After giving two quick curtsies and a kiss on her daughter's cheek, Greasha merely raised her eyebrows and shrugged her shoulders at the ruckus her mother made, swatting taller folk out of the way with a large stick of salami as she vanished into the market.
"So," Greasha said, rocking her hips from side to side as she smiled, "about that shopping trip you mentioned..."
He suddenly remembered his promise, all colour flushed from his face. "I'm so sorry. I was busy. Truly. I'll explain what I can another time, when we're somewhere less public. For now, I'm here to fulfill my promise and take you shopping. I want to do something special for you." He smiled.
Basilio noted Amhranai's abstinence with a nod as he combined two parts of an Estorian whiskey cream with one part of a clear, sweet herbal liqueur with a vivid yellow hue. "As your Ladyship is recently arrived, let me say that the Empyrean Arcade boasts the finest boutiques in the whole of Dafar."
With a cordial smile, he stirred the liqueurs together before pouring the creamy yellow mixture into a trio of crystal tumblers filled with chilled soapstones. After carrying them on a silver serving tray to the table at which they say, he offered glasses first to Lureene and then Sasha before claiming the last for himself, sipping the cool, vanilla and anise-flavored cocktail with his guests.
"As it so happens, I do have an exquisite apartment to let. It is a good deal more spacious than a penthouse as it is a two-story affair. Ironically, whereas your man, Arion, specifically requested lodging in close proximity to Mister Moretti's establishment, it was for that very reason the prior tenant broke their lease."
Basilio rested his tumbler on the broad arm of his couch and leaned back. With his right heel crossed atop his left knee, he steepled his fingers and touched them to his lips before shaking his head. "Not at all. A saloon has graced the corner of Trade and Central for as long as I recall, 'Victor's' is simply its present moniker."
"No, it was rather a new addition to the Arcade that disenfranchised the prior occupant. You see, we recently completed construction of a new skybridge that spans the Central Avenue mezzanine to the saloon's terrace lounge. Evidently, the popularity of that extension was less than universal. Still," he disentwined his fingers to reach for his glass, "one man's loss is another man's gain. Could I interest you in a tour?"
The two dwarves enjoyed the day in the markets looking for magical reagents for Darvesch's next enchantment, as well as adding a pair of masterwork manacles to his gear. He did his best to hide what his gift was. Truth be told, he had only just come up with it. Though he would like to lavish her with gifts like necklaces and rings, he felt she was more practical than that. His time among elves and humans had made this dwarf an unusual one. For now, he had decided to simply ask some questions, to get to know her. This would help him decide his next course of action.
Darvesch asked, "Do you enjoy your work?" He listened to her answer, giving her enough time to answer before asking his next question. "What is your dream?"
Buying reagents for 15k gp and mwk manacles for 50 gp of his own money.
Lureene sipped her drink and let the tasty liquid swirl in her mouth as she considered what Basilio told her.
A Skybridge? How interesting...I wonder how much if this IS coincidence...WOW this drink sure leaves an aftertaste...but not an unpleasant one!
"Yes Mister Lori, a tour would be delightful! As long as the place has not been completely vandalized, it sounds perfect!"
"Do I enjoy my work...?" Darvesch's question gave Greasha pause. "Ship's cook is an honest job and I'm good enough at it. Mother and I get along well enough too, but when the bardi tell their tales, you never hear about the ones who saw to it that the heroes' bellies were full."
She gave a shrug. "I'm not one to look for trouble, but an old dwarf ought to have at least a few tales from their youth to tell."
Grinning, she checked Darvesch's pauldron with her shoulder. "Bet your Frænka could sing quite the lay of your deeds."
"What is your dream?"
"Oh ho ho!" She shook her head, dark sapphire eyes thoughtful as she looked at the clouds above. "I'd fancy a chance to fly... not with a spell, but really fly, like on a griffon or an eagle. Maybe take down a dragon and open a tavern where I could rub elbows with other heroes..."
Waving a hand as if to shoo a fly, she said, "Gah, listen to me going on like a little girl. What about you on both counts: work and dreams?"
"Vandalism?" Basilio's brow furrowed slightly at what apparently struck him as a non sequitur. "Rest assured, your Ladyship, we employ sufficient security to safeguard against such vulgar behavior."
