The skycoach that Gharta'torrn is being carried in is no luxury liner; it's more reminiscent of a winged rowboat with a canopy run by a young Orien heir. Still, it allows her a good view of Central Plateau's towers to her left and Dura's to her right as it heads south over the ravine between them towards the Tharashk Enclave in Dragon Towers...
The pilot struggles slightly with some turbulence. "Sheesh, breezy today. I hope those clouds keep to themselves..."
Gharta leans back, seemingly enjoying the scenery, though with a fairly indifferent expression on her face. "Don't worry about them..."
The pilot shrugs and begins to steer left, into southern Middle Central. "I suppose you're right. That's some of what the goggles are for, I guess..."
The surroundings are instantly recognizable as Dragon Towers due to the multiplicity of House insignia displayed everywhere, as though most of the Houses were competing to show the greatest influence over Sharn. A hill that stretches far up from the plateau makes one of the bigger enclaves, the Great Healing Hall of Jorasco, stand out despite its relatively low altitude; by contrast, the Tharashk Enclave isn't as obvious until they close in on the three bridge-connected towers it occupies the central levels of. Banners, engravings, signs, and a particularly large percentage of half-orcs in the vicinity make the allegeance clear.
Gharta sighs quietly to herself. "I shouldn't have time for this..."
The pilot sets the small skycar down on a large balcony of a tower adjacent to, and with a short bridge leading to, one of those of the enclave. "Here you are, ma'am."
Pilot: And, er, time for what?
Gharta: Oh, nothing in particular.
Gharta thanks the pilot and leaves the skycoach, then sighs again before moving on.
The skycoach whizzes off.
Occasional humans, orcs, and half-orcs wave to Gharta as she heads into and through the nearest of the towers. The view of Sword Point Garrison's five large connected towers and the large platform spanning between them is fine from the bridge she crosses on the way to the tower where her actual appointment is.
Gharta enters the next tower, passing by many built-in storefronts before reaching the guarded lift in the center.
Guard: Ah, Gharta. Papers, please?
Gharta hands over her papers, smirking slightly. "Morning to you too."
The guard smirks, holds the papers out with one hand while gesturing with the other and chanting, stares at them for a moment, then hands them back. "Well, I wouldn't want to say good morning to a doppelganger by mistake, you know."
The guard unlocks and opens the gate in the tall fence surrounding the lift.
Gharta enters the lift, which starts ascending as she speaks a word she has clearly spoken many times before.
The second floor is far more reminiscent of the interior of a singular building. Labyrinthine halls lead to various offices, meeting halls, and other internal and administrative rooms.
Gharta navigates the halls to find Dokvel d'Torrn's office and knocks on the door.
Gharta complies, closes the door quietly behind her and turns to face Dokvel.
Dokvel, a half-orc in a business suit whose skin is as tan as Gharta's, folds his hands over his desk as the heir enters. "Ah, good morning, Gharta. I'm glad you could make it so quickly!"
Gharta nods. "Good morning, sir. Can't keep you waiting."
Dokvel nods. "Well, as my missive mentioned, I do have a local job for you. It's actually rather urgent — two dangerous criminals, Genubo Threehorn and Dipali d'Jorasco, charged with looting ancient sites without a letter of marque, have been tracked to this very city."
Gharta: I see... Hmm, Jorasco... Well, I suppose that doesn't matter.
Dokvel: They've specifically looted a pre-Galifarian keep. No doubt they've aquired a dangerous arsenal this way — not to mention that to survive in such a decrepit and likely reclaimed ruin, they're probably competent fighters of some sort in their own right.
Dokvel: Being halflings of a criminal bent, we strongly suspect that they've come here in hopes of getting protection from the Boromar clan in exchange for services.
Gharta nods again. "Sounds like this won't be an easy job..."
Dokvel: This is why you're here. We doubt that just any of us could survive.
Dokvel: Probably the best places to begin looking would be Oldkeep, Callestan, and The Stores. I'd bet The Stores would be the best place to start — the Boromars' position there is the strongest.
Gharta: That sounds like a good idea, thanks. I'll take care of this.
Dokvel grins. "I'm counting on that, Gharta."
The warehouse district known as The Stores isn't as safe as the mixed warehouse and skyport district that is Precarious, but it's cheaper, more purely dedicated to a single purpose... and, for those who consider it useful, less patrolled. Many of the warehouses, especially ones that aren't themselves towers of some kind, serve to help support towers built later that stretch into at least Stormhold and Rattlestone above.
Horse-drawn and mule-drawn wagons and carts full of goods, warforged and bugbears carrying bags and crates, aand the occasional opportunistic rat or stray animal can be found in these streets. Much of the ground here is covered in old stones in an ancient effort to even it out. Many ramshackle wooden hovels have been squeezed into the space between the streets and the warehouse walls.
Gharta strolls down one of the streets, attempting to appear casual and have no particular reason to be there, though occasionally looking over her shoulder, for safety's sake.
Gharta stops for a moment at an intersection. "Hmm..."
Gharta turns as a fairly large and apparently well-trained human passes by, reaching out to stop him. "Excuse me, sir?"
The human shifts the weight of the crate he's holding. "Yes?"
Gharta: I'm looking for a pair of halflings that are new around here. I don't suppose you've heard anything? Know where I should go to find someone who has, maybe? It's a bit of a long shot, but...
Human: Heh, lady, new halflings come and go here all the time. It's a question of whether you're talking the poor workers or the rich cheaters.
Gharta shrugs. "Well, these probably aren't the richest, though I'm not sure if they could be called workers, either. I do have their names, if you happen to know any newer ones by name."
Human: Eh, can't say I pay much attention; work to be done and all. Don't want them to just replace me with one of those war contraptions instead...
Gharta: Thanks for your time, anyway. You're probably busy enough already, without having random strangers bothering you like this.
Human continues on his way.
Gharta sighs to herself. "That was unproductive..."
Shava House, the former professors' housing unit turned on-campus academic neighborhood, is relatively quiet at this hour of the morning, as most of its residents are too busy teaching, learning, researching, or writing to be in transit here or sharing any meals.
One tiny figure, however, is on her way out and up towards the library near the top of Dalannan Tower...
Althea trudges blearily toward the library, blinking repeatedly to try to fully clear her vision, and generally looking like she could fall asleep on her feet.
The climb is of little help; at length, though, the halfling finally makes it to the first floor of the library.
Althea: ...at least it's only Physics. Not like there's anything to miss in a lecture I won't find in a book...
Althea heads past the counter and toward the physical sciences section.
A sphinx with a liger's body, black falcon wings, and an elven head pads down the stairs up to the second floor as Althea nears them. She stretches her wings once she reaches even ground.
The gynosphinx nods to Althea.
Gynosphinx: Sleep escapes you?
Althea: It does. Not an unusual occurance, sadly.
The gynosphinx heads to a nearby shelf; a book floats out from it and lands on a nearby table. She lies down before the table and begins to read.
Gynosphinx: My preferred reading material yet eludes me...
Althea: Unless you're looking for something on violent... chains... I don't think I'll be of much help yet.
The gynosphinx looks over her shoulder with a raised eyebrow.
Althea shrugs. "Not that I don't see much death, but this... felt closer than usual."
The gynosphinx looks back to the book. "You've yet to bring me what scrolls you can before any more burn; yet another may be scribed."
Althea: I'll see what I can do.
The gynosphinx nods. "Thank you."
Althea nods and heads up the stairs.
Back in The Stores...
Gharta grunts as a goblin shakes his head and strolls off, clearly as annoyed at being stopped by a stranger as she was at not getting any useful answers.
Gharta: This is hopeless...
Gharta sighs to herself. "What was I thinking, leaving with no better way to find them..."
Gharta: ...Wait, of course.
Gharta starts moving down the street again, dodging anything headed for the opposite direction. "I know I read it somewhere... A chapter where the villains were hiding... And he couldn't find them... What did he do, what did he do..."
Gharta: Hmm, if I remember that part correctly, I should find a place where shady people tend to gather...
Gharta speeds up a little, systematically searching the area for a place that suits her needs.
After twenty minutes of wandering the district, Gharta discovers a ramshackle yet active warehouse tower that's tall and narrow, unlike many others here. The activity itself looks a bit off; while crates are carried in and out, quite a few of them seem less than full thanks to the way they're carried.
Gharta observes the warehouse from a distance. "That doesn't look right... Exactly what I need."
Gharta approaches it at a steady speed, trying her best to look as if she has any business there.
The half-orc's presence isn't much questioned as she enters the tower. Rather than being filled with many secured rooms, the first floor of this tower is simply a very large room with three disk-like lifts in the center and a catwalk lining the wall a mere six feet up. While a lot of people, mainly halflings, appear busy with heavy labor here, others look to be deep in whispered discussion.
Gharta slows down a little upon entering, her unfamiliarity with the place showing, but quickly pulls herself together and heads for a couple of nearby halflings.
A halfling man with long brown hair in multiple small braids looks up at Gharta as she approaches him and the black-haired halfling he was talking to. "Whadda you want, big lady?"
Gharta: I... I need to talk to two halflings that came to the city recently. Someone's after them. I know who it is and who's behind it.
Gharta looks behind her, as if expecting someone to come for her at any moment. "I really shouldn't be here, it's not safe, but... I have to get there first if I'm going to help them."
The halfling raises an eyebrow, seeming intrigued. "Who?"
Gharta: Genubo Threehorn and Dipali d'Jorasco. Someone must have figured they're pretty dangerous, because the guy they've sent after them isn't one to ask questions first...
The other halfling hrms to himself. "Threehorn? Sounds like some kind of proud barbarian line."
Halfling: So who're you and who's the threat, then?
Gharta looks back again, to get time to think of something to say. "I'm... Just someone who knows an opportunity when she sees one."
Gharta lowers her voice. "I was hoping there would be something in it for me..."
Halfling: Hmm. Hard to say if this is valuable enough to pay on delivery.
The other chimes in, "Being a bit too polite in saying you can't help, arent'cha?"
Gharta shrugs. "Well, I'm risking my hide to save theirs. Maybe they'd think differently."
The first halfling looks back to his companion, muttering, "You're not makin' it easy to tell who to thank, lady..."
Gharta: Fine, be that way. Just know that Genubo and Dipali could be in big trouble. He'll find them sooner or later.
The halfling nods absently.
Gharta sighs and leaves the halflings, mumbling to herself. "...Risking my life to warn them, and that's all I get..."
Meanwhile, a young aspiring politician finishes his prayers in the shrine to Boldrei in Hope's Peak and crosses the street to Aureon's... at about the same time that Jayden enters the tower floor and heads for the former of the two.
Lannar stokes the fire in the rear wall of the main hall, trying to make sure it'll burn safely unattended in the short term.
Kyra sweeps the main hall almost absent-mindedly.
Jayden opens the doors of the shrine and steps in.
Lannar: Ah, good morning, Jayden.
Lannar smiles widely.
Kyra looks up and smiles. "Oh, hello, Dad."
Jayden smiles more reservedly back, though a hint of concern mars it.
Lannar: I suppose you need Kyra's assistance back at the clinic?
Jayden: No, actually; it's only just today that I've had a moment to come talk without it disrupting work or seeming unusual.
Lannar raises an eyebrow. "Need we go to the study?"
Kyra looks uneasy for a brief moment before resuming his duties.
Jayden: Well... it would probably be safest.
Jayden looks to Kyra. "If you're comfortable, you should probably be part of this conversation, Kyra."
Kyra: Huh? Oh, yeah, sure thing.
Lannar: ...Hmm. I believe I understand your purpose here, then...
Lannar heads to and through the door, leaving it open behind him.
Kyra sets the broom against a wall and shuffles in behind Lannar.
Jayden looks somewhat relieved by this reply. He then heads onto the raised section in the back and through the door after Kyra, closing the door behind him.
Lannar pulls out three chairs and seats himself in one. Jayden is quick to sit as well.
Kyra takes the third chair.
Jayden: Kyra... I've been concerned. You've seemed unusually withdrawn for nearly two weeks...
Lannar nods in agreement. "Though I must admit that he's seemed less so this week."
Lannar: I didn't wish to pressure you. You know I'm here to speak to, you know where the scriptures are, and you've learned well your prayers.
Kyra shakes his head. "I had to deal with the Silver Flame recently, and...well, some of the things they said g-got under my skin a little."
Lannar nods slowly...
Jayden looks a bit surprised and puzzled, but primarily curious.
Kyra: Suggested that m-maybe the Prism should be one of their ch-champions, and wondered why I'm n-not already.
Lannar shakes his head. "Was such a suggestion truly so troubling?..."
Jayden sighs. "Kyra... that's not for them to decide."
Kyra: Well... they're kind of... r-right.
Lannar stares at Kyra, unpleasantly surprised.
Jayden looks confused.
Kyra shakes his head quickly. "D-d-don't get me wrong, th-there's no way I c-could follow the Flame."
Lannar sighs in relief.
Jayden: Then... then what do you...?
Kyra: I j-just needed some t-time to think. I... you... and...
Kyra shrinks back in his chair.
Lannar: I suppose it does make sense now why you've seemed almost as though you've been hiding.
Jayden shakes his head. "I'm sorry, Kyra. I didn't mean to make you feel like... this. I've just, well..."
Kyra sniffs. "N-no, it's my fault for n-not coming to you..."
Jayden stands, then heads over with his arms outspread to offer a hug.
Lannar: Please do remember that participation is what makes community, Kyra — and that we both care.
Kyra accepts, wiping his eyes. "R-right. I won't forget again."
Jayden smiles gently again as he embraces Kyra, relieved.
Over the course of two hours' work, Gharta has spread the seeds of rumor throughout the Stores...
Gharta smirks to herself as she wanders the streets of the Stores. "Just as in the book. Almost, anyway."
Gharta: This will take some time, though... It's not like I can just lapse to the next day like in the book. Better find a place to rest while it spreads.
The next day...
Gharta yawns and stretches. "...Hrm... Feels almost as if I didn't sleep at all..."
Gharta gets out of bed, puts her clothes and armor back on and yawns once more before heading for the door.
Gharta: Here's hoping it worked...
Gharta leaves her room, looking back once more to make sure she didn't forget anything in there, and heads up two sets of stairs to reach the lobby.
The clerk looks over to the half-orc when she arrives.
Gharta finds the key to her room in a pocket before approaching the clerk and handing it over.
The clerk accepts it and places it in one of many tiny drawers. "Thank you, ma'am. Have a nice day!"
Gharta smiles in return and leaves. "My work should start paying off just about now..."
The thin yet solidly-built stone tower that this inn is situated in looks, from the outside, almost more like a support beam for the wooden planking that serves as the floor for much of Overlook and an anchor point for many bridges than a building in its own right — a testament, perhaps, to its craftsmanship.
Much of the rest of Underlook seems terribly undermaintained, though not dangerously so aside from a few old businesses-turned-tenaments. Much as the shadow of the district's former glory hang over it, so too does the shadow of Overlook's floor.
Sheer convenience of location, however, has encouraged many enterpreneurs to keep Underlook capable of serving a decent meal or room.
Gharta heads back the way she came earlier, through a tower not far from the inn, down the ramps inside it to Precarious, and to the Stores from there.
Many of the halflings in the Stores, as well as random others, seem suspicious today. A few stare at Gharta specifically as she passes by.
Gharta slows down a little upon noticing the looks she's getting from some of the halflings, preparing herself to be in character if necessary.
Gharta starts wandering the roads of the Stores casually, waiting to see if the rumors have had the desired effect. "Almost there now..."
Half an hour goes by with little beyond a sense of paranoia to show for it...
Gharta leans against the wall of a wooden building, sighing. "I'm pretty sure there wasn't a lapse here in the book..."
A pair of halflings break from following the sidewalk to approach Gharta — one black-haired, tanned, and shady-looking, the other brown-haired, fair-skinned, and with a dragonmark on her neck.
Gharta looks up, noticing the halflings, and straightens up a bit. "There we go."
Shady Halfling: You the half-orc lady?
Gharta nods. "That's probably me."
The halfling suddenly whips a dagger out from his sleeve and stabs the seam between Gharta's armor's shirt and pants!
Gharta hops a step backwards a moment after realizing what just happened, holding one hand to the wound while reaching for her rapier with the other. "W-what are you doing?!"
Shady Halfling: Getting rid of a pursuer who thinks she's clever.
Marked Halfling: P...probably from... Tharashk. C...careful.
Gharta: This wasn't personal before, but you just ruined my plan!
Gharta finishes drawing her rapier and immediately swings it at the closest halfling, though too hastily to actually hit him.
The shady halfling steps backward, away from the frantic swing. "Please."
Marked Halfling: I'll... do what I can...
The marked halfling sighs, chants... and a large squirt of forest green acid streaks out from her raised hand, arcs over her partner, and strikes Gharta from above.
Gharta winces as the acid hits her head. "Ow! Dammit, let me concentrate on one of you!"
The marked halfling just quietly backs away, her head lowered.
The shady halfling backs off a pace slowly and carefully. "That's not how you survive, lady." He then hurls his dagger at Gharta's head!
Gharta notices the dagger just in time to dodge it, though not without getting a scratch on her chin.
Shady Halfling: 'Sides, there's enough of you for both of us.
Gharta steps forward and strikes at the halfling again, concentrated enough to at least hit him this time, but his armor still renders it harmless.
Shady Halfling: Well, you can use that.
Meanwhile, the acid simmers on Gharta's head before finally caking.
Marked Halfling: Sh...shouldn't need... much else... I hope.
The marked halfling chants and gestures again; at the end, she thrusts her hand out, and two blazing lights shoot out from it. They veer around her ally in opposite directions only to converge on Gharta, ignoring her armor.
The shady halfling pulls a proportionately-sized longsword from a big scabbard on his hip, then swings it upwards at Gharta's torso.
Shady Halfling: Ha!
Gharta, already hurt by the other halfling's attack, takes the hit. "Gah! You're stronger than you look..."
Shady Halfling: Heh... my family didn't leave the skills of the plains behind.
Meanwhile, people have been fleeing the area thanks to the sudden commotion.
Gharta: I'd stick around to observe it more, but as you said, that's not how you survive. Lady.
The shady halfling scowls.
Gharta suddenly sheathes her rapier and starts running away from the halfling.
Marked Halfling: H...he's not the lady. I... I...
The marked halfling suddenly appears spaced out.
The shady halfling doesn't seem to notice what's happening behind him, instead walking forward to pick up the dagger he threw before since Gharta has backed away.
Gharta reaches for her shortbow, also grabbing an arrow and nocking it. "I was going to make this as painless as possible, but that's hard to do with arrows. Blame yourself."
Gharta fires the arrow directly at the halfling.
The shady halfling winces as it strikes the inside of his elbow, but then yanks a bloodless arrow out. "Good thing we were wise to you and could prepare."
Shady Halfling: Speaking of that... Dipali! What happened to the rest of my support?!
Dipali holds her head, staggering.
Dipali: Th...the... the chains...
Genubo: Pfft, whatever. You and your obsession.
Gharta backs away further. "That was a direct hit..."
Genubo: I couldn't tell you what she did; I'm not the healer. But you're gonna need one! GrrrRRRAH!
Genubo comes careening at Gharta with his sword held out with both hands!
Gharta carefully dodges as Genubo gets near, grabs hold of him while doing so and pushes him sideways into the nearby wooden wall as hard as she can. "Oh no you don't!"
Genubo barely keeps hold of his sword with one hand as he staggers back to his feet.
The streets have cleared of panicked bystanders by now.
Gharta takes the opportunity to run around the corner of the building that Genubo crashed into, but not before he manages to swing his sword and slash her back as she flees. Leaning towards the wall of the building, she fumbles through a bag for a potion and downs it.
Genubo: Dipali! You fool, get over where you can see her! NOW!
Dipali: The chains... the chains...
Dipali sounds darkly gleeful as she walks to a spot on the sidewalk, though still slightly closer to the others.
Dipali: Finally... a belonging...
Genubo stares over at Dipali. "What the...?"
Dipali's chain shirt, the silver chain necklace she's wearing, and something under her cloak all begin to glow red. Shattering and jangling sounds issue from her as she raises her arms. The glow subsides; her chain shirt seems to have somehow both unraveled and come to life, and a spiked chain that seems too large for a halfling crawls out from under her cloak and begins to orbit her.
Genubo: What in Khyber?!
Genubo holds his sword up definsively, apparently terrified.
Gharta: Whatever's going on out there, if you're not making your move, I am.
Gharta turns to face the wall, jumps, and, thanks to a little help from her ability to fly, grabs the edge of the roof and pulls herself up.
From this vantage point, the suddenly-crazed Dipali and the chains embracing and dancing around here are apparent...
Gharta grabs her bow upon getting on her feet and turns to find Genubo, only to see Dipali for herself. "...W-what in the... What's happening to her...?"
Genubo: I-I-I dunno!
Dipali walks along the sidewalk, closer to the others. "I don't have to be afraid of you... anymore... Genubo."
Dipali casts another spell, then points at Genubo. A ray of flame shoots from her hand, which Genubo only barely manages to dodge — though the wall behind him smoulders...
Genubo: Wh-what are you doing?!
Dipali: You tricked me. You told me you'd take me in and protect me...
Genubo: B-b-but that's what I —
Dipali: You used me! I didn't know who I was, and I learned only that I was afraid of you and had nowhere to turn. But now... now I know why. And my first war... is with you.
Genubo starts to run for his life.
Gharta mumbles to herself. "Every time it looks like I'm gaining the edge... Every time..."
Gharta steps backwards and jumps off of the rooftop, landing behind the building.
Dipali looks from Genubo's retreating form to Gharta jumping down. "Don't pretend you didn't start a war too..." She jogs to the gap between the wooden buildings and starts to head behind them...
Gharta stays were she is, putting her bow away as she hears Dipali approaching around the corner. "What... Was that...?"
Dipali rounds the corner, eyes crazed, and chants a quick word while touching the spiked chain orbiting her. It catches fire and, with another gesture, lashes out at Gharta. Its length allows it to strike the half-orc from several feet away — and reach her relatively unprotected head.
Gharta holds a hand to the bleeding wound on her face, backing away carefully. "I guess that means... No discussions..."
Gharta backs around the corner of the building, looking for an opportunity to flee safely.
Dipali tries to follow after...
Gharta waits for Dipali to come around the corner, then hightails it.
It doesn't take long for Gharta to outpace the much smaller Dipali, even despite her heavy wounds.
Gharta runs for as long as she has fatigue for, and, even after slowing down a bit, keeps moving to make sure Dipali can't possibly catch up.
Gharta: So... close... ... What... in... the...
Gharta finally stops for a moment to catch her breath. "This is... not good... I should tell the others..."
Gharta searches a pocket for her sending stone and looks at it. "...Right. Brevity."
Gharta grunts and holds the stone to her mouth.
Meanwhile, upon a flying broom high above Dura, Vision struggles to maintain her balance while manipulating something that looks like a plumb-bob. Just as it looks like she's stable, a distraction from her pocket causes her to wobble and almost drop the weighted string.
Vision curses quietly and rights herself, slipping the weight into a pocket and the sending stone out.
"We have a problem. Crazy halfling. Let's meet up at the place."
Vision sends a message of her own. "May be additional problem in southern Dura. Tracking now. Will meet as soon as possible."
Another message arrives: "Crazy halfling incident was in southern Dura. Will explain. Need rest."
