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Locke Taurin

"I assure you, I have only the best of intentions."

0 · 164 views · located in Ter'Ciel

a character in “Ter'Ciel Saga: The War of Akyel”, as played by Seerow

Description

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Name: Locke Taurin (And his many alias' he's picked up)

Race: Human

Age: 23

Gender: Male

Homeland: Uncertain, but he generally operates within the Kingdom of Valexia. (More fools there)

Appearance: Standing in at 5'11 the slender, rakish frame of Locke is betrayed by his almost urchin garments. Two dimmed golden orbs sit between long unkempt bangs that offer only calculative stares accompanied usually with with a slight frown. The patchwork of myriad clothes he adorns hangs loosely over his lissome form. Yet do not be fooled, though his build is willowy for a man, it is evident upon examination that there is a compacted build of muscle in his arms, legs, and abdomen. His composure is alarmingly carefree and he holds himself in a rather lazy manner. When he moves however, it is with a certainty and fleet-footed swiftness that one might see a practiced dancer evoke.

Personality: Locke is a creature of survival, and by desire or necessity has lived by the fortunes or misfortune of others. There is a duality in Locke that is invoked in the business of conning people. He is uncannily observant and friendly but this is usually because he can gain from an individual. Offering as much charm and bedeviling interaction as he can summon. By nature of his upbringing he has learned to be pleasing to people. Trying his best to instill as kindly an appearance as possible.

Yet, there is undoubtedly a darker side. As Locke is in fact a thief by trade and need, he has been in situations that call for weapons over words. He can muster a relentless cold and unfeeling personality. After all he is in the interest of self-preservation at the expense of anyone else. Friends are almost always of convenience and the notion of belonging to an ideal is scoffed at Locke. He ultimately serves himself, and the ends justify the means.

Talents/Skills: To talk someone out of their coin requires a few things that should be of note. First is a keen eye for detail, identifying and understanding a victim is essential. Next is the ability to convince and manipulate the thoughts of others through ploy and expression. Locke is an excellent and sympathetic actor when it suits him. Lastly, is the understanding of how to hide. All the cleverness in the world is not enough if a little subterfuge cannot be mustered. Being able to vanish from one's targets remains indescribably important.

Though there are others far more gifted, Locke does have basic working knowledge of getting past basic locks. An unfortunate side-effect of his work is that doors have a nasty habit of being in the way. He finds it easier to discuss his way to coin, and usually opts for parley long before trying anything else.

Weaknesses/Vices: Ah, yes, well greed would be the obvious vice. Locke steals things, in part to continue to live and in part because he wants something from others without honestly earning it. There is always room for more treasure in Locke's opinion. Still he only takes what he can get and only seems to push his luck when he's almost certain he can get more from a job.

While the thief knows his way well enough around daggers and knives he isn't formally trained. If he should fail to vitally wound someone from the shadows or be forced into a forward protracted battle he will undoubtedly fail. He does his very best not to put himself in such a position however.

Likes/Dislikes: Likes: Fools, Rich Fools, Cats, A nice meal after a hard day's work, Pretty Fools, Sleeping, Singing (Mostly to himself).
Dislikes: Clever Fools, Closed doors, Guards, Guard Dogs, Loud abrasive noises, When he is forced to try and wear disguises because a job went bad.

Equipment: When Locke is on a job he is generally armed as best he can be. He can always be seen with his dagger, a gift or item he acquired when he was younger. Knives are kept at his belt and stocked within his boots. He dresses with long loose pants to keep his movement flowing, but adorns his upper torso with little more than a vest and shirt not fitted for him. This allows for full possible rotation of his shoulders and keeps things from snagging or hooking onto his body. Of course all of that is undermined by the long flowing scarf he always adorn. Though it is not beneficial in his line of work, he wears the tattered thing all the time and insists that it be with him.

Miscellaneous: It should be noted that Locke does sell his services. He has worked for people of good and terrible reputation, so long as the pay suits his needs and he feels he can accomplish his client's goals without much risk.

Background Story: War torn was the land and yet even with such hatred it seemed love would avail however minute. Locke's real parents never knew their son out of infancy, though they were always destined for a terrible fate. Locke himself is half Ata'huan, and though his features does betray this notion if one looks very closely, he speaks and acts with the total cadence of Valexia. An orphan of racial hate, Locke was set to the streets after his parents were killed, a babe wailing in the aftermath of a violent conflict. Why he was spared Locke will never know, as by right the wrath of the people who murdered his family should have no doubt felt no remorse for an infant, or so he assumes. Locke was taken in by a widowed elder and left comfortably within her care for a time.

Sadly, the widow's age and health declined and unexpectedly passed when Locke was still a child. Once more he was sent to the streets. As a waif bound by a scarf, a belonging that was the widow's, he learned how to beg and used his child-like innocence to obtain the things he needed to get by. As he grew his talents had to alter. People were not as merciful now that he wasn't a kid and with the prospect of war always looming, homeless were often shewed or outright attacked. The people already disgruntled had no desire to look within their own walls when the enemy was never far. So better to sweep the downtrodden under a rug or force them out of sight then to accept the reality of what was happening. The only choice he had was to adapt.

Today Locke is something of troublemaker and though he does willingly take jobs that require his self-taught 'talents'. It's more likely he is spending his time carefully crafting some plan. He is always hiding in the background of crowds. Looming carefully behind the passing of bodies and the din of conversation, his eyes sharp as he seeks his next client or better still his next fool. With the sudden absence of the mirror, every sellsword and mercenary has been sent out in the hopes of finding it. The reward for bringing back the fabled artifact beyond measure. For Locke this means the biggest prospect of his entire life, and possibly a leisurely retirement from having to con for a living. Now if only he could just get a proper lead...

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So begins...

Locke Taurin's Story

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Mariette Renard Character Portrait: Locke Taurin

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#, as written by Seerow
Locke Taurin


“At long last, I will be undeniable; I will be flocked to by women for miles around!”

Locke had to stifle his laughter. This man couldn’t be so serious, and yet the words that were pouring from the codger’s mouth were nothing short of comical genius. The curmudgeon wasn’t without his resources fortunately; it appeared the batty elder had amassed enough wealth to try and send Locke to the dangerous unknowns that were the forests of the north. All in search of a mysterious stone idol said to grant its owner an unrivaled aura of desire. It was said the idol was some trinket of an ancient fertility goddess and she gave such outlandish promises as one thousand mates to her priests and servants. A bit radical when Locke put it in perspective, but if his employer wanted to believe it was none of his business, his job after all, was only to return the idol to the old man and collect his reward.

