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Old 01-28-2012, 04:15 PM
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Arrow Inquisitives - Turn 1

In the Company of Strangers...
Number 5, Cavendish Tower, Dava Gate
Together, June and Mardu stepped up to the door and knocked...

“If no one answers, do we just go in?” Her whisper was so low that Mardu didn’t hear it the first time. He was staring down at the steps, apparently lost in thought.

“What?” Mardu looked up at the sorceress, trying hard to maintain a straight face.

”If no one answers, do we just go in?”

“I’m not sure that’s such a good thing,” Mardu said gravely. “I don’t want to alarm you, but I just realised there’s nobody on guard at the door, and there’s blood on the step.”

The half-orc was reaching for his shortsword and hand axe when the door was yanked open from inside. An attractive young woman dressed in the robes of a Cleric of the Sovereign Host was framed in the doorway grasping a bloodied sword.

“I thought I told you to NEVER COME BACK!” she shouted.

For a moment, all three of them just stopped and stared. June glanced at the sign hanging above the door, then at Mardu, then back to the wild-eyed woman with the sword. The woman stared openly at the beautiful blonde girl - no, not a girl - young woman and then at the muscular, bald half-orc.

“Do you need help?” June asked with a concerned smile.

“Um...Er...” Raena lowered her sword, realising how this must look to the newcomers. She quickly whipped the sword behind her back in an attempt to hide it from view. With her free hand, she nervously brushed a stray lock of wavy auburn hair from her face, put on a nervous smile, and tried desperately to act as if nothing were out of the ordinary. If Mardu intimidated her with his imposing physique, she gave no outward signs.

“I’m sorry! Please, do come in. I had some unwanted guests a moment before you arrived, and thought they had returned,” she said as she moved to search for the sheath behind the desk. “Pardon me a moment.”

June studied the patterns of the office. How the walls papered textures blended into the swirls of the carpet which continued the pattern into the grain of the desk. The desk... There was definitely something interesting about that desk. Diplomatic training indicated that this was the time to sit still and be charming. However, the pattern she’d been following demanded a more active role. She moved to the desk, but Raena’s proximity kept her from immediately beginning to search. Her eyes played over it, though, seeking out the thing that had caught her attention.

Mardu studied the woman with a critical eye before nodding at June. He appeared certain he could protect the sorceress should the need arise.

The office was a shambles. Papers and documents were scattered about as if a whirlwind had touched down recently. Beyond the untidiness, the place was fairly large for an office. The short entry hall opened directly into main working area, a wide room with a few lamps here and there to illuminate the gloom. The walls were papered in a textured pattern, tastefully coloured in buttery tones with the back wall behind the desk offset in burgundy. A remarkable Karrnathi rug covered the stone-tiled floor, its intricate patterns only slightly worn with age and traffic. Heavy dark wooden furniture dominated the office; the ornately carved bronzewood desk was surely crafted by masters of the trade, the leather upholstered couch a work of art, the end tables sturdy and fashionable, the sideboard and cabinets all made to last. Tasteful artwork hung on each wall, no two sharing the same style, each painted by a different artist. The wall directly behind the desk had a framed cork board with broadsheet articles, various clippings, and printed sheets held up with pushpins with a web of red strings tying everything together. An old slate chalkboard resided in the far left corner on a rolling stand. In the far right corner, a solid and reinforced door hinted at rooms and possibly stairs. It all came together to give the impression of warmth and homeyness that many businesses lacked.

Trusting Mardu to handle the woman if she was indeed crazy, June wandered to a pattern in the papers strewed about that seemed out of place. Bending to arrange them just “so”. So the pattern fit this place and time. She glanced at the writing as she did so. They were mostly invoices and bills of lading. The news articles were about recent events, mostly crimes that the Chronicle and Ledger were covering.

“I’m Raena Mordaine, by the way,” the woman said as she ducked under the desk still searching. “Antos Keldoran was my uncle. But he passed away recently, and I inherited the inquisitive service. Though to be honest, I’m not exactly taking on new business right now. I’m not even really sure what I’m going to do with the place,” she admitted hesitantly.

“So, what can I do for the two of you?” Raena asked as she stood up and slid her sword into the recovered sheath with a click. She hustled over to recover the teapot and went back to the sideboard to figure out how to work the magical hotplate under a copper kettle. “And would you care for some tea?”

Before June or Mardu could answer, there came a knock at the front door.

They all turned and saw two shadows through the frosted glass, one taller and one shorter. Raena swallowed hard and reached for her sword again.

“Please excuse me while I get that, won’t you?” she said to June and Mardu as she went to the door.

“Of course.” June replied absently, still absorbed with the patterns written out in the strewn papers on the floor. She muttered to the dragonmark itching on her hip. “Ok, so, where is the information about the children that we need?” Mardu rolled his eyes at June’s comment, but kept quiet.

Steeling her nerves to face the halfling and his thug again, Raena reached for the doorknob. As she did so, she could just make out some conversation from the other side that gave her pause.

“I still can’t believe you asked for expense money,” said the oddly detached voice from the larger shadow. Raena was fairly certain it wasn’t the thug from before.

“I don’t know why you’re so annoyed. He did say to turn in an expense report to his accountant, didn’t he?” replied the shorter of the two. Obviously, this was not Tommin Boromar’s voice, and the shadow was much too tall for a halfling.

With a sigh of relief, she opened the door to greet the new arrivals.

Much to Raena’s surprise, there was an impressive warforged next to a young man in a greatcoat and tri-cornered hat. And just behind them, she could see serious looking man in a uniform just taking the bottom of the steps up to the door. She groaned inwardly; no doubt the halfling had sent the Watch after her for cutting his arm. The nerve! She had just dismissed a Watchman when she arrived with Altus not too long ago...

Hawksley took in the blood on the step and the young woman’s somewhat flustered appearance. He smiled, warmly and benignly, offering a flourishing bow (which allowed him a moment to give the step a closer inspection). Straightening, he offered his card:

“My name is Hawksley Byron Quinn and this is my colleague, Sir Wireburn. Do I have the honour of addressing Raena Mordaine?”

Wireburn saluted, with a clank. Alerted by the blood on the doorstep, Wireburn was cautious of each person in the room, especially those with arms.

