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Revelation: The Cure

District Alpha

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a part of Revelation: The Cure, by Kurokiku.

The wealthiest district in Revelation.

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Setting

Contains the Nexus as well as a residential sector and a market.
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District Alpha

The wealthiest district in Revelation.

Minimap

District Alpha is a part of The Skycity of Revelation.

2 Places in District Alpha:


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Two weeks after The Cure was discovered, the repercussions were beginning to fully sink in. Already, manufacturing facilities were mass-producing it, and at first its creators could not have been happier. Finally, the disease that had long plagued the poorest of citizens had an affordable remedy, and in tandem with the new air filtration systems in place, it seemed that those in Delta might actually draw breath without fear of contracting an incurable malady.

Unfortunately, that promise was to be most egregiously delayed in its fulfillment. Under the orders of some of the most influential members of Parliament, shipments of the Cure to Delta were stopped, stockpiled instead on the private estates of anonymous individuals with enough money to buy all the goods produced. Only a few nobles and the odd wealthy merchant were able to obtain vials of The Cure for their own malady, and to these it was administered almost immediately, side effects be damned.

By the time Prometheus Vanderbilt came to understand why the delay was occurring, it was out of his hands. Everything on his end had been as perfect as science could make it: the formula balanced, the ingredients painstakingly catalogued, the proper tests run, symptoms categorized and mapped with precision, and all for what? That it might be used for an incidental purpose he came to wish he had never discovered.

-From the Journals of Amon Gregory





“This is terrible, simply terrible!” Prometheus Vanderbilt covered the length of his laboratory in shuffling, hurried strides over and over again. Pacing was a nervous habit of his, actually, and a frequent one when he was trying to work his way through a problem for which the answer was not yet clear. He wrung his bony, wrinkled hands, popping each of the joints in succession with the timing of his footfalls.

Joshua Blackwood, his senior lab assistant, stood against one wall, following the old man’s frantic pacing with brilliant violet eyes but otherwise not showing much of anything in the way of response. That was fine; it was clear that Dr. Vanderbilt was mostly talking to himself. Atalanza was there, too, of course; the three of them were those primarily responsible for the development of The Cure, after all, and the latter two did most of their work with the aging genius besides.

“We invent a cure, we’re poised to rid the city of a foul disease, and all Parliament wants is to neutralize mages!” The hunched man’s muttering had become increasingly more shrill, and it was obvious to those that knew him that for all his pretensions to gruff bluster on most occasions, he was now truly angered. Though his eyesight was beginning to go, his gaze seemed sharper than ever as it searched first Joshua’s face, then Atalanza’s.

“There has to be a way to stop this… a way to force them to see reason!” Joshua shook his head slowly. So brilliant, so unfathomably intelligent was this little old man, and yet for all that, he had not the foggiest idea of what such an inclination would put him up against.

“Parliament does not deal in reason, Prometheus. Nor in the greater good. Petitioning them to have the Cure placed back under Marchfield’s control would be a futile endeavor.” His statement was phrased with careful neutrality; he did not want to set off his employer any more than was necessary.

Unfortunately, such a degree of care meant that the underlying implications were completely lost on Dr. Vanderbilt. “So then we go higher! We petition the Crown. We have to do something, Joshua. Unless you would have us do nothing at all, and watch as Parliament starts a war!”

The taller of the two men ran a hand through his salt-and-pepper hair and sighed through his nose with a long-suffering air. He’d had a feeling it would come to this, and he didn’t like it one bit. When he’d gone into science, he’d forsaken all ties with his blood relatives, and had chosen to build his own fortune as a man of knowledge, not politics. He’d sworn to himself that he’d never use the connections that had once been his for anything. But now it looked as though he would have no choice. “Do not cast me the villain in this, Prometheus. The Crown will not likely help us any more than Parliament would, and I assure you that my sister and niece are likely more than aware of the situation already. However… if it will bring you some sort of satisfaction, I suppose I can try.”

“Fine, fine,” Vanderbilt agreed with a wave of his hand. “And what of you, Atalanza? Do you see perhaps some solution that misses an old man and his oldest apprentice?” Both sets of eyes, a cloudy gray and deep purple, swung to the room’s third occupant, and the sole female.




Duke David Gilgamesh was the sort of man who saw no harm in congratulating himself on a job well done, provided it didn’t interfere with anything that still needed doing. This was one such instance; his personal stockpile of The Cure was growing ever larger, and so were those of his allies, while his opponents still wondered where all the supply was disappearing to. Remarkable, how people could be persuaded to keep silent with the right incentive.

It varied from person to person, of course. Money was enough for most, and money he had to spare. His personal fortune, the product of shrewd investments and rather ruthless- some would say underhanded- business practices, was greater than the Crown’s, to say nothing of the rest of the city. Sometimes, when money was not enough, the disappearance of a child or ailing relative was enough to earn capitulation, and the safe return of the hostage of course. None would speak of it afterwards, and obviously he made sure that nobody ever saw his face or heard his voice when captive anyway. Sometimes, being free of the oppressive weight that was a conscience was quite beneficial.

This was certainly what kept him always one step ahead of that whelp of a princess and her little band of interfering fools. Assassins, scientists, even a mage, for Elisia’s sake- none of it was anywhere near enough to stop him. They knew it was him who sent people after their lives, but they were so incapable of proving even the faintest connection that to accuse him would be their defeat, not his.

The one thing that continued to rib at him was that they all so stubbornly refused to die. It was worse than some kind of pestilence, but the past year had convinced him that keeping them in their little ratholes was enough. The day Loki had won a seat in Parliament, he would admit he had been worried, but not enough had changed for it to affect his long-term plans.

And then of course Prometheus and his lackeys at Marchfield had finally made themselves useful and dropped the coup de grace right into his lap… it was quite nearly too good to be true, and so of course he had thought it might be and dragged one of those magic-slinging animals up from the hellhole they lived in and tried it himself. Not only was The Cure exactly as effective as Vanderbilt thought, but Gilgamesh had discovered that sustained exposure was fatal. It looked like if their little vermin bodies were kept from processing their abominable energies for too long, they simply up and died. Or maybe that was the dehydration. It scarcely mattered.

He was not so foolish as to believe he could have his plan enacted they way things were now- no, it was far too soon, the magi far too placid to convince those indecisive middle-ground bastards that they needed to die. It would take much more for that sort of measure to be sanctioned, but Gilgamesh was ever a forward-thinker, and he already knew what he was going to do about that.

“Tell my wife I’ll be out for the day,” he informed his steward, and the man bowed silently before taking his exit. “I’ve got business to attend to…”




Loki stepped out of the smallcraft, alighting on the staircase which led up to a rather impressive home. She’d let Zade have the day off, so it was only her old bodyguard Carlisle with her at this point, which may have seemed a little reckless for someone who’d dealt with four separate assassination attempts in the past year. She wasn’t too worried; the security at her destination was uniquely-suited to dealing with the same.

Treading up the stairs, she rapped on the large front door and stood back, smoothing her palms over the front of her obsidian-colored gown. Social calls still weren’t something she was terribly familiar with, but then this one had three purposes, only two of them actually social.

If the manservant who answered was surprised to see the Princess at the door, he did not show it, immediately dropping into a bow and ushering herself and her self-proclaimed human shield inside. The interior of the home was as tasteful and impressive as the outside, probably largely unchanged for quite some years. That ended to be the way of the older aristocratic homes, hers included.

She spotted one of the causes for her visit right away, apparently occupying himself in the way only children can by dashing about the foyer with his arms held out by his sides. She waited for the boy to notice her, then crossed to where he stood, crouching until she was at even height with her cousin. “Siri,” she greeted with a small smile, ruffling his hair. “How are you? Is your father up and about yet?”

Loki was not generally good with children, but this was her little cousin, and she liked him a good deal more than the older one. A reason among several why she’d chosen to bring him here rather than leave him in the custody of her aunt and uncle. The latter was far too busy with his work, and the former was just… well, no need to think about that too much. He’d been but a spare anyway, now he was heir to perhaps the kindest person the Princess knew, and one of but few friends she could claim to have.

It had only been a couple of weeks since Caelin had taken his dose of The Cure, and she’d also come to see how his recovery was going. Parliament was not in session today, so she’d thought a personal visit might not be too much of an inconvenience. Not to mention, of course, that there was some news she needed to pass on.

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The sultry orange glow of the mid-morning sun glared through the windows and settled upon a woman whose wisps of pale-gold hair blew about the frame of her face. She was an attractive woman whose face was nonetheless marred by bitter regret. In moments like these, when she was alone in her rooms, sipping her tea and looking out over the beautiful estate gardens, Imogene did not feel the need to mask her sadness. After all, the only creatures present to see her current state were the bluebirds chirping cheerfully on the railing of her large veranda style balcony. It seemed as if they were trying to give her the promise of a peaceful day, but peace was a state of being which had left her alone for quite some time now.

Imogene gripped the delicate porcelain tea cup with more force and brought it to her pale lips, allowing the firmly set line to slacken enough to grant the entrance of the honey sweetened liquid into her mouth. She breathed in its smell, and the long wisps of steam coming from the cup. She liked her tea hot; nearly scalding. It had been her preference since she was still young enough for it to be alarming to her mother. Imogene had never allowed her to slip an ice cube into her drink, like her mother wanted to. It had been one of the few things she was firm on.

There was a knock on the door, and Imogene had the sudden urge to sob into her tea. But tears had left her almost as long ago as peace had. Tears were not a solution to anything. Her grief ran to deep for them.

“Come in,” she said in a more unforgiving tone than she had intended. Her maid entered: Katie. A red-headed slip of a girl who looked young enough to be her daughter. Her daughter. Imogene had promised herself she would stop saying that word. Each time it was thought, or uttered, it had the force of a knife plunging into her body, and all the pain.

“May I dress you, Madame?” Katie asked. The poor girl. She never knew if she was coming or going with Imogene. The Lady had changed her mind so many times about every small detail recently. She was surprised this girl was keeping up so well.

Imogene said nothing. She simple set down her tea cup and stood near her wardrobe with her arms outstretched and waited. The maid wasted no time in doing what she was wordlessly bid. She dressed her in a beautiful champagne colored chiffon gown, and dressed her hair in the way Imogene liked. The whole time, the Lady couldn’t feel anything but a sense of numbness in her body.

“Is my husband at home?” she asked finally in monotone.

“No, Madame. I believe I saw him leave earlier this morning. I was asked by his steward to mention that he would be gone for the entire day.”

It was just as well. The last thing Imogene wished to see most days was Lord Gilgamesh’s face. Each time she saw it, she though of nothing but the nights he would come home still smelling of alcohol and another woman’s perfume. Instead of going to his own room, he would first come to her. She would have thought his lust had been satisfied, but still he came to her bed. He was determined to torment her, she was sure. Especially now that she’d disgraced him by producing such a disappointing child.

Imogene was sure she never would have expected so much of love if her parent’s hadn’t given her such a shining example. Her life was not unlike the hundreds of other wives of nobleman who took what they wanted, damn who it hurt. Her parents were the odd ones; the exception to the rule. And because of them she had been so bitterly disappointed when her fairytale took such a sad turn. She would never experience the love her father had for her mother. No one would ever love her that way.

Her daughter had made the days worthwhile, until he took her away along with everything else Imogene loved. There, she’d done it again. She’d let her guard down and that beautiful little face enter into her mind. David had said it would be easier if she just forgot. Imogene had tried, but she never could. No matter what she did, Imogene would always have her memories, and the knowledge that her daughter was somewhere out there in the world; perhaps at the Facility, or somewhere in Delta. If only Imogene knew for certain. She was sure the knowledge would bring her some kind of closure, even if she could never have her Sigrun back.

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Joshua had caught Atalanza's under-the-breath utterance, and a sardonic smile tugged at the edges of his mouth. He'd thought so too- still did most of the time, as a matter of fact. But his bitterness had long ago subsided into a dull sensation that bothered him only infrequently. He had hermited himself here in Marchfield, much as the old man who mentored him. Though he had both a private residence and a family, he saw them much less frequently than he probably should, one of the first things his sharp-tongued niece had so helpfully pointed out to him when she had petitioned him to allow his younger son to be adopted by another.

Giacomo Vernazza, one of the few scientists allowed to come and go through here essentially as he pleased, entered rather suddenly, speaking about his air purification engine. A rather impressive accomplishment, and one that had earned the man respect from fewer people than it should have. Joshua personally had known the man for a number of years and was glad of his efforts, not that that was worth a great deal. He was opening his mouth to point out that because there had initially been only one conceivable purpose for The Cure in the beginning, they had not bothered to consider that anyone would want to hoard it when Atalanza saved him the trouble, and he inclined his head in agreement.

"Still," he pointed out thoughtfully, "the idea of moving production underground is appealing. The problem is, I know of nobody with that kind of capability who would be willing to assist us. It's not something that could be produced in the necessary quantities in a lab setting without more funding than out department gets in a year."

Prometheus's eyes lit up when his younger assistant mentioned bettering the formula. "Yes, yes, a new formula, a new patent. Try and figure a way to reduce side-effects... Have to find a willing mage test subject. I wonder where Pandora is these days? Ah, but it will take so much more time... time, time, do we have enough time...?" The old man shuffled over to one of his many stacks of notes and began flipping through them, muttering to himself. Those who knew him well recognized this state; he was fully immersed in his own thoughts and would probably only give terse replies to any questions directed at him.

He seemed to snap out of it just long enough to remember he was not alone. "Well, what are you waiting for? We attack on multiple fronts! The three of you go see the Queen, and I'll get to work!" He seemed to forget for a moment that Giacomo was not actually involved on this project, but at least Joshua didn't.

"Congratulations on your success, Giacomo. You are of course not obligated to come, though am I not correct in saying that you receive funding directly from the Crown? Perhaps your assistance would be more valuable than mine for this." He shot a glance at Atalanza and shrugged as if to say 'might as well' and opened the laboratory door, allowing both of the others to pass before he shut it behind him, leaving the mad genius to his notes and his calculations. Prometheus wouldn't fail them, and he for one had no intention of failing Prometheus.




Seth Gilgamesh, his father's heir and perhaps more importantly his unpaid labor, was presently trying to coordinate where in the considerable state to store the shipments of The Cure that were coming in. The cellar was probably the best place for concealment purposes, but he had no desire to inhibit anyone's passage to the substantial quantities of drink to be found therein, least of all his father or himself. His father because frankly a sober David Gilgamesh was even more dangerous than a drunken one, in many senses of the term, and himself because sometimes a life spent covering up evidence of such a man's methods of persuasion was enough to warrant a stiff liquor or three.

