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TheEyeOfNight

[Silver Harbor] Reunion

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((The following takes place one year after the events of the Iron Queen, because I haven't seen @Sorano in years and we wanna RP))

Water sloshed against the Ankheg's hull as it drifted into position against the pier, guided by the shouts of its crewmen and a trio of taut anchor lines. The freighter was old and gray, its sails stained with the grime of a long sea voyage, and its deck slick with sea water from a storm that morning. The crudely wrapped bundles of its cargo, easing into the sunlight one by one from below decks, were pelts and furs from the southern coast of Genesaris. They represented weeks of laborious hunting for the crew, and the promise of new garments and beautiful trends for the citizens of Silver Harbor.

By contrast, the pier was stocky and new, a luxurious upgrade from the half-rotted planks which had been burned away a year ago. The city was more profitable since then, and they could afford new piers and docks, even if took the ship captains a long time to get used to the new dimensions. The waterfront had been rebuilt, disregarding any sentimental retention of the old wood and steel, and instead became a community-wrought masterpiece that welcomed ships old and new to the rising port.

The Silver Hour was near, heralded by the cracking of windows and scurry of children out to the road and the rooftops to watch. Even those veterans of Silver Harbor rarely missed the chance to see the entire bay turn to silver glass in the evening light. It had become a reminder of what made their city unique, a part of their identity as a community that had been lost for years under the pirates' yoke.

In the year since the fire and chaos that broke the smugglers' stranglehold on it, Silver Harbor carried on with a new purpose, a new vigor, and a new figurehead in the city's hall.

Governor Avarice Lynch.

 

 

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From amidships the ascending port town was mysterious, taunting and picturesque as if straight from the pages of a child’s fairy tale book. But she knew better and almost scoffed to herself. From here the town of Silver Harbor offered endless possibilities as the light glinted off of random objects here and there making it seem inviting and safe, a place where all your dreams could come true. She moved to the side of the vessel, crossing her arms and leaning over the rail while taking a deep breath of the salty air. Another day, another town and just like all that came before she would resist the temptation of getting her hopes up that this town would be any different or offer any more than the others.

She tossed a small purse of coin to the captain and offered him only a sage nod of thanks for bringing her safely to her destination. “Oy, ya dun havta be goin just yet now do ye?” She turned toward the captain only to see his half toothless smile closer than she appreciated. With an unwavering gaze she tossed her satchel cross-body and flipped the side of her jacket back just enough to expose the grip of a revolver. “Yes.”

The docks marketplace was much cleaner than any she had ever seen. The wood beneath her feet looked nearly unblemished, in fact it all looked newish. Even the vending stalls looked freshly built; from fishmongers to hand made clothing and bags and even food stands, there literally seemed to be anything and everything she could want...except one thing...A soft hum from her side caused her thoughts to return to the present. “Yes, I know.” Her voice was hushed, almost inaudible.

A grumble from her stomach and its lack of contents pushed her onward. “Ugh” She brought her hand to her belly and looked around. The stalls around offered tidbits of delightful looking foods, but she was in dire need of a meal. Louie's Spirits and Eatery. That'll do just fine. Seedy joints always seem to have the best home made menu items. With that thought she wasted no time shoving the door open and heading straight toward the table in the back near the rear exit. Cliche perhaps, but one can never be too careful.

From her satchel she pulled out a leather bound journal, one of three she carried with her always, and a pen. Each journal carefully followed her path ever since Whispernight tore apart Celin City and her world; from where she had been, to rumors she had heard all while making certain to not use any specific names or dates so that her movements could not be traced by those who were unaware of the obscure codes she used to remind herself of each location.

 

That there's a nice book.”

 

Yes it is.” She slid the book to the side farthest from the young woman, tapping her nails impatiently on the cover.

 

Oh, um...we have a seafood boil and um..”

 

That'll do. And a ginger ale please.”

 

But you didn't let me finish! We also have..”

The boil, the ale that's it.” The look on her face would tell the over eager girl that she had wore out her welcome. It wasn't so much that Sorano was rude or unkind, it was the way the wench couldn't take her eyes off the leather journal, as if she were starving to have it between her own hands and after all thieves and smugglers usually use port towns to their advantage.