As he turned to introduce Wireburn, Hawksley took in their surroundings, giving the inside of the office a once-over as well as noting those out and about around it. Noting the figure approaching close behind, Hawksley realized that this was likely the magus he had been advised of, the troubled Master Durion.

Hawksley immediately noticed the two figures standing in the paper-strewn office; a beautiful young human woman with golden hair and a rather muscular half-orc that was watching back with interest. The blonde woman was turned away studying the mess on the floor. The half-orc would be one to watch, as he had an incredible poker-face.

The office itself was in a state, probably from a recent confrontation which led to the blood on the step. The blood, not a lot, but enough, had been dripped there recently, within minutes based on how little it had congealed. A partial footprint on the damp stone step next to the drop was small. Halfling small...

Of Raena, Hawksley could barely get a reading on her past the utter stress and confusion that she was demonstrating in her stance and speech patterns. And of the elf behind him, he saw a military man, probably retired by the older style of uniform, that was gravely serious.

All of this was taken in with a single sweeping glance...

“You do,” Raena replied, somewhat taken aback. Nobody outside the church knew her in this city, and a stranger mentioning her name so casually was more than a bit surprising.

Wireburn studied the priestess for a moment as well. It was obvious to the living construct that she was in the midst of an array of emotions, possibly too many for him to interpret at once. But what he could take away from that was Raena’s obvious confusion and frustration. The flush of her cheeks was most notable, and Wireburn was fairly certain it wasn’t because Hawksley was having his usual affect on the opposite sex.
Pessimism is just an ugly word for pattern recognition...

Necessity is the mother of moral reletivism...
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Old 01-28-2012, 04:17 PM
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Default In the Company of Strangers - Continued

“Ms. Mordaine, if I am not being presumptuous to address you as such, I am given to understand that you are the niece and heir of the late Mr. Keldoran. Please forgive our importuning you at what must be a trying and difficult time; I would, under other circumstances, not intrude upon your private time of mourning and settling affairs. However, we have been retained by certain of your uncle’s clients, clients who are concerned with the continuity of how their interests are represented and also, I must hasten to add, who are motivated with concern for your health and safety. I mislike being so cryptic, but if it please you, Sir Wireburn and myself would appreciate the opportunity to speak with you and brief you in full. We await your convenience.”

Hawksley punctuated his speech with another bow.

“Actually, I at the moment,” Raena said, trying to take in everything the young man had just told her. “I would invite you in to wait until I can see what they want...”

She trailed off from that thought as she looked at the uniformed man behind the pair at the door. That was not a Watch uniform, she realised after getting a better look at it. That was Brelish Army. Was it someone to pay their respects to her uncle? This day was becoming quite busy!

“If you would, please come in Mr Quinn,” Raena absently gestured with the sheathed sword in her hand. “I’ll see what this man wants and will be with you in a moment.”

Hawksley nodded graciously and stepped in, removing his hat and looking around, attempting to take in as much as he could. He offered a nod of greeting to the pair already in the office. He forbore introductions and more elaborated greetings, not wanting to violate any potential issues of confidentiality.

Wireburn stepped in after him. He had to duck as he entered the door, and tuck his shield against his back with one of his lower arms.

Raena turned to the military man and offered a polite afternoon greeting in elvish.

“How may I help you good sir?”

Durion looked her directly in the eye, taking in all of the surroundings at once. He cleared his throat.

Could he be nervous? Yes. That was it. How many people had he spoken to outside his chain of command or his social circle in the last few years? Not many... He tried to count them, then realized he had started a conversation and attempted to concentrate.

He cleared his throat again. “Young lady, I am here...” He seemed to remember the others nearby.

“I found this.” He thrust the card into her hands. “On a misplaced urchin.”

He waited for her to read it. When she was distracted, he stepped into the office past her. He looked around again, then took a seat in one of the high-backed chairs against the wall.

“It says to start here. I have decided to take the card’s advice. By the way, there’s some blood on your stairs. You should have it cleaned before someone slips.”

“Thank you,” Raena stammered, realising the elf had insinuated himself into the room already. She peeked at the card, unsure of what to make of it. “I’ll do something about the step in a minute. Do please come in, Mr?...” She waited patiently for him to supply his name.

“Master Beriadon Durion,” the elf supplied with military crispness.

Once they had actually entered the office, June stopped her search, straightening and moving surreptitiously closer to the desk with a smile to offer greetings. “Hello there. I am June, and this is my friend, Mardu. Who do I have the pleasure of meeting today?” She held out a nicely manicured hand to both the human and the warforged. Her gaze traveling over the metal man in curiosity.

“Hawksley Byron Quinn and Sir Wireburn, of Wireburn & Quinn, consulting inquisitives, at your service.”, replied Hawksley, with a genuine smile and a nodding bow, bending briefly over June’s hand as he shook it.

“Inquisitives? I take it you are here about Keldoran?”

“Our business with Ms. Mordaine does indeed pertain to the late Mr. Keldoran.”

At Hawksley’s bow, she smiled more comfortably, giving the appropriate curtsy in return. Her gaze, however, didn’t follow the usual paths that a young woman, confronted with a handsome young man, would normally take. Instead, it seemed to follow the patterns of the folds in his clothing, his hat and his face, ending at his eyes.

“Mine does in some way as well. I have yet to find out how, exactly.”

“Indeed? Well, I imagine it is no great coincidence. Mr. Keldoran was a man of some prominence; no doubt, his tragic passing is of interest to many.”

“Coincidence...there is something here that is more than just the death of a prominent inquisitive.” She stopped, realizing he’d probably think she was either more in the know than she was, or strange. Or perhaps both. She smoothed the fine gold cloth of her dress self consciously. “But then, perhaps you already know that.”

Hawksley smiled again. His earnest and polite sincerity seemed almost to be a wall, obscuring any deeper apprehension of what was going on behind his eyes.

“I too would appreciate an opportunity to share information and, perhaps, even cooperate in our endeavours. But at the moment, we have not yet had the chance to speak with Ms. Mordaine. Perhaps we could confer after we have all been able to speak with the young lady?”

“That would be wise, I feel.”

Mardu said nothing, content to let June do the talking and let the others think he was nothing more than a subservient bodyguard. He casually observed the others in the room for any signs of danger, as would be expected of someone in the personal protection business. He also paid close attention to what they were saying to one another.