Turning his head slightly, he tugged on the lapel of his jacket and spoke into small silver pin, "Vanessa, please hold my appointments. Lady Ourson has requested a tour of the west villa."
|No One of Consequence|
Sasha perked up at the superintendent's means of communicating with his secretary.
Well that's handy!
The redhead nodded slightly to Lureene, as if agreeing with a question. "That's what we need!"
Tossing back the rest of her drink, she set the empty vessel back on the serving tray and hopped back to her feet, hand extended to Lureene. "Let's go see Ari's new place!"
"Gah, listen to me going on like a little girl. What about you on both counts: work and dreams?"
He pondered for only a moment before answering in his native tongue. "Yes, I do enjoy my work. I enjoy all the beautiful sights it brings me to." Darvesch smiled as he looked at Greasha. "As for my dreams?" He paused for a moment. "I want to bring light to the dark corners of the world. I want to make my home safe for my family and those I love."
The faintest hint of a blush arose on Greasha's cheeks at Darvesch's compliment, but she in no way interrupted him as they turned east along Trade Street. Even at their height, the uppermost reaches of the great coliseum beyond could be seen above the gatehouse dividing New Viamaré from Colossineum. Although it fell out of view the moment they turned the corner, her lover's words turned her head back in the direction of the Palace.
"Is this one of those dark places then, this city?"
Thinking back to the scene she had witnessed atop Arrowhead from the deck of the Zephrys, she laughed at herself and shook her head. "I'm just saying, aside from the devils and demons and evil wizards it doesn't seem like such a bad place. Why, you should have it all cleaned up in no time."
Perceptive as he was, it wasn't difficult for Darvesch to note a tinge of melancholy in Greasha's voice at the thought of him being tied to the jungle city. Still, for now at least, she seemed content enough with the time they were getting to share with one another.
D 1d20 + 20 ⇒ (9) + 20 = 29
It was about a ten minute walk from Basilio's office thru the arcade to its south-western end. As the three women and the four members of the royal guard followed Mr. Lori, it became apparent that many of the offices and shops lining the elegant 3-story structure were available for lease — a sign that the difficult economic times had affected even the upper echelon of Dafar's society.
Even still, the balmy breeze and indirect lighting from both above and from side streets allowed one to walk in greater comfort than in the open streets elsewhere. For the whole of the distance, the eight walked along the broad mezzanine overhanging the sidewalks below, carriages and pedestrians bustling about below while others chose to relax at tables dotting the balconies.
Upon drawing close to the far end, sunlight poured into the great arch overlooking Central Avenue below. There, leading across that thoroughfare, was a wrought iron bridge covered by a white trellis festooned with ivy, the far side ending at a large patio on which well-dressed individuals took their afternoon cocktails in the shade of potted palms — Victor's.
"Ah, here we are," Basilio said, gesturing to an edifice that was set back some 20-feet from the mezzanine, a covered porch facing the walkway, "the west villa!"
Artwork: West Villa Foyer
With a mild smile, the superintendent opened the gate onto the porch for the ladies before approaching the ornate double doors, each one bearing a lion's head knocker carved from bronze. With a flourish, he spun about a mithril key on a purple cord before thrusting it into the lock and giving it a smart turn all in one fluid motion. As the heavy doors swung inward with no noise or effort, dulcet chimes announced the new arrivals.
Inside, the group found themselves standing upon a thick round rug of ornate design within a two-story foyer of pristine marble. Ahead, twin stairways curved gracefully to an upper story, drawing one's eyes to the crystal chandeliers and recessed lights that bathing the interior in a diffuse white glow.
"Say," Sasha commented to Lureene, "this looks pretty good for a place that got all messed up, huh?"
Artwork: Sitting Room
"I–" Mister Lori gave the redhead a cock-eyed look, shaking his head slightly at the remark, "Please believe me, Ms. Nevah, there has been no vandalism to this estate, I assure you."
Turning, he gestured to a large sitting room to the west, inviting everyone to enter. "As you can see, Lady Ourson, the villa is fully furnished and at over ten thousand square feet, quite spacious as well."
I better test how fluffy the chairs are...
Humming softly to herself, Sasha skipped over to one of the overstuff chairs by the windows, kneeling on for a moment as she looked out the window at Victor's. "But didn't some half-blacks blow up a bunch of stuff around here? Princess Lissi was just talking about it with a bunch of old rich guys."
