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Dreador

The deadly, mysterious assassin... and unwilling choresmaster of the expedition.

0 · 181 views · located in Zoltia

a character in “The Gala-Dor Expedition”, as played by CabbageAngel

Description

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ImageName
Dreador (Drey-ah-dor)

Archetype
Drow Assassin

Age
113

Bbcode
#1E2452

Theme
Attack on Vah Naboris (Legend of Zelda, Breath of the Wild)

Appearance
Dreador can be described most simply as a sliver of midnight. Her features disappear amidst her dark skin just as easily as she does in shadows, and the deep blues and blacks of her attire practically melt into her limber figure. Her black hair is streaked with silver and sprawling across her skin is a smattering of bright white freckles that could be mistaken for stars. But what is most startling about her appearance are her eyes. Unlike most drow, they are sky blue - and set into a permanent glare. Whether that is considered like most drow depends on who you ask.

Personality
For those who take the chance to brave past Dreador's glare, and attempt to make contact with the sweetheart beneath... your efforts will, undoubtedly, go unrewarded. Hot-tempered, foul-mouthed Dreador does not want to be your friend. On the contrary, she wants to seek out your insecurities and exploit them at every turn, which one can only assume is for no other reason than her own enjoyment. She holds a particularly venomous distaste for orcs, elves and The Order of The Sacred Flame. Sometimes you may catch a glimpse of sadness and maturity in her gaze as she watches the sky, but whatever there is to be uncovered is buried under a heavy layer of vitriol.

Skills
  • Dual Wielding - Hilgur keeps two strangely shaped swords in his possession that he never uses. One is silver, the other ebony black and crafted from unknown materials. You're pretty sure they must have belonged to Dreador.
  • Stealth - You have never heard her footsteps.
  • REDACTED
History
Imprisoned by The Order of The Sacred Flame for the brutal murder of the head of a Beaucourtisan noble house, and charged with other homicides since, Dreador was deemed too dangerous for involuntary servitude and was set for execution. She was saved by Hilgur Black-Mane, who bought her not-so-legally to be his own personal attendant. She now spends her days in chains 'humbling' herself by tending to the expedition party's chores - all but for anything involving their food.

She refuses to talk about her past. The only give-away is her accent... she did not spend her past century in Zoltia.

So begins...

Dreador's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hilgur Black-Mane Character Portrait: Dreador Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte Character Portrait: Henri Le Chevalier

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A glint of sunset peered from between the sky and the river. Warm, orange light bathed Arc en Lume’s skyline, reflected over the canals which linked the city’s many districts. A gondola moved through the water, the weary faces of merchants settled in its seats. The boat passed under a bridge, where two lovers embraced and confessed their feelings. At the city center loomed the red and gold spires of the Sacred Flame’s grand cathedral. Before it, clergymen scooped the ash from a golden chalice, twice the size of the men attending to it.

On the eastern edge of the city, upon the outskirts which overlooked the primeval oaken forests, where old bricks had stood strong and steadfast for innumerable years, where crimson banners and flowering vines hung over sidewalks of tiled stone. The Commons. Home to labourers, louts, and adventurers desiring transient and affordable refuge. A dwarf lumbered across the pavement, a lithe, cloaked shadow trailing behind him. His broad, gloved hand waved off the scurrying forms of street urchins, then checked his pockets.

“These humans need to keep a better eye on their children, I tell ya,” the dwarf muttered to his companion. His voice hoarse and deep, with an accent too rough and uncouth for Beaucourt. He nodded to himself, satisfied with the amount of coin in his purse, then turned his attention to a nearby notice board. There was more paper than wood, with advertisements, missives, and public service announcements, all stacked upon each other without regard for organisation. The dwarf glanced left and right, to make sure that nobody important was watching, tore several sheets from the board, and crumpled them up to put inside his pockets. He looked to the board, and saw his own notice - loud, clear, and no longer buried under such frivolous requests.



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The dwarf huffed, pleased with himself, then turned and walked away. His concealed companion remained a moment before the missive board. A dark, slender hand reached out from the cloak and tugged the advertisement down. As they followed after the dwarf, the worn piece of parchment blew down the street behind them into obscurity.