Nodding to June, Hawksley then stepped over the magus. He offered a courteous bow. At this point, introductions seemed inevitable. Moreover, Hawksley had potential business with this elven soldier.

“Good day, sir. I believe I may have the honour of addressing Master Durion? It seems to me that we have an acquaintance in common, one Ymaine? My name is Hawksley Byron Quinn.”

He handed Durion his card.

Durion replied by rising and offering a card of his own, with both hands in the military style.

“I am known as ‘Durion,” formerly of the 2nd Army, 3rd Dragoon Magic Reconnaissance Battalion, Company A, “The Black Blades.” On extended leave, I am afraid.” He put out a hand and a cup of tea slid into it. It was too hot to drink right now. He would wait.

Hawksley received the card, read it, and carefully put it away.

“An honour and a pleasure, sir. It would appear that this office is rapidly becoming a nexus of some interest. I must admit, my curiosity is piqued.”

“Yes. Such a fascinating mystery. I must say. It is rare to find a man who chooses to become acquainted with librarians, especially one as talented as Ymaine.”

“Ah; learning, knowledge and the pursuit of both are particular passions of mine. In such endeavours, people of Ymaine’s considerable talents are invaluable allies to have.”

“She has been quite a help to me. I find being around young people such as yourself and her to be quite stimulating. She has been quite a help with my research. What does she assist you with?”

“I am presently considering a post at Morgrave University, as a professor and lecturer. Ymaine has been extremely helpful in orienting me on the campus, both in terms of geography and politics.”

“I must admit, other than the odd stroll...” He paused. “I hadn’t considered that campuses have politics! That must be invigorating! Any good duels?”

“My rapier has remained clean thus far, but my tongue has gotten bloody a time or two. Academics can be ferocious in their own way.”

“I can recall a duel or two in my younger days. It was always something specific, but one cannot remember all of the reasons for a good brawl. Sometimes one just has to get one’s aggression out, eh? Especially when I was young. The war, you know, took care of that for me.” He sighed, the memories causing him to wince involuntarily and stroke his sword hilt for comfort.

“Perhaps we can spar some time? It’s been quite some time since I’ve gone up against a swashbuckler. Do they still call rapier duelists swashbucklers?”

“Your command of idiom seems to have remained entirely undulled, sir: I have indeed buckled the occasional swash. I am, however, hardly a duellist, sir, and I fear I would give you poor sport. However, I am a willing pupil and would consider it an honour to cross blades with you on the practice floor.”
Pessimism is just an ugly word for pattern recognition...

Necessity is the mother of moral reletivism...
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Old 01-28-2012, 04:18 PM
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Default In the Company of Strangers - Continued

Mardu snorted at the ‘buckled swash’ retort, apparently amused by the rapid exchange between the two men.

“Alas, I am still weakened by my martial experiences. As I am, I’m sure we will be well matched. Perhaps some time soon we can also match wits over something somewhat less vigorous... Such as this mystery! What fun!”

He tipped a nod in acknowlegement.

“Would you please introduce me to your companion?”

“But of course! I am being such a boor -- come, Sir Wireburn, allow me to present you... Master Durion, it is my pleasure to introduce you to my colleague, Sir Wireburn. Sir Wireburn, may I present to you Master Durion, formerly of the 2nd Army, 3rd Dragoon Magic Reconnaissance Battalion, Company A, 'The Black Blades'.”

Durion examined the warforged and considered. A name? For a construct? It must be self-aware. And this Quinn fellow presented it to me, so he must think it a worthy and boon companion. Very well. We had some of these in the support units for the 3rd. They can be quite useful at times for soaking up damage. I’ll play along. Humans are so very particular about this sort of thing.

“An honor to make your acquaintance, Sir Wireburn.” Durion nodded in a friendly manner to the construct. “How do you do?”

Wireburn stepped closer and offered a salute.

“Sir Wireburn, Knight Errant of King Steam. It is a pleasure to meet another of martial prowess. What is your choice of weapon, sir?

Durion put his hand to his elven-crafted blades. He unburdened them from their frog and handed the bundle over. “These blades are many centuries old. They belonged to my family since time immemorial. I had once thought them lost, but...”

As Sir Wireburn began sliding the largest of the blades out of the scabbard and marvelling at the damask patterns swirling in the black on black, Durion got a strange look on his face and said “I’d like them back, please.”

Raena studied this exchange with interest, taking the moment to find own her sword belt and fasten her weapon to her hip rather than carry it around constantly.

Wireburn snapped the sword back into its sheath, and twirled the belt around both of the swords before extending them with two arms. He bowed, slightly.

Durion re-equipped himself and settled down, more comfortably now. “Sir Wireburn, what does your title signify?”

“I am a servant of King Steam, the greatest of all rulers in my race. Ultimately, it was he who was responsible for our making, and no House of Man or elf or any other created race. In the songs of his binary we live and move and have our being. I am but his humble servant.”

Durion looked him up and down for a moment, as if waiting for the punchline. Satisfied that Sir Wireburn was indeed extremely serious as regards his origin and current title, he nodded. “I am indeed honored to make your acquaintance, Sir Knight. Did you have a role in The War?”

“If my blade was capable of notching, it would carry many from that conflict, sir.”

Durion nodded once more, with finality. “I served as well.”

The tea was still too hot.

Raena looked at each guest in turn. What had she let into her office?! This was turning into quite a day, and she could really use a cup of tea right about now.

“I suppose introductions are more or less taken care of. Would anyone like some more tea?” Like a good hostess, Raena retrieved the teapot and set to work with the magical hotplate once again. As she figured out the controls, she spoke over her shoulder to the gathered visitors.

“I’m sorry the cups won’t match, but I’m sure we’ll just have to make do. So, who are all of you really, and what is so important about my uncle and myself to warrant so many visitors in a single afternoon?”

Before anyone could reply, a knock sounded at the door...

“Dear Host above, what now?” Raena said with evident exasperation. “Hold that thought please. I’ll be right back.” She didn’t seem to be bothered that a fairly large group of armed individuals now occupied the office. Nobody had seemed to intend her any harm so far, and with so many witnesses present, she doubted any would try to do something in front of any of the others. She’d just have to let them distract each other for the time being while she figured out what to do.

Two shadows once again silhouetted against the frosted glass in the door. These two were more or less the same size, which somehow gave the priestess a bit of relief.