After plopping down in the chair, she bounced a few times to satisfy herself that it was sufficiently well-cushioned before her eyes met with an ornate harp not far away.
"Aaah..." Basilio sighed as Sasha hopped up to run her hand across the harp-strings. "I see, you are referring to the tragic events surrounding Governor Taurion's assassination. Forgive me, I had not thought to couch the event as mere vandalism. Your euphemism caught me off-guard."
"At any rate, the events to which you refer took place at the opposite end of the Empyrean Arcade by Trade Street. Marshal Gilthar and a squad of his men lost their lives and Master Angrem his place of business when felons destroyed the Porters' Guild. While it was a tragic event all around, we were fortunate in that the arcade itself received only superficial damage long-since repaired."
Lureene gazed about her at the opulent decorations of the estate. She nodded slowly to herself in satisfaction as she twirled a lock of hair in between her fingers. I believe Arion will be MOST happy with this abode. I think it will suit his nature perfectly...anyway I HOPE SO...
As she took a seat in the sitting room admiring the decor, she gave Sasha a meaningful glance as the redhead strummed the harp before returning Basilio's remarks, "Forgive me, I should have been more clear. To be honest with you, I really had no idea what to expect here as I have not had time to tour the city proper."
"That would be–" The sound of Sasha running her hands along the keys filled the manse with its chords.
Managing a wan smile, he continued, "–a grand piano. Shall I show you the formal dining room and the upstairs, Lady Ourson?"
Yes, this was no doubt turning into a long afternoon for Mr. Lori...
While the others had been out tending to their own tasks in the city, Arion had found himself deep within the archives below the Palace's administrative wing studying documents on both the history of Freehold and of other more recent developments.
It was while there that he received the reply he had been expecting from Commodore Gaeros. What he had not expected was the messenger who bore it. "I must say, the Commodore is a very generous man. He has volunteered the service of his best captain and the private yacht of our esteemed Treasurer for your official use."
Looking up, the elvish spy found his petite ruler smiling at him, a mirthful gleam in her enchanting violet gaze as she pinched a tiny scroll between two dainty fingers. "If your curiosity about The Mad Count has been satisfied, perhaps you could help satisfy my curiosity regarding a prisoner's belongings..."
Arion stood up fully and stretched and tried to hide a deep yawn but, upon further reflection...
Considering in whose presence is an attempt to conceal something...
He bowed slightly and smiled while saying, "Excuse me, your visit is a pleasant surprise."
Accepting the courier reply, which confirmed what The Princess had hinted, a laugh escaped from Arion. "Ha! Well, if our friend Gaeros volunteers the Treasurer's yacht, I would joyfully accept."
He was happy that The Vicereine found amusement in the situation as well.
"If it involves our prisoner Ugorji, I would also joyfully tag along, if only to study him more. It might prove useful to be able to assume his identity in Freetown."
As Arion accompanied The Princess he added, "Speaking of Freetown, the Lieutenant-Governor Alain seems to be a potentially powerful ally, with his own army of faithful natives. I am not fully informed as to King Aramandil's policies concerning the future of Dafar; yet, assuring the Lieutenant-Governor that we value the freedoms of that Province...it seems that might be a strong bargaining chip for us."
From behind Alis, Grak poked out his head and bobbed it in Arion's direction as he spoke, "Missstressss thinksss the placcce she ssseesss will sssuit thisss one. Sssasha sssaysss the bathsss are niccce, but Missstressss sssaysss that mussst wait..."
Oh, my Ladies, how adorable you are.
Arion walked up to Grak and scratched and groomed between scales while saying, "Thank you, Grak. Let your Mistress know that I trust her tastes. I look forward to exploring the place. Yet I will be more pleased to see her soon, here at the Palace."
Alis smirked at the spy's reaction to the news.
Why do I have the feeling Lureene is going to be off her feet more than usual this voyage...?
"Just remember," she chided, "any damages sustained outside the line of duty will be your responsibility, Mister Hithraen."
"If it involves our prisoner Ugorji, I would also joyfully tag along, if only to study him more. It might prove useful to be able to assume his identity in Freetown."
