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ElvenSeeker

Curmudgeonly poodle-lady wants her money back.

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On the terrace of a rather posh cafe, Yineffe passed her gaze over the displays below. Mageside City was lively, people everywhere. Academy students mostly, fresh-faced youth hustling about, carrying tomes and hawk feathers, cracked spice and crystals. She took a deep breath, shifting herself carefully.

The bazaar was below, loud, lining the alley with hooting stall-keepers. The drinks were a draw. The cafe served her favorite mint flavored tea, but she was really there to watch the local painter practice.

He was a fascinating creature.

She had been in the city for a time and she had seen him labor over his creations like the world beyond him did not exist. Wearing an navy smock, sat at his easel, his brow crinkled in concentration. He painted beautifully exotic tradesmen and street performers. His face was clean shaven and his light-colored hair was clipped. He was middle aged, Yineffe surmised, the sweeping brush stokes of his work suggesting seasoned confidence.

Artisans were highly thought of in her clan, creativity a rare and desired gift...

“Handsome, don’t you agree?”

Yineffe whipped her head up, catching the eye of the older woman who stood near her table. “Sorry?”

“My husband,” the woman pointed, pulling out the other chair. “The painter?”

Yineffe felt her face twist in embarrassment.

The newcomer was dress in a tight grey pant suit. She was a much older woman, plump, with dark eyes and thin wrinkled lips. On a short leash she ushered two dogs around. Both stood on stick-thin legs and had hair gathered at each joint in odd little puffs. Yineffe frowned, clearly a vanity breed.

“I’ve seen you poking around the public portion of the academy library.” The other woman spoke, sitting elegantly across from Yineffe with a pleased sigh. “You’re trying to study magic, aren’t you?"

Yineffe glared over the rim of her cup and arched a brow. “Who are you?”

“Leanna Bontavia, dear.” She spoke her name like Yineffe should know it. “I’m an administrator for the academy. I have been for years...” With scarre few words, a waiter delivered a white cup and saucer to their table. Bontavia took the teacup in hand and flipped her greying hair with pride.

“I can get you some free training with a professor or two. If you agree to aid me.”

Yineffe nearly choked on her tea. “Aid you how?”

Bontavia wet her lips, thinking. “My nephew and I had an arrangement,” she explained. “I front the money for his startup company, a distillery, and he sends me 60% of the profits.” Her eyes flashed in anger. “I was receiving the money right along, until a few weeks ago. He just vanished. No one can find him.”

“I have a sneaky suspicion,” she continued, “that he didn’t start a business at all and that he was sending small portions of my own money back to me instead, and pocketing the rest!”

She patted one of the hounds heads at her side. “I want someone to track him down and return my money.”

Yineffe paused, looking down to the bottom of her cup through her clear tea. “I do not know you. Why ask me?”

“I’ve asked several people thus far, you are the first stranger. I think my nephew is paying off my friends and family in exchange for their silence on the matter.”

Eyes narrowed, Yineffe considered the offer. Finding a well connected man in this city could be complicated, more so if he had any magical skill. She knew the very basic layout of the city, enough to survive, but little beyond that.

Seeming to sense her hesitation, Bontavia reassured, “it shouldn’t be very difficult to find him. He stands out. Just convince him to return the money and my academy resources are at your disposal.”

“Alright...” Yineffe agreed, although hesitant.

“Great!” The other woman grinned. She took a pad of paper from her purse and scribbled a few notes on it. “That is his name and addressed of his supposed business." She said, handing off the note. "I suggest you start there.”

Somewhat bewildered, Yineffe stood, shuffling on her coat.

Bontavia stood as well and offered her hand. Yineffe tentatively shook it.

“Good luck, dear...”

Edited by ElvenSeeker

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When one wishes to make a journey of self discovery and enlightenment, the common trend is to go somewhere secluded or out of the way. In doing so, it is believed that the journeyman is then able to listen to the spirit, thus gaining the insight into their true self and achieving what they wished to learn. 

Gao Hua went a different route for enlightenment. 

Gao Hua, a budding sorcerer fresh from the grips of academic life in Alethea, he seeks what many of the Consortium of Arcane Collectors want, knowledge. Naturally he thought of doing as many others had, poring over dusty old tomes in the libraries of Alethea, amassing knowledge and working towards a specialty in which to hone his magical practices in, but that didn't appeal to him. Gao is a social creature, as he would call himself, and so he instead decided to make a trip over to Mageside city in order to satisfy both his thirst for knowledge as well as allow him to interact with others firsthand. 

