck do you think you are, walking in here with those portraits and throwing that name around?"

He blinked up at the woman, was she taller than him? No, don't get sidetracked. Was it not obvious that he was a friend, or associate of Renkor's? He did say that Renkor had sent him... right?

"Okay. Okay... Let's track back a bit. Start from the beginning. Who are you, how did you find us, and how do you know Renkor?"

Ted turned questioningly to Forest, confused by the woman's sudden violent outburst, but he didn't seem overly worried about it. The man seemed to be more interested in the room around them, perhaps searching for an unknown threat, or just nervous. Either was possible, the telltale shaking of the table and gentle trembling of the floor boards under his own feet indicating that someone was bouncing their foot, perhaps out of fear. He turned his attention back to Aelyria, meeting her gaze and searching her eyes. The gentle dusting of red on the bridge of her nose and tops of her cheeks, the slightly creased brow, she was embarrassed by her outburst. An amused grin tugged at his lips, this was going to be fun.

"Who am I? I am Thaddeus Bothwick the thirteenth, but most people just call me Ted. I'm a mercenary for hire, specializing in reconnaissance, destruction, and breaching operations." He gave a short seated bow. "As for how I found you? That was the easy part." He leaned against the table, exuding arrogance and mischief. "I paid a visit to one of your 'associates' back in Union City, convinced him to give me some info on where you were headed. He was rather reluctant at first, but I was able to convince him that he should give me what I wanted."

He struggled not to giggle, his own joke too hilarious to himself, the implication that he had tortured someone to find them. When in reality he had simply used Renkor's deep pockets to bribe the man with an absurd amount of gold, true loyalty always lies with money.

With a shrug, he relaxed back into his seat, the mischievous twinkle in his eyes remained. "As for how I know Renkor? We ran together back in Scales Village, must have been a decade ago now, back when I was still a greenhorn. He's saved my life more times than I can count, and kept me afloat during some hard times, though I imagine it was more for personal gain than any true attachment." He sat in silence for a few moments, mulling over old memories, the amusement fading from him slowly. "Either way, I am indebted to Renkor, and I aim to to settle that debt."

He reached forward with one hand and plucked another piece of paper from the pile, sliding it towards Aelyria, as she seemed to be the most interested (demanding) of answers. "These are my instructions from Renkor, to find you two, and come to his aid. They're a contingency that neither of us thought we would ever need to use, but often our best laid plans go awry."

 

Thaddeus,

Enclosed are bank statements, personnel files, and storage locations, these assets are at your disposal.

There are two profiles, one for Aelyria Tywen, and one for Forest. Please gather them to assist you.

See you soon my friend.

 

"I need the two of you to accompany me, Renkor has gone missing. I last heard from him six and a half months ago, he had been in a new land called Taen, in Terrenus. Renkor has allotted funds for us to use, more than enough to cover airfare, food, equipment, and incidentals. There's also a cache here in Mez, should you need to peruse a selection of gear before we depart. If you are reluctant to join me, I can offer you some very generous compensation for your time, hazard pay included."

He eyed the two of them, his normally bubbly and oblivious facade having slipped away in the light of such a serious situation. The thought of Renkor locked in a dungeon or rotting somewhere enough to sober him.

Edited by Grimshar

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Aelyria never considered herself ignorant when it came to her propensity for letting unbridled emotions take reign over sense and logic. At times, such impertinent passion opened doors that no one dared tried to break through, unbarring the way towards great strives that those too reserved and critical were afraid to reach for. However, it was times like these that she wished she had better control, having thrown in her hand preemptively and exposing her weaknesses before she even had the chance to correct them. This man--Thaddeus as he called himself--had the upper hand now and wasted no time in trying to twist her arm into submission, so she shifted tactics. 

Months of fibbing, sweet-talking, and misdirecting people for information in Union City had forced Aelyria to learn the art of apathy, masquerading disparate emotions that befitted the situation while suppressing her true feelings as not to reveal them. So, as 'Ted' answered her questions, Aelyria leaned back in her chair with a mien of indifference, her thighs crossed and arms folded loosely over her torso. She caught the implication he made about one of her 'associates', likely one of her old crew mates, but with the barrier against her own frustrations in place, she quickly realized his attempt to tug further on her heartstrings was of an inopportune choice. After all, if one were truly seeking help from an associate's acquaintances, one did not torture said acquaintance's friends and hope to win their trust. Nonetheless, the thought someone selling her out had drawn her jaw to a tight clench. She had no doubt any number of the crew would've given up her location for some quick cash, but the only person who could've even possible guessed the direction they had headed was Tye. Perhaps she had misjudged his loyalty for her, though she hardly felt deserving of it in the first place.

