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Old 03-10-2012, 01:02 PM
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Arrow Inquisitives - Turn 7

Hawksley, Wireburn, and Anselm


With blood dribbling from his lips, the grim Karrn began casting a spell. If was going to die in such an undignified way, then he would take his enemies with him. Harsh syllables fell from his lips as he crushed sulpher and bat guano between his fingers. With a final gesture of defiance and fierce pride, he completed his spell and pointed weakly at the rafters above.

I vill see you in Khyber!” he hissed.

A glowing bead of magical fire leap from his fingertip and struck the ceiling, blossoming into a roaring Fireball which engulfed nearly the whole lab!

Sir Wireburn ducked down to avoid the blast, but had nowhere to go. The flames engulfed his form.

Hawksley was more fortunate, rolling away from the blast an instant before the flames washed over everything.

Likewise, Anselm dove for the floor under the table in an attempt to hide from the flames. His quick action prevented him from being completely bathed in the blast.

The swordsman saw it coming and didn’t flinch. He was dead before his body hit the floor.

Wireburn’s head snapped up as he noticed something out of the corner of his visual receptor units. Drago was on the move! He was moving gingerly, but not at all engulfed by flames, or even singed in the least. He was making for the door quickly.

The warforged shook his head, and realisation dawned that they had been duped! The fireball wasn’t real! The flames and roaring and heat all faded from his senses, and he saw the room as it was before they fell for the illusion.

Suddenly, without warning, Drago’s head snapped back, and he fell to the floor. An arrow had buried itself in the man’s head, right between his eyes...

Hawksley saw this and shook away the horror of the fireball from his senses. He immediately moved to place something large and solid between himself and his best guess as to the trajectory of the arrow. Additionally, he looked to the swordsman -- if Drago was being sneaky, perhaps his minion was as well? The minion lay cold and still, his eyes wide open in death.

Hawksley quickly calculated where the arrow had come from. He sighted as best he could out the open door and tried to determine the source of the killing shot. From his vantage point behind Wireburn (the only solid thing capable of providing adequate protection and cover), all he could make out were towers across the way, at least several hundred yards away. The only one he could make out with any certainty from here was the Citadel, the Brelish Military headquarters...

Hawksley paused for a moment to really fix the image in his memory, then quickly closed the door with a gesture, reaching out telekinetically to close and bolt it. Scanning the room, he made sure any windows or shutters were also closed. With a glance over to check on the ever-solid Sir Wireburn, he turned to Anselm.

“My friend, are you in good order? We’ve never had to stand shoulder to shoulder before, but you acquitted yourself like a veteran! I am impressed, my good Anselm!”

Anselm realised something was wrong when he saw Wireburn and Hawksley moving about unconcerned for the inferno. He blinked once, twice, and watched the flames fade away completely. An illusion! Damn that Karrn...

Knowing how coming out from under the table might have looked, Anselm looked at Hawksley. “If you say so.. Regardless, I have to say that I’m quite glad that you both were there. The outcome would have been quite different if I had arrived at my lab alone. Thank you.”

“If I many presume, my good fellow, would you leave things as they are a moment, while I examine the scene?”

Hawksley bent himself to examining the lab and their assailants. After first looking at things as they lay, his second pass was somewhat more intrusive: close examination of the lock that the men had been attempting to thwart, moving things about and searching the men in close detail.

The lock was a high quality Cannith specialty mechanism; one of the highest quality lock affordable by the most wealthy, or those with obvious connections to get one. It would have taken a superb locksmith to open that one. Apparently the soulknife was having great difficulty with it, as he’d lodged a pick into it and was unable to remove it again. But the lab and the office had been broken into successfully the night before, which means it was a much more experienced thief previously.

The soulknife was a human, in his mid twenties. He looked older than that though, as if he had been through some hardships in his time. Perhaps he had been to war, as many Hawksley had seen bore the same look of weariness. His armour was lightweight studded leather, stained black and smeared liberally with blood now. His gloves were of exceptionally fine craftsmanship, showing not a single stitch mark among the seams. He had a pouch at his side, which Hawksley carefully tipped out its contents with the toe of his boot. The rest of his lock-picking tools rolled out of a wallet, along with a small corked vial of bluish liquid. And there was a small green gem, almost the same colour as the psychic blade he had manifested. It was a beautiful gem, deep and rich, even if it was roughly cut. It wasn’t emerald, nor any other kind of precious stone he could immediately bring to mind. In fact, it almost resembled a green coloured quartz in its simplicity. Probably the late soulknife’s focus for his psychic energies. There wasn’t anything loose in the pouch, no coins or anything that would make a sound. Whoever he was, he travelled light. The boots the soulknife wore were as finely crafted as the gloves, and probably a matched set. They weren’t for long marches or riding, but were obviously excellent for stealth and comfort. Hawksley could see the pommel of a hold-out dagger in the left boot, probably a last resort weapon if the man could manifest psychic blades.

