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Thread: [M] Forgotten Realms: A Princess' Whisper [Naming + Breggo]

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    Default [M] Forgotten Realms: A Princess' Whisper [Naming + Breggo]

    Chapter One ~ Finding Paid Work Is Hard


    Thud. Thud. Thud. A pair of soft soled shoes hit the paved road in an even, predictable pattern, carrying their owner at a good pace around the perimeter of the city, following the mighty wall surrounding Caer Callidyr. The path coming up from the South Wall Road to the East was particularly tricky, the worn cobblestones smooth from their years of use and made all the more treacherous after the recent rainfall, forcing the young runner to put all her focus into remaining surefooted and upright as she continued on, her shoes slipping on the stones that currently resembled ice. Anyone else would have already wiped out once or twice, slowed down or taken an easier route if they were so determined to waste energy on such a useless activity like running. This runner however didn’t even think of slowing down, her forehead streaked with sweat and breathing hard as she raced under the setting sun, a stubborness in her grey eyes.

    I’m a child of the North, she thought bitterly, trying to remind herself to keep breathing. I have run through frozen lakes, conquered snow banks as high as my head and managed to not get eaten by wild beasts. This is a piece of cake. Not bothering to push her sweat-stuck hair off her forehead, Neri continued on, jogging along the shadows of the city, eyebrows furrowing together as she tried to keep up the pace. Just because they were on a temporary vacation courtesy to Rolan didn’t mean she could get out of shape. The first day, she spent recovering from her seasickness - the three day boat ride from mainland Faerun had done wonders to her strength, making Neri feel as though she had been wrung dry over and over again. The next day, she was off exploring the city, dragging Colm with her (with his loud protests about her rough and violent manhandling ways) and enjoying the very different feel of the Moonshae Isles. That evening was the first time she went off on her run, struggling for breath and falling into bed the second she made it home. That had been nearly 10 days ago and now, although tiring and taking a good hour and a half, Neri was able to go at her regular pace without dying when she reached The Dancing Seabear where they were staying. A few times, Rolan met her at the edge of the Plains quarter and joined her but the past few days, she ran alone, the rogue seeming to slide away from everyone for whatever reason.

    Thinking about her older mentor, the girl slowed down to a walk, breathing heavily. The man had always been secretive ever since she met him seven years ago in Mirabar when he found the scrawny wild child amusing, attacking him with the vigour of a mountain tiger, glaring at him with hard grey eyes. Rolan had taken her with him, enrolled her into combat training within the Assassin’s guild, created her to be a weapon of destruction. Many of the smuggler caravans wanted to constantly hire her as a soldier, knowing full well of her fury and ferocity. The man always raised an eyebrow and shrugged, giving them some form of ‘perhaps’. The next day, a body of someone close to the smuggler would be found wanting and Neri would almost immediately be branded as a bad omen. When she confronted her companion, he only shrugged, not even bothering to stand up as she towered over his chair. That made her angrier but she knew better than to do something reckless - even now, Neri could take Rolen every three out of ten fights.

    Caer Callidyr made him different though - it almost made him human. Neri grinned at her own thoughts, stretching her arms as she walked, the cool sunset breeze making her shiver slightly. In her light tunic and knee length pants she used for practice, she felt the chilly warning of the air, the end of the summer months. With her back soaked in sweat, she didn’t want her body to stiffen up from the cold. The past few days, once the rogue made it back to the street that he once called home, he was distant and melancholy, sitting in the tavern, constantly observing the people there with some disinterest and disdain. It took all of Neri’s strength not to go and beat some sense into the man - the inside of her cheek was destroyed after a week of trying to keep quiet and say nothing - but he needed to come around soon. If not, she wasn’t sure she would be able to leave him be much longer. She was starting to find the city boring, much smaller than Baldur’s Gate with less variety and too much fish everywhere. No matter where the young fighter looked, all she saw was fish being salted, baked, grilled, cooked, stewed, frozen, gutted, packaged, sold and eaten. She wondered if the fish smell was going to accompany her everywhere now - worse, if it was gonna accompany the already annoying Colm.

    “Stupid Wildheart,” she grumbled to herself, hitting the nearby wall with her fist. The impact echoed with protest in her hand but she ignored the pain, eyes shutting as she turned her face to the last of the blinding sun rays. The bard was a problem all on its own - he was a nuisance and a troublemaker, barely a mage and easily able to get her angry. There were quite a few occasions when breakable objects had been in fact broken due to them flying at the man’s face and him ducking at the last second. A few times, they got quite a tongue lashing from Rolan when the tavern owners gave him a bill for a couple gold coins taking into account the broken plates and pots, upturned tables, a few wobbly chairs and overall chaos. Once, he had taken Neri aside and asked if perhaps the bard should go. After such a silly question, Neri ignored the rogue for a week, pointedly pretending he wasn’t there. She still had a score to settle with the bard and if anything, he was entertaining though she would never tell him that.

    Taking in another breathe, Neri pushed off, her legs protesting slightly as she got back into her run. Thud, thud, thud. Her necklace - a plain leather chord with a tiger fang on it, the last thing she had of her past - swung like a pendulum, slapping against her skin with every step. Thud, thud, thud. Bad-dum, bad-dum, bad-dum. Her heart raced a little, trying to fall into a working rhythm and pumping oxygen to her legs, sweat starting to form on her forehead once again. As she rounded Fleetfoot Park, Neri noticed an urchin watching her from behind one of the shrubs, the child’s little face covered in mud and dirt, his eyes following her movement. She had seen him the past few days as well, the little shadow always meeting her around this area. Knowing that looking at him directly scared the kid away - she made that mistake the second day she noticed him - she simply dropped a few copper pieces onto the ground and sped up. Good deeds will never get you far, she could hear Rolan’s disapproval in her mind but brushed it off. She had been there once as well - a few coins weren’t going to make her starve. Besides, it’s not like anyone else saw. This would be her secret.