Of course, so sorry. It's just since that new guy took over we have a lot more to offer.”

I'm happy with the choice I made, thank you.” She slid the journal back in front of her and unbound it, opening it to the page where she left off dismissing the girl without another word. Each city before had been a dead end. Countless times she followed whispers and rumors of a powerful man with a scary bodyguard that was just as much animal as man, and each time she was left with more questions than answers. She would not be discouraged. She blatantly refused to be detoured, swearing that her state of saudade would not be all the rest of her life would know.

Edited by Sorano
Rust and all.

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It’s very…I mean, I…it’s…”

“Ambitious, isn’t it?” The glass tumbler made a soft clunk as Avarice set it on the desk in front of his guest. He took his own seat, a luxurious leather chair that bordered on a throne, and leaned back with a swirl of his beverage. “We are a harbor, after all, it seems fitting that we have an airship waystation for our flying brethren.”

His guest, renowned architect Rayna Lorrin, kept her eyes on the paper in her hand and shook her head. She didn’t ignore the offered drink, but rather failed to notice anything except the sketches and the numbers on the page in front of her.

“Fitting, I’m sure, but the scale of this is insanity. The Exalta import licenses alone would be-“

“Already taken care of.” He nodded, tapping the side of his glass idly. “The land leases too, and the construction materials negotiated with the usual merchants. I’ve been planning this for some time, Ms. Lorrin, I’m well-prepared to offer the support you need.” 

“But why?” She flipped to the next page, the second of perhaps ten in her hand. “This could handle twice, even three times, the traffic for this region. Silver Harbor never sees this kind of business.”

Avarice leaned forwards, his voice lowering as if imparting a secret in confidence. “Rayna, Silver Harbor cannot grow stagnate again. We must expand, both outwards and upwards. We need airships for that, we need people to see this as a vibrant hub of the Imperial South, not an out-of-the-way port to be ignored. Those sketches are the future of this city.”

A long moment passed, and the slender architect sighed, finally picking up the tumbler and raising her eyes from the paper to Avarice. “You’re asking for a beast of a waystation, Governor.”

Lynch smiled contentedly, raised his glass in salute, and nodded once. “Then build me a beast.”

* * * *

Lumbering footsteps and a certain bestial hunch made Roht an easy target to pick out on the waterfront. The plates of his armor grated as he looked left and right, keeping his keen yellow eyes on those passing him by. For the locals who lived in Silver Harbor, he and his patrols had become a routine sight. They waved to him, called him by name, and didn’t seem to mind when his hulking form lumbered through their daily lives.

But newcomers could seldom help staring at the beast that padded down the waterfront every morning. He couldn’t blame them. He was quite certain he was the only gnoll in town. Then again, since leaving Terranus with Lynch, he was the only gnoll wherever he went. The solitude had become customary. 

With his rounds completed, his wild hyena-head turned away from the harbor and towards the inner city. He was hungry, and frankly did not feel like eating yet another meal of fresh fish from the harbor. The grilled meat at Louie’s was rather palatable these days, and the readiness of liquor made the idea even more appealing.

He could at least numb his brain with a few shots before listening to Lynch’s next master plan.

 

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Chunks of sausage, corn on the cob and potatoes littered the large plate along with a few crab legs in a rich broth and idly she picked at the leftovers while looking through the pages of her journal. Entire sections of the region she had traversed with not even a glimpse of what it was she sought out. While she understood it was possible for a person to, in essence, disappear...It was nothing like him to stay out of the lime light for long. Not the great and powerful Avarice Lynch.

She flipped her pen between her index finger and thumb, tapping the opposite end on the paper. Sliding back into the corner of the bench of her booth, she finally took note on the décor of the establishment. The bar was a deep mahogany, shiny and without imperfections. Intricate carvings along the edge of the bar-top and down the sides admitted that someone took care in its creation. The art that hung on the walls was tasteful and well painted, and the fixtures appeared to be of a quality metal. Someone had put some love and money into this place. Maybe it was the new guy the waitress spoke. Louie, perhaps.