Of course he wasn’t going to even try and brave the unmapped parts of the land. Much less go delving into some trap riddled temple to die a truly horrific death. No, the thief had to be much cleverer and for such a high price he couldn’t pass on the opportunity that presented itself. He was going to receive enough Akeli to eat off of for months.

Instead Locke had spent the better half of a month carefully researching the old fool’s idol. Then with the aid of some local artists had been painstakingly recreating and weathering a clay replica of the goddess’ vessel. Every chip in its surface was carefully placed by design, every coat of earthly hues applied was done in a loving gesture. All of it wrapped in some old cloth he found in the streets. The faux idol was lovingly placed in an old jewelry box he ‘acquired’, and packed with feathers and soft bedding in part to offer an idea that he was cautious and in part because clay was fragile.

Locke beamed and nodded to the old man, as he pushed the box gingerly toward him. It wouldn’t be much longer. He just had to play this out and he would walk away with the payment, no hitch, no worry.

“You are a remarkable man Davonshire Jack,” the delight of the senior’s voice seemed to hold endless mirth and anticipation. The wrinkled hands gently lifted the lid of the box to see the replica sitting quietly within. His malachite eyes lit with excitement and he licked at his lips with an eagerness that Locke found somewhat disturbing.

“Well, think of me next time you need an adventurer. Davonshire Jack, I get there and get back.”

“Oh yes, yes! I certainly will.”

“I hate to hurry, but about our agreement? I don’t want to be trapped here when this building is filled wall to wall with beautiful ladies.”

“Beautiful, do you think?” It appeared the aged brain was addled by the idea, he obviously heard Locke yet didn’t seem to understand. The thief couldn’t help but wonder privately just what would drive this man to such desperations? At first glance the old man wasn’t entirely deplorable, was it his personality perhaps?

“Pretty women as far as the eye can see. Now truly sir, I wish to go before you no doubt drown in heaving bosoms. There are other adventures for Davonshire Jack, I can’t afford to die a pleasant death here and now.” He offered with as courteous a bow he could manage. Beneath his mannerisms he was growing impatient. The longer this exchange took, the larger the chance of them discovering his little replica is a fake.

“Down the stairs, the guards will see to you. Now get going Jack, these halls are going to burst with my wives.”
Locke spun on his heels, the clatter of his boots echoing down the halls of the old alchemy building. It was said at one time they housed an entire guild for research. How the senile fool managed to own the entirety of the property is unknown. Locke drew in a deep breath of relief, the air was stale and held hints of dust and books even if the latter was completely out of sight. There was also another strange scent that he could only guess as some kind of chemical, or an old stain perhaps? Regardless it was unpleasant and he would be glad to walk into the fresh air again, a few hundred Akeli richer.

When he reached the doorway that would grant his freedom he was acknowledged by two dirty looking ruffians. No doubt some goons from a bar the old man had picked up. They were thugs at best and posed no threat so long as Locke wasn’t forced into a physical contest. He offered them a smile and approached with an unguarded stride. When dealing with hooligans it was far better to not show any kind of hesitance. Like dogs they could smell fear and used it to their advantage.

“Burt, Ren, take a few Akeli for some drinks later. On me.”

Their grins could down a gentle soul if said soul were not ready. The dumpy misshapen forms of their battle-scarred faces and the chipped snagged things they called teeth were a frightening visage reserved for ghouls. Locke could only guess they worked almost exclusively with intimidation, and it was a smart decision that he applauded the old fool for.

Each dipped their hands into a dirty leather sack drawing a few coins for themselves. They took more than Locke would have preferred, but if it meant their encounter shortened he was glad to give up the money. Eagerly they offered him the grimy bag and he took it without question. Locke made his way past the guards as they spouted a few jokes in parting.

“Ave’ a nice day Jack, be missing dat kurtin’ you wear.”

The air felt crisp and he was relieved for the sunlight that lit his face with its warmth. Already the day had begun and he could hear the distinct sounds of the people as they began to mill here and there. He loved Valexia, every footstep was another pathway to coin. Each voice a distinct piece of a puzzle that Locke could solve, and again walk away with Akeli, or perhaps something even greater.

Another fool had been conned and Locke couldn’t help but feel a satisfaction at the weight of the metal in his hand. It was cause for a celebration, but he would have to be a touch careful. Parading down the street like he had earned the world looking as he did, was the surest way to catch the attention of other lowlifes or worse still the guards that were in someone’s pocket. There was an entire underbelly to Valexia that warranted caution and only those who yearned for misery tried to walk the streets blissfully.
Locke moved down the winding ways of the city. His feet had traveled every square inch of Valexia and he knew the maze-like structures instinctively. What he longed for right now was some of Aunt Oba’s soup and he knew just where to find her. It wasn’t long before his eyes recognized the old courtyard and the steps that lead to one of his favorite hovels. The Rusty Timepiece it had been named. A bit of an oddity but it served as nice quiet place to recover and possibly hide should his scheme soon be discovered.

The heat and noise are always the first things felt getting past the door. The chatter of people was the loudest cacophony, the soft strumming of musicians trying their luck, the raucous of a few drunken patrons and of course the occasional joke or story. It wasn’t the worst tavern in Valexia by any account the keepers did well to serve their guests and managed visitors as best they were able. However that wasn’t what immediately caught his eye.

The golden edges of his orbs settled on the strangest company within the Rusty Timepiece. She was still standing almost awkwardly in the doorway. Downed in garments one would not see in the more questionable places of Valexia. The cloak of rich green and deep blacks signified a prestige that didn’t belong in the rustic tavern. Yet as he looked, there were many strange details that cropped up. Her boots were well traveled the scuff marks at the heel and sides gave this away. Her hair was well kept and from what he could gather staring at the small girl’s back she was far too finely dressed for where she was. Was she lost?

“… A rich traveler?”