"As for how I know Renkor?" He continued, that irksome puckish look about him still grating her nerves. There was an aloofness about this man she didn't quite like. It wasn't quite like Caliben's carefree charm that brought a sense of reprieve during a trying time. No, this strange man possessed a kind of careless charisma that made you wonder how long you would live to see the next day. "We ran together back in Scales Village, must have been a decade ago now, back when I was still a greenhorn. He's saved my life more times than I can count, and kept me afloat during some hard times, though I imagine it was more for personal gain than any true attachment."

An involuntarily scoff escaped her impassive facade in response to his last statement. Aelyria had come to feel much the same about Renkor's demeanor, a fact she had been brooding over since her time in Valjer with him. She had just been an asset to him, a key to unlock the hidden doors that only conformity and adhesion to the town's customs could unveil. Granted, she knew as much from the beginning of their agreement to enter a false 'marriage', but as events shifted, Aelyria had unwittingly fell victim to the belief that they had shared a sort of kinship with one another. The impression from him, however, had left her feeling she had been completely alone in the possibility. However, it would appear she was not alone in this understanding of Renkor's true intent.

As Ted pressed the sheet forward scrawled with whose handwriting she could only assume was Renkor's, she raised an eyebrow at him curiously. Contingency plan? Renkor had enough conviction in this man to trust him with a contingency plan? It left her wondering what exactly the two of them had been through together to place such faith in one another and to actually honor it. Sure, Renkor had entrusted her with something of a similar nature, to call upon him with the power of the wind should she require his aid... But when he had arrived--due to a rather convoluted misunderstanding--he had made it perfectly clear that coming to her assistance had been a chore. Despite attempts at reparation, the utter enmity of his stony eyes at their reunion had left a bitter taste in her mouth that couldn't be washed down, no matter how much she tried to brush it clean away.

Now, it looked like Renkor was calling upon her--or rather, her and Caliben--through a proxy that she hadn't even realized ever existed. And she was expected to actually take up arms with this perfect stranger and come running to his aid? When had she ever signed up for this? 

At the end of Ted's proposal, Aelyria realized her stoic pretense had faded away, a wry, twisted grin skewing her lips. With a terse snicker, she leaned forward and slid the paper back in front of him and returned to her repose in the chair, her arms crossed more taut than they had been before.

"Yeah, well, I think you might have the wrong people or, at the very least, he made an error with my name being written there," she vexed, the sardonic smile still holding firm. "Things didn't end that well between us, so he must have forgotten or was very drunk," though admittedly she had never imagined him to be anyone who would willingly put themselves in such a vulnerable, dull state, "otherwise he would've never put my name down there. And if you or Renkor think you can purchase me a change of mind, then you're severely mistaken. The fact you'd even have to offer such recompense should tell you all you need to know."

Aelyria clenched her jaw again, trying to confine her tongue so it couldn't wag on endlessly as she wished it could. There was so much more she wanted to say on the matter, but as she tried not to steal a sidelong glance at Caliben, she felt to say anymore would be selfish. His name was on there too. Well, not really his 'name' per say. His alias anyway. But this was an opportunity for Caliben. So far, she had been dragging him through the muck to get somewhere that had been solely her idea. He offered little debate on the subject so he had given her little reason to feel guilty, but she had been convinced a while back that they would have to eventually separate. So, why not now? If this Thaddeus character was really offering a hefty sum for compensation--of which they both desperately needed though she'd already denied--then why not take up on the offer? Refusing to say more lest she sway his decision, Aelyria turned her eyes away from the men to pick the dirt under her nails, deceptively indifferent. 

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Caliben struggled to keep watch while the man called Thaddeus talked, uncovering details about how he had discovered him turning in his stomach. Can't trust anyone can you? Caliben after what felt like an hour stopped looking around the inn for any surprises, but did not notice anyone peering at them as Ted continued to talk. He turned his eyes back to him, listening on how he knew Renkor, as well how he is indebted to him. No surprise, that man doesn't do anything unless he needs it for his own personal gain.  Caliben saw Ted remove a paper from the pile and slide it towards Aeylria. 