Leaning her head against the wall she closed her eyes. It was always so hard for her to get decent sleep on a ship. Hell, it was hard for her to get anything resembling a good nights sleep in the last year, and perhaps her features held onto that secret. Her already lithe figure was a bit more thin than before, and her once bright eyes where snuggled by dark circles. She looked exhausted always, but never once would she complain about any of it. The road she traveled was her choice. A choice she would make over and over again if offered the chance to take it back.

Soon, the sound of soft whispers drew her attention, though she remained as she was, eyes closed, as if not paying attention. “What? In here?” One man spoke. “Yeah, he does that from time to time.” His friend answered. “Ey, I can't be pissed with it.” He sounded annoyed and put out that he “had” to leave. “The beast loves the drink.” They shared a hearty laugh before the shuffle of chairs and hurried footsteps caused her to open her eyes to catch sight of the man that seemingly had something to hide from someone. He took one last look at his friend and the men nodded to one another before the first ducked out the back exit.


The slam of the back door was echoed with that of the main entrance. Quickly she turned to see what it was the shady man was running from. His body eclipsed the doorway. His sheer size was unequivocally impressive. And while he was covered by a thick fur, he carried himself as more of a man than a beast despite the only thing making it such was that he was bipedal. She wasn't certain when she had slid to the outside of the bench or when she took to her feet to stand in the isle.


Was she dreaming?


“Roht.”


The moment their eyes would meet, she ran to him.


 

Edited by Sorano

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The door opened immediately and obediently before Roht's balled fist, admitting him into the comforting dim light of Louie's. His armor scraped on the doorjamb, a familiar sensation that had left a permanent slight gouge in the doorframe itself. Roht liked it, and the owner knew better than to complain. In fact, most of the regulars at the bar knew to either avoid him entirely or to buy him a good-natured drink. Roht seldom came to the bar because he was in a good mood. He came because he was confused, or frustrated, or some twisted combination of the two. And now, with Avarice's plan quite surely in full swing, he was both.

He stood tall in the doorway and glowered at each of the bar's inhabitants in turn, taking special care with a table of hardened, scarred sailors who eyed him with interest instead of concern. A quick snarl changed that, and the three sailors returned their attention to the mugs of beer on their table. The brief pause which that required was enough that he almost missed Sorano rising from her table.

Roht.”

Roht was never good with human faces, they lacked a discernible fur pattern and the prominent jaws he grew up with in his pack. Further, it had been over a year since he had last seen Sorano, and hadn't spent much time memorizing her face. Not as much time as Avarice had spent, in any event. As a result, he spent three of the four seconds it took her to cross the room to fully realize who it was, only reaching a conclusion as she was but a single pace from him.

“Oh shi-”

She slammed into him with all the force a 5' 5” figure could muster, hitting his torso with her body like she had just run into a wall. He stumbled back half a step, more from surprise than from the impact, and her arms wrapped around him as far as they would go. It was an embrace, not an attack.

He stared down at her in disbelief, and ever-so-gently placed his oversized palm on the top of her head. It was her, and the shower of memories hit his mind like a shower of gravel stones. His other hand reached around her to return the hug, but his eyes remained dazed.

“You're dead. No, no, no, you were dead. We looked, and they said you were dead.”

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It was the best hug in the history of hugs, if there was such a thing. She squeezed him as tight as she could and took a step back. She was dwarfed by his size and height. If he so desired he could easily crush her. My what an impression this would make on the locals here at Louie's. A statement being made with actions alone that spoke multitudes about the woman who just showed up in their beautiful harbor town.

“Dead?” Her face wrinkled slightly. “Who the hell said that!? The things I went through...” She motioned the gnoll to follow her as she returned to her booth, making sure her things were still there and in tact. Luckily, they were. She offered Roht a chair at the end of the table and took a seat herself. “As you can see I'm very much alive. I have been...everywhere looking for the both of you.”

Both…

“Avarice.”

Tears rolled around her eyes as she brought her gaze to Rohts. “You said we. Is Avarice alive? Well? Here?!” Sorano began packing her things back into her bag. Had he walked away unscathed from the magestorm? Was he well and healthy. Was he...alone? “Is he here Roht? Can you take me to him?” She dipped her head down and wrapped the strap of her dingy gray bag across her body. “Would...um...Would that be ok? Would he still want to see me?” Crazy questions maybe, but a lot can happen in a year.