Raena opened the door wide and smiled at the newest arrivals.
Pessimism is just an ugly word for pattern recognition...

Necessity is the mother of moral reletivism...

Last edited by Rhakir; 01-28-2012 at 05:02 PM.
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Old 01-28-2012, 04:20 PM
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Default Three’s Company; Eight is Enough...

A young human walked in, he was wearing a artisan’s outfit. He obviously came from a shop from his less than completely clean outfit. A pouch in his hand, he nodded to the Quinn as he entered.

“Anselm!”, Hawksley exclaimed gladly, “I was hoping to see you today! I believe I have some business to transact with you, my friend, and a potential new contact for you as well, to the benefit of your future endeavours.”

Raena did a double-take.

“You know each other?” she squeaked. Suddenly, the protective sense of anonymity vanished, leaving her feel cold in the pit of her stomach. Was this some elaborate trap? Did these people all know her uncle, and now her, luring her into some strange snare, surrounding her to do...what exactly? She chewed her lip considering...

“We do indeed, my good lady”, replied Hawksley, “Good Anselm is a gentleman and a scholar of the very first rank. So far as I know, however, it is coincidence alone that has brought us here to this same place and time.” Hawksley chuckled.

Anselm looked at the back and forth, waiting for a moment to interject. He looked around the room and reviewed the group that is gathered. He noted sadly that Keldoran is not there.

“I don’t believe in coincidence,” Raena muttered to nobody in particular.

The young artificer scratches his head, looking a little bemused, almost tentatively. “Is Keldoran close by? I need to return his commission.”

Raena opened her mouth to reply, then closed it again. She hadn’t thought that a friend of her uncle’s might come calling, unaware of his death.

Hawksley looked slightly shocked. He leaned in and whispered quickly:

“Anselm, my good man, you must have been working long and hard in your shop for some time. Antos Keldoran is dead, the victim of foul play. This good lady here is his niece and heir.”

Anselm is clearly surprised by the revelation. He quickly readjusts walks up to her and warmly and gently squeezes her hand, “My apologies and condolences. I _have_ been in my shop working too long”. As quickly as he stepped in, he stepped back, giving the young lady some space.

“Thank you,” Raena stammered. “I’m sorry you’ve lost your friend. My uncle was a good man. I’m glad to see he had people here in Sharn that cared about him.”

Hawksley straightened up and spoke again, louder and for everyone’s ears, seeking to lighten the mood:

“Ah, the big city... The towers of Sharn stand revealed to be as crowded and connected as any farm hamlet. No, you are perspicacious, Ms. Mordaine; it is unlikely to be mere coincidence. Your uncle, by virtue of his line of work, could not help but be of interest to many. I, for one, find myself quite curious as to what has brought everyone here now, today.”

“You and me both, Mister,” Raena said under her breath.

Hawksley smiled and stepped over to the hot-plate. From his pocket, he retrieved a leather pouch and gourd. He put some herbs into the gourd from the pouch and then put it away. He liberated a sugar cube from the tea service, placing it into the gourd as well. After making sure that everyone’s tea had been prepared, he poured hot water into the gourd as well, a fragrant steam emerging. He took a something like a metal straw, with a bulb on one end, pierced with holes, and placed the bulb-end into the gourd. He took a sip, gave a small sigh of satisfaction and then returned to the group.

The exercise of preparing this infusion, what was sometimes referred to as “Gnomish tea”, allowed him to review and consolidate his observations. There were very minute spots of blood on the floor near the carpet, with a wide and far-flung spatter across one wall, indicating a slash with an edged weapon, likely a sword, but only causing a shallow cut and minor injury. There was a very small smear of blood on the rim of the sheath at Raena's hip; she would want to clean that blood off soon. The inattention to cleaning the blade probably spoke to her distraction in the moment, although it could also indicate inexperience with bladesmanship. Mind you, she had just used that blade effectively in her own defense against multiple foes-- distraction was the more likely hypothesis. The teapot their hostess was using had also been bloody (albeit discreetly and efficiently wiped prior to use), with a somewhat distinct burst pattern, bespeaking its efficient use as a projectile at some recent time.

The desk was of stout bronzewood, very ornate and very heavy, with very fine filigree and detail-work around the edges, interlaced with draconic symbols of likely magical significance, the specifics of which eluded him at the moment. It would take someone of at least Mardu's size and brawn to move the desk as it obviously had been, judging by the marks on the floor. Two sweaty palm prints were spaced on the closer side of the desk, in a manner consistent with someone making a recent effort to push it. The two areas of disturbed tassels on the carpet a few feet away indicated that the person pushing it had to have been at least six feet tall, give or take an inch, and possibly weighing over three hundred pounds, or wearing gear that would account for a portion of that weight.

The hand-crossbow bolts in the wall presented something of a conundrum: they were stuck in the wall at rather improbable angles, appearing to having been fired by two different people of different heights -- one assailant of medium height and the other over seven feet tall. Moreover, they appeared to have been fired from radically different parts of the room, possibly even from outside the room, somehow. This was not consistent with the other traces left, the footprint by the door and the palm-prints on the desk, which would indicate a halfling and a human. Moreover, more than two assailants would leave much more evidence of altercation, both in the room and, likely, on Raena. Handling two foes on her own and emerging utterly unscathed was impressive but plausible; fending off four foes, at least two of which would have to be of somewhat massive dimension? Still possible, but a bit less likely. There were some inconsistencies in the scene that he had yet to puzzle out.

Hawksley briefly reviewed his memory of the passers by as he and Sir Wireburn approached the office and one pair immediately came to mind: a halfling in a dark business suit and a large, burly human of about six feet and more than two hundred pounds, clad in chain-mail, walking towards the sky-taxi docks, heading away from Keldoran's office, not more than five minutes ago. The halfling was rubbing his left arm with a crimson handkerchief (was that blood?), and stood out for the sole reason that it was a male halfling in a business suit; a Boromar, perhaps? That name seemed to be one to conjure with in this affair. He hoped to be able to get Raena’s account of the what had occurred soon.

Durion sipped his tea quietly, taken aback by the friendly strangers. He decided to listen for awhile before jumping to any conclusions. Perhaps they would like to talk and sip tea.

He looked at the cup. Good tea, he thought.
Pessimism is just an ugly word for pattern recognition...