"Just... in the dungeon for now, I suppose," he told the waiting courier from one of his sire's factories. Technically, those were supposed to be sealed off; personal dungeons in noble houses had been outlawed by the Queen and Parliament alike a number of years ago, after all, but well... Seth had no doubt at least that the ones beneath the palace no longer existed, but he would not presume to lay good money on anyone else having actually regarded the ordinance.

There was still a mountain of documents to be sorted through, and Seth had the intense desire to burn all of them for a moment, which signaled that it was probably a good time to take a break. He spent a few moments deciding what to do before he thought it might be best to take breakfast with his step-mother. The term was rather ludicrous; she was hardly five years his senior, but then this wasn't necessarily so uncommon. Especially not with second spouses. It didn't change anything, either, not really. Seth almost felt sorry for the poor woman, but his pity would be wasted there, and he certainly didn't have a whole lot of it to go around.

Emerging from his office, he directed a passing maid to inform the chef of where he'd be taking his meal, and made his way to the east wing, knocking on the door to Imogene's receiving room. Despite the public nature of his father's career, neither Seth nor the lady of the house left it much- he was too busy doing his father's office work, and she... well, any inclination she'd had to leave would probably have vanished with his half-sister, he supposed. The two of them didn't converse because they much cared about each other, he thought, but rather because there was simply no other outlet for mutual frustration. He had probably already told Imogene more than she should properly know of her husband's career and character, but he'd spared her the worst of it.




To say that she felt awkward being hugged about the waist by her little cousin was to do a disservice to the sheer level of discomfort that Loki was experiencing, but she handled it with as much grace as possible, patting him somewhat stiffly on the back. People did not regularly touch her, to say the least, but then children didn't really have the same boundaries as adults, now did they? On some level, it was nice to know she wasn't quite so stony as to prevent Siri from doing so.

Actually, she'd softened a great deal in the past year, in certain ways. It was almost amusing, actually; what most took to be an increasing resemblance to her mother was actually quite different: a growth more in the direction of Amon, who was able to be both expressive and still inscrutable at the same time. Her expressions were not overt, certainly not bombastic, but they were there, a small sign that perhaps everyone really was capable of change.

She smiled at the boy's recounting of his experiences here, and she knew she'd done something right by arranging it. A moment later, a much-improved-looking Lord Caelin Taylor appeared, and she echoed his warmth- if not in degree, than at least in intent. "Surely we can dispense with the formalities in our own residences, Caelin?" She was ushered into the parlor and took the offered seat, observing that in here at least, simplicity predominated over opulence. Something easily-appreciated and quite befitting of present company.

Sipping her tea and finding it pleasantly-flavored, she contemplated her answer for a moment. "Truthfully, I came for a number of reasons, mostly to see how you fared. I'm glad to see that the cure has already done you much good." She had stumbled upon knowledge of his illness in a rather unfortunate scenario that had involved a meeting (thankfully only with allies) in which he'd had a coughing fit. When the episode had left blood on the table, Loki had seen red in more than one sense. She'd been rather upset to say the least at the fact that he had not told her of something with such important implications, but once she'd had a chance to cool off, she'd realized that it really hadn't been any of her business and had never mentioned it again, at least not until she'd been informed of just what it was that occupied Prometheus Vanderbilt's time of late.

"I also came to check if you were aware of the... other implications of it." She referred of course to the discovered side-effects as well as what had been uncovered about its effect on magi.

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Her daily dress and grooming finished, Imogene had dismissed her maid and commenced wandering about in search of a purposeful occupation which might hold her memories and her grief at bay, if only for a little while. For she knew, if she spent one more moment pondering ruefully about what might have been, or if there were anything she could possibly do to change the sad twist of fate, she would simply go mad. Gliding into her personal receiving room with enough grace to make it seem as if she were on a cloud, her eyes fell on the small but beautifully embellished writing desk beneath one of the room’s many windows. It was one of the few things she had brought with her when she’d moved from her family’s estate to her husband’s, which was infinitely more grand.

Imogene remembered that time well; back when David had still seemed as enamored of her as she had been of him. He had spared no expense, allowing her to decorate the rooms which would become hers after their shared duration in the estate’s own personal “honeymoon suite” as lavishly as she pleased. He told her she need bring nothing with her, but, on the desk, she had insisted. It had been a tradition on her mother’s side of the family to pass the writing desk from mother to daughter. Her mother had given it to her upon her marriage to David, just as she would one day give it to her daughter. Of course, she’d had no idea, no inkling that she would never be allowed that privilege…

Sigrun’s birth had been difficult. It put quite a strain on Imogene, and the doctor told her, after Sigrun, there would be no more children. Even as the news was being given to her--David a few feet away in a darkened corner of the room--she held her newborn daughter in her arms, never guessing that she would one day be stolen away. At the time, Imogene couldn’t say that she much cared if she never had another child. The perfect child, and the only one Imogene could ever want was already lying swaddled in her arms, suckling from her breast for the first time; her little body was so close that it felt like an extension of her own, as if she would be bound to this baby by an invisible string which connected their two hearts forever.

It had been true enough. No matter the distance which currently gulfed between them now, that cord still tugged at her like the phantom limb of a man who’d been unfortunate enough to lose his arm or leg. Though it was gone, he could still feel it at times, maybe in the middle of the night, moving of its own accord as clearly as the days when it had still been attached to his body. Imogene was inexplicably tied to her daughter and could still feel her with a sense stronger than sight, touch, sound, smell or taste. She had felt it the moment Sigrun had entered the world, and she knew it would cease only in the moment that she ever left it. It was stronger than any emotion could ever be, and it was how she knew, without having to be told, that her daughter was still alive and well somewhere just out of reach. It was also what made the urge to know where she was and with whom all the stronger within her mother’s heart.

But what was to be done? Even if she had an inkling, she would never be able to keep it from the watchful eyes of her husband, she was sure. He had made it quite clear that, in his eyes, Sigrun had never existed, and she would do well to adopt his view, because their daughter would never be allowed back into their lives.

Pushing thoughts which only intensified her grief out of her head, she made her way to the aforementioned writing desk and sat down. Perhaps she could pass the time by writing to her mother…

Dearest Mother, she began, but as soon as the two words were written, the pen she held gingerly between her fingertips could only hover indecisively over the page. What was there to say, after all? Their favorite topic of conversation--for Grandmamma Clarissa had doted on her granddaughter as much as Imogene had--was now a taboo.

Imogene put the pen down and crumpled the paper into a ball. Her eyes turned sadly to the fishbowl on the windowsill which housed two black fish with golden bellies. They swam in a repetitive circular motion, as if they were playing follow the leader. Imogene watched them: round and round, and round and round they swam until they were nothing more than an inky blur that bled to meld effortlessly with the water. She watched, little understanding why the sight was so captivating.

A knock at the door made Imogene’s body lurch forward automatically, and she was pulled out of her hypnosis. It was then that she understood. Staring at those fish, her mind had been unequivocally blank. There were no thoughts, no memories or feelings in those few moments, and it felt immeasurably good to be so numb--mind and body--that nothing was real for once. She was loathe to have her lack of thought interrupted.

Imogene knew who it was, of course. Only three people sought her company these days, and only two of them knocked. Her husband came and went as he pleased and Imogene was sure that knocking was not an action he housed in his impressive repertoire. Katie had already came and went, which left only one person: Seth.

“Come in,” she called, still sitting at her writing desk. Seeing as Seth was the only person whose conversation could take her mind of other, more unpleasant things, Imogene enjoyed his visits as much as she could enjoy anything in her state, with grief so close, waiting in the wings, threatening to pounce on her the moment she let her guard down.

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#, as written by Smith
This was probably the worst part of being a mainstream member of the Guild. As a Hand, he had gone in without so much as a puff of displaced air to suggest his existence, donning his solid black leathers and disappearing. As a vagabond, tattered rags and stained pants was enough to keep him going unnoticed day to day. In his current occupation, Eos found the amount of costume changes vexing at times. As of this very moment Eos was dressed in gray and black formal attire suited for meeting friends and dining out. It still felt much too fancy and sifling for his sensibilities, although the vest and red tie did make him feel rather dashing.

As newly broken in leather shoes padded across the cobblestone, Eos adjusted the cuffs of his pristine dress-shirt and straightened the vest over it. He sensed the scrutiny of several Alpha-goers on a leisurely stroll, most of which could be traced back to members of the fairer sex. Imagined or not, their appraisal made him slightly uncomfortable. He was so used to being overlooked or people being oblivious to his presence that the feeling of others not simply noticing, but intentionally staring was unnerving. Eos was about to banish these thoughts and chock it up to paranoia when a passing lady and her daughters tossed a coy batting of her eyelashes his way and the latter two giggled.

Eos cleared his throat and adjusted his tie once more, continuing on his way. A short distance down the road the assassin's destination came into sight: The Gilgamesh Estate. He smirked and his thoughts grew clearer as his focus came to him. Ever since recovering from the rancid poisoning suffered from the well-aimed bolt of an enemy assassin a year previous, Eos had rigorously trained his mind and body alongside his former mentor. With Amon Gregory's help he learned to control his murderous impulses...although to say there was a flawless record on his attempts not to kill Amon would be a blatant lie. Still. Things felt better now. Sharper, more tangible.

The assassin slipped into the shadows between a gate and a neighboring estate and vaulted over once he was sure the coast was clear. The nearest three sentries were too focused on decorum and aesthetic appeal with their erect positions and unblinking stares into the distance that Eos was almost sure that he could have walked right past them instead of zig-zagging inbetween bushes and statues in the garden. As Eos neared the delicately engraved window, he contemplated what little information he'd been given on the nature of this assignment.

Six of the most likely candidates for the newest attempt on Loki's life had been listed for Eos and one other assassin to track down and interrogate, three each. As each had a relatively spotless record as far as politicians and bluebloods went, Eos's visit was more a formality and a veiled threat than anything else. Just to let them know that they were being watched. As for actual surveillance, that was up to whomever the Second-Masters had assigned to the task.

Silent as death Eos placed his foot on the lush carpet inside of the manse. The window closed with a click, it's picked lock resetting. Eos replaced the needle-like thieves tools on the inside of his vest and began walking as if all was normal. For all the servants knew, it was. High-nosed snobs and blackmailing politicians-to-be visited the Gilgamesh estate on a regular basis, so what was one more nicely dressed fellow wandering it's halls. Having memorized a bluprint of the structures earlier, Eos navigated th halls with ease. He smiled and nodded at each and every servant he passed, even tipping a silver or two to a couple of the younger ones. God knew they deserved it.

Eos pulled up alongside the younger Gilgamesh at the door to Imogene's room with a firendly smile. His sleeves had been rolled up and Eos's hand, black nail-polish and dark disks within the palms plain for all to see. An odd choice of decoration to most, and a sign of death to few others. "Evenin', lord. Mind if I join you for a chat? I represent the interests of several members of the aristocracy and parliament who would rather remain anonymous, of whom are interested in some possible activities your family may be involved in. Ludicrous, I know, Gilgamesh has always done so much for Revelation. But! Business is business!"

As the noble would enter, Eos would follow, keeping a polite distance and silence until properly addressed by the man or his mother. This first part of his mission was somewhat vague; The Second-Masters had said to draw information from any of the family at his discretion, as they were not completely sure of who--even if they were--planning to make a move.

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Sitting under the open window, Imogene was able to feel the fresh air on her skin. The smell was calming and she breathed it in deeply. With a twinge of guilt, she thought of the stories she’d heard about the quality of air in the Delta District where her daughter most likely lived now. She had heard that the living conditions were awful, and that the air was no better then a poison. Of course, Imogene had never been there herself, and the suffering of the occupants of District Delta was not a popular topic of conversation in the crowds she frequented--or use to. She decided to shut the window with a snap. Imogene was suddenly very angry with the fresh air.

When Seth didn’t enter immediately after she called for him to come in, she turned her head to the door expectantly. She couldn’t be sure, but she thought she heard two voices outside her door: Seth’s and a stranger’s, however, she couldn’t make out what they were saying. After a moment, the door finally opened, and Seth walked in, closely followed by a man Imogene had never seen before.

Seth explained that this mysterious man was a guest who wished to discuss her husband. Imogene had to admit she was confused: by the man, by what he wanted. Not to mention that she knew immediately that he was no ordinary guest. His features were normal enough. Imogene scrutinized him. He had a pleasant enough face, but perhaps it was the scar above his lip that seemed menacing. No, that wasn’t it. The scar even seemed to add to the attractiveness of his face. The dark tone of his skin, his black hair, the way he stood: there was nothing out of the norm there. Ah, it was his eyes--rather, there was something mocking behind them. It was also his finely cut suit which seemed to be wearing him more than he was wearing it, as if it were not his usual form of attire. Overall, there was something about the way he carried himself-- the way he entered the room that made Imogene realize he was a man of whom she should be nervous. She looked in Seth’s direction. Her stepson certainly seemed as if he were.

Imogene didn’t know very much about assassins or their place in society. It was not something that noblemen’s wives in general need concern themselves with. There were many other things with which they were allowed to occupy their time, but the vagaries and workings of the assassin’s guild was not one of them. As far as she knew, she had never met one of their kind, yet even with her limited knowledge, she could guess who this man was, and the moment she did was the moment she began to feel anxious.

Ever the perfect hostess, Imogene could be nothing but cordial to him, despite who he was or what he was doing there. It was unthinkable for her to treat a guest of her household rudely. She smiled then, and put on the mask of hospitality.

“Forgive me,” she said to the man, “I did not think we would be entertaining anyone today or I would have prepared myself. Let me ring for tea, and please, have a seat and make yourself comfortable.” Imogene stood, walked to the wall and pressed the button which rang down to the kitchen. A servant answered immediately, as if his only job was to wait by the intercom to receive the Lady’s call. Imogene ordered the tea and sat herself down in the center of the room where six Victorian style chairs were facing each other across a wrought iron table with a glass top. She smiled congenially at the stranger.

“I don’t believe I have had the privilege of meeting you before. May I ask your name, and what business you have with my husband?”

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#, as written by Smith
Eos smirked faintly and made an 'after you' gesture to Gilgamesh's whelp. Havingbeen trained to read every subtle inflection in facial features, Eos could see the glint of recognition in the other man's eyes. Eos figured that there must be someone interested in him after all. It was not a hindrance that Seth somehow knew his identity though. Hell, it may have even been a boon. Being privvy to the identity of an ill-reputed killer would make one wary, if not downright terrified for their life that such an individual would take interest in them. Eos moved to follow Seth into the room and stopped dead.

