Justin groans wearily, fitfully batting at the fire elemental burning his eyes. It refused to stop glowing. Stupid elemental.
Vaguely Justin realized that he didn't recall summoning a fire elemental. Warily he opened an eye. The shaft of light mercilessly seared his retina, and possibly a few brain cells. Snapping his eye shut he cursed lights in general and the unshuttered spell-lantern by his bed specifically.
Light. Bed. That meant that Skyy had already gotten up, and left the lantern that Justin had enchanted with a long lasting light spell unshuttered when she left. She did that for him, knowing that Justin needed the light to help him wake up, and that it annoyed him when she did so.
A host of memories flooded back at that point, including his brief but intense 'discussion' with Skyy regarding his choice of 'potential clients'. After that they had stayed up long talking. Justin had told Skyy about his recent misadventures, leaving out certain delicate details, and asking Skyy about recent word on the street in Sigil as well as her opinions and fashion expertise for a few enchanted items he was considering. One thing Skyy never had a shortage on, it was opinions. He was lucky that she was a sharp as she was pretty.
Justin opened both eyes with a start.
The light was shining in his narrow basement window, (As much as it ever shined in Sigil), That meant he was late. Again. Frack.
Justin tried to leap out of bed and throw off the covers at the same time. He succeeded at the first one, but not so much the second. He sat up and jumped from his bed well enough, but the blanket wound itself around his legs like a serpent, and he found himself testing the solidity of his floor for the second time in recent history.
Considering whether it would be cheaper to get wall to wall padded rugs, or simply enchant the entire floor into something softer, like pudding, Justin quickly washed with the basin of cold water and changed into clean clothes. HE took one slow, deliberate look at his shoddy repair job on the rat-holes to make certain they were still sealed. Then he re-packed his backpack and coat pockets with his essential wizarding gear, went out, and locked the door behind him.
On his way back to Rose offices, Justin realized that he still felt tired, yet invigorated. His previous weariness was gone, and his soreness from the recent adventures was fading into the background of memories and the aches of a job well done. Justin checked his surroundings as he walked, and he realized that he had to remind himself to do so. Was he getting so used to this strange place that he actually felt,... comfortable, here?
It was far more likely that he was still just brain-dead tired. But Justin filed that thought away for later consideration, because he wasn't quite sure how to feel about that. Yet. He WAS pretty sure that breakfast would really hit the spot right now. And Justin got an inkling that he might, for just a moment, know how Karrin felt ALL the time.
Justin was in quite the positive mood by the time he hit the doorway of the Cauldron. He was whistling a jaunty tune he had learned from some sailors, (He had also learned the words, but was not about to launch into THAT in a public place!), He held open the door for a woman just leaving the Cauldron, and Justin idly noted that she was still carrying a journal or sketchbook of some kind instead of packing it in her bag. Then he entered the Cauldron himself where he was greeted by the wonderful smells of good food and the sight of his companions at their usual large table. Justin waved at their hosts, and sat down next to where Isaac was just resettling back into his own chair.
"Hey guys and gals! What's up? Besides us, obviously?" Justin cheerfully asks the weary group as he grabbed a fresh mug of kahveh and took the first long drink without bothering to add honey to it first.
Justin groaned, and held out a hand for teh scroll. Then he changed his mind, and his hand retrieved the remnants of the sausage platter instead.
"Never read bad news on an empty stomach." He said sagely as he dumped the remaining sausages onto his plate. He shoved the first one into his mouth whole in a valiant attempt to copy Karrin, choked, and washed it down with kahveh. Then he picked up a second and ate it at a more leisurely pace as he read the missive.
"Hm. Job security indeed." He said, tossing the letter back onto the table.
"And I have yet more good news. At first I thought this might be personal, but it's beginning to sound bigger than just a local thieves guild or personal collector." Justin said as he refilled his mug with kahveh from a freshly steaming pot brought to the table by their hostess.
"I had a, visitor, when I got home. THIS one was by far the most polite so far. A young lady offered me information regarding the 'artifact' that we picked up. Seems that there's a group of persons who have noticed it's reappearance and want it. Badly. Supposedly they think it's the key to an artifact-level mechanized construct of some sort. She said that letting them have it would be a really bad idea."