The swordsman still clutched a shortsword of excellent quality in his dead fingers. A Cannith Marker’s Mark could be seen stamped into the underside of the hilt, indicating it was a masterwork weapon. A quick inspection of the now cooling longsword indicated the same mark on its crossbar; a matching set. The weapons were plain in appearance, unadorned by etchings or fancy detail. Instead, they were simple, clean, and elegant. Both had seen some serious action, but they were cared for by a professional. The swordsman also wore leather armour, without the studs. But the armour was more than it seemed upon closer inspection. Metal strips were woven into the inside of it, affording more protection, but being concealed and more importantly, silenced. It was a custom suit, as indicated by the fitted tailoring; this was definitely not a mass produced set of armour. As with the soulknife, the swordsman carried little with him to make noise. There was no coin, no identification, no metal bits or bobs to give away his position. Just the weapons and unique armour, and a pair of sturdy, but forgettable boots.

Drago, Archdoofus of the Frozen Marches, lay in a pool of blood and bits of grey matter. His clothing was well tailored, if ruined by the blood now. Definitely made to impress, and not at all suitable for stealth work. The sleeves were lined with pockets containing all manner of spell components; it was obvious he was a practitioner of magical arts. Aside from the Wand of Hold Person he clutched, he had another wand tucked into a sheath attached to his right forearm. A generous Pouch of Accessibility adorned his waist, chock full of more spell components, extra clothing, a small clockwork device used to stir liquids, a series of notebooks written in a fine, neat handwriting, and three small dragonshards... One was slender and pink with golden veins, an Eberron shard; the other two were smokey red with blue-violet veins, Khyber shards. Each one was worth a small fortune on its own. And Hawksley had a feeling that the Eberron shard was already fashioned into a device of some sort on its own.

Closing his eyes to concentrate, he reached back into the collective akashic memories to discover what it was the shard reminded him of. It didn’t take him long to realise it was a spell-shard; essentially, a spellbook encapsulated into a dragonshard for portability. Which meant it had spells inside of it...

Hawksley then inspected the arrow protruding from Drago’s forehead. It was made of a whitened wood unlike anything he was familiar with. It reminded him of bronzewood judging by the grain, but he’d never heard of it coming in a white variety. The fletchings were a challenge as well, but eventually he realised they were the feathers of a falcon, white and unmarked. The thread used to hold them in place was gut, and he would have to test it to determine just what kind. Gently rolling Drago’s head to one side, he could make out the arrowhead sticking out of the back of the corpse’s skull. To have hit with such force as to pierce both the front and rear of a skull, the archer and/or bow would have to be incredibly powerful. Quite likely both. The arrowhead itself was a milky white metal, honed to razor sharpness; adamantine. This arrow could have gone through his companion’s armour, were it trained on the warforged. Hawksley thought it best to keep that under his hat for the moment...
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Last edited by Rhakir; 03-10-2012 at 01:07 PM.
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Old 03-10-2012, 01:09 PM
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Default Hawksley, Wireburn, and Anselm - Continued

“Good Anselm, if you are quite recovered, perhaps I could prevail upon you for your services a moment here? It would be to our advantage, both material and informational, to know what devices, if any, these men employed? If you could perhaps use your abilities in that regard, perhaps as well with the materials we acquired last night...? Oh! And, my friend, do show me where you kept your secure samples, that I may examine the scene of that crime as well.”

He steps away from the carnage, mumbling under his breath and shaking his head. He made his way to the safe and opened it. “My samples were here. Similarly for my paper and formulae. Have a look. Tell me if you see anything yourselves. Let me examine their belongings.”

Hawksley nodded to Anselm.

“I will look to the safe, you look to the assorted materials.”

Hawksley set the various items out in discrete piles, including the separate piles from the night before.

“I hope I am not presuming; I imagine it is as easy to do this all together than to do this over and over.”

He smiled briefly at Anselm, then turned his attention to the safe. It was a small unit, solidly constructed and fused into the stone floor of the tower itself. The walls and door if the safe were made of plate steel, and the integrated lock was an elaborate combination system that did not require a key. The mechanism of the combination lock did not appear to be tampered with in any way, nor was it pried open; no scuffs, no marks, no scratches at all. The scholar inspected the inside of the safe and found that the combination could be changed from the inside. Someone must have either known the current combination or was an expert at cracking this type of lock.

As Hawksley inspected the safe, the young artificer got on with examining the items that were set out.

The first thing Anselm identified was a small pair of tooled leather bracers. They looked to be sized for a gnome or a halfling. They were Bracers of Armour (+4 to AC), affording the wearer protection without bulk or hindrance. The next item of significance was a shortsword with a ruby set in the pommel. It bore an enchantment that sheathed the blade in icy cold that would deal additional damage to a foe (Frost +1, +1d6 cold dmg).

The rapier that Hawksley presented for inspection was a fine piece. It was exquisitely crafted, and Anselm located the Cannith Maker’s Mark concealed neatly in the decorative basket. It bore an enchantment as well, this one doubling the blade’s threat for inflicting devastating injury (Keen +2 - Doubles Critical Hit threat range).