    Twenty minutes later, tired with her shirt plastered to her sweaty skin, Neri half stumbled into the tavern’s back yard, scaring one of the workers who had been there to collect some firewood. Cursing under his breath, the man made a sign against evil, picking up the few small logs he had been carrying.

    “Ya do know we ain’ some run down shaggin’-shag,” he shot at her as Neri bent in half, trying to regain her breathe, her hands resting on her knees. Looking up at him through her eyelashes, she only grinned in a feline way.

    “Yah yah, I know you’re much more civilized - only smugglers and thieves aloud,” she replied, chuckling as the man gave an annoyed huff and stormed in. Finally catching her breathe, at least enough to stop resembling a steaming tea pot, Neri straightened out and looked around. The sun had almost fully disappeared behind the short city line, the sky remaining a combination of pink, purple and orange colors. If only Neri had the talent to recreate what she saw on a canvas but alas, she never had any formal training and the few doodles that she sketched here and there were hardly masterpieces.

    Sighing, the young girl headed to the well tucked in the corner of the yard. Although the tavern wasn’t far from the docks and the seawater, the well gave immediate access to clean water for drinking, washing and overall upkeep. Spinning the crank to raise the full bucket and feeling her arms ache with the effort, she huffed when the full bucket finally reached the top. Looking up and mentally preparing herself, she lifted the wretched thing above her head and tipped it, the freezing water drenching her to the bone and making her shake off like a dog, grey eyes blazing. Grinning from pleasure, her clothes hugging her body, Neri wretched water out of her red hair, standing in the puddle of mud and trying to remember when exactly she was supposed to meet the men in her group.




    Rolan sat in one of the corners of The Dancing Seabear, leaning back so that his chair balanced on two legs with his feet kicked up onto the table. The dock tavern was bristling with action even though the summer was ending and most traders would not be in a hurry to return back to Moonshae Isles, looking to avoid long sea travel in the Sea of Swords. For now, the place was packed, every table seeming to be seating at least three people if not more and those not lucky enough to sit leaned against the walls, talking and laughing with their companions. A few wenches in revealing bodice weaved among the patrons, laughing and flirting under the watchful eyes of Hogarth. The owner of the place - a Shiftling - cleaned his kegs behind the bar stand, watching to see that none of the girls was too ruffled up. When men got too rowdy, his two security boys would throw them out. Over the past week or so, he had witnessed those two work and he had to admit - they had quite a swing to their work.

    “Another drink maestro!” someone called from the far table. “On my tab for me and my friends!” There was a loud cheer that made Hogarth roll his eyes and start pouring mugs, overflowing with foam.

    “My friends and I,” the man muttered under his breath, pulling out one of his throwing knives and using the fine sharp tip to pick his teeth. He closed his eyes, focusing on his other senses passively, a habit that had kept him alive for the past twenty odd years. He could hear the shuffling of feet against the worn out floor, the way men and women laughed, a few low voices discussing business deals and the sound of coins hitting the wooden countertops, quickly swiped by Hogarth. A few men stumbled by on their way to the door, reacking of cheap piss-beer, sweat and even some barf. A serving wench walked by with the smell of another man on her, twisting with her own lilly-water. Stray mutts plotted across the wooden floors in search of scraps, their nails making distinct sounds with every step, one sneezed from the dust of the place.

    “Aye, get out ya curs!” Rolan smirked as the owner of the tavern yelled, the words followed by a distinct smack of a wet towel and a surprised, slightly terrified yelp, the dogs scurrying away and out. “Damn dogs.” He heard the old Shifter mutter under his breath as he turned back to his task. Tossing his knife onto the table beside his boots, Rolan raised opened his eyes and made eye contact with the yellow eyes with slightly elongated irises. If one didn’t focus, they would never see the subtle signs of Shifting that became more and more diluted with every generation. By now, Hogarth was the third generation, mostly human with only traces of a feline heritage. With a sigh, the bartender walked over, wiping his hands on an old worn rag.

    “What can I get you?” he asked, frowning as he looked at the dirty boots resting on his table. Rolan’s smirk grew, filling with amusement. For all that Hogarth disliked the way the rogue - and more often than not his companions - behaved, he wasn’t about to get into a fight, knowing perfectly well the rogue’s profession and extensive list of completed deeds. All he allowed himself were those disappointed, pointed looks.

    “Bottle of that fine wine you offered me last night,” Rolan replied, stretching. “The burgundy or merlot or morrisberg.”

    “The Nerbundy,” the tavern owner corrected, shaking his head. “The bottles are worth their weight in gold and you still owe me for the past few nights. Not to mention all the trouble your two friends cause.”

    “They’re children,” Rolan shrugged, not really bothered by the older man’s comments. “I told you, I’ll pay you once I get a job.”

    “And when will that be?” Hogarth raised an eyebrow. Another shrug.

    “It’ll come.”

    “What if it doesn’t?” the innkeeper cleaned his ear with his pinkie, pausing to think it over. With a sigh, he looked at the rogue. “I do not run a charity case, Rolan the murderer, nor am I afraid of you. I will have my money otherwise you may pack up and go find some other simpleton to feed you for free.”

    “And I know you, Hogarth the Shiftling,” Rolan responded in kind, his voice becoming cooler. “You won’t leave anyone of the wild blood in the cold. And we both know the girl has the tiger spirit in her veins. You will get your money when I find a job. Now get me a bottle.”

    “My mother always told me my kind heart would lead me into trouble. No wonder she wanted me to resemble my father,” the old man grumbled under his breath, glaring at the rogue before shuffling off. Rolan watched him go, his blue eyes intent on the leaving figure. The innkeeper was right - the money that the rogue had brought with them was running low. Actually, it was pretty much non-existent. Besides scaring and manipulating old Hogarth into running a tab, something that the Shiftling was not happy about at all, they needed money to go back to the mainland. The winter caravan season was slow and jobs were usually fought for but if he could only pull a few strings….mayhap add some more encouragement...