 "These are my instructions from Renkor, to find you two, and come to his aid. They're a contingency that neither of us thought we would ever need to use, but often our best laid plans go awry." Said Ted, while Caliben look at Aeylria as she read to see if any she'd give away any hints as to what the messaged said through her facial expressions. But, her expression was something he did not expect.

"I need the two of you to accompany me, Renkor has gone missing. I last heard from him six and a half months ago, he had been in a new land called Taen, in Terrenus. Renkor has allotted funds for us to use, more than enough to cover airfare, food, equipment, and incidentals. There's also a cache here in Mez, should you need to peruse a selection of gear before we depart. If you are reluctant to join me, I can offer you some very generous compensation for your time, hazard pay included." Ted said, before Aeylria's face finally twisted into a grin, almost smug in response to the final thing Ted said. 

"Yeah, well, I think you might have the wrong people or, at the very least, he made an error with my name being written there," Said Aeylria, her grin still stayed on her face. "Things didn't end that well between us, so he must have forgotten or was very drunk, otherwise he would've never put my name down there. And if you or Renkor think you can purchase me a change of mind, then you're severely mistaken. The fact you'd even have to offer such recompense should tell you all you need to know."

Is the resentment for him that deep, as to not come aid him when he needs it? Caliben looked down, torn from what he should do and what he wants to do. He helped us before, and befriending someone as strong as him would be very helpful later on.. Caliben looked back up, to see Aeylria cleaning her nails as though her mind was made up.

Caliben cleared his throat and looked at Ted.

"It is rare for someone like Renkor to call upon aid from anyone, if he needs our help than unfortunately it will come at a price. We had made plans, and to simply drop them and help out Renkor?.." Caliben said, as he breathed in with his  teeth. "I hope you have enough to cover my share of the travel expenses." Said Caliben, as he reached behind his back and grabbed his coin purse to throw on to the table, clinking the few silvers he had left over from last nights haggling. Caliben as well showed him his fingerless leather gloves, holes and rips in each glove that nearly makes it unusable. He lowered them back to the table and shrugged. "It seems my equipment could use an upgrade too. I'm afraid I'm just ill prepared for such a journey." If he wants ME to go, he'll need to pay a lavish amount. 

Edited by RentedRed

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Ted nodded at Forest's request, it was reasonable and not unexpected. If there was one thing that Ted could appreciate, it was having well maintained equipment, there was nothing worse than finding a hole in your coat when you were trudging through a rainstorm. There should be a few sets of clothes, probably the same style that Renkor usually wore, with some basic equipment, maybe a wetstone to repair weapons. If that wasn't to Forest's desires, he was sure there would be enough money in his slush fund to purchase a new set of gloves. Aelyria was succeeding at making herself the problem child of the trip, from his perspective, allowing her emotions to rule her decisions to an extreme level. At least Forest was willing to see the profit that could be made in this trip.

He decided that he should address Forest first, since he was already the most receptive of the idea, from what Ted could tell. "I understand completely, it is rare for Renkor to want someones help. From what I understand he usually prefers to hire people, some kind of strange complex he developed I guess, hasn't let me do anything for him for free, ever. I don't know what kind of man you believe Renkor to be, or what your impression of him is." At this his eyes flicked over to Aelyria, pointedly. "But, Renkor is a good man, deep down, if not conflicted. He is about as close to a real father to me as anyone has any right to be. My true father abandoned me early on, leaving me and my mother to scrape out a living in the slums of Scales. Without Renkor, I would probably still be a no name pickpocket in that very same town."

He reached into his jacket and pulled out his own coin purse, a more modern one, utilizing a zipper rather than the traditional drawstring. He scooped up Forest's coin purse, placing it in front of himself and opening it. He unzipped his coin purse and proceeded to pull out five Hawks, golden coins stamped in the Genesaris seal, one by one he placed them in Forest's coin purse, taking great pains to ensure that the man could see what he was doing, then slid it back across the table to him. "Two months pay, plus hazard pay to cover medical expenses should you be injured, if the trip takes longer you will be reimbursed when we return, let's check out the local cache for equipment, if you can't find what you need there we can purchase it at the local market."

He turned to Aelyria, and placed five coins on the table in front of her, unconcerned at the extreme value of the gold glinting openly on the table for all patrons to see.