The handaxe handle had Anselm scratching his head in puzzlement. The handle had a spell that would enable it to return if thrown. Presumably, it had once been attached to a suitable axehead. For now, it was a curiosity, and not of much use in a fight. It could be stripped down and the enchantment reused or transferred, if Anselm worked it just so...

Oddly, there was a set of matching silverware, a fork, knife and spoon, that were enchanted as well. They would each warm anything they touched to a favourable eating temperature (great for leftovers, no doubt). Nothing spectacular, but Anselm marvelled at the ingenuity of the craftsman for such an everyday set of items.

Anselm moved on to the items recovered from the intruders this evening. He inspected Drago’s wands first. The Wand of Hold Person still had 27 charges left. It was fortunate that the fool forgot that those types of spells won’t work on constructs. It was a well crafted wand of darkwood and mother-of-pearl inlay, and it bore tiny etchings along the grip.

The other wand was interesting, as it resembled jointed bones, like an elongated finger, even though it was carved of hawthorn. When used, it would turn corpses into undead skeletons or zombies (Animate Dead - Lesser), and it had 43 charges left in it. Anselm nearly dropped it in revulsion when he realised what it was. The artificer carefully set that one aside.

The dragonshards were quite interesting as well. The Eberron shard was indeed a spell-shard containing a number of first and second level wizard spells [I’ll forward a list of spells contained within via email]. The two Khyber shards were not calibrated for a specific use yet, but were quite valuable, probably fetching a few thousand gold each. Of course, they could be used to create powerful elemental harnessed magic items as well...

The gloves and boots of the soulknife were indeed a matched set, made by the same craftsman. The gloves were enchanted with a spell to improve the wearer’s dexterity (Gloves of Dexterity +4), and the boots would allow the wearer to walk up walls (Spider Climbing). Both pairs were extremely valuable. Anselm couldn’t make anything of the green quartz-like stone, however. As far as the artificer could tell, there was nothing special about it other than its unique colouring.

The swordsman’s matched blades were impressive. Each weapon was magically enhanced to hit more easily and to inflict more damage than a normal blade (Longsword +2, shortsword +2). The swordsman’s brigandine armour also bore an enchantment to enhance its protective ability (AC +2).

Spoiler!


Anslem also examined the arrow, even though it did not seem to have any enchantments upon it. The craftsmanship of the arrow was astounding. It did appear to be bronzewood, but the artificer was fairly certain it had been alchemically treated to bleach it out. This gave it weight and stability, able to be used for longer ranges without being blown off course easily. Anselm’s craftsman’s eye noticed that the arrowhead was forged, not moulded into shape. That was a speciality craft, working on adamantine in such small proportions with precision. Only a handful of the best House Cannith artificers could have created something like that with that much skill...

Hawksley stepped back from the small safe and cleared his thoughts. The laboratory and offices would have to be gone over thoroughly, and to do that, he would have to start from the beginning. The scholar retraced his steps to the closed door (very much aware that the adamantine arrow that killed Drago would have no problem piercing that door), and viewed the main room as if for the very first time. While doing this, he kept a mental image of the lab as he knew it in the back of his mind so he could compare and contrast.

The first thing he noticed was that the main door wasn’t forced open. There was no sign of damage or wear on the frame, and the hinges appeared intact. Hawksley guessed that he might find evidence of the lock being picked if he examined it, but that would wait for the moment.

Hawksley stopped to look at the laboratory itself, with all of the tables lining the walls, equipment spread out on those worktops, tools, vials, burners, and books. On the table to his right, a rack of test tubes was out of place, noticeable by the thin rime of dust that was disturbed at the base. He guessed that the slightly jumbled array of tubes was due to them being gone through, as Anselm seemed to keep things very orderly and neat. Nothing else on the table was moved or disturbed that he could tell. The intruders were looking for potions and stopped to look here.

Looking even more closely, the inquisitive noticed a single, long, dark hair, about twelve inches long on the worktop. Anselm had short, spiky, brown hair; definitely not his. Drago had dark hair that colour, but not that long; not his. The soulknife was blonde, and the swordsman had light-brown hair; neither of them, then. Curious…

Nothing else in the lab appeared to have been disturbed by the thieves. Nor by Drago and his lackeys. There was a table full of completed items waiting to be collected or delivered. Gloves, goggles, instruments, warforged components all sat out in the open begging to be taken, but were left untouched. This was not a crime of opportunity then.

Moving forward, Hawksley looked at the door to Anselm’s office again. The soulknife was lousy at picking locks, but there wasn’t any indication that the lock had been damaged from previous efforts to open it. No scoring, no scratches, no marks at all. He was certain now that the previous thief was a professional, much more skilled than your average house-breaker.

The office was neat and orderly, just like the lab. Hawksley retraced his steps to the safe in the floor, noticing the floorboards were cleverly disguised to blend in to the rest of the floor. Closing the panel down, it was barely noticeable at all. And there were no marks to indicate it was forced open. A clever magnet and spring mechanism kept the panel in place, and would pop open when depressed just so. The thief had to know where to find the panel, and must’ve known just where to press to open it up.