Necessity is the mother of moral reletivism...
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Old 01-28-2012, 04:23 PM
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Default Three’s Company; Eight is Enough - Continued

With the large influx of people, June moved to Mardu and fell quiet, watching their interplay. Mardu folded his tree-trunk arms over his chest and watched everyone with interest. He wondered idly how long it would be before the priestess snapped. as it appeared she was becoming a bit overwhelmed.

Han took a look around at the room for a moment at the strange collection of folks cluttering up the office. Han muttered “He didn’t tell me I’d be walking into a circus when he’d asked me to do this.”

Settling on the lady who opened the door, Han started “I presume you are the niece of the late Antos Keldoran? A former employee of his, and a good friend of mine, asked me to come here and speak with you, and bring you a warning. He would do so himself, but unfortunately he can’t make it. Someone killed him to stop him from getting here. You’re in some kind of danger.” Han scanned around the room for any movement or reaction.

Wireburn’s voicebox buzzed quietly, as he said, “Dun dun DUN!” He then looked quite pleased with himself, having accomplished a moment of humor successfully. Hawksley offered him a surreptitious thumbs up, and a wink.

Anselm raised an eyebrow, clearly reassessing the warforged.

“Danger,” Raena repeated quietly. “Wonderful. That just about makes my day. Who was this friend you mentioned? I’m quite sorry for the loss. May the Host preserve and protect...” The priestess bowed her head and made a signum cruces over her heart.

“His name was Chase. He worked for your Uncle at the agency. He said that it was her, he was following her, the same woman who killed your uncle. She spotted him though and wounded him badly, but he passed on the word to warn you before he passed on.”

“And you are, good sir?” Raena asked patiently.

“Sorry, my name is Han. Chase was a friend of mine. He sent me word earlier in the day to meet him at the 6th bell. Which was strange- he usually shows up in person, but he sent a messenger, and the note was on a torn up broad sheet. He came to me looking for information on a missing person’s case a day or two ago. So sending a note was strange and out of character.” Han paused for a moment to look around the room at the motley collection of folks, then continued “Then I got a note saying to meet him, that he’d been hurt. Seeing him....I don’t know. I’ve seen my share of wounds in street fights, but this was something else. It was amazing he held on as long as he did. He asked me to come down here and warn Antos’s niece, which I can only assume is you.”

Raena was speechless. She studied the young human, taking in his appearance, noting the sadness in his voice, the genuine hurt he seemed to feel a the loss of a friend. She was about to invite him in, but stopped when another voice sounded from behind her.

“I don’t believe it was a ‘her’ that killed your uncle.” June spoke up quietly from the corner. The influx of people, here and just now, spoke to the importance of this mystery. It was good to know that her understanding of the prophecy was at least that little bit clear.

She took a moment to really focus on the bigger picture here. The people, the desk, the patterns of blood and stone and carpet and tapestry. The steam of the tea. The message of this place.

“In fact, it seems, from what each of you have spoken here, that we each carry a piece of this mystery. Perhaps if we compile our pieces, the pattern will become more clear.”

Raena silently ushered Han into the now crowded office, listening to what the young woman with golden hair was saying. She made a mental note to invest in some more chairs for such occasions.

“I think that perhaps we need to finish our tea and allow Ms. Mordaine some time to collect herself first, before anything else”, said Hawksley. “This has been a rather sudden series of arrivals and revelations, all competing for our host’s attention, at a time of grief and no small confusion, I’d warrant. I too have the sense that cooperation may well be the best course here, but some breath-catching is in order, is it not? It seems to me that some non-trivial presumption has occurred, as the pack of us have ended up in this good lady’s parlour, individually, unexpectedly and entirely uninvited, so far as I can tell. We are guests, impromptu guests at that: we must conduct ourselves appropriately and be mindful of the demands we are making on our host.”

After an every so slightly mistrustful look at Hawksley, June looked to Raena, to gauge her desires on the matter.

To June, Raena appeared tired, overwhelmed, and notably distracted by so many people here to see her all at once. But beyond that, the priestess did seem determined, and the look in her eye said she was going to find out just what was going on behind all of these visits. This pleased the prophetess most.

Durion looked at his now empty cup and thought about biscuits. He had catalogued everything in the room and everything about his new acquaintances in his memory, but now he was thinking about how best to procure more tea and perhaps a few biscuits to go with it.

“Thank you, Mr Quinn was it?” Raena said. Hawksley nodded in response. She noticed almost everyone else’s eyes were upon her. “This is all a bit sudden, and I was by no means expecting visitors today. I only just took possession of the office today. I am curious as to how each of you knew how to find me here. Me in particular, that is.” She cast a glance at Han first, then at Hawksley.

“You said I am in danger,” she said to Han, offering a warning glance at the warforged. Apparently she didn’t share in the same sense of humour as Wireburn’s companion. “And you two are here to see to my late uncle’s business affairs? And there were concerns of health and safety,” she added looking to Hawksley and Wireburn, “which sounds to me like you are corroborating what he said.

“And you,” she turned to Durion, “have handed me a card which says you should ‘start here’. I am curious as to what actually brought you here, and who left you the note.” She peered at him expectantly, but carried on before the elf could answer.

“And you,” she said to June and Mardu, “You have not had a chance to tell me why you’re here, but announce that it wasn’t a ‘her’ that killed my uncle, and that we’re all gathered here for a reason, some greater purpose, I suppose.” She paused to pinch the bridge of her nose.

“And you,” she turned to Anselm finally, “I don’t know why you’re here at all yet, but you seem to know Mr Quinn. Have I missed anything?” She was breathing heavily now, the stress slowly finding release in her assessment of the situation. She offered a silent prayer to the Host to guide her through the confusing afternoon...

Anselm was incredibly impressed with Raena. Her composure was absolutely remarkable. Now that he had the center stage of this little gathering, each member gazed upon this young man. He was comely enough in a slightly scrawny way. He stood at average height for a human and his attire that of an artisan, unassuming. You could see a glimpse of a dragonmark on his neck line, not enough to tell which kind.

With a bit of an embarrassed smile, he spoke, “I am Anselm d’Cannith. Artificer. At your service.”, he bowed slightly, “Your uncle was a client of mine. Similarly, Quinn and Sir WireBurn are clients of mine. I came by to bring the commission that your uncle asked of me. I must have missed all the hoopla. I’ve been doing some magical research as well as finishing my first homonculous.” At the mention of his latest creation, Anselm’s eyes brighted visibly. “If there anything that I can do to help, do not hesitate to let me know. Your Uncle was more than a client. He was a very good friend of mine. Besides, I do have a knack with any thing magical. It does come in useful.”