Wow... Eos had to force himself to move further into the regal space. He stared a little too long at the Lady Gilgamesh, feeling as if he was a teenager back at the Tower again. Except this time around, there was no jealous partner to punch his arm or pinch his ear. Eos screwed his face up in thought for a moment and took a sidelong glance before returning his gaze to Imogene. They were not blood relatives...something he could have read in the dossier, but had deemed unimportant. What should have been an irritating mistake quickly fled his mind however as Eos took a seat directly across from Imogene.

He flashed a charming, very genuine smile at the Lady of the house before inclining his head. "Please lady, think nothing of it. It is my fault for not scheduling an appointment ahead of time, but alas, such matters do not always make themselves known in such a professional fashion." it had been years since Eos was required to talk like this, but his tongue flowed over the honeyed words like liquid silver. Perfect tone, the utmost difference and a faint trace of flirtation. That last part was unintentional. Probably. "A third cup will be unecessary, lady Gilgamesh. I've never been a fan of the stuff...it's always either too flavourful, too bland or just plain watery." he shrugged and smiled, "Maybe I'm just picky?

Ah. My apologies once more, I am easily distracted by..." Your beauty? Elegant bearings? Pretty women in general, but angels in particular? Don't say breasts Eos. "Elegance. Permit me one more word of apology for my candor. I am a representative of several members of Parliament as well as the Crown. You may call me Dawn." he would have kissed Imogene's hand in a more familiar greeting just to get his point across, but the slight stumble in what would have been a perfect verbal cadence spoke volumes in and of itself. Plus, he was unsure if Seth would draw steel on him. Instead Eos leaned back in his chair and steepled his fingers behind his head. "I only require a few minutes of your time, Lady."

Asking the boy to leave was out of the question. It was all too likely that Seth would report Eos's presence to his father or something equally unpleasant, and that would not be a desirable action until Eos was walking out of the house. No. For now, he would dance. "Are you aware of your husband's business outside of the political square? There have been murmurs of his dealings with some rather...unsavory characters. Would you happen to know anything about this?"

His eyes, sharp and almost predatory never left those of Imogene. Eos pointedly ignored Seth and focus his entire being on the woman. While they conversed and waited for tea, he took the time to study her more closely. Not that he needed any excuse. The lady of the house was the definition of regality. Divine, was the first word to come to mind. It was like she was more a creation, sculpted to be perfect rather than born into such a state. It had been too long since he had met anyone like her...well, maybe he had never met anyone like her at all. How did Imogene get attached to a bottom-feeder like Gilgamesh, Eos wondered idly.

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The Gilgamesh Estate

It was all a little bit surreal for Seth. Eos of Tartarus, Amon's favorite pet, was sitting in his father's house, ogling his stepmother. Well, the people-ogling-his-stepmother bit wasn't exactly new, he was used to that (though that didn't mean he thought it decent). What was more confusing to the man was that she was being asked about his father's... less pleasant activities. Seth supposed the man had no reason to know that she was largely innocent of such knowledge. Not completely, of course- nobody stayed in this household for any length of time without acquiring some tarnish from it- but he personally had endeavored more than he probably should have to keep her in the dark.

Ironically, it was all for just this situation. She could claim ignorance (though he privately wondered if she would) and the assassin who was so profoundly uninterested in the actual source of the information he sought would leave none the wiser. Seth did not know if he had set things up this way out of the kindness of his heart (for he suspected on occasion that he didn't have much, if any) or perhaps pity. He did feel sorry for Imogene, all things considered. Though her life was made of luxuries others could scarcely imagine, there was more than one kind of hardship, and she had endured several.

The tea arrived, and Seth took his with a small nod to the servant who had brought it, gesturing for the man to be dismissed. He promptly was, leaving the room with but three occupants again. He would have to consult that man later, to try an prevent word of this meeting from ever reaching his father. He did not believe that his father was a violent man personally, but he did have easily-raised ire, something that his child had forced himself to be milder as a compensatory measure. For this reason, he did not allow the fact that he was being ignored to faze him in the slightest.

Instead, she took the opportunity to learn what he could of the man he was dealing with. By no means was Seth a brilliant observer, but he did tend to notice useful things every once in a while, especially with regards to speech patterns. He was torn between amusement and annoyance at the obvious stare the man had assumed. Annoyance mostly because it happened so often and he imagined she must be sick of it by now. Amusement, because well, there was nothing quite like watching a fish out of water.




The Taylor Estate

Loki's assassin seemed almost... amateur, which was something she did not quite understand. Certainly, he was dressed to fit the bill, but there was no real fluidity to his movement, no visible weapon in his hands, but nor did he carry himself with the familiar catlike tread she had come to associate with pugilists. Then again, the only two people she knew who ever fought that way were both very, very good, so perhaps she was expecting too much.

The heavy scrutiny born of years of constant suspicion was what saved her life. Well, that and her acquaintance with Pandora, because she recognized the words he spoke as belonging to the magi's language even as the fire sparked to life at the man's fingertips. His arm thrust forward, expelling the projectile with a great deal of force, and it registered somewhere in the back of her mind that she had not trained against a mage before. She ducked to the side, and luckily for her, it seemed that he had no more control over the flames after they had departed his grasp than she did a throwing knife.

The fireball hit the wall behind her, scorching the stone but sputtering out. Unfortunately, he was clearly not out of ammunition yet, and two more flaming orbs were lobbed in quick succession. The first missed, but the second caught Loki in the shoulder, searing her gown and the flesh beneath it, and she barely retained her grip on her knife, shifting it to her other hand as quickly as she could. She grit her teeth hard to prevent the scream that threatened, and blinked back the involuntary tears that gathered in her eyes.

Not about to wait for him to get another one of those things together, Loki charged, a bit too recklessly, but seeing as how the threat was obviously not from what the man could do physically, it was worth it. His eyes widened as he knife sank into the soft flesh of his stomach, and the smell of blood joined the acrid scent of burnt skin in assaulting her nose. She realized immediately that the fabric of her gown was still aflame, and she darted across the room, grabbing the pot of water and upending it over the offending area, not really caring that the water itself was still on the too-hot-for-comfort side.

Her left arm (the dominant one, no less) hung uselessly at her side, and she was torn between the desire to do something -anything- to the blistering flesh of her shoulder and the knowledge that touching it would only make the agony unbearable. So instead, Loki did what she did best- she smoothed her face over into impassivity and turned to figure out what had become of Caelin.




Marchfield Laboratories

As soon as his assistants and Vernazza had left, Prometheus had buried himself once more in his notes, trying to figure out where he had gone wrong, to inhibit the function of the very thing that whether most people knew it or not, he believed sustained Revelation. That the Cure harmed magic-users was something not lost on him. Though Miss Elling had worn a brave face in the aftermath, he knew that he had caused her pain when he injected her with it, and now he wished he had not. Not simply to spare her the pain, but also to spare the world the knowledge. But it was too late for that now, and the best he could do was try and rectify his mistake.




When next anyone sought to find Dr. Prometheus Vanderbilt, they would discover that the answer to the problem posed by the Cure had most likely died with him. At the time, the details were considered to horrendous for public exposure, but there were those of us who knew even then. By writing it down now, I suppose I technically violate the shroud of secrecy that seemed to pervade it for quite some time after the fact, and indeed if ever this is made public record (as I am afraid these things are only ever done posthumously), I imagine the account will be quite new for some of those who read it.

Put in the baldest terms possible (for I think it necessary to do so), Vanderbilt was tortured and crucified. He was found upon his lab table, a single five-inch nail driven into each of his feet, and another one to each palm. This was only to be the beginning of the man's ordeal, however, and as the medical examination indicated, he was ritually inflicted with numerous blade wounds, designed to be very painful but not bleed so much as to cause him to pass out before each an every detail of his torment was made clear to him. Struggle would have been an even more painful prospect than acquiescence, but if he had stopped struggling, it would have doubtless only been with the acceptance that he would not survive.

Those of my forebears who had less reservation about such things than I do have written with a great deal of certainty that no anguish is greater than that caused by knowing one is to die, and wishing for nothing quite so much as death to hasten. For Dr. Vanderbilt, it did not. He was forcibly kept awake and made to watch as even lines were inscribed into his flesh and muscle, to watch powerlessly as he bled. When this was done, his bones were broken, beginning with his brittle digits, all by blunt force. When they were done forcing him to watch himself being torn apart, they cut out his eyes, too.

It was when he lingered so close to the cusp of death that even the chemicals could keep him alive no longer that the final nail was hammered in- directly into his forehead. His assailants had not simply killed him, they had destroyed everything he ever was. They broke the hands that had written so many important discoveries into the pages of human knowledge, they broke the feet that had shuffled about his office or the classroom as he lectured his students, they severed the tendons that had allowed him even in his old age to make the precise, dexterous movements necessary to imbue his methodology with exactitude. They had torn out the eyes that seemed to see everything with a sharpness that even I have little trouble admitting I envied, and with the final stroke, they broke the most brilliant mind the world had ever seen. His notes were burned, and the last traces of his legacy, too, were destroyed.

Perhaps it was fitting then, that the skies tore open that afternoon, and the entire city was assaulted by a deluge not often seen as close to the center line of the earth below as it hovers. It was something that only became more poignant as more information came to light.

-From the journals of Amon Gregory

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Many women would blush under such concentrated direction of mind, such candid compliments, such an obvious attempt at flattery from such an attractive man. Imogene could say, without any hint of conceit or vanity, that she was not one of those women. How could one be, when they were groomed for that very purpose? Groomed to be appealing to the opposite sex in order to secure the right place in society. The looks were an added bonus which she’d been born with; what she’d had to learn was the charm, the wit, and the manner with which to secure a husband. It was what he’d married her for, after all: to be nothing more than a pretty accessory to his status and career. She’d done her job well, and now she was left with nothing but a pretty face and an empty heart.

The tea was brought in and she took her cup as Seth took his. She blew away the steam and sipped from her second cup of the morning as the guest introduced himself and stated his business. "Would you happen to know anything about this?" he asked after mentioning the rumors of her husband’s sordid dealings. She had no doubt that they were more than just rumors. Imogene glanced to meet Seth’s eyes with an unspoken question. She wondered if she would be able to see recognition in his eyes. If he would know instantly what their guest was talking about. He was busy watching the guest as he spoke, however; the man who’d asked her to call him Dawn. Was it his real name? She doubted it, but given no other option, it was the name she would know him by.

Imogene took another sip of her tea. She wished that she did know what her husband was up to. She hadn’t exactly been feeling any sort of loyalty to him lately, or any reason to keep his dirty secrets. Perhaps that was why he no longer confided in her, if he ever had. Looking back on the early stages of their marriage, when they’d shared a bed and lay together quietly late into the night and he whispered in her ear, she couldn’t help but wonder if any of those “secrets” had been real--if they’d mattered to him at all, or if it was all just a pretense.

A thought fluttered around her mind suddenly. It was a pretty thing that she couldn’t quite shake. The more the thought lingered, the more enticing it became. She wondered, if she could provide this man with the information he wanted, since he represented important people, whether he’d be willing to repay her for her efforts. The people he represented would no doubt have the ability to secure information for her--information that she would never be able to acquire otherwise. Imogene wondered if she should ask as much in front of Seth. If it came to choosing sides, and she had chosen to oppose her husband, she didn’t fancy her chances when it came to the side Seth would choose. David was his father, and no matter the connection they’d found in each other recently, he would no doubt choose loyalty to his family.

She had to know, though, if it were possible.

“Dawn, you said?” she asked, knowing full well the name he’d given. “I cannot say that I’m surprised at the rumor. My husband isn’t exactly what one would call a saint. But if I did have the information you require, why should I be enticed to give it to you? Would I get anything in return?”

She sounded like a greedy, money-hungry woman, but she didn’t care. It wasn’t money she was after.

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#, as written by Smith
What's your game? he wondered with a slightly quirked eyebrow. Eos realized he was smirking somewhat as he sized up the lady of the house. From what he could tell, Imogene's porcelain doll appearance belied a keen intellect that many of her beauty and status did not possess nor care to possess. She was analyzing Eos as much as he was her, and then the woman suddenly switches objectives? Curious. Eos decided he was not inclined to play such a game at this very moment and screwed his face up in confusion. "Milady, I do hope you are not proposing that my superiors bribe you for cooperation?"

He suddenly laughed and waved the notion away. "A jest, a jest, of course. How foolish of me, but how could I have known one such as you would also have such wit? But honestly, if you did not know of any such activities all you had to do was say so." Eos set his elbow against the arm of the chair and placed his chin in his palm. For the first time since entering the room, the assassin looked to Seth. His demeanor seemed to cool and his eyes grew sharper. "What of you, sir Gilgamesh? Is their any information that you would allow me..."

A minor heat and buzz formed in the breast pocket of Eos's vest. With an aplogetic smile the dusky skinned assassin retrieved a piece of vellum and unfolded it. The product of a new wand, a spell that allowed for a short message to be relayed on paper was scrawling itself out on the parchment. It only allowed for thirty words or less, but it was more than enough to get a point across. Eos allowed the act to melt away as he read the alarming message. His eyes scanned over the paper once more to make sure what he had read was correct before folding it and replacing it in his pocket. The assassin sighed, looking to both nobles with mixed emotions.

"Several prime targets have been attacked. Simultaneously, and not too long ago." Eos spread his arms and indicated not only the room, but the estate itself. The Gilgamesh estate lies unsullied, however." suddenly Eos was on his feet, straightening out his clothes and making sure everything was in place. The mock official inclined his head to both Seth and Imogene. "Your family was marked as both a high-priority suspect and possible target of the same degree...the fact that you remain unscathed does not bode well for the Gilgamesh."

With a quick movement Eos produced two small cards with identical information inked upon them, one from each pocket. He handed the first to Seth, "Please, feel free to contact me if you should find any information of relevance to the investigation." Eos moved over to Imogene, making sure his back was to the junior Gilgamesh and handed over the business card. "The same goes for you, lady. I beg your forgiveness for cutting our meeting short, but duty calls." with his front concealed from Seth's view, Eos made a small gesture with his finger indicating that Imogene should flip over the card. This second set of cards was made specifically for those who, at the assassin's discretion, may be counted on for some sort of information. They provided a second address on the back, unlike the parchment given to Seth.

With one more quick bow Eos exited the room and made his way out of the estate. There were more servants visible this time, most hoping for some of the generosity he previously displayed. None was there, however. Eos was looking beyond the low-level workers and even the walls of the manse wondering what to do next. The last portion of the missive had specifically stated that the situation was under control...but what if it wasn't? There would always be lies to keep valuable soldiers from rushing into danger.

As Eos passed the doorman, who looked rather befuddled about seeing a man out whom he had not seen in, Eos immediately began to run at top speed towards the Taylor Estate. It was a much shorter trip and he would arrive their much faster than Pandora's clinic. Hopefully the petite medic had enough protection that his assistance would be redundant anyway.