And there, just to the left of the panel, was another hair, this one short and grey.
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Old 03-10-2012, 01:10 PM
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Default Hawksley, Wireburn, and Anselm - Continued

Opening up the panel, the inquisitive examined the vault again. As he noted earlier, the combination dial was not damaged or scratched at all. But he did notice that there was a thin film of oil around the dial. Hawksley was fairly certain that the design of this type of safe would not allow for any oil to leak out like that; it was put there in order to silence the mechanism so the tumblers could be more easily heard as they clicked into place. And there, just to the side of the dial, the oil seemed to form a crescent, as if it seeped around something placed against the door. Was it where a listening device of some type was placed, perhaps?

Other than the two hairs and the bit of oil Hawksley noticed, there was no other hard evidence to be found. No calling cards, no footprints, no tools left behind (not including the one the soulknife left stuck in the door). This was definitely done by professionals…

Hawksley stepped back into the lab area again and approached the bodies of the three recent intruders. He knelt down next to the Archduke to examine him more closely. The faint aroma of strong coffee lingered, and judging by the bit of red sauce at the corner of Drago’s mustache, he had recently had a meal of
Aundarian pasta in a rich tomato sauce. This was corroborated by the small stain on the man’s otherwise immaculate robe.

Judging by how recent the stains were, how much the one had set into the fabric, and the strong smell of coffee still lingering, Drago would have eaten fairly recently, probably somewhere nearby. There was an Aundarian restaurant in the next tower, if he remembered correctly...

Aside from the food and drink evidence, Hawksley noticed the faint yellow stains at the man’s fingertips. They matched the yellowish stains on Drago’s teeth. He was a smoker then, favouring rollups. But he carried no tobacco or paper. Which meant he probably left it somewhere nearby, possibly in a hotel or inn. But he carried no keys (nor did either of his lackeys). Which meant someone was waiting for his return...

The soulknife was very particular about his appearance, Hawksley decided. He sported a well manicured beard on his chin, shaped his eyebrows, and his fingernails were clipped short and filed smooth. There were no food stains or coffee aroma, but that didn’t necessarily mean he didn’t dine with Drago; it just meant he was more fastidious. He was in decent shape, but not overly strong. Given his chosen weapon was a psychic blade, he didn’t necessarily need strength to hold his own in a fight.

In contrast to the soulknife, the swordsman was in excellent physical condition. He was well toned and showed signs of regular workouts. He had a small stain of Marches barbecue sauce on his left boot, just a drop, and his breath smelled of spices and wine. He had also eaten recently, but did not go to the same place as Drago for his last meal. It might be difficult to narrow down where he had eaten most recently as there were a couple of Marches restaurants and several vendors that operated mobile carts in the vicinity. Odds were that he had something from a cart, given the sauce was on his boot and not in his lap.

Hawksley took one more walk about the lab, a last careful once-over.

“Gentlemen, I think we have done what we can here for the nonce. I have enough to begin some discreet inquiries. Good Anselm, we are overdue at back at Ms. Mordaine’s new office. Additionally, I need to check on some arrangements I’ve made. Shall we away? Perhaps we can arrange for dinner on the way.”

[HBQ: I imagine we can leave the vulgarities of settling who gets what from the treasure pile off-screen as it were.] [Rh: That works for me. Or it can be done in-game as time and/or opportunity presents itself. What about the bodies?... I don’t know if you want to just leave them where they are right now, do you?]

[Rh: Skipping ahead a bit, leaving room for you to decide what to do about the bodies...]

The trio arrived at the Keldoran Inquisitive Services office at four bells. The front door was still locked, and it did not appear anyone had been here recently. After a few moments, Pip made his presence known a little ways down the walk by clearing his throat unceremoniously. It sounded as if her were gargling with pebbles in his mouth...

“Mr Quinn! I’m glad you arrived!” Pip clutched at his hat nervously, expecting a scolding for what he was about to report. “We’ve been trying to catch up wit you, Torval and me, but lost track once we got back from delivering the note to Ms Ymaine at Morgrave.” Torval peeked from around Pip’s slender frame and bobbed his head to confirm this. “Ms Ymaine sent a message to your apartment, sir, so Torval had the good sense to go fetch it. We couldn’t find you to deliver it, so we came to back Anya and Dorrin up, sir.” He handed over the note nervously. “I’m sorry we couldn’t find you again.”

Anya and Dorrin, the dwarf brother and sister team, made thier presence known as well, waving up at Wireburn, for whom they seemed to have a special fondness. Anya waved at Anselm as well, but Dorrin scowled. He would not show favour to a stranger on their first meeting; it wasn’t right for a dwarven warrior to do so.

[Response? Comments? Actions?]

Hawksley opened the message from the assistant librarian and read it quickly. Wireburn could not help but loom over his shoulder to read it as well.
Mr Quinn,

I am flattered by your apparent trust in my abilities to procure your requested services. I have done so to the best of my abilities, as outlined in your previous instructions. Captain Delandau d’Deneith assures me the people assigned shall be discreet and efficient.