Night fell, and the last trace of sunlight faded into the dark. But within the Jovial Jackalope tavern, the fires of the hearth burnt bright, casting light and warmth through brick walls and wooden ceilings. Bards strummed their lutes, patrons downed their drinks, and wenches weaved to avoid wandering hands. The dwarf sat in the corner alongside his hooded companion, his arms clasped over the table, his pauldrons reflecting the light of the candles and the fireplace. His eyes wandered from the door, to his half-empty mug, and back again. This is the day, he thought to himself. I can feel it in my jellies.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hilgur Black-Mane Character Portrait: Dreador Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson

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#, as written by StarGW
"Well well, what have we here?" A youthful woman stepped briefly on a wet parchment down under one of Arc en Lume's wondrous, cherry-painted tunnels that loomed across various streets and alleyways. She almost ignored it, figuring it's another usual piece of rubble from an all-too-beautiful society, until she noticed the words barely visible in the tunnel's dim lighting. Gently picking it up and slipping off a bit of water from the corner, the woman walked out to an open square, where the afternoon light of the sun shined over the tall Beaucourt buildings, so she got a better look at the writing.

Her human face, remarkably typical except for her ginger-red hair, looked closely at the weathered advertisement. Dressed publicly in a dark, hood-less robe, she examined the rather boisterously-written advertisement. Her critical face slowly turned into one of amusement and excitement as if reading the lyrics of a song written by a drunk bard. Gala-Dor? That place long-lost due to... Hmm, why, exactly? History wasn't her expertise, nor were long treks and journeys to places only believed to exist. But that's not to say she didn't enjoy a good adventure, or a silly joke, whichever this may ultimately be.

The dark-robed woman pinned the advertisement to a small, nearby billboard before she made off northward on her travel boots. With a name such as the Jovial Jackalope, finding the tavern should've been typical.

---

It was not typical.

Esther finally entered the rowdy and comfortably warm tavern with a heavy sigh; her brief frown switched to a smile after walking around Arc en Lume's constant streets and canals. She had thought Stormhold's leaders were exaggerating when they said Beaucourt made labyrinths instead of cities. But by comparison, the Jovial Jackalope felt familiar to Stormhold's own taverns; though this was perhaps because they took from Beaucourt's design and refused to admit it.

Weaving around the active patrons with lithe agility, Esther walked up to Hilgur and his, currently, interested crew. She leaned forward and looked down at the dwarf "Gala-Dor, really?" she asked, half-skeptical and half-amused in her nordic-esque accent. "You certainly have a way with grandeur." She chuckled, then sat down on one of the empty wooden chairs. She pulled her robe back, revealing her leather armor, the shoulder plates engraved with Stormhold's colors and symbols, and the bandoleer of powders over and around her body. "Call me interested, and call me Esther." She lifted her right leg over her left and leaned forward on her seat. "So, Hilgur, how can I tell you are serious about this quest?"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hilgur Black-Mane Character Portrait: Dreador Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte

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#, as written by Byte
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“Aye, I hate it too.”

A toothy grin and a sadistic snigger in tow, one of many patrons at the Jovial Jackalope sat comfortably by the fire which illuminated the room in a warm glow; lights and shadows dancing around the tavern as if in rhythm to the music.

“The drinks are terrible, huh?” A young woman spoke, running a finger gently across the feathery figure that had so carelessly dipped its flattened head into the mug of ale and letting out a whimpering ‘Hoot’ at the prospect of something else to drink but muddy water from the canals, only to jut backwards in disgust and slipping off the table it had perched itself on. This was no laughing matter, and soon after recovering from its predicament the owl shook a single ashen-white wing at the woman’s head.

“Alright,” She continued to snigger. “Alright. I’m sorry.”

Maybe it would’ve been better had she left her companion to its own devices after all. Birds never do well indoors, and the crowd of curious drunkards wanting to stroke the cute birdie had grown steadily with each passing hour did little to make the creature less on edge. And if she was honest with herself, they were getting on her nerves at about the same rate.

Brown eyes glanced at the crumbled note on the table. ‘Jovial Jackalope tavern, weekday evenings’. If it weren’t for the promise of work she would’ve stumbled out the place in search for something less irritating. Gods she hated waiting…

And then they entered. It was difficult not to notice the dwarf dressed head-to-toe in heavy armour shuffling into the scene, accompanied by a hooded figure that solidified her suspicions.

Reaching for her satchel and allowing the owl the perch on her left shoulder she decided to weigh her chances. If these weren’t the lot from the notice, then she could always excuse herself and be on her way. No harm done.

As she approached, another individual had taken a seat at the table.