His thoughts suddenly flickered back to Imogene. He wondered how she would react...by tommorow, he would know. The note on the back of the card held the directions to a dilapidated tower in the Gamma District, the very top level. Quiet and secluded, a good place to meet. Would she show?

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Imogene’s heart sank when the guest took her words for a joke. It was not often that she fumbled over her intentions or made them come across unclearly. She didn’t have to explain herself or reiterate to anyone. Perhaps this was the curse of the privileged. They were seldom misunderstood, and when it happened, it was irritating. She’d meant what she said. She wanted to know what the price of any information she could give would be. But, he brushed away her question like an annoying fly which buzzed in his ear. She was about to explain herself more clearly when then man pulled something from his pocket and seemed to read it as if words were written on it. Something about his eyes in that moment told her that he was reading bad news.

He explained that people had been attacked, though he didn’t say who, and Imogene became alarmed. She wanted to ask if everyone was okay; if the people who’d been attacked were still… alive, but she didn’t get the chance. After making a veiled accusation about who was behind the attacks, she supposed, he took his leave. Imogene rose to see him out when he turned to her with a card in his hand. He gave it to her, along with a knowing look, and gestured for her to turn it over. She did, reading the back of the card with a quick glance. His back was very obviously turned to Seth, so she guessed that he did not receive the same consideration she had. This was intriguing, and Imogene felt a jolt of something she had not felt in a long time as her guest exited her room: excitement.

The back of the card had directions to a place in the Gamma District. A meeting place? Obviously, Imogene was supposed to go there. Why else would Dawn have given her the address. She would go, but she would have to be smart about it; she would have to be sure her husband didn’t find out, which meant keeping it from practically everyone else. Perhaps there were people she could trust, but she would have to choose them wisely. Maybe Katie? A ladies maid was nothing if not loyal to her mistress.

She was brought out of her planning when Seth spoke. It seemed as if he was determined not to let the strange encounter effect him. He changed the subject back to their normal course of conversation, asking what her plans were for the day. The sheer ordinariness of his question made her realize just how unordinary her morning had been. She was overcome by an urge to know the truth, whatever it was. She had been so sure that she couldn’t think any less of her husband than she already did, but now she was not so sure.

“Is it true? What that man implied?” she asked, countering Seth’s question with one of her own. Her question hung in the air. She wondered if she would get an answer. “Seth, I know that you think I’m fragile. You think that I can’t handle the truth, don’t you? But… I have a right to know. Is David trying to have people killed--for what? Opposing his politics? Has he succeeded?”

The though was unthinkable; despicable, but she couldn’t honestly say whether she’d be surprised if it were true.

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#, as written by Smith
Keeping up a brisk pace, Eos arrived at the Taylor Estate in less time than he thought the trek would have taken. Maybe it was the thought that his friends could be in danger that spurred him on. It was then the Eos almost stumbled, retracing his mental track. He thought of these people as friends. Then, as the assassin neared the gates to Caelin's manor, he shrugged. It's a good thing. Stop dwelling on it like a character in some badly written drama. Hmm...I should really check out the theatre. Haven't seen a good play in ages. Ah! Wait, job, focus!

Upon knocking on the door Eos readied himself to begin scaling the wall for entry or to pounce at whomever opened the door. Suprisingly, one of the senior servants answered and promptly ushered him in. The house was disturbingly orderly for one that had been subjected to an assassination attempt...had there been any at all? Was the information wrong? No. Eos shook his head and followed the servant to where he said his lord was. The Guild's information was rarely ever wrong, and definetly not with something as trivial as knowing whether or not someone had been attacked or not. Still...there was a laxity in the air that was unnerving.

As Eos was ushered into the room holding both Caelin and Loki, he passed Carlisle. With a quiet announcement of his arrival the servant excused himself. His gaze moved from the corpses which were being covered for disposal, to the princess, then Taylor and back to the corpses. Eos opened his mouth to speak, glanced at Loki, and closed it again. The assassin shifted uncomfortably looking for the right words to say. Finally, he scratched the back of his head and stared at the floor just in front of the princess's feet. "I am sorry. I should have gotten here sooner, I might have been able to..." he noted the pink tinge marring the perfect alabaster skin of Loki's arm recede. "Magic? So, you are unhurt?"

His stance suddenly changed to one of a whipped dog to that of a a man relieved. It might as well have been his arm that was saved just now. With a quick wave and shallow bow to Caelin, he smirked and steepled his fingers behind his head. "Looks like my assistance was not required, lady Blackwood, lord Taylor. But...why only send two if a pair of fluffy nobles could bring them down without any trouble?" Eos patiently awaited a response, sticking out his tongue to diplay the silver stud on it and trying vainly to touch his nose.

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“It has nothing to do with weakness, Imogene, and everything to do with plausible deniability.” Imogene realized with warmth that she believed him. So many men of his status and entitlement would pass her over as weak. That would be just the sort of thing they would say, but what they meant would be quite the opposite. Seth, however, was a different sort of man; a good man who meant just exactly what he said, and he never said anything to her with condescension. He never looked down on her or thought of her as just a pretty face. How he had managed to become such a good person considering the source of his DNA, Imogene could not know. By all rights, he should be and entitled little brat with the same greed and thirst for power which defined his father--perhaps more. Who had taught him to strive for something more in his character? Who had shown him what dignity meant? Imogene thought of his mother, wishing she had known the woman. Perhaps she was much like Imogene: trapped in a marriage in which she never could have comprehended just how unhappy she would be. Perhaps she was the one who showed her son how to be a better man then his father. Imogene did not know.

She held her breath when, for a moment, it seemed that Seth would not answer her question, but then he did, and Imogene was left with mixed feelings. She couldn’t quite say that she was sorry she’d asked; for so long she had wondered, hated being left in the dark. For that reason she was glad to finally know, even if it meant that she would never be the same. The infinitesimal part of her being that still loved her husband, still wished that he could return to the man she’d fallen in love with--for it had always been there, no matter how small--died in that moment. She was left horrified, her worst suspicions confirmed, and a sick feeling rose within her. She felt as if she were going to break down into tears, or vomit, but she did neither, just stood very suddenly and crossed the room to stand by the window, looking out and wishing she could simply fade into the sky.

He kidnapped children? Had someone killed? Imogene was loathe to find that it was worse than the dark imaginings at the back of her mind. She honestly never thought that he would stoop so low; be so utterly evil. Or, perhaps she had been blinded, refusing to let herself to believe something so awful about someone she’d so admired and loved. Even when he’d disowned their daughter, as unforgivable as it was, she could find it in herself to understand. Though she would never understand how a father could do such a thing to his child, she understood how a man, whose status in the political world meant everything to him--a man who based his career on his anti-magi platform could so cruelly deny a child who turned out to be one of those loathed creatures. With Sigrun, David had been a man and not a father, and Imogene understood that, no matter how much she hated him for it. To be capable of such atrocities, however, as kidnapping innocent children to get to their families, and murder men for posing a threat to his career, was unthinkable--and sickening.

“Oh Seth…” she managed, finally, her fingers to her lips as she looked out the window. The urge to vomit was still present within her, but she suppressed it as she thought of the terrible burden which had been Seth’s for Elisia only knew how long--a burden, she realized, in which she known shared. She hoped it would be some comfort to him: sharing that burden. For Elisia’s sake, no man should ever have to know such horrible things about his father.

Imogene crossed the room, once again, to stand beside her stepson’s chair and laid a gentle hand on his shoulder. She had never had the notion that she was anything like a mother-figure to him. She would be kidding herself if she had. Being only five years his senior, she was hardly mature enough to be considered anything close, but she could, at least, consider herself his friend, and it was for that reason which she now ached for him. What could she say? I’m sorry you have to know that your father is a monster seemed harsh, and woefully insufficient. “Thank you… for trusting me,” she said simply, squeezing his shoulder and once again taking the seat she had vacated only moments before, smiling across at him in a sad way. She probed no further, deciding that it was best to change the subject. She wasn’t ready to know anymore just now, anyway.

“…I think I might go shopping. One can never have to many gowns, I always say,” she said, answering his question from earlier. It was a lie, she would be going somewhere quite different, but she could not tell him that. He would worry; he wouldn’t understand, and Imogene could not bring herself to saddle Seth with yet another burden that was not his to carry. It wasn’t fair to him.

Imogene smiled, hoping the act was reassuring. She had never deliberately lied to Seth before, as she was sure he’d never done to her, and she had an awful taste in her mouth which had nothing to do with the bitter tea she was drinking.

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#, as written by Smith
As Loki ruffled her feathers at his little diatribe, Eos was taking in the scene. He had arrived much too late to witness the actual combat styles of the offending party and could not accurately judge if the princess was correct in her assumption. It was always a possibility; Too many parties were interested in hacking off the limbs of the aristocracy, a pack of ravenous jackals gnawing at the arms and legs of the Crown before locking their jaws around the throat. That was one of the few things Amon Gregory had taught Eos and Selene in the Tower. Power is the only thing that ensures obedience, and therefore law. Power is also the most absolute and pure form of corruption man has ever known, and despite knowing this, every man, woman and child wants a piece of it.

Eos looked up sharply when Loki's voice changed from slightly rankled to thoughtful. What was on her mind, he could not say. The sable princess was an enigma that Eos had neither the guile, nor the energy to even begin to contemplate. That wasn't to say that he had not tried though. At Loki's inquisition of the status of those he had been sent to investigate brought a brief nod from Eos.

"The first family, investigated by another member of the Guild had not been attacked according to the inquisitioner's message. This would have made them prime suspects, had the members of my own investigation target had been attacked. I had a brief discussion with the duke Gilgamesh's wife and son, during which several assassinations--yours included--were set in motion. The Gilgamesh Estate and those within remain untouched." Eos waved a hand lazily as if forgetting something, "Which brings me to my first point, that the first family is all but exempt from suspicion. They are great supporters of the duke, and although they are inwardly ditrustful of the Crown, they have a relatively spotless record in regards to outspoken acts of rebellion."

Halfway through the report Eos found himself glancing at the window more and more. Something was nagging at the back of his mind, something that had been put off for some time now. With a sigh, Eos figured that it would come to him soon enough. At that he winced and took a step back from Loki, feeling rather embarassed. Despite his well-groomed appearance, Eos had skipped on bathing in his hurry to be on the mission. Cologne was the predominant scent on the man, but underneath was the smell of this morning's exercise. It probably wasn't noticeable...hell, it probably wasn't even offensive. Upon passing Zade in the Guild halls a couple days ago, Eos heard her comment on how he smelled of coffee.

Coffee smelled nice.

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The Gilgamesh Estate

Trust? Seth wasn't sure that was the right word for it, but if she wanted to think of it that way, he certainly wasn't going to stop her. The thing about Imogene was, she was still fundamentally a good person, for the most part powerless in the grand scheme of his father's design and thus tainted by it much less than he himself was. He nodded in response but did not say anything. The urge to divest himself further of the things he was not supposed to know or care about was a bit too great, and thus he could not trust himself to speak.

That word again. It was funny; he'd grown up without much of a concept of what it even was. He knew what it represented of course, but members of the House of Gilgamesh did not trust. They held in confidence and apparently they also held hostage, but they never said anything without material assurance that it would not be misused. Trust was far too intangible a currency for those purposes, now wasn't it?

It was really rather sad, that he still felt enough filial loyalty to not immediately take what he knew to someone who may be more at liberty to act than he. Well, it might be loyalty. It might also be fear. Had he incriminated himself too much already with knowing what he did and holding his piece for this much time? Perhaps, perhaps not. Either way, he didn't really want to find out. Hmm... he'd have to add "cowardice" to the list of his traits, and maybe "self-awareness" also.

Imogene spoke of her plans for the day, and he nodded along politely. If he'd thought about it a bit more, he would have found her answer a bit odd, as she had never been the overly vain sort. Certainly, there were appearances to be kept up, but there was also such a thing as too many gowns, and on reflection, he would have known she knew that. As it was, he was a tad too absorbed in his own thoughts for it to register properly, and so he gave his excuses a few minutes later and bade her good-day.



The Assassins' Guild

Amon moved his eyes from the mage he knew to the one he didn't, and he regarded the younger man with something approaching concern. ranted, his profession had hardened his edges considerably, and he wasn't really capable of true pity or even empathy (for what use was empathy to a man who killed to make his living?), but he did not make a habit of wishing misfortune on strangers, and he knew very well that what came next would be more difficult that what had gone before.

"Professor Windsor, was it?" Pandora had called him that. Amon supposed that he must be a teacher at the Facility, to earn such a title. "In answer to your queries, I can tell you that I will be sending a recovery team comprised of my own assassins to... deal with the mercenaries. If we can take them alive, we will. If not..." he let the rest of the sentence hang in the air, perhaps a tad more ominously than he would have liked for the young woman's sake, but surely she understood the necessity of his position by now.

"However, we do not know if these particular mercenaries were alone, or if there were others with them. For that reason, I am going to ask you for a list of relatives and close friends. If by chance, word reaches whomever sent these people after Pandora that you were present and assisted her, there is always a chance that retaliation would be close at hand, if for no other reason than to damage us or demoralize her. It is not a great chance, but it is there, and I would very much like to know who these people are so that I might send people to look after them for a while, or move them to a secure location, just until we can confirm that those two were the only ones sent." Be that by interrogation or something close but worse. He'd have to insist that at least one was taken alive, now that he thought about it more closely.

"For now, I must insist that both of you rest as much as you are able. Pandora knows which areas of the Guild are public and which are not, so you may wish to follow her. Otherwise, you have only to ask anyone in a uniform."



The Taylor Estate

At the request for clarification, Loki shook her head. "My apologies, Caelin; I don't have much in the way of specifics. Only... last time I visited Delta, things seemed different. As though... perhaps it was nothing, but I have heard some rumors of a faction of discontents forming there. They say a mage leads it, but I don't have anything else. I was actually going to visit Amon to see what he knew, or maybe if he could put someone on it-" and here she glanced in Eos's direction- "but I admit I did not think it extremely pressing, all things considered."

Mage attackers from such a faction would make sense, but surely such an effort would be horrendously-funded? how then would they gain the resources to even be able to set foot in Alpha without drawing immediate negative attention? And why would they target Caelin Taylor of all people? That was really the rub here, wasn't it? It was always possible that they simply did not bother differentiating one person from another, or thought to kill him because he'd been dosed with the Cure, but-

"We need more information. I'm going to see Amon." Her tone suggested that this was happening now. "I don't know how much help any of this is to you yet," she told her fellow aristocrat, "but be careful. While I'm down there, I'll find Pandora. She should be able to cast some wards for extra security, I think. Unless you want to come yourself?" She imagined he'd probably be busy trying to deal with the aftermath of all this. Were it any other situation, the City Guard would have been called already and there would be fifteen miles of red tape, but as it was, she'd learned not to report the attacks and deal with them herself. She'd gathered that the others were much the same.