Vision puts away the sending stone and fiddles with the weighted string a bit more before simply heading down in what she hopes is the right direction.
Much of southern Dura seems in as much order as Dura ever is... but the Stores seem to have a number of freaked-out people around.
Vision flies over the Stores low enough to look for the source of the commotion.
While there isn't anything going wrong right now, there is a section of road that's now empty of people, as though one dropped a flake of soap into dirty water.
Vision makes a pass over the empty section, looking for anything out of the ordinary.
There are obvious, fresh signs of a struggle.
Vision slows to look for any telltales of... well, something that would match her sense of the powerful... 'chains' she saw before.
If there's anything of the sort, it's unclear. It looks much like the remnants of any battle blending sword and sorcery.
Vision shakes her head and hurries on past the section, eventually heading along what might be a likely route for someone fleeing from here to Hareth's Folly.
"The place" is as tranquil as usual. Little apparent has changed in the common intersection aside from a map of Sharn and a book of religious symbolism on the table.
Gharta sits at the table, resting on her arm, still in a relatively bad shape.
Vision can be heard sighing before she appears in the common area. "Lost it. I have a bad feeling about this..."
Gharta looks to Vision as she appears. "Hmm? Lost what?"
Vision looks to Gharta. "The cha— nevermind." She shakes her head.
Vision: What happened at your end?
Gharta: Well, the short version is that I got in a fight with two halflings. One of them gave me a beating, but it wasn't all that bad.
Gharta shrugs. "Then the other one went crazy, scared off the first one, and almost killed me."
Vision: Yeah... you look like you could use a healer...
Vision sighs and mutters something under her breath.
Kyra: Dum da-da dum!
Kyra steps into visibility with a dramatic pose. "Ask and you shall receive."
Gharta leans on her arm again, this time apparently to support her while laughing, not to rest.
Kyra lays a glowing hand on Gharta's shoulder. "So explain what happened."
Gharta: The long version, then.
Vision sits down in another chair, looking a bit conflicted, though relieved at Kyra's arrival.
Gharta: I was sent to find a couple of halflings who had likely taken refuge among the Boromar Clan, or at least somewhere they operate. Their names were Genubo Threehorn, and...
Gharta eyes Vision for a moment. "...Dipali d'Jorasco."
Vision raises an eyebrow but doesn't say anything yet.
Gharta: Anyway, I had a plan to find them, but it didn't work as it should for some reason. So the bastard attacked me, and things went downhill from there.
Gharta puts a hand to what's left of the wounds from the acid. "Dipali didn't do TOO much, but Genubo was a real pain... Had to resort to some unorthodox tactics to stand a chance..."
Gharta: But then, when things started looking better, he sort of froze. I didn't figure why, until I saw Dipali too. It was pretty scary.
Gharta: Genubo made a run for it after Dipali tried to fry him. Then she went after me, and I was lucky to get away myself.
Vision: Was she attacking people randomly, or...?
Gharta moves her hand to a more visible wound on her face. "Not as far as I know. She went directly for me after Genubo fled. Said something about me starting a war, or something... I really have no idea what she was talking about."
Gharta: This one was thanks to some sort of... spiked chain that she somehow made hit me. It was orbiting around her. I did say it was scary.
Vision: ...a chain, huh? ...damn, so much for that.
Gharta: Oh, there were a lot of chains. Seemed to cover her like some sort of living armor.
Vision picks up the book from off the table and tosses it somewhere extradimensional, where it lands with a soft thump as if hitting an object wrapped in cloth.
Vision: Can you remember anything else about what she said?
Gharta shrugs. "I think she was muttering something about chains for a moment. That, and she had a beef with Genubo, and apparently she realized some things about herself. It was hard to make much out of it."
Vision: Hrm. I've heard of a Dipali who ran away from the House some years back, but I don't know the specifics. It would be someplace to start. Also, if she's after you and Genubo specifically, she's more likely to know where to look for him...
Vision: It'd be best if we found him before she does... I promised a friend I'd— uh, nevermind. Anyway, we might be able to get some cooperation and info out of him. After all, we don't want him dead.
Gharta: Yeah, he could probably give us some info, but I'm not sure how much... He seemed pretty surprised when Dipali got all that power all of a sudden...
Vision: ...I think we'd better get this one figured out quick, before we have another...Xeln on our hands.
Kyra: Well, at least there's a definite target this time. We find him, and take him out. Mission complete.
Kyra nods with satisfaction.
Vision glares at Kyra. "It's not anywhere near that simple. It sounds like another one of us has awakened. One who's probably tied to Shavarath."
Gharta raises an eyebrow. "Wait, you're saying it's like... Oh..."
Kyra shrugs. "Like I hadn't figured that out. Three of us, one of him."
Gharta: Oh, Kyra, he's a she.
Kyra: Whatever. Most of the city thinks I'm a she, too.
Vision sighs. "If we go in looking for a fight, even if we win we lose. I... I'm going to go try to find out more about these two."
Kyra shakes his head. "Just remember what I said: no picking fights without the others." He looks to Gharta, but doesn't say anything.
Gharta mumbles to herself. "Some of us have to work..."
Vision: ...I'm not the one looking to fight War with War.
Kyra walks towards his exit, waving a hand over his shoulder. "You do your thing, then. Call me if you need anything." With that, he vanishes.
Vision sighs. "I probably shouldn't have brought up Xeln. They're of opposing nature, it's hardly surprising one would have a dim view of the other." She winces slightly as she notices the pun in her own wording.
Vision: Can't say I'm necessarily any less guilty of being driven by my own nature here, somewhat...
Gharta gets up and heads for her door. "I just hope we can hurry this up, I need to get this job done as soon as possible..."
Vision sighs and takes out the weighted string, dangling it over the map on the table for a couple minutes before shaking her head and putting it away. "Let's start with the old-fashioned approach."
The Great Healing Hall is no place that one would find the rabble or even the middle class. Important-looking — or simply self-important-seeming — men and women of most every kind fill this vast complex upon a hill; the general mood of refined wealth and influence is only interrupted by the presence of the occasional grizzled adventurer. Even despite the presence of adventurers, cleanliness and ostentatious displays of the crest of House Jorasco stand out in the surroundings — even in the break rooms, administrative offices, and libraries of records...
This particular break room, entirely halfling-proportioned, sits on the border between the outer reaches of the enclave — the hospital proper — and the small community within for those heirs too important to be allowed to know any other. Coffee, tea, and other caffeinated beverages are served from behind a counter by a middle-aged, unmarked heir. In addition to the beverages, there are mocha chip oatmeal cookies, chocolate-covered espresso beans, and a wide variety of fruits and hearty breads. Half a dozen other halflings of the House relax and, in some cases, talk here — low compared to how full it can get during official breaks.
Althea sits at one of the tables, reading a copy of the Korranberg Chronicle.
A chuckle issues from behind shortly. "Lose track of time in a library again, Althea?"
Althea looks up and grins. "There is no time in the library, Imula."
Althea: Actually, though, I saw something familiar recently and I've been trying to place it...
Imula seats herself next to Althea, setting down a cup of green-and-black tea and a small bowl of chocolate espresso beans.
Imula: Oh yeah?
Althea: Seems a pair of halflings raided that very old keep on the southern side of the Howling Peaks...
Althea: Aside from the general unusual details about that place's history and where it's situated, the name of one of the two caught my eye. Have you ever heard of a house member named Dipali?
Imula thinks. "Yeah... Jopak and Yora's kid. She was a natural with magic but seemed really uncomfortable with it at the same time."
Imula: It seemed like the usual piano lesson problem until she ran...
Imula: Then I caught word that she started researching combat magic. I guess right talent, wrong application for her... at least she wasn't trying to compete, but raiding?
Imula shakes her head.
Imula: I hope this is some kind of mistake...
Imula crunches on a handful of beans.
Althea: I remembered hearing about her running away, but not much else. Apparently she's working with a Genubo Threehorn...
Althea: Can't say that name rings any bells for me, though.
Imula shakes her head. "Me either. Must not be from around here or from the House. Doesn't sound it anyway — bet it's some family that split off a tribe or something."
Imula shrugs. "I mean, who else would take a dinosaur name?"
Althea: Yeah, sounds like it. I wonder what his role in all this was...
Imula sips tea, then swallows. "Maybe didn't quite acclimate, I dunno. Beans?"
Althea: Thanks. Anyway, I can certainly sympathize with needing to go in a different direction. I think my folks sometimes wonder if I was switched at birth with a gnome.
Imula chuckles, pushing the bowl over a bit. "No kidding. Some people are still waiting for your nose to double in size."
Imula: But at least you're stil helping the House. If this is really Dipali... well, probably the best we can hope to do is spin it to make people never trust independents.
Imula: Seems like reaching, but...
Althea takes a small handful. "Well, I think I might look into it some more, insatiable curiosity and all. Maybe it'll turn out to not be quite what it appears." She pops a bean into her mouth.
Imula: Well, good luck with that. Probably any sure trail would be way over in Zilargo...
Imula trails off, seeming sympathetic.
Althea: I think I'll hold off planning any long trips at least until classes are out. Do you know who was teaching her magic, though?
Imula: From what I hear, it wasn't a single teacher so much as a big cross-country trip picking things up as she went. Didn't want to stay in one place too long...
Imula: I only even know this much 'cuz she was being chased.
Althea: Oh, right, sorry. I meant who was trying to teach her before she ran away.
Imula: Oh! Well, she was with Daria at first, but she learned so quick that she was transferred to Elle's classes here pretty quick.
Althea: Did she ever say anything about why it made her uncomfortable?
Imula: Nothing that made sense. Something about it feeling wrong, but she insisted she wasn't against the House's policies.
Imula shrugs helplessly, then sips more of her tea.
Althea: The classes, or the magic itself?
Imula: Sounded more like the magic itself somehow, but she was still great at it and kept saying the pay was fine. Like I said, it didn't really make any sense...
Althea nods. "Perhaps the House was more of a poor fit for her than anyone realized..."
Imula tosses a few more of the beans into her mouth.
Althea: The reason I never turned my back on the house... was that I realized that being a healer, at least in a direct sense, wasn't my calling... and that admitting that, and pursuing something else, wasn't the same thing.
Althea: Sounds like she tried to ignore it and be someone she wasn't for the House's sake... until she couldn't take it anymore...
Imula nods slowly...
Imula finishes her tea. "Well, I should probably finish these quickly — I'm due back in five minutes!"
Althea nods. "And I should get back to my studies. It was good talking with you."
Imula smiles. "And it's always good to talk with you too!"
Althea smiles back, folding up her paper. "See you later."
Imula waves, then stuffs the last of the beans into her mouth and chews.
Meanwhile, the situation in the Stores has calmed quickly. There's little sign of the earlier chaos; no guards patrol the streets and no unusual amount of anxiety is seen in the workers. Apparently one can get used to anything in Lower Dura.
Gharta stops for a moment a distance away from the warehouse she snuck into last time. Some of the halflings entering and leaving the building slow down as they notice her, a few nodding to one another as they do so. One, on his way out of the warehouse, spots Gharta and returns inside.
Gharta heads for the door to the building, dropping her act this time.
Several earth-toned eyes stare at the half-orc as she enters. The activity within seems to have markedly slowed.
Gharta strolls around the warehouse for some seconds, before announcing loudly: "I need to speak to Genubo Threehorn."
This is met with the emergence of several daggers, slings, shortswords, and hand crossbows.
Gharta takes a step backwards. "...I'm not here to fight. I need to talk to Genubo for his own safety. Someone give him that message and he'll come to me if he's interested. He'll understand."
"Hmph, you're just here to cause trouble." "We don't want no more fights on our turf, see?" "Why should we believe you, lady?" "Stupid bounty hunter."
Gharta: ...Look, there's someone out there who wants him dead, and he knows who. I can protect him. That's why I need to talk to him.
Gharta takes another step back. "And it's up to him, of course."
Halfling: Well, he ain't here.
Gharta nods. "Then I ask that someone delivers my message to him. That's all."
Halfling: What's it worth to ya?
Gharta: What it's worth? It's Genubo's life that's in danger, not mine.
Halfling: And why should we care? He's not one of ours.
Gharta sighs. "Fine. If that's what it takes to save someone's life. How much? Two gold? Three?"
Laughter echoes through the warehouse floor.
Gharta: State your price, then. He's not worth all that much to me, either.
Halfling: Look, lady, you want us to help you protect somebody after you've caused us trouble? Then you go and stop another of our troubles. Say... the Uukan brothers.
Halfling states this last clause rather firmly.
Gharta stares at the halfling. "...The Uukan brothers? That's... I'm not sure if..."
Halfling: Then you're on your own, miss.
Gharta: ...Fine. You know what, I'll do this. But then you'll help me out.
Halfling: We see heads, attachment optional, and you've got a deal.
Gharta grunts and starts moving towards the exit. "I'll... see what I can do."
The halflings are silent and motionless, creating an eerie mood in the warehouse floor Gharta is leaving.
Gharta rounds the first corner she sees and retrieves her sending stone, staring at it for a moment while remembering that she's already used it two times. "Dammit. Guess I'll have to head back and hope I'm lucky, then..."
Shortly, back at "the place", Gharta finds a distressed-looking Althea sitting at the table.
Gharta looks to Althea as she enters. "Great, you're here. Did you find out anything...?"
Althea: ...yeah, I did. At what cost, I'm not sure...
Althea shakes her head. "Can't believe I did something so incredibly stupid."
Gharta raises an eyebrow.
Althea: I just openly mused about how alike in nature Dipali and I might be. To another House member. Drew pretty much every parallel I reasonably could. Didn't even think of what I was doing, it just came out...
Althea sighs and holds her head.
Althea: I hope you had better luck than I did.
Gharta shrugs. "I suppose it depends on how you look at it."
Gharta: The Boromar Clan will give us Genubo. First, though, they want us to deal with the Uukan brothers. Not the simplest deal, but if you look at it as two in one...
Althea stares at Gharta.
Althea: ...if that was a joke to make me feel better, I'm not really in the mood...
Gharta grunts. "He was pretty firm about it. Can you still use your sending stone? We need to contact Kyra."
Althea: ...you're serious? You contracted with the Boromar clan, and promised them the Uukan brothers? The very same who killed Mindflare and the Crane, and almost killed the Fairy Knight?
Gharta: It's not really a promise, they just won't give us Genubo otherwise...
Althea: Are you sure they even have him to give up?
Gharta: It's the best we have. They knew where he was last time.
Althea sighs and reaches for her sending stone. "Do they at least know we want him alive?"
Gharta: I told them we're trying to save his life, so yeah.
Althea speaks to the stone. "Meet at the place. Urgent."
Althea: By we, do you mean your House, or is this questionable contract with us us?
Gharta: Technically, it's with me. I assumed you would help, seeing as it's in our interest to find Genubo...
Althea: ...I'm a university student. By all rights I don't even officially know you.
Althea: How am I supposed to help you take down the Uukan brothers in this guise?
Gharta scratches her chin. "Can't you just do it as Vision?"
Althea: Well, did you have the presence of mind to make this contract as the Swift Hawk?
Gharta: So... I guess we can't do that, then.
Althea: Or to put it another way, how publicly do you want it known that Gharta'torrn has Vision and the Prism at her beck and call?
Gharta sighs. "Look, do you have any better ideas? Because if you do, I'll be all for it."
Althea: That depends on how sure you are the Boromar clan actually have him. If he's still out there on his own, we could try to track him down independently.
Althea: ...of course, if he has his own contacts there, he not only knows you're still after him, but that you're desperate enough to get him to make a deal to deliver a major enemy to them. That doesn't help the whole 'come with us, we're safer' message.
Althea: ...I suppose there is at least one way we could aid you...
Althea frowns. "A fairly dangerous option, though."
Gharta: We could always try to come up with a better idea, but alright...
Althea: You could go after the Uukan brothers alone, try to draw them out somewhere, and then we can 'rescue' you when you're in over your head... you'd have to manage without any of your powers, though.
Althea: I... frankly don't like the odds in a plan like that, but I'm not sure there's another way to do that...
Gharta: It's not a bad plan, I guess... We could set up a trap of some sort...
Althea: ...of course, who knows what Dipali herself might do while we're busy chasing down the Uukan brothers...
Althea: Maybe I should go back to seeing if I can track her down directly, at least until Kyra gets here...
Gharta nods. "If you need anything, I probably owe you one for this..."
Althea: For the moment, just some quiet; I'll need my concentration.
Althea closes her eyes and focuses on recapturing her earlier feeling of the chains awakening.
Five minutes into Althea's efforts...
Prism suddenly bursts into the room from his entrance, barely sliding to a stop before crashing into Gharta. "What happened? Who's dead!?"
Althea sighs and puts down her dowsing instrument. "Gharta is. Or rather committed to a very dangerous course of action."
Gharta looks to Althea, raising an eyebrow, then back to Kyra. "It's not really that bad. I think."
Prism shakes his head. "I was joking, but I really can't leave you guys alone for a minute, can I?"
Prism sits on the floor. "Fill me in."
Althea: Gharta agreed to deliver the Uukan brothers to the Boromar clan. Let me re-emphasize. Gharta agreed to deliver the Uukan brothers to the Boromar clan.
Gharta rolls her eyes.
Prism stares. "Th-the Uukan brothers?"
Althea: The Uukan brothers.
Gharta: There may have been some complications, but I like to think of this as a chance to avenge your friends...
Prism: And I can't help but think of it as a chance for us to get our butts kicked.
Gharta frowns. "Then what, are we just going to let them get away with it? This is a great opportunity, I'd say."
Althea: Not to mention even if we can beat them, that still doesn't mean the Boromar clan necessarily can deliver Genubo.
Prism glares at Gharta. "Don't toy with my emotions."
Prism: I didn't say we wouldn't go after them, just that I'm justified in being cautious.
Gharta: And I trust your judgment, but there has to be something we can do.
Prism: A knock-down drag-out fight won't get the job done this time. We're going to have to come up with something a little more mental to take these guys down.
Prism: Especially since Swift Hawk can't be around when the fight starts.
Gharta: Well, Althea seemed to have an idea...
Gharta nods in her direction.
Althea shrugs. "Doesn't change the assessment at all. The Swift Hawk can't be there, because Gharta would have to be."
Althea: The only way I really see this working is to let Gharta get in over her head, try to draw them out somewhere, and then show up to try to rescue her.
Prism: That was my first thought, too.
Prism: And seeing as I'm not coming up with a second one...
Althea: ...that doesn't even get into the question of how Gharta's supposed to convince us to leave the Uukan brothers in her custody, either.
Gharta looks about to ask something, but stops and sighs.
Prism eyes Gharta. "Out with it. We're open for suggestions."
Althea: Since we're supposed to, you know, hand them over to the proper authorities, not a rival organization.
Althea: ...of course, if we did turn them in to the authorities, it would hardly be Gharta's fault. She gets in over her head, the matter ends up out of her hands. Of course, the Boromar won't be satisfied that the bargain was upheld, but they won't believe it betrayed either. It just makes Gharta look like a fool who got in over her head. We're still on our own in finding Genubo then, but at least it cuts losses and keeps up appearances.
Gharta: What if I'm doing my job?
Althea: Your House didn't tell you to apprehend the Uukan brothers. Of course, I suppose we don't know that. Hrm...
Prism: Right, we'd have no reason to. Of course, that might land you in a bit of hot water with your House, but it seems like that would be the path of least resistance.
Althea: ...the trouble, of course, is that that could get you into more trouble in the long run. I do tend to keep the Watch informed when we apprehend criminals, they'd want to know why the Uukan brothers didn't eventually end up in custody.
Prism shakes his head. "This is turning into an incredible headache."
Gharta shrugs. "I'm willing to get into a bit of trouble if that's what it takes."
Althea: Well... honestly, before we commit to this, we should see if we can track down Genubo ourselves. We don't know the Boromar clan even has him, and if we apprehended him, it'd make it pretty obvious that the Boromar can't deliver on their part of the bargain anyway...
Prism muses. "Well, I'm not much for reconaissance work, but I could accompany one of you if we go that route."
Althea: I'd say you and the Swift Hawk work together. Try to work angles Gharta didn't; this search needs to be distinct from her efforts.
Gharta looks to the Prism. "Any ideas? I don't really know where to begin if we're going to search for him ourselves."
Gharta: I'm out of further ideas, at least.
Prism shakes his head.
Prism: A good place to start would be to relay where you've been already and what you learned.
Gharta: Well, I've really just revisited one of the places I found that were associated with the Boromar, a warehouse in The Stores. It was my only real lead.
Gharta thinks for a moment. "I was told that he's not yet one of them, if that's any help. They didn't seem too eager to actually help him either, even if he could potentially become so.
Prism crosses his arms. "Hmm."
Althea: Not that we actually know any of what they said was true.
Althea: I don't think you ever did mention what exactly you did the first time around, just that your plan didn't work.
Gharta: I spread some rumors to get the two out of hiding, mostly in The Stores. Anywhere that seemed connected to the Boromar. That part worked. The problem was that Genubo apparently figured out what I was trying to pull...
Prism nods. "Not terribly surprising, really."
Prism snickers. "Maybe some botched information gathering is what we should do to find Genubo," he says sarcastically.
Althea: Possibly. He may be much harder to draw out of hiding now, though.
Gharta: With Dipali on the loose and apparently after him, we could possibly get him to come to us if we promise to protect him. That's the message I was hoping the Boromar would give him.
Prism thinks for a moment, then finally shrugs. "Works for me. I'll follow you two on this one." He blushes, rubbing the back of his neck. "To be honest, I'm a bit out of my league here."
Althea shakes her head. "Firstly, if he's heard anything it's that a bounty hunter who was after him still is. He's got no reason to trust Gharta. And we don't want to go about this the same way as Gharta did, that's a parallel we don't want drawn easily."
Gharta shrugs. "We could try something different... A message from Dipali? Or the Boromar? He seems to be interested in joining them."
Althea holds her head. "I don't think we want to go there until we know a lot more."
Althea: At the moment we're very short on information. Genubo knows Gharta's after him and willing to go to great lengths to get him. The Boromar know Gharta is willing to go after the Uukan Brothers to get him. No one knows we're even involved, yet.
Althea: The last thing we need to do is dangle out more false leads blindly.
Gharta sighs. "Why does this have to be so complicated..."
Althea sighs. "I can't think of anything short of using Gharta as bait of some sort. Whether we went after the Uukan Brothers or Dipali. If you think you could find any leads with your House or something, work on that."
Althea: I'm going to head back to the Stores and see what I can find out myself.
Gharta: I guess it's worth a try, at least...
Prism looks to Gharta. "If you're going as yourself, I shouldn't go with you... the whole 'connections' thing."
Althea stands, transforming as she does so.
Prism nods. "I guess I'll go with you and help out there, Al...Vision."
Gharta returns to the Tharashk Enclave in Dragon Towers in hopes of a lead...
Gharta takes the elevator to the second floor after verifying her identity again, finding and entering a room labeled Bounty Mark Records.
Emen, a full-blooded female orc with glasses, looks up from writing on one of many papers scattered around her desk and nods. "Gharta." The walls to each side of her and behind her are packed with wooden filing cabinets, and there are also three wooden chairs of fine craftsmanship scattered about.
Gharta nods to the orc. "Hey, Emen."
Emen chuckles to herself. "So how many days have you been on the hunt this time, miss ir'Liroijen?"