“I knew dwarves were stoic and guarded.” The woman jutted a finger at the dwarf, lips contorting into a weak smile. “Didn’t think they took that literally.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hilgur Black-Mane Character Portrait: Dreador Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte

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After having spent much of her time in Zoltia among the more rural communities, Ashera could not help but feel mildly unnerved to be surrounded by so many people from all walks of life. Arc en Lume felt so crowded compared to Valtensae, but she could not leave now, especially after reading that fateful notice. The path to greater knowledge – and more – lay before her. It was up to her to take the first step.

As the appointed hour approached, the elf entered the Jovial Jackalope, met by the rough-hewn yet warm atmosphere she had come to expect from such establishments. Her immaculate appearance drew a few looks from the patrons, but none made any overt comments. Beaucourt’s capital saw many faces come and go. How many of those faces were of elven heritage, however, was up for debate.

Ashera picked her way through the tables, off towards the far corner where the man behind this bold expedition had set up shop. A dwarven fellow. Wide as he was tall (like just about any other dwarf she met) and with a beard as black as night. Oh yes… this was the one, alright. Beside him was… a drow. Ashera stiffened at the sight. She never thought she would see one up close before. This dwarf certainly travelled with some… interesting company. Of course, one could hardly expect the path ahead to be without its own pitfalls.

As expected, there were others who had come to sign up for this cause, ostensibly for their own reasons. Ashera pulled up another chair to join them without a second thought. “Hilgur Black-Mane, I presume?” the elf politely enquired. She gave a glance to the human beside her, who had given voice to a very pertinent question. “And if I may be so bold to follow up, how can one know for certain where Gala-Dor is buried?”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hilgur Black-Mane Character Portrait: Dreador Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte Character Portrait: Henri Le Chevalier

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“Sacred Flame hear my words. May you bring us the light and purge the darkness from our souls; with this prayer, I ask you to guide my path, show me my next step. Yours is the brightness, the guiding light, and the gift.”

The sun was high in the sky as a man dressed in simple garb knelt in the streets of Arc En Lume, the sundial in front of him casting no shadow. A simple symbol hung from his neck and he prayed. The streets of Arc En Lume are beautiful and dangerous all at once, like any great city however Henri felt safe making his prayer. One hand on his holy symbol, the other rested on a large blade wrapped in cloth.

It was on this day hours later, the day of his prayer that the cloth wrapped around the greatsword slipped in public. The light from a steadily setting sun bounced from the perfectly shined blade and at just the right angle, it illuminated the paper on the notice board. “Adventurers Wanted”. The sign. The way forward. Riches and secrets.

---------------

The evening approached and the pale moonlight shone brightly on the sign reading “The Jovial Jackalope”. Within were many patrons, however, a gathering had begun surrounding a Dwarf and a hooded figure. A human woman, covered in powders and with an accent that betrayed her heritage. Another with a bird and a beautiful voice and an elf, very clean and well put together. He made note of the number of women but no obvious thoughts came to mind.

Henri shouldered his bag and held onto his wrapped blade tightly. He elected not to sit as the table was becoming very crowded rather quickly. A mug of ale in hand that he’d made sure to acquire moments before noticing the group. He nodded to the dwarf as he stood behind the ladies, he indicted to his blade resting on his shoulder careful not to interrupt the conversation but to display his interest.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hilgur Black-Mane Character Portrait: Dreador Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte Character Portrait: Henri Le Chevalier

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Hilgur looked up, propping his chin atop his clasped hands. Red hair, strong build, and that accent - a human from Stormhold, and an alchemist, to boot. Good, he thought to himself. We needed a healer. The dwarf puffed out his chest with a huff, "I'm a scion of the Black-Manes, lass, a house most noble and ancient!... Grandeur is in my blood."

Esther's question drew the dwarf's black gaze. He took a moment to consider his answer. A moment which another took to join his table. Another human, barely taller than Hilgur himself, with an unkempt head of hair and an owl on her person. Everything about her screamed 'Port Jellico Rascal' - particularly the brand on her shoulder. Was it involuntary, or self-inflicted? Hilgur pondered as he stared. Either answer would have quite the story to tell. "Aye, girl, I'm a dwarf," Hilgur responded, then tapped a fist against his breastplate. "But I'm also a warrior, and I like making sure ya longlegs know that."

Hilgur reached for his mug, held it high, and poured the contents into his wide open mouth. Gold-red mead spilled from his lips and down his coarse, dark beard. He slammed his drink back on the table, what was left of the mead sloshing within the mug.