Eos's report did not say much she had not already been expecting, and so she did not comment on it, instead gesturing for him to follow. He probably had to tell Amon the same thing anyway, and much as she did not care to admit it, the fact that she was going to Gamma without her usual disguise was bound to place a large target on her back that she really didn't want to deal with at the moment.

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Loki didn’t move when Eos touched her face, merely raised an eyebrow, giving him a flat look that asked if that had really been necessary. Rolling her eyes, she nevertheless conceded that he had a point and took the mask, affixing it to her face and turning back to the task at hand. The rope still in one hand, she removed a metal grappling hook from her belt and tied it to the end with a sturdy knot. Really, assassins had to learn a lot of useful things, and she was glad Amon had insisted on teaching her even the ones it seemed unlikely she would need. Not that Eos couldn’t have done it, and really, she would rather be thinking about just about anyone besides Amon right now, so she shoved the thought aside and spun the hook a few times to test its hold before tossing it upward.

It caught on Gilgamesh’s windowsill, and part of her was having difficulty believing she was actually doing this. It certainly did not fall within the usual ways she had of dealing with things, but, well, desperate times… Tugging on the rope, she found the hold steady, and shot her companion a glance. “If you so much as say anything about the view, I’m going to harm you,” she informed him flatly, well aware of his proclivity for such observations. Smarmy bastard.

So saying, she clambered up the rope and to the windowsill, tugging at the glass portal’s frame. Locked, as expected. Luckily, the thing was wide enough for her to crawl onto the sill itself. “Lockpick, if you please,” she requested, moving over so that he’d be able to join her on the stone ledge and take care of it. She’d never been too good with that particular talent, simply put, though she did have a set of picks in case he didn’t.

While Eos climbed up, Loki peered inside the study. It looked like there was sill nobody about, which was good. Even those noblemen who burned the candle at both ends (like Caelin, for instance) should be asleep at this hour, and knowing Gilgamesh’s reputation, he left most of his work to his reclusive son anyway. Loki wasn’t too worried about running into Seth Gilgamesh; the man had a reputation of his own, mostly for cowardice, though she’d met him herself but twice. She’d not been terribly impressed at any rate. Worst case scenario, they’d have to deal with a curious guard or two, but it was not outside their skills to knock a couple of people out noiselessly and drag them inside the room itself.



The Afternoon Prior, District Delta

The knock on the door of Azazel’s last known residence disturbed a scene of what might have been surprising domesticity. Aram himself was absent, but there was a woman in the home, and she was currently eating a meal with a small, red-haired child of about eleven or twelve, a little girl.

At the sound, Ishtar looked up, brow furrowed, and turned to the child. “Stay here please, Sigrun. I’ll be back in a moment.” As she was not expecting guests at this time of day, Istar grabbed a knife from the block in the kitchen and tucked it into the folds of her simple gown at her side, surreptitious as she could make it but still in-hand. Opening the portcullis with the other, she blinked in surprise when she saw two young women standing there. One, she recognized immediately as a mage her husband had more than one fit regarding. The other was similarly blond, but seemingly younger. Perhaps a friend of some sort?

“Pandora Elling. You risk much coming here,” she said sternly, then her eyes softened, and she gestured for the two to come inside. “Aram’s ire is not my own. Please, make yourselves comfortable.” She led the two into a small living room and saw both seated on worn but comfortable chairs before returning to the kitchen to prepare tea.

Sigrun, in the meantime, had popped her head into the living room and glanced curiously at the newcomers. The rest of her body followed soon after, and the outgoing child forced her way into the other half of Victoria’s large chair shortly thereafter. “Hello!” she chirped happily. “Are you mages, too?”

Ishtar returned with the teas, and set the tray on the low table around which the chairs were clustered. “I’ll not force you to drink it,” she said, leveling a shrewd gaze on Pandora, “but you do have my word it isn’t poisoned. Now, I suppose there’s something you wish to discuss with my husband. Unfortunately, he isn’t here at present, and not even I know exactly where he might be. He’s rather afraid I’ll tell an old friend of mine, you see. But, if there is something I can do, I’d gladly hear you out.”




The information that had been provided to the triumvirate that was Caelin, Garbiel, and Scheherazade indicated several likely possibilities, among them Garbiel’s own Blacksmith’s Guild, the Carpenter’s Guild, a ring of underground criminals, which while not exactly the kind of allies one wanted to have were better as friends than foes when they ran the city’s smuggling enterprises, and last but not least Geoffrey Chandler, who was known to be an influential voice in Parliament’s more middling faction. He currently leaned towards Gilgamesh, but there were very open suspicions among certain people that this was for the sole reason that his toddler son and heir had gone missing about six months ago, and still not reappeared.

He lived in a comparatively modest estate at the edge of District Alpha, as his family was one of those few that had managed to end up there from a past lineage in Beta, and still maintained close ties with the wealthiest of the merchants, a support base that had never been essential until the Chandlers had chosen to use it. Now, they actually had some influence, and most if not all of that went through the gnarled hands of Lord Geoffrey himself.



The Facility- Sewers Beneath Alpha

Amon nodded and trailed Giacomo to the drain-grate in the street, then heeded the words of the young Danterus. Those so youthful should not hate so fervently. Grudges are the purview of old men. Not that he would ever be so indelicate as to voice this sentiment aloud, however. “Well,” he did state, rolling back one of his sleeves, “Mr. Vernazza was so kind as to provide me with a portable source of flame. I imagine this will be of some assistance in weakening the steel.” So saying, he lit the blowtorch mechanism attached to his forearm, careful to keep his hand well out of the way.

“As for something to actually destroy the grate… I don’t suppose you carry a blasting wand, Giacomo?” That would serve quite well in both removing the grate and some of the surrounding stone, as there was not really room in their time-frame to be sending a nobleman down into a sewer, even if that had been more a slight than a serious suggestion.

One way or another, the thing was removed, and sufficient stone cut away, even if Amon had to go retrieve a blasting wand from a nearby safehouse to do it. “I’ll head down first, but it would be rather appreciated if I was followed,” he admitted with a trace of wry humor. Could he do the job by himself if necessary? Certainly. Did he particularly wish to explain to Loki why he’d done so? Not at present. He didn’t exactly feel accountable to the Princess, but she was central to his plans and hence the more pleasant dealing with her could be, the better. He would not deny a certain amount of familial affection for his students, and she as well, but he’d be a fool if he allowed this to move him too much.

Slipping into the hole in the ground, Amon dangled by his hands for a second, then dropped to the ground. Dry; at least for the most part. The sewer had been constructed as a channel with raised sides, wide enough to walk on if one was careful. The trick would be finding anything they were looking for, but he knew the general direction in which he was seeking, so that was fortunate at least.

The area was pitch-dark, and he withdrew a small illumination wand, drawing a square in the air with it to activate the thing, then moving out of the way of anyone who might be coming down with him. It smelled about as bad as one would expect a sewer to smell, and his arrival had sent more than one small rat skittering off down the passage. He thought of Etzel for a moment, which produced the useful observation that proximity to Delta could be measured proportional to the size of the rats. Something he’d have to keep in mind.

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#, as written by Smith
“If you so much as say anything about the view, I’m going to harm you,” just as Eos was about to say something to that effect, the sharp lass beat him to the punch. A woman after my own heart, I swear. But I won't be defeated so easily...

"What view, my dear? Most everything I see from this angle is obstructed by your rear." the assassin clambered in along after his princess with all due alacrity, inching around her to avoid any forthcoming blow to the temple. While she was of a generally civil breed, anger was a common trait that humanity shared as a whole. Unless Loki was genuinely embarassed enough to be stunned by the comment, which he doubted very much. Upon being issued the order to pick a lock, Eos scowled. Out of the many ticks of the trade that he had been taught as a youth, the skills of burglary were his least favorite. As the 'fist' of the Hands, it was not his job to do the more delicate work.

"It's only a secondary profession, Loki..." he muttered, "I was not trained as extensively in these...arts..." the first of the picks went in, one that would hold the first settings in place as Eos did the true work deeper within the device. "It really is a beautiful thing, being able to crack a heavy lock in thirty seconds flat. I was never able to do anything like that, not like Selene. Bone breaking was my specialty," several clicks issued forth from the copper and steel mechanism as tumblers fell into place and the last of four thieve's tools was set into place. With a smile at Loki, Eos listened to the lock fall with a dulled thump into his gloved hand. "I could only ever do it in thirty-four seconds."

Eos carefully replaced the lock as they entered the study, making sure to make it appear to be in place, when in reality the lock was just barely a hair's bredth away from locking into place. At least they had one avenue of escape, should it come to that. Eos replaced the last of his picking tools on his belt and tapped Loki on the shoulder. The assassin gestured towards the book case. Lined top to bottom with tomes that seemed more aesthetic than practical, given their size and golden filigree, the study looked like a museum exhibit. The place appeared to be more for show, than anything...it was not out of the question. Velvet chairs, reading glasses set in plain sight, a lacquered wood desk...Eos had encountered a few snobs that wanted to appear to be more learned than they truely were, though there was a suspiciously thick layer of dust in their supposed 'study'.

Eos moved to the door, pressing his ear against the floor just before it for exactly fourty heartbeats before turning to Loki and giving the ok. No guards or patrol in the immediate vicinity. With a silent twist the door opened: Most of them were only locked from the outside in, not the reverse. Eos peeked out into the poorly lit hallway and then back to Loki. "So, where to, oh fearless leader?"

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The Gilgamesh Estate

Loki almost kicked him in the head on his way up. Really she did. It was absurd, the way he spoke to her. Granted, she was a great deal less formal than the majority of her Parliamentary counterparts, at least when she got the choice, but she was still the daughter of the Queen, and frankly, the fact that he thought he could get away with something like that had her miffed. He seemed to know it, too, and kept well out of range of any of the pointy objects she might elect to stab him with. Wise.

She’d never admit it, but Eos amused her. She knew better than to say as much, because encouraging him would probably only make it worse. He was like a child that way. Scratch that, he was worse than a child. Most of the children she knew were very well-behaved. She rolled her eyes when he confessed to ‘only’ being able to manage a lock in thirty-four seconds and climbed in after him.

“If you’re done showing off, you can stand watch or something,” she sniped. She probably would have told him to help her go through documents, but she had gathered that all the subtle parts of being an assassin were not really his area of expertise. She could hardly consider herself surprised by this underwhelming revelation. So instead, she went through the drawers of the desk herself, pulling out papers and leafing through them, trying to find anything relevant-looking. A few trade agreements, a manifesto… hell if she wanted to read that again. Nothing illegal, just a whole lot of stupid.

Frowning, she turned her attention to the bookshelves. Most of the tomes were covered in dust; a good estimate to the time Gilgamesh spent reading decent literature. There were a few that seemed to have been more recently-disturbed though, and she went through these systematically, flipping through the pages before replacing them where she’d found them. History, strategy… she was pretty sure this one was a romance novel? She gave the volume a quizzical look that might have been comical and shoved it back onto the shelf. Who on earth read those anyway?

She was interrupted by the sound of the door opening, and glanced over Eos’s shoulder to see Seth Gilgamesh entering, pile of documents in-hand. “Don’t kill him,” she said quickly. He might very well have information they needed, and she was not above extracting it with less-savory methods. Whether she agreed with Minerva or not, the Queen was still her mother, and that was not a tie easily-broken in a world where lineage meant more than most things, especially within the upper echelons.




The words seemed to startle the man, and he peered around from behind the tower of parchments, promptly dropping all of them. “You-” this was directed at Eos, and the man’s face set itself into a snarl. Against his own better judgment, the man took a swing at the assassin, aiming for his jaw. While not by any means a pushover, Seth did not have much in the way of combat expertise, and really, he was expecting to miss.

“Seth!” the voice was a hiss, and belonged clearly to the woman standing behind the assassin. Probably another one, if the mask was anything to go by. “Calm down, you fool! If you alert your father, I will let him kill you.” The words stopped him short. Clearly, this woman knew something, and he found himself scrutinizing her face. Recognition was beyond him, though, at least until she removed the mask.

“Your Highness?” he managed, his tone weary disbelief, as though he were by this point so used to being surprised that it had nearly not as much effect anymore. “What are you- oh.” He was not a stupid man, and he had heard about the events in Parliament a few days before. He could guess what the Princess was doing here, but why bother carrying out this sort of thing personally?

Wait. His curiosity was not the important bit here. Because he did have ample reason to be angry at the assassin. “I want an explanation, now. My father figured out about my stepmother’s little meeting with the assassins, and now she’s missing. Unless you want me to alert every damn guard I’ve got, you will tell me what’s going on here.”




Loki sighed. To think she had been considering marrying this man to get his father to ease up. Good thing her mother had talked her out of that one; she probably would have murdered him by now. “You really think you’re in a position to be making demands?” she pointed to Eos. “That man could have killed you at any point from the time the door opened until now, and you wouldn’t have had time to alert anyone.” Of course, to do so would cast suspicion in all the wrong- or rather correct, but inconvenient, places. That was something she didn’t need, but she found it hard to resist the urge to make clear just who was in charge here.

“If Lady Imogene has disappeared, then you should know that he’s responsible for more than that. What makes you think a man willing to have his own wife kidnapped or killed wouldn’t do the same to others? We’re looking for proof of that- plain and simple. You can help us or you can hinder us, but we will have it.” She watched, hawk-eyed, as he mulled the decision over, then nodded slowly.

“You’re looking in the wrong place, for a start. My father doesn’t keep any of the important documents in his study… they’re all in mine.” His voice was heavy, laden with something that sounded suspiciously like guilt.

She was all over that in an instant. “You knew? You had even the faintest inclination what he was doing, what he was going to do, and you did nothing to stop it?” her voice was low, syllables enunciated with extreme clarity, and Loki had to bodily resist the urge to scare the wits out of him with one of her knives. How many tragedies could have been prevented if this man had just an iota of courage? But alas, he was as yellow as a canary in a coal mine, and half as useful. Her upper lip curled with distaste, but she abruptly smoothed out her features, dropping the irritation from her mannerism entirely. What was done was done, and however despicable he was for watching it happen, he was their best chance at what they wanted.

“Take us there. Now, if you please.” Her tone brooked no argument, and he opened the door with a nod, leading the pair out into the hall and down a winding staircase. On the first floor, he stopped them outside an office, ducked inside, and returned with a carefully-bundled sheaf of documents.