Gharta grunts. "Things got complicated," she says while heading for one of the filing cabinets.
Emen nods, though is still smirking. "I can see that." A note of concern is detectable despite her amusement. "Didn't want to pay the greedy shrimps full price?"
Gharta: ...Yeah, I figured I'd get by... Should be just about here...
Gharta retrieves Genubo Threehorn's file. "There we go."
Gharta finds that Genubo Threehorn has been wanted for six years as a petty thug and grave-robber; the incident at the Zilargo border increased his bounty and stated threat level, but that's all.
Gharta: Hrm, nothing I can use here...
Emen: Hoping to find a new trail?
Gharta puts the file back in its place. "Yeah. I got him to come out of hiding last time, but that's when things got complicated. I'll probably have to come to him this time."
Gharta moves to the nearby cabinet labeled 'J' and starts searching through the files. "Worth a shot."
Gharta finds that most of the Jorasco entries simply contain a single sheet redirecting the seeker to the subject's family name rather than their House name; Dipali's reads, "See Dipali Kealu."
Gharta: Kealu, hmm...
Gharta closes the filing cabinet and searches through the one next to it instead.
Dipali Kealu d'Jorasco's file is found to be somewhat larger than Genubo's once found. Apparently her bounty has been low for some time, and House Jorasco has seen fit to pay to have her tracked as she zigzagged Zilargo. Her bounty only began to rise — at a gradually accelerating rate — once she hooked up with Genubo nearly a year ago. Her threat level rose slowly but steadily prior to that, but apparently House Jorasco only cared to make a serious effort at catching her in the event that she started trying to heal others. The names of a few House members who were on the tracking job are noted.
Gharta sighs as she reads the file. "More text, but it's all just as... Hmm..."
Gharta notes the names mentioned in the file before she puts the file back. "Could I borrow a piece of paper and a pen for a moment?"
Emen nods. "Certainly. Do you need a full page or just scrap paper?" She offers the fountain pen she's using.
Gharta: A scrap should do.
Emen pulls a piece of paper already ripped in half along a fold out of a drawer and offers it.
Gharta takes the paper and pen and quickly writes down the names before they fade from her memory. "...There. Thanks, Emen."
Emen: Well, that's my job. This was the body Eberron gave me...
Deathsgate isn't one of the happier districts in Sharn, being a place where the dead are prepared to be put to rest and the seedier of the two adventurer guilds of Sharn sets up shop. It's not for these purposes that Gharta comes here, however, but to consult with a locally famous business of her House — Karr'aashta's Investigations. The business takes up a floor of a small, wooden, light grey triangular tower constructed around three thin stone spires. A sturdy, carefully-fenced staircase leads down from a sidewalk to the door, which has a Tharashk crest banner hanging above it.
Gharta glances at the Tharashk crest before entering.
Inside, a few chairs and a desk with another half-orc behind it form a small lobby. Two densewood filing cabinets with locks sit behind the desk, nicely spaced. A simple door is on the left side of the back wall.
Receptionist: Welcome. Since we're having a slow day, may I help you?
Gharta nods quickly and heads towards the half-orc. "You just might."
Receptionist folds his hands above the desk. "Oh?"
Gharta: I have some questions. It's about a case that Karr'aashta may or may not have been involved with.
Receptionist nods and fishes keys out of his pocket. "I'll see what I can find given the details."
Gharta: It involves a Dipali Kealu d'Jorasco. She was tailed in Zilargo a while back.
Receptionist: Hm, Zilargo? Doesn't sound likely that we were directly involved, but I'll take a look.
Receptionist unlocks a drawer and pages through...
Receptionist: ...Hmm. Well, we tailed her to Zilargo, but others took it from there.
Receptionist: The report describes her as scared, lost, and confused more than anything.
Receptionist puts the file away.
Gharta grunts. "If only... Oh well, I guess I know what my next destination is, then. Thanks."
Receptionist nods. "Glad to be of some service."
Gharta leaves, and sighs as the door closes behind her. "No way I'm actually heading to Zilargo. Guess I'll do this the easier way..."
Fortunately, the closest sending station is in the very same district. The facility is relatively small, mostly consisting of benches of various sizes ringing a central room that's divided off partly by glass, partly by desks. Gnomes are seated in elevated chairs in front of holes in the glass, and three large, floating yellow crystals are displayed prominently in the center.
In the corners of the lobby section, desks with paper and quills are set up.
Gharta takes her time writing her message, double-checking it before finding a free gnome.
Attendant: Good afternoon, ma'am.
Gharta smiles politely and hands her message to the gnome. "Afternoon. I'd like to send this to Zilargo, to the people listed at the bottom."
Attendant looks the message and addresses over and nods. "Dragonroost and Quesk, hm? That's two addresses in total, so that's two sendings of one page each."
Gharta nods and finds 10 gp for the attendant, struggling somewhat to maintain the smile.
Attendant takes the message and the gold, handing the former off to another gnome next to one of the stones. "Thank you. Your message should arrive by this evening — five hours from now in Quesk, seven in Dragonroost."
Attendant: Should we hold any replies?
Gharta nods again. "Please do."
Attendant nods. "Very well. Come again!"
The Stores are rather busy, as though nothing happened; apparently fights are far from unheard of in Lower Dura. The place Vision's senses led her to before is between two low warehouses that form part of the ground support for a tannish stone tower that stretches to Stormhold above. Small, ramshackle, pale wooden buildings are stuffed beteen the warehouses and the street.
Vision sets down as near to where she sensed the 'awakening' as occuring as she can.
Vision: Now, first things first. Or at least next, I would have liked to start this a while back...
Prism drops to the ground as well a short distance away from Vision. "Right..."
Vision: I'll need a while to concentrate; you should probably keep an eye out for any trouble while I'm occupied.
Prism: That's what I came for.
Prism suppresses his light generation and leans against a wall, keeping a close eye out on the surroundings.
Vision nods and leans her broom against a wall, then closes her eyes.
It doesn't take three minutes for the Prism to take note of some halfling eyeing Vision as she passes, then eventually returning with another and watching from behind a building.
Prism lowers his eyebrows. Under his breath, he mutters, "I think we have company."
Vision staggers, reaching out to the wall and leaning against it for balance; knocked aside, her broom clatters to the ground. She still appears to be concentrating on her vision, however, despite the disturbance.
Prism looks over to Vision. "You all right over there?"
The halflings observing the two look at each other.
Vision seems to blindly reach for... something, for a moment, but finally breaks out of her vision, shaking her head.
Prism is tapping his foot anxiously by this point. "D-don't say anything here," he says quietly. "We have an audience."
Vision looks around, reaching down and grabbing her broom quickly.
Prism stands forward and uncrosses his arm. "If you're finished, let's go." Without waiting for an answer, he activates his boots and skates into the air.
Vision flies up after Prism on her broom, quickly.
Prism levels off a good distance up and slows down, then spins around and begins skating backwards as he looks at Vision. "So, what did you find?"
Vision: Less than I'd hoped, but probably enough. What happened?
Prism looks to the ground. "There were a couple of halflings doing a really bad job of spying on us."
Prism muses. "One had brown hair and eyes, the other black hair and green eyes. They looked like they were trying to blend in, but their clothes were a little too well-kept for it, if you know what I mean."
Prism: Sound like anyone you know?
Vision shakes her head. "Could be anyone."
Vision: Would help to know if it was a chance eavesdropping or if they knew why someone might come there in particular, but that's not likely to be easy to find out...
Prism: Well, if it wasn't, they're probably following us.
Vision: I couldn't glean much more than what we already knew, anyway. Though there is one thing...
Prism: It's more than we had. What did you find?
Vision: During that encounter, after the awakening... she was totally swept up in the flow of hostility and aggression... She didn't seem to have any control or direction. She may have gone after Genubo first out of some kind of grudge, but in her state she's liable to lash out at anyone who confronts her or gets in her way... she's likely to be exceptionally dangerous.
Prism: Fear and anger aren't a good combination...
Vision shakes her head. "Somehow, we have to find her. Before she becomes a murderer..."
Prism: Right. ...Those halflings spying on us... I feel like we should've spoken with them.
Vision: We could go back, but I don't think we'll find them easily. Worth a try at least, I suppose.
Prism nods. "I was just paranoid that they might have been spying on us, personally. Didn't even think they might be looking at the crime scene, instead."
Prism slows to a halt, which makes the path vanish from under his feet. He falls for a moment before creating a new path to catch himself and begins sliding back towards the scene.
Vision follows the Prism.
On the way back, the Prism notices the pair heading down another road on their way away from the site.
Prism points down. "There they are."
Vision nods. "Confront, or follow?"
Prism: Follow for now. Stay high and stay back.
The two go unnoticed for a couple of minutes, but once one of them turns a corner the male happens to glance at the towers above... and double-takes.
Prism nonchalantly veers off to the left slightly, arcing downwards a bit to increase his speed without obviously speeding up.
Vision follows the Prism.
Our heroes manage to head the two halflings off. They seem to be en route to a T intersection.
Prism points back. "Block their escape from the rear."
Vision nods and flies back down over the road the halflings are traveling.
Prism himself starts losing altitude to meet them head-on.
Bystanders stare at the Prism's arrival on the sidewalk, granting some berth. It's not long before the two halflings get near and slow down, eyeing him suspiciously.
Halfling Chick: ...What do you want?
Prism shrugs, snickering to himself. "That's some way to greet me. I mean, you couldn't get enough of watching me earlier."
Halfling Dude sighs.
Halfling Chick: Hmm. Good eyes...
Prism: I try. Now, do you want to explain yourselves, or...?
Halfling Chick crosses her arms. "It just seemed a little strange that you of all people seemed so interested in where the fight this morning happened, that's all. Scraps down here usually get overlooked."
Prism shrugs again. "I go where I'm needed."
Halfling Dude balls his fists and stands ready.
Prism holds up his hands. "Steady, friend, I am not looking for a fight."
Halfling Dude: Hrm...
Halfling Chick: No one died; what's this fight to you over any other?
Vision drops to the ground about 20 feet behind the halflings. "No one died yet, anyway."
Halfling Dude spins to face Vision while the other turns sideways slowly to look to her.
Halfling Chick: So are you after that troublemaking half-orc lady, then?
Vision: ...half-orc lady? Hmm...
Halfling Dude seems thoughtful.
Vision: I take it she was one of the participants in the fight? I did see a figure that looked larger than the others.
Halfling Chick: We think she started it — some half-orc woman was tryin' to get somethin' for nothin', claimin' to know of a guy chasin' someone who's been tryin' to make nice around here, but not namin' any names, even hers.
Halfling Chick: Seemed to think tellin' us jack squat was worth somethin'.
Halfling Chick: Not even a place to meet came out.
Halfling Chick: Everyone got on edge about it.
Prism: Sounds really shady.
Halfling Chick: No kiddin'.
Vision: Well, she might have been a catalyst to whatever happened, but... she's probably in as much danger as whoever else was there, at this point.
Halfling Dude: Eh?
Halfling Chick: So what're you on about, then?
Vision: Well, as you say, this should have just been another ordinary fight. But something happened. Something strong enough to draw my attention from elsewhere in the city...
Vision holds her head as if disoriented for a moment.
Halfling Chick raises an eyebrow at Vision.
Prism raises an eyebrow as well.
Halfling Dude: This is starting to weird me out, Relless.
Relless tilts her head. "Hmph, well, these types don't make news for being normal..."
Vision shakes her head. "I'm sorry, I don't have a very clear explanation to give you; visions are usually shrouded in mystery and symbolism. What I do know is that one of the halflings in that fight was...overwhelmed by something powerful. Dangerous."
Vision: And frightening enough for both the others to flee for their lives.
Relless: Hm. Well, that's a start, I guess.
Vision: Well, unless you have any idea what "chains" could represent. I've been seeing chains as part of all this and I don't know why.
Relless shakes her head. "Now if you'll excuse us, I think I've gotta see if I can find that wannabe. We don't want any more scuffles on our turf, an' the more we know the better."
Vision nods. "Be careful, though. Whatever this thing is, anyone overcome by it is liable to be... volatile."
Relless nods slowly.
Halfling Dude is beginning to look uncomfortable.
Relless glares at her companion briefly. "You can't afford to wuss out now. Come on."
Halfling Dude gulps and follows Relless as she begins to walk past the Prism.
Vision: Meanwhile, I think we should try to find this half-orc lady. If she provoked this fight, her reasons might be important to learn...
Vision addresses this to the Prism.
Prism nods. "Right. I think we have our next target." He lets the halflings pass with no protest.
The two halflings turn right and head off.
Prism crosses his arms and sighs. "Well, that idea was a bust."
Vision: I don't know, I think we've got a few leads.
Vision takes off and starts heading eastward.
Prism watches Vision go for a moment, then sighs and heads after her.
Vision pauses after several more minutes to let the Prism catch up.
Vision shakes her head. "For a minute there I really thought they weren't going to buy my bluff about Gharta..."
Prism: Luck is every bit as important as skill.
Prism: ...Speaking of, if you've found everything you can, we should probably meet up with her.
Vision: Not quite. We accomplished three important things back there, but we're not quite finished.
Prism looks annoyed. "Well?"
Vision: We need to go to House Tharashk and see if we can find out who our "half-orc lady troublemaker" is. I'm hoping our reputation counts for something, though, because I don't have much better to do than something like Gharta tried to.
Vision: At least her House isn't liable to refuse to deliver her a warning, though I can't know for sure how they'll react to our interest in one of their marks.
Vision: If we have no choice but to link ourselves to Gharta, we had better make sure we do it right, though.
Vision resumes flying toward the main House Tharashk enclave.
Prism picks up the pace to keep up.
The House-crest-overloaded district of Dragon Towers is bustling with activity. The three towers whose central floors make up the Tharashk enclave are no exception; humans, orcs, and half-orcs especially are in heavy supply upon the bridges connecting them.
Vision looks for a safe place to land nearby, still a little too unsteady on the broom to merely nudge her way into the crowd on it.
Prism doesn't have that problem, but circles around overhead while waiting for Vision to find a landing spot.
It's a simple enough matter to land on a balcony before a public entrance.
Vision heads inside.
The pair attract a few astonished or curious glances as they enter the enclave. A gated, guarded lift is the central feature of the room here. Moving out from that, one finds square support pillars covered in wanted posters and cork message boards, as well as some raised patches of garden to brighten up the floor. Several built-in storefronts ring or jut partway into the floor.
Prism walks inside behind Vision, looking around cautiously.
Vision approaches the lift gate. "Excuse me..."
Guard, a half-orcish man, looks to Vision and raises an eyebrow. "What brings your sorts here?..."
Vision: Following a hunch. It's possible one of your hunters might have been involved in a fight in the Stores earlier today, and might be in further danger as a result of it...
Guard: Hmmm. Well, that sort of thing happens plenty. What do you want me to do about it?
Vision: I was hoping I might be able to speak to somebody who might know this person is. A half-orc woman who may have been after a pair of halflings.
Vision: As much as we could find out she confronted them, a fight broke out, but then something happened and one of the halflings turned on the both of them with a terrifying power...
Guard raises an eyebrow. "Hm, well, it's not my job to know who's been assigned to what. Nor, really, is it my job to fetch anyone who is... I don't want to inconvenience the House members coming and going by not being able to verify identities."
Vision: Is there anyone else I could talk to here who could help?
Guard points to one of the storefronts. "Grall'aashta usually deals with customer service, and might have some time for this."
Vision bows. "Thank you."
Guard nods. "You're welcome."
Vision heads toward the indicated storefront.
Prism tags along.
The storefront in question is small, simply involving a small outdoor waiting area with simple wooden chairs and tables, a counter with an orcish man behind it, and a dispenser with a funnel on top that seems to hold out wooden tokens with numbers on them. A human and a gnome are each waiting here, the latter fidgeting impatiently with a token, but the rest of the chairs are empty. At the moment, a shifter is being spoken with.
Vision takes a token and moves to an empty chair.
The shifter is gone shortly; the gnome is next and complains loudly about a particular human's seeming disregard for private property for a couple of minutes before storming off. The human is next in line and simply hands over an envelope with a few words, leaving Vision's number the next to be called.
Vision heads to the counter.
Grall: Hm, are you... never mind. May I help you, ma'am?
Vision: I hope so. I'm here because I'm investigating an incident that happened down in the Stores earlier today. I think one of the people involved, a female half-orc, may have been one of your hunters.
Grall raises an eyebrow. "Really? Why is that? And what sort of incident?"
Vision: A fight broke out. Local residents blame it on a half-orc lady snooping around looking for someone, presumably the pair of halflings she was fighting...
Vision: Now that in itself isn't unusual, of course. But...
Vision: Somewhere along the line, something... unusual happened to one of the halflings, and both the half-orc and the other halfling were forced to flee...
Grall: Hrm... so you're saying you think she might be in trouble, then?
Vision: Yes. If it is one of your hunters, she needs to be informed that one of the people she's after is more dangerous than she can know. Whatever's happened to them has left them extremely volatile.
Grall nods grimly. "That does at least sound worth verifying, then." He holds up his left hand and twists a copper ring with four dark red garnets and a small Eberron shard set in it with his right. "Emen? We have someone here concerned for one of our female half-orcish hunters. Can you verify who might have tracked a pair of halflings to the Stores?"
Vision: If it is one of your hunters, please let her know what I've told you. If possible, I'd like to meet with her, see if maybe I can sort out a little more of what happened.
Grall nods. "When and where if so?"
Vision: I'll wait at one of the tables here. Say in about 5 hours? Hopefully she'll check in by then, but if not I'll stop by first thing in the morning as well.
Grall nods and grabs some scrap paper and a quill. "All right. Should I say who's asking who I think I should say?"
Grall looks from Vision to the Prism and back briefly before continuing to write.
Vision nods. "Vision."
Grall: Hm! All right then, Vision, I'll see you later.
Vision: Thank you.
Grall: You're welcome. I hope this isn't as serious as you make it sound, and that you have a nice day.
Vision bows, leaves her token behind and heads out.
Prism bows as well, though he never said anything, and heads out behind Vision.
The group finally reassembles back at "the place", having followed their particular leads as best they could, to exchange information...
Prism sits on the floor listening to the others, having found out absolutely nothing tagging along with Vision.
Vision: So, any luck on your end, Gharta?
Gharta sighs. "I hope so. It was expensive."
Gharta: I've tried contacting some people who were involved with tailing Dipali in Zilargo. If we're lucky, they might have helpful information.
Gharta: It's the best I could find...
Vision: Meanwhile, we managed a few things.
Gharta: Then you've probably achieved more than me. What, exactly?
Vision: First, I got my own impression of the fight. I'm sorry to say my impression is that Dipali is... well, swept up in a current of violent intent, without any real control or direction. She may have focused on you and Genubo, but chances are she'll lash out at anyone who confronts her...
Vision: Second, we ran into a couple of people who were looking into the fight. A halfling woman named Relless and a male companion. They were with the Boromar clan, and were trying to track down one of the two, probably Genubo.
Vision: I impressed upon them just how dangerous Dipali is. Hopefully that'll keep them alive if they run into her. I didn't actually say which was which, but I dropped the hint about chains so I suspect they'll know I mean her if and when they see her.
Vision: I also found out that a half-orc lady was causing trouble and was part of that fight. On a 'hunch' I headed for House Tharashk to ask them if it might have been one of their bounty hunters.
Vision: When you check back in with them you'll hopefully find out that I've asked to meet with you there later today.
Gharta snickers a little.
Vision: Didn't seem like a connection between us and your mundane persona was avoidable, but at least this way it's a well-established connection that shouldn't invite too much deeper scrutiny.
Gharta: Well, you certainly did get a lot more done than I did... I should probably think about heading there and find out about this.
Vision: I'll be there at about 6:30. That still gives us a little time.
Prism shakes his head. "I likely won't be able to accompany you. Mom has probably already called the Watch to find me as it is."
Vision: While we now have the beginnings of an excuse to go after the Uukan Brothers, we also know the Boromar don't have Genubo. Yet.
Vision nods. "I guess I'll avoid Dura for a while then."
Vision: We also know they distrust you. It wasn't until I started describing elements of my vision that they realized there might be any bigger problem here than the one you represented to them.
Gharta: I suppose that isn't surprising...
Vision: If I were you, I'd stay out of the Stores for a while, and if you do end up trying to deal with them, you should probably have someone to watch your back.
Gharta nods. "I'll try to avoid the place."
Evening seems not to reduce the level of activity at the Tharashk enclave, though the service desk and its accompanying tables are less busy now.
Vision arrives a few minutes early, heading to the same storefront from earlier and, after scanning the tables, sits down at an empty one, facing the door.
Grall nods to Vision.
Vision nods to Grall, and waits.
Gharta shows up a short while later, stopping for a moment to prepare her act after locating Vision, and approaches her.
Gharta: Excuse me... You're the one who wanted to talk to me, aren't you?
Vision looks up at Gharta. "Yes, I take it you were in the Stores earlier today?"
Gharta takes a seat, then looks to Vision and nods. "I gather that you've heard about that mess..."
Vision: A little. It would be fairer to say I've 'seen' it, but I am lacking in some details.
Vision: I gather you were trying to apprehend two halflings?
Gharta: That was my assignment, yes. Though it didn't work out too well.
Vision: One of them... changed, somehow, right?
Gharta holds her hands up, gesturing as she speaks. "The female one just, well... She seemed pretty meek at first, but all of a sudden she went crazy and started firing at the other one. When I saw her, she was all covered in chains, for some reason."
Vision seems slightly startled and holds her head for a moment. "Yes... chains..."
Vision: Suffice to say she has become... possessed by some kind of very dangerous power.
Grall raises an eyebrow at Vision from behind the counter.
Gharta shrugs. "I think I was lucky to be able to escape."
Vision: I don't know what your reasons are for being after either of them and it is frankly not my business to know... but this power has to be contained. I'd appreciate your help in finding her before things get any worse.
Gharta: Well, I'm still after them. The question is if that will interfere with our business.
Vision: We're not part of the Watch, we have the ability to... operate with some discretion. My only concern here is making sure this...issue is resolved without any deaths.
Vision: As far as I'm concerned this is still your bounty. We're just after the "chains" as it were.
Grall tilts his head, intrigued by the conversation.
Gharta scratches her chin for a moment.
Gharta: Alright. I'll help you out, I guess. So long as I still get the bounty, being helpful is a neat bonus.
Gharta snickers to herself.
Vision nods. "Thank you. I'll be in touch with you tomorrow to coordinate things further." She hands Gharta a sending stone.
Gharta puts the sending stone in a pocket. "Sure. This should be interesting."
Vision stands and bows. "I'll speak with you later, miss... oh, I'm sorry, I forgot to ask your name."
Vision looks embarrassed.
Gharta smirks. "Gharta'torrn. Gharta will do."
Vision nods. "Good evening, then, miss Gharta."
Vision bows in Grall's direction briefly as well before departing.
Grall nods back.
Gharta takes the sending stone back out of the pocket after Vision has left, smiling to herself. "Heh, neat."
Grall smiles and shakes his head. "Don't get so caught up in hero fantasies that you don't remember to think about what to do next."
Grall: You really seem to have found yourself in a pickle, after all.
Gharta looks to Grall. "Pff, let me enjoy this while it lasts. Besides, with this sort of help, I shouldn't have any problems catching those halflings at all."
Grall: Not saying not to enjoy it, just to keep your head too, Gharta.