I am looking forward to a quiet dinner alone with you, so you can explain all of the cloak and dagger to me in detail. Apparently, this Raena Mordaine is of significant interest to you, so I shall understand if our rendezvous is put off until a more appropriate time.

But please understand this, Hawksley: I will not wait forever.

Yours sincerely,

Ymaine
Almost on cue, a shadow was cast across the paper in the waning afternoon light. Hawksley and Wireburn glanced up to see a man in a breastplate of armour waiting patiently, a respectful distance from them. Nearby, another man with a crossbow held it casually, but was watching Anselm intently. And yet another armoured figure was leaning against a nearby wall nonchalantly, but every line in her body was tense and ready for action, despite the casual appearance.

“Mr Quinn, I presume,” the man in the breastplate said politely. “I am Jared. My group has been assigned as first watch. Unfortunately, we have not seen hide nor hair of our charge, and we’ve been waiting here for her return. She had already left Morgrave when we were dispatched, and Ms Ymaine advised she was on her way to the Safe Haven Orphanage in Greyflood. Team two is following at a discreet distance until she returns here. Team three will relieve whichever of our groups has current eyes on her at midnight.”

[Response? Comments? Actions?]

[Rh: DM has completely screwed up and forgotten that Raena was supposed to meet you all at 4, not to mention forgetting to meet Han at 5. She’s running late, and won’t show until half past 6. Sorry! But it gives you all some time to figure out your next moves from here...]

***
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Old 03-10-2012, 01:11 PM
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Default June and Mardu

Mardu cradled June close making sure shew as still breathing. Satisfied she was only sleeping, he looked to where she had pointed last. All he saw were the towers dotted with lights, and the deep shadows of night. Then he saw it; a blossom of orange light flaring out of the side of a tower. Had that been what June was talking about? Or had he just imagined it?

[Rh: Screwed up the timing here. The fireball was in the afternoon. I’ve totally buggered up the timelines these past few turns...]

The half-orc scooped up her still form and carried her all the way back to the Grey Dragon Inn...

***

June stood in the centre of a magnificent map of Khorvaire. All around her, as far as she could see, the map stretched out in the distance. She stood over Sharn, he feet straddling wither side of the Dagger River. She saw the patterns in the map, winding and twisting, gently curving with the terrain. She’d seen marks like these in the books she studied as a child. Some of the pattern revealed itself as spirals or a series of curved lines; other times, it showed up as straight lines overlapping and intersecting with other shapes and forms. They resembled the Dragonmarks, but were sometimes more elaborate, and other times more simplistic.

She had seen the weave of the prophecy reveal itself in many ways before, but she never would have thought it stretched out across the whole of the continent like this! The mountains, rivers, valleys, and forests were all a part of the it! Breland, Karrnath, the Eldeen Reaches, Aundair, Thrane, all of the countries! Even what was once proud Cyre was a part of the pattern. And it all unfurled itself before June’s wondering eyes.

The sorceress willed her senses to take in as much as possible. She had to know what it all meant. She had to find the centre. She focused her will to find it, to know where to look. There, beyond her line of sight, beyond the borders of Breland and Thrane; it seemed to be centering there. But she was too far away to see exactly where that was. It was massive, whatever it was. She could feel it all around her. It was bigger than she had ever imagined it could possibly be.

And she felt...a presence. There was someone at the centre of all of this. She was sure of it!

She began to move forward, running, trying to reach the centre. Strong hands grappled with her, held her back, and she fought against them. But she was tired, and weak still; channeling her gift always seemed to drain her energy. The hands held tightly, and drew her back. June struggled even more, hitting and kicking, anything to get away so she could see the rest of the pattern. She swung her fists blindly, flailing about in her desperate flight.

Her hand connected with something solid, and she yelped in pain. The grasping hands released her, and she began to fall...

“Junie!” Mardu called out. His voice sounded so far away to her. She struggled to find him, and she felt like she was at the bottom of a lake, swimming towards the surface. Yes, that was it! Mardu was at the surface! She had to swim...

“Mardu!” she gasped as she broke the surface. The light of day was almost blinding to her. She was exhausted, and wanted to just slide back into the depths again to rest...

“Junie, wake up. Come on,” Mardu urged, his voice soft and soothing. “You were having a nightmare. It’s okay now, everything is fine. You’re safe.”

June sat up in bed, the sheets in total disarray. She was in her room in the Grey Dragon. And Mardu was perched at the edge of the bed. His left eye was starting to swell shut...

"Mardu? Was there a fight?" her voice was disoriented and the room around her took on a soft focus as she slowly regained full consciousness. After a moment of looking around her room, the aching in her hand regained her attention and her eyes flew to him in chagrin.

"Did I hit you? I'm so sorry!" She untangled herself from the sheets to crawl her way into his arms. "I was dreaming, but it didn't feel like a dream. I was dreaming of the pattern and the being who is at the center of it. But they aren't here."

“I’m okay,” he assured her. He let it go, content to just hold her close for the moment.

She realized she was babbling and fell silent, leaning into him and closing her eyes. "What time is it?"

“It’s about six bells. The sun should be coming up soon,” Mardu said softly. It took her a moment to realise he had stayed up watching over her all night.