    The bottle landed on his table with a thud and Rolan looked up in surprise at the angry owner. Pursing his lips, Hogarth left, muttering something about assassins and their inability to care about anything - soul, etiquette and timely payments. Watching him go, the rogue sighed, sitting properly and reaching for the muted colored wine bottle. Using his knife, he quickly popped the cork and brought the throat to his lips. The strong scent of the aged drink filled his nostrils, exhilarating him before starting a fire in his stomach, lining it with a rich coating of fine grape wine. Sighing with contentment, Rolan continued to watch the people mulling around the tavern.
    Last edited by Breggo13; 03-20-2019 at 03:21 AM.

  2. #2
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    The overpowering smell of brine and day-old fish. The waves breaking against the rocks, and the baying of seagulls. The rowdy chatter of drunken sailors, open and friendly, but ready to turn violent at the slightest provocation. The sinister quiet of muggers and cutpurses both as they lingered in the shadows, keeping an eye out for potential marks. Caer Callidyr’s docks bore all the signs and makings of a traditional port, and a few more besides. Any port bordering the sea of Moonshae or the Sea of Swords, at the very least.

    Careful to keep his wits about him, and leave one hand on his rapier, one Colm Vastara made his way towards the waterfront. After an evening spent winding his way through the maze of inns, storefronts, and brothels that made up the streets surroundings the docks, he had finally found what it was he was searching for.

    Now the bard found himself seated on a small box, sitting opposite two sailors who were doing the same. Between them, a considerably larger box was serving as a table. Stacked several piles of coins and a handful of playing cards, it was rather easy to figure out what they were doing. Bathed in the flickering and unsteady light of a single lantern, Colm eyed the cards in his hand warily. His mind worked to calculate the odds, even as he ran his mouth.

    “…So I had one foot stuck in there, the undead cat was clinging to my leg, and I still had half a pie left”

    Whilst they played, he regaled his two companions with a story he claimed to be about the necromancer queen Astra and her undead horde – a famous story, at least where he was from. It was, of course, absolute bullshit, as was the role Colm was claiming he had in the event. That, though, was thoroughly beside the point. He had learned a long time ago that a story held more importance than just the information contained within its contents. Beyond that, the bard spoke with a voice as rich as smooth as honeyed mead, and anyone with a scrap of musical knowledge would be unsurprised to find he was possessed of an extremely fine baritone. All of this, unfortunately, quickly proved lost on his current company.

    “What does that have to do with the necromancer?” one of the sailors interjected, eyeing him incredulously. Unable to help himself, Colm faked a huff.

    “I said the cat was undead, didn’t I? Besides, its only natural for a necromancer queen to be interested in a meat pie” he answered, feigning irritation. The sailor blinked slowly at that, confusion written all over his face. After a brief delay, he shook his head.

    “I have no idea how to respond to that”

    A natural reaction to meeting Colm, really, and one he saw frequently enough. He did his best to conceal a grin. The other sailor, though, was apparently not in the mood to put up with his bullshit.

    “Are the two of you going to play, or just sit there and flap your gums all night?” he grumbled, throwing them both a displeased glance. This time, the bard’s sigh was genuine.

    “Fine, fine. I raise” he answered. The soft clink of coins accompanied his words as Colm grabbed a handful from his pile – which was considerably larger than that of his two companions – and tossed it into the middle of their makeshift table.

    “Call”

    The first of the sailors quickly tossed a handful of his own gold onto the pile, to match the amount Colm had offered. The other quickly followed suit, doing the same, before rapping his knuckles on the table.

    “Alright, show us what ya got”

    Almost in sync, all three of the game’s participants laid their cards down on the table, revealing their hands so that everyone could see what the others were holding, and determine who had won. The air was pregnant with anticipation as all three of them surveyed the results, before both of the sailors frowned. Amongst the cards on display were multiple copies of the highest value card one could draw. More copies than should have been available in a single deck.

    The smaller of the two men fixed Colm with a rather pointed gaze, to which the bard responded with a rather sheepish smile. The larger of the sailors took a few moments longer – evidently he was a touch slower than his wiry friend – before he banged a meaty fist on the table.

    “You’ve been cheatin’ us!” he shouted. The sailor pointed an accusatory finger at the bard, who responded by shrugging in a surprisingly nonchalant way.

    “To be fair, he was cheating too” Colm answered, gesturing towards the smaller sailor. “I just so happened to be better at it. Besides, who goes looking for a game of cards at this time of night that isn’t a shark?”

    Apparently that was the wrong thing to say at a time like this, and the sailor’s reaction was immediate.

    “I’m gunna feed you to the sharks!”

    The both of them rose, each drawing a knife from their waist. Colm let out a soft sigh, unable to help himself. Why did it always end up like this?

    In theory, Colm could probably have taken the two of them in a straight fight. His rapier would serve him a good deal better than the knives the two sailors were currently brandishing, and even if he wasn’t quite on Neri or Rolan’s level, the bard was still half-decent with it. Unfortunately, he wasn’t certain that he could draw the weapon before the two sailors fell on him…and besides, why resort to unnecessary bloodshed when there was another options?

    As soon as the two sailors stepped towards him, Colm jumped to his feet. Giving up his winnings as a lost cause, he swept the table clean, flinging its contents at his two attackers. Whilst they were distracted, he turned and sprinted away from the docks, heading further into the city. He heard a shout and a curse from behind him, but didn’t stop to look back. It took them a few moments to recover and weave their way past the boxes, but the tell-tale sound of heavy footfalls was enough to let him know that at least one of the sailors had forgotten the coin and started chasing after him, giving up money for an opportunity to take revenge.

    Sprinting as fast as he dare on the freshly wet cobblestones of the city streets, Colm ducked and weaved between the buildings, trying to lose his pursuers. He stumbled more than once, losing his footing on a few slippery sections of road, but proved dextrous enough to keep his footing. A fact that probably saved his life – or at least saved him a considerable amount of trouble – considering the circumstances. Unfortunately, both the sailors proved equally nimble. Unsurprising, perhaps, considering the demands of their work.