As the two moved thru the secret passageways connecting the archives to the dungeon, Alis responded to Arion's suggestions, "I have no idea what the situation is in Freehold. Ugorji claims he serves a new king, this Makatimbe, but if even Darvesch was unable to pry additional information from him, I'm not so arrogant as to think we'll fare better."
"Still," she said, tilting her head up to give Arion an appraising look, "you did a good enough job impersonating Mal for a month, so if studying the prisoner might help your mission then by all means, do so."
"Speaking of Freetown..."
With Grak flapping along quietly behind them, his wings stirring up motes of dust, Alis pursed her lips wondering how much he might comprehend well enough to relate to Lureene.
Of course, she's only just begun to study our tongue, so...
Even as Grak related Arion's blessing to his mistress, Alis sighed and responded, "In some kingdoms, being appointed governor of a remote province might be seen as an attempt to hide an embarrassing member of the family from the court. However, that would imply a province valued chiefly for its potential resources, not its military significance."
Upon reaching the end of a corridor, she hesitated, one hand resting on the wall, searching for an unseen trigger. "The thing is, the situation here is more complicated than protecting jungle tribes on the far side of the world. My adoptive father, our King, is compassionate but also wise beyond reckoning."
"'Why have us build new warships this far south? Why not just export the lumber and have master shipwrights in Silverwake perform the work? Wouldn't they be able to do a better job?'" She looked up to Arion. "That's what I asked my sister the last time we spoke. Do you know what her answer was? 'Maybe the King needs them there... Maybe he needs a stronger fleet in Dafar.'"
"After the appearance of Scylla and Charybdis at Light's End, I think she's right. Someone is trying to divide our forces and undermine our allies."
With that, she at last triggered whatever hidden control there was, and the wall pivoted on a silent, central hinge admitting the two into the dungeons far beneath the Palace dome. "And here we are... I think a strong ally would be quite welcome, don't you?"
Watching the fascinating creation at work made Arion's job all the more pleasant this day.
He also paid a bit of attention to the hidden control mechanism in the dungeon.
"So good of the other brilliant Kirmoon Twin to find time to combine intellects and wisdom. Uniting our strengths here, not allowing enemies to fragment us...I will keep these as priorities."
Looking down the subterranean passage, Arion reminded himself that he was not limited to being alone in his assignment in that region.
"How can I be of assistance here? Curiosity regarding a prisoner's belongings was mentioned."
Brilliant am I? 'Sis would certainly smirk...
The fascinating young royal nodded in reply as she led her agent thru the dungeons until they stood before a sealed vault by which stood a pair of guards snapped to attention. As she placed her hand upon a golden apparatus that rose from the floor, spoke a word of command, and turned a key, hidden bolts withdrew, and great counterweight swung wide the enchanted, adamantine door.
"Sasha said Ugorji forestalled his retreat to retrieve that metal flask rather than letting it fall to us." As she led him inside, he could see it sitting upon a table within a cube of force. "I want to know why."
The threats of Ugorji — to the people and region that Arion had begun to care more for daily and to his Kingdom, the honour of his King and appointed Vicereine — the memories flooded back.
Soon the flask and encasing cube filled all of Arion's point of view.
Do not allow the enemy to poison and cloud your mind. Master the fire of wrath, redirect; use the passion to fuel your resolve; be the superior intellect.
Arion closed his eyes. In his mind the stars began to streak across the Heavens until they rearranged into the transliteration that unlocked the codified messages placed there ages ago by their Queen. His hands and arms crossed before his body, gesturing; from his lips floated the incantation, evoking a cone of energy; the divination aimed at the metal flask.
Elven eyes opened upon the flask as long fingers moved the object. Arion combined his deep knowledge of magical items with his arcane divination as he examined the container which Ugorji had so strongly treasured.
Arion used Identify
Spellcraft 1d20 + 12 + 10 + 2 + 1d6 ⇒ (4) + 12 + 10 + 2 + (6) = 34 Identify; Elven Racial Trait; Mythic Surge
Sweat beaded on Arion's brow as he sought to pierce the mystery of the inscrutable object, it's power seemingly beyond his ken. He was only faintly aware of a feather-light touch upon his arm, and a prayer whispered in Sylvan.
"Divine Lady of Luck, grace him with your insight..."