The next morning, at the Dragoneyes sending station...
Gharta immediately heads for one of the gnomes that aren't busy.
Gnome: May I help you, ma'am?
Gharta: I'm waiting for some replies, hopefully they've arrived by now.
Gharta readies her papers.
Gnome nods and pulls out a wand. After pointing it at the papers for a moment, she nods. "Gharta'torrn? I have two messages for you, yes."
Gnome pulls a couple of envelopes out from under the counter and hands them over.
Gharta takes the envelopes, nodding to the gnome before she leaves. "Thanks."
Gnome: Have a nice day!
Gharta walks a small distance from the sending station before stopping to open the envelopes and read the replies. "Hmm... Yeah, I know she likes combat magic."
Gharta grunts to herself and continues reading. "Easily spooked, right. But, hmm... That could actually be useful. I should ask Althea about that."
Shortly, at "the place"...
Althea looks up from a book as Gharta enters. "So, anything useful come in overnight?"
Gharta: Well, I do have something.
Gharta takes a look at one of the letters again. "Apparently, she likes to hide in places where she can study and practice. Which made me think of you."
Gharta: That is, I wonder if that would give you any ideas about where to search.
Althea: I do most of my studying at the library, but as far as practicing... hmm...
Althea: Go on, anyway. Perhaps something will come up.
Gharta: Uh, well... That's about it, really.
Althea: Well, it's something, anyway. Her needs are different from mine, but... let's see...
Althea: Did they by any chance mention examples of the kinds of places she's chosen before?
Gharta checks the letters one more time. "Doesn't look like it... If it helps, chances are it involved combat magic."
Althea: Indeed. She was known to be uncomfortable with healing magic even though she was quite good with it.
Gharta: Hmm, wait. They mention that she preferred studying with help from actual people rather than just books.
Althea: Mm. If she's turned on Genubo after working with him for so long, she may not have too many contacts here, but...
Gharta: Well, she could always have gotten some new ones. Though in her current state, I have my doubts.
Althea: We're probably talking about someplace where people won't ask too many questions, at least those unrelated to the training...
Althea: She'll most likely avoid the Boromar since they're connected, however tenuously, to Genubo. But there are a number of others she could seek help from in the underground.
Althea: She might have sought aid from either Daask or House Tarkanan. If she has associated herself with the former, it's not going to be good if the Boromar do catch up to her...
Gharta scratches her head. "Unless she's calmed down again, I somehow doubt she would seek help in the first place..."
Althea shrugs. "It is the pattern we have to go on."
Althea: Daask being in direct conflict with the Boromar might appeal to the 'War' aspect. She might see it as appropriate that she work with the group opposed to the clan Genubo was trying to join now that she sees Genubo as an enemy.
Gharta: Daask, hmm...
Althea: House Tarkanan, on the other hand... would offer some familiarity, in a sense. She is a marked scion of a House, even if she couldn't stand what the House wanted her to do. Tarkanan might be like a House that did what she's good at, in a way.
Gharta: Well... If we're going to assume that Dipali might have gotten involved with one of them... Are we still going after the Uukan brothers, anyway?
A small, round stone suddenly materalizes from thin air and flies towards Gharta's head at an alarming speed.
Gharta flinches for a moment as the stone hits her head, then rubs the place it hit, frantically searching the surroundings for the source of the stone. "Ow! Where the...! Who...!"
Kyra appears from his entrance, seething angrily. "I'm glad I happened to come by, then. Thanks a lot for letting me know about the planning session."
Kyra glares at Gharta. "And you. We all but know the Boromar have nothing to do with this, so drop your personal grudge against the Uukan brothers! There's a time and a place, and this is not it."
Kyra snatches his sending stone back from Gharta. "We investigate 'House' Tarkanan. All of us."
Gharta glares back at Kyra for a second, then folds her arms and looks away. "...Fine."
Kyra stops his tirade, apparently calming down. He clears his throat. "I presume there are no objections."
Althea looks back and forth between the two and just sighs quietly.
Kyra: Don't just sigh at me, I'm not exactly happy with the way you've been handling things, either. I know I may not contribute much to investigations, but I still like to be kept in the loop, as it were.
Kyra crosses his arms and inhales sharply. "You could've called me."
Althea: Gharta only just got here a little while ago.
Kyra: That's nice. I wouldn't have come at all if I hadn't had a hunch I was missing something.
Kyra presses the bridge of his nose. "Now's not the time to be fighting amongst ourselves. We have something to take care of before it destroys Sharn."
Kyra: So keep me in the damned loop already!
Althea: We weren't making secret plans to infiltrate Daask or House Tarkanan. We were going over a piece of information Gharta just got this morning. I've been here for a while on my own. So this isn't exactly an intel meeting.
Kyra glares angrily at Althea, his eyes firey. "So that's a perfectly valid excuse to not give me the information as well, is it."
Althea: If you had come in here asking to be brought up to date rather than shouting accusations of secrecy...
Kyra: I wasn't asked to come at all! It's totally chance that I'm here.
Althea: And if the library were less crowded I might not be here.
Kyra: So you'd rather be doing this by yourself anyway.
Althea slams her book shut and places it on the table, standing and glaring at Kyra.
Gharta looks to the two, sighs and heads for her own part of the place. "Call me when you've calmed down."
Althea: I don't know if you've noticed, but I do have somewhat more on the line in this matter than some others. I have been trying to piece things together as best I can, which has not been made easy for me. Despite that, I have not tried to remove this case from the group's purview, or to withhold any information about it, even when one of my colleages doesn't seem to get it and the other can barely be bothered to listen when he is here.
Kyra: Hmph. Well, my sincerest apologies for being such a burden, my Lady Althea. Gharta, call me if you need anything, I'm out of here.
Kyra turns on his heel and storms out, vanishing as he gets to his section.
Althea stares at the space Kyra occupied for several moments before shaking her head.
Gharta stumbles out of her section shortly after. "Kyra! Wait!"
Kyra's voice rings out, "Make it good."
Gharta: ...We need you now.
Kyra steps back into visibility after a moment with a sigh. "Do you, or are you just trying to make me feel better?"
Gharta smirks. "Have we ever really gotten anywhere without you?"
Kyra crosses his arms and looks to the side. "You've done a pretty good job on this case so far without me..."
Kyra sighs. "I'm not an investigator. I don't know the city well enough to do things like you guys. I'm the son of a doctor."
Kyra: I just...feel like I can't contribute at times like this.
Kyra sniffs lightly. "And being excluded isn't helping..."
Gharta: So we're not entirely useless, we did our part. Now's the part where you come in.
Althea: Don't start on that again. This was a chance meeting, not a called one.
Althea sits back down. "Now, shall we start again, from the beginning?"
Gharta coughs to herself. "It was messy, too, without you..."
Kyra sits on the floor. "Ok, then, start talking."
Althea looks to Gharta. "You got word from others who were following these two..."
Gharta: I did. Nothing too exciting, overall, but they did note that Dipali may be likely to hide somewhere she can practice and study, with other people.
Gharta sits down as well. "That's why I went to find Althea, as I figured she would be able to make the most use of that."
Kyra thinks. "The 'with other people' part of that seems a little odd. If anyone, she'd seek us out, I'd think..."
Althea: If she knew what we are. Not to mention Gharta did start out on the wrong foot with her.
Althea: Given her background and state she'd be more likely to trust someone like Xeln Pradosh than us, were she to trust anyone...
Kyra thinks again for a second, and shudders. "Maybe she did go to Xeln."
Althea: Seems like a long shot but it shouldn't be difficult to find out.
Althea: I pointed out that if she's looking for underground assistance, Daask and House Tarkanan are possibilities. Daask because she's turned against Genubo, who's trying to associate himself with Boromar. House Tarkanan because of its structure.
Gharta: Well, we have some options, then.
Gharta nods to Kyra. "You said Tarkanan, didn't you?"
Althea: Let's start by finding out whether Xeln has had any visitors recently. After that, though, Tarkanan seems to be as good a place as any.
Kyra nods. "Good idea. Let's go."
The Citadel in Ambassador Towers is no welcoming place. Few are welcome in the middle levels of Andith Tower, and fewer spend extended periods in this forbidding place. The guards here are dour, not part of the Sharn Watch but of Breland's Knights of the Citadel. No lobby graces this building — simply a barred and gated iron-bound door flanked by two gruff knights upon a small balcony.
Knight peers at the oncoming trio.
Prism looks to the knight, making no secret of who he is with his lights cycling at full brightness.
Prism: disguised voice I wish to speak with Xeln Pradosh.
Knight sighs in frustration.
Prism cocks his head slightly, losing the confident demeanor almost immediately and turning concerned. "Have you had a rough day, sir knight?"
Knight: I was hoping the Watch could at least be bothered to brief you about where you can't go.
Knight mutters something under his breath.
Prism shakes his head. "I'm sorry you think that way of us, but the very safety of our city might hang in the balance. I must speak with him."
Knight: Look, there's a reason he's here in particular and not in a chain gang — he's very powerful, and not entirely in ways we understand. Much like you, I should add.
Knight: He's probably only still alive at all because someone wants him studied.
Prism: No doubt there is, which is exactly the reason we must speak with him. We are tracking someone who may have spoken with him, whether you or the other guards were aware of it or not.
Knight: Don't insult us. These floors of the tower are proofed against teleportation and reinforced with walls of force. The chances of getting through without it being through this door are slim.
Prism: And what of illusions? Brute force is not the only means of infiltration.
Knight: It certainly isn't, kid.
Vision glances at the Swift Hawk briefly.
Prism smiles. "I'd expect no less, though I'd thank you to not call me 'kid.'"
Swift Hawk takes a step forward. "Chances are the one we're tracking is fully capable of entering and leaving while you're none the wiser."
Knight peers at the Swift Hawk skeptically.
Knight: Past teleportation wards and walls of force, without setting off any alarms, without any form of shapeshifting or illusion? I find that hard to believe.
Swift Hawk cracks her knuckles. "Allow me to demonstrate," she says as she leaves the area.
Vision: This should be interesting.
Prism yawns and puts his hands behind his head, saying nothing.
Shortly, muffled shouting can faintly be made out from behind the imposing door. The knight the others have been speaking to plus the one who's actually been keeping watch both turn towards the door, swords suddenly in hand.
Vision calls toward the door: "Don't make too much of a fuss in there, we've made our point."
Prism nods, hands still behind his head. "Indeed we have. May we speak to Xeln now, sir?"
Knight sighs. "So long as you don't mind being on call to aid us at some future date."
Prism nods, smiling behind his mask. "As always, good sir."
Knight: We'll need to arrange a means of contact for cashing in that favor...
Knight mumbles something, causing a tiny panel to slide aside on his armor; a key drops out and into his hand.
After about fifteen minutes of waiting, internal grumbling, and the fastening of striped leather belts with miniature cold iron anchors hanging from them to each of our heroes' waists, the three are escorted by one knight each through corridors with a variety of cells that seem designed to account for several different forms of high security. The group eventually stops in front of a cell with thick, crisscrossed cold iron bars and a wall of force tinged faintly aqua for visibility purposes.
Prism appears to maintain his composure, but faint sweat has begun to appear on his brow as they approach.
Xeln shudders as the group grows near, then fixes a hateful gaze on the Prism.
Prism smiles cheerfully to Xeln, but it's very clearly fake and almost derisive. "Hello again, friend."
Xeln adjusts his shirt, which is red-striped and clearly far too tight for him.
Xeln: Again?... Hmph, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised by that.
Prism looks at Xeln, a bit confused. "...Whatever. Vision, ask him." Prism backs away from the cell a bit.
Vision looks a bit uncomfortable herself, but she nods to the Prism and turns to Xeln.
Xeln: You I don't recognize. And where did the other three go?
Vision: ...the Crane, Mindflare, and the Fairy Knight are dead.
Vision: I am called Vision. I...had been keeping a lower profile than the others, so to speak, but circumstances seemed to demand I make myself known...
Xeln crosses his arms to match his cross-legged seat on the floor. "I see... maybe I should be glad to be spending some time in here after all."
Xeln: Get on with it, anyway. The sooner you get that thing away from me the better.
A couple of the guards glance at each other in confusion.
Prism crosses his arms. "Then you know why we're here."
Xeln: I know you couldn't have gotten in so easily. Aside from the Vadalis guy they haven't exactly been giving me a lot of sapient contact.
Xeln: So get on with it already.
Vision: One of our number awakened recently. It is important that we find her before anything...irrevocable happens.
Prism raises an eyebrow at Xeln's responses, but stays quiet for now.
Vision just slightly emphasizes "our", "we", and "irrevocable"
Xeln: So how do you think I'm going to help?
Xeln scoots over to the wall and leans against it, arms still crossed.
Vision: Being where you are may make it unlikely, but it is always possible she may come to you for...guidance.
Xeln snickers at the thought. "Guidance from a little kid like me. Cute. It's only because of my power that I was ever able to command any respect. When that power changed, so did the people who respected me..."
Xeln glances to the ceiling. "The people and the gods."
Vision: And that is largely the point. She now has a power. A power that freed her from one person that was dominating her. A power that could lead her right into the position you now occupy, or worse, if she does not learn how and when to check it.
Vision: You know better than anyone the kind of curse that power could become...
Xeln: ...Fine, then. I haven't seen anyone here, but there were people who were interested in me besides the Schismatics. There was that gnome who was supposed to supply us before he got arrested... he forged and gave me the halberd. He thought it would be as fitting as it was practical.
Xeln stops to think.
Xeln: I think he may have mentioned swapping notes with someone else...
Prism muses. "'That gnome,' eh? I wonder if...hmm."
Xeln shoots a look at the Prism. "It is still in your custody, isn't it?"
Prism looks to Xeln. "Yeah, it's in a safe place. That gnome...his name wasn't Fibblebaum, was it?"
Xeln blinks, then nods.
Prism muses. "Hrm..."
Xeln: So is that all?
Prism nods. "Thanks, you've been more help than you think. We'll check in to make sure you're still alive here and there."
Xeln: Hmph, I'd rather you didn't. You are my reason to leave.
Vision glances back at the knights. "Not that I imagine we have much say in anything that happens to you now..."
Prism shrugs. "As you wish."
Vision: ...at any rate, as important as it is to have a reason to live, I recommend you find something beyond annihilating your opposite power. Living for that... really is giving in to the curse of such a power...
Xeln looks away. "You've never felt anything like this, have you?"
Prism himself looks like he's nauseated and ready to leave, but is being quiet about it.
Vision responds in a low tone. "Probably nothing so intense. But then there is a part of me that would like nothing better than to destroy every chain and lock in this place and damn the consequences. But even if I could, I know I mustn't."
Xeln: Just... just go.
Prism shrugs. "We've learned all we're going to." He turns on his heel. "Let's leave him alone."
Xeln retreats to the corner of his cell at the others leave, huddling in what little excuse for a shadow there is.
After the trio is released from the belts they had to wear, they're let out with little else said.
Prism nods. "We have our next target, at least. Where is, as usual, the question."
Vision shudders. "...that was awful..." She sounds shaken.
Swift Hawk: You got something out of it, at least. What do we have, again?
Prism eyes Swift Hawk with a raised eyebrow. "Well, we know Fibblebaum's probably looking for her, as well."
Vision: Or at least soon will be...
Vision: ...We should check with the Watch, anyway. Last I heard he was still imprisoned.
Prism nods. "Seems there's another one out there, too. Maybe we can "coerce" the information out of him."
Vision: I wanted to apologize to him... for not being able to help... but that would have been unwelcome and useless... I wanted to demand the knights treat him well, to threaten them... but that would be equally useless...
Vision: ...let's just hurry. We don't really know how much time we still have to make a difference. We have to try...
Prism turns his raised eyebrow on Vision this time. "Where did that come from? ...Never mind."
Swift Hawk looks to Vision. "You could've asked still. No harm in trying, even if you think it's useless."
Vision shakes her head. "The less I say to people like that, the better. They would fear what I represent more than what Xeln does, ultimately."
Blackbones, the sourtheastern of the two massive industrial districts in the Cogs, is better-lit with wider cave passages and less noise than Ashblack in the west — which isn't saying a lot. Warforged laborers abound here, and more than a few chain gangs serve their time in this place since being the less extreme of the two districts makes them easier to watch here.
It was no trouble for our heroes to get directions to a chain gang comprised mainly of halflings, gnomes, and goblins who are being forced to sift through rocks to sort out usable ore. Two members of this gang in particular are familiar — one shivering and pale as though from an unshared illness, the other at once irritated by his predicament and fascinated by the work.
Prism eyes the latter. "It's been a while."
Fibblebaum looks over at the Prism. "Oh, you. Found a better group, did you?..."
Prism: It's a long story, so let's cut to the chase. A certain someone said you might've been "swapping notes" with someone about "us." Tell me who.
Fibblebaum chuckles, turning back to his work. "How vague!"
Prism: I learned from the best.
Fibblebaum: I don't see what's in this for me.
Swift Hawk eyes the goblin nearby, sighing to herself before returning her attention to the conversation.
Prism lowers his voice. "Ever heard of the wounded prey gamble?"
Fibblebaum raises an eyebrow, then winces. "All right, all right..."
Fibblebaum: It's not as though those Tarkanan thugs weren't a thorn in my side anyway... even if they could be useful at times.
Fibblebaum: "Us", though?... Interesting...
Fibblebaum grins in morbid amusement.
Vision: Surprised he could think of it that way, or just hadn't thought of it yourself?
Fibblebaum: I just didn't expect such a scale to the coming war...
The goblin looks over slowly with concern...
Vision shakes her head. "We're not here to start a war, or accept one as our destiny. If anything, we intend to stop one from becoming inevitable."
Vision looks to the Prism.
Prism: Answer the question.
Fibblebaum hmphs. "You're dense if you don't think I did."
Prism glares. "Now who's being vague?"
Vision shakes her head. "He figured you and Xeln would be at each other's throats by nature. That we could see him as more alike than unalike has... implications for how he sees things unfolding."
Fibblebaum just smiles to himself as he continues sorting ore.
Prism's eye twitches.
Prism: I didn't mean that question. This person you'd been swapping notes with. All you said was Tarkanan. Be more specific.
Fibblebaum shrugs. "Varied, generally anonymous. But the interest seems to run to the top."
Prism crosses his arms. "Figures."
Prism shakes his head. "We're not getting anything else here. Let's get out of here."
Khyber's Gate, though as dirty and seedy as always, seems like a respite when compared to Blackbones. The heat here is less, half of the dirt is merely metaphorical, and industrial noise is muffled and distant at the most.
Vision has adjusted her typical disguise significantly; she seems to have aged several decades, and her face is slightly scarred from some old injury. Her glasses have lost their high degree of reflection, but look much thicker than usual. Kyra himself has gained a few years, though nowhere near as dramatically as Vision. He appears to be a human man in his late teens standing a foot higher than Kyra, with short brown hair and dark grey clothing accented with white.
Sibel manages something of a brisk limp as if compensating for an old injury, heading toward a nondescript building between an inn and a tailor's shop.
Conrad crosses his arms, looking uncomfortable but saying nothing.
As before, the inside of the Shadow temple is mostly dark, with only the altar highlighted faintly by a pair of candles upon it.
Umruuk, a darkly-clad hobgoblin, stands behind the altar itself, barely visible due to the proximity of the candles.
Umruuk: Well, well, Sssibel! It'sss not common to sssee friendsss with you. Fear your sssecretsss thisss time are too good? Mum-hmm!
Conrad fixes his glance on Umruuk, remaining silent while trying to look vaguely intimidating.
Sibel responds with her voice low. "Something like that... more the secrets I seek than those I bear, for the moment."
Umruuk raises an eyebrow. "Mum-hmm! If you ssseek sssuch richesss and what you hasss for giving'sss not ssso big, you mussst have plenty of sssmall sssecretsss to trade, hmmm?"
Sibel: As always.
Umruuk grins. "I lisssten."
Sibel: First, it seems you were not paid well in one of your past exchanges. I've looked into miss Kearne, although it seems I wasn't the only one to do so...
Sibel: There is no chance that she is the Prism. There are even witnesses to the Prism coming to her for an interview.
Umruuk: Hurph. Then I sssuppossse the fanc-sssy human with the rag disssguissse needsss to learn of the Sssshadow's wrath! Mum-hmm! It'sss been boring without the massster here; I needsss the fun...
Umruuk cracks his knuckles.
Conrad raises an eyebrow, and speaks with a completely different, much deeper voice than his norm. "Human with a rag disguise, you say..."
Sibel looks back with a raised eyebrow. "Something familiar?"
Conrad: Yeah, you could say that.
Umruuk: Ssso, the cossst for the ressst?
Umruuk puts a hand on his hip.
Sibel: I'm tracking down another unusual individual. Possibly similar to someone the master was interested in. Someone who may be sought by or who might have sought refuge with House Tarkanan.
Umruuk raises an eyebrow. "Oho, sssizable indeed! Ssso what are your offeringsss, hmmmmmm?"
Sibel: It seems one of the graduate students working on a medical research project has been stealing samples and copying others' notes.
Sibel: He's not skilled at subterfuge and will likely be caught before long, but what he's amassed so far might be fairly valuable on the black market if a deal could be made with him before then...
Umruuk nods slowly...
Sibel: Then there are some interesting developments in some Archival Foundation research...
Umruuk raises an eyebrow.
Umruuk: The offeringsss ssseem plentiful enough for what you ssseek. It mussst be important to you! Mum-hmm!
Umruuk: Tarkanan crawlsss in the dark, but itsss ambitionsss stretch higher. They ssseesss the true power of the dark beginning to return! They wanted Timore asss one of theirsss, yesss, but the massster wanted him more! Mum-hmm!
Sibel nods. "But Timore, and Xeln, are both out of the picture... for now at least..."
Umruuk: Timore and Xeln walksss two pathsss, one old, one new. If Tarkanan gotsss everything they wantsss, thossse pathsss would both meet in Dragon Towersss under their roof! Mum-hmm!
Sibel: All the more reason they would be after my target, then...
Umruuk: The true roof isss sssecretsss I know not, but what isss lossst to Sssiberysss isss found by Khyber! Mum-hmm!
Umruuk: Ssso, the paymentsss?
Sibel: Seems they've determined conclusively that even their methods of casting divine magic don't work so well if you fear the nature of the domain you wish to cast from.
Sibel takes out a few pieces of parchment. "A copy of the report, and various other relevant tidbits."
Sibel takes out a small and much thinner sheet of paper. "Name and suggested contact means for the student and a list of what he should have available."
Umruuk accepts the papers and skims the writing. "A fair ex-ssschange indeed! I hope we can do such valuable busssiness again, Sssibel! Mum-hmm!"
Sibel nods. "The pursuit of knowledge never ends. I'm sure we'll be seeing each other again."
Althea and Kyra head to the team's mysterious headquarters to meet up with Gharta...
Althea: Well, that was a bit 'expensive', but then again currency like that loses its value quickly if not spent.
Althea: So, I take it you know or suspect you know something about whoever leaked 'your' identity to Umruuk?
Kyra nods. "It was Mindflare. Go figure."
Gharta leans on the table, almost sitting on it. "What's this all about?"
Althea: We had a chat with Umruuk at the temple of the Shadow. Confirmed a bit about what they knew and what Tarkanan knew about Timore and Xeln... There's no question if she didn't seek House Tarkanan out they'd seek her out if they know to look.