"I know Renkor has his issues, we all do, but if you think Renkor would make a mistake in something as important as this, then you are not worth bringing on this trip. This is not something that was cobbled together at the last minute, this is part of something much larger than just me and Renkor. These decisions were made over months of contemplation, and I have my own standing orders with Renkor, as well as the rest of the members of our... group. Do not take this money as purchasing you, the choice is ultimately up to you, it's simply compensation for the time that will be spent away from your normal lives. Do not be so jaded, lest you end up like Renkor."

A thought crossed through his mind, taking in Aleyria's dress again, the edge in her voice, the jadedness of her eyes. She resembled Renkor, in a way, a younger Renkor, one more conflicted. But, this was only a snapshot view of the woman, and it was possible that there was much more depth to her that he had yet to see.

"Either way, I would need your answer now, we should depart from here as soon as possible, lest we have to wait until tomorrow to catch an Airship to Terrenus. So, what will it be?"

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The pressure in Aelyria's chest tightened and then dropped, the anchor to her heart sinking to the pit of her stomach. Even after preparing herself for Caliben's choice, the sting of betrayal still prickled her skin hot. It seemed no matter where she went, money always had more value than anything she could ever hope to offer. Her disappointment didn't stem from some delusion that she was so uniquely indispensable to be worth such selfless loyalty. She just hated being reminded that she was, in fact, not important to anyone at all. So, Aelyria watched the exchange unfold between Ted and Caliben in detached silence, the glittering of gold enough to purchase any number of friendships she had ever made in her lifetime. Even her own family hadn't hesitated at the first decent offer. How was the brief relationship with Caliben any different than that with her own flesh and blood? 

When Ted turned to address her, Aelyria knew his words should've affected her in some way. Anger, bitterness, sadness, or guilt. Any emotion at all could be expected to bubble to the surface in response to his pointed reprimand, but all she could feel was a numbing emptiness, the desire for self-preservation barricading her from any other feeling lest she spiral into loathsome self-pity. 'Do not be jaded', she thought mockingly in resemblance to his tone. 'Lest you end up like Renkor.' Heh. A little late for that, mister. And who do you think we have to thank for showing me the art of it? 

"Either way, I would need your answer now," Ted insisted, staring them down with urgency. "We should depart from here as soon as possible, lest we have to wait until tomorrow to catch an Airship to Terrenus. So, what will it be?"

She didn't need to wait for Caliben's answer as it seemed so clear to her what it should be. Any person in his situation would be just as eager to accept the offer and be a fool to do otherwise. So, she ever so casually reached out and slid the coins back towards Ted, patting them appreciatively before rising to her feet, leaving all five gold pieces remaining on the table for all prying eyes to see.

"Thank you for making the time to come find me for this little...rescue mission of yours, but I regret to tell you it was in vain as far as I'm concerned. Luckily for you," Aelyria said while tilting her head in Caliben's direction. "We happened to be traveling together so it would seem not all your efforts were entirely wasted." She then turned to her traveling companion and offered him an acquiescent smile. Go ahead, she seemed to be saying though a closer look would see how strained her smiles was. You deserve this break. During their travels together, they had the opportunity to get to know one another. Each of them had their fair share of hard times, so she understood what this opportunity could mean for him. 

"But as for me," she continued, smoothing down her clothing and adjusting her satchel until she felt moderately presentable. "I have a boat to Aelindra to catch. So, if you don't mind, I won't hold up you fine gentlemen any longer so..." With a terse, mocking salute, she turned sharply on her heels and almost ran for the tavern door, it taking all her willpower to walk away with some semblance of decorum. Her face and neck were flush with heat, the barricade to her emotions quickly crumbling as she made her escape. No more goodbyes, no more looking back, she thought, gritting her teeth. Just keep moving forward.

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Caliben stares in awe at the coins being slowly placed into his coin purse. 5 Hawks glittered from the light that sneaked in through cracks, only increasing the brilliance of the amount of wealth before him. 