Suddenly, the magics that had veiled it as a simple elixir fell away and it's true purpose became known to him. This was an Iron Flask, a vessel that verged upon being a minor artifact in its own right — one that could imprison an outsider within it, or command one within to do as its liberator commanded.
Yet as he examined it, his Princess standing by his side aiding him with her own insight, he was just barely able to discern another spell hidden upon it — a barely perceptible script outlining some sort of contingency effect. It seemed to be written in a dialect of Abyssal...
R 1d20 + 10 + 2 + 1 ⇒ (12) + 10 + 2 + 1 = 25 resistance, Alis
R bit of luck 1d20 + 10 + 2 + 1 ⇒ (5) + 10 + 2 + 1 = 18 resistance, Alis fail
Spellcraft DC ??
R 4 + 12 + 10 + 2 + 6 = 34 Scott's roll, identify, elven magic, mythic surge fail
R bit of luck 1d20 + 12 + 10 + 2 + 1d6 ⇒ (13) + 12 + 10 + 2 + (2) = 39 identify, elven magic, mythic surge
K:Arcana DC ??
A aid another 1d20 + 9 ⇒ (9) + 9 = 18
R 1d20 + 11 + 3 + 1d6 ⇒ (8) + 11 + 3 + (3) = 25 AA, mythic surge fail
R bit of luck 1d20 + 11 + 3 + 1d6 ⇒ (11) + 11 + 3 + (6) = 31 AA, mythic surge
Arion took a deep breath and stepped back.
"Thank you for your prayers. They helped free me of distracting thoughts."
As he caught his breath the irony provoked a bitter laugh.
"That is what I get for specializing."
His mood became more serious as he explained, "Whoever crafted this prison for extra-planar beings must have been a master of conjuration. This powerful device had been disguised. Where this Ugorji came by it, I would be interested to discover, since I doubt that holding cells for Outsiders are to be found scattered across these jungle lands."
The Elf was almost reluctant to be so near to what might even now contain some hideous arch-fiend. Yet he and his allies should know all they could. His eyes narrowed as he worked out the meaning of the characters added upon the flask.
"There are evil things written upon it, in addition to the runes inscribed during its formation."
In the midst of being trying to get Sasha to quit hopping up and down on oversized the bed in the master suite, Lureene could hear Grak's thoughts, and feel his anxiety. "Missstressss, Arion sssaysss the bad man'sss flasssk isss a prissson for usss. Evil runesss are inssscribed upon it."
Knowing full well how unreliable Grak's limited intelligence made him at communicating context accurately, Lureene couldn't help but wonder what he meant by 'us'.
L 1d20 + 2 + 10 ⇒ (5) + 2 + 10 = 17 super-familiar
Alis neither frowned at Arion's news nor smiled at his thanks, but merely nodded as she concentrated upon aiding him further.
"If anyone can unravel a hidden script, it would be you. Trust in Súmalya's insight, Arion..."
So it was that as he turned it over in his hands, he could feel the small hairs stand up on the back of his neck: When in the hands of a mortal of royal blood, open and disgorge.
Yet there was another seal, one of weakening conjoined with a name that was well known to him: Spawn of the joining of Avoreen, Queen of the 97th, Mistress of Lies, and Richardson Ourson of Abeir-Toril: Lureene.
Arion stood fully upright and placed himself between the vile container and Alis.
Scowling at the item, he spoke to The Princess in the Celestial language.
"Your Highness, there is much danger here!" Speaking in Celestial, Arion paraphrased the terms of the contingency, emphasizing the factor: a 'MORTAL OF ROYAL BLOOD' handling the flask. He also noted that Lureene's name was the target of a seal, specifically indicating her by her lineage.
"I suspect a plot to capture our Lureene and use her against one of the few rulers here who descend directly from royalty, in conjunction with one or more command words controlling her will."
So, did Ugorji lie to us when he declared that his original intention was not to capture Lureene, but her mother? Or did he have time, on the Sprite, to add this sigil, hoping to enthrall the daughter of Avoreen?
Lureene sensed the anxiety emanating through her link with her faithful companion Grak, and glanced over at Mister Lori who was watching Sasha's antics with a pained look on his face.
I don't like what Grak is telling me here...I need to see what they found out here.
She wondered how strong her link was between herself and Grak. As she contemplated heir bond, she felt a pleasant warmth radiating from her locket. She then knew she could transfer her consciousness to Grak's body!