Edited by Sorano

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“Yeah, dead.” The gnoll didn't resist her motion pulling him to the table, still trying to formulate thoughts in his dumbfounded brain. He realized he had lost all pretense of stoic, overpowering presence, but this was infinitely more important. “We couldn't go in and check ourselves, the whole place is still buried in fog and dead walking things.”

With a heavy thump he sat down in the chair, his armor and bulk making it creak dangerously. “Besides, it's not like we knew where to look. Runners from the storm went everywhere. We made it out by a hair, ended up here.”

Is Avarice alive? Well? Here?!

His halfway-contained laugh erupted like some sort of decrepit bark. Only Lynch could go from 'I didn't know you were here' to the city's governor without pause between them.

“Is he well? Are you kidding, Lynch-”

His mouth suddenly split in a broad, wolfish grin. A certain rare giddiness welled up inside of him as he realized he now knew something, something vitally important, that Avarice did not. And he so loved those moments.

“Oh, Lynch is going to shit himself. Grab your stuff, we're going now.”

 

* * * *

The city's hall faced the waterfront from a distance of perhaps a quarter mile, firmly anchored to solid ground with a foundation built from some of Silver Harbor's first quarried stones. It had survived the night of chaos remarkably well, partly due to its sturdy construction and partly due to Avarice's own planning. It was a symbol, though not as grand as some in Genesaris, it nonetheless represented the heart of Silver Harbor's government and the promise of a new era for the city. In that respect, it was revered almost as a holy site.

Roht stopped her in front of the building, jerking a thumb at it casually.

“Bit of a step up from Celin, right?”

 

 

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Sorano nodded and listened to his words as she dug into her bag and placed money on the table to pay for the food and service. “I understand. I traveled with a small group that also had people they were looking for. We stayed longer than most, killed things that were unlike anything I have ever seen.” She grew quiet. The horrors she had seen had haunted her day dreams and nightmares from day one. “I left a piece of myself there.” She raised the side of her shirt to show a jagged nasty scar. “Damn near got me.”

“Oh, Lynch is going to shit himself. Grab your stuff, we're going now.”

She chuckled a bit at Roht. There was an impish gleam in his eyes knowing he was about to one up Avarice. It was one of the many charming attributes Roht possessed. Most people however failed to see those part of him since the other parts were so “in your face” and unable to be ignored.

“Now?” This was it. This was the moment she had been yearning for for the last year. She was excited and terrified all at once. Her stomach churned and her head spun. Did she have all her things? Was she ready? Really ready?

Now.

 

* * * *

“Bit of a step up from Celin, right?”

He could say that again. The building was lovely, like a piece of art and the ground were well kept and beautiful. “Is there anything he can't do?” She already knew the answer, her time spent with him taught her many lessons; one being that if Avarice Lynch wanted it, it would be. He had a keen eye for business and everything beautiful. When it came to people he could read them like an open book, learn their strengths and use them to his advantage. He was unlike anyone she had ever met in her life, and in all her travels.  “I hope this is a good time. I know how he is with business.” Her voice was shaky at best. 

"I'm ready."

Edited by Sorano

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“Heh.” Roht's grin was back as he started up the few stairs to the strong set of double doors, motioning for her to follow with an eager motion. “He'll make time for this.”

The door to the governor's office remained unchanged: an intricate carving, top to bottom, depicting fish and sea creatures born of both nature and fantasy. Kraken tangled with long-toothed barracuda, and sea snakes joined together in an intricate mass that surrounded a sailfish. It was majestic, lovingly-carved, and incredibly sturdy. The latter was Roht's favorite part, as he lifted one leg and knocked the door open with a single motion.

 

* * * *

The sudden loud bang didn't bother Avarice, he was accustomed to Roht entering most rooms with a touch of violence. He sipped at the dark liquor in his tumbler, gazing slowly over the architect's notes on his sketches. It had been a challenge to convince her that the airship waystation was even possible, but Avarice knew the value of dangling the barley-impossible in front of an engineer. They tended to salivate at the thought.

With a satisfied smile, he finally raised his head towards his companion. “Roht, tomorrow we need to talk to the-”

 

Avarice Lynch never slipped.