"Two months pay, plus hazard pay to cover medical expenses should you be injured, if the trip takes longer you will be reimbursed when we return, let's check out the local cache for equipment, if you can't find what you need there we can purchase it at the local market." Said Ted. Caliben gawked 

Two months?! How did this man live, to use up that much money in two months?? Caliben nearly lost his breath, as he pulled out 5 more Hawks and placed them on the table for Aeylria. This is more than enough to get far away from here. Caliben couldn't help but notice many eyes now upon them as the coins laid on the table, beckoning the call of greed and jealousy to every person within eyesight of them. Caliben stared at the coins, trying to figure out what to do with the money. Running around in circles, trying to choose priorities over desires, and failing at each thought as his mind wandered further and further. Only snapping out of his own trance as he saw Aeylria pushing her share forward towards Ted.

"Thank you for making the time to come find me for this little...rescue mission of yours, but I regret to tell you it was in vain as far as I'm concerned. Luckily for you," Aelyria said while tilting her head in Caliben's direction. "We happened to be traveling together so it would seem not all your efforts were entirely wasted." She then turned to Caliben and smiled.

The smile was forced. It was easy for Caliben to discern the difference after being with her, and the rush of future prospects suddenly fell as though a bucket of cold water had hit him. The cost of a friend?.. Caliben attempted to interject, but was cut off by Aeylria.

"But as for me," she said, while touching up her attire. "I have a boat to Aelindra to catch. So, if you don't mind, I won't hold up you fine gentlemen any longer so..." Aeylria gave a half-arse salute, and turned on her heels. Leaving the two of them, as she made way towards the exit.

Caliben looked at her as she left, and turned to Ted, who seemed to still be comprehending the rejection Aeylria had made. Caliben sighed and took his coin purse in hand, and turned it over on the table atop Aeylria's share, pulling it up revealing the coins Ted had given him just moments ago falling atop of the others.

"Unfortunately, she doesn't seem to understand that we are a package deal. She CAN be thick headed at times." Caliben smiled and raised his eyebrows as he got up from his own chair and turned to follow Aeylria. He gripped the coin purse in hand, and placed it back in his pocket, making sure that he wouldn't drop the Hawk he had held on to in the purse. Even if we can't do the job, I'm sure this much will make the transit to Aelindra much easier. 

Edited by RentedRed

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An aggressive sigh escaped Teds lips as the two departed rapidly, one after the other, their camaraderie something to be commended. He reached out to scoop the returned and rejected Hawks back into his hands so he could store them when he noticed one was missing. He grinned, the Forest was making this easy. At least, he assumed it was Forest who had pocketed one of the coins while pretending to return them all. He turned in his chair, trying to see if the man had made his way out of the door yet, and of course, he had. Aelyria was nowhere to be seen either, which meant that she had probably departed before Forest. Was this their plan all along? Had he been conned? Probably not, they had seemed too surprised by his suddenly showing up to have run a con so quickly.

He sat in the chair, stoicly waiting for an appropriate amount of time to pass, before standing up, pushing the chair in, pocketing the coins, collecting his papers, and turning for the door. Renkor had specifically requested them, so he would make sure that they came. His plan certainly came with risks, everything that he did came with risks, but with risk, came reward. He shoved the papers haphazardly into his backpack as he walked, keeping only a single sheet out for his own reference, and gave a happy wave to the bartender as he passed. The man nodded a greeting in return, but there was no recognition in his eyes.

He opened the door to exit the Tavern, and stepped out into the stifling morning heat, the sun so bright that his eyes had to adjust for a moment. Once they had done so, he scanned the crowd, searching for Forest and perhaps Aelyria. Aelyria said she was heading for Aelindra, which mean she was probably heading towards the Northern docks, so he checked there first. Luck was with him that day, Forest's unkempt mop of hair was easily spotted amongst the thin crowds of the morning, he seemed to be bobbing and weaving through foor traffic in an attempt to catch up to Aelyria, who was further ahead of him.

Ted cleared his throat, took a deep breath, and yelled at the top of his lungs. "Thief! Thief! That man stole my gold!" He gestured frantically in Forests direction, and brandished his sketch of the man above his head for all to see. Several heads turned his way, and he hoped there was still some sort of guard or presence. He hoped against all hope that they hadn't gotten a good enough look at him to be able to pin anything on him, and that the more immediate threat of a gold thief would be a priority. Perhaps even a few enterprising citizens would be persuaded to take action against the man if the reward was enough. "Two Merlins to the man, or woman, who brings that man and my Hawk to The Bumbling King Tavern and Inn!"

Hopefully someone would find them and bring them, or perhaps just try to kill them and take the Hawk for themselves, either way he was sure the two would come back to him for some revenge.