So it was that the yellow scaled Dragonborn made his way from the recovering city of Alethea and traveled via air ship all the way over to the bustling metropolis of Mageside City. It was a refreshing sight, he thought to himself, gazing upon the rising towers of such grandiose aesthetic that he was almost ran over by a passing spellcycle. After that he learned it might be best to admire the sights of this strange stone and glass domain in a nonstatic position. Taking a cursory glance around him, the traveler settled on a cafe that looked to host a good deal of high class patrons within itself. 

Entering inside he learned rather quickly, however, that he was not able to purchase much of anything in the store besides a complimentary glass of water. Thanking the staff for their service, Gao took a seat upon one of the chairs situated at an outside table, he placed the impressively large journal on the table, took out his quill and ink, and began recording some surface information he could glean by observation alone.

Mageside City is a marvelous place. It is expensive, but the people are nice, and so far I have not been judged for my appearance or my mannerisms. 

During these recordings, Guo wondered at times how his beliefs might change as he spent more time here. Surely he would need a job, as his meager collection of coin would not be enough for an extended stay in a foreign city. He hoped the job he acquired would have something to do with his passion, but he knew that beggars could not be choosers.

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"Good luck, she says." Yineffe snorted to herself, marching off to the exit. She had strong misgivings about Leanna Bontavia, about her nephew, about the whole situation. She was low on funds, however, and she had traveled a great distance to be here. Even the chance to study in the academy should have been motivation enough... Unhappy, Yineffe paid the young elf at the bar her last few coins and ducked out of the cafe, the taste of her tea still on her lips. 

Outside, she glared into the sun. 

With the note she was given still in her hand, she unfolded it and studied it haphazardly. The nephew's name was Arland, no surname was given and the distillery was written simply as 'Fauna' founded by a scribbled address.

Just then a light breeze stole her note and shoved it into the face of a nearby patron. She snatched it back as quickly as she lost it and found herself eye to eye with a lizard man the likes of which she had never seen before. "Ah-"

She flicked her eyes over him, noting his appealing golden shade and the tome spread open on his table. "Forgive me," she straightened. "Are you a student, by chance?"

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"Yes." Gao replied, scratching the bridge of his snout from the paper hitting his face. "I just came from Alethea. My name is Gao Hua, pleased to meet you." He extended his clawed hand, giving a toothy smile with his introduction. This was what he was hoping for with his visit to the city. "What's your name, if I may ask?"

After the introductions were complete, he spoke of his business in the city. "I'm taking a small soujourn here in Mageside so I might learn more about magic and it's mysteries. Are you here on similar business as well?"

The conversation seemed to be going well, he thought to himself, at least he hoped so. It was hard at times to gauge the reactions of non dragonborn facial features, but he was not discouraged from continuing. In such a large city, there were likely many other people willing to speak with him if he so wanted, which was a relief in a sense. 

"I noticed from your paper you might be visiting someone. Is this a friend of yours?" He waited a time, listening to her answer and nodding. "Interesting. Might I join you on this? My own situation in the city is tight, but I believe we can both benefit by working together on this problem. Surely she would not mind allowing both of us to use the Academic resources promised for the completion of this task, right?" 

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Yineffe considered Gao Hua's offer. She certainly welcomed the help, but she did not know the level of danger involved with her little wayward quest. The dragon-lizard-man did appear intimidating and capable. The thought of facing him in a fight was quite unnerving and she was glad for his civil attitude. Suppose she did run into trouble, more then she could handle, having someone watch her back was a sound idea.

Absently, Yineffe brought her finger tips to her collar. She surveyed the pattern of scales on his forearms, wondering if he found his own skin uncomfortable....

After a moment of internal debate, she gave a light smile. "I'm heading east, I believe. You may join me if you wish." 

The pair strolled together passing by the shops and stalls. Yineffe made some rather energetic small talk with her new companion. She was curious of his origins, his homeland, what he hoped to master at the academy.

As they walk she apprised his large clawed feet with prudence. The world beyond her desert was odd indeed.

Together they came to the distillery address. It was a narrow building tucked several streets behind the district square. They stood on a shady back road lined with shipping crates and soggy boxes, glaring up at the shop. There were three rows of windows, suggesting three stories, each boarded shut. The faded green paint was flaking off the brick facade and the left outdoor sconce was absent. Stone steps lead up to a tall wood door that was framed in several elegant glass panes, many of which cracked. "It appears abandoned," she thought aloud, carefully ascending the steps to the door. She cupped her hands and squinted through the glass but could not identify anything through the layer of dust and dirt. 