He muttered in thought. The wheels of his mind were already turning. Could he make a profit from this? It was bold of him to try something again so soon, but it wasn’t everyday a possibly wealthy girl wound up on the wrong side of town. What’s worse, there would be others who note this as well. He would have to come up with something and quick. He wracked his brain what ploy would he try, what opening would be best? The back alley travel guide, or perhaps the gentlemen urchin trying to help, maybe if he was feeling brave he could pretend to be royalty that has been sent to rags. So many choices, but he had to act fast. He wanted more time to observe her, but she was in the wrong place. Other eyes were already leering at her no doubt there was opportunists among them. Perhaps he could use that knowledge to his advantage.

“Ah, there you are. My apologies for being late.”

There wasn’t any time and if he was going to make a show out of his lie he was going to need to make it believable. Quickly he went to take Mariette by the arm and tried to move her as briskly as he could toward a table. His words a sharp whisper into her ear as he drew close in proximity.

“Keep quiet and don’t make a scene and I’ll get you out of here alive. Just play along I’m here to help.”

He was overestimating the danger on purpose. His eyes were searching out over the other patrons, and looking over his shoulder as if expecting an assassin any minute. In truth if there was one among them bold enough to try something it wouldn’t be within the tavern. Yet, if Locke was anything of a good guesser, he was willing to bet she didn’t know this.

The setting changes from the-kingdom-of-valexia to Ter'Ciel

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Mariette Renard Character Portrait: Locke Taurin Character Portrait: Crixus Atani

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Crixus Atani

Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

“Really, that is how you're going to justify sitting in a run-down tavern in the heart of Valexia? How shrewd of you.”

I don't need a lecture. I am but one man with no army, anything I accomplish will have to be done covertly, so what better place to start than this underbelly of social happening?

“I just wonder who you're trying to convince, me or you? We both know you hate being here. Surrounded by these Valexians. Let's just kill some and be done with it.”

Oh how I wish...All in good time Vyers.

Three days. That's how long Crixus has been within the confines of the Iron City. Before that it was a journey of over two months that took him on foot from the Ata'huan tribelands all the way to the gates of the Iron City. He watched forested havens give way to rolling hills, and eventually turn to gravel and stone. He went days at a time without food or water, but he still continued his solitary march to the city. He had a job to do, and he had to start at the information capital of the world.

As soon as he arrived Crixus hated the city more than any other location he had been to in his travels. It was crowded, noisy, polluted, and filled with the sheep known as Valexians.

“Hey, pay attention. Something is amiss.”

What?

“The entryway. The girl in the cloak and the man with the large scarf. They act as if they expect to be attacked.”

The hairs on the back of Crixus' neck stood up immediately and his keen observation skills immediately kicked in. He began surveying the tavern as he would a battlefield. People of all sorts filled the tavern and added to the harsh sound of men jeering, women laughing, and all people gorging themselves on drink and food. The sickening sounds of these pigs made Crixus want to wretch, but he held his disgust to allow him time to observe the movement of people around the room.

“They are shifting attention, the men in the corner. Four of them, at first they were fixated on their dice game, but now they eye the girl and rogue.”

What do you make of it?

“The young girl looks to be out of place, but she looked just as frightened and surprised at the addition of that young man as she did relieved moments later. I would say they are at best acquaintences.”

Vyers was correct. The girl's expression changed almost instantaneously from fright, to confusion, to worry, and then to relief. Once again, Vyers outdid himself for him. Only thanks to his spirit familiar was Crixus able to become the great military mind he is known as today. Fortunately his fame isn't enough to be recognized by this rif-raff found at The Rusty Timepiece, but he was still renowned for his clever mind.

“What do you propose we do?”

The young strategist did not have much of a choice in this matter. He had already been in this city for three days and has heard next to nothing about the Mirror of Akyel other than it was missing. These two looked much to suspicious to be left alone, and if they turn out to be a dead end....well, he knew how to deal with those.

At the very least, they're something to go off of for now. But first things first, we have to deal with the crooks in the corner table.

Rules of combat usually follow that whoever strikes last may never be able to strike at all. Crixus always utilized every advantage he could get, and the element of surprise is one of the best to have going for you.

Crixus took a large swig from his ale and held it in his mouth for a few moments, trying to have the taste linger and hopefully have his breath smell stronger of booze.

“What are you doing? Do you want your judgement impaired?

Don't worry Vyers. I'm just going to make a distraction. That rogue fellow caught on quickly enough to the girl. Surely he'll be smart enough to see an altercation and get himself, and her the hell out of here. I want you to follow them when they do, and I'll catch up later.

The men in the corner began to stand up, and it was now or never. Crixus stood as well, and began to stumble over his own feet, as he all but fell into the brigand's arms, “Hey there you guys...I wan' in on the next game, I got plenty o' money to get play and I'm feelin' lucky!” Crixus practically spat the last words at the group, the toxic stench of his alcoholic laden breath hitting them square in their faces.

“Git out of our way you filthy drunk.” The men tried to push past Crixus.

“Awww come on! I wanna play!” Crixus' got louder and more belligerent, his act of being truly intoxicated working perfectly.

“I said move!” The larger man shoved Crixus to the side, and Crixus purposefully launched himself harder than needed, and slammed into a table causing it to spill over, and for Crixus to fall. Mugs filled with drink clanged to the floor and plates of half eaten food spilled to the ground as well. Chaos erupted as patrons began yelling and the group of unruly men were lost amidst a sea of angry bodies.

Crixus hoped that this was enough for the two to escape this little tavern unseen, save for Vyers. Crixus did not like being without him in his mind. The silence in his own head was a white noise that caused him nothing but pain, with only his thoughts and no voice to talk back, he sometimes felt like his mind made up the voices instead.

Picking himself up off the floor Crixus attempted to make an exit as well, but no sooner than him attempting to leave did he feel a hand grab his shoulder, “You're gonna pay for that, boy.” The man shoved Crixus with his full force out into the streets. Crixus tumbled forward and landed on his feet, his right hand resting on the hilt of his sword, his body poised for action.

Then a hard whallop was felt on the back of his head, and Crixus saw black as the ground rushed to meet him.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Mariette Renard Character Portrait: Locke Taurin Character Portrait: Crixus Atani

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The setting changes from terciel to The Kingdom of Valexia

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Mariette Renard Character Portrait: Locke Taurin Character Portrait: Crixus Atani

0.00 INK

Mariette Renard


“Keep quiet and don’t make a scene and I’ll get you out of here alive. Just play along I’m here to help.”