    As he ran between the buildings, taking turns frequently to try and throw off his pursuers, Colm’s first instinct was to head for The Dancing Seabear. Towards Neri. The young woman had a history of bailing him out of perilous situations, despite the way he constantly prodded and teased her. Their friendship frequently reminded him of a man poking a bear with a stick, and though she frequently hit him for it, she continued to tolerate his presence. Truth be told, Colm wasn’t sure why. What he did know was that if all else failed, he could rely on her to have his back. She would make mincemeat of two pushovers like these sailors, of that he had no doubt.

    Still…he already owed her plenty – a debt he fully intended to repay one day, even if he had no clue how – and had resolved to try and get himself out of this without bloodshed. Normally he took pleasure in unleashing her on the unsuspecting fools who reacted poorly to his mischief, but just this once, he would try and resolve the issue without bloodshed. No, he’d avoid getting her involved in this if he could.

    The other possibility was Rolan. The rogue who was the closest thing their merry little group had to a leader and a frontman. Whilst he was a little bit uptight for Colm’s tastes, the man certainly knew his way around a blade. If anything, he was even better than Neri. Unlike her, though, he had little patience for Colm and his eccentricities. He’d be just as likely to shrug and let the sailors have him as help. More likely, really. So, the only option left was to find some means of escape on his own.

    Still, as the shoddy buildings of the docks and portside district gave way to the slightly more impressive architecture of the forest quarter, the bard found himself grinning. How long had it been since he had felt a thrill like this. To be moving about, risking himself…the adrenaline of it all was almost addicting. Frankly, it was a significant part of the reason he put himself in these risk in the first place.

    Colm had intentionally taken a path that had him approaching The Dancing Seabear from behind, and by the time the old tavern came into view, both his legs and his lungs were burning. He rounded one final corner, temporarily disappearing from the view of his pursuers, and vaulted the fence that bordered its back yard. He landed hard, before immediately catching sight of Neri. The bard froze like a rabbit confronted with an oncoming wagon as he caught sight of her, before raising a single finger to his lips, urging her to be quiet…or at least to avoid addressing him directly.

    The sound of approaching footsteps quickly made itself known, followed by some muttering and several curses as his pursuers tried to figure out where exactly he had gone. After several tense moments the sounds receded as they picked a direction at random and headed off, hoping to stumble across him by chance. Inwardly, Colm let out a sigh of relief.

    Once the moment had passed, the bard straightened up again, quickly adopting his usual air of nonchalance. He smiled like a man with a secret, and strutted with what seemed like undue confidence, holding his hands out to either side in something akin to a welcoming gesture. He must have made quite a sight…and of course, when he spoke, he made no mention of what she had just witnessed.

    “You know, we really need to stop meeting like this. I swear, every time I turn a corner, you’re always right there. If I didn’t know better, I’d almost say you were following me” he offered, a grin flickering across his features. His eyes quickly darted between Neri, her wet clothes, and the well, before he spoke up yet again.

    “You know, if you’re feeling nostalgic for home, there are probably better ways to relieve it than dumping a bucket of water over yourself in the freezing cold. You could…oh, I don’t know. What is it your people do again? Kill animals with their fingernails and sleep in their fur?”

  3. #3
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    It happened just as the young woman tossed her bucket to the side, shook out her hair off excess water and roughly wiped her eyes from the cold droplets. Like usual, the bard fell into her reality quite literally, jumping the fence and crouching so that his decently high blonde head was hidden by the rickety, salt eaten wood. Her eyes first grew large in shock as she took in his rising chest, sweaty brow and mischievous grin. Next, they narrowed as he gave her the sign to remain quiet and two burly men came pounding down the road. They stopped near the pair for a second, the dumber one shooting her one of those looks.

    "Aye, stop gazin' ya piece of shit," his friend seemed less inclined to spend time looking around at women, girls or otherwise. "That cur still owes us our coin."

    With that, the pair took off again, leaving Neri to gape after them with disbelieve. How dare they assume anything? That good for nothing piece of cow dung stared at her as though she was some bordel gal with morals lower than the sea level - however they measured that. It should have been flattering she guessed, knowing just how often she became the midnight dream of some young man, but he...he...With a growl, her gaze turned towards the bard, dusting himself off as though nothing happened, smiling at her with the sugary sweetness he reserved for serving wenches and noblewomen?

    "You're wrong," she managed, her fists tightening on their own. "We people only kill annoying bards who cause way more trouble than they're worth." Huffing, Neri grabbed her red hair, wrenching out the water that was still left. From her first day when she hadn't dried off properly enough and got caught by Hogarth, forced to practically lick the whole floor of the Dancing Seabear clean, Neri was extremely diligent in keeping the water outside where it belonged. Shivering from the wind as it blew inland, the girl started wrenching out the hem of her shirt.

    "Tell me, what did you do this time to be forced into a marathon?" She asked after a moment, shooting him a look from underneath her brows.

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    Most people, when confronted by an irritated northerner with a history of violence, would opt to do the intelligent thing. Avoid drawing attention to themselves, apologise, or maybe try and slip away unnoticed. Anything to avoid drawing the considerable ire of whoever they had been unfortunate enough to find themselves in the company of. And rightfully so, when one factored in the possible consequences. Unfortunately for all those currently involved, however, Colm was hardly 'most people'. Besides, this was Neri they were talking about. When it came to her, he struggled to resist the impulse to prod and tease, even when it was in his best interests. Whatever damage she did to him wouldn't be too severe, either, given how long they had known each other.

    Probably.

    Regardless, Colm paused briefly at her words. The bard tilted his head slightly, and his gaze drifted upwards, as if searching out some sort of response hidden amongst the clouds. You could practically see his mind working over this newest information, as if it genuinely puzzled him. When he spoke, however, his words quickly blew away any such illusions, and probably any possibility of a peaceful outcome with it.

    "Truly? This is...concerning. I've always prided myself on being annoying, and yet here I stand, so I must be doing something wrong. Neri, if you can think of any ways I could possibly be more irritating, do let me know, yeah?"

    As the topic of conversation turned to the situation he had only narrowly escaped, Colm stifled a laugh, quickly turning it into a snort. He waved one hand dismissively, as if trying to brush off the entire topic as something inconsequential.