One more joined their table, slim and pretty, with the refined dialect of an elf. Hilgur raised one brow as he scrutinised her. His father didn't trust the elves, but none of them ever did Hilgur himself any wrong. "You presume right!" he bellowed, the pride obvious in his tone. "And great question, elf," He pointed to her with a nod, then beckoned the others closer.

The dwarf lowered his voice. His eyes squinted with a smile. "I found this map. Dark, worn, an' one of a kind." Hilgur held a massive hand up. "Can't tell you where I did. Trade secret," he flatly noted, before continuing, "Paid a good bit for it, too. But not as much as I should!"

The dwarf's shoulders shook up and down as he restrained his cackles into a chuckle. "Poor sod wasn't much for history. He didn't know what it was worth." The figure beside him bristled. He caught the silhouette of a man approaching from his peripherals, and cleared his throat.

Hilgur nodded back to the man. Despite his unassuming clothes, he walked with purpose. Precision. Rhythm. The way trained men do. The dwarf couldn't make out any heraldry, however.

He looked to the adventurers gathered before him, his fingers sinking into his beard as he stroked it. An alchemist, a scoundrel, an archer, and a man-at-arms. A healthy mix of might and utility.

The dwarf placed his hands on the table. "So! I assume you're all here for the job. The Gala-Dor expedition," the dwarf turned to Esther. "You wanted to know how serious I am?"

Hilgur bowed his head and drew his arms into a fold. "Gala-Dor was the ancestral home of my people. My clan, the Black-Manes, trace their ancestry to its glory days. My father used to tell me stories about the place. Stories that his father, and his father’s father, told him. Tales of brave heroes and clever craftsmen, and the wonders they brought to our shining city.”

The dwarf looked up, gazing into the distance. "We lost so much when the Blackblight War happened. So much culture, so much knowledge!" Hilgur held up a fist. "Why should it stay lost? Why should it stay hidden? That was a question I’ve pondered since before I grew my first chin-hairs."

Hilgur unclenched his fist, and looked to his palm. "A question… which fueled a dream." The dwarf nodded. "Now, I may live longer than you humans, but I ain’t getting any younger." His black eyes glinted with passion. "I’ve spent decades building up my skills, connections, and fortune, and I’m almost ready."

The dwarf leaned closer and lowered his voice. "Now, I don’t want mere hirelings. I want business partners." He raised one brow. "An’ that’s where you come in. This expedition ain’t gonna be cheap. We need food, supplies, equipment, money. We need..." Hilgur narrowed his eyes. "...A sponsor."

Hilgur leaned back. ”And I got two possible candidates.” The dwarf held a finger up. “The first, is the Order of the Sacred Flame. Now, I ain’t much for the faith.” the dwarf chuckled. “Obviously… but they have money, they have power, and they’re always lookin’ for a sword or two to help keep the peace.” He narrowed his eyes. ”Thing is, in my experience… they get a bit nosy with their investment. We find something in Gala-Dor, and they don’t like it?” Hilgur shook his head. “Good luck profiting from it.”

The dwarf held up another finger. ”Next, we have the Bilge Rats. They’re a group based off Port Jellico. Lockbreakers, cutpurses, smugglers, thugs - they do a little bit of every shady thing in the Empire short of assassinations.” The dwarf tossed a knowing - or accusatory - glance towards Serena. “They aren’t as big as the Order, they don’t have as many resources, and some squeamish types may find their methods disagreeable.” Hilgur looked to the rest of the crew. ”But, if we earn their trust, and give them their cut, they’ll finance our expedition, no questions asked.”

Hilgur exhaled. He reached for his drink, and downed the rest of its contents in three short gulps, before slamming the mug on the table. “Well! I’ll give you all the night to think. Get to know each other.” The chair creaked under him as he stood and walked away. The dwarf stopped, turned, and pointed at the crew. ”Oh, and I want you all to do this together. You’re going to work as a team, so you got to decide as a team.”. Hilgur turned away. ”If you’re still interested in making history, be here in the morning.”

As Hilgur departed, his companion remained in place. Golden earrings dangled alongside a dark, pointed chin and black and silver slips of hair protruding from their hood. They lifted their head, revealing feminine features, and regarded each member at the table with a striking blue glare. A thin silver chain raised higher with each step Hilgur took, tightening. Attached at her neck. It tugged at her. The drow raised from her seat with the dignity of someone who was not on a leash, flicked them all one last annoyed look, and began to trail after the dwarf.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hilgur Black-Mane Character Portrait: Dreador Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte Character Portrait: Henri Le Chevalier

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#, as written by StarGW
Thoughout Hilgur's exposition, Esther remained calm and curious, keeping one leg over the other while leaning forward. She was a bit disappointed that she couldn't actually see the map; words only go so far to convince someone of another's cause. But what she heard: the motives, the journey, the adventure, the discovery of culture and history, THAT was sound as good as the taste of fine Stormhold wine; in fact, she almost wanted to lick her lips at the delight of this expedition... Provided this wasn't a dwarf's extremely elaborate idea of a con.