She tried the handle. It was locked. She jiggled, yanked, and pulled, but to no avail. 

Heaving a sigh, Yineffe glanced over her shoulder. "So, Gao" she said, quirking a brow. "Can you pick a lock?" 

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Examining the lock, Gao thought for a moment, first looking at the windows, then at the general state of the building they were at. "I don't think they would have placed any protective spells on the door." He mused. "Which means I might be able to unlock it, assuming it's not too complicated of a lock."

Opening up his tome, the fledgling wizard began flipping through pages of draconian runes until he stopped at one page. "There we are. This spell unlocks very basic locks. According to Zang Ba's treatise on Arcane Manipulations of the Mundane World, the act of 'cheating' the natural workings of an object like a lock is a very precarious thing." 

Slowly he began to channel his magic, a faint purple glow emanating from his hand as he pressed it against the door. "The more complicated the object being cheated, the more power and intricacy required to do the cheating. He theorized that locks are easier to manipulate due to the power of simple intentions. Essentially" a clicking sound was heard, and he opened the door "it's very easy to want a lock to open."

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"You impress me, Gao Hua," she smiled.  

Yineffe followed her friend into the shop and shut the door, not wanting to rouse the authorities. When she truly had a moment to take in the room, her brow crinkeled. It was covered in books, stacks and stacks of dusty old tomes reaching floor to ceiling. Shelves lined the outer walls so full of books the wood sagged under their weight. Cabinets were pressed against cabinets filled with hundreds of scrolls. There was a stair case toward the back, each step stacked along one side with yet more books. 

Yineffe weaved through silently, watching her step. 

She stopped at a waist high stack and flipped through the top tome. It was full of illuminated illustrations of magical events. A page flopped open near the center. A script, one she could not read crowded the right page, the drawing of a massive dragon-like figure dominated the left. 

"So it is literature, not liquor?"

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"An accumulation of so much literary knowledge is indeed strange. Why purchase all of these books when he could have started a business like he promised?" He joined Yineffe in looking through some of the tomes, curious as to what they may contain. 

"Looks like our friend was interested in magic." He looked upon the dragon and made an inquisitive hum in his throat. "Interesting."

The dragon was a mighty looking beast, with intimidating claws, full wings and enough of a wingspan to suggest it could travel a great distance. "A powerful dragon indeed, I should say. From the looks of him, or her I should say, it's likely the dragon is some kind of exalted figure in the book, like how a religious figure might be looked up to. Many dragons contain powerful magic within them, able to cast incredible spells and change the landscape to their whims. Speculation, of course, but an interesting notion nonetheless."

His attention went back to looking through the rows of bookshelves. "My people aren't descended from dragons, we're more like distant cousins than immediate family."

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Yineffe considered what her companion said, taking the tome and tucking it away in her coat. She would have something to show Bontavia, hopefully explaining were the bulk of her loan had gone. 

"Do you suppose Arland was looking for something?" She offered her friend, filtering through the collection of hoarded scrolls. "A spell perhaps?" 

As she explored, Yineffe thought on it. If that was the case, what sort of spell? Presumably one that could raise an entire functioning distillery from two wood planks and a dream...

Yineffe progressed to the staircase, pausing a moment to listen. All was quiet given their presence. She waited for Gao to join her before she headed up.

The aging wood steps creaked under foot as they went. When they came to the top the room opened into an empty expanse.

A few scraps of paper littered the hardwood floors, the large windows covered in grime like the windows downstairs. A haze settled over the room. At the far end of there was mirror propped up against the wall. Next to that a sheet covered mattress was set up on the floor along with a few stray personal belongs scattered about.

 

Edited by ElvenSeeker

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"Oh my." Gao said, looking about this room, noting how much smaller it was from the one downstairs. "It looks as if he loved here, in order to reduce the interruptions to his work. This man was more than interested in magic, he was obsessed with it."

The collection of knowledge could be understood, respected even, but this took things to a disturbing level. He was beginning to think something sinister might be afoot here.

"Yineffe, I am starting to believe that perhaps this man wasn't here to pursue benevolent causes. He deceives his aunt for the money to purchase an incredible amount of books, then begins to live here so he can study relentlessly. The very fact that he isn't here to try and rebuke us from this place, it invokes feelings of foreboding within me." Looking to the mirror, he could see just how much worry his face betrayed.

As he suspected, there was a door he suspected lead to the rest of the rooms in this floor, but he was hesitant to explore any further. "Perhaps we should report what we have found, and see what our employer wants us to do next?"