    "Nothing, nothing....at least, not that anyone can prove. We were just playing cards, and those two were rather upset when they lost. Don't stress about it too much, though. Rikka and Suri and mostly harmless, I swear" Colm answered. Taking advantage of the lull that followed, he took a few cautious steps towards the water barrel, trying to look like he wasn't watching just in case Neri decided to throw another punch his way.

    "Any idea what our fearless taskmaster is up to tonight? Still brightening the mood of everyone in the Dancing Seabear with that smile of his, I'd wager" he said. The bard spent a few moments contemplating taking a drink, considering the 'marathon' that he had just run, as Neri had so aptly put it. A hastily dipped finger quickly disabused him of the notion, however, when he realised just how cold the water really was. "I do so fancy a drink, but I'm not sure I'd want to sour the cheerful atmosphere he works so hard to cultivate"

  5. #5
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    "And I fancy a dry shirt," Neri grumbled, trying to ignore the cool air and the way the bard's eyes sparkled. It was as though he constantly knew some sort of joke but was not willing to share with anyone else - probably because more often than not, the joke was at the expense of the person asking. Even now, when he spoke about Rolan, Neri wondered what was it that Colm wasn't saying about her mentor. Much was implied but if she was to go and pull it apart, she would go crazy. Most likely, that is what caused the bard to constantly end up in...less than ideal situation, both with strangers and his own companions.

    "You don't want to break the cheery atmosphere or are you too chicken to face the red-head with the big blue eyes that you have been flirting with all week?" Neri finally finished wringing out most of the water, leaving only her trousers and shoes. The shoes would be an easy fix but the pants...Guess the old tavern owner would get grumpy at her again. Whatever, hopefully they would be leaving to go home soon. Kicking her shoes off, the girl looked up at the bard through her eyelashes, grinning. "Rumour has it, she is waiting for a marriage proposal from a certain hopeless musician."

    Straightening, she started towards the building, trying not to run and knowing the bard wouldn't risk remaining alone outside, especially not when his friends were still on the lookout for him. Opening the back door, she looked up and down the corridor, hoping none of the tavern workers would notice her and start complaining to Hogarth. Bitting her lip in concentration, the young girl started making her way upstairs to the room that they all shared.

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    The unexpected mention of his latest fling, and word of the marriage proposal that was supposedly close behind, finally caused Colm to falter. He hesitated for just the briefest of moments, a grimace breaking through the veil with which he normally masked his true emotions. Truth be told, it was probably the most honest expression to grace his features since the sun had gone down that evening. The only one that hadn't been carefully planned out in advance, or was being used to provoke some sort of effect, at the very least. Commitment was, apparently, something of a weakness for the aforementioned hopeless musician.

    When he finally managed to recover some fragment of his composure, Colm quickly hurried after Neri, who had disappeared inside during his brief lapse. He rushed in through the door behind her, moving at a brisk, hurried walk as he tried to catch up. While he moved, his mind was already working, trying to figure out ways to play off her comment as if it were nothing. Only when he caught up did the bard slow, matching his pace so that he was consistently just a few steps behind.

    "Ah, what an unfortunate woman. Love's sting can be a cruel thing indeed, making fair maidens pine for someone they simply cannot be with..or, well, so I imagine" he answered, hastily trying to adopt an air of nonchalance. His attempt quickly proved moderately successful - not so convincing as his usual facade, but not a bad imitation, under the circumstances. Hopefully it would be enough to keep Neri convinced. "I wonder who scorned her so in the past, if she feels the need to try and rush into a relationship with someone she's only just met."

    His tone had shifted a little, becoming almost contemplative as the two of them approached the upper landing. As the staircase levelled out and they found themselves in the upper hallway leading to all the various rooms, he brought a hand up to stroke his goatee contemplatively. She may not have been able to see the gesture while he was standing behind her, but it still felt right.

    "What do you think, Neri? Your kind has emotions, right? Care to weigh in?"

    ----

    The front entrance of the Dancing Seabear swung open, briefly allowing the chill evening wind into the tavern, whilst allowing the noise of its patrons to spill out into the street. For a few brief moments the two different worlds seemed to collide, mingling at the boundary, and doing their best to spill over into the other. Two newcomers stepped in through the open portal before allowing the door to swing closed behind them, separating the differing atmospheres once again.

    Their arrival was largely ignored by the patrons of the Dancing Seabear. Most were too deep in their cups or too invested in their cards to notice, and many of those who did only gave the two a passing glance, before turning their gaze away again. Still, those who did look would find the two were as different as chalk and cheese.

    The first was a large man with a thuggish look about him. Standing well over six feet tall, violence was written all over him in language too bold to ignore. A thin sleeveless vest made a point of showing off his impressive physique, and the myriad of scars that covered it - both the sort that came only from a lifetime spent cracking skulls. His face was a tad less fortunate. A scar cut across the corner of his mouth, twisting his expression into a permanent frown, and his nose looked crooked - as if it had been broken several times throughout the course of his life, and had refused to heal properly. He surveyed the room with calm composure, flicking over each and every individual person who was currently residing within...as if searching the room for threats, or searching for someone.

    His companion was quite the opposite in just about every way. A woman, both short and petite, with the sort of complexion that suggested a rather relaxed upbringing. She was dressed in a rather modest manner, and whilst the clothes appeared simple, they were of decent quality. An unremarkable cloak and hood obscured the vast majority of her facial features, but failed to hide a stream of luscious black curls, long enough to reach down past her collar. All things considered, she seemed barely old enough to be frequently taverns around the city, Unlike her companion, she kept her gaze focused largely on her companion, instead of their surroundings.

    After a few moments spent lingering in the entranceway, the man’s gaze settled upon Rolan. The man threw a glance towards the princess, spoke a few words that were lost amongst the background noise, before nodding at the seated rogue. Following her companion’s gaze, the woman quickly glanced his way. Together, the two of them approached where Rolan was seated, stopping on the opposite side of the table.

    “Rolan Nemetsk?”