But there's... something about Hilgur, as difficult to read as his silent drow partner, that Esther could believe.

The alchemist stayed silent for a moment, letting the dwarf and drow take their leave of the tavern. Afterward, she looks up to the other three and chuckled. "Ah, dwarves. Can never get a good read on them." Her lighthearted banner to the three was combined with her wide smile to what are a group of strangers and an owl. "So maybe I can get to know you all better!" She stood up from her wooden seat and offered a handshake to each member. "Shall we do introductions here? Or should we move to someplace less... busy?"

She looked to her left, checking the bar's wooden table, crowded with patrons who drunk themselves silly in joy. The Jackalope's active scene almost added a fiery sensation to the building's warm lighting; everyone here was just impressively energetic. The heavy tap and rattling of boots and shoes on the wooden floor would've been overwhelming to Esther had this been her first visit to a Beaucourt tavern. "There's quite a lovely night sky out by the small port."

She didn't mind the Jackalope, per-se, but her job as an alchemist has taught her that things are better when they are nice and quiet. Besides, she couldn't be the only one who thought the drinks here looked positively dreadful. Gods, did she even want to imagine the sour bitterness she'd taste from it?

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hilgur Black-Mane Character Portrait: Dreador Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte Character Portrait: Henri Le Chevalier

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#, as written by Byte
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“This longlegs knows.”

Serena gave a nonchalant shrug. Didn’t think much of the comment, a bit dry in places but she figured the shinkicker wasn’t keen to play games. Seemed too rigid and serious for that sort of business so instead of prodding the beehive further and risk getting stung, Serena opted to claim one of the chairs; slinging it around, arms folded to rest on the back as she plopped onto the seat with a less than comfortable ‘thud’.

The owl shook for a moment but remained largely still, shifting slightly to balance itself. Presumably the bird was accustomed to its companion's sudden movements.

The young woman's eyes glazed over the people that had gathered around the table. Thoughts swaying between curiosity and slight discomfort. A dwarf, an elf, a drow and several humans… If she didn’t know any better this might have made the perfect set up for a joke. It was just missing a punchline.

Speeches on the other hand? Eh, she could do without one of those. It was pretty, Serena supposed but her thoughts couldn’t help but stray until the juicy details were spilled and Hilgur mentioned they’d need the help of a sponsor.

‘Talk ‘bout spoiled fer choice.’ She playfully weighed the options in her head with a tingle in her eyes. The order of the Sacred Flame? Morally sound and had the upside of getting faith behind your back, helped the overall profile of the job anyway. Serena didn’t fancy playing with literal fire, however, nevermind the bureaucracy that’s typically involved with organized religion.

The other group was far less likely to care about who or what they sponsored, and Serena pretended not to notice the stern glare that Hilgur flashed her way; challenging the look with a toothy grin. They both knew what was up. The Bilge Rats were an unsavoury sort, your average criminal collective that had dealings in almost every corner of the world… She didn’t even presume to have a good shot at convincing the rest to shack up with these lot. That was a hard sell by any stretch.

The point was, though, it’d be up to them to decide. Unanimously.

Serena’s gaze trailed after the silent partner that Hilgur had brought along, giving her an apologetic smile as the duo left the rest to their own devices. “Poor thing. Chains don't suit people.” She had never seen many drows, but this one she felt particularly sorry for. “Could see if cap’n shortstacks has got the key. Pinch it from him an’ all.” The young woman flashed the group a smirk, noting their reaction before turning to face the redhead. She ignored the offer to shake hands and jumped on the opportunity to get some fresh air.

“Don’t have to tell me twice. Wilthro is getting agitated.” Serena shook her head at the owl perched on her shoulder. The bird gave a soft ‘Hoot’ as if in greeting. “And the drinks are terrible.” She added with a jovial tone.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hilgur Black-Mane Character Portrait: Dreador Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte Character Portrait: Henri Le Chevalier

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Ashera listened carefully to Hilgur’s tale, intrigued by the story behind the map. Or what little he told them of it, anyway. Still, if it really did show the way to Gala-Dor, there was no telling