The stranger’s words echoed in her ear. Eyes suddenly wide, Mariette could feel her skin turn to ice. Trembling fingers clutched even tighter around her satchel.

Before she could make sense of the situation, she felt the man’s grip on her arm. Firm but not overpowering. Leading her through the rowdy tavern patrons and to the back of the room, he brought the confused girl to an open table. He motioned for her to have a seat. Unsure of what to do, Mariette’s gaze shifted about the room. It appeared that most of the patrons were staring at her. Did she truly look that suspicious? Turning back toward the stranger before her, she chose her actions carefully. Hesitantly she sat down.

“I’m sorry, sir, but…” she leaned in and spoke slowly, “I’m afraid you are mistaken. I do not seem to know you. If you’ll please excuse me…”

She managed a polite, albeit uncomfortable smile. Now to just get out of this place.

’How foolish of me. Thinking I could remain inconspicuous among so many people.’

With that, Mariette pushed her chair back and began to stand up. It was then that the tavern erupted.

“I said move!” One of the large men in the tavern was yelling.

Turning around, the girl saw the source of the altercation. It was a man. A thin, rather sickly looking man dressed in black. Dark bangs hid most of his face from view but from his clumsy actions it was obvious he was intoxicated. Suddenly, one of the men pushed him, sending the drunk crashing into a table. The clatter of silverware and breaking glass sounded above the already noisy room.

’Wh-what the!?’

As if by some testosterone-laden domino effect, the entire tavern erupted into a brawl. Drinks and food went flying, spilling onto the floor and on the other patrons. Mariette watched in horror, backed up against the wall and mentally kicking herself for choosing a place called The Rusty Timepiece as her safe haven. Whipping her head back around to the mysterious stranger from earlier, she saw his eyes narrow. In one fluid motion he darted forward, grabbing her arm once more and moved. The girl let out a yelp that went unheard amidst the commotion. Swiftly, the stranger crept around the far side of the scuffle toward the door.

’He’s getting me out of here?’

She didn’t know why, nor did she know where they were going, but at this point, Mariette decided anywhere was better than The Rusty Timepiece. Unseen, they managed to exit the tavern. The stranger paused for a moment, not letting up on the firm grip on her arm, before choosing a direction and running for it.

Mariette cast one final glance behind her and saw the black clad man being struck over the head by someone. His body went limp and fell in the street.

“H-hey! That man!” She called out instinctively. The stranger did not seem to care, however, as his grip merely tightened and his pace quickened down the dark alleyways of Valexia.

The setting changes from the-kingdom-of-valexia to Ter'Ciel

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Mariette Renard Character Portrait: Locke Taurin

0.00 INK

#, as written by Seerow
Locke Taurin


Quickly they had dashed down an alleyway, winding through a myriad of shadowed paths. Beggars and strays were passed by as they ventured on. Till at last he had felt safe enough, having placed enough distance between them and the Rusty Timepiece. The empty lot they now occupied use to be a fountain in the city’s youth, but now the only remnants was a dry stone basin. On all sides stood old wooden homes, buildings that were aged from their time spent on the land, but it was easy to understand that the abodes had once been in use by settlers. Now they were afforded by the working class, and though their roofing and walls had been updated, they were not the brick laden homes of the wealthy or established.

Locke was breathing hard, more in part because of the nervousness that struck him. To be honest he wasn’t sure what had transpired within the tavern, but perhaps it was luck that it did. After all it painted the idea that the young woman was endangered and secondly, that her presence wasn’t as anonymous as she might have guessed.

“That was possibly the worst rendition of ‘playing along’ I’ve ever heard,” he huffed between breaths. Taking his chance to actually see Mariette now that he could spend some time reviewing her features, and he found himself quickly excited as his eyes looked over her attire. His first guest was just about on the mark, whoever this was; they had to belong to a family with some power. Not to mention if their little encounter at the Rusty Timepiece revealed anything, it was that Mariette was out of place and better still, naïve in her innocence.

“The city can be dangerous you know. You’re lucky I showed up when I did. What were you doing in a place like that anyway?”
It was working slowly but surely, his plan that is. Introductions would be next, but he wanted her to talk first. Having his victim play their cards upfront never proved to be a poor choice. Get an understanding of why she is there, manipulate his persona, and adapt. He was already anticipating the large pouch of Akeli he could get from this foolish child.

“Oy! Dats ‘em”

Immediately Locke’s eyes widened. He spun upon his heels to find himself face to face with two rather large and burly thugs. The smell alone was enough to weaken his resolve, but Locke wasn’t one to flee unless he understood he was being chased. Instead he took a prompt step back, acting as a barrier between them and Mariette, offering as broad a grin as he could muster. He knew these lumps of ugly as the same louts he had offered drinks to earlier.

“Burt, Ren, what a pleasant surprised,” he managed with enthusiasm despite his internal screaming of frustration. He could only guess at their need to find him again. Quietly he was hoping more work was in his future and that his good fortune hadn’t run dry just yet.

“Da boss like a word witcha Locke.”

“Tell the old man Davonshi- did you say Locke?”

Their guttural chortles brought a sense of unease into the smaller man’s gut. They must have picked up on this immediately, as they unveiled their wicked grins and revealed the cudgels they had in their possession. Their eyes far keener than Locke would have guessed, as one of them immediately took notice of the well-dressed woman behind the street urchin, whatever their thoughts he could only hope they would leave Mariette out of the affair.

“Ren, Burt, let’s take a moment and talk like gentlemen. How’s your mother? I’ll bet she’s still hanging about bell towers and cathedrals no doubt, the old gargoyle.”

It was with that shooting remark the fight broke out. A swing of an arm, and Locke leaped back from a blow poised for his head; his fingers worked fast loosening the snap that held his dagger in its sheath. As one neared him, the other seemed intent on dogging Mariette, much to the disdain of the thief, Ren was lumbering toward the outsider with whatever malicious intent. Locke lifted his dagger, but knew how this engagement would end. He was not a warrior, and there was nowhere to flee to that he could spot immediately. He would have to wait, bide his time, and if he’s lucky get out of this situation. The tip of his weapon stayed pointed at Burt’s chest, threatening him even as he backed away slowly giving the hooligan the ground with each step.