“Thank you, that is very kind of you to offer.” Raena said after a moment, taken aback yet again. She took a deep breath and looked at everyone else in the room once more.

“So, would someone please be kind enough to explain to me why a halfling and his hired thug came here demanding ‘insurance’ money, putting me in obvious danger, but everyone decides to show up to warn me after the fact?!” She stood with her hands on her hips waiting expectantly.

“Indeed,” murmured Hawksley, almost under his breath.

“Ms. Mordaine, my colleague and I were retained in this matter only last night and came to call at what we took to be an appropriate hour. It seems that certain nefarious folk saw fit to act rather expeditiously; “insurance” is a thriving business here in Sharn and it seems that you were approached quickly in an effort to take advantage of you at a vulnerable time. I am given to believe, however, that the danger to you encompasses more than simple criminal enterprise, and that it may in fact be ongoing. It is likely related to your late uncle’s investigations.”

Hawksley paused for a quick sip.

“In any event, you have our apologies for our tardiness, although I note that you handled yourself admirably. If I may ask, did this halfling identify himself, perhaps as a member of the Boromar family?”
Pessimism is just an ugly word for pattern recognition...

Necessity is the mother of moral reletivism...

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Default Three’s Company; Eight is Enough - Continued

“Admirably? Hm... It was Tommin Boromar, yes,” Raena said. “And there’s more you aren’t telling me...” The last was more of a hopeful prompt rather than an accusation. Well, maybe not so hopeful...

“To be sure, I have more to relate; the Boromar Clan is, bluntly speaking, a criminal organization of some influence. It seems that they may have some interest in your late uncle and his business dealings. My partner and I ran afoul of some of their agents last night, in fact, under circumstances that lead me to suspect that the treacherous ambuscade was related to this very business here. The specific nature of this interest remains a matter for speculation, however, requiring further investigation.”

“They certainly seem an interesting organization. I’ve never heard of the Boromars before today, to be honest.” Raena shuddered involuntarily at the thought of the earlier encounter. “And you’ve had your own run ins with them. How charming...”

“I’m still curious by what one meant by it wasn’t a ‘her’. Chase was pretty specific on that piece of information,” Han interjected, apropos of nothing.

Raena looked over to June to see her reaction and to find out what she had to say about it.

June straightened. “We, Mardu and I, found where Keldoran was actually murdered. Not where his body was found. We also found the clothing the killer had discarded, I believe because their natural form was not actually the form they wore the clothing in. So a changeling, or elemental or someone with a shape change spell.”

She also pulled out the small case of dampened rolling papers they had found at the pier. “We also found this. It was your uncles, and so should be yours. However, it has some odd clues in it. Related to the children he was trying to find. I don’t have the magic abilities to restore the smeared ink. But we will want to pursue that because it ‘seems’ important.”

She nodded to the elf. “Did the child who had the card give you a name? I’m wondering if, perhaps, that child was one of the ones Keldoran was trying to find. It is linked to the children somehow. If I have more information about one of them, I may be able to help with locating them. I don’t care about the business. I’m not here because someone hired me. But this is important to all of us, so I will help you.”

“I am curious as to which ‘this’ you are referring to Ms. June.”, inquired Hawksley. “There appear to be a number of matters and interests at work here. They may in fact be related, but as it stands, I don’t quite see the unity that you do.”

Hawksley began ticking off his fingers.

“The matter that brings Master Durion here is as yet largely unexplained; to my knowledge, it involves a ‘misplaced urchin’, as he puts it, and a mysterious card telling him to come here. This may or may not be related to the late Mr. Keldoran’s investigation of the missing children or Mr. Keldoran’s unfortunate passing-- neither is as yet established; it may be something else entirely. The good Han here has shared some intelligence about the possible identity of someone who may or may not have killed Mr. Keldoran, although you seem to dispute this intelligence; regardless, he has offered no motivation, purpose or plan -- his goals are, thus far, entirely his own. If indeed he even has any plans or goals in this matter other than simply passing on this information on behalf of his late friend. My partner and I are here specifically to speak to Ms. Mordaine with regards to a client of Mr. Keldoran’s, an assignment which carries with it both the imperative of seeking justice for Mr. Keldoran and helping to assure the safety of Ms. Mordaine. Anselm is here simply to drop off a commission ordered by Mr. Keldoran. Forgive my lack of perspicacity, but I do not yet see this oneness of purpose that you have arrived at. It may well be that all of our various purposes are consonant and mutually addressable, but so far as I can tell, we do still have a multiplicity of goals. And that is to say nothing yet as to what Ms. Mordaine’s own feelings on the matter are, her wishes and goals. She has scarce had a moment to take a sip of her own tea, let alone make sense of this little eruption of chaos.”

“When I speak of ‘this’, I mean this whole affair, regardless of whether we know our roles in it or not just yet. It’s important to all of us, or will be. They, and we, are all part of a pattern that drew me seems just for this.”

Hawksley quirked up an eyebrow as he regarded June. “I see. Clearly, the deepest of matters.”

“I didn’t come here to meet Ms. Mordaine as I didn’t know anything about Keldoran having a niece, no offense.” She smiled wryly at their hostess. “This was just our next stop in trying to find Keldoran’s killer. Ms. Mordaine, are you aware of the protective spells worked into your uncles desk there? It is likely the safest place in the office if you are ever attacked here again.”

“I wouldn’t mind sticking around for a bit, to see whomever killed Chase paid back. If that’s alright with Ms. Mordaine.” Han chimed in.

Hawksley looked to Raena, curious to see her response.

“I can see this is getting a little heated,” Raena said finally. “Thank you for summarising everything, Mr Quinn. I think it best we all take a second to compose ourselves.” She paused to clutch at her holy symbol, the eight pointed cross of the Sovereign Host that she wore on a chain about her neck. Taking a deep breath, she calmed herself. When she opened her eyes again, she appeared far less overwhelmed, almost a different person all together.