"I believe her. Because she said the followers of this cult aren't,... persons,... anymore. They scared her. And as she shared that her folks are members of that ancient sect that keep offering sacrifices to the 'Great One' to prevent it from waking up,... Well I figured they must be pretty bad to give the shivers to someone who used to pray to outsiders."
"... why are we holdin' onto this thing, then cutter? You study it enough yet? Might be time teh break it once and for all, deny whatever they are their toy. We already got one dangerous power source in hand, why take another?", Isaac says to Justin.
"Another thing,", he adds in a low voice to the table,"we got some interest from the press. One Serafina of the Sharper Eye wanted the Dark of our run-in between the Dead and the Chaosmen a couple weeks ago. If she asks, we were workin' fer the Bleakers to keep the other two Hiver factions from each others' throats. I reckoned that's a more flattering story than the truth about a splinter faction o' Dustmen operatin' outta the Mortuary. She comes 'round again, stick teh that story best ye can. That way, ye know, the Dusties can't get too cross with us and trash our rep."
"Oi, Really?" Justin kvetches with exaggerated weariness.
"I thought that little episode was dead and buried." He says with a straight face. He looks around the table.
"Hello? Dead? Buried?,... Mortuary?,... Really? Nothing? Wow. Tough crowd." He says innocently as he takes another bite of sausage.
"And no. I haven't hardly had time to do more than a cursory examination on the thing. Detail work on something like this requires time and quiet. Something we haven't really had much of, what with us traipsing from one end of the World Tree to the other." Justin points out wryly.
"I can't help but wonder if the two items aren't connected somehow? I mean, we no sooner acquire one artifact than we end up with a warning of impending doom and the means to help avoid it? Remember, I do NOT believe in coincidence."
Justin realizes that he is touching his coat where the Rod is safely tucked. He deliberately moves his hand away and back to his plate.
"The more cryptic clues we get about this contraption, the less confident I feel about our ability to destroy it. Don't get me wrong, I'll put us up against any dragon or beastie when it comes to collateral damage. But now we know it's just a magic power source for an even bigger artifact? I don't think we're going to be able to just smash it with a rock. And yes, I think trying would be an extraordinarily BAD idea." He adds hastily.
"We need information. And said information's lack of cooperation is beginning to annoy me. I'll pick up a couple of scrolls, something I can use to dig for info while we're camped for the night maybe. And maybe make another deal with OLLI when we pick up his research. From the way Karrin talks about him, if anyone can find out what this thing is, it's him. Her? It? You know what I mean."
The light waxes out the door, and the rain begins to taper to a drizzly fog. As the group discusses things, Renkar enters the common room, looking more put together and rested than earlier
"I see you are all getting a good breakfast," he says, grabbing a loaf of bread and some jam.
"Time to await Mr. Swire. I'll be glad to be shut of the situation"
He looks at the scroll.
"Yeah. I tumble constantly. Fortunately I tend to land on my feet. Enchanted boots. Never leave home without them." Justin smirks.
Wiping his hands, Justin tells Renkar about his friendly, if cryptic, warning from his early peak visitor.
"So, I'm glad I haven't had time to turn this thing in to the club yet. I have a feeling it probably wouldn't be in a cabinet there long. As much as I hate to admit it, I think Isaac might have the right idea. But I don't think that just breaking it in half will work. Or be safe."
"Of course, that's never really slowed us down before,..." He admits ruefully.
"We going to swing by the library and see what OLLI dug up before we leave?"
After leaving the library, Ekuur takes the walk back to the temple district until the familiar sight of his own small building comes into view. He takes the time to ensure he doesn't disturb his acolytes at the late hour, but is up before them to greet them all as they rise. Ekuur leads the trio in their early morning prayers and the service for the small congregation, to celebrate what would be the sun's rise on most prime worlds.
After the services, he makes his way back to the offices, arriving in time to grab a few sausages and bread while the others discuss the group's next move. He remains his characteristically silent self as he eats, listening to the others talk.
The bath is exactly what she needs, the water hot just short of stinging against her skin, soothing her aching muscles while the scents of eucalyptus and peppermint take her mind away. One of the few aspects of noble life that she could never quite give up was a long hot bath, especially after a battle.
As her body decompresses, Rhiannon closes her eyes, allowing her mind to play over the insane series of events of the last few days.