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After escaping from the tavern, Aelyria quickly discovered that although the building had been nearly bursting at the seams with patrons, even this late in morning, its swarmed occupancy was but a small reflection of what the streets could hold. Workers, merchants, and residents zipped by her carelessly, one nearly toppling over her with a large barrel hoisted over his shoulder. He scarcely uttered a disapproving grunt as she dodged at the last minute, her reflexes kicking in the knack of time, and kept on his way without sparing a glance as he had enough on his plate than to deal with some fumbling tourist. She rolled her shoulders and carried on, trying to loosen up her joints as she adapted herself to the oppressive city environment, having spent so long in the forbearing, open wilderness. She would have to stay quick on her toes and readily aware of her surroundings in a place like this.

Once adjusted, it didn't take time for Aelyria to put considerable distance between the tavern and herself, weaving in and out of the traffic with such ample dexterity that came so naturally to her as long as she was aware of her surroundings. Determined to get away as quickly as possible before she changed her mind, she pressed forward and willed herself not to look back lest her resolve faltered. Some distance back, she heard a man shout but it was so drowned out by the rest of the commotion around her that it was unintelligible, so she attributed it as another call for workers needed for the docks as often was being shouted in her ears as she passed them by. 

As she neared the docks, she felt the reality of her decision weigh heavy in her chest. Aelyria swallowed back the suffocating tightness that gripped her, wishing that for once she could truly be as lionhearted as she tried to appear. Then, perhaps, she wouldn't feel so damned conflicted. But it was the right choice, right? I can't imagine any kind of danger that Renkor isn't capable of getting out of. She skewed her lips, her nose twinging in response. Chances are, it's nothing and he'll just be irritated we even showed up. But the longer she thought on it, the more complicated her feelings became on the matter. What if he really was in danger? Ted only seemed speculative in his proposal, but if they had known each as well as he claimed to, then wouldn't he know better than her? She shook her head vigorously to chase away the thoughts, spurring a man that approached from the other direction to pass her with a wider-berth. But he's better working alone. Hell, he scarcely needed me. I just had to sit and pretend to be useful. 

Useful. She hadn't even been that, had she? Aelyria shuddered, remembering the contempt in his eyes and the iciness of his voice at their last encounters. Even their farewells had been terse and bitter. She didn't doubt that he blamed her for his exile from Valjer--it was mostly her fault after all for getting them caught up in the whole ordeal. Aelyria had avoided the idea of meeting with Renkor again, steering her mind away from the thought should it ever crop up. Though, in the times she dared let it cross her imagination, she envisioned the sylph with his gaze bearing down on her with such scorn that she would find herself nearly on the brink of tears, as if she could practically feel his hatred for her manifest, choking her. There had only been one other man who could make her feel that way. Who could make her hate her own existence so absolutely.

As Aelyria approached the docks, she turned her attention to focus on her surroundings. One didn't have to see the docks to know they were close as the concentrated smell of fish and brackish water was enough to signal its proximity, but seeing it in plain view during the day was another thing entirely. Originally she thought there was no possible way the southern district of Methzaluen could ever get more packed, but upon seeing the mess of bodies, barrels, crates, and boats, she quickly counted herself as woefully wrong. Carefully, she navigated the street that ran alongside the wooden piers, searching for a locale to scout from, preferably that nice little spot up the hill and in the shade of a shanty building's overhang that seemed vacant of any bystanders. Beaming with delight at having found such an opportune location, she settled herself standing against the wall of the building beside a closed barrel, arms crossed casually over her torso. Now all she had to do was wait for one of the dockworkers to show up from the tavern and lather icing on top of the cake she had planted--especially since she had even less money to bargain with now that Caliben and the funds he carried was out of the picture. She did take the opportunity to scan the docks for any familiar faces so far, but as expected, none stood out. It would likely be a while until the workers returned from the tavern, but it didn't hurt to at least look at alternatives. She spotted a few potential targets, in particular a group of men nearby that were loading a boat with what looked to be stone. But as she reviewed the workers, she noticed what was most likely the boat's captain in a heated debate with an older suited gentleman, and what was probably his young courtly daughter standing idly by obediently without muttering a word. Chances were slimmer with an irritable captain.