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Not willing to leave just yet, Yineffe allowed her eyes to drift around the room. She moved over to a closet, the doors cracked just a fingers width. "Be thorough," she told her friend. "We may find a clue to Arland's wereab-"  

A stranger burst from the closet in a flurry of robes. The force knocked Yineffe to the floor. She scrambled, trying to get back up. In the sudden confrontation, Yineffe grasped a fist of the stranger's coat, trying to hold him back. 

There was an audible rip.

He darted away, down the steps.

"Gao! Stop him!" 

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"I'm on it!" They Dragonborn said, chasing after the mysterious man with great urgency. "Stop at once!"

The command fell on deaf ears, and Gao was forced to try and keep up with the stranger through the tangled mess of books. While he was able to navigate at a slower pace, Gao found it impossible to do the same whilst giving chase, while the stranger seemed all too familiar with his surroundings to be slowed down by them. He had to do something quickly, or else he was going to lose him.

In an effort to be helpful, he took out his book and attempted to search for a sufficient spell to apprehend their newest suspect. Unfortunately all this did was cause him to not watch where he was going, tripping over a thick volume of Incantations of Good Fortune Through the Ages, crashing into a stack of books.

He groaned, rubbing his head as he collected himself, unsure of exactly what happened. "Oh dear, I let him get away."

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As soon as she was on her feet, Yineffe was in pursuit, storming after Gao down the narrow steps. Their target weaved through the hoard of books with ease, gaining distance. She squeezed through the wider stacks, trying to cut him off. That was until Gao crashed into a stack, throwing tomes wildly against another tower. It collapsed in a landslide of books, burring them both. 

There was a moment of stillness as a few loose scraps of parchment fluttered down. Yineffe groaned. "Gao." She wiggled loose and stood before hobbling over to her friend. "Are you alright?" He was a bit bruised and disappointed. She helped him cautiously to his feet. 

"I believe that was Arland," she frowned in abhorrent disgust. 

They left the shop somewhat befuddled and annoyed. Yineffe checked both directions, up and down the side street, but knew their target was long gone already. "We should seek out Bontavia at the academy, I think. She might have an idea of what Arland was searching for.

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"I hope so. This mystery is getting more interesting by the moment." He said, sighing to himself as he felt what was surely going to be bruises in the morning. His head was spinning from all the possibilities of what this Arland could be doing, and not having an answer ate at him. 

"I'm sorry for not being able to catch him." Gao said as they made their way out of the building and on towards the Academy. "Sometimes I can't remember every spell, and I..." He sighed, feeling frustrated. 

Here he was hoping to make a good impression and succeed in the world, and yet he had already started out as a blundering fool. Hopefully he found a means to redeem himself soon, or he would have to leave the city out of embarrassment alone. 

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After huffing up the staircase to the academy entrance, Yineffe eyed her companion before they entered. She had been at the Academy a number of times since her arrival, haunting the public portion of the library in hopes of catching the eye of a wayward professor or even an assistant. She wanted to learn, but more than that she needed guidance. her skillset was specific and she wanted a broader range of spells in her arsenal. 

Her and Gao wandered through the towering halls. The marble floor was recently polished, catching the light in a flare of warm yellow and orange. The walls were an endless chain of massive arch ways reaching high overhead in a crisscross pattern. She breathed, nervousness in her heart. Together they reached the administration office after asking for help from a passer-by. 

They entered. The room was drab and tight, lined with heavy wood panels and dark green stones. Yineffe approached the older man at the front desk. "Is Leanna Bontavia available?"

The older man frowned and pushed his glasses up his sizable nose. "I will see," he grumbled. On thin, shaky legs he stood and moved behind the desk to a nearby room.

Yineffe moved to the display cabinet full of framed accolades. Each one was signed with a thick swatch of ink, 'Bontavia'. She glanced at Gao, communicating her reservations through her eyes. 

"News already?" Bontavia poked out of the room, grinning at Yineffe, before she noticed Gao. 

"This is my associate," Yineffe said. "Gao Hua."

The other woman flashed a wide smile that didn't once grace her eyes. "Ah, well, come in." She held the door open as they filed in.  

Immediately, her dogs came charging over, pushing at Yineffe's hands with their cold noses. Yineffe pulled away. She would never understand why humans kept animals that had no purpose other then shedding. 

Curiously, Bontavia sat at the window looking forlornly out at the gardens. "What did you find at the distillery?"

Yineffe pulled out the tomb and handed it to her. "Books, little else but books." 

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