He had practically worshiped self-control since he was a child, carefully managing his expressions, body language, and every movement he made. All things told a story, whether someone wished them to or not, and he was determined to shape the story he told at all times. A slip, a mistake, an error in motion or distraction, could reveal a hand he was not ready to show. So it was, and he was immensely proud to say, that Avarice Lynch was a difficult man to phase, and he never, never slipped.

 

The tumbler fell from his hand, cracking loudly in two on the marble floor and spreading a small pool of fine rum across the white stone.

In half a heartbeat, he was across the room, pulling her close to him. His arms clutched her tightly to his chest, as if she was an illusion he could not allow to escape or disappear. Everything the waystation plans, Silver Harbor, and all the little machinations stewing inside his head – everything suddenly vanished into nothingness in her presence. The smell of her hair was all he could sense, the warmth of her body the only sensation that mattered. She was real.

He tried to speak, but he could not conjure a word. There did not exist a word to describe that moment.

Roht crossed his arms with a satisfied grin. “Told you.”

 

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Before she knew it she stood at the door. The decorative carvings flowed so perfectly, she wanted to reach out and trace them all with her finger tip. Slowly her hand would rise toward them and just before her finger made contact, Roht kicked open the door to the office. She leaned to her right and curiously looked about the room that represented Avarice in so many ways that her lips curled upward. Slowly she made her way into the room.

My god he's so beautiful.

The desk was larger than life, scattered with papers, plans, notes, books...all she was certain was exactly where he wanted it to be, even if it looked like a disheveled mess. Silently she watched as his tumbler met his lip as he drank whatever he desired...she didn't care what it was, she was jealous of it. His thick black locks lay perfectly still and his sharp features drew her in. He commanded respect with his larger than life persona, always so composed; so regal. She moved further into the room.

The tumbler slipped from his hand, but Sorano never heard it hit the floor. Her heart pounded so hard, so loudly it filled her head with nothing but the excited rhythm in which it was now beating. His scent was more intoxicating than any liquor she had ever experienced and soon overcame her. And now, standing there encased in his strong arms, she was finally able to dismiss the emptiness that had been the prominent feeling in her life as of late.

Sorano wrapped her arms likewise around Avarice and held him as tightly as she could, as if she had finally obtained the requisite the rest of her life. He was here, alive and doing well. There was nothing more she could have wished for. Sorano leaned back from him enough to look at his face. She reached up, running her hand down the side of his face while searching those piercing green eyes.

“I can't believe I have finally found the both of you.” Her words were a whisper as she gave him a soft squeeze. “It's really you...” She smiled wide as a tear escaped her eyelid and rolled down her cheek. These were the moments that life was suppose to be made of. “I knew eventually we'd find our way back. I never gave up that hope.”

“Told you.”

It was a nice break in the emotion that caused her to laugh out loud. Roht was a hard ass, in that there was no doubt. But she loved him, and knew he loved Avarice as family, and cared deeply about her as well. Though she would never speak those words aloud to him or anyone else. “Now Roht, you were just as surprised when I hugged you in public.” She winked at him, but continued to hold tight to Avarice. “It's a nice place you have here Mr. Lynch.” Her smile widened, no one had the knack for building glorious things from mediocrity like  Avarice did.

Edited by Sorano

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It's a nice place you have here Mr. Lynch

A laugh escaped him, brief but genuine, and he didn't have the presence nor the desire to put on a mask. Wonder, surprise, and a little shock still coursed through his blood as he guided her gently to one of the fine chairs decorating the meeting space in front of his desk. Without releasing her hand, for fear of her evaporating before his eyes, he reached back and pulled a second chair close for himself. Roht was already past the double doors, closing them behind himself with a surprisingly gentle motion and leaving the two of them alone.

“It's...Yes, it is, thank you.” He shook his head at himself with a smile. It was never this hard to put words in order. “It came with the job, and no one's asked me to leave yet.” His eyes met hers, green across from golden brown, and his voice grew quieter with each word. “We came here a year ago and it's been...”