As she waited, Aelyria found her mind wandering back to the conversation back the tavern with Ted. She tried to brush it aside, but what he said just didn't sit right with her. Ted's relationship with Renkor, the 'contingency plan', and all that damned gold. Just who the hell was Renkor really? There was so much she didn't know about the man, yet somehow he felt it pertinent enough to put her name on his list of people to turn to in case things go awry? For what? A sacrifice maybe? She had known a little of Renkor's scope of magic. Who was to say there wasn't some dark blood magic involved too? Just exactly what was she to him? Then, she remembered something Ted had said.

"Like a father," she hissed, not realizing she had begun to think out loud. "Oh, yes. I'm sure Renkor and my father would've gotten on with one another real well. 'Yes, let's share tea over biscuits'," she said to no one in particular, mimicking holding a cup in her hand and plate in the other. "'And let us discuss how much we loathe that little burden of our existence that Aelyria is'." 

"Wow, you're good at that. Who's Renkor?"

Aelyria nearly jumped out of her own skin at the sudden manifestation of the voice beside her, whirling around to see a prim young woman sitting on the barrel beside her. "Who in Velmesh are you?! And where did you come from?!" She had been so sure the overhang was vacant of other people, and although Aelyria had been lost in thought, there was assuredly no way the girl could've snuck up right beside her without some kind of noise.

The woman blinked with mild surprise, but there was perhaps a twinkle of amusement in her hazel eyes. "I don't understand the question. Or the terminology. Veil-mess?" She cocked her head to the side. Gods, Aelyria thought with reluctant appreciation, she's a beauty. "And is that a hint of a foreign accent I hear. Anyway, I was already here to answer your second question, but I do believe I asked you one first."

Still unable to wrap her mind around the whole circumstance, she examined the aloof woman, gauging by her fine clothes, laced gloves, and wide-brim blue-ribbon sun hat, that she was of some form of noble birth. She sat with her legs crossed over the edge of the barrel--though it was difficult to tell with her long, petticoat dress--and with an open sketchbook lain flat across her lap, pen in hand. At first glance, she realized the woman had been drawing a sketch of her, and Aelyria conscientiously wondered if she really did look that austere from the outside. Brushing the petty concern away, she realized then that the woman looked familiar with her golden-brown curls and over-zealously freckled cheeks. She peered up to the docks close by to where the gentleman had been arguing with the boat captain and spotted the daughter standing there still, the same blue ribbon hat propped on her head. Aelyria turned back to the woman beside her, who seemed to understand her confusion and offered only but a smile as recompense. 

"That's...you. Over there," Aelyria surveyed, eyes narrowing suspiciously and pointing at her. "But you're here."

The woman nodded haphazardly, as if expecting the scrutiny. "Yes, very much one and the same."

"But, you're here," she pressed.

"Yes. I am. Your point?"

Realizing they would end up no where at this rate, Aelyria shook her head. "Renkor is just an old acquaintance," she said, propping a hand on her hip.

"Renkor. That sounds like an interesting name. And I'm assuming that you're Aelyria then? Also interesting. Very unique," the woman rambled, scribbling something down on her sketchpad before looking back up, her face alight with mirth. "Ooh! Let me guess then! Based on your name, attire, and that funny little slur in your speech--"

"Slur?" Aelyria interjected, incredulous.

Ignoring the interruption, the woman continued. "You must be an adventurer, aren't you?!"

"Adventurer?" Aelyria quirked an eyebrow at which the woman seemed so enraptured with the term, and now, with her. "No... I wouldn't say that I am. I don't do very much 'adventuring'. Renkor, perhaps..."

"Oh! Then you must tell me more about this Renkor! Tell me, what does he look like? Is he burly and stoic? Is his face riddle with scars and archaic tattoos? Or is he like more of the lady-charmer type with a strong jaw and long locks?"

Aelyria, overwhelmed by the current bombardment of questions could tell the woman would prattle on endlessly if she could, so she held up a hand to signal her to stop. "Whoa, whoa. Settle down there. Just....where the hell are you getting these ideas from?" She shook her head. "Nevermind, not important. You never answered my first question and I answered two of yours."

"Ugh, fine," the woman said, laying down her pen to pay full heed to the other. "What was it again?"

Really? She forgot already? Already, Aelyria could feel the twinge of a headache blooming. "What was your name?"

"Oh, right. You did ask that." The woman smiled apologetically. "The name is Zara. Zara Vikturian."