The setting changes from terciel to The Kingdom of Valexia

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Mariette Renard Character Portrait: Ilana Valencia Character Portrait: Locke Taurin

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Ilana had noticed the commotion coming from the tavern, but by the time she arrived, the chaos was already spilling outside. There was almost no way to determine who among the brawlers was an innocent party, and truly, anyone who chose to stick around and work out a nonexistent dispute with their fists was not someone Ilana was going to intervene on the behalf of. More than that, bar fights really weren’t her specialty.

What did catch her eye, however, were the two figures fleeing from the scene, one a young man who looked quite at home on the Valexian streets, the other a girl who looked quite the opposite. More or less dragging the girl by the arm he pulled her into an alley, the pair checking behind them often, probably for pursuers. Intrigued, Ilana urged Diana after them at a trot, getting off of the main streets, doing her best to keep them in sight while maintaining her distance. She hadn’t planned on getting involved in anything on her way back to the monastery, but ignoring this would not have sat well with her.

The Paladin found them stopped in a run-down neighborhood, in the street by an empty stone basin, facing off against two cudgel-armed thugs who appeared to mean business. The smaller man with the knife appeared to have taken somewhat of a defensive stance in front of the girl, and now Ilana felt she was required to intervene, before this got out of hand.

“Easy there, gentlemen,” she said, bringing her horse to a stop off to the side and smoothly dismounting. “Step away from these two, please.” Her tone was calm, controlled, even a bit gentle, but still quite serious. Her sword remained sheathed at her hip, but she slowly pulled her shield onto her arm. The thugs were both greater than her in size, and appeared unmoved.

“Dis none o’ your concern, lady,” the closer of the two replied, tapping his cudgel into the palm of his hand. “You’ll clear outta here if you know what’s good for ya.”

Ilana sighed slightly, still not drawing her weapon. “This is my concern now, I’m afraid, and unless you can somehow justify bashing these two’s heads in with clubs, I suggest you take a step back, and allow us to discuss this.”

The cretin shook his head. “Ain’t nuthin’ to discuss.” He gestured with his head to his friend, and the two of them attacked.

As much as she hadn’t wanted to do this, Ilana couldn’t say it was unexpected. Quickly she made sure to position herself between the two that the thugs threatened, raising her shield to meet the first swing that came her way. The cudgel bounced off its face with a clang, deflected harmlessly to the side. The other thought to attack her on her flank, but Ilana predicted this, delivering a solid kick to his gut when he had his weapon raised to strike. He staggered backwards, giving her a moment to deal with the first one.

Her short sword came free in a flash, and she rushed him, ramming against his body with the face of her shield, close enough such that his big club was more or less useless. With her sword she slashed low, slicing into the side of his leg, forcing him down onto one knee with a cry of pain. This she followed up with a knee strike to his forehead, the armored top of her boot knocking him senseless and onto his back.

Ilana turned back just in time to catch the other one rushing up behind her, a heavy two handed blow with the cudgel smashing into her shield. He had a great deal of strength, but she braced herself properly, and held up under the blow. While the force of the attack rebounded against him Ilana saw an opening, and slammed the bottom rim of her shield down, smashing the thug’s toes on one foot. He howled and jumped back, letting Ilana follow up with a second shield strike, this time with the top rim, directly into his face. His hands went to cover his bloodied nose and brow, and Ilana pushed forward, sweeping a leg behind him and tripping him onto his back. Before he could do more than roll over onto his side she sent a powerful kick to his head, knocking him out as well, and settling the scene into silence.

With the fight over, Ilana slowed her breathing. “Well, that was unwise of them,” she said, before heading back over to her horse and pulling a small cloth from one of the side packs, which she used to clean off her blade. That done, she sheathed her weapon again and settled her shield back in position across her back, turning to face the two she had just stepped in on behalf of.

“My name is Ilana. I’m with the Paladin Order. Are either of you hurt?”

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Mariette Renard Character Portrait: Ilana Valencia Character Portrait: Locke Taurin

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Mariette Renard


It was over in an instant.

The two ruffians who had followed her into the alleyway were now lying silently on the pavement. Wide eyed, Mariette was stunned by the woman's prowess. She seemed so calm. So confident. She moved between the two brigands like a dance, primly switching partners without missing a beat.

Ilana. Of the Paladin Order. Of course Mariette had heard of them before. She'd even met a few of their members who had stopped through Harlemont on their travels. Their stories were always among her favorites to hear. Tales of grand battles and confrontations all in the name of justice and the good of the people. How lucky for her that this Ilana had passed through when she did! Clearing her throat softly, Mariette took a small step forward.

"Thank you so much, Miss Ilana. I am ever grateful for your assistance." She kept her words formal, although the expression on her face was one of intense relief.

'Yes, she saved you, but you can't count on that happening again. You need to get out of here already!'

True. Mariette needed to keep moving. She apparently looked suspicious enough to perk up the noses of the locals. Any more attention and she might get caught.

'Is this what I am now? A felon? A wanted criminal?'

How ironic that it would be her inability to turn a blind eye to injustice that would land her on Caldaria's most wanted list.

'No. It's not like that. I'm not the criminal here. I'm just doing what's right.'

The thought sounded more like some feeble attempt to convince herself. It was a bit hard to believe that she was the righteous one when she was standing in the middle of a secluded alleyway clutching a satchel with -

'What are you still doing here!?'

Mariette forced a smile. It was time to move.

"Thank you again for the help, Miss. I always seem to forget how horrible the atmosphere is in this part of town." She laughed nervously before turning to the man the brigands had called Locke.

"And thank you, Mr. Locke. I'll be sure to recommend your escort services to my friends when I return home."

She curtseyed slightly, clutching her satchel to her chest, before turning and walking out of the alleyway.

'Escort service? God, what was I thinking?'

She'd never been very good at lying. As weak as her alibi may have been, she had to keep moving forward. Davonshire seemed the next logical place for her to go. The city was miles away, across the ocean, and free of any Valexian influence.

'And just how much longer are you planning on running?'

It was an uncomfortable thought that the girl was not ready to tackle just yet. All that mattered was getting the Mirror of Akyel as far away from Harlemont and her uncle as possible. All she needed to do was board a ship bound for Davonshire. If she could manage to avoid any more tavern fights, mysterious abductors, filthy brigands, and Paladin saviors, it would perhaps prove to be a rather simple journey. Perhaps.