Of its own accord, his hand rose to her temple, softly trailing his fingertips down her cheek the way he had done a hundred times before. It was instinctive, responding to her filling a hole in his soul with just her presence. His words trailed off, they weren't important anyways. His face softened, the smile fading away as his eyes traced the contours of her face. The relief in his eyes mixed with painful memories: flashes of the night of hell that accompanied the Whispernight storm.

“I thought I would never see you. How did you get out?”

 

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Nervous laughter. It said a lot about the man before her that was always so composed. While she had seen him vulnerable before, it was always by his will. This time, it was by hers. Tightly she wrapped her fingers around his hand, for she too feared that by some unnatural force that if she let go he would simply be gone.

The over-sized chair beckoned her as he guided her toward it. Made from the finest materials it was cozy and soft as she sat down with a foot under her buttocks. A relieved smile rested on her face as she listened to him talk about the building. Avarice made everything sound so wonderful always. At this point she could sit and listen to him talk about anything in the world that he wanted to and she would eagerly listen just to hear his voice.

Her breath caught in her throat as his hand touched her face, an action she was sure she would never have the pleasure of feeling again though she had never admitted it. She was lucky. They were lucky. There were a lot of people; men, woman and children...Entire families consumed by Whispernight. It did not discriminate. But somehow they managed to survive. All three of them. The odds were astronomical but she'd take them. Every time.

"I thought I would never see you. How did you get out?”

“The devastation was ungodly. I don't know how long you and Roht stuck around but everything was wiped out. Everything...” Her words trailed off for a moment and her eyes told him she was somewhere else, lost in the haunting memories of the last day of Celin City. Her free hand came to rest on her side where a wicked scar tattooed her flesh. She will never forget that day. It made damn sure of that.

Her eyes came to rest upon his and she cleared her throat as she forced a smile. “Some people found me, and together we all looked for people we lost, or who just needed help. We stayed as long as we could, but everything dark, evil came out of the woodwork. Humans and creatures alike staking claim to whatever they wanted as if the destruction that had already taken place wasn't enough.” She shook her head, a look of sadness stealing her features. “We stayed as long as we could. Leaving was the hardest thing I had to do. I felt like leaving there was leaving you. The guilt almost consumed me.” She wrapped her other hand around his, cupping his hand softly between the two. “As soon as I was strong enough to travel on my own, I broke off from the group and began to hit port cities that seemed to offer you things that might appeal to you. I thought it would be easier finding a man with your looks and a gnoll with his, but it proved to be trying most days, but here we are.”

Her fingertips trailed ever so softly up his arm relishing  every inch of it. She had dreamed hundreds of dreams from then until now. Each ending differently, but every single one leaving Avarice and Roht safe, sound and home. Sorano allowed her attention to stray from him and to her new surrounding. Home. Such a simple word with the deepest meaning. She had learned many years ago that home was not a place, but a state of mind. Her home would be wherever Avarice and Roht were. Silver Harbor.

"How did you two mange? I was certain that the two of you were in the middle of town. It took days to reach it after the storm hit. There wasn't even word on either of you." Sorano shook her head. Words could not describe the devastation that rained down on the city, thinking about it even now caused her heart to sink and a lump to form in her throat.

Edited by Sorano
Cause I said so.

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How did you two manage?

Avarice fought to keep the rise of emotions from reaching his face, but his hand on hers tightened involuntarily. Anger at the storm. Despair at his powerlessness. Resolve to rebuild.

Guilt.

“We were not in the city when the storm struck.”

 

* * * *

The warrens, farthest outreach of the notorious Celin City catacombs, were peppered with red clay and aged mold. They were far beneath the ground and, this far to the outskirts, were barely in the city at all. That made them a largely agreeable 'neutral ground' for shady meetings such as this one. From across the chamber, the lead bandit crossed his arms in disbelief.

“A riot, magistrate? You want a riot?”

“Yes.” Avarice began ticking items off on his fingers. “Covering at least two blocks. Catastrophic damage to at least four buildings. And bring the torches, I do love the aura of a horde of torches.”

“And our cut?”

“Your 'cut' will be paid in my companion's self-restraint in pursuing your operation.”

Roht's lip curled at the men. They glanced between themselves at silently came to a consensus.

“Alright, we're in.”