“This contains everything you need to know. If you want to know the whole truth of it, though… do what I never could, and venture down into the cellars.” He gave the two a meaningful look, and Loki nodded nearly imperceptibly, slipping behind him and binding his wrists with the rope they’d used to get in here. “Might as well make it look realistic,” he commented, and she stilled for a moment.

“Indeed,” was her only verbal reply, or at least the only one he’d hear before she smashed the pommel of a knife into the back of his head. If his father found him like this, he need only claim it was common robbery. Even if Gilgamesh saw through it, which he would, his own pride would keep him from talking. His best bet was going to be to claim that these documents were false, and that was why she took the hint and headed for the cellars, pulling the mask back up over her face, just in time to round a corner and come face-to-face with ten or so guards.

Smirking under her mask, she turned to Eos. “Age before beauty,” she said, gesturing with a flourish for him to precede her into the fray.




District Delta

Ishtar couldn’t help the wry smile that twisted her lips. It amused her on some level to watch the poor thing twist and fidget, at least until she remembered that they really were dealing with weightier matters than any of them would have full knowledge of. Unlike her husband, Ishtar would readily admit that not all of the specifics were hers, and that it was highly possible that there were important things she didn’t know.

Which was why, when Pandora Elling lied to her, she did not mind so much. The young woman was a truly earnest soul, she could discern that much, and somehow, the fact that she was so unused to telling lies made the fact that she was trying to deceive Ishtar all the more bearable.

Her young friend, on the other hand, seemed to be much more used to it. She had missed the surreptitious examination of the seat cushion, but not of the tea, and her suspicions automatically caused her to suppose that she must be of the assassin variety. Both, she guessed, were mixing truth with lies, though what was what was harder to tell in Victoria’s case than in Pandora’s. Taking a breath, Ishtar figured she may as well take this as an opportunity. “I hope that if I tell you I caught your falsehood, you will not continue to lie,” she said casually, leaning backwards slightly whilst stirring a lump of sugar into her tea. “Do not fear my knowing- I have no intention of giving up your secrets. At least, not if you would be willing to answer a few questions for me.” She fixed each of the younger women with a pointed look. “I would not ask for such things without offering something in return, of course. So I propose this: tell me what you are really doing here, and I will show you something that not even Amon Gregory knows about. Something important.” As if to stave off any disbelieving looks, she continued before giving them a chance to respond. “I know why David Gilgamesh makes people disappear. It isn’t as simple as you think.”

Ah, Gilgamesh. Now there was a man with a loose tongue. Before Farah had died, she’d been a favorite of his, and of course Ishtar’s daughters all reported these little tidbits to her. Now that the woman was deceased, it was harder to get things out of him, but not impossible. Some of the girls were wilier than assassins that way. She allowed the implications of her words to sink in, then regarded the two through half-lidded eyes.

“I want to know who set you upon this task, what it is, and why. Leave nothing out, please. I’ve been at this too long to be fooled quite so easily as Aram. Sigrun, dear, please go clean up the kitchen for me, would you?” The little girl nodded solemnly and slid off Victoria’s chair, waving goodbye to the apprentice doctor and the mage before heading on her merry little way.



District Alpha- Lord Chandler's Estate

Chandler sighed heavily. “What do you want me to tell you, Lord Taylor? A week after I found that letter was the confirmation vote on the Princess’s bid for Parliament. I voted for it and Gilgamesh against. Not less than three days afterwards, one of the maids went to wake my son for the morning, and found him gone, without so much as a trace. I’ve never been told where he’s being kept. I don’t even know if he’s still alive. I just… have to hope that he is.

Would that I could tell you more, but alas, I am in the dark.” He spread his arms, palms facing upwards in a helpless gesture that he had found himself making all too often. It hurt, to think about it for any period of time. Not even in his sleep was he free of the thoughts of what he could have, should have done to protect his child.

“You have a son, don’t you, Lord Taylor? I advise you to watch him closely. Gilgamesh is… the only thing that keeps me from trying to depose that man myself is the thought that my son could be alive somewhere even now.” Acting against the man now would surely mean his death, loath as he was to even consider the possibility. His hands were bound more effectively than any sort of rope could do, his shoulders heavy with weary resignation. “I am an old man; I had nothing to live for but my boy, and now I can only live because I tell myself he does too.”



District Beta- Sewers

As they progressed further down the sewers, the way lit only by Amon’s wand and the scant illumination that spread from the Mana crystals embedded on Giacomo’s face, there really didn’t appear to be all that much to see. It was dank, odorous, and fetid as one would expect a sewer to be, but there was nothing unusual about it. Granted, there need be nothing extraordinary about a mere passage from one end of the city to the center, but something about the whole situation smacked of a bigger problem than that to Amon, and he was not one to easily abandon his instincts.

Which was why, when he noticed the seam in the sewer wall, some small part of him twinged with satisfaction. There was certainly something suspicious about that, and he ran gloved hands along the impression, searching for any structural infirmities. Placing the illumination wand between his teeth, Amon withdrew the blasting wand again and gestured for the other two men to stand back. Without explaining any further, he made the requisite intricate pattern for activation, and took a few steps back as the thin wall crumbled to rubble in front of him. Stowing the metal rod, now devoid of all charge, he took up the light again and stepped through the hole that had been created.

Immediately, some changes were evident. The room was small, and smelled thickly of copper and iron- blood. It was rather comparatively dry, and there did not appear to be any standing or flowing water around. Upon further examination, Amon expressed the first visible surprise he had known in years- and rightly so.

At the center of the room, an odd circle was chiseled into the stone, with several patterns in it. A diamond, an ellipse… the mark seemed vaguely familiar, though he knew not why. The walls were covered in smears of blood, parallel lines for the most part, an uncanny number of them occurring in groups of five, as though something- someone had clawed at the stone with bleeding fingers. The lines grew increasingly feeble and wavering as they trailed into drag marks upon the floor, and the center of the circle was a mass of sticky reddish fluid. Adjusting, his olfactory faculties informed him that not only did the place reek of blood, but also of urine.

Stoically sweeping his eyes over the scene, his gaze fell upon a small table in one corner of the room. A single parchment lay atop it, the corner emblazoned with the same symbol in miniature. The rest was what appeared to be a map of the underground sewer system, with several points marked upon it. Amon spent a few minutes studying this, and his eyes narrowed sharply as he came to some form of realization. “Gentlemen… take a look at this and tell me what you see.”

If they saw it as he did, they would note that the points roughly formed two concentric circles, one around the perimeter of Gamma and another situated at the outer edge of District Beta. He did not know precisely what they indicated, but he had a suspicion, and he did not like it in the least.

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#, as written by Smith
As more time passed inside of the room, Eos grew incresingly restless. 'Anxious' was not a strong enough word to describe exactly what Eos had been feeling for the past while now. Standing in the middle of enemy territory was something that an assassin had to endure on a regular basis, but being in the middle of enemy territory with baggage was an entirely different matter. Not that he doubted Loki's ability to handle herself in battle, yet...there was something nagging at the back of his mind saying that something was off.

“Don’t kill him.” it was almost as if the queen to be knew exactly what Eos was about to do. Spooky. Eos had tensed his legs and was ready to leap at whomever was entering the doorway. He promptly dropped all pretense of hostility towards the newcomer once it was clear that it was only Seth Gilgamesh. When the talentless little fop had the audacity to take a swing at Eos, the assassin felt that he had half a mind to deliver a quick punch to solar plexus to teach him a little lesson...but no. Not yet anyway.

The ensuing conversation was rather boring, and had they been anywhere else but the Gilgamesh Estate Eos would have immediately zoned out. Instead, Eos watched the door and listened carefully to what Loki and Seth had to say. In truth, he was interested in the young noble's reaction. After only a couple minutes Eos had to keep himself from snickering. Were you really considering marrying him, Loki? I mean, even if it was for the greater good...

Yes. Amon spoke to Eos a great deal more than Loki could have imagined, given their past and odd rivalry and familial relationship. As long as it did not provide Eos with any way to use the information for personal gain(Amon was not sure if the former Hand was above such tactics), Amon would speak of nearly any subject with Eos. More often than not, these subjects would lead to Pan, Loki or Taylor. Both assassins felt that Pandora was in over her head, and that Taylor had too much at risk to take part in this war. Somehow though, no matter the subject specifically, Amon somehow knew exactly why Eos wanted to talk about these three so much. He also pointed out on one occasion, that his tone when speaking of Loki or Pan was radically different than when he spoke of Taylor. Eos thought his former master was overanalyzing things.

A sudden shift in the tone of the conversation caught Eos's attention. Loki had a glint of steel in her eye that Eos remembered all to well when combing the streets of Alpha and Beta; The spark of judgement, when someone was picking apart a flaw in another individual. Normally Eos would have felt a twinge of disgust for that expression, but in this situation Loki was sort of entitled.

After tying up Sethy-boy, it was finally time to move. Eos offered the noble and smirk and aa wave before heading out alongside Loki. It seemed that fate conspired against them, for upon their second minute of travel the pair's progress was impeded by nearly a dozen armed guards. Feeling that something was going to go wrong anyway, Eos had donned his edged guantlets back in the study. Just before engaging the group, Eos scowled back at Loki with a raised eyebrow. "I'm, what, barely three years older than you? Maybe four? Don't go trying to make a spring chicken feel like an old dog!"

Eos charged in, scrapped his claws against the hastily raised weapons of two of the guards and immediately retreated back into the opening to the room. The two were sorely outnumbered and going back to back while surrounded only to be ran through on all sides was not Eos's idea of fun. Not every group of guardsmen attacked the heroes one at a time like in the fairytales. The hallway was narrow enough to hold off against an assault with two people, and one with a fair amount of hassle. It was still doable though, and Eos allowed the first of his enemies to attack.

"Sable, find us a way out of here or come up with a very good battle plan." with no way to attack en masse, there was no doubt in his mind that the remaining combatants would sound some sort of alarm or call for aid. They needed to disappear or find a way to kill them all in one fel swoop. Eos smiled at the thought as he managed to slip past a raised buckler and tear apart the man's throat. One down only to be replaced by the next in line. This one would allow no lucky shots, and worked in tandem with his partner to keep Eos on the defensive.

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Perhaps irrationally, the first thought that Loki had upon realizing that there was a child in that cell was that it must be Siri. It probably wasn’t, of course, but all the same for a single moment, terror blocked her throat at the very thought. Then she realized it didn’t matter if it was or not, because someone, somewhere, was feeling that same sensation, only worse, and had been for as long as this kid had been missing.

Her moments of selflessness and generosity were painfully few and far between, but just then she didn’t much care whether this information would get them any closer to what they wanted, they just needed to get the kid and get out of there. Of course, rationality descended soon afterwards, and her expression receded into grim lines as she approached the unmoving pile of blankets.

The little boy stirred weakly, and not even the process of gathering him up into her arms seemed to wake him. That wasn’t a good sign, and Loki frowned. “We need to find an exit,” she said, aware she was stating the obvious but speaking more to say something and fill a silence than to provide anything meaningful. Unlike herself, perhaps, but then, this wasn’t exactly the sort of situation she was used to. Maternal instinct wasn’t really something she embraced or even professed to possess, but at the same time, she supposed it wasn’t so strange to want to help the poor thing.



The following day; Assassins' Guild meeting room

The princess sat in the chair at the far end of the room, though at present the stiffness in her posture was more stress than decorum. Her muscles hadn’t relaxed since she’d begun that midnight heist on the Gilgamesh Estate, and she hadn’t slept in the twenty-four hours since. Everyone was here, and she was sure most of them had noticed, which under ordinary circumstances would have been absolutely unforgivable. At the moment, though, even Amon was showing subtle signs of strain. The others, perhaps a bit less so, but then most of them hadn’t spent the majority of that last sun-cycle putting together the twisted dimensions of the Prime Minister’s plot.

In the end, she wasn’t sure which was stronger: his forward-thinking or his megalomania. Probably the second, and she was grateful. The documents Seth had entrusted to her bore a similar mark in the corner to the one found at the edge of the map Victoria and Pandora had provided. At first, she’d been disappointed they couldn’t get in deeper with the Liberation Movement, as the magi called themselves. But all of that had disappeared beneath a rising tide of alarm when they’d explained what they found instead. Amon had confirmed that Ishtar was an old friend of his, but if she was passing him information so directly, there was something very wrong. They’d had something of a falling-out shortly before the madam married Azazel, and their contact had only been sporadic since, not to mention strained.

The writing itself was nothing terribly extraordinary, though it was very private- the Gilgamesh family business records for the last months. Aside from the fact that slaves were on the roster, there was nothing of note. Slavery wasn’t even technically illegal, she just didn’t happen to like it. She found, though, that much to her surprise, Seth had included copious notations next to certain items. It seemed as though he had been onto something, attempting to work it out by himself, but lacking the ability to do so. What she did find peculiar was that of the twenty-some slaves Duke Gilgamesh had bought that month, not one of them had served in the home, according to Seth, and the factory ledgers did not indicate any change in employees at all for the period.

The question of where they were going wasn’t too hard to answer- the cells beneath the man’s home were an obvious enough location, but the why was much more difficult to discern. Why buy them just to keep them imprisoned? And why, despite a purchase of more than two dozen, were all the cells save one empty? Where had they gone after that? That was, surprisingly, a question answered in part by Scheherazade. The girl had taken one look at the odd marking at the top of one of the pages and frowned, brows knitting together thoughtfully. After a few hours, she’d brought Loki a tome on Revelation architecture that she’d been reading a while ago and pointed out that the inked symbol recalled an old mason’s mark from the city’s founding.

That hadn’t meant much until she and Amon had done a little more digging. Apparently, the mark was actually used in masonry only after first being a religious icon from the time before the city was necessary or existent. Elisia herself had reappropriated the old cult mark of the goddess and had it stamped into the bricks that built her palace and the surrounding buildings.

Of course, it was only when Amon told her about the room beneath Beta with the same sigil etched into the floor that her confusion started gradually receding, leaving a burgeoning dread to fester in its place. The map was a separate but equally vital piece of the picture. I don’t think the magi fully understand what they’re doing, she could not help but think, but part of her wondered if, great manipulator as he was, even Gilgamesh had the wherewithal to plan this by himself. It just seemed like… she must have miscalculated what he was capable of, because this was beyond what she had thought possible.

