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Old 08-06-2012, 07:07 PM
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Arrow Inquisitives - Turn 18

Regrouping

Raena paced restlessly despite everyone insisting she sit and rest. She wasn’t nearly as pale as she had been not too long ago, but she was still feeling worn and drawn. The metallic taste in the back of her throat was a lingering reminder of the poison in her system. Or was it the antitoxin that Mr Quinn had given her, she wondered idly. She had cast a Lesser Restoration upon herself, but she still felt weak and sluggish. Maybe it was all in her head.

“Thank you all for what you’ve done,” she said to the motley crew assembled in the office when Mardu and June returned. Hawksley had just finished making tea for everyone and was searching for a serving tray in the cabinet. Sir Wireburn was nearby, hunched over his sword, patiently working out the nicks in the blade with a special whetstone. Anselm was admiring the craftsmanship of the large desk while Han recuperated on the sofa. Altus leaned against the back wall as casually as he could manage, but still appeared very tense. Durion stood next to the couch ramrod straight with his hat under his arm, watching everyone with a critical eye. Oddly enough, the wolf was nowhere to be seen.

“I feel guilty that you’ve all been dragged into this,” the priestess continued, acutely aware that all eyes were on her again. “If I hadn’t stood up to that halfling extortionist, the bugbear might still be alive, and none of this would’ve happened. I’m afraid of how this will all turn out after what just happened. If that was what happens when you stand up to one Boromar, what will happen after standing up to a raiding party of Talenta halflings?...”

Durion looked at her with a quizzical eye. "We begin by noting what our enemies could do, then we consider what they are most likely to do, then we go about our lives with an air of mindfulness.". He took a deep breath. "In the meantime, we have acquired some additional intelligence and resources. We have some further idea of their capabilities, and they have some idea of ours. We must not be caught off guard like this again."

“Again,” Raena murmured thoughtfully. She pulled herself together and offered the elf a wan smile. “And what about the note pinned to the bugbear? This ‘M’ is still on the loose threatening someone, and we’re supposed to stop it from happening?...”

"And we shall." He returned her smile with a far broader one of his own. "The game is afoot!"

Hawksely coughed gently, seeking Raena’s attention.

“If I may, Priestess [or whatever an appropriate greeting is for a cleric of her stature is][Rh: ‘Priestess’ will do, as the Sovereign Host is a loose organisation. If she were a member of the Church of the Silver Flame, it would be more in line with the Catholic titles and honorifics.] , I would ask beg your indulgence on a few matters, before I must off and engage in some investigations regarding this note and our larger problems.”

Pausing for her acknowledgement, he then continued:

“If you recall, we have yet to have the time or opportunity to sit down and discuss our business in detail. However, I do believe that one point has been established beyond any controversy: you are in danger and a target of some plot. This is as my employer suspected and part of the reason I was engaged. I have tried to not importune you too much, but I believe that there is reason now to perhaps make clear our arrangements and, in particular, see to your security. I took the liberty of hiring some men to keep an eye on the area, good men who helped us in our recent battle. I believe it is time to bring them in, introduce them to you, and to engage in clear planning, with the explicit efforts being bent towards keeping you safe. Not -- “, his hands came up preemptively, warding off complaints before they were fully voiced,” -- sequester you or infantilize you, no. But you are a target and a target of assassins and there are few better resources you could have at hand than good Sir Wireburn, who has proven a worthy companion, a fierce warrior and who does not need to sleep. Also, as a separate matter, I do believe that reviewing the files your uncle was working on would be of some benefit in penetrating the murk surrounding this matter.”

“I remember,” Raena said, meeting his eye steadily. “And I am inclined to agree that someone seems intent on trying to kill me.” She rubbed her side subconsciously as she began to pace again. “And your employer had the foresight to send you to protect me. I am grateful. Truly. But the hired protectors were not by my side when I was hit, nor were you or Sir Wireburn. You were all suitably distracted. We all were.” She chewed her thumbnail in irritation as she organised her thoughts.