Althea: I just had to give up a few secrets about research I've been following in exchange.
Althea: Umruuk didn't know where House Tarkanan keeps its central operations, but he suggested we check out Siberys' discards, as it were, in Dragon Towers.
Kyra puts his hands behind his head and shakes his head. "Which I have a really bad feeling about..."
Althea: We'll need to be prepared for trouble, but let's proceed with what discretion and stealth we can.
Gharta looks to Kyra for a moment, then nods to herself. "We're almost done here, then."
Althea: Also, the rumor about Diab being the Prism should be quashed now.
Althea: Hopefully that will avoid any further 'incidents' happening to her...
Kyra nods. "Thankfully."
Althea: Shall we go?
Kyra nods. "No sense in putting it off."
Gharta pushes herself up on her feet and stretches. "We were checking out what in Dragon Towers, again?"
Althea: Sib— er, places abandoned by the Houses.
Gharta puts her hat on. "To the places abandoned by the Houses, then."
Vision's intuition leads the group to a tower floor used as a counterclockwise rotary. Four bridges connect it to the rest of Dragon Towers, but the road that rings the inside of the tower is only wide enough for a single vehicle. Some faded and worn Kundarak crests on the doors visible from the entryways are an indication of this tower floor's former ownership.
Vision: Be on guard. If we are in the right place, we won't exactly be welcome.
Swift Hawk lifts her hat to get a better view of the tower. "Are you sure it's even the right place? I have no idea where we are right now."
Prism nods. "I'll take your w-word for it..."
Vision: Of course I'm not sure. Intuition isn't about certainty.
Swift Hawk shrugs.
Prism: Th-that would explain why you t-took so long coming up with th-this.
Swift Hawk: Well, we're not getting anywhere if we just stand around. Let's head inside.
Prism: Are you sure we should just run in with c-crossbows blazing?
Swift Hawk looks to Prism and Vision, shrugging again. "I figured maybe one of you would have a plan."
Prism: Are you j-joking? I b-barely know where we are...
Vision: Can't say I have a great familiarity myself; I'm working off borrowed knowledge in a sense.
Prism: ...C-crossbows blazing it is, then.
Swift Hawk nods towards the nearby door. "Is that one fine?"
Prism closes his eyes and shrugs, trying to compose himself.
Vision looks intently toward the door.
Vision: Someone's here...
Prism furrows his brow. "You think so?" he mutters sarcastically.
Vision shakes her head. "I don't think we're going to get what we want without a fight, anyway... That they are interested in us complicates matters too much for diplomacy."
Prism nods, drawing his bow and nocking an arrow. He begins to shed his trademark many-colored light. "Then let's get the jump on them."
The door suddenly opens, and an arrow hurtles towards and strikes the Swift Hawk! A number of thugs are visible through the now-open doors.
Swift Hawk stumbles a little, reacting fully half a second after the arrow hits her in the back, quickly turning and reaching for her rapier while ignoring the arrow as best she can. "Ff...! I think you can forget about that!"
Prism holds out a hand. "Wait a second, Hawk."
Swift Hawk grumbles a little, still keeping an eye on the attackers. "What?"
Prism quickly chants a spell under his breath and holds the same hand out to Swift Hawk. A bright red aura surrounds her for a brief moment before subsiding.
Prism lets out a quick breath. "Ok, now go do your thing."
Swift Hawk makes a run towards the tower wall, pulling out a small stick from somewhere on the way. "This might not be what you expected, but," she shouts as she lights the stick and throws it a short distance towards the door, covering the immediate area in thick smoke.
Swift Hawk: I was itching to use one of those.
One of front rogues blinks. "The hell?" Noting that his view of the others from his position is blocked by the smoke, he heads through the edge of it in search of Gharta...
Rogue slashes with his dagger, but the attack is easily evaded.
Swift Hawk smirks. "Careful with that thing."
Vision looks after Gharta and shakes her head slightly. "Whatever." She turns to touch the Prism lightly on the shoulder.
Prism nods, recognizing the effects. "Thanks."
The rogue who came forward meanwhile shouts, "Over here! Through the smoke directly!" The other elf up front is quick to follow those instructions, but has to squeeze by Gharta in order to get into position...
Swift Hawk notices the elf a little too late as she emerges from the fog, barely even touching her.
The female rogue is quick to take advantage of the Swift Hawk's armpit being exposed, thrusting and twisting the dagger there!
Swift Hawk reflexively jerks her arm upwards. "Ow! You little..." she mutters, covering the armpit with her other hand.
Two more rogues emerge from within while Gharta curses, muttering about the smoke blocking their view. They concentrate their fire on the Prism after reaching the edge of the cloud...
Prism growls as the two arrows stick in his shoulder. He rips them out angrily and swings a hand forward. "So that's how it's gonna be, huh?" His form wavers briefly, then he jogs across the path. As he does, three other Prisms split off from him and take their positions in a phalanx.
Prism and his images all thumb their noses at the rogues.
The archers and the nearest of the dagger-wielders squint. The archers in particular seem rather annoyed; the other two rogues simply keep their attention on their own target.
Swift Hawk meanwhile braces herself and thrusts her rapier into the side of the rogue in front of her, then quickly pulls it back, struggling a bit with her arm.
The wound seals over; regardless, the blond elven man is left holding the spot and trying to regain his balance, reeling from the force of the blow. He swings at Gharta feebly despite his suffering and the spots in front of his eyes, but it goes wide right.
Vision turns her attention to the only one who looks to be undaunted by the Prism's aura. "You will not escape all battles unscathed. Learn of your demise now."
The other elf on Gharta suddenly clutches her head, whimpering as blood drizzles out from beneath her armor. "H-how'd... you g-get in..."
Rogue shakes it off, then glares at Vision. "Why you..." She shifts as if to charge her, but hesitates, looking back to the half-orc before growling and aiming her frustrations at the Swift Hawk's armor seams instead.
Swift Hawk grunts and grumbles back at the elf, having expected an attack this time and not left any obvious openings, though she's getting visibly wounded.
Meanwhile, the two archer rogues only see one foe who has multiplied and another who seems to be all talk and begin firing arrows at the former.
Prism wags a finger and steps out of the way of the arrow headed for him; unfortunately, this evasive maneuver puts one of his images in harm's way, and it evaporates.
Prism rubs his neck. "Nice shot. Let's mix things up a little!" He converges with his illusions, makes a quick sign with his hand, then splits again into a line formation. This time, he and the illusions seem to be wavering in and out of sight.
Swift Hawk braces herself another time, putting all of her strength into another, carefully aimed blow at the wounded rogue. Despite her own wounds, she manages to deliver it directly to his lower chest, a fatal blow hadn't she held back intentionally.
The male dagger-wielding rogue collapses from the shock.
Vision continues to focus her attention on the rogue behind the Swift Hawk.
Meanwhile, the other one staggers and clutches her head again, cuts manifesting on her neck as she mutters incoherently. She then stumbles to the ground.
Vision blinks and mutters under her breath, then heads toward the Swift Hawk.
One of the archers fires at what he guesses to be the Prism; the other nocks and attempts to pull back an arrow only for the arrow to prove faulty in the rear and break. She curses as the string snaps forward while the broken arrow remains in her hand.
Prism is a little disoriented from trying to dodge something that's flying five feet to his right, and another of the shadows disappears in a flash of light.
Prism quickly throws out his open-palmed hand. "Surprise!" A burst of rainbow-colored light shoots from his hand and lances towards the archers.
Prism uses the momentary distraction to shuffle places with his remaining illusion.
The male archer seems dizzy momentarily, but shakes it off.
Swift Hawk nods to Vision, somewhat exhausted. "Thanks."
Vision: Don't thank me for screwing up.
Vision kneels down to examine the injuries she inflicted.
Swift Hawk pulls a small bottle out of a pocket and downs the contents before slipping into the smoke-covered area. "Well, give me a moment."
Vision glances around nervously for a moment, but manages to staunch the bleeding with a makeshift bandage relatively quickly.
The female archer manages to focus more clearly, but it's the male archer who manages to correctly guess at the Prism's location and nail the bullseye.
Prism is concentrating too hard on making his illusion dodge, and while the illusion escapes "injury," he does not. "OW!"
Prism nocks an arrow, gritting his teeth. "That tears it!" He aims the arrow carefully, his illusion doing the same. "Guide my aim, Boldrei! Starstrike!"
Prism lets the arrow fly directly at the male archer.
The elf fails to dodge, and is struck with an arrow that explodes into bright iridescent dust. While his companion manages to duck and cover, he himself is glimmering and rubbing his eyes.
Prism and his duplicate duck behind the smoke cover.
Swift Hawk sneaks through the smoke, arriving behind the archers on the other side. As the surprised female searches for a way to defend herself from the unexpected attacker, Swift Hawk manages to get in a shot at her hip.
The black-haired archer staggers, barely keeping hold of her bow.
Vision makes her way past the Prism toward the bridge, turning toward the archers. "Nor you." she simply says.
She whimpers, "M-mother, why..." before collapsing with a nosebleed.
The last remaining archer looks from the Swift Hawk to Vision and back to the Swift Hawk, then starts to edge away towards the bridge.
Prism hoofs it over to cut off the archer's escape. "Oh, no, you're not getting away." He aims his bow, but doesn't fire, instead waiting for him to make a move.
Swift Hawk heads in a different direction, to complement the Prism's position. "Bad situation, this."
Rogue: ...Then I guess it's up to the ice princess to finish this, then.
Vision heads toward the open door, looking back to the archer. "Sorry."
Prism tightens his bowstring a bit. "You sound like you were expecting us."
Rogue: Just expecting troub— ah?!
Rogue falls to a knee, bleeding out of an ear and holding his head.
Prism lowers his aim slightly to compensate. "You were saying?"
Rogue: ...J-just... expecting trouble. Nobody here wanted an interruption.
Prism smirks. "So we're interrupting something. Thanks for letting me know, maybe you'd like to enlighten me further?"
Rogue: Why... ergh. Well, there's just this halfling, that's all. It was determined that she and the ice princess had information to exchange.
Vision shakes her head.
Rogue: That's all we had to know.
Vision: We need to get in there... Expect trouble, but do not start it. We don't want to provoke them if at all possible.
Prism tightens his bow as far back as the string will go. "I don't believe you. Tell me what else you know; my hand is getting tired."
Prism would have sounded threatening, if his voice hadn't cracked on "what else."
Rogue glowers at the Prism.
Vision shakes her head. "He doesn't know anything, leave him alone. We've got more to worry about."
Prism nods quickly, lowering his bow. "Get out of here."
Rogue sighs and begins staggering down the southbound sidewalk.
Swift Hawk peers at the retreating rogue. "You sure we can just let him go?"
Prism shrugs. "Shoot him if you want."
Swift Hawk: ...Nah.
Rogue shuffles faster.
Vision has already turned her attention toward the inner door.
Prism walks towards the Vision's location, handing Gharta a potion as he catches up to her. "I guess this qualifies as a 'rainy day.'"
Prism jogs inside after Vision after he hands off the potion.
Swift Hawk raises an eyebrow, but shrugs and downs the potion while following.
Vision listens intently for a moment.
Prism decides it can't hurt to listen in as well.
Prism shakes his head. Under his breath: "We should probably stop this, whatever it is."
Swift Hawk: Anything interesting, or is it about time that we interrupt?
Vision motions the Swift Hawk to silence. "Just a moment..." she whispers.
Vision: ...nevermind. Let's go.
Vision: They have the advantage should a fight be inevitable. But we're not here to fight Dipali if we can avoid it. Or whoever she's talking to; I have a feeling she won't be an ally, but shouldn't be made an enemy either.
Vision: ...I suppose I've been fighting the most likely inevitable this whole time. But I have to...try...
Vision sighs. "Nevermind. Be ready, but don't act rashly."
Swift Hawk doesn't quite reach for her rapier yet, but nods and readies herself.
Vision opens the door.
The room within is lit more by the Prism's own light than anything else. Boxes and crates are scattered haphazardly along the walls of the room within. Unfortunately, those within look poised to attack...
Vision: Excuse me, but I think we should be in on this conversation as well.
Dipali narrows her eyes, her arms raised as though to cast. "And why should we trust you?"
Swift Hawk grabs the brim of her hat and lowers it a bit upon hearing Dipali.
Ice Princess, a raven-haired girl in a light blue dress with a mask, sighs. "I was afraid of this..."
Prism holds his hands up. "We don't want to fight."
Vision: Trust is no simple matter, and I gather yours has been betrayed before... All I can say is that I believe we are more similar than we are different...
Ice Princess: ...Hmm. When this lady came asking for our help, I started to wonder about you.
Dipali still appears suspicious, though is quiet on the matter.
Swift Hawk tilts her head. "Speaking of, I'm a little curious about you, too."
Ice Princess raises an eyebrow.
Vision: I will say I do not know or trust Tarkanan's goals in this matter, but I am here because... because of a mistake I do not wish to see repeated...
Dipali stares at Vision in confusion.
Ice Princess: Of course you don't. People feared aberrants for what we once were even during our age of weakness. Mother's right, we won't be safe once people realize we've become that again and more...
Ice Princess points to the mark on Dipali's neck. "That it's happening on both sides tells me that history will tell of two Wars of the Mark..."
Prism crosses his arms and shudders, but doesn't say anything.
Vision: ...I cannot promise that anything is better now or that people will draw the lines they should... I can't say you're wrong... but...
Vision: The nature of your power, Dipali, lies in War. If you go forward expecting and embracing one, you may lose yourself in that power...
Dipali's chains shift as though poised to lash out. "I don't have anything else."
Dipali: My House was no home! I lived chasing after something to counteract their bridles and running from those after me for years! And then I was just used like a tool by Genubo!
Vision shakes her head. "This power is neither good nor evil. It simply is as it is. You can make it a means to your ends, or you can become the means to its ends. But either way, it's you who will have to live with whatever consequences unfold."
Dipali sighs. "What ends? This... this is the only identity I can find..."
Ice Princess: We've made the mistake of letting someone else hold one of our cards before.
Vision: I won't tell you to go back to your house. You don't belong there, and they were too blind to realize it. They still don't even seem to understand why you left...
Vision shakes her head.
Vision: And I can't say what is the right choice for you...
Swift Hawk peers back and forth at the remaining two in the room, trying to keep an eye on them.
Vision: But I don't want to see someone else end up like Xeln Pradosh...
Ice Princess: That's going to happen as long as we're seen as monsters.
Ice Princess: We have to hide as long as that's the case just as much as you have to hide as long as you're seen as tools for a profit.
Vision: We're still trying to make a difference, though. Even if we have to wear silly disguises for it. And even if we're resented by those who think they should have control over us...
Swift Hawk mutters to herself. "I don't think it's silly..."
Ice Princess: You think we aren't? We just think the difference we have to make is for our own sakes.
Dipali: There... really isn't anything else for me, is there? Not since the War ended...
Vision sighs and looks to Dipali. "Just... please remember, war may not be the right answer even when it feels right."
Dipali sighs. "But... but I've never found an answer be...before this... not... not really..."
Ice Princess peers at the Prism. "Even your own seem to fear us."
Prism doesn't reply, confirming her words.
Swift Hawk grunts. "That seems to vary. Perhaps he has much reason to fear you, in particular."
Vision: Xeln thought he found his answer too. He seeks to destroy the Prism as his opposing power. The hope of doing that one day...seems to be all he has. And that's...terrible...
Vision: This power can be a blessing or a curse. It can probably well be both. But it's obvious it's brought him nothing but suffering...
Ice Princess: Children with aberrant marks usually suffer. It's amazing that it took the manifestation of these sorts of powers for him to be left with no place accepted to go.
Ice Princess peers at the Prism again. "...I don't suppose that's your problem? A secret you'd be hated for?"
Prism: Hmph. No. No, I am not afraid of anything. I am afraid of what happens when people become blinded by power.
Prism clenches his fists.
Vision looks toward Prism.
Ice Princess: ...Hrm. Strange that'd freeze someone like you, but I guess I just don't understand you types.
Ice Princess shrugs.
Dipali wrings her hands, though the chains about her orbit faster.
Swift Hawk returns her attention to Dipali. "Is it a fight you want? Really?"
Vision glares at the Swift Hawk.
Prism looks directly at Dipali. "Besides, I'm not the one that seems afraid of something."
Ice Princess raises an eyebrow at Dipali.
Vision looks back to Dipali. "Mm. You're wondering if you've found a place you belong, or another place you'll be used... am I correct?"
Dipali shakes her head. "I wa...want war... i-if it means... I... have so...something to want."
Vision: A war to achieve what? War for its own sake is madness.
Dipali begins to sob.
Vision: If you get swept up in the flow of your own power, there's no telling where you'll end up, but I guarantee you won't like it when you get there...
Ice Princess sighs in frustration. "Perhaps I was expecting too much..."
Ice Princess closes her eyes and vanishes.
Swift Hawk blinks. "Now what?"
The rogues who have been holding bows at the others all this time lower their weapons, looking frustrated. "I wish she'd give us a signal or something before doing that..."
Dipali simply continues to sob.
Vision steps into the room just a bit and looks at the rogues. "I believe your colleagues outside could use your assistance."
Rogue glowers at Vision. "And whose fault is that?"
Prism: Who is worse, the ones that caused it or the ones ignoring their plight?
Swift Hawk shrugs. "We made sure they'll be fine."
Rogue grumbles, and the pair weave their way past the others and out of the room.
Vision starts to say something, but stops when the pair make their way through the door.
Dipali is on her knees now, sounding too choked up to cry her best...
Vision turns back to Dipali. "I can't tell you your purpose, or give you easy answers. But I'll help you look, and help you try to understand your new power..."
Vision approaches Dipali, kneeling down a short distance away. "...consider it my penance for those I could not save..."
Vision adds in a whisper, "...and for what my House did to you."
Swift Hawk appears to want to stay something, but sighs and stays quiet.
Dipali looks up in surprise, tears still streaming down her face.
Prism decides it best to keep quiet for the moment as well, instead crossing his arms and looking around cautiously.
Vision: Not to mention, I promised a friend I'd stop any more pages of our story from being burned before she could read them.
Vision: ...sorry. Seer-speak. We can't help getting a bit metaphorical at times.
Vision: Let's just say I know someone who wants a chance to meet you.
Vision looks back toward the others. "That goes for you guys too when you have the time, by the way."
Swift Hawk can't help but smile a little, looking to Dipali. "Definitely."
Prism shrugs almost nonchalantly. "There will be a time."
Dipali looks confused, curious, but still highly distraught.
Vision: Take your time. We'll wait here until you're ready.
Dipali stares at her own hands.
That evening, a short ways into the King's Forest, the group waits with a contained Dipali... Thunder brews in the distance, adding flickers of light to an otherwise dark sky even through the dense canopy of the rainforest. Insects are audible even in these conditions.
Kyra sits on the ground leaning against a tree, hands behind his head with his eyes closed. His legs are bent and crossed, his airborne foot swaying to an unheard melody.
Dipali fidgets as best she can under her restraints, seeming very nervous.
Gharta roams the vicinity restlessly, stopping now and then to look up as the distance lights up. "One... two..."
Althea sits near Dipali, seeming a bit preoccupied with everything that's happened of late.
One of the flashes reveals some sort of large winged creature through a break in the canopy...
Gharta: One... err...
Dipali glances to Gharta questioningly.
Kyra opens one eye. "I think you lost count."
After about five minutes, a rustle of brush gives way to a beast with a liger's body, black falcon wings, and an elf's head with hair that matches the fur. She walks towards the group...
Kyra blinks twice, then cocks his head sideways. "Now that is interesting."
Gharta jumps a little as she turns to see what's going on, though Kyra's calm reaction affects her as well.
Althea: Good evening.
Gynosphinx sniffs the air. "The scents of many innovations of fate intermingle with those of the gifts of Eberron."
Dipali raises her head.
Kyra: I...um... What?
Gharta nods subtly in Althea's direction, still focused on the new face. "Is that...?"
Althea: This is Flamewind, a fellow seer.
Kyra: I see...
Kyra wisely keeps his further thoughts to himself.
Flamewind looks to Dipali, who's starting to come out of her initial reaction of fear and get upright again.
Flamewind: If you would allow me close, that I might better read...
Kyra looks to Dipali. "I'm sure you can trust the kitty." He quickly shakes his head. "I-I-I mean the l-lady seer!"
Flamewind looks askance at Kyra. Slitted pupils interrupt the otherwise elflike face.
Kyra retreats into himself, curling his knees close and hiding his face.
Dipali: I... don't have much choice... they took the chains away, and used rope.
Flamewind nods to Dipali and walks over, examining the mark on her neck. A book and wooden writing implement of some sort float out of the bag hanging from her next, and the latter begins to scribble in the former.
Gharta carefully sits down, still staring.
Kyra peers out over his knees, his curiosity overtaking his embarassment.
Flamewind: You smell of conflict. You spoke of chains?
Dipali: Y-yes... I've... well, always liked them, but they... visited me somehow, speaking of war...
The writing continues, seemingly on its own.
Flamewind eventually turns to the others as the apparent note-taking ceases. "Might I read further?"
Kyra nods silently.
Dipali sits down, curious and confused by now.
Flamewind approaches Kyra; if she's still upset about the 'kitty' comment, it doesn't show. "I cannot read through a book's cover..."
The note-taking equipment follows Flamewind.
Kyra nods, and stands up, still pressed against the tree and still quiet.
Flamewind: It is not enough to know that a letter is written; its exact position and context are what make a word.
Althea sighs. "Show her your mark, Kyra."
Kyra: Oh, um, right.
Kyra pulls up his sleeve, revealing his dragonmark.
Flamewind peers at it' raising an eyebrow as the writing goes on beside her. "You smell of the sun's return after a flood of tears."
Dipali scratches her head, dragging her other hand along for the ride.
Kyra blushes. "...I'm sorry about that slip of the tongue, lady seer..."
Flamewind nods. "Better thought tame than monstrous."
Flamewind: Can you provide more letters of your word?
Kyra nods slowly, then looks around out of habit. He then closes his eyes, and rainbow-colored light flares about him.
Flamewind squints, then looks away and, apparently, writes...
Flamewind: Thank you.
Gharta forces herself to stop staring, peering into the wilderness instead.
Kyra exhales deeply, and the light disappears as quickly as it came into being. "You are welcome, lady seer."
Flamewind: Should plays of color and shadow spell anything new, I hope to decipher it.
Flamewind approaches Gharta next. "And you?"
Gharta looks back and up at the seer, nods after a moment's hesitation and stands up. "I... You need to see my mark...?"
Gharta nods, unbuckling and taking off her upper armor, then proceeds to tug at the neck of the shirt underneath to reveal the dragonmark on her left shoulder.
Flamewind nods and a page turns unbidden, allowing the writing to continue. "The familiar scent of cirrus..."
Flamewind: What else can be told?
Gharta blinks. "Umm..."
Gharta takes a moment to concentrate before an upwards draft can be felt in the immediate area, just strong enough to visibly affect loose hair and textiles. It builds up for a short while, then disappears.
Flamewind seems to struggle with the pages of her book for a moment, then nods and writes for another minute before finally approaching Althea.
Althea nods. "I've put this off for far too long..."
Flamewind: Shall we begin, then?
Althea stands, and as discreetly as possible exposes her left hip and the least dragonmark of healing residing there.
Dipali's eyes widen, then she looks away.