    It was the man who spoke first, his words less of a greeting, and more of a question. He wanted to confirm that he had the right person before moving on to business…or letting his charge get too close.

  7. #7
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    Slightly muddled blue eyes looked up at the tall, menacing figure towering over him across from the small wooden table. The man had spoken with a clear accent, spiced with what could have been called ‘aristocratic air’, a sure sign that this was not a place that he frequented in any capacity. Most people possessing such an accent would be a part of the elite guards and wanna-be upper class, those who only bought finer things and rarely made their way to the docks where whores and muggings were aplenty. If not for the well defined muscles and the weapon that was clearly bringing this man some comfort, Rolan would have ignored him completely. Instead, he took another swing of wine, frowning slightly as the bottle echoed back in half-emptiness, before turning his gaze to the second figure.

    The rogue’s eyes rolled lazily over the figure, unmistakably female and very unmistakably pretty. The shadows of the room and her hood obscured most of her features except for her plush lips, pink and full, though she currently had them slightly pursed, a sign of nervousness, discomfort or determination. With his head buzzing softly, Rolan wasn’t really certain which it was nor did he care. His eyes trailed to end up on her hands and he immediately raised an eyebrow. They were perfect, smooth skinned and manicured nails, with fingers that knew how to play a harp or wear rings, not the struggles of a weapon or a plow. They were the hands of a true lady however one were to interpret that word and if he would allow his mind to wander, he could trace the soft hands to a tender body and an innocents one didn’t encounter in a seaside brothel. Pardon, a seaside tavern.

    “Aye, Rolan Nemetsk, that’s me! But just Rolan for you high-end folk,” the rogue gave the bigger man a smirk, lifting his bottle up and swishing the dark ruby liquid within. “Or Rolan the murderer, depending on who you ask. Come, sit, join me for a drink. Though,” his lips curled up even more, “you may need to request your own set of wine, I ain’t one to share.”

    Placing the bottle back on the table, Rolan stood up with an easy feline grace, stretching and within a second, his gaze rapidly becoming crystal clear, not a hint of alcohol in the blue eyes. Moving like a shadow, he slid up beside the young woman, instantly noticing her mind-spinning perfume. Very good mind spinning perfume. The smirk grew a bit cockier as he offered her a chair, leaning in to assist her and catching a faint spell of fresh green apples coming from her hair. Yes, this was no mere brothel gal, she was a high socialite. And if there was anything that Rolan had learned to trust, it was his gut screaming ‘big money coming this way.’

    “If there is anything I love more than good wine and pleasant company, is the courtesy to know who I am speaking to.” The rogue raised an eyebrow as he slipped back into his seat, his gaze looking intensely at the hooded feminine figure and completely ignoring her bodyguard. “Who do I have the pleasure of drinking with tonight?”


    *****

    Neri raised an eyebrow as she pushed the door to their room open, leaving it for the bard to close. Plotting along to her sack of clean, dry clothes, she rummaged to pull out a shirt and trousers, along with socks and underclothes. Swallowing her first reaction to punch the man, she instead tried to feel out the response out on her tongue, rolling it back and forth to try and savor the flavor.

    “Are you trying to woo me, Colm?” she asked quietly, pulling off her damp shirt and tossing it on the floor. Glancing over her shoulder, the young woman glared at the blonde until he turned away. Rolling her eyes, she stripped off the breast band and slipped on a thicker one with a bit more support before sliding a dry blue shirt atop that. The pants were harder to pull off – the wet material refused to roll down her skin and as she fought the trousers, she ended up tumbling down in a heap of limbs and spilling muffled curses that would make some sailors blush. Finally detangling herself and starting to pull on the warm dry cotton pants. Huffing at a loose strand, the redhead glanced at the bard.

    “Wouldn’t feeling take up too much energy? Though you’re the educate one Colm, you’d know,” she grinned, wiggling her toes before slipping on wool socks and sliding her feet into boots. “Come give me a hand up – be somewhat useful.”

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    Suspicions as to his identity confirmed, the larger man threw a quick glance back towards the woman. He gave her a single nod, an unspoken sign that it was safe for them to proceed...or as safe as one could be in a tavern like this, at the very least. He quickly helped himself to a seat, the wooden chair he had picked groaning in protest under his immense bulk. The woman herself proved more reluctant. She hesitated for a moment when the man they had come to find slid up beside her, his own confession of murder from just a few moments ago lingering at the forefront of her mind. Finally, however, she relented, and took the seat that he offered to her. This was the man she had come so far to find, after all - it wouldn't do to back out now, and see all that effort wasted.

    "Who, indeed?"

    It was the woman who spoke this time. Her voice was quiet - so much so that it likely would have proved inaudible when pitted against the noise that filled their tavern backdrop, had they not been sitting so close. Even so, her tone was soft as silk, and rich as honey. She enunciated every word properly, and spoke with the easy air of one who was used to other people listening, and obeying. Yet more clear signs that she was a member of the city's upper class, if not outright high nobility. Those two words alone would go a great length towards confirming everything that Rolan already suspected about the mysterious woman who might become, in short order, his employer.

    The answer to his question remained a mystery for the moment, and the larger man took it upon himself to gesture towards one of the serving girls roaming about the room. The larger man was rewarded with two glasses of wine for his efforts - and a few coins besides. Once both he and his companion had drinks positioned in front of them, he took a brief glance around the rest of the room. When he was certain they had escaped the attention of the tavern's other residents did he glance back across at the woman, before finally speaking once more.

    "I'd say this is as close to private as we are going to get. If you're going to tell him, do it now" he offered gruffly, before busying himself with a sip from his glass. The man wrinkled his nose a little, giving the impression that he would have preferred something stronger, but continued to nurse his new drink without complaint. The woman, satisfied with his assessment, finally went to lower her hood. With slow and deliberate movements, she grasped the edges of it in one hand, before pulling the thing down.