“To be fair, you made it clear that you were not comfortable with our intervention. I balanced my commitment to your safety with my respect for your autonomy. My men were not at your side because you would not have allowed it; they were working under such restrictions as I felt I had to make to respect your wishes. Moreover, they acquitted themselves well in the ensuing melee. If you are going to assess their (and my) effectiveness, I would appreciate it if you would take note of the lovely manacles I wear at your request, restricting my hand in this manner. I was not at your side? I treated when you were poisoned. I killed numerous men on your behalf and for your protection, at no small risk to myself. Likewise, Sir Wireburn acted swiftly, decisively and without heed to personal safety, also on your behalf.”

“I appreciate your honesty of intent, because I would certainly resent being sequestered,” she said at length. “I shall take more precautions and wear proper armour if needs be, but I will not be coddled or forced behind others who would face unknown enemies in my place. Call it pride or stubbornness, but I simply won’t stand for it. I will take my own chances. I don’t want others dying for me. Ever.” She gave Hawksley a look that said the matter was closed, at least from her point of view.

“Consider that had I been allowed to take a more direct hand in organizing and arranging your protection, fewer people might have died and the surprise might not have happened at all or may not have been as disastrous. I will always respect your agency, but I do expect due consideration in return. It is not fair to deny protection on the basis of complaints about a protection that could only happen if hampered by restrictions you laid on them. As it stands, I took a liberty in arranging for men to be at hand. And we have thwarted one clear attempt on you.”

Raena opened her mouth as if to reply, then closed it again. She chewed her thumbnail in irritation.

“I’ll concede an attempt on my life was thwarted, yes,” she said finally. “And had you not had some form of protection arranged, things could have been a lot worse. For that I am grateful. I just don’t want to be treated like some object that needs to be locked away to keep safe...

“As for the separate matter of my uncle’s files,” she hurried on before anyone could object, “I think we could all benefit from reviewing them. I want to know what this is all about. I think Uncle Antos was killed because of what he was investigating. I think I am being targeted because whoever it is thinks I will figure something out and do something about it. And that is precisely what I intend to do.”

“After we stop ‘M’ from killing someone else?” Altus asked quietly. He pushed his muscular frame away from the wall, his armour barely impeding his graceful movements. “I caught a glimpse of the note. We’re being challenged. I, for one, don’t want to see someone killed when we have a chance to stop it.”

“I can get some help from the Watch,” Mardu volunteered. “It may be useful to have eyes and ears around the city, and it is our ‘civic duty’ to assist the Watch with their enquiries.”

“You’re right,” Raena said, glad to shift attention off of the target on her back. “So who is the intended victim? Do we have any ideas?”

“I have some thoughts, but I need to do some poking about, which I will get to as soon as we establish a clear protocol for our cooperation and your protection. Not to be stubborn, but protecting you and thwarting our enemy appear to be at least related goals, if not completely overlapping ones.”

“Protocol? Cooperation?” Raena asked, surprised. “What do you want me to say? You’ll probably do what you want regardless of my input, as you already have.” She did smile somewhat, to soften her words. She had to admit to herself that she was grateful, and a bit flattered by Mr Quinn’s initiative.
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Old 08-06-2012, 07:24 PM
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Default Regrouping (Continued)

“Might I make a recommendation?” Altus interrupted. “I too am tasked with protecting Raena. She knows this and chooses to ignore it. But we are both aware of it. And we work for the same Powers That Be. I mean no disrespect in this, Mr Quinn, but you are employed by an unknown quantity to her.” The paladin raised his hand to forestall any objections before continuing.

“Your goals are noble, but the fact that you are employed by a third party is somewhat concerning. We have all just only met, and it is difficult to secure trust based on such a short period of familiarity without any other bonds that tie. Perhaps if you were to work directly for Ms Mordaine, as an agent for the Inquisitive Service, your loyalties would lie with her and the business, rather than for another?...”

Raena glared openly at the paladin, but did not object. Instead, she waited to hear Hawksley’s response. She casually scanned each of the faces in the room, wondering what their own reactions would be as well.

“Hmmmm. That is an interesting idea. It bears a bit of consideration -- I cannot abandon my client entirely, however, nor am I at liberty to make this decision on my own, as all business matters are shared between Sir Wireburn and myself. However, presuming that my colleague is amenable, I think working as a part of the Keldoran Agency would be a good move for us, in the growth of our own careers, with the understanding that we would be working towards something of a partnership stake. Aside from that, we would need to inform our current client that he or she is now doing business directly with Keldoran (and associates, perhaps?) and be reassured that his or her interests remain a top priority and will be well-represented. How does that sound?”