“You stayed up.” She grimaced. “And I had such plans for us to..ur..last night.”

His bark of laughter was unexpectedly welcome to her ears.

“You had plans?” he smiled genuinely. “Ah well, we can save them for later.”

“Well, we DO still have a few hours...”

Her answering smile had a bit if devilishness to it.

He bent down to kiss her gently. “And here I thought you were going to offer me a gourmet breakfast and tell me all about what you’ve been up to for the past few years over coffee.” His eyes danced mischievously as well.

“Absolutely what I had in mind.” She moved to nibble experimentally at the base of his neck. “Mmmm..gourmet indeed.”

Mardu succumbed to his desires and took June into his arms, careful of her smaller frame. They were both hesitant at first, moving slowly, carefully, not quite sure of what the other would do or how they would react. But after a few minutes, they found their rhythm. Kisses were soft and lingering, caresses were careful and gentle. And soon, it didn’t matter as their hunger took over. Then there were no more words, as the two became one...

***
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Old 03-10-2012, 01:11 PM
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Default June and Mardu - Continued

June woke to Mardu’s finger gently tracing the curve of her cheek. They were curled up under the blankets facing one another. Mardu had an arm under his pillow, so he sat propped up a bit. He smiled warmly when her eyes finally fluttered open.

“Good morning,” he murmured as he brushed his lips across her forehead. “I was wondering how long you were going to sleep this time. It’s gone on nine bells already...”

“Oh no!” June sat up, unconscious of the skin that became exposed to view. “We’re supposed to meet Raena at 10?” Mardu nodded.

“Damn!” June lept from the bed, leaving Mardu bemused behind her. “I won’t have time to put on any makeup! I’ll barely have time to brush my hair even.” She began a methodical and well practiced tossing of frilly garments from the still packed bags and piles of dresses laying around the room. “What should I wear?”

“I like what you’re wearing right now,” Mardu said with a grin as he slowly got out of bed.

She paused long enough to grin at him a little self consciously. “That question was rhetorical.” She pulled a somewhat more pragmatic dress of fine blue linen with matching linen pants from beneath the tangle on the chair. “And I doubt very much that Raena would find it as... um...edifying as you do.”

She stopped a moment, in spite of her rush, to admire his naked form. A deep breath in, let him know that ,indeed, she found it quite pleasing. “You, however, I’m sure she would be perfectly happy to entertain in such attire.”

Mardu walked over to her unabashedly. “She won’t be seeing me like this,” he insisted as he kissed her again. “You don’t need to fuss with makeup or anything fancy, Junie. Just be...you.”

He took her hands and pulled her into the bathroom so they could both wash up. To its credit, the Grey Dragon Inn had tubs in each suite, and the grand suite had a tub befitting the ‘grand’.

“I sent off a couple of messages after we got back here last night,” Mardu told her as he went about the business of freshening up. “You seemed worried about Wireburn, Quinn, and d’Cannith, so I had the messenger service look up Anselm. I figured he’d let the other two know.” The half-orc paused to wash June’s back with a warm cloth, nearly making her jump in surprise.

She leaned forward so the comforting motion could reach everywhere. Her mind, however, began tracing back over what she’d seen up above. “You said the tower I pointed at was where the military is housed?”

“That’s right. The Citadel. The seat of Breland’s military in Sharn.”

“Do they have elementals or such that work for them there?”

“Elementals?” Mardu repeated as he thought about it. “I suppose they could. Elementals are used in a lot of places we take for granted. The hot water in these pipes is probably heated by a bound elemental in the boiler room, for all we know. What makes you ask?”

“There was a red light, a being, moving towards those three. The pattern showed it linked to them, and by default, us, for the moment. It was coming from the Citadel. It could be a person. But the red was odd and it seemed to be walking on the wind. Makes me not trust it.”

“Red? I thought red makes things go faster,” Mardu mused. “If you say it has something to do with them, and therefor with us, I believe you. We’ll just have to keep our eyes and ears open. I can’t think that the military would be involved, off the top of my head. What would they want with the missing children? Or do you think it has nothing to do with them, and more to do with the three we met yesterday?”

“It’s all connected. This pattern. I could see the military wanting to use dragonmarks that empower those serving them. It wasn’t my sorcery that Rhyss empowered. It was my dragonmark.”

“Ah.” Mardu couldn’t think of what else to say to that...

She turned beneath his hands, to face him. “It’s big. This pattern goes everywhere. The center, if my dream is a true sending, isn’t here in Sharn.” She kissed him apologetically. Then leaned back to look into his eyes. “It’s not always easy to understand me, is it? I don’t know how else to say what it is I see.”

“It’s okay, Junie. I do understand,” Mardu assured her. He wrapped his arms around her and held her close once more. “We’ll figure this out together. I’ll do what I can to help. Which means,” he added, realising they were just standing there, “that we need to hurry up. We’ll get some ‘food’ on the way, I suppose.” June could almost hear the disappointment in his voice; he really was hoping for a gourmet breakfast, wasn’t he...