Inhaling deeply, she tried not to sigh before she spoke. “Right, well… apparently Duke Gilgamesh has gone off the deep end.” She had never been any good at sugar-coating things, and she wasn’t going to start trying at the moment, horrible as that was. “It seems he has been buying slaves for the sole purpose of killing them. Amon, Danterus, and Giacomo found a… room underneath Beta with evidence of as much, and Eos and I stumbled upon where he’d been holding them.” They’d also stumbled upon Lord Chandler’s son Benjamin, but the boy had yet to respond to medical care and was still largely comatose. “It seems that his political prisoners have been receiving the same treatment. I don’t know what he thinks he’s going to achieve, but it’s a safe bet that it would sound absolutely insane to most if not all of us and is probably also religiously-tinged. I can’t tell to what degree the magi were aware of this, but Azazel’s wife at least seems to have had some knowledge of what was going on.”

“Like as not, the man himself won’t hear any of it,” Amon pointed out dryly. “He doubtless sees Gilgamesh as his puppet, not the other way around, and refuses to believe he’d be capable of doing something like this right under his nose.” The Guildmaster’s eyes fell to the two maps. Loki had noted that the one given to Azazel and Ishtar was bereft of the other’s more incriminating marks. “We’ve been discussing it-” ‘we’ meaning the smiths, Giacomo, and Amon- “and it seems most likely that Gilgamesh’s men are going to be setting charged explosives beneath the city. Probably around the time of Gilgamesh’s trial.”

Loki nodded. “It wouldn’t surprise me if the mages conveniently chose that day to march as well.” It meant that she and Caelin at the very least would be otherwise occupied and in a very specific place when the events occurred, as would the Duke himself. The eye of the storm is the safest place to be? I think not. Rubbing at her temples, she glanced back up at the others. “It’s not all bad news though. Thanks to a bit of good thinking and a bit of dumb luck, Chandler’s moderates will help us if we can present enough proof. I think I know how we can get it without incriminating ourselves, but it will take a bit of convincing. Garbiel has secured us the assistance of the second most influential guild in the city, and pressure from the smiths is bound to turn a few of their business partners into more amicable men as well.” She discretely chose not to mention that part of the reason for that was a well-timed hit.

“If this goes the way I think it’s going to go, we’ll be doing three things at once: putting on a show for Parliament, diffusing explosives belowground, and stopping the magi from destroying the city. Volunteers?” The question was asked in resigned tones, as though the very utterance of the single-word question was a great labor. In a way, it was. This small group of people had done more than they should ever have needed to for the city, and most of them would probably remain unrecognized for that- assuming they even survived this. Some of them would probably even remain hated for the rest of their lives. Loki didn’t really want to think about what this whole rebellion was going to do to Pandora’s chances of not being assaulted on sight should she ever presume to enter Beta.

“No matter what you decide, we’ve got a week until the trial. If you’re still in this, you’d best prepare yourselves however you can.” Closing her eyes, she slowly leaned back into her chair. There was a great mountain of tasks for her to surmount personally before then, and already she was running contingencies and trying to account for the ever-incalculable illogical human factor. It only seemed to grow more difficult with time.

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#, as written by Arke
It was only after setting Siri's safety to the highest priority that Caelin decided to pursue other leads. Working his way around Alpha, he could not confirm anything else other than the fact that Gilgamesh did have some sort of sway over Chandler and his group of moderates.They were either not as trusting as Chandler was, or they were paid off to keep their mouths relatively shut. Unfortunately for Gilgamesh, many politicians liked to chew the fat, as long as the topic at hand didn't really concern their own personal reputation. He had no more clues but a stinking letter, which greatly frustrated him, but he pressed on and went to meet up the next day to present it as possible evidence.




Assassin's Guild

Caelin sat to the side, a few seats down from the Princess. Even at this distance, he could tell that she had not been resting. Her posture, though correct, seemed rickety- as if a simple breeze would cause it to sway and creak in protest. Nevertheless, she presented what she had gathered. Caelin silently placed the letter of demands against Chandler on the table, and left it there to be forgotten. He quickly examined the map the map presented by Pandora and Victoria, noting it to be accurate. He saw the documents Loki and Eos retrieved, and his face twitched slightly. It sharply reminded him of all the times his legislatures to slowly root out slavery had been denied. As Scherazade gave her own input, the young noble began to put the pieces together a little more quickly. As Loki began to speak, she confirmed his conclusion. The only good news, was that she confirmed that Gilgamesh kidnapped Chandler's son, and found him. The old man would be very pleased, and this would give him great incentive to help Taylor out.

However, as she progressed, Taylor was horrified to hear of what the Mages were probably planning. If this wasn't stopped, this would give Gilgamesh the leverage he needed to assert his control and slam the last nail into the magi's coffin. Why did they have to be so impatient?! He gritted his teeth imperceptibly, infuriated by the turn of events. As things neared their climax, even Taylor's legendary calmness was beginning to crack. And soon, he'll be in the center of it with Loki. He straightened slightly as Loki finished her summary of the evidence and predictions.

"I'm in far too deep to back out now. I have to finish what I start." the young noble said, "but diffusing explosives? I neither have the knowledge nor can be present at the time. My apologies." His smile was wry. "However, If you wish I can offer some experts from my own company, specialized with chemical explosions. They might be able to help." He offered.

Victoria was scowling at the floor. At this point things were about to draw to a thundering conclusion, all in the matter of one week. During the discussion, she had kept quiet as Loki pieced Gilgamesh's plan together. She flashed a hesitant look toward Pandora, who seemed to be extremely angry. She then turned her eyes to look at Zade, who agreed to help Loki diffuse the explosives. She wanted to pull out at this point. Maybe she could still salvage her medical career. However, she knew that her Master would finish what he started. After all, you don't leave a patient half-treated, right? Besides, becoming a doctor at this point will put her in danger- as it would isolate her from her comrades and bring her out of hiding.

She sighed. "I have no clue how to work explosives." She admitted. "He... He never got around to showing me that stuff. If he knew how." Shifting uncomfortably, she ducked her so she didn't have to see their faces. "But, if you need an extra girl for the job, I'm here. Just tell me what to do."




Four Days Later

District Alpha

Every maid and male servant was armed with a knife, those more skilled given a weapon of their choice. They had become a secondary guard, and are quite possibly more lethal than his current sentinels patrolling his home. This was because they knew how to stay out of sight, they knew every inch of this house, and they were aware of any movement within it.

As Taylor sat at his desk, clearing away work that had piled up over the course of his investigation on Gilgamesh, he worried about Siri. If things were to veer sharply off course, would he be able to survive Parliament? Taylor had only barely managed to be able to, relying heavily on luck and his own desperate cunning. Would Siri have it in him? He would be several years younger than Taylor. It was slightly foolish, though. A young boy like Siri, taking a Parliament seat? Impossible. It was more likely that Taylor would simply lose it's voice in the meetings until Siri reached an acceptable age.

Sighing, he forced himself to focus. The door opened slightly, as the slight boy slipped in.

"Hey daddy!" He said.

"Hello, Siri, what are you doing here?" Caelin asked.

"Didn't you hear? Uncle Chandler found his kid! Manfred told me!" He said. "Isn't that wonderful?"

Caelin smiled. "That is great news!"

"Safrina says I'm doing good in my studies too!" He rattled on, hopping in place.

"That's excellent as well, Siri, but you can't hide it from me- What do you want?"

Siri flushed slightly. "Manny asked if I could go over to his house to play." He said. "Can I?"

It was as if a knife cut through his gut. "O-of course Siri. Just let Safrina escort you to and back, okay?" He said, his composure still shaky. Even at this point, Caelin still wasn't took keen on letting Siri out on his own until Gilgamesh and his cronies had been thoroughly dealt with.

"Thanks! I'll be back soon Daddy!" He said happily, bouncing out of the room. Muffled shouts for Caelin's ex-Thief maid could be heard throughout the manse.

Caelin sat back, slightly dazed. Daddy, huh?




District Delta

Five days after the Meeting, Midnight

In these streets, he was in control. All the food around could be his. What was a tiny crumb to them was a feast to himself. There was no such thing as trash here.

Suddenly, his head jerked up. Sniffing slightly, he smelt an unfamiliar aroma- somebody too clean to have been from this place. Of course, Furskins the Rat wouldn't have known that- thought he scent was odd enough. Hissing slightly, he attacked a piece of garbage on the streets. A rush of wind alerted him, and he tried to dart off but found himself struggling in a padded glove.

Twisting, he turned around to see a blond girl, staring intently at him. She nodded once. "You'll make a good test subject." She said. Furskins felt unfamiliar chills go down his spine.

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#, as written by Smith
Under almost any other circumstances, Eos would have found Loki's moment of tender maternal care touching. Now though, it grated on his nerves. Not so much the act, no, the assassin was dwelling on the reason why this child was here in the first place. It was not until Loki spoke again that Eos snapped out of his reverie. The ever dutiful assassin nodded, took one passing look at the child and turned to head further down the tunnel. Places like these always had multiple entrances and exits in the event that the operation went under or somebody ratted the location out. As he lead on, Eos could only wonder as to what was running through the mind of the future queen.


The following day; Assassins' Guild meeting room

Eos had opted to stand throughout Loki's debriefing despite the fatigue that so obviously weighed the man down. Lack of sleep pressed on the assassin like a suffocating mask, forming deep crescents under the man's eyes and giving him a slack look that a man of no small physical means should sport. Still, arms crossed and eyes sharp, Eos listened on. Although he had spent most of the night at the palace, he had not spoken to Loki at all since arriving and was forced to twiddle his thumbs as the smarter members of their 'team' pieced things together.

Even after a rundown of the situation, Eos still found himself feeling lost amid the sea of plots and betrayal. What in the hell was Gilgamesh doing with all of the corpses his ritual killings produced? Revelation has only so much storage space, and it would take an inordinate amount of power to grind up that many corpses into an inconspicuous paste that would go unnoticed in the waste bins. Even then, based on the information Loki was providing, that would be alot of human goo to get rid of.

The word 'volunteers' caught the assassin's attention. Eos felt as if he should smirk or crack a joke, but it just was not in him. Instead, he contemplated where his skills would be most appreciated. The trial was ruled out immediately. Helping to cull any mage riots would probably make the most use of his abilities, but Eos felt like there would be a great deal of guardians surrounding each bomb as well that might require his touch. In the end, the assassin could not decide. A lump formed in the back of his throat as the others gave their two cents and words of encouragement.


Four Days Later

The Royal Palace


Dressed in a fine suit of formal-wear with freshly polished shoes, Eos immediately caught the attention of the current guards. After a few customary and routine checks, the assassin was ushered in to wait in the lobby. A maid, one whose name Eos had never bothered to remember, smiled and disappeared down the hall leading to the kitchen. Eos smiled upon her return, for sure enough the woman came bearing a small bowl of ice-cream. He was told that the wait might be a while, considering the preparations that the princess was endeavoring to complete in the short amount of time given. Eos nodded and took in spoonfuls of the frozen treat as he waited. It tasted bitter this day.

It was not too long before Eos was sent in to a smaller room with a two-seat table near the window, opposite to some archaic instrument Loki had referred to as a piano some time ago. Here he would await the princess herself and, hopefully, not feel too depressed by the time he had to leave. The man stretched before taking a seat on the high-backed chair. Periodically, Eos glanced down to see if his briefcase was still there. He was going to need it.

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Taylor Chemicals

Zade was fairly certain she had understood most of that; combustibles as a group were not new to her knowledge, but she’d never dealt in actual demolitions. Eyeing the fragmentation device warily, she listened to Victoria’s question without averting her gaze from the rather innocuous-looking container. They wouldn’t bother planting such things underground, would they? No… surely not if their object was to do damage to infrastructure and not people.

She also therefore had cause to doubt that they’d be dealing with dummy-wires (for why would the people responsible expect interference in a plan that nobody was supposed to know about?) or much of anything but combustion bombs, though the use of timers seemed likely if they wanted everything to do off at the same time. They might not even have to defuse anything if they were quick enough to catch the teams of planters in the act… but all of this was best-case scenario, and if experience had taught Zade anything, it was that you should never count on things working out in any but the worst ways. A jaded, cynical thought, but perhaps not entirely inappropriate.

“I think… that there’s no way we can learn enough in the time we have. So, perhaps we should focus on the ones designed to destroy infrastructure specifically. Combustion bombs, with timers maybe.” A thought struck her. “Say your bomb was Marchfield-constructed, designed for construction projects where demolition was required. What kinds of dummy wires are you looking for then?” This was directed at their instructors, though she did not clarify the reasons for her question, as they'd asked she refrain from doing. Marchfield always seemed to be on the periphery of these things, and they were one of the few licensed makers of explosives out there, which meant information on the construction was probably actually available. It was worth a shot, anyway.



The Assassins' Guild

Pandora constrained her mirth into a light smile at Danterus’s initially-awkward phrasing. She’d been in the same boat so many times it was easy to relate. She scoffed gently at the use of a prefix with her own name, but realized maybe that was a little hypocritical of her. “First names, then. I can do that if you will.”

He excused himself for a second and came back rather more clothed, which she had the grace not to comment upon. “Well, I’m not much help in the training department, though I’d be happy to fix you up if you need those bruises taken care of.” Apparently, the inclination she’d had that he disliked magi was incorrect, and so she felt no reservation in offering this. “They may seem minor now, but they might not be so much so if they slow you down in a few days,” the healer pointed out pragmatically. If there was one thing Pandora was ever truly practical about (and there was probably only the one), it was the insistence that the people she knew do right by their health.

Her face became pensive for a second; she almost knew that it was going to be horrid. The vision had given her that much of an impression, anyway. When all was said and done, would he still be among the living, or prone on the ground with the deceased? It was a painful thing to think of even someone that she didn’t really know; she refused to let any of the blank faces swimming in her mind gain enough definition to look like Loki or Victoria or Eos. Certainly not; not while she still drew breath herself, anyway.

“Actually, I think I’d quite forgotten it was that time. Lunch sounds nice; I’m sure there’s still something down in the kitchens.” Her stream of words was broken by her bewildered reaction to his formality, and she blinked slowly, unable to keep herself from laughing, not derisively but rather with genuine amusement. “You know… I’m not sure anyone’s actually bowed to me before. For future reference, I’m really okay with handshakes.”

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#, as written by Arke
Victoria looked at her. She considered Zade as the one to go to regarding combustion bombs, as she learned. Any chemical bombs that might be present could be defused fairly easily if Victoria herself was present, but combustion is something too volatile for her to handle. She nodded slightly. "The most effective and logical thing the terrorists can get their hands on would probably be combustion bombs, I agree. The more destruction, the more benefit the mages get to their cause, and the more the law enforcement have to deal with.

She shook her head. Victoria couldn't believe she was getting herself deeper and deeper into this mess. All she wanted was to grow up and be a doctor. So far, the only way this looked possible was if she managed to stop the mages from blowing up half the city. Though, all the casualties could be for excellent business. She forced the morbid thought away- that was something only her Master would consider. She wiped her forehead with the back of her hand. The chemical experts looked at each other, and at the table. The first one moved bobbed his head in acknowledgement to Scheherazade's request, and picked up a metal container on the far end of the table.