    The face beneath the hood was pretty enough. The woman's flowing black curls framed a face that boasted clear skin and a pleasing shape. Most striking, however, were her eyes. Even as Rolan watched, the colour of her irises seemed to change. A mixture of yellow, amber, and red that seemed to shift and shimmer constantly, as if unable to decide between themselves.

    Burning eyes. A trait possessed only by the bloodline of Impiltur's royal family, if the rumours were to be believed.

    She spent a few moments searching Rolan's face for any sort of reaction, before the woman finally continued.

    "Lady Ardina will do for now. Though I'd prefer if you didn't say it too often, or too loudly. Wouldn't want anyone getting the wrong idea, and you probably know the dangers of people wandering around places like this better than we do"

    ----

    Colm quickly followed his mark into their room, shutting the door behind himself as expected. When Neri spoke, however, it was his turn to raise an eyebrow. For a second he almost thought that was a serious question, before promptly disregarding the idea. She'd seen him woo enough barmaids to know better. No, it seemed much more likely that she was simply trying to beat him at his own game. Had she perhaps been learning from his own shit-stirring antics this entire time? Now there was an interesting thought.

    "Oh please, Neri. Surely you've seen me try and woo enough barmaids to know what it looks like by now" he answered, trying to sound dismissive When she glared at him, he briefly considered waiting her out - and gave her a grin to make sure she knew it - but in the end decided to relent. Going down that path was probably the easiest way for him to earn himself a beating, and as much as he enjoyed poking fun at her, they still made for a somewhat successful deterrent. He turned away just as she wanted, and contented himself with staring at a particularly interesting section of wall whilst waiting for her to change. The thumping and swearing that followed was almost enough to make him look back, but he caught himself at the last moment.

    "Be useful? Ah, but I've spent such a very long time trying to cultivate a reputation for uselessness, just so people would stop expecting me to do things. I wouldn't want to ruin that now, would I?" he asked. Despite his words, however, the bard did finally turn. He took a few casual steps towards Neri, eyeing her fallen form, before reaching out with one hand in offering. After a few moments of genuine heaving, he had the northerner back on his feet.

    "Just don't tell anyone and it should be fine" he added once she was up again, before glancing about the room. Strolling over to his own bunk, Colm withdrew the black leather case that he had left sitting by it before going out to search for a game of cards. Placing the thing on his bunk, the bard undid the polished metal clasps, before opening the lid to reveal the lute stashed within. Inwardly, he breathed out a sigh of relief. Colm hadn't wanted to take the thing out with him, lest something happen to it, but had felt oddly exposed without it. Once he was content that all was in order, he closed the case, before slinging it over one shoulder casually. Whatever the rest of the night had in store for them, he felt much more prepared now.
    Last edited by Namingtoohard; 05-08-2019 at 01:57 PM.

  9. #9
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    Neri rolled her eyes, wiping her hands on her pants, her green eyes watching Colm with suspicion. The bard was helpful from time to time but more often than not, something else would capture his attention and he would be off, singing love songs and making goo-goo eyes at whatever it was. Or running away – fast. The second was always much more entertaining, especially when Rolan forbade her to get involved, watching their companion run around wildly, and picking up surprising speed that would allow him to win any marathon. Eventually, even the rogue would give in and with a nod of his chin, Neri would be there to test her own skills against whoever it was Colm brought with him. Helpful was very subjective, the girl sighed, remembering her favorite encounter, including a huge Dragonborn who demanded the bard marry her after an unfortunate wooing.

    “I wouldn’t be able to ever tell anyone that you are helpful,” she teased as she watched him, observing the way he visibly exhaled watching his instrument. Although Neri would never admit it, she was weary of the instrument especially when the bard took it into his hands and his fingers started to play. Something about the music, the way the man put power into every chord, the magic that flowed from the strings – all of that made her uneasy. From what she knew of her past – which wasn’t much at all – music always had power but that didn’t mean Neri liked it. In fact, she hated anything that would force her to go against her instincts and Colm’s magic…Shaking her head, she never the less slung her own weapons casually into their places, following the man’s lead. The evenings were always rowdy and if she ended up caught in a sticky situation, it would be to her and her alone to get out. Rolan wouldn’t lift a finger any more for her than he would for the bard. In his eyes, it would be sink or swim.

    “Come on, I’m starving,” Neri pushed the door open, starting more confidently down the corridor, pushing her red hair out of her face and over her shoulder. Passing one of the doors, Neri had to jump to the side as the door swung open and she was exposed to a very naked man. Blushing slightly, she averted her eyes as the man grunted and shot an angry couple of phrases in elvish at the naked girl on his bed. The nocturnal butterfly only shrugged, stretching out on the bed coquettishly and winking at the bard.

    “What you starin’ at?” the man barked at Neri, the girl involuntarily taking a few steps back to bump into Colm’s tall frame with her back. She was never one to really back down from a challenge but nakedness, passion and intimacy were so foreign that while she knew of them, she was yet uncomfortable with the idea of a naked man sleeping beside her, kissing her or even appearing before her. Reminding herself to breathe, taking comfort in her companion’s chest supporting her, Neri was able to get her act together somewhat to finally catch the man’s gaze. Before she could respond, the man scowled and his gaze narrowed. He turned to face the bard, ignoring the redhead completely. “Where I come from, we keep our curs in line and gazes down. Make sure yours does the same.”

    *******

    Rolan’s eyebrows rose up as the woman revealed her hood. At first his blue eyes skimmed over her features and pretty much flawless skin. His gaze then stopped at her fiery eyes, literally burning into his, daring him to question. And question he did want – a member of royalty in one of the sleaziest taverns in the city was not something you see every day. Especially a young female royal who was looking for the dark side of the law. His inner voice spoke to him to just walk away – why would someone ever look for him unless it was for a very specific job? And what job could this young woman possibly want him to do? Politics were messy as they were and if he was to get involved….he should just walk away now, before he was roped into a job from which there was no return.