Flamewind peers downward. "It's rather difficult to read at this angle..."
Althea: ...mind giving me a lift, Gharta?
Gharta raises an eyebrow at first, but heads over to Althea, grips just below her dragonmark from behind and lifts her up to a more convenient height.
Flamewind looks down, the writing going slower this time.
Flamewind: The scent is much like marble cake, each slice a different age despite it being whole and unbroken.
Dipali: Th-that's... awfully specific...
Flamewind: Only gnomish noses seem of much use.
Flamewind: You've already spoken of the rest, so this should suffice. Thank you.
Gharta puts Althea back down again, carefully. "You're welcome."
Althea nods, covering herself. "Inconvenient for scrutiny, but more than convenient when even one's own house remains ignorant of it."
Kyra: Why would...?
Kyra doesn't continue that train of thought, trailing off.
Althea: An unmarked scion is of far less traditional value to the House, and thus far more likely to be left to her own marginally productive devices.
Flamewind backs up somewhat. "Fate writes of warring hopes, a game for three as one. But the dragons aloft now also play. Eggs of the fated number eventually emerge from every pairing."
Flamewind's belongings return to her sack.
Althea nods. "So I gathered from our encounter with the 'Ice Princess.'"
Flamewind: I beg time.
Flamewind turns to leave...
Althea nods. "Until next we meet, then."
As Flamewind leaves the area, it begins to sprinkle, the thunder having grown gradually closer during the encounter.
Dipali: ...Wh-what... was that all about?
Gharta heads back to where she left her armor and puts it back on. "Don't want it to get wet on the inside..."
Kyra shields his eyes. "Mayhaps we should continue this conversation in a drier area?"
Dipali: ...So wh...what's going to h...h-happen to m-me?...
Althea sits down and sighs. "I'm still trying to figure that out. As it stands you're only guilty of the crimes committed while you were with Genubo, and it's pretty clear he was the dominant influence in that..."
Althea: On the other hand, we don't have him yet, and it's not like we don't have enough information floating about to complicate things with the accounts of your powers. Especially since Genubo witnessed them awakening...
Althea: The last thing we need is either the Knights deciding you're a threat or the House deciding you're an opportunity...
Gharta coughs. "I still need to catch Genubo for my own reasons, as well. And speaking of..."
Althea: If it would come to that I think I'd rather be guilty of aiding your escape than stand by while law prevails over justice...
Gharta peers at Dipali.
Kyra nods to Althea. "Going into hiding may be the best option here, until we can do something."
Dipali looks stunned.
Gharta: I obviously want the best for Dipali too, but I don't know how the reaction will be if I return completely empty-handed...
Althea looks to Dipali. "The chains you've been using, where did you obtain them?"
Dipali: W-well... I've always h-had a silver chain necklace, b-but... the shirt, a-and the human-sized s-spiked chain... th-those were from the ruin in Zilargo.
Althea: I wonder how plausible we could make it seem that the power Genubo witnessed and that I warned a few people about came from those chains rather than their bearer...
Althea shakes her head. "Though any similar power seen later would shatter that notion, and I don't think we can ask anyone to turn away from their powers that totally..."
Althea looks to Gharta. "How long can you continue turning up nothing before they start getting suspicious?"
Gharta shrugs. "I can probably keep it up for a while so long as I pretend to still be chasing them. But it'll have to seem like I'm actually onto something and not just fumbling around."
Althea: You do still have Genubo to find, for the moment.
Kyra shrugs. "We're overthinking this. It's simple, really. We kill Dipali right here and now, taking a chain or something back as a trophy."
Gharta stares at Kyra, baffled.
Kyra: Then Dipali goes into hiding until we can find and take care of Genubo. Gharta is safe, Dipali is safe.
Althea: ...while I'm not averse to a solution that leaves her believed dead, we're not authorized to murder people.
Kyra: What about you, Gharta? If you were attacked and forced to defend yourself, would death be a problem?
Gharta takes a second to visibly realize Kyra's actual plan before settling down.
Dipali catches her breath.
Gharta: Well... It would be messy, and not very appreciated. I would have to prove that it was, in fact, in self-defense, and it's not like I can prove much if it didn't happen in the first place...
Althea: Capturing Genubo and pinning Dipali's murder on him would pose similar difficulties of proof. And doesn't really sit right with me either.
Althea shakes her head. "And the fact that I thought up something that convoluted means I'm really grasping at straws. We need time to figure this out..."
Dipali: ...W-well, th-there is the th-thought of... w-well, you know the rumor that Jorasc-cos who leave the H-House to h-heal on th-their own... will d-die of dis-sease if caught?
Dipali: I... h-have healed Genubo before. I-if their attention... c-could be redirected to that...
Gharta peers at Dipali. "Die of disease...?"
Althea shakes her head. "And apparently I'm not the only one grasping at straws."
Althea: I don't know that we could protect you if you brought down the House's wrath upon yourself over a broken oath. Such an excuse for a fake death might well lead to a real one...
Gharta: Well, I have another one to chase down anyway, so convincing the House that I'm still searching for both of them for at least a little while shouldn't be a problem. Let's take the time we need to find a good solution, alright?
Gharta nods in Dipali's direction. "Though unless you have anywhere in mind, we should probably find you a proper hiding place."
Dipali shakes her head... "N-no idea..."
Althea: I think HQ's out of the question until we have our solution. Gharta might be able to make a hiding place out of almost anywhere in Sharn, but the rest of us aren't so lucky...
Gharta: What if we find something outside of Sharn, then? Any ideas?
Althea: We could see if we could scrounge up an obscure place to hide out for a while somewhere around Halden's Tomb.
Kyra: Mm. Dangerous, but possible.
Dipali: I-if it's something... anything seems good by now...
Gharta nods. "If you're fine with it..."
Dipali: I-if undead is the conc-cern... I can deal with the c-common sorts...
Althea: I think we'd want to stay away from the temples, anyway.
Dipali: B-but... before we go, I have one question..
Dipali: What... was that s-sphinx talking about?
Althea glances at Kyra. "You know, before we met, I saw you riding on the back of one of these 'dragons aloft' I think... trying to heal it..."
Althea: But it crashed into another, and you had to decide which you were going to ride...
Althea: I'm pretty sure those were Irian and Eberron.
Kyra blinks and starts to say something, but trails off as Althea makes the connection.
Dipali looks puzzled.
Althea: I believe she's concluded we'll eventually see people like us appear with powers of every outer plane.
Gharta mumbles, partly to Dipali, partly to herself. "I know how you feel..."
Althea: In the fated number... I think that'd be 12 and... another, but not quite 13...
Althea: I don't know whether she meant every pairing of dragons with Eberron, or every pairing with a mark...
Althea: Though I have a feeling probably the latter...
Althea: So the fated number, cubed... pulls out pencil and paper, jots down notes Between 1728 and 2197, not even counting those appearing among bearers of aberrant marks...
Kyra shakes his head. "You went over my head about ten minutes ago."
Althea looks to Kyra. "It means, at the least, we can expect to find 11 or 12 more people with powers linked to Irian like you... or possibly even that many from House Vadalis with many many more coming from other Houses..."
Gharta scratches her chin for a moment.
Gharta: That's a lot.
Dipali's eyes widen.
Althea looks to Gharta. "Depends on how you look at it. There's no telling how long it'll take all of us to awaken and appear. The Prophecy is a story told over ages upon ages, and this is a relatively recent development."
Althea: Moreover, thousands of us might make more than one band of heroes, but it doesn't make much of an army if we do get sucked into an all-out war for our own survival...
Dipali murmurs, "I-is this... what I wanted?..."
Althea's voice seems to emanate from outside another edge of the clearing. "Wanting a phenomenon and wanting its consequences are two different things."
A halfling looking identical to Althea walks into the clearing and approaches the group.
Althea blinks and looks up at herself.
Kyra blinks, stares, and blinks again. "...Ok, reality has officially gone on vacation."
Dipali looks between Althea and Althea.
Gharta joins in on the blinking. "Err..."
Althea: My nature is of Kythri, and it is in me to crave change and the ability to bring it about. But while there's a certain comfort to the chaos that abounds in Kythri... there is no meaning in that constant maelstrom of change.
Althea: ...when did I...?
Althea shakes her head. "You don't need me to tell you that."
Dipali: Uh... c-could this get any more conf-fusing?...
Althea: Don't worry, if I'd shown up more than twice here I'd remember. Suffice to say, time is not immutable either, at least where I was not long ago.
Dipali looks lost.
Kyra crosses his arms. "Is this going to start making sense at some point, or can we go back to Sharn while you discuss things with yourself in the rain?"
Althea stands up and looks at her other self, shaking off her confusion. "Well, at the very least I presume you can help with the logistics of trying to keep Dipali out of sight while maintaining a normal routine?"
Althea: Indeed. Not least because you had the wherewithal to think of it the first time around. chuckle
Althea (original) turns to Kyra. "There's not much to discuss. I can't tell myself stuff I can't already guess or it'd mess... uh, well, I'm not sure what it'd do, but... n-nevermind, let's just go."
Althea laughs. "Sorry, don't mean to be rude, but it's weird to see this all going on over again."
Kyra pushes away from the tree. "Good. I'm not sure how much more of this I can take in one day."
Dipali stands as best she can given the ropes.
Gharta sighs to herself. "I wish this worried me more than it does."
Later, in the strange multidimensional locale in Hareth's Folly that the group calls "the place"...
Althea sits at the table, staring at a notebook, and sighs.
Gharta emerges from what appears to be nothing, immediately looking to Althea. "Thought I heard you sighing. Are you... busy?"
Althea looks up at Gharta. "Just trying to figure some stuff out. Am I really that bad at giving understandable hints?"
Gharta seems about to say something, but shrugs. "Don't worry about that. Look... It won't take forever until they'll start demanding results, so I need to find Genubo, sooner rather than later. And, well... I don't really have any ideas."
Althea nods. "The sooner we find him, the better. Particularly as if the Boromar find him first, we might have to try your little trade deal after all..."
Gharta: Hmm, Kyra seemed to disagree with that one...
Althea: It's very much a last resort.
Gharta sighs. "But if we are to find him quickly, I'm not sure where to start. If he had anything unique on him, that could possibly help me track him down, but all I remember is that brown cape of his... Or red..."
Althea: ...you can't remember what color it is?
Althea looks thoughtful.
Gharta: I swear, I remember exactly what I saw, but...
Althea: But the memory's been tampered with. Probably something else picked up from the ruins...
Althea: I know how to use some somewhat similar abilities myself, but an item embued with such an power... hmm...
Gharta sits down at the table, leaning on her arm and apparently thinking very hard.
Althea: If something like that came from Zilargo... I wonder if that dates back to when humans first came here from Sarlona...
Althea: At any rate, if it's clear the Boromar aren't going to help him, he'll have started looking for some other refuge.
Gharta: How do we even know he's avoiding them? Assuming that he knows they've made a deal to trade him to me?
Althea: We don't, but he's not going to keep after them if they aren't giving him what he wants.
Althea: We also know he comes from one of the Talenta plains tribes. His parents were the first in his family to move to the cities...
Gharta pushes the chair back, gets up and starts wandering about. "Well, if we do assume he's gone elsewhere... He seems to stick mostly to other halflings..."
Althea: It's possible he might have left Sharn by now, there are a few places he might be able to hide out.
Althea: We also might want to check out Little Plains, just on the ethnic connection.
Gharta nods. "There's a reason why I came to you to ask."
Althea: I think you'd stand out a bit too much in Little Plains, but I can do some investigating there myself.
Althea: He might have gone to the King's Forest, but I have a hunch he didn't. If he were trying to leave, he'd probably need to cross or sail the Dagger River.
Gharta: Well, anywhere someone like me would stand out is probably a good hiding place... If you'd investigate, I'll owe you one.
Althea: Not like I don't have a vested interest in this as well.
Althea: You might want to head out to Cliffside, probably the part west of the Stores, and see if you can find out if anyone's seen someone matching his description trying to obtain passage up the river, or if any boats were stolen recently.
Gharta nods. "I'll get on it as soon as I can."
Ship's Towers, despite being an engineering marvel with buildings built into the sides of the cliff overlooking the Dagger River and narrow roads both naturally-derived and fully artificial weaving between them, is still not the most impressive place. Grubby sailors intermingle with the lower middle class that runs the often-unaffiliated businesses of this district and beggars hoping to find some coin from travelers. Docks extend from the bottom of the cliffs, and magical cranes elevate goods from ships to the warehouse districts above. It's not difficult for Gharta to find those businesses that deal in passenger transport — many affiliated with House Lyrander, a handful not.
Gharta stops outside the first one she finds, getting a good view of the far-stretching coast and sighing before entering.
Half-elves dominate this building and the dock beyond it; indeed, there's a lot of work being done on an elemental sloop docked there. Within the office, there's a clerk at a desk and several doors, some seeming to lead towards the docks, others apparently to the back.
Ticket Vendor: May I help you, ma'am?
Gharta: You might be able to. A halfling friend of mine recently left the city, and I thought I should follow and surprise him. Thing is, I don't know exactly where he went.
Gharta sighs to herself, apparently. "His name is Genubo Threehorn. I don't suppose he's been here?"
Ticket Vendor shakes his head. "Sorry, I don't think I've seen anyone by that name come through here today. I can check my records if you really want; business is slow today."
Gharta nods and smiles appreciatively. "I would be very grateful."
Ticket Vendor nods and flips through a pile of papers quickly, skimming.
Ticket Vendor: Hm, sorry.
Gharta bows. "Sorry for wasting your time then, I'll check with someone else," she says, still smiling, before heading back outside.
Docks and water-level buildings line the bottom of the cliff in both directions...
Gharta looks in both directions, wandering a bit about and apparently pondering them, then fishes a silver coin out of a pocket and flips it, smirking while doing so.
Gharta puts the coin away. "Heads, south."
As Gharta heads further south, the ratio of Lyrander affiliates to independent and often seedy-looking boat-owners gradually tips in favor of the latter...
Gharta exits yet another business, dropping her smile as the door closes behind her. "This sucks."
"...I'm telling you, the halfling was there and —" "And I'm telling you you're trusting things you saw under that rum too much!"
The argument seems to be coming from the next dock south.
Gharta quickly resumes her journey southwards upon catching some keywords from the conversation, slowing down as she closes in on the building in case there's more to be heard.
Though it's trickier to make out since the voices have lowered, Gharta can still listen in well enough: "Look. If we did have a stowaway, then we should contact the authorities in Galethspyre about it." "Sure, and what're you going to tell them, that you saw a halfling with a cloak of indeterminate color while you were drunk?" "I wasn't drunk! Just because you were — well, you said you thought you saw something!"
The two arguing are a pair of young half-elves, a man and a woman.
Gharta stops as her suspicions are confirmed. Rather than going inside, she heads towards the half-elves. "Excuse me. I couldn't help but overhear you..."
Khoravar Woman: You never think you're drunk when — gah?!
Khoravar Woman jumps a bit, then spins to face Gharta.
Khoravar Man seems less shocked, but still looks highly frustrated as he looks over as well.
Gharta puts on a serious-looking expression. "You mentioned a halfling with a strange cloak?"
Khoravar Woman: Well, he insists on still doing so.
Khoravar Woman rolls her eyes. "I was probably too suggestible at the time."
Khoravar Man sighs in annoyance. "I'm sure I saw someone hiding in the hold, raiding some of our supplies." He turns to his partner. "You can't deny that was missing."
Khoravar Woman crosses her arms. "Oh sure, blame the figment for your own act of hunger. If you're going to do that, at least drink verthoru salsan instead of rum so it's believable."
Khoravar Man opens his mouth to speak, but only a choke of incredulity comes out.
Gharta: If you don't mind me interrupting... I'd love to know where this ship would be right now.
Gharta points her serious expression at the male half-elf.
Khoravar Woman simply sighs and points to her left.
Khoravar Man shakes his head. "Well, I only saw him on the way out to Galethspyre. Not on the way back."
Khoravar Man: We only just got back an hour ago.
Gharta grunts. "Too late..."
Gharta: ...Oh well, knowing that's where he went still helps a lot.
Gharta looks to both of the half-elves. "Thanks."
Khoravar Man nods. "You're welcome." He then turns to his partner and glares. "See?"
Gharta hides around a corner and, after making sure no one is nearby, finds her sending stone.
Gharta: He's in Galethspyre.
Gharta stops at that and heads back to the place.
Gharta arrives fairly quickly, though to her surprise, Althea is already there. "Oh...! Umm... did you get my message?"
Althea replies in a somewhat amused tone. "Yeah, I got your message. Almost surprised that still works. Galethspyre, huh? Better hurry out after him, I guess."
Gharta: I... I should probably inform the House first... It could buy me some time...
Gharta takes a deep breath. It's obvious that she was in a hurry.
Althea: Good idea. But I think you should wait a moment first.
Gharta nods and claims one of the chairs, leaning over the table.
A door opens and shuts, and an elderly halfling woman appears.
Sibel: I take it you found out more than I...
Sibel looks back and forth between Gharta and Althea.
Sibel: This is going to take some getting used to.
Gharta stares at Sibel for a while, looks back at Althea, then shakes her head and mumbles. "Yeah."
Althea: Don't worry, I was just on my way out to get some rest.
Althea: You two have fun catching Genubo.
Althea waves and disappears.
Gharta peers at Sibel again. "...Which one of you...?"
Sibel: I'm the one who hasn't been through all this yet.
Sibel shakes her head.
Sibel: And I suppose there's a certain irony in that the one of us who came in looking this old is the one who's not from the future. But if we're going to be seen together going after Genubo it's probably best I keep this guise for now.
Gharta nods. "I guess..."
Gharta: Oh, and... do you think we could do something so, well... so I can recognize you...?
Gharta ponders her wording for a moment. "...I mean this you, not that you."
Sibel: Hmm... I'll give it some thought, I guess.
Gharta stands up and cracks her knuckles. "Well, either way, I'm rested. When are we leaving?"
Sibel: The sooner the better. I'll see about arranging transport.
Gharta: Oh, and I was going to inform the House, as well. Are we meeting anywhere?
Sibel: Meet me in the south of Ship's Towers. There's a boat-shrine to the Traveler, I've arranged passage there before.
Gharta nods. "I'll be there soon."
A frantic hour later, the two meet in the part of Ship's Towers that most differentiates it from Greyflood: a winding series of gangplanks, rope bridges, and docks which not only serve boats, but lead to buildings that float upon the water. This section of Ship's Towers is less clearly undesirable than the section on the cliffs, but still has an aura of shadiness about it; it simply errs more towards the mysterious than obviously having something to hide.
Gharta balances slightly closer to the edge than is likely a good idea, occasionally staring down into the water while keeping a tight clutch on her hat, just in case. "Did you find us a ride?"
Sibel points. "This way."
"This way" leads to an improbable-looking structure: a long, two-story wooden building with a small round tower in the center, all rising from a boat floating upon water that seems a bit more active than the water around it. The entire thing is unpainted, but has an odd symbol prominently carved into its sides and doors as well as a few small runes carved around the waterline. A plank leads up from the dock to a set of double doors with this symbol.
Gharta stops at the plank, peering at the symbol in front of her. "...The Traveler? Appropriate."
Sibel: I've already made the necessary arrangements.
Sibel heads up the plank.
A shifter with a slightly upturned nose and broad mouth nods to the pair as they enter. "This your ally here? Fine lass."
Gharta raises an eyebrow.
The room they've entered itself is notable for featuring tapestries and a slight burnt smell, perhaps that of cheap incense. Centrally-located is a ladder that leads all the way up into the tower section and down below decks; beyond that, there are simple doors leading towards the bow and the stern.
Gharta sniffs the air for a second, then returns her attention to the shifter. "And you are?"
Shifter: Jouba, one of the acolytes here.
Jouba: Given that the temple's pretty content after having had a run a couple of weeks ago and at the same time the cleanup after took a good deal of our funds, we'll need some donations, though...
Sibel has already reached for a small pouch. "Of course."
Gharta hides a subtle sigh while reaching for her own pouch. "How much?"
Sibel: I've got it.
Sibel fishes out and hands over a small handful of platinum pieces.
Gharta: ...You're sure about that...?
Jouba takes them and places them in a purple-and-grey pouch that seems better-kept than much of his clothing. "Thank you. Now let's see if Mil can get the thing going in the right direction immediately. It likes the ocean more than the river and all..."
Jouba starts climbing up the ladder. "That's assuming it's even in the mood, too, but it probably is. Heck, that's why we even have an anchor..."
Gharta stretches, then heads for one of the other doors. "This is the best part."
Sibel follows Gharta for the moment.
This room features several glass-shielded oil lanterns set in the walls and, in the middle, a slightly concave wooden dais which smells faintly of sap. The peculiar central feature's concave top has faint red stains and burn marks that would appear to have been sanded away if not for the fact that they're still entirely even with the dais's smooth surface. A woman with an elflike bearing, dark skin, forest green hair, and emerald eyes dressed in purple-and-grey robes is sweeping the room.
Janitor: Oh! A new visitor!
Janitor waves to Gharta, seeming pleased.
Gharta peers at the woman. "Uh... hi," she says while stepping just inside the room. "Just visiting, yeah."
Janitor: I overheard — we're going somewhere? That's what's interesting about this place, you know! I was so worried when the lumberjack came, but all the moving around and meeting new peple and learning about the Traveler... it's so great!
Sibel sits on one of the benches slowly, sighing as if moving her body pained her somewhat. "Mm, to Galethspyre, if 'we're' in the mood for river travel at least."
Janitor nods. "Yeah, it likes the ocean better. More room to move around. Mil says she'll even teach me once I understand the Traveler enough. It's hard unless someone brings books here or someone with a good understanding comes, though."
Janitor shakes her head. "There were a lot a couple of weeks ago, but I think they got tired of being talked to..." She sighs.
Janitor: And they got mad when I just made them. But that's normal...
Gharta sits down next to Sibel, giving her a quick glance as if to say something.
Sibel: I'm not exactly well-versed in the subject, but I have heard a few things, stories and the like...
Janitor: Oh really?
Sibel: Some say that it is the Traveler who created this world, rather than the great dragons or any of the host... it is not uncommon for terrain features such as lakes or canyons to be attributed as remnants of his travels...
Sibel: But he is said to have every bit as much potential to destroy as to create, and he cares little for the needs and norms of our societies, a reason many fear him...
Sibel: I would say that he represents the essence of change...
Janitor nods. "Yeah! It's actually very important what happens here... you have to create something, then destroy it on my dais. What used to be my tree. In a way, it's good that a tree like mine got used!"
Janitor: Though it can kinda hurt if fire's what's used for the destroying part, we all do our best to keep it contained...
Janitor: Usually we water it first. That helps.
Gharta nods as well.
The boat suddenly shifts...
Janitor: Oh! We're going!
Gharta tries to hide a slight smile of glee.
The boat turns sharply, and there's some yelling from up front. "Hey! No! Not that way this time! The river!"
Janitor: Oh no!
Janitor runs out the door. "Mil? Mil, do you need me to help?!"
Sibel: Of course, it doesn't help in the eyes of most that the Traveler despises the stagnation and rigidity of— yeah, figures.
Gharta stands up as the janitor leaves. "What's up with this ship, anyway...?"
Sibel rises from her seat and heads back toward the ladder as well.
The door to the front room is hanging open; it looks much like the bridge of most any large ship, though features a magical altar in place of the wheel. The runes on it are glowing fiercely royal blue.