Sighing softly to herself, Mariette emerged from the alley and back out into the main street. Once again drowning in the bustling crowd, she looked around for any indication of where the harbor might be.

A rather simple journey, indeed.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Mariette Renard Character Portrait: Ilana Valencia Character Portrait: Locke Taurin

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#, as written by Seerow
Locke Taurin


It was over so much faster than Locke anticipated. For one moment he was drawn back, dagger at the ready his ground being intruded upon. Then as though the gods were to intervene, a glistening, golden maiden appeared from the busy passers of Valexia. Her skill went unmatched as she easily dispatched the ruffians before they even understood what they were up against.
Had Locke been of his mind he may had noted her style and tactics as being well taught, but ultimately merciful. She wasn’t looking to kill these hooligans, despite their intentions toward her being otherwise. This stranger had a grace in her movements, like every strike and blow flowed from her very core and ended in an extension of her arms and legs. A warrior the likes the thief had not seen in some time.

When it was over Ren and Burt were dispatched and bleeding, but for Locke he was still stunned, staring silently as he tried to blink away the stupefied expression on his face. Though he didn’t seem to register where he was or what was happening till after Ilana spoke directly to them.

“… I er, no… I don’t think so,” he barely responded cohesively as he looked over his frame. There were no nicks or cuts, scrapes or bruises, for all purposes he was fine. It was hardly a surprise but yet he was compelled to check anyway. Still somewhat awe struck by their savior.

“Oh um, yes, I am Locke.” He muttered to Mariette’s polite comment.

He had been so inattentive that he didn’t even try to stop Mariette as she gave her words in parting. All of this was a lot for the stealer to take in. Words and actions were drifting past as he was gathering his resolve. He hadn’t ever been saved before, that was a first, and what’s more he had never really seen a paladin this close before. Sure he knew of the Order, had even heard a few interesting tales, but to see one with his own eyes, it was like viewing some exotic creature for Locke.

When at last he came to his senses, he glanced around his shoulder in the direction the young girl had taken off to. Should he peruse this to the end? Quietly he wondered if it was a worthy investment. He had gotten lucky and escaped a problematic situation. He could just go into hiding for a while, lay low and eat well for a week or so before the old man would no doubt give up. Then again, that codger was wealthier than Locke had first believed. There was no doubt he could afford better hunters then the thugs dreaming on the cobblestone.

He offered an exasperated sigh and slipped his dagger back into its sheath, buttoning down the lacing that held it firmly in place. No doubt the affairs would wind up like the job he pulled on the self-proclaimed Merchant King and he would have to leave Valexia for a time.

He offered as polite a bow an urchin could to the Paladin, and promptly approached his downed attackers. At the very least he could get his Akeli back. No need to pay for drinks of men whose intentions were to maul him. Casually he slipped their coin from their pockets and plunked the metal into the sack he was carrying.

“You two really messed up,” he spoke aloud to the thugs, ignorant of Ilana whilst he was in thought. “Who knows what that girl had, you just had to come and ruin it. Oh well, at least you idiots will feed me for another night.”

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Mariette Renard Character Portrait: Ilana Valencia Character Portrait: Locke Taurin

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Ilana Valencia


It wasn’t the first time Ilana had left people somewhat dumbstruck by her arrival, and she was certain it wouldn’t be the last. Paladins were rare enough to be talked about a great deal more than they were seen, and she’d long since gotten used to the stares of varying levels of disbelief. What was more or less normal to her tended to be rather extraordinary for others. It was just a fact of her life.

What wasn’t normal was this girl. She was obviously not from these parts, yet she claimed to be, though even that delivery was largely fumbled. She was obviously nervous, which wasn’t surprising given the situation she’d just landed herself in, and she was obviously protective of what was in her possession. Also not surprising, as she appeared to be fairly well off judging by her manner of dress, and many young Valexians coveted that which they did not have. Still, she couldn’t help but feel concern for the girl. Her apparent predicament was one that tugged on Ilana’s own past.

Locke, however… Ilana sadly couldn’t say that she was unfamiliar with his type. Valexia was filled with urchins like him, and while she didn’t doubt he was normally a great deal smoother than he was for their first meeting here, he unwittingly revealed his less-than-noble motives while Ilana was still in earshot. She crossed her arms, narrowing her eyes slightly as he rifled through the pockets of the two thugs. Justice was often a tricky thing. Boys like Locke probably didn’t have much in the way of opportunity growing up; the city was a harsh place. It didn’t excuse what he planned to do, but Ilana could understand the pull of self-preservation, and how it could drive people to do unsavory things.

“Do try to stay out of trouble, Locke,” she said, heading back over to her horse. “Farewell.”

There wasn’t much else to be said. Ilana was not the type of woman to pass judgment by chopping off a thief’s hand. She much preferred to be reasonable, to give those who have done wrong a chance to correct themselves. She preferred to believe in bringing out the good in people, rather than bringing pain upon them for the vice.

Leaving Locke to his own devices, Ilana returned to the main street, remaining on foot and leading her horse behind her. Soon enough, as she had hoped, she spotted the girl from the alley. She blended in only slightly better than Ilana did, even in golden armor and red garments. When Ilana had made her way through the crowd enough to be at a comfortable distance to call out, she did so.

“Excuse me,” she said, to get her attention, “I apologize for following you, but I must admit I’m a bit concerned. Will you walk with me?” She gently tugged Diana up in step with her, until she was walking alongside the girl.

“I hope you don’t mind me saying, but you seem a bit out of your element.” She offered the girl a small smile, a knowing look in her eyes. “I was thirteen when I first came to the city. It was the most overwhelmed I’d ever been in my life. I didn’t have a drop of guile in me. Thankfully, I didn’t have more than a couple coins to my name.” She left it unsaid that it was obvious the girl had more than that, and that it wasn’t a thing to be thankful about on the streets of the Iron City.

“What I’m trying to say is that this city can do terrible things to the unprepared, and I would rather not see that happen to you. I’ve only just met you, but you seem like an honest young woman, with a kind heart.” If memory served her right, she imagined the girl was probably quite scared, so she wanted to do her best to try and put her a bit more at ease. A similar strategy to the one the thief would have tried, she didn’t doubt, but hopefully a paladin would have more transparent intentions. She meant no harm to the girl.

“So… is there anything I can help you with? Perhaps we could start with your name, since you already know mine.”