“Partnership?” Raena gasped. Altus rolled his eyes and tried valiantly not to smile.

“Well, but of course -- surely you didn’t expect Sir Wireburn and myself to be content to toil away in obscurity, did you?”

He grinned and winked.

“For myself, I’m happy to work my way up to partner. Sir Wireburn may need more persuasion -- his skills are obvious and his renown grows by the hour.”

Raena gaped.

“You arrogant, pig-headed--” she began, but managed to stop herself before she spat anything else out. “You want partnership in a business I haven’t even begun to take over yet? I just inherited it! I don’t even know if I want to keep it! I don’t believe you!”

Hawksley threw his head back and laughed.

“Oh dear... I seem to have given offense. Guilty, my dear, guilty. I am indeed arrogant. I have also proven myself amply, no?”

He wiped a tear from the corner of his eye, a last few chuckles dying down.

“Priestess, please do not misunderstand me: I have no avaricious designs upon you or your chattels. I was offered a proposal, which I considered and then counter-proposed. That is the custom, is it not? Was I meant to meekly accept an offer in the hope that it might possibly earn me a gram of trust? I think you can trust me better now, given that I am speaking here clearly and without pretense. To pretend that I am without ambition would be disingenuous and insulting to your intellect. I am, after all, arrogant, no? I have plans, goals, intentions. I seek to lead a useful, worthwhile life of service as an inquisitive, but I also intend to have that life be celebrated. I wish to become renowned for the challenges I overcome and the problems I solve -- is glory so alien and so incompatible a goal, along with the true, the good and the beautiful?”

Raena stood there staring at Hawksley for what seemed an awfully long time. So long in fact, she wondered if anyone else had noticed. What had she gotten herself into with this pompous young man? Why was he spouting philosophy and goals and ambition? And why did it irritate her so bloody much?

“Very well,” she said coldly. “You have ambition to rise within an organisation? You wish to be recognised for your work and your prowess? Then I suppose you won’t mind starting out as a simple employee to begin with, taking orders from the person who owns the business. If you want to earn my trust, then you will do this. How we got on from there will depend on how much of my trust you can earn. Not by conveniently showing up to warn me of danger and arranging for protection behind my back. No, you need to be open and honest with me. Your candid nature should allow you to do that, shouldn’t it? Or is that too pedestrian for someone as erudite as yourself?”

She stood with hands on hips daring him to say something flippant again. And she regretted every second of it...

“At the risk of straining my reputation for pedantry to the breaking point, I did already say that I was willing to sign on in such a capacity, so long as it was understood that I would be working towards a partnership stake, no? Moreover, as for doing things ‘behind your back’, well, you only know about those because I told you. While I do not expect to have earned your trust already, I do expect my efforts to be better than pouring water into sand: I have consistently acted towards your best interests here and I have been as forthcoming as possible. Again, I cannot speak for the partnership myself, but so long as Sir Wireburn is amenable, I will happily call you ‘boss’ and conduct myself in a manner appropriate to my station in your employ.”

“Oh. Right. You did..." Her cheeks flushed in frustration. That man had a way of getting under her skin.

“So,” Altus interrupted before Raena could say anything else that would make her more vulnerable, “We are in accord?” He looked expectantly at his charge, guiding her eyes with his towards the form of Sir Wireburn.

Raena took a deep breath and let it out slowly.

“So, Sir Wireburn,” she called out, surprised her voice remained steady still. “What say you to the offer of employment? Would you be willing to join this business, lending your obvious skills and growing renown?”

Sir Wireburn had listened to the exchange quietly, using the leather coat of one of the halflings to wipe the blood from the blade of his sword. He let the blade hang from a moment from three fingers grasping the pommel. He tapped the blade with a single finger, and listened to the musical hum while he considered her words.

“I am not,” he said, as he slid the blade smoothly back into the shoulder sheath, “such an artist nor of such disposition that I scorn the necessary methods of employment that support my quests. You strike me as honorable, and someone who will stick to the spirit as well as the letter of any contracts between us. Yes. Yes, I believe I like the sound of this business.”