Sibel looks back at Gharta. "It's an elemental vessel not under the purview of either House Orien or House Lyrandar. Besides, what else would you expect from a shrine to the Traveler?"
Gharta shrugs. "Just about anything."
The janitor runs out of the bridge and up the ladder in the center room, seemingly used to moving quickly on a turbulent boat. "Hi!"
Sibel: I'm afraid this is a bit beyond my expertise.
Janitor shouts down, "That's OK, I'll just make it!"
After a moment, the boat slows down, but lists heavily as it does a near-complete reversal of heading.
Gharta holds onto her hat.
Sibel adjusts a bit too easily to the motions for her feigned frailty.
The woman at the helm, decked out in a purple-and-grey sailor's outfit, sighs in relief. The shifter man from earlier calls down from the second floor, "Is everybody all right down there?"
Sibel calls back up, "We'll live." in a tone of half-jest.
Jouba: I suggest going below decks for the ride. If we had to resort to Billia forcing the issue, we may be in for a bumpy ride in the long run...
Gharta grumbles to herself. "If you say so."
Jouba: On the bright side, the way back will probably be better. It likes going downstream better than upstream.
Sibel: Understood. Thanks for your efforts.
Jouba moves out of sight; eventually, Billia climbs back down from the top.
Billia: Whew! It's a good thing that worked... about half the time it resists that too.
Sibel: Sounds like a handful.
Sibel: All I could have done is tried to talk to it. And I rather think a water elemental would easily win an argument over what bodies of water are better.
Billia: It can be, yeah. But it could be worse — at least it wasn't bound by force like I'm told gnomes usually do.
Sibel: I have heard of a group that performs such non-forceful bindings. The Power of Purity bound the elemental for this vessel?
Billia: Yeah, that was it!
Billia: That part happened right before my dais was built onto this floor. I've wondered when it happened in relation to my tree being chopped down and cut into pieces...
Billia winces. "That part really hurt, but it's OK now at least."
Billia grins. "It's nicer here anyway. I kinda miss the birds besides the seagulls, but there's more interesting people to talk to than the elves. The elves don't change much on a broader scale..."
Billia: Everyone was really surprised to meet me when this boat was new, though.
Sibel: It doesn't seem to be extremely common. Most stories I've heard about it are considered fictional...
Billia: I guess that's not much of a surprise. I mean, most trees die when they're cut down...
Billia: Mine was a livewood, though! So I guess I'm lucky! I've gotten to live through change and everything!
Sibel smiles. "Which brings you closer to understanding the Traveler to begin with, I suppose."
Billia nods. "That's why they thought I'd make a good acolyte. It's been a slow process learning, but I'm doing the best I can without leaving the boat."
Sibel: Anyway, shall we return to your room and see what other stories I can remember about the Traveler?
Billia: Yeah, that'd be great!
Billia heads back in.
Sibel resumes her previous position on the bench. "Now let's see. One of the most fundamental parts from a moral perspective is the importance of freedom..."
Several hours of lively discussion of the Traveler later, the boat slows to a stop at a dock. Sibel and Gharta emerge from the temple-boat to a view of a sunset rendering Galethspyre's far shorter, sparser towers in silhouette.
Billia waves out the door. "See you all on the way back!"
Sibel waves back.
Gharta smiles and waves as well, then turns and sighs with relief. "The Traveler has never sounded that boring before."
Sibel shakes her head. "Hey, I was doing the best I could on short notice."
Sibel: Anyway, you could have gone below deck.
Gharta crosses her arms. "I like the scenery."
Sibel: I'm going to try to find out if Genubo's been seen in town lately; if he's continued on, we'll have a fair bit of catching up to do, but it wouldn't be out of the question for him to hide out here for a while.
Gharta: Alright, are we splitting up? I can poke around in other places if you want.
Sibel frowns. "If he were gone already, he'd probably have headed north on foot. We probably can't catch up with him that way, and we don't necessarily know where he's going..."
Sibel: I do have my guesses, of course, but it still won't be trivial.
Gharta: Well, let me help out, at least.
Sibel: Why don't you see whether we can hitch a ride out to Ardev. If he's already left, that might help us catch up a little.
Gharta nods. "I'll have a look around!"
Althea's search goes easy at first; Galethspyre being much smaller and less diverse than Sharn, halflings stick out. However, after the first hour Althea can find no one else who remembers such a strange cloak. Eventually she finds a trail leading to an upscale neighborhood, however... Wrought-iron fences clearly establish the borders between wooden, stone, and brick mansions. There's even one that prominently displays House Deneith's logo on the door.
Sibel watches the street, looking for anyone suspiciously out-of-place.
Carriages and well-groomed horseback riders make up the majority of the traffic here. What little pedestrian traffic there is, as well as a few of the riders, peer at the ancient-looking halfling suspiciously. A few look away again in disgust. After a time, a fair-skinned, dark brown-haired halfling riding a stocky, fluffy, shorthaired white dog and dressed in a glamerweave cloak that seems to glimmer and shift hues even in the limited light of the everbright lanterns rides by.
Sibel watches the halfling intently.
Sibel: I can't be sure, but... gonna have to go with a gut feeling on this, I think I've hit a dead end...
The halfling spares a moment to look askance at Sibel as he passes. He harumphs as he looks back forward.
Sibel: Back to square one, anyway.
Sibel heads back into more probable hunting grounds.
The next morning, Sibel and Gharta head from the common room of a low-rent but still Ghallanda-inspected inn to the combination dining room and lobby. The fare available for breakfast that day is simply a thin, unembellished chicken soup, half a slice of unbuttered toast, and a single egg's worth of scrambled eggs each. The clientele also dining here is varied, from the lower middle class to the just plain cheap and humble. The room isn't crowded, but is populated enough to make it clear that this inn enjoys success despite not being directly Ghallanda-controlled.
Gharta dips a bit of egg in the soup and eats it. "This isn't so bad," she says while chewing. "Did you find anything, anyway?"
Sibel shakes her head. "Seems there was some confusion over one of the wealthier residents having an unusual fashion statement of a cloak. I'm still not sure if he's here or not."
Sibel: I think at least some of the people I spoke to were talking about our target, though. Worth another try, at least.
Gharta: He would've had a hard time getting here in time for the last caravan to Ardev, anyway. If you think he's headed that direction, chances are he's still waiting for the next one, tomorrow.
Gharta tilts the bowl a little to gather enough soup for a full spoon.
Sibel: Assuming he wouldn't just head off on foot and avoid the cities.
Gharta shrugs. "He's out of Sharn. I wouldn't expect him to leave here on foot if he doesn't have to."
Sibel: Depends if he thinks you're still after him. Though I agree there's a fairly good chance he doesn't expect you to have tracked him out of Sharn.
Gharta: Well, if he's on foot, he could be headed anywhere...
Gharta: Meanwhile, if he plans to get a ride, he's stuck here until tomorrow, and we'll pretty much have him then, if not earlier.
Sibel: He'd probably make his way to the Black Pit. Safest place for his type out this way...
Sibel: Only reason for him to come through Galethspyre is to get to the north without passing through Wroat.
Gharta leans forward. "So... We search this place thoroughly, and if we can't find him and he's not getting on the caravan, we assume he's headed for the Black Pit on foot?"
Sibel nods. "In which case, we can probably save some time by catching a ride toward Ardev, but we'll eventually have to break off from the road and head northeast."
Gharta stands up and cracks her knuckles. "Shall we get started, then?"
Sibel finishes the last of her toast and nods. "Let's go."
It doesn't take much questioning for the pair to find themselves on the trail of a halfling said to have hidden in a stable at House Orien's caravan stop overnight. It doesn't take much more than a couple of hours' work to lead them to a tip that they just missed Genubo asking directions to the nearest Vadalis stables...
Sibel manages a fairly brisk pace despite her awkward gait; were her limp not feigned, it would likely be fairly painful.
Gharta keeps her hat low, following Sibel but staying at a distance.
Sibel readies her crossbow underneath her own cloak and tries to close the distance as inconspicuously as possible.
As she approaches the other halfling, Sibel seems to gain a sort of otherworldly separation from reality; she moves in behind the other halfling almost as if she weren't really there, and quietly raises her crossbow to the base of his cloak's hood.
Sibel: ...don't move.
Halfling stops, squeaking a bit in muffled shock.
Gharta starts moving again, having stopped to let Sibel do her thing. She carefully unsheathes her rapier on the way. "Good morning."
Sibel: This your guy?
Gharta: Looks like it.
Genubo gulps, then narrows his eyes at Gharta's voice. "You."
Gharta smirks. "It's good to see you again too, Genubo."
Gharta: I assume you were looking for the quickest way back to Sharn?
Genubo: What, Sharn? Are you nuts?
Gharta shrugs. "Who's to say. You're going to have to come with us either way."
Genubo: Damn it!...
Sibel: Too bad he split with his partner before coming, could have saved us some trouble...
Genubo: Heh, well, here's hoping the sudden multi-lunatic kills you in my stead, then.
Sibel: From the sound of it, we might have some luck using you as bait to catch her...
Genubo's eyes widen as he pales. "N-no, don't!"
Sibel: ...but I suppose that wouldn't be appreciated by your House... nods to Gharta
Sibel: Restrain him. I don't want him putting up too much of a fuss on the way back; I'm getting too old for unnecessary roughhousing.
Gharta gets a rope ready. "No flailing around now, Genubo."
Thanks to having the threat of a bolt of unknown capabilities potentially being shot into his neck, Genubo is forced to grit his teeth and not struggle much as he's bound.
Sibel: You think you can handle him from here?
Gharta: Shouldn't be a problem.
Sibel: Good. Then I'm going to stop by that bookstore we saw earlier. I'll meet you back at the ship in an hour or so.
Gharta adds what looks like a makeshift handle as a finishing touch.
Halden's Tomb is a cold, colorless, rocky plateau interrupted regularly by the entrances of many similarly greyscale tombs, many with holy symbols carved upon them. The occasional larger mausoleum interrupts the pattern of smaller houses of the dead, the two greatest of which being The Mausoleum of Gath and Halden's Tomb proper. More than a few of the tombs and crypts are clearly older than the rest of modern Sharn...
Vision makes her way into what appears from the outside to be a fairly small tomb, but turns out to have passages leading deep below ground.
After weaving her way through a maze of coffin-lined passages interrupted by the occasional wider chamber, Vision eventually finds a lit chamber with unmarked, empty tombs...
Prism is standing with his bow at the ready and aimed at the doorway. He loosens his grip and his eyes light up as he sees who it is, and he lets out a quick sigh of relief. "You had me worried for a minute there."
Dipali is sitting on the floor, pondering an arrangement of light-colored and dark-colored pebbles.
Dipali looks up. "I... I suppose this'll have to wait, then."
Prism shrugs, smiling behind his veil. "You didn't stand a chance, anyway," he says cheerfully.
Vision: Well, for what it's worth I'm pretty sure no one saw me come in.
Vision: Being able to look everywhere at once is handy that way.
Dipali raises an eyebrow.
Vision: Thanks for covering for me.
Prism nods. "Nobody can look everywhere at once, after all."
Vision: Oh, I stopped by Faliel's stand and picked up something that should be of interest to you.
Prism returns his bow to the clasp on his back. "Oh?"
Vision takes a belt out of her pack. "It's a Belt of Giant Strength. Like most of her wares, of course, it's cursed, but the curse is of a nature I suspect you won't have a lot of difficulty with."
Dipali stares. "Cursed?... You're... brave to... to deal with it at all."
Prism: Knowing Faliel's normal wares, I believe I'll wait until I'm in private to find out what it does, if you're not going to tell me.
Vision shrugs. "I suspect a lot of people would be horrified by the curse, but the idea doesn't bother me too much."
Prism snickers and looks to Dipali, tapping the circlet on his forehead. "It's not the first I've dealt with this person."
Dipali: Hm. Well, if y-you're sure...
Vision nods. "Indeed, I'm well aware. Anyway, the curse is that it changes the wearer from male to female or vice versa."
Dipali's eyes widen.
Prism furrows an eyebrow. "It does, uh, wear off, right?"
Vision: When the belt is removed. Of course, most people can't remove it easily, but I don't believe that's a problem for you either.
Dipali: A-are you... s-sure you w-want to deal with that? A-a disguise is one thing, b-but...
Prism looks sternly to Dipali. "This is not about the disguise. It's about having the strength to defend what I believe in. ...The curse seems to be a necessary drawback, but one I can deal with."
Dipali nods... then sighs. "I... I s-still... d-don't know what I have to b-believe in..."
Dipali: I'm... jealous, I supp-ppose.
Dipali hangs her head.
Prism smiles behind his scarf. "You'll find your purpose. We all do, or will." He touches the choker on his throat, and his voice slides up a couple octaves. "It just takes time."
Vision: We'll help however we can, though we still have to deal with the more immediate mess. My other self hasn't come to terms with the full repercussions of the past few days yet, but the time for that will be soon.
Prism furrows his brow again. "I don't think the Swift Hawk has, either." He takes on a false haughty demeanor. "I swear, I leave those two alone for five minutes..."
Prism snickers to himself.
Vision: For what it's worth, though, if I remember correctly, that bastard Genubo's in for a rather nasty surprise in the morning.
Dipali sighs and hangs her head. "It... doesn't feel inevitable... f-for me to find my... my p-place anymore..."
Prism nods. "I should get going." He takes the belt from Vision and puts it in his satchel. "I'll make it up to you some time."
Vision: You already have from my perspective.
Vision: But not for a little while yet.
Dipali is distracted from her despair for long enough to look confused.
Prism waves over his shoulder, exiting. "I look forward to finishing our game, Dipali."
Dipali smiles weakly. "Y-yes... th-there's that, at least. Th-thank you..."
Vision: Are you hungry? I brought some sandwiches.
Dipali stands, dusting her hands off before rubbing her eyes. "Yes... th-thank you. What sort?..."
Vision rummages through her pack. "Let's see, chicken curry, just plain chicken, roast beef. Shoot, I was meaning to offer one to the Prism too, but I forgot. Though he's probably got food waiting at home anyway."
Dipali: This... all seems to be s-stressful for him, too...
Vision: No doubt. It's a little easier for me since I've already been through it once, but...
Vision: ...I guess in some ways it's not. I didn't let myself know everything I end up doing this time around. Plus I don't really know how much I could change things if I wanted...
Dipali just looks confused.
Dipali: I still don't q-quite... understand what's going on... w-with there being two of you and everything. ...I-in any case, I w...would like the roast beef.
Vision hands over a small, square, paper-wrapped bundle. "I understand it a little better now than before, but I don't know that I really understand it myself. It's hard to describe the workings of Chaos; it just sort of is."
Dipali unwraps it. "I s-suppose... I sh-should be th-thankful that... that I at least understand my... p-problems now..."
Vision: Suffice to say, I wandered... ahem will wander into a manifest zone to Kythri. I just happened to come out before I went in.
Dipali furrows her brow a bit in thought as she begins eating.
Dipali swallows a bite. "...I-I suppose that makes a kind of... s-sense."
Vision: In some ways it's an incredible opportunity and in some ways it's quite the trial. I think I've mentioned I have some predilection for meddling.
Vision: I don't really know how blatantly I can flaunt what I already know to have happened. At the same time, though, I could hardly go through all this again without seeing what change I can make...
Dipali is silent for a time before replying. "I s-suppose I can rel-late to... wanting to have an eff-ffect, at l-least."
Vision pulls out the curry chicken sandwich. "Mm. And on top of the natural reasons to want to, the desire for change is in my nature the way a desire for war is in yours. So in some ways I have to always worry about getting carried away..."
Dipali nods slowly, then glances down at the suspended game. "To comp-pete is of some help..." She turns back and eats a bit more.
Vision nods. "Your nature will inform and shape your approach to and understanding of whatever purpose you may find. It's...simply dangerous to confuse them. Particularly for people like us who have such...potentially overwhelming natures."
Vision: I don't think I've had a chance to mention before, but... one of the reasons I was so concerned with finding and reaching out to you so quickly...
Dipali looks up questioningly with a mouth full of sandwich.
Vision sighs. "...was an incident that happened before I came to Sharn..."
Vision: The Prism was here for it, I found out through my own sources... A young cleric of Dol Arrah with an aberrant mark...
Vision: He'd been missing for some time, and it turned out that he'd awakened to another power like ours. It drove him into hiding, and eventually into the hands of one of the groups who have been...interested in people like us...
Dipali swallows and nods... "House T-Tarkanan talked about h-him. They seem... d...determined not to l-let any more a-aberrants be... sh-shaped by 'o-outsiders'..."
Vision nods. "I can't say whether he'd have been better off with them or not. I certainly wouldn't rule it out, given how things ended up..."
Vision: He's now in the hands of the Knights, who see him as barely more useful alive and encaged than dead... and the only thing keeping him going is the hope of eventually taking on the Prism again...
Dipali hangs her head... "...h-he p-probably... d-doesn't h-have... a-anything else e-either."
Vision: The Knights know more about our group than I'd like, as well. I was too shaken by the experience to realize how badly we... well, that's a matter for later, still.
Vision: There's nothing I can do for him... and that's a terrible thought for someone dedicated to trying to change things for the better...
Dipali: Th-there's no way to att-ttack the p-problem... at all?
Dipali finishes her sandwich.
Vision: ...in the long run, I don't know. Circumstances do change. I just don't see a way right now...
Dipali: I-it s-seems like... in th-the end, the r-real problem i-is the Houses... b-but our s-solution w...would be e-everyone e-else's p-problem, w-wouldn't it?...
Vision: I'd say that however we approach this, if it's just people like us against people not like us, we're pretty thoroughly outnumbered...
Vision: We can't afford to think of ourselves as separate from everyone else. Different, certainly, but...
Vision: This has to be about more than who's got what scary power...
Dipali hangs her head... "But I... d-don't know how t-to deal with that. I-I d-don't have th-those k-kinds of a-answers... I-I... d-d-don't even h-have ans-swers ab-bout what to d-do w-with my own l-life... r-really..."
Vision: Well, for the moment feel free to leave the big questions to me. I am a Seer after all...for what help that's been... As for your own path...well, we've got some time yet to think about that, too...
Dipali sheds a tear.
The crypt where Dipali has been hiding is still as chilly and dusty as before. Dipali herself seems ill at ease, like an ashamed prisoner awaiting execution.
Sibel seems rather preoccupied herself.
Prism looks uneasy, himself. He is in his Prism disguise, but his scarf is in its normal place around his neck, leaving his face uncovered, and his new belt is lying on the floor.
Althea simply leans against a wall, waiting. A small piece of paper is pinned is to her shirt, reading "I'm from the future!"
Gharta finally arrives, with a small sigh of relief. "I should have a better sense of direction than this."
Gharta notices the piece of paper on Althea and nods to herself.
Dipali: S-so... I guess e-everyone's come tog-gether here... f-for a reason...
Sibel nods. "We've got Genubo in custody now, so we need to figure out the rest of the plan."
Althea: Realized how badly you screwed up, yet?
Sibel sighs. "...I'm starting to."
Dipali sighs... "I-it... c-can't be as bad as I d-did."
Gharta peers at Sibel searchingly, then turns her attention to Althea. "Anything wrong?"
Prism crosses his arms. "You'd be surprised. Let's have some enlightenment from our voice from the future." For a change, Kyra sounds genuinely annoyed and somewhat angry.
Sibel: The Knights would know better than to buy any story about Dipali being 'possessed' by cursed chains or the like. It won't take that long for them to connect the dots given what they would have overheard...
Althea: They can probably connect enough dots to be trouble for more than just Dipali, but we can deal with such concerns later.
Sibel: ...House Tharashk. The warning I gave to those Boromar folks would be no more than a floating rumor. Connecting 'us' to Gharta to try to clean up that mess, on the other hand...
Althea: Didn't really help things, and gives the wider world a reason to see Dipali specifically as dangerous.
Dipali stares at the floor.
Gharta sighs. "...Why can't we just win for real, just once."
Dipali: I-I think... it's all my f-f-fault this time...
Prism sighs. "Everything has consequences."
Gharta leaves the room with that, though the footsteps end soon after she's out of sight.
Prism looks a bit confused. "Did I say the wrong thing...?"
Sibel: ...I wasn't careful enough. I was too afraid that if anyone got in your way before we had a chance to find you...
Dipali: ...I-I don't kn-know... th-that you w-weren't... r-right.
Dipali: I-I'd been t-trying to f-f-find my r-right life... b-but... I-I may have... h-have r-ruined my ch-chances by... by j-joining w-with Genubo...
Dipali: I... sh-should have run from h-him... long ag-go. B-but I was af-fraid... a-and really h-had nowh-where else t-to run t-to. ...I th-thought I f-finally had an a-answer... b-before y-y-you sh-showed me...
Dipali sniffles.. "...i-it's n-no good for a-anyone for me to live l-like that..."
Althea: Dipali's situation may be the most heavily impacted by these errors, but we'll all face some consequences from them eventually in all likelihood as things currently stand...
Althea: However, I think it should be pointed out that this isn't the first time one of our number has badly botched the keeping of such secrets...
Dipali looks to Althea questioningly.
Prism closes his eyes, his eyebrow twitching.
Dipali next looks to the Prism. "Wh-what's wrong?..."
Sibel: ...the Crane?
Prism: I just don't like thinking about... that.
Dipali appears puzzled.
Sibel: It did seem like there was almost no way his House couldn't have figured it all out... yet as poorly as he concealed his identity, I didn't get a shred of worthwhile info on him that didn't come from underground sources...
Prism: Secrets are a funny thing.
Althea: Secrets are also something House Medani deals with regularly.
Sibel: You think House Medani's covering things up?
Prism shrugs. "It wouldn't surprise me, anyway."
Althea: No, you think House Medani's covering things up. I've already been through all this, remember?
Gharta sneaks back into the room.
Dipali looks between the three (two?), teary-eyed but now curious and alert.
Sibel: Have you, now? I've noticed your little 'pranks' so I have a feeling you've already assessed for yourself whether these are the same events you remember.
Althea shrugs. "You of all people can't blame me for that. Regardless, you don't need my confirmation to pursue this, it's nearly the only avenue you've got."
Gharta: ...Sorry, I'm so sorry if I messed anything up...
Gharta lowers her hat and leans against the wall.
Prism shakes his head. "Mistakes were made. We just have to be careful."
Althea: There's plenty of blame to go around. Even the Prism let on more than was wise when we spoke with Xeln... For now, we just need to focus on damage control.
Althea: One last thing I think needs to be raised now, though.
Gharta looks up.
Prism: I'm all ears.
Althea: If we turn to House Medani to seek their aid, we'll be entrusting them with more information than they already have, and to some extent we'll have to live with their judgments as to how to deal with that.
Dipali: M-my l-life is... o-out of cont-t-rol as it is... L-little could m-m-make it w-worse.
Althea: Dipali's still a wanted criminal, and there's no telling how much or little sympathy we can expect for her situation. I think they'd want to keep the matter of her power covered up, but beyond that...
Althea: So if letting her escape is the preferable option, now's the time for it.
Gharta eyes Dipali for a moment. "You sure she'll be alright...?"
Sibel: ...I'm sure of very little at this point.
Prism shrugs. "They won't go lenient, I'm sure of it."
Prism sighs, slumping his shoulders. "I don't know."