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Mariette Renard Character Portrait: Ilana Valencia Character Portrait: Locke Taurin

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#, as written by Seerow
Locke Taurin


Locke had been busy strolling down the back alleys. His eyes so careful to seek anyone else that could possibly be trying to hunt him down. Today had been an entirely different kind of a day. He had pulled off a great con, stumbled onto an ideal target, and even got saved by a paladin. Far more hectic than the thief preferred but he could not complain. He was escaping with a large sum of Akeli and even if he was forced to go into hiding for a time, it wasn’t honestly much more than an unfortunate nuisance. He offered a lofty sigh, his feet trampling over compacted dirt-

Gray and brown and the sound of his own voice mixing with another, Locke grunted with discomfort as another body smashed into his. The two tumbled wildly down but to his surprise the runner caught their feet and hurried off deeper into the maze of Valexia. The long muddy browns of the perpetrator’s cloaks flowed out almost like wings catching the wind, whoever this was, and whatever their reasoning, they were off to somewhere in a great panic. Lock strained his eyes to veer at whoever tripped him up, and though the brown cloak’s head was half-turned looking back as it fled, there just wasn’t enough time to distinguish anything before they were gone.

Locke hopped to his feet dusting his pants of the dirt, his fingers gliding over the contents on his belt. Nothing was missing near as he could tell, but he pieced a bit of the puzzle together when he shifted his stance, for his foot touched something alien. A satchel was at his feet, well worn, but crafted with expert hands. It didn’t take the urchin very long to realize that its craftsmanship alone gave it value. Maybe the goddess was smiling on him today after all. With a bit of glee he snatched up the lovely item its heft and weight telling him there was more inside.

“Hmmm now what have we here?”

The ends of his fingertips dug without hesitation but it was his eyes that surrendered all his thoughts. The golden orbs widened with such shock, and his jaw fell loose as he touched what was within. Quickly and violently he closed the satchel, his gaze darting wildly around almost in panic. Could it be? Was it true, had the goddess herself blessed him with such a prize? His heart was racing and he was stricken with fear, bliss, and anxiety. The runner couldn’t have possibly known what they had, or else they would have stayed and fought. No, Locke knew this had come to him through happenstance.

Somebody would be looking for it though. Worse still there were at least a dozen sellswords also seeking it. A thousand bloodied hands alone in the city would gut him if they had any idea what he possessed, and even gentle folk would stab at him if they knew. This was indeed a dangerous item to carry, and it made Locke uneasy. Yet, there was happiness, the reward, the praise; he could retire at long last. He just had to get this thing back where it belonged and who else but Locke could do it? He actually smiled broadly and laughed from his own dumb luck.

All of that changed immediately when he saw Ilana with Mariette in tow. He pieced everything together before they could even reach him. Of course, it all made so much sense. That strange rich girl lurking in the shadows of Valexia where she didn’t belong, the Paladin was her protector then? To be honest he wasn’t sure entirely what Illana’s purpose was. Still he knew the satchel in his hands belonged to one of them. The way they were running, the sort of desperate fear that clung in the younger girl’s features, she had been scared.

He masked his knowledge. Instead he looked just as confused as they must have been. They couldn’t know that he knew. If it was just Mariette he would have had no trouble taking the ultimate prize from her, but with Ilana the game changed. He would have to use cunning, wait, steal it out from under them when they least expected. He offered a warm grin, as friends might meet another with.

“Well, it would appear the goddess is determined that our paths cross. I’m afraid you missed the thief; they were a tad clumsy and dropped this after our collision,” he mused as he lifted the satchel.

“I’ve heard it said that a man should never examine the contents of a woman’s belongings, so perhaps I’ll forget seeing what’s inside in light of the circumstance.”

He offered Mariette’s belongings without pause, and with as polite a manner as he could.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Mariette Renard Character Portrait: Ilana Valencia Character Portrait: Locke Taurin

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Mariette Renard



The painful lump in Mariette’s throat only intensified when she finally came to a stop. Heaving breaths burned her lungs as she saw her satchel in the clutches of a very familiar-looking pair of hands. The dubious do-gooder from just moments before. The one they called Locke.

“Well, it would appear the goddess is determined that our paths cross. I’m afraid you missed the thief; they were a tad clumsy and dropped this after our collision.”

Had he truly retrieved it from the cutpurse? Mariette did not see her assailant anywhere in the vicinity. How exactly, she wondered, did this Locke fellow manage to get ahold of her satchel?

’You have to get it back. Get it back!’

It was a bitter yet obvious truth that this man had the edge over her. He was street-wise. Cool under pressure. The girl knew that getting the Mirror back wouldn’t be easy. But before she could begin to speak, the man continued, his voice honey dipped like a gentleman suitor.

“I’ve heard it said that a man should never examine the contents of a woman’s belongings, so perhaps I’ll forget seeing what’s inside in light of the circumstance.”

With that, he thrust the satchel out to her.

Her face contorted in dazed hesitation, Mariette paused.

’He’s…giving it back? Why? He must know what’s inside. He must have looked. So…why?’

Slowly, she reached out, fingers wrapping delicately around the top of the satchel. Feeling the all-too-familiar grip on her bag, Mariette snatched it, clutching it to her bosom protectively. Her words were carefully chosen, albeit clumsily delivered…

“Th-thank you. I…I cannot thank you enough…sir. I…”

If he had seen the contents of the bag, there was no way he would return it so eagerly.

Her hands felt around the outside of the satchel. Sure enough, the unmistakable outline of the Mirror of Akyel could be felt beneath the rugged fabric. The Mirror had only been out of her possession but a few minutes, but to Mariette, the reunion could have just as easily been a lifetime.

She cast another glance at Locke. He merely returned her gaze with a solid smile that she could only describe as…

’Noble.’

Somehow, on the dirty streets of Valexia, amidst the clamor, the hungry stares, the wolves circling the lost sheep…she had found someone special. Someone trustworthy. Immediately, the girl felt a pang of guilt for dismissing the man as a liar and con artist. Truly, it seemed that the Goddess was on her side this day.

Mariette breathed a heavy sigh of relief, and suddenly noticed how exhausted she felt. It seemed that the day’s ordeal had taken a greater toll on her than she’d initially realized.

’Perhaps I should rest for today. I cannot afford to let my guard down again.’