“I’ll get you a gourmet lunch.” She smiled apologetically at him once again.

“If it’s anything like breakfast this morning, I’m all yours,” he said kissing her again. “But we do need to hurry.” Reluctantly, he released her from his arms so they could finish getting ready.

Much to June’s surprise, Mardu had acquired a change of clothes for the morning.

“How on Khorvaire do you do that? You always have exactly the right thing when you need it. You did 3 years ago, and you do now. I swear, you must have some magic I don’t know about.” June shook her head in wonder.

“I sent a message to a corporal that owes me some favours,” Mardu explained with a chuckle. “I had him pick up some clothes I keep in a locker at the training hall for emergencies. He dropped them off late last night.”

“You are very handy to have around. And handsome... and delicious...” June grinned and then did a little twirl for him in her practical, but very well made outfit. The simplicity of the design was offset, just a little by the same color satin stitching that created a little pattern all over it. Come to think of it, Mardu realized, all her clothing was patterned. Even if subtly.

“And you are beautiful, Junie,” Mardu appreciated as he took in her outfit. “And very much full of surprises yourself.” He couldn’t resist, and moved to take her in his arms again, if for just a second or two.

“Are you ready to head out then?” he asked, gazing at her warmly. “As ready as I will be, today.” She smiled back up into his eyes. It would have been maudlin if her heart didn’t feel so warm and fluttery.

Mardu glanced back into the room at the bed and sighed deeply. “Come on, before we change our minds and call the whole thing off,” he joked. June noticed the way his tusks stuck out when he pouted, but kept it to herself, savouring the glimpse of his orcish charm.

She lead him out into the hallway and managed, with a series of careful peekings, to avoid the innkeeper. A quick breakfast of drippy fried bread balls dipped in honey had them laughing on the way as they tried to avoid getting the sticky stuff on each other. Warm glances, furtive touches...she’d never realized that just walking could be so romantic and...happy.

As the two made their way towards Cavendish Tower, Mardu paused on one of the bridges to look out at the city of towers. He smiled; it was a warm, heartfelt, toothy affair that might’ve made any other person cringe in fear. But not June.

“Junie, I--” Mardu began as he looked into the beautiful woman’s eyes. But his own eyes suddenly darted off to one side, and he roughly pushed June aside. “Get down!”

A crossbow bolt smashed into the balustrade a few inches from where June had just been, sending chips of stone flying everywhere. Bystanders screamed and fled as June tried to get her bearings. Mardu was already reaching for his shortsword and axe. A cloaked and hooded figure stood at the far end of the bridge, reloading a crossbow.

[Initiative!]

June - 16

Unknown Assailant - 12

Mardu - 9

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Old 03-10-2012, 01:12 PM
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Default Durion, Raena, and Altus

“Master Durion, you’re still here?” Raena said a little surprised as she came back into the waiting room. “I thought you would have gone home for the evening. Evening! Oh bother! We were supposed to meet with Mr Han at five bells. That was over an hour ago...”

With a flurry of activity, Raena summoned Altus, and the pair made their farewells to Sister Sydower.

Olivette appeared to be in much more control of herself at this point, and thanked everyone for their help. Then she wrapped her arms around Raena and hugged her tightly, surprising them both it seemed.

"We'll make better time if we take a sky taxi," Altus suggested, and the trio left the Safe Haven Orphanage with promises to return soon.

Master Durion seemed lost in thought for most of the return trip...

"Inter-house liaisons are still taboo, but they do occur. Heirs who stray are often allowed to keep their status—as long as they are willing to abandon their tainted children."

It looked as if there was a significance beyond the ordinary, but how it played into the storyline had yet to be determined.

"Ye-es," Raena said hesitantly, not quite sure what Master Durion was talking about. They had been travelling in silence for some time, and she and Altus had been concerned for him. "Do you think this has something to do with Rhysson?"

Durion glanced over the side of the sky taxi, realising where he was...

The trio made it safely to Cavendish tower by nearly half past six bells. Raena was mortified that she had forgotten her appointment, and even more so for remembering too late that she had promised to meet Mr Quinn and Sir Wireburn at four bells. She was doubly upset at that! What an impression she must be making on all these people that were trying to help her... Altus had done his stoic best to comfort her.

Upon their arrival, they discovered Han waiting for them at the front door...

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Old 03-10-2012, 01:14 PM
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Default Han

Han woke with a start. A quick glance through the curtain told him it was well after nightfall. He was supposed to meet with Raena at five bells this afternoon! How long ago was that? With everything that had happened, he had completely forgotten!

Groaning slightly with a bit of effort, Han got himself out of bed. Slapping some water on his face to wake up, he took his shirt off and checks the bandages; the bindings held tight, and would do until he had a chance to see a healer. He then rummaged around for a semi-clean set of clothes, changing out of the blood stained ones.

Stepping carefully out the door, Han made his way to the meeting, taking time to change into his nondescript human look before getting there. He took a moment to scout around the meeting site to see if anyone was hanging around before going in.