    Nodding absently to the last of the woman’s words, Rolan reached for her hand, selfishly enjoying the velvet skin under his rough fingers. Tilting his head in a slight indication that he understood her position – at least abstractly – the rogue planted an elegant kiss, letting the hand slip away from his fingers, a confident smirk on his lips. His blue eyes focused back on hers, taking in the mystery and desperately trying to talk himself out of the venture. Surprisingly, he was almost 100% involved in whatever this girl was to offer, even knowing he would regret it. Why it was, he couldn’t say, but it wouldn’t be even for the money. Sighing, he leaned back in his seat, his gaze sweeping the main floor and absently making note of everyone and everything around them before he returned to his guests.

    “Don’t worry, miss, no one here gives two coppers past who you were unless you were to,” he paused, smirking at his own thoughts before shaking his head, “unless you were to lower your bodice by a few inches and hike your skirt up.” The guard shot Rolan a peculiar disapproving look but the rogue only smirked, watching the young noblewoman’s reaction. From the corner of his eye, he could see Hogarth looking curiously at the trio before something else drew the tavern owner away from them. Taking another sip of wine from the bottle, Rolan disappeared into the shadows.

    “So, how can I help you? After all, it’s not every day someone like you looks for an assassin.”

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    Feeling infinitely more prepared for the rest of the evening, Colm nodded in simple agreement when Neri suggested that they round out the evening with a meal. Good food was relatively high on his list of priorities, so he followed quickly and without complaint, slipping out into the hall and pulling the door closed behind himself once more. Just like before, he lingered just a few steps behind Neri as they proceeded down the narrow hallway. All the while, his mind ticked over as he tried to come up with another amusing topic or joke that he could throw her way. Some things weren’t ever likely to change.

    He was so focused on his own internal thought process that he almost didn’t realise when the naked man burst out into the corridor in front of them, and bumped into Neri slightly because of it. He raised a questioning eyebrow at the sight, and a sly grin turned up the corners of his mouth slightly as he took stock of the full situation. For a moment, it almost seemed as if the gods that be had done their best to provide him with yet another opportunity. That attitude quickly changed when he heard the man speak, however. His smile faded a little at the man’s angry tone, and the casual way this total stranger insulted Neri quickly banished any lingering sense of amusement. It was a tight squeeze within the confines of the narrow corridor, but he did his best to step up alongside Neri, placing a hand on her shoulder almost protectively.

    "Is that so?" Colm asked the man, doing his best to sound casual and keep his expression neutral, despite the annoyance bubbling underneath. He threw an exaggerated glance at the man's current state of undress, and allowed a small smile to curl up the corners of his mouth. Just a hint, but enough to irritate the man further.

    "That certainly doesn't look like the case to me, considering the circumstances" he offered. At this point the bard threw a not-so-subtle glance towards the woman lying in bed, before breaking out into a wholehearted grin. He returned her wink with one of his own, all to the purpose of upsetting and offending the rude asshole. When she spoke next, his voice had dropped to a conspiratorial whisper. Loud enough for all to hear, but hushed enough to give the impression that he was trying - and failing - to be discreet.

    "Tell me. Between us men, what led to this? Did she simply tire of your ineptitude, or did she discover that you didn't have the funds to pay her for her services anymore?" he asked. The bard's facade cracked a little then, and he was unable to help but let out a chuckle. The naked man, on the other hand, quickly went red in the face, from anger just as much as embarrassment.

    "Now listen here you piece of shit-"

    "Leave it, friend" Colm said, cutting off the man's pending monologue. The bard made a show of bringing one hand to rest on the hilt of his rapier, which had previously been hidden by the edges of his cloak. Trying to draw the weapon would’ve been an awkward thing in this crowded part of the hallway, but he simply wanted to draw the man’s attention to it. The threat hung heavy in the air for a moment, and after a few tense seconds, the stranger darted back inside – pulling the door closed behind him with a loud thump. The muffled sound of a woman’s laughter and some more shouting could be heard from behind the door, and Colm quickly cracked a grin, before turning back towards his companion.

    “Come on. I’m starving” he said, mirroring her words from earlier. He made no effort to ask if she was alright, or otherwise acknowledge what had just happened. To do so would demean both of them. The bard set off again, taking the lead this time as he trundled down the stairs. Partway through he glanced back over his shoulder at his companion.

    “Hey, maybe I can cut a deal with the bartender. Offer to liven this place up with a bit of music in exchange for a free meal and a few drinks” he offered, a devilish grin flickering across his features. A totally innocent suggestion, or an absolutely disastrous one, depending on whether he decided to settle for regular music, or imbued the notes with magic.

    ----

    Ardina was a little surprised when their host helped himself to her hand, following court decorum despite their current setting. She was composed enough to avoid jumping, but was a little too aware of how such a thing might appear to any onlookers. As soon as he was done, she pulled her hand back as quickly as she could, as if eager to be free of his touch. The royal's face quickly drew into a displeased frown at the words that followed, and a hint of red touched her cheeks, betraying her embarrassment. Her guard chuckled into his cup at the rouge's words, and Ardina threw a pointed glare in his direction. The man gave her an amused smile, before hiding it with another sip from his mug, quickly sinking back into silence. Despite their respective appearances, it was quickly becoming apparent who was in charge between the two of them.

    "Its not so much that I need you to...take care of anyone else for me. More that I need protection from anyone else who might think of returning the favour. Professional or otherwise"

    Her initial point made, the princess quickly reached for her hood once more. She tugged the thing up over her head in one smooth motion, effectively reversing the process from before. As she had just proved, her unique eyes made it easy for anyone who so much as glanced at her face to identify her. Despite Rolan's assurances, she wanted to remain as anonymous as possible - for multiple reasons. The idea that any of the seedier residents of this particular district might decide to try their luck if they recognised her walking about this late at night. Her thuggish friend was supposed to be insurance against that sort of thing, but it was by no means a sure thing...and that was hardly her only fear. No, discretion was definitely the safer path.

    "I have a long journey to make, and require protection for the trip. Something more...discreet than what my family's guards usually offer, and capable of defending against less direct threats. Hardly the sort of work you're known for, I know, but if anyone in this world can make it worth your while..." she trailed off, a wry smile flickering across her features, before she gave a dismissive shrug.

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