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Caliben pushed his way past the occupants, merchants and workers alike as he made his way to Aeylria. He couldn't decide to whether to shout her name to grab her attention, or just simply catch up to her by surprise. As he maintained sight of her bobbing head, he squeezed, ducked, even twirled past people. Even with his ability to slow time for himself, the sea of people was a force that stopped any progression he tried to make. Caliben was about to simply give up on the idea of surprising her with his presence and shout to her when he heard someone shout behind him.

"Thief! Thief! That man stole my gold!" Ted pointed frantically at Caliben. "Two Merlins to the man, or woman, who brings that man and my Hawk to The Bumbling King Tavern and Inn!"

Caliben saw the people before him look towards him like waves of wind rolling through a grass field. This, can't be good.. And suddenly, the sea was upon him. Reaching and screaming at him, trying to pull him down like a wave in a stormy sea. 

He turned to run, ducking and dodging hands as they attempted to grab his clothes, but his ability helped aid off any grapple attempt. But, the mass of people were too great. Caliben grunted, kicked, and screamed as he was pulled towards the inn he had exited. His heart sank when someone pulled the Hawk out of his inner side pocket of his coat, holding it above for the crowd to see the man was right. 

"Thief! Thief! Bastard!" Men and women shouted and bawled, as some spat in his face or sneaked in a kick or punch. Caliben reeled in pain as he was pushed further towards the Inn.

If I survive this.. That man.. 

Edited by RentedRed

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Ted strode back into the Tavern part of the Inn with all the confidence and swagger of a man who had little care in the world. It was still early in the day, morning by most peoples standards, but a chilled glass of mead sounded quite refreshing, so he took a detour towards the bar. After a brief inquiry the bartender confirmed that they did in fact have mead, and it would cost him three chips for a pint. He agreed and the bartender sent one of his staff to fetch it from the cellar with promises of delivering it to Ted's table. So he returned to the table that he had sat at before, Aelyria and Forest's plates still lying untouched. He sat down with a sigh, and wiped the sweat from his brow, the morning was quickly shaping up to be one of a stifling scorcher.

The bartenders assistant ascended the stairs at the same time the front door of the tavern opened with a bang. A crowd of pedestrians from all walks of life rushed through the open door, all eagerly trying to cram their way through the doorway at once. There was a brief scuffle, and more than a little bit of cursing, as the group figured out the order of entry. The crowd surged forward, filling the small room rapidly, the bartender watched in alarm, holding his tongue only because Ted waved the man down as the group approached his table. The sea of people parted and Forest appeared, he was dragged forward and dumped unceremoniously in the chair across from Ted, held in place by his arms.

The bartenders assistant arrived at the table, placing a glass full to the brim with mead in front of him, along with a freshly sliced lemon. Ted nodded his thanks to the man and took a small sip of the sweet drink, then unhurriedly picked up the lemon and began squeezing the juices into the mead. A man stepped forward, skinny, nimble fingered, a poorly kept goatee adorning his chin, he placed a Hawk on the table, within Ted's reach, and then stepped back slightly and waited. Ted eyed the crowd again, then inspected Forest, he seemed a little roughed up, but relatively hale. Ted grabbed the glass and took another sip of the now much less cloying mead, and used his free hand to open his coin purse and pull out two merlin's, he tossed them to the man who had brought him the hawk. As he placed the glass back on the table the group began to disperse, already bickering and fighting with the man he had paid, demanding their fair share. Ted pointed at one man in particular, a burly dock worker who looked like he could lift a man over his head, "You." The crowd hesitated as everyone looked back at him to see who he was talking to. "And you", he pointed this time at a smaller man, one who looked like he had endured a hard life, and fought tooth and nail to survive doing all manner of odd jobs. "Attend me for a moment will you?"

Both men hesitated as the crowd returned to their bickering, Ted suspected they were wondering if it was worth giving up their share of the two merlin's to see what he had to say. Their curiosity must have won out, they returned to the table as the crowd filtered away. "I am expecting another associate of ours." He nodded his head towards Forest. "If you were to remain and ensure that our friend here stayed with us until then, I'm sure he would be willing to give up some of his pay. Assuredly more than you would get from that rabble." The Golden Hawk glittered on the table, remaining untouched by Ted's hands.

"Now, Forest, I think perhaps we have gotten off on the wrong foot. Let's try to get past that and work together now? Hmm?" His lips quirked up in a saccharine smile. "Do you think Aelyria will come back for you?"

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