“You’re the Prophetess I read about in one of the broadsheets,” Raena said to June when she opened her eyes finally. “I thought you looked familiar. I am most interested in your abilities, and would welcome some insight into how and why my uncle was killed.” Her eyes flicked over to Mardu and she smiled. “And I assume you are her protector, among other things?”

Mardu’s jaw dropped. He was about to say something, but Raena continued on before he could. June quirked an eyebrow at him. It appeared this woman had a certain level of perception. More than Mardu, anyway. Men...

“The roll up case you are holding looks to be the one given to my uncle by my father. If there is anything in it that might aid the investigation, I should like to study it.”

June smiled gently and handed the small case to Raena.

“I am at your service. The reason for his death is what I am here to find. When you are ready, you have my service. However, I will continue to investigate this matter on my own in the meantime.” She glanced around at the group before speaking a little more quietly to Raena. “I do have some abilities at finding things that are lost, or hidden. As well as some gifts in finding the truth of matters.”

“Thank you,” Raena said as she pocketed the case. “I am sure your gifts would prove most useful. I suggest we make an appointment to speak some more. Maybe for the morning , when we won’t be interrupted, if that is acceptable?”

June and Mardu accepted the invitation to return on the morrow, agreeing to arrive at ten bells.

Raena took a breath then turned to the military man.

“And Master Durion, you said something to you about a ‘misplaced urchin’. Could this be one of the missing children my uncle was investigating? I should like to meet with this child to see if I can help him at all.” She considered for a moment, her finger tapping her lower lip. “If that card were placed on the child, I wonder if whoever wrote it is responsible? I cannot think of any other connection, as the situation does not lend itself to altruism. Is someone baiting you? Or me? I think we need to discuss this further, perhaps when you take me to where the child is after we conclude our business here.”

Durion accepted the invitation stoically.

“Mr Quinn and Sir Wireburn, I am most grateful that you would be interested in following up on my uncle’s investigations on behalf of his clients. Unfortunately, I am not in a position to discuss such things with you now. Perhaps it is best that we meet again later so we can address your client’s concerns without too many distractions? I suggest we make an appointment for later this afternoon, after I have seen to Master Durion’s misplaced child.”

“We are entirely at your service, Ms. Mordaine. I trust that between your own skills and the company of Master Durion, you will be as safe as is practical. I urge you to be on your guard, as there does appear to be abundant reason to believe you are the target of hostile intentions. If I may make an offer: perhaps Sir Wireburn and myself can meet you wherever you may be when you conclude your business with Master Durion and escort you back to your office? I will, of course, not insist, nor press the point strongly; clearly, trust must needs be established and at present, you have no particular reason to put your faith in us. We are happy to meet you at a time and place of your choosing.”

“Thank you for the word of warning and thoughtful offer, but I think it would be best not to draw too much attention to our current association, lest we tip off the Boromars, who seem to be a mutual nuisance at the moment,” the priestess replied smoothly. “I think we should be safe enough for the time being. And I would like some time to report in to my temple. I hope you understand.”
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Default Three’s Company; Eight is Enough - Continued

“Keep in mind,” said Hawksley, “that if the need presents itself, we offer a level of protection that few bodyguards can match.” “Thanks to my construction,” added Wireburn, nodding “no assassin will threaten you, day or night.”

“Well, it would hardly be proper,” said Raena, “to have two gentlemen in my abode at all hours of the day or night, Sir Wireburn.”

Wireburn cocked his head for a moment. Hawksley leaned close, and whispered an explanation.
“Ah,” Wireburn said, finally. “I understand.” He opened a pouch on his belt, and removed a long tool with two star-shaped ends. He handed this to Hawksley. “You have a better ear than I do,” he said.

“Your contralto is better for speaking,” said Hawksley, as he pulled up a chair and stood on it behind Wireburn. He took the tuning fork, and placed it in a special slot in Wireburn’s neck. “But for singing, I prefer you in the range of a mezzo-soprano. Say ‘ah.’”

As the fork turned, Wireburn’s voice changed. It drew back slightly, mellowing. It was lighter, now. The tone, timbre and coloring shifted. It was still deep, but it was now distinctly female.
“There,” said Wireburn. “Some people have said my female voice has an elven resonance. I think my voicebox may have been designed by elven engineers. They have a better ear for sound than most humans. As you may discern, Ms. Mordaine, gender is virtually a meaningless term with my race, since we have none. Titles such as ‘sir’ or ‘lady’ are purely cosmetic amongst my order, completely interchangeable, and the term knight is utterly neutral. In cultures where male or female are more respected or constrained by culture, I am built to represent either as the need presents itself. Your reputation will not suffer from my presence.”

Raena stared at Sir Wireburn.

“I didn’t know warforged could do that,” she admitted quietly. “Nevertheless, I am not actually staying here, but this has certainly given me something to think about further...”

Hawksley nodded. “As I said, Ms. Mordaine, we are at your service. If you wish to ask after us and inquire as to our credentials, well, you have our cards and you may find some people willing to offer an opinion about myself and my esteemed colleague at Morgrave University. In any event, shall we say meet back here at two bells?”

“Let’s make it four, since I need to have some time to report in,” Raena suggested.

“Four bells it is, then”, said Hawksley, with a smile and a bow. He stepped back and to the door, awaiting Sir Wireburn and Anselm, who’s eye he’d caught, indicating he would like to have a word with him.

“Mr d’Cannith,” she said, faltering only slightly over the honorific, “I am most interested in the business you were conducting with my uncle. I think it would be wise to meet another time as well, to see what you can do to help me out. I would greatly appreciate your time and assistance.” Of course, the Cannith name carried quite a bit of clout, and it would be an easy enough task for Raena to check his credentials before they met again, just in case. “Perhaps, since you are acquainted with Mr Quinn and Sir Wireburn, you would not mind returning with them later on?” Again, a chance to check on the one could turn up information on the other two.

Anselm smiled, “I understand completely and will be most pleased to help in any way I can.”

Raena acknowledged his offer with a polite, if curt, nod. It seemed she was still trying to maintain control of the emotions that had threatened to overcome her just moments before. To her credit, she seemed to be taking charge of things, drawing everyone’s attention and holding it. Perhaps it was her training as a priestess that made it possible...

“Mr Han, I am terribly sorry for the loss of your friend. I seem to recall the name Chase mentioned in my uncle’s record log, and can only assume it is the same man we are speaking of. Your offer of assistance is also appreciated. I would ask you to wait patiently so I may speak to you privately before I leave with Master Durion. I hope you do not mind.”