With a renewed and welcome sense of security, the girl thanked Locke once more and offered a prim bow. She then turned to Ilana.

“If you please, Miss Ilana, would you perhaps escort me to a proper inn? I would like to retire for the rest of the day.”

The plan seemed simple enough. She would get some much needed rest before setting out on the first ship to Davonshire. Away from Valexia, away from Ata’hua… Freedom was within her grasp.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Mariette Renard Character Portrait: Ilana Valencia Character Portrait: Locke Taurin

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Ilana Valencia


The Paladin slowed her breathing when the chase came to an end, and she was surprised to see Locke awaiting them with Mariette's satchel. She allowed the exchange to take place, not interrupting any of the words between the girl and the thief, but she studied Locke closely with slightly narrowed eyes the whole time.

Her horse came up behind them at a trot, Ilana taking hold of her with a gloved hand and gently patting her to make sure she was calm. When Mariette asked to be escorted to an inn, she thought for a moment, glancing between her two companions.

"I can... but you're coming with us." She was looking at Locke. "I'd prefer if you stay somewhere I can see you. At least for the moment." It was pretty clear she wouldn't be giving him a choice in the matter. Whatever was in Mariette's bag, he'd clearly had a chance to see inside, and if it was dangerous, that made him a threat, at least to Mariette, and possible to more. In this case... it seemed better to keep an eye on him than risk what he would do if she were to let him go.

"Come on," she said, heading out slowly at first, "I know a place not far from the docks. One that's typically devoid of barfights." Ilana led the way, checking back behind her regularly to make sure her two charges were following. Mariette seemed a bit taken in by Locke's apparent generosity, but Ilana was not going to be won over so easily. She'd heard what he'd planned to do earlier, and obviously if he still intended that, his plans would need to change with Ilana around, lending her protection to Mariette. She would have voiced her concerns to the girl, but it didn't seem appropriate with Locke standing right there.

The inn she led them to was, as she said, not far from the docks, and not in quite so densely packed a part of town as the rest. It was a two story, fairly wide building, with its own stables, where she left her horse in the hands of the stableboy. She led them inside, stopping before the counter with her two charges behind her.

The innkeeper seemed to recognize her. "It's... Ilana, isn't it, my lady? It has been some time. Welcome back to the city."

"Thank you, Bertran. It has. I will be needing a room large enough for the three of us for one night, please." She pulled a small pouch of coins from her belt, tipping several into her hand and setting them on the table.

"Of course, my lady. I always welcome having a Paladin in my establishment. A discount is in order, I think." He took only half the coins she offered him, sliding back the rest. Having learned by now not to try and refuse people's kindness, Ilana took the coins back with a smile and her thanks.

The innkeeper led them upstairs to their room, promptly leaving them to their privacy. It was a sizable space, with beds for all three of them, a window overlooking the waterfront of the city. The ships had left by now, and the bustle of the streets having passed peak activity.

Setting her bags down at the base of the bed she chose, Ilana took a seat, thankful for a chance to get off her feet for a bit. And there were still a few things that needed clearing up.

"Before that unfortunate occurrence in the alley, I believe you were about to tell me what is in that bag. And I believe our friend Locke here already knows, so perhaps it's best to just get everything out in the open. This is a safe place." As safe as somewhere in Valexia could be, at least. She would have taken them to the monastery, but that was at least an hour's walk out of the city, and she wasn't too keen on bringing a thief there.

The setting changes from the-kingdom-of-valexia to Ter'Ciel

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Mariette Renard Character Portrait: Ilana Valencia Character Portrait: Locke Taurin

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#, as written by Seerow
Locke Taurin


In his mind he cursed the Paladin over and over. It would appear that even with Mariette so deeply convinced she was keen to watch him like one does a viper. Locke understood of course, even if it was deserved, he was familiar with that kind of stare. Judgment from on high from those who knew little of what the streets of Valexia were truly like, and while it frustrated the would-be thief, he graciously accepted her mistrust. Even after she explained how she’d prefer to keep an eye on him, he only answered with mild offense.

“A thief eats only when he steals m’lady Paladin, but as you insist.”

He followed the troupe as they made their way toward the docks. Quietly Locke guessed at the locale they would be visiting next. As the smell of the air became mingled with the salt of the sea he found himself correct in his theories. It was a rather nice inn brought up to catch the gentlefolk coming to and from the vast oceans. It was a sort of tourist locale where even the moderately wealthy could find some peace within the rambunctious hustle of the city. Admittedly Locke rarely came down to these parts, there were considerably less places to hide or scurry to in times of trouble, and everyone in the underbelly kept eyes on the coming and going people.

Yet they made their way inside and much to Locke’s surprise he was even offered a bed to lay on. No doubt the Paladin didn’t even realize what kindness this was to someone that looked as he did. He quietly wondered if she even noted the eyes that seemed so transfixed upon them. Indeed they had to be the oddest group to have entered today, and what’s more they were going to be rooming together. If Locke wasn’t a direct participant he would have had a good laugh down in a tavern somewhere about this sight. ‘So a Paladin, a rich girl, and a beggar walk into an inn’.

It wasn’t long before they were confined to the room Ilana had purchased. Locke was beside himself with a child-like joy. Going as far as to dive onto the bed closest to the door, burying his nose into the warmth of the blankets, it was a rare occasion that he bothered to sleep anywhere that wasn’t a shoddy cot on a floor. Even when he had earned Akeli, it often went quickly and without care. Isolated in his own wonder he had forgotten momentarily why he was there in the first place. When he remembered the eyes of Mariette and Ilana he stopped, stood and straightened his clothes.

In fact his heart sank when Ilana brought up the contents of the bag. He had to quickly make a decision on how he wished to approach the entire situation. There was no doubt that if they knew what was in that bag that his actions would be brought into question, whether they believed him kind or cunning was irrelevant. He needed to distance the thought of him from the mirror in order to lull the poor girl into comfort.

He looked up from his bedside just as Ilana was finishing up her query and leapt to his feet. Making no secret of his direct walk to the door, but even as he moved to leave he gave a parting smile to his benefactors. He knew Ilana wouldn’t want him to leave, but if the mirror is associated with his presence it could spell trouble when he tried to retrieve it later.

“I’m off to get a bath. I’ll bet they even have hot water. It would be a nice change of pace eh? “