“Well, then, it would appear that the matter is settled! Offer extended and accepted.” Hawksley smiled. “Perhaps similar arrangements can be made with good Han, the indomitable Durion and the enigmatic June? It would seem to me that a top consulting inquisitive agency needs a versatile staff on hand and what we have assembled here is just such a versatile group, one that is already grouped by common cause already. Additionally, I think that, at the very least, we should consider putting Anselm on retainer, if not hiring him outright. He’s certainly handy in a tight spot, but he is an invaluable resource in securing, procuring and trading exotic equipment, another thing a good consulting inquisitive agency must be mindful of.”

Raena stared at Hawksley, openly shocked that he would suggest hiring practically everyone in the room.

“Let me guess,” she snapped, “I can’t hire Mardu because he works for the Watch already. Do you think I can afford to employ everyone? Who do you think--”

Altus clamped a hand on her shoulder.

“Please allow me to help you bring your belongings upstairs,” the paladin said to her in a tone that did not allow for argument. “You need a moment to clear your thoughts before you say or do anything rash. Please make yourselves comfortable for a moment,” he said to the rest of the group. “We’ll be right back.”

Altus scooped up a bag that had been tucked behind Antos’s desk and held open the back door for Raena. The priestess glared a moment longer at Hawksley before storming off up the stairs.

“If you can figure out some way for me to pay everyone, I’ll consider your proposal, Mr Quinn,” she called down as Altus followed her up.

***
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Old 08-06-2012, 07:25 PM
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Rhakir Rhakir is offline
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Default Regrouping (Continued)

“I can’t believe him,” Raena muttered after she opened the bedroom door. “He actually thinks I’ can hire everyone downstairs? Who does he think he is?” She was still flustered by Hawksley’s behaviour, and she took it out on the bag she hurled onto the bed.

Is glory so alien and so incompatible a goal, along with the true, the good and the beautiful?” she quoted with perfect recall, mocking his tone. “The true, the good, and the beautiful? Was he trying to impress me with his grasp of Cyran philosophies, or was he trying to flirt with me?”

“Well, you are young, single, and attractive,” Altus replied from the doorway as he leaned against the frame. “And so is he. I fail to see a problem there.”

Raena shot him a venomous look.

“What? Just because I have a life partner doesn’t mean I can’t notice when a young man is good looking,” Altus smiled as he ducked the pillow hurled at his head. “I’m fairly certain Harrold would agree that the boy is good looking.”

“That’s curious,” Raena said, facing the window.

“Not really. I catch him looking at young guys when he doesn’t think I notice. As long as he... Oh. You were talking about that.”

‘That’ was the heavy crossbow leaning against the window. The windlass was on the floor next to it, as was a case with heavy bolts. Raena was peering at the windlass closely.

“Does this look like fur to you?” she asked, holding the device up for Altus to inspect. She glanced past the paladin to the open closet behind him. It looked as if someone had quickly rummaged through it.

“The wolf?” Altus asked, examining the tuft of dark fur caught in the gearworks.

“The wolf,” Raena agreed. “How did it...?”

“Are you sure you want to know?” Altus asked as he hefted the crossbow. It was heavy in weight as well as strength.

“No, not really,” she lied.

“Do you want to tell the others?”

“No, not really.”

“Right.”

The priestess and paladin collected the items and found where they belonged on the top shelf of the closet. Raena suppressed a shiver when she realised she was on tip-toes to reach the shelf.

“Is every day going to be this distressing?” she asked as they went back downstairs.

“Things could be worse,” Altus replied. “It could get even more distressing.”

“You aren’t helping.”

“I know.”

***

Raena returned downstairs, composed but still troubled. She glanced around the room at everyone and took a deep breath to steady her nerves.

“My apologies. I did not mean to lose my temper. Things have been...distressing today. Before we go on about hiring one and all, I think we need to stop ‘M’ first,” she said as she stood behind her uncle’s desk, now her own. “Let’s consider this the interview process, shall we?”

[Responses? Comments? Actions?]
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Necessity is the mother of moral reletivism...

Last edited by Rhakir; 08-06-2012 at 07:31 PM.
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