Han nodded in acceptance. “I’ve got nothing but time at the moment. I can wait while you deal with more pressing items.”

Han then leaned back on a wall and watched what was going on in the room.

The priestess nodded and took mental stock of the situation. She seemed satisfied that she addressed all of the visitors, though there was a pang of guilt at not doing more to engage the half-orc or the warforged. She would have to do something about that when she met with each next.

“Well then, I thank you all for stopping in. My uncle’s death is truly a terrible thing, and I am sure he would have been quite pleased to know that his friends and acquaintances were looking out for me. I think he would also have been quite impressed that total strangers would take an interest in the matter of his death,” she said as she looked at each person, coming to rest on June and Mardu last.

“It seems we have many mysteries to solve here. Though I wasn’t planning on staying in Sharn long, I feel that I need to look into all of this now. I hate leaving things unfinished, so I’ll do my best to deal with everything. First though, I think there is a small child that needs looking after,” she continued, looking now at Durion. “ And that child may hold some clues as to what happened at Morgrave.”

That seemed to be her way of saying ‘meeting adjourned’...

Hawksley offered a warm smile and a final, deep bow. He signalled Wireburn and Anselm, put his hat on and headed outside.

Raena stepped off to the side of the door and shook each person’s hand as they left, reaffirming promises to meet at the agreed times.

“This child concerns me. Please, contact me if you need help finding his or her parents.” June took Raena’s hand in a gracious curtsy and then moved off to allow the others to leave as well. “Well, Mardu, you certainly know how to show an old friend a good time. What adventure shall we find next today?”

“Most certainly,” Raena assured her. “And thank you as well, Mardu.”

The half-orc smiled a toothy grin at Raena, reaffirming his role as big, quiet, protector. He proferred an arm to June and led her down the steps.

“I suppose we’ll see what turns up next,” he said to June quietly, content to put some distance between them and the others for now.

After most everyone had left, she took a deep breath before speaking with Han, knowing that the military elf was patiently waiting. As a precaution, since she really didn’t know any of these people very well, she placed herself so she could see Durion out of the corner of her eye, and made sure there was a clear path to the door just in case. But for some reason, she felt these precautions probably weren’t necessary; a gut instinct, perhaps?...

“I do appreciate your warning, Mr Han. And I am truly sorry about Chase. I’m just not sure how we can help each other out in finding those responsible for the murders,” she told him. “I am new to the city, and a cleric by trade, not an inquisitive. Have you any special skills or training that might be useful?”

Han thought for a moment before smiling “I’m very good at infiltrating places one generally has difficulty getting into or out of. Plus pretty good a looking like someone else. I’m sure I have a few other skills that might come in handy. Especially if one doesn’t mind bending a law or two if you take my meaning.”

“Mmhm,” was Raena’s only comment. She did wonder at how open he was about his casual inference of law-breaking activities. But then again, she was dealing with not-so-casual law-breakers like the Boromars. Perhaps having someone that thinks in similar fashion on her side would be useful.

“As for helping each other, whomever killed your uncle also removed Chase when they got on his or her trail. And perhaps are targeting you next. Why I don’t know, but I’d sure like to find out.”

Han scratched his chin for a moment. “Did you wish an additional pair of eyes in seeing after the child? If not, when did you want to meet next? If not you can always leave word at the Broken Anvil.”

“I think it would be best to meet again later,” Raena told him. “I need to see this through with Master Durion, and as I mentioned to Mr Quinn, it might be a little hazardous to be all seen together. I am sure you don’t want any undue attentions from the Boromars.

“I think your help could be quite useful, however. I’d like to talk to you some more about it later on. Shall we meet here again at five bells this afternoon?” When I have Altus at my side again to protect me, she thought to herself.
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Default The Plot Thickens...

"Report," rumbled the slightly gravelly masculine voice on the other side of a high-backed leather chair.

"Yes, sir. It appears they went to see the niece, as you said they would. But...they weren't alone," came the measured response.

"Not alone? Elaborate."

"There were seven visitors in total, sir," came the steady reply. "The 'prophetess' and a large half-urrk, the professor and the warforged, a scarred army elf, the d'Cannith boy, and a lone human whom I could not identify. They all arrived in turns, the pairs as noted. This is of course after Tommin and Hugard left. I fear the halfling will certainly hold a grudge."

"Of course. Have that dealt with, won't you?" rumbled the voice in the chair.

"Well sir, there was the incident involving Tommin's cousin, Damian, to consider as well. I fear if we 'deal' with Tommin right now, it would only make matters worse."

"Hmm... You may be right. Good thinking. Remind me to give you a pay raise, would you?" The chair leaned back with the faintest of creaking.

"I have already taken the liberty, sir. Thank you, sir. You were most generous, as always," came the gracious response. "I shall put the matter of Tommin Boromar 'on the back burner', as they say."

"Very well then. Continue."

"The visitors left after a while. It seems they had a lot to talk about. And there was tea."

"Tea?" the chair rumbled in surprise.

"Yes, sir. Customs and formality, sir. After their talk, the prophetess and half-urrk, the professor and warforged, and the d'Cannith boy all left at the same time. The niece accompanied the elf shortly after, and the unidentified human left on his own. The niece and the elf went to Morgrave, as you predicted, sir."

"Excellent." There was a pause while the chair swivelled ever so slightly. The occupant leaned forward towards the tall windows that overlooked the Central Plateau. "And what of the niece? Will she be a problem?"

"I fear that she is still an unknown quantity, sir. I shall endeavour to probe further, if it would please you."

"You have my leave to do so. Just make sure you don't spook her. I'm most interested to see what she does." The chair leaned back again.

"Of course, sir. I shall report to you again on the morrow." The man's outfit rustled softly as he bowed to the back of the chair.

The chair creaked again, louder this time as the door behind it closed quietly. Alone at last, the figure in the chair stood and stretched. Very carefully, a scarf was unwound and laid across the back of the chair. A small bronze and copper device sewn into the middle of the scarf, an intricate series of flat discs connected by tiny tubes, balanced at the top.

"Most interesting," purred a soft feminine voice in the now empty office. "This is going to be most interesting indeed..."
Pessimism is just an ugly word for pattern recognition...

Necessity is the mother of moral reletivism...
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