From his vantage point, Han could make out several people hanging about in close proximity of the Keldoran Inquisitive Services office. There were a couple of young children that seemed to be loitering about the area, casting furtive glances at the office from time to time. Han thought the two boys looked like they’d be more at home in the lower wards rather than here in the upper Central Plateau.

The changeling also spied a group of armoured men hanging about a few doors away. They were less conspicuous than the boys, but their presence did sort of stand out. They were armed and armoured, seemingly ready for some sort of trouble, but they didn’t carry themselves like Watchmen. In fact, Han was fairly certain they were mercenaries of some sort.

Given that he was already running late, and he didn’t see any of the Watch nearby, Han peeked into the window set in the front door before knocking to see if anyone was around.

“Mr Han,” Raena called out from behind him. “So sorry we’re late! I seem to have completely lost track of time with everything that happened this afternoon! Have you seen Mr Quinn or Sir Wireburn by chance? I’m afraid I missed my appointment with them as well!”

With the priestess came the uniformed and scarred elf, as well as a towering muscular figure in plate armour. He wore a holy symbol of the Sovereign Host on a leather cord about his neck. The bald man met Han’s eye and nodded politely.

[Response? Comments? Actions?]

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Old 03-11-2012, 01:59 PM
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Default Interlude

“My lord, we have made the required adjustments as you instructed,” the woman’s voice echoed through the nearly empty chamber. The faint sound of machinery thrummed and rumbled in the background.

“Excellent. I shall have my essence transferred to the research facility for the next test run. Prepare the matrices,” came the hoarse reply.

“Of course, sir. It shall be done,” the woman said crisply. There was a brief pause before she spoke again. “My lord, if I may?...”

“You wish to ask if the Destiny Prognosticator will actually work,” came the knowing reply. It was a statement, not a question.

“Of course it will, my lord,” she said automatically. “It’s your life’s work. I have no doubt it will do what you designed it to do. It’s just that... I wonder if there is still time.”

“There will be time enough, my dear,” the old man said confidently. “The Destiny Prognosticator will give us the means to prepare what we must. And I shall be restored to my former glory. Never fear.”

“Yes, my lord. I look forward to the day you no longer need to rely upon these machines to sustain you,” the woman said honestly.

“As do I, my child. As do I...” the man chuckled warmly, and a steam valve whistled agreement. But the gentle laughter turned into a fit of coughing, and the respirator groaned as it tried to even itself out again. “Go! Go prepare the matrices. It will do me some good to get out of this chamber for a while...”

“Yes, my Emperor,” the woman said as she held back a tear. With a deep bow, she left the old man and his machinery.

The frail man wheezed and hacked some more, and the machinery seemed to creak and sputter with him. Oxygen bubbled and gurgled in the green glass dome atop the man’s head, and the brain within seemed to almost swell with the last gasping cough.

“You can come out now,” he said finally, after the fit subsided. “She did not notice you.”

“It would be inconvenient if she did,” said the spidery figure as it drew back the curtains and moved to stand before the emperor. “I believe she would find our...arrangement quite difficult to accept.”

“Indeed, she would. Do you have the latest readings?”

“I do, sire,” came the silky reply. He handed over a sheaf of papers with cryptic markings inked upon them. A thin and liver-spotted hand took them and held them up to read.

“Emperor, would it not be easier to let your subjects know that the Engine has been running for weeks now?” the shadowy figured enquired with a polite bow. ”How much longer will you continue to deceive them by running these ‘tests’?”

“For as long as it takes to get what we need!” the emperor bellowed. The steam valve whistled sharply and a warning light blinked red several times until the old man calmed himself. “Thanks to your carelessness, we have lost the amplifier. I expected better of you.”

“We have gained something much more vital, sire. I see it as a reasonable exchange, given the unusual circumstances,” purred the almost skeletal figure as it stroked its chin with long, delicate fingers. “And the one responsible has been punished for the transgression. I assure you, it will not happen again.”

“It had better not,” the old man warned. “Bring the amplifier back when it is safe to do so. I do not want to waste any more time priming another one.”

“As you command, sire,” came the whispered reply. “And what of the Dragon?”

“Deal with the Dragon as you see fit. Just make sure it is done discreetly,” the old man said as the dome bolted to his skull bubbled with agitation.

“Of course, sire.” Without another word, the spidery form vanished on the spot.

The old man sifted through the papers again, pausing to examine one in particular. His finger traced the line of markings until it came to rest upon a pictograph resembling a book. “So...the Scholar will do that, will he? Most interesting...”

“My lord? The matrices are ready for your transfer,” the woman’s voice sounded over the mechanical intercommunication device.

The old man reached for the horn attached to a rubber tube affixed to the armrest of his life-supporting machine. “Very well. Thank you, my child. I shall be there shortly.”

Shaking fingers reached out and flipped a half dozen switches on the panel to his left, and the machinery around him began to hum even louder. His eyes began to flutter, and his body convulsed several times before going completely still. A pale, silvery fog seeped from the emperor’s body and flowed into a series of brass pipes. The machinery continued to carry on its programmed tasks as the old man’s life essence slipped out of his body to flow through the matrices to the research facility across the compound...

***
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