Not wasting any more time, she turned to Mister Lori and asked, "Would you excuse us for a moment please?" Once he has left the bedroom she said to Sasha, "I need to talk to Grak for a few minutes. Can you keep an eye on me? I will be completely...helpless. Don't try anything funny here...this is a serious matter!"
Lureene laid down on the plush mattress and cleared her mind, concentrating on every exacting detail of her faithful eidolon. Once his image is fixed in her mind she allowed her senses to flow into his body and joining with his own spirit. Truly, she had never felt such an intimate connection with him before. While she wanted to more fully explore this connection, she knew time was short here.
As the princess and Arion discuss what they discovered, they both hear Lureene's voice coming from behind them. As they turn to see how the succubus managed to transfer herself into the vault, all they see is Grak still hovering silently behind them.
"'Lis, Arion? It's me Lureene. Grak told me you had found something that is dangerous to me?"
Need to break this up a bit since I got ninja'd by Grak...
"Would you excuse us for a moment please?"
Mister Lori padded his forehead with a handkerchief and gave Lureene a wan smile. At least she'd finally gotten the gleeful redhead's attention. "Please, take..."
He swallowed and bowed, "...your time, Lady Ourson."
With that, he exited the chamber to sit in a large wing chair not far from where Amhranai had stretched out upon a long couch. Had he somehow wronged the Princess to deserve such abuse?
Only time would tell...
This bed should definitely be strong enough for all three of us!
The brief exchange between Lureene and the fancy little man got Sasha's attention and she tucked her legs up under her as if to plunge into a pool bottom-first. Amazingly enough, the bed didn't break and she soon came to a rest, looking up at her friend, legs crossed.
Smiling expectantly, she asked, "Can we tell him we'll take it yet?"
"I need to talk to Grak for a few minutes. Can you keep an eye on me? I will be completely...helpless."
"Oh!" Sasha blinked in surprise as Lureene clambered up onto the tall bed, the taller woman instinctively lending her hand as she did so.
"Talk to Grak? Completely helpless?"
Wow, this place must really have her turned on!
Sasha nodded and gave Lureene an exaggerated wink, rubbing her hands together in anticipation as she reached for her friend's slender waist. "Don't you worry, your Ladyship, I'll keep you close and safe!"
"Don't try anything funny here...this is a serious matter!"
Yet when Lureene pushed her away and shook her head, the huntress merely raised an eyebrow in confusion. "Wait, you're serious?" she asked incredulously.
Yet it soon became clear, as Lureene's body went limp, that intimate roleplay was clearly not on the enchantress' mind. With a sigh of disappointment, she scooted up against the headboard, substituting her lap in place of a pillow for her lover's head. Fingers idly playing with blonde curls, she murmured, "Don't worry, I've got you, Ellie..."
Placing into correct order...
As the princess and Arion discussed what they discovered, they both heard Lureene's voice coming from behind them. As they turned to see how the succubus managed to transfer herself into the vault, all they saw was Grak still hovering silently behind them.
"'Lis, Arion? It's me, Lureene. Grak told me you had found something that is dangerous to me?"
Alis cocked her head to one side, consternation on her lovely face at Lureene's innocent voice hailing from Grak's serpentine lips.
At the first sign of danger, she projects her soul closer to it?!
Gritting her teeth, she quickly ushered the eidolon back outside of the vault, calling out to Arion behind her.
Face lined with concern, she said, "It... doesn't look good, El. There's a seal in Abyssal on an 'iron flask' naming you specifically by your lineage. It could be some sort of True Name glyph for all we know."
Hugging herself as if she felt a sudden chill, she added, "There's also a contingency... set to open the flask the moment a mortal of royal blood touches it!"
If a serpent could pale (normally an impossibility due to the cold blood running through its veins), then Grak would have paled to the color of ash. Nearly crashing to the ground, Grak managed to land safely, if not elegantly.
Lureene who currently shared her essence with her faithful serpent companion, stared at the flask trying to recall what she knew of True Name glyphs. While she knew all outsiders had one in theory, she was unsure of her own true name. Of course considering who her Mother was, that was certainly understandable.
"Wait, 'Lis you said a contingency to OPEN the flask as well? I always understood the flask can only hold one being inside at a time. Is there something imprisoned in there?"