Sibel: I'm not sure how exactly we can explain this all to them if we do let her go, though.
Althea shrugs. "You could lie, but Medani aren't the best choice of folks to lie to. Or I could force the issue and take the blame personally."
Dipali: I-if... you're g-getting H-House Med-dani involved a-anyway... wh-what good would... a-anything b-but the t-truth do?... M-m-my l-life has b-been n-n-nothing but m-mist-takes anyway...
Dipali is beginning to sound choked up.
Sibel starts to say something, but gets a funny look on her face, then it turns into a scowl. "Don't play games. You wouldn't change something like that."
Althea shrugs. "Well, at any rate I think you have enough for your decision now? I'll stay here; my presence would only complicate things further."
Gharta nods, mumbling to herself.
Prism drums a finger on his crossed arm. "...Well? Planning on sharing your decision?"
Prism emphasizes the "your" in a mocking fashion.
Sibel: We'll go to House Medani, and we'll tell them the truth. And then we'll see what comes of it...
Dipali pulls herself to a standing position haltingly.
Prism: I cannot say I like the idea, but I do not see another choice...
Althea looks to Dipali. "I think it's best to stay here until they've had a chance to clear things up. Not to mention figure out how best to avoid notice if we do have to take you to them."
Dipali: I-if you... th-think it's best.
Gharta raises an eyebrow. "We're not going to take Dipali to anyone, are we...?"
Sibel: We can't keep her here forever. We'll make our case to House Medani, and then we'll see what they say...
Dipali seats herself again.
The trio once again finds itself in Dragon Towers, this time at the entrance to the least obvious true House enclave in Sharn. It doesn't have a building to itself like Jorasco nor colorful banners like those of most of the other houses... simply a couple of tower floors whose various carvings of the basilisk crest seem almost reluctant by comparison. Nonetheless, the section of square tower is clearly not merely repurposed; the beige tower floors' layout is convenient for any interested customer while also clearly limiting normal outsider activity to the outer rim.
The three get more than a few curious, impressed, or appraising looks — the Prism especially — as they spend some time in a waiting room...
Prism tries to look bored and vaguely unimpressed.
Vision seems a bit nervous.
Swift Hawk mumbles to herself as she looks around the room. "You better not promise them anything..."
Prism shakes her head and speaks in a slightly different voice than usual. "Yeah, we don't want to get ourselves in too deep, here."
The door leading further inward opens to reveal a brown-haired man with merely a hint of elven blood, dressed in a well-tailored rose suit with cream accents.
Neugier: Ah, good day. We'd wondered if you'd ever need the aid of one of our inquisitives. If the three of you would follow me, please?
Prism nods. "Thank you, sir."
Neugier heads back through the door, leaving it open for the others to follow. "Please close it behind you."
Prism nods, leading the way directly behind Neugier.
Swift Hawk sighs silently and follows.
Vision enters last and closes the door.
Neugier leads the way down a short hall... but instead of opening the apparent door at the end, turns towards the wall to the left, turns what looked like a rock embedded in the wall, and with some effort slides an eerily silent secret door aside.
Neugier then takes a moment to crack the normal door open.
Prism blinks, then slows down and lets Swift Hawk take the lead.
Swift Hawk raises an eyebrow, but proceeds.
The room within is small and bare of anything but built-in benches. It's reminiscent of a restaurant booth with no table.
Vision follows the Swift Hawk.
Neugier closes the normal door, heads in after the group, then slides the secret door shut with the handle on that side.
Neugier seats himself and sighs. "To think one of our own was the first to make the mistakes that alerted us that anything was off to begin with... It's quite embarassing."
Prism shrugs. "Anyone can make mistakes, really. Things happen."
Neugier shakes his head at the Prism. "Discretion is something we pride ourselves on, though. He should have known better than to proceed to associate with you in the particular manner that he did. If he'd been of any House but ours, you probably would lack the freedom to be speaking with me today."
Neugier: Or if any House had noticed before we could contain the damage he did...
Prism nods and crosses her arms, but doesn't say anything else.
Neugier looks to the Swift Hawk. "If I might jump to a conclusion as to an aspect of your true identity, ma'am, this situation exists beyond the scope of any competition between our Houses. You needn't be bashful."
Swift Hawk blinks and looks slightly to the side, letting out a small grunt. "Of course not."
Neugier: In any case, I presume that if you've turned to us, the strain of maintaining not just your own secrets, but the broader secret that would probably throw Khorvaire into chaos has become too much for you to bear alone.
Vision: That would be a fair assessment.
Vision takes a seat on the bench opposite Neugier.
Neugier: If you have any questions to ask or information you wish to reveal before we proceed, I leave it to you to steer the conversation for the moment. There's much that we know, and much that we wish to.
Neugier: The silence of the door is only one aspect of an enchantment upon this room, so you're aware.
Prism looks uneasy for a brief second, but it passes.
Vision: You've clearly surmised that this is happening to marked individuals.
Neugier nods. "And clearly it applies to both the true and aberrant varieties. As near as I can tell between our efforts here and in Karrlakton, these capabilities don't differ depending on the type of mark, but is an independent variable."
Vision: If you've had a chance to observe much, you've probably also realized that these powers seem to be tied to the orbiting planes.
Neugier: We came to suspect that, though have only had limited capacity to go about confirming that suspicion. Only two beyond Kale have felt comfortable helping with this effort.
Neugier chuckles nervously. "Not that Kale was of any active, intentional help..."
Prism makes a quiet "hrm" noise.
Neugier: Just that when he misstepped in hiding his tracks, the rest of the trail grew clear. It's interesting; as near as we can tell, these additional powers manifested before his belated actual mark in his case.
Neugier: One of the two who saw fit to explicitly reveal themselves to us once we grew to understand the matter better reported that his additional powers manifested years after his mark, however.
Vision nods. "That meshes with our observations as well."
Vision: You spoke of the risk of this becoming wider-known, so I'm sure you realize we don't come here lightly...
Neugier nods. "Are we right in suspecting that this pertains to Dipali d'Jorasco?"
Vision nods. "I'm afraid I bear the burden of responsibility for mishandling of information this time. That I am no Medani inquisitive does little to ease my own embarrassment or sense of guilt."
SwiftHawk stares at Neugier for a moment with a hint of worry, then looks to Vision. "What do you...?"
Neugier: If she's as dangerous as you've led people to believe, frantic missteps are understandable.
Vision sighs. "She's not. She may well have been at the time, but..."
Neugier: So I presume that the matter is contained in at least some respect?
Vision: Yes. I think going into some detail is unavoidable to explain the situation. As we've established, these powers are tied to the orbiting planes...
Neugier nods and listens...
Vision: In Dipali's case they are tied to Shavarath.
Vision: I do not know for certain how it works for everyone, but there seems to be some amount of predisposition in at least some individuals even before the powers emerge.
Neugier: I see...
Vision: My sources tell me that Dipali had a lot of difficulty trying to find a place in her House. She was skilled at magic, but healing magic 'felt' wrong to her. Eventually she couldn't stand her role in the House and fled, and discovered a greater affinity for combat magic.
Neugier: That makes sense in the context you describe.
Vision: She's spent her whole life basically lost and looking for somewhere to belong. It's how she ended up mixed up with someone like Genubo Threehorn, and it's why the sudden awakening of her power totally overwhelmed her...
Neugier: It is the Warning Guild's business to know well the webs of intrigue that ensnare our society, that we might prevent a blade aimed at a client from being drawn. To understand this new one would thus be an asset, as much to us as to you.
Neugier: If she'd find purpose in aiding us in furthering that understanding, that would pay for a sizable service on her behalf.
Vision nods. "I will say that I know from experience... our power and our natures are intertwined, but do not define or dictate our actions or purpose. She may have been overwhelmed by her 'awakening', but I'm certain she can learn to... employ her powers safely."
Swift Hawk peers at Neugier. "Who... are you, anyway?"
Neugier nods to the Swift Hawk. "Neugier Sutalle d'Medani, also of the Warning Guild... and, as of three months ago, Brelish Sub-Watcher of the Conspiracy of Mighty Scions."
Swift Hawk doesn't alter her expression much. "...Pleased to meet you, and the conspiracy of what?"
Neugier: Mighty Scions... since all with these potent capabilities are marked scions.
Prism snerks. "Think you could've picked a cheesier name?"
Neugier shrugs helplessly. "I didn't name the post."
Neugier: You'd need to speak to the Khorvarian Watcher of the Conspiracy of Mighty Scions in Wroat...
Neugier: And for that matter, the elders hundreds of years prior who came up with the naming scheme.
Prism shrugs. "I don't know, it kind of has a ring to it."
Neugier: I'll at least grant that it's an improvement over Diab Kearne's "mystery men".
Vision: There was a potentially greater misstep whose consequences we'll have to cope with as well...
Vision: You are no doubt aware of the circumstances of Xeln Pradosh?
Neugier nods to Vision. "Quite. It was probably inevitable..."
Neugier: What's disconcerting is precisely who's taken interest in his continued life. Be wary of House Vadalis...
Prism raises an eyebrow. "One of the last houses I'd expect to be warned about. Care to explain?"
Neugier: Keben Yarich d'Vadalis wants to make sense of Xeln's power. As near as can be told, he has no idea as of yet that Xeln is not unique.
Prism's eye twitches noticeably and continues to do so. "You don't say..."
Vision: When we were pursuing what information we could in order to track down Dipali, we...arranged to contact Xeln. While that proved helpful in the short term, it may prove costly in the long run...
Neugier raises an eyebrow. "Oh?"
Vision: For one thing, the knights know we were after someone like us, who we were trying to save from meeting the same fate as Xeln. It won't take a lot of effort to figure out that we were talking about Dipali, as things currently stand...
Neugier nods, frowning with concern... "Did you or did you not connect Xeln's capabilities with your own?"
Swift Hawk looks to Vision and Prism, curious herself.
Vision: We implied that connection. I felt it was important to establish our common ground, but that gesture would have been better done in secret had it been possible...
Vision: I... must admit that I was not at my best in that encounter. It was a while afterward before I could even fully assess my own errors...
Neugier winces. "Though Breland is a great country for its value of freedom, I fear that information could spread too rapidly from the Citadel's walls if left entirely unchecked..."
Prism keeps silent; her thoughts are clearly elsewhere.
Vision glances briefly to the Prism. "I do not know if more was leaked than that, but it is a matter to go over in some detail later."
Swift Hawk nods to herself. "So that's what it was all about..."
Vision: I suppose while we're at it, we've made that connection to Fibblebaum too. Though I think his surprise was more that we realized it ourselves.
Neugier: How tightly would you like the Citadel's knowledge contained? I'm reluctant to do more than is strictly necessary without recompense for our operatives... the Warning Guild could easily come to see us as a liability.
Vision: I think we'll leave that to after a full damage assessment, but my first concern is to ensure Dipali doesn't end up in their custody. I owe her at least that, even if I can do little else.
Neugier nods. "I've presented our own proposal with regard to that."
Vision nods. "And suffice to say things are arranged such that she has probably already received it. Shall we settle on a safe place to meet? Her being there will signify her acceptance."
Neugier nods. "The first question to ask is, would this even be in Sharn?"
Neugier: That matter probably depends primarily on the viability of transportation.
Vision: Can you manage bringing her here from, say, King's Forest?
Neugier: It depends a lot on where within it. It's a rather large place.
Vision: Not too far from the city border.
Neugier: That would probably be trivial, then.
Vision: The manifest zone to Lamannia should suffice as a meeting place.
Neugier: Hm, I'll have to look up where that is, but fitting enough.
Neugier: Do we have anything else to discuss for the moment?
Vision: I think the rest can wait.
Neugier nods. "Very well. I hope that I haven't... too greatly distressed anyone."
Neugier looks to the Prism.
Prism is still looking off into the distance.
Swift Hawk sighs. "To be honest, I'm a little relieved."
Vision: Best we know what we're facing, distressing or not.
Neugier fiddles with some stones around the door before silently sliding it open again with a heave.
Neugier: After you.
Vision stands and walks out into the hallway.
Swift Hawk eyes Neugier for a second before following Vision.
Prism doesn't seem to notice the others leaving, maintaining her spaced-out look.
Vision looks back inside, frowning. "Cross-planar missive from Eberron... you okay, Prism?"
Prism barely acknowledges Vision, giving a dismissive "mrph."
Prism: I'm...I'm sorry. I need a few minutes.
Prism turns to Vision, genuine sorrow and fear in her eyes.
Neugier frowns in confusion.
Prism: ...I'm sorry, Sir Neugier. I did not mean to linger. I'll go somewhere else...
Neugier nods to the Prism.
Neugier: Thank you.
Prism exits the room, staring intently at the floor.
Shortly, the group returns to the dusty crypt where Dipali was hidden for so long. Neither she nor the future Althea are there, but a bag of provisions has been conspicuously left behind.
Vision looks at the bag's contents and nods to herself. "Looks like Dipali accepted their terms. Anyone want a sandwich?"
Swift Hawk: Sandwiches?
Swift Hawk speeds up as she heads towards Vision and the bag.
Vision: I packed—will pack—provisions for a possible journey out of Sharn. That I leave them behind signifies I don't need them.
Vision: At least, that's what I think this is supposed to mean.
Prism walks in a bit behind the others, taking off her belt as she does. He gives a glance to Vision. "I'll be glad when we're past the tense problems."
Vision looks to Prism. "So, do you know who Keben d'Vadalis is?"
Swift Hawk fishes a sandwich out of the bag, briefly inspecting the contents before taking a bite, and looks to Prism herself.
Prism shakes his head. "Never heard of him, but the mere fact that a member of the House has an interest in Xeln has me, um, more than a little worried."
Vision nods. "I think we need to find out whatever we can about him."
Prism: Yeah... What worries me is if I'll be able to sniff around without making myself look suspicious.
Vision: I can do some digging myself, as well.
Swift Hawk shrugs. "Think I'll be any use here, at all?"
Swift Hawk continues to chew on the sandwich.
Prism thinks on that for a moment. "You might be able to exploit your bounty-hunter nature. This guy doesn't sound like..." He trails off, getting that distant look in his eye again. This time, he quickly shakes it off. "He doesn't sound like the most...uh...he doesn't sound like the nicest guy in the world."
Vision: I suspect it's quite unlikely for someone in such a position to have a bounty, but I suppose we may as well see if your House knows anything about him...
Prism shrugs. "Or something."
Prism: On my end, maybe Dad has done business with him. He's the one person who'd understand why I want to know, really.
Vision: The other question is, just how beholden to House Medani do we make ourselves? We may have done a lot of damage already... I think they'll take care of the worst, but how far do we want to go in having them clean up for us?
Prism doesn't answer.
Vision: Is this information worth concealing at any cost... I don't really know...
Swift Hawk swallows the rest of the sandwich. "I don't like the idea of it being known to the wrong people, though..."
Prism: And if we're right, I'm fair game to the last House that needs to know...
The next day is marked by heat despite clouds and light sprinkles. The three return to the waiting room in the Medani enclave that afternoon...
Neugier steps out of the door leading further in. "I'm glad you could all make it on such short notice. We already have some news concerning the investigation."
Vision nods. "That's good to hear. Shall we discuss your results in private?"
Neugier nods and heads back through the door. "Indeed, if you'd follow me."
Prism nods. "Thank you."
Shortly, they enter the secret booth... only to find Dipali waiting there.
Dipali waves timidly.
Vision waves. "How are you holding up?"
Neugier closes the door to the normal office audibly, then closes the secret door after the group.
Swift Hawk smiles to Dipali upon seeing her, but leaves it at that.
Dipali: It's... a bit unc-comfortable... being q-questioned s-so much... b-but... I-I'll do my b-best to get used to it... i-if it means not r-running so m-much anymore.
Dipali smiles nervously up at Neugier. "A-and not being a-alone or ab-bused when I do..."
Neugier nods to Dipali, then looks back to the others. "Given that you've contacted us so soon, I presume that you have more to do than visit..."
Vision looks to Neugier. "First of all, we have a couple of other items that we had to confiscate from Dipali earlier. They should be of some use for her in exploring her abilities..."
Vision: However, there is the complicating factor that they were obtained in an illegal raid.
Neugier nods. "I've actually been pondering just what to do with the rest. Most of it may need to be disenchanted just to make the disappearance cleaner..."
Vision takes Dipali's chainmail shirt and spiked chain from her pack. "I'll leave it to your discretion how you wish to resolve that matter."
Dipali sighs enigmatically.
Swift Hawk stares rather awkwardly at the items for a moment, then grunts to herself.
Neugier accepts the items. "Very well."
Vision: Also, the matter of the information leaked to the Knights of the Citadel and how that is to be contained affects Dipali as well. It's a bit early to have learned much more, but it would probably be a good idea to discuss the...parameters of that situation, and what type of remuneration would be required for... 'extra effort' on that front.
Neugier nods... "The more people I can muster for the effort, the quicker and more effective the results. We can't offer the greatest extreme conceivable, unfortunately, but there's much negotiation and introduction of doubt to do and not much time in which to act."
Neugier: I suspect that if I could pay each person I can muster 20 gold per day, they and the viceroys will be satisfied.
Neugier holds his chin in his hand. "I'll need some operatives working both here and in Wroat, at the least."
Vision nods. "About how many people would you want to try to get on this?"
Neugier: To contain this quickly, probably half a dozen in each city, and I suspect it'd take three days at the least.
Dipali counts on her fingers, muttering to herself...
Vision: All right. Consider it a request from a paying client.
Neugier raises an eyebrow. "I'm impressed that you have that much at hand on short notice. Very well, at any rate. I'm glad both sides could come out ahead in this."
Swift Hawk sighs and mutters to herself. "Can't ever let them know of this..."
Neugier: Is there anything further to discuss?
Swift Hawk looks up at Neugier. "You... you won't tell anything about what you may or may not know to anyone, especially not to anyone whom it may or may not be very relevant to? Right...?"
Neugier looks to the Swift Hawk in confusion. "Er, could you rephrase that?"
Vision shakes and holds her head. "I think she's worried about the House competition thing..."
Swift Hawk glares at Vision, but doesn't say a word.
Neugier shakes his head. "As I said before, the issue at hand transcends any concerns about competition."
Neugier: This is all quite confidential, besides.
Neugier: If word came out of your true identity associating with us, there would be far worse things for you to worry about than being looked down upon for fraternization...
Swift Hawk: ...I know, I guess. Silly of me to get worked up over it...
Vision: Since you know about this occuring among aberrant marks, I presume you're at least somewhat aware that Tarkanan's taken an interest in this phenomenon as well.
Neugier looks back to Vision. "Xeln Pradosh alone makes it clear that aberrants can have such powers as well. It comes as no surprise that House Tarkanan is fully aware and interested, though. We'd come to suspect that there was more to their subtle shifts in activity lately than the apparent recent reemergence of stronger aberrant marks, and it's helpful to hear confirmation of that."
Dipali looks to the Prism. "You're... q-quiet."
Prism shrugs. "I don't really have anything to add."
Neugier: It can be difficult to keep close tabs on them, for obvious reasons.
Vision nods. "They seem to be determined to bring all bearers of aberrant marks under their aegis. They also know that this is happening with both normal and aberrant marks. Dipali may be able to say more, as she was in contact with them longer than us."
Dipali nods, sighing. "Th-they're... sure th-that this is h-heading... t-towards a s-second War of the M-Mark."
Neugier pulls his head back, looking grim.
Vision: Fibblebaum seemed to think that as well.
Dipali: They're conv-vinced th-that letting th-that happen... e-even helping th-that happen... is th-their only ch-chance of coming o-out of the t-true marks' shadow.
Swift Hawk holds a hand to her head. "A second War of the Mark..."
Vision: Which puts people like us in an awkward position. We really can't take sides if that's the context, and if it comes about everyone's liable to see us as a possible enemy anyway...
Neugier nods slowly... "One of a few reasons why we worry about the implications of knowledge of these powers being associated with dragonmarks."
Swift Hawk: I always thought they weren't powerful enough to pose such a threat anymore, but...
Neugier: There's that possibility if such a war broke out, then there's also the possibility of your Houses seeing you as the ultimate weapons in such a circumstance.
Vision: Not that I forsee it being of much consequence, but for what it's worth, very few people know I'm marked, in any guise.
Neugier nods... "An impressive accomplishment."
Vision: Perhaps in some small way it might serve to contribute to doubt that these powers appear only in marked individuals...
Neugier stands. "Perhaps... In any case, I have a lot of work to do in light of both your hiring us and this new information."
Dipali slides herself off of the bench, looking conflicted.
Vision nods. "And we have much to do as well. Until next time."
That evening, in Dragon Towers, Gharta passes through a hexagonal tower on the way back to the Tharashk enclave. To the right, she notices a glimpse of a balcony with a view of the towers in question through a doorway at the end of a side street...
Gharta sighs and makes a turn for the balcony.
Gharta leans on the railing, holding her hat in place, just in case. "...A half-orc of House Tharashk. Of all things."
Gharta: Once again, my so-called blessing turns out to be more of a curse. I'm not surprised. But... it's serious now.
Gharta jumps up on the railing and sits down, her feet dangling on the other side in apparent recklessness.
Gharta grunts. "As long as someone, anyone, can correctly guess that much of my identity, I can't ever feel safe..."
Gharta looks to the towers and spits.
Gharta jumps back onto the balcony. "Neugier, you'd better know how to keep your secrets."
Gharta retrieves a sandwich from some pocket. "These are pretty good," she mumbles while chewing as she heads back to the main path.
Meanwhile, in a dimly-lit bedroom in a certain House Vadalis home...
Kyra closes a book with a sigh, resting his pen against the table. "And so ends another chapter...with me grounded until I'm twenty."
Kyra places the book — a journal — in one of the drawers of his desk, clicking a lock in place and placing the key in his bag. "This'll make a good story one day." Pushing his chair away from the desk, he walks over to the window — locked from the outside — and sighs. "Hopefully it's not in the papers."
Kyra looks up. "House Vadalis itself is tied up in this whole mess... I don't think any of us saw that one coming." He shakes his head. "Sir Neugier had better know how to keep his secrets..."
Kyra turns around, slowly takes a couple steps, then catapults himself into the air, turning around in midair to land on his back on his bed. "What will happen in the next chapter of the Adventures of Prism? See you next time, dear readers," he says, chuckling to himself.
Kyra sits up, snuffs out the candle dimly lighting the room, and lies back down, falling into a deep sleep almost immediately.
Althea sits at a small table in a small dorm room lit by a candle, flipping through a notebook.
Althea: ...great, she's been keeping her notes in here too. Guess I didn't bring this with me. Though that's probably for the best...what is this anyway, Kythric...?
Althea reaches an empty spot and begins to write in an obfuscated combination of Gnomish, Halfling, Goblin and Quori language elements. "Not surprising that I'd want to keep my thoughts from two timelines separate, but I hope that's not just plain Kythric."
Althea: I wonder if this is the right course... can we change the direction this is going, or have we just complicated our own roles in it...?
Althea: A lot of people are going to have to live with the consequences of our actions and our decisions...
Althea: Still, at the least Dipali seems to be in a better situation now than she was with Genubo...
Althea: Bigger concerns than that will have to wait until we know more...
Althea eventually finishes writing and puts the book down.
Althea sighs and shakes her head. "But Kyra thinks the tense situation is confusing?"
Althea looks over at her own sleeping form in the bed. "That's nothing compared to sharing a room with yourself."