“Splendid. You'll find a good riot is the perfect catalyst for unity.” Avarice brushed off a bit of clay from his sleeve, and smiled. “People bond best in times of crisis.”

* * * *

“We were on the outskirts, below ground, holding court with some men of dubious character. Our position protected from the initial shock, and escaped from there. By the time we reached the surface, the city was...entirely enveloped in the storm. There was nothing we could do.”

He hated that phrase 'nothing we could do'. It always reeked of excuses for inaction, of the loss of control or the desire to change things. It wasn't until the Whispernight that he truly felt it in his soul, and begrudgingly gave the sentence merit. It was also the night he vowed not to be beaten by a storm again.

A smile brightened his face, and he gestured to the office around them. “I've begun anew. Again.” A playful, conspiratorial hush came over his words. “And this time, the forces of nature will not be enough to stop us.”

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Indeed the storm came from the depths of hell, intent on wreaking havoc on every inch it could reach. “You guys were so lucky. I'm so glad...so glad.” Her words ceased and she swallowed hard while shaking her head. Tightly she squeezed his hand. “I'm sorry.” Her words were forced and hushed. “I have this lump.” Her hand came to her throat and rested upon it lightly. “Every single night I dreamed of this very moment. Even though the deck was stacked against me. Us, even. It was the only thing that kept me going.” Her lips curled upward and she nodded clearing her throat. “No need to dwell on it now I suppose.”

Sorano came to her feet and moved to the window, a noticeable limp in her usually elegant gate. From here she looked down on his world that glimmered in the sun like silver coins being spilled from the heavens. It was breathtaking. “I knew what I signed up for when we met and decided not to part ways.” She chuckled. “A life of planned mediocrity wasn't part of the deal, was it?” She turned toward him and leaned against the deep window sill. “I was meant to find you Avarice. Not once, but twice and against unbelievable odds.” She halfheartedly shrugged her left shoulder. “To me that says something.”

Deliberate steps carried her to behind him, and she ran her hands down his shoulders to his chest. “I know your business isn't always on the up and up, and I know you try to shield me from such dealings and while I appreciate that, I want to be a part of your dreams and ambitions. Unless of course that isn't what you want.” Something she hadn't considered until this very moment when the words escaped her lips without thought.

“This place is lovely. I could very easily call it home for as long as you wanted to stay here. I could leave in the drop of the hat if you so desired to relocate. But I'd like to be apart of this with you and Roht. I want to pull my own weight. I want to share your dream.”

Edited by Sorano

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I want to share your dream.

A moment of indecision flashed through his eyes, a consequence of the year spent apart from her. He had never gotten used to her absence, no matter what he had told himself, and his mind was still reeling from her sudden reappearance. And just as soon as the thought had come, it was vanquished and gone.

Avarice took her hands, slowly turning her towards the desk, walking her towards it as he drifted behind her. Arrayed across its beautiful darkwood surface were dozens of letters, drawings, and estimations of a dozen different plans. To the uninitiated, it looked like the ramblings of a madman, but to Avarice it was an intricate mandala: a breathtaking spiral of patterns and color that led to one inevitable conclusion.

This was it: his new play in the grand game. The hand of cards salvaged from Celin, forged in Silver Harbor, and now assembled and ready to be played. Not even Roht knew the full extent of what lay scattered across the desk in sketches, notes, and figures.

His arms circled her waist, and his lips pressed softly against the back of her neck.

“Let me show you.”

 

* * * *

The harbor was quiet at night, echoing the soft rumblings of the boats as they brushed against the piers and each other like a gentle chorus. The lights which flanked the waterfront gave off a warm blot of light in the cool sea air, forming a perfect line like a rank of soldiers before them. Avarice, gently escorting Sorano by her arm, glanced from one side to the other periodically, smiling and nodding to the few Silver Harbor natives out at this hour.

Roht walked a good twenty paces behind them, doing a marvelous job of minding his own business.

“The town was poorly used for a long time. Smugglers and the like preferred it as an unloading point before going overland to Methzaluen.” He pointed to the northeast, and the trading hub far away. “Since they were evicted, we've set up formal trading routes on the same idea. It's been a profitable venture, and the airship waystation will do much for that.”

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