"Marchfield is a place that relies on our chemicals for research, though I've never heard of them to be producing bomb. Not even for construction." He said, thoughtful. "However, construction bombs in general are much easier to deal with. To prevent backfiring, many of them have multiple ways to be defused in case of an emergency. Some have plugs that you can simply pull to cut off the charge from the explosive. Others can be turned off at the flick of a switch. Some remain completely inert until it is met with heavy force- such as a the fall of a hammer." The second man nodded.

"Normal construction bombs will never have dummy wires, as they confuse the workers. However, if it's been hijacked, expect the dummy wires to look much less natural than the pre-made wires. For example, look for signs of a patched job- wires that connect nowhere and tape holding those wires to the box. However, if your hijacker is good, the wires will have little-to-no difference from the others. In that case, your best bet is to bet. Usually, the wires run in the middle or right at the end of the box area- so any wires around it can be considered dummies."

Victoria's head was spinning. How the heck were they supposed to diffuse the bombs then?! there was so much guesswork involved one wrong move might have her splattered all over the wall!She looked over at Zade helplessly.

"Timers make the situation much more easier to control. That means the bomber has no control over when the bomb will explode if things go awry. There's little you can do about the timer, but if you can somehow dismantle it without triggering the bomb, you will be able to find the charge and simply cut the wire that's connected to it. Real good bombers look ahead and plant the dummy wires there too, though."

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Taylor Chemicals

“Fantastic,” Zade muttered darkly. “Right, so it looks like our best bet is to hope that the rebels don’t have a decent bomb-maker in the lot, then.” Despite her caustic attitude, directed as it was at nobody particularly, she did her best to memorize as much of the information as possible. In the end, though, she still left with a prevailing sense of dread.



The Assassins' Guild

“Oh, don’t worry about it,” Pan replied easily, waving a dismissive hand. “I’m just not used to it is all.” She knew little to nothing of actual manners, at least not in the sense of high-class affairs, and so all of it struck her as a little strange, but she wasn’t going to complain about someone being polite in the way they happened to know. She strove towards the same thing personally, after all.

She followed his gesture, confused for a second before she figured out that he was indicating she precede him. The mage-healer thanked Danterus for opening the door to the stairwell as she pondered his question. “Well, you are right about that. I often feel the same way myself, actually, but if I recall correctly, my involvement was just a matter of being in the right place at the right time.”

The opening of the next door and heeding the cook’s instructions interrupted her for a while, but as soon as she was settled into her seat, she started up again. “It’s kind of funny, actually. I think the day it all sort of fell in on my head was rather auspicious. I’d just treated Eos, you see, because back then he’d left the Guild for a while, and then the Doctor came for a visit as well, which was kind of strange…” her voice dropped off for a moment at the mention of the physician, but she shook herself out of it and picked up where she’d stopped.

“Anyway, I was running a free clinic back then instead of doing house calls- it was much easier on me, though now I wonder if it might not have inconvenienced the patients… wasting lung was a major problem in Delta, and several of them held off on their treatments until they were hardly breathing, the poor things.” She recalled several such cases and shook her head minutely. “But anyway, a man stumbled into the clinic that afternoon, and I was able to determine that he’d been poisoned. Magic isn’t nearly as good at dealing with that sort of thing as conventional medicine, so it was really a good thing the doctor was there… turns out, the young man we treated had been injected with a test dose of the same poison later used to kill Marquis Goldwater. After that, I guess it just never occurred to me to stay out of things. Everyone could use a healer sometimes, right?”

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She was growing tired of funerals, truth be told. Then again, she supposed the same was true of those around her as well; gods knew they’d attended enough of them in the past few weeks. Garbiel’s had been first, just as soon as Danterus was fit enough to attend. Gilgamesh’s had been next, though she’d only attended because she had to, and certainly none of the others had been forced to come. Scheherazade had, but then there was more to that than there rightfully should have been.

Her mother’s had been the hardest, partly because she’d never seen it coming. They’d managed to find and locate all the threads in the plot besides that one, and it wasn’t until she’d arrived home, bloodied, exhausted, and recovering from what was nearly an agonizing trauma the like of which she’d not really thought to experience, that Alia had found her and recounted the story of the poison in the Queen’s food. A fool. She’d been a fool for letting that angle, so obvious, slip past her perception. She hadn’t been able to weep at the funeral, instead swallowing the tears like a monarch should and trying to keep her thoughts from straying to all that had been lost.

An entire city neighborhood. Half of the rebel mage group. Countless soldiers. A master of his craft and valued ally. Her mother.

And here, now, a very public funeral of strangely mixed attendance. Amidst Loki’s friends and allies and guards were several people dressed much less well, most of their eyes fixed on the ground, shuffling feet as though thoroughly uncomfortable with the surroundings. A matron wept in the arms of her aging husband, and the Queen-to-be surmised these must be Pandora’s grandparents.

When she’d told them of her plans to bury the mage-woman in the District Alpha citadel, they’d been wary at first. Understandable, considering that the healer’s kind had never been welcomed there before. Loki, though, was done with that artificial divide, and if anyone deserved to be buried like a hero, it was Pandora. The account was a little different depending upon who told it, but the important part was always the same: the shield that had protected mage and soldier alike had weathered chunks of masonry and concrete bigger than a person, draining her energy beyond repair, and by her sacrifice, she had saved many. More, if those who had turned and departed after her harsh words counted as well.

It troubled her to know that the ever-bright young woman had died painfully and with bitterness creeping into her heart. Normally, Loki was not one for sentiment, but even she was not without feeling, and it was hard not to think that there was something horribly wrong about the way it had turned out. They’d won the day, but not without considerable loss. She wondered if it was even worth it, but of course it was. It had to be. Even if it wasn’t, she would transform it into something that was. She owed that much to the deceased.

The Elisian priest finished his words, and the casket was slowly lowered into the ground. Loki took a deep breath, her hold tightening on the white rose held in her right hand. The thorns dug into her skin, but she was hardly mindful of it at present. She glanced beside her at the still-injured but thankfully alive Caelin, but said nothing. That day had been kind to none of them, she supposed, and she imagined that none of the people here were suffering less than she.

She’d been opening her mouth to say something- she knew not what- to Eos, when her eyes followed the same path and alighted on the nobleman collapsed on the floor, wrist snapped and bent at an awkward angle, sprawled on the floor in what appeared to be a pool of his own blood.

For all her knowledge of the reality of death, she’d never had to watch a friend die (perhaps partially because she’d never had friends). She was unprepared for the sick, rotting feeling that bloomed in her chest cavity, and for the way panic closed her throat. She’d always been in perfect control of such reactions, but it was… well, suffice it to say she’d had no practice with this, no training that could adequately convey what it felt like.

Heedless of the consequences, she’d been off like a shot, hip-checking one of the men still standing over her friend and throwing her right-hand blade with rather more force than was strictly necessary into the one about to land the last blow. He’d dropped, and Carlisle had cut in to end the one now on the ground but otherwise unharmed. She'd suffered a rather painful abdominal wound for the trouble, but it had hardly mattered comparatively.

The rest of the company she’d designated for this task arrived within seconds, and she was left to try and staunch what bleeding she could until the actual medical professionals had arrived. Never in her life had she felt so powerless as when she realized that she needed to know how to treat wounds, and had been at a loss on where to start. Luckily, what little she was able to manage had been enough.


Approaching the grave, she placed the first flower gently on the casket and stepped back, clasping her hands in front of her and reading the inscription she had requested for the gravestone. Sighing inaudibly, she turned and made way for the next person in line, ignoring the twinge as the new scar tissue on her ribcage pulled. Her eyes wandered over the crowd, picking out faces here and there that she recognized, but Eos was not immediately visible. Not that she necessarily expected him to be in the mass of onlookers, but she was fairly sure that he was around somewhere.

After they’d taken Caelin away for medical treatment, she’d spent much of the next while refusing similar ministrations and instead devoted herself to clearing the bodies out of the Parliament Building. Silly as it was, part of her was actually occupied wondering whether or not she’d have her own trial now that the only one who’d press charges against her was dead. Perhaps it was counterintuitive, but she actually sort of wanted to be held accountable for it. Too many people had gotten away with too many abuses of power, and she was not so blind that she did not count herself among them.

She’d wound up working beside him, able to actually give his question some thought, though she knew well enough what the answer had to be. The only question was how exactly she was supposed to say something like that. But hell, why not? She’d been out of her element all damn day, and next to that, getting over her social shortcomings was hardly of any consequence.

“I…” she’d started abruptly, still working at the business of dragging bodies across the floor. She was half-tempted to make a dry remark about awful timing, but then it was too true to be funny anyway. “Can’t.” Oh fantastic. She’d taken the coward’s way out and was going with the duty excuse, wasn’t she? It certainly seemed that way. Of course, that was probably your only option when the real reason was something you weren’t even willing to admit to yourself, much less anyone else. He should have asked her a year ago- it would probably have been better for all involved.


A flash of red hair informed her that Zade was present, but Loki wouldn’t seek her out. The girl had been released from the terms of her employment, a decision that had troubled the Princess, but one that she had thought it best to make. Victoria was there, too, as was Amon, and she might have seen Danterus earlier… they were truly fortunate to have made it out alive.

Loki lingered until the last of the guests had filed away save Pandora’s grandparents, then took her own leave, turning her back to the scene of their grief. For the first time in her life, she truly understood what they were feeling, and she left them to their misery in peace. She had a coronation to organize, and then a world to change. This would be worth all the pain, or at least as much worth it as she was capable of making it in a human lifetime.



Pandora Elling
Mage, Healer, Friend
True courage is not the absence of fear, but facing it with all your might.

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It was about as nice as funerals got, she supposed. That was probably how it should be, for someone like Pandora had been. Zade’s would probably be a quiet affair, hopefully not with too many people around like this one had. Maybe she’d just be cremated. It’d be right in line with the level of irony she’d been existing at for a long time now, so she figured it’s be appropriate or something.

Loki looked… different. Sadder, burdened, as though there were an additional weight on her shoulders now that hadn’t been there before. Zade didn’t know much about such things, but figured it was probably what happened when you went home after a long day of trying to save everything you cared about only to find that one of the people you’d been fighting hardest for had been torn from you when your back was turned. Perhaps it was the idea of running the entire city that did it- Zade knew she’d turn and run like hell if someone told her she had to do that. She was already running from what little responsibility she’d managed to accrue, really, and the Princess seemed to understand. She’d certainly allowed it without protest.

A small hand closed over her own, and Zade’s attention was drawn to the small girl beside her. These people weren’t the only ones mourning, and when Ishtar had discovered what happened to Aram, she’d told the little girl here- Sigrun- to go with Zade. The daughter of a whore had agreed from perhaps some lingering sense of obligation. Though the young woman usually didn’t think of it much, Ishtar had been the one who tended her mother in her last days, so perhaps she owed the madam something. Circles within circles- and the child’s hair was the exact shade of Zade’s own, though they could not have been more different otherwise.

It was funny, that Gilgamesh’s child was standing there and looking so contrite at the funeral of someone her father would have hated so much. Was that hypocritical to think? Perhaps.

When it was their turn, Zade placed her flower wordlessly, nodded to Loki, and grasped Sigrun’s hand tightly. “Time to go,” she said quietly, gentling her tone for the benefit of the kid if nothing else, and the pair retreated. She wasn’t working for Loki anymore, but the future monarch would know where to find her, as would any of the others, if they really felt the desire. It wasn’t like she was going anywhere, after all. But all things being equal, she was damn well going back to the only thing she’d ever enjoyed doing. If this entire experience had taught her any lesson at all, it was that life was far too short to waste it doing things you didn’t like.

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#, as written by Smith
It was not until after Caelin stabilized and the battle died down that a medic attempted to treat Eos. He waved away treatment, and would have gotten away with it too had a soldier not clasped him on his left shoulder. He should have, Eos realized after a few moments, been able to see the man out of the periphery of his vision. It was a few moments more and a tentative prodding of the flesh surrounding the ruined orb that Eos cried out and sank to his knees in blinding pain. It took everything the assassin had not to go down, to beat back the black waves of unconsciousness. When he could focus again, the medic was explaining how he treated Eos' eye and bound it, but how a proper covering would be required soon. With a nod and a grimace, Eos set about helping with the clean-up.

Wrists and ankles, hands and feet, Eos grasped pairs of these along with another soldier or civilian holding up the other end more times than he could count. Nobody complained about the smell of gore and waste that permeated the air, nor did they look one another in the eye as they set about their grisly task. Eos numbered among these faceless assistants. At some point, instead of the rough hands of a man familiar with battle, his gaze alighted upon a familiar set flecked with blood. Eos glanced up several times as they worked together to haul the corpses out of the way. When that first syllable finally came, the assassin almost jumped. In the brief silence that followed, Eos smiled wistfully. Loki's word, the last to be spoken between them for a long time, did not come down as a hammer like he expected it to. Eos simply smiled and nodded. He should have asked earlier. Maybe the answer would have been different if impending doom had not forced his hand.The last thought he had that day, for himself, was 'idiot'.


Eos skipped most of the funerals. He found it hard to care, really, as he had no connections to these people. Working to help rebuild and restore what was lost in the aftermath suited him just fine. Eos did, however, manage to work Minerva's death into his schedule. He stood in the background, simply staring at the proceedings. On some level, Eos felt as if he should cling to his hatred for the woman that had allowed his first life to fall to ruin. In the end though, the former Hand of Tartarus unclenched his fists. If she had not made that decision, he knew, Eos would not be standing here today.

The last funeral he attended was, of course, that of Pandora Elling. Eos almost cried for her. She had been his first push, the first reason he had not to rot away in a gutter somewhere. Even before that, the little mage had healed all manner of nasty wounds and infections that he brought her without complaint. It might have been my fault, Eos surmised, as the priest droned on. He made a choice: Go to aid Loki in what amounted to one of if not the greatest coup d'état in Revelation's history, or help Pandora survive a veritable suicide mission. Eos bit back tears. Idiot. Run to the woman who could scrap with the best of them, armored to the teeth with retainers...or ensure the survival of one diminutive healer who apologized when she swatted a fly. Indeed, thinking back on it, he barely made a difference in the battle with Gilgamesh. At least shadowing Pandora, his focus would have been better-

"No." he spoke quietly to no one in particular. The edge of his lips curled upward slightly, for only a moment, when he read the epitaph of Pandora. He felt ashamed in thinking that she needed his help. Turning away from the scene, Eos thought that Pandora died a warrior, just like the rest of them. His one regret was that Pandora had not lived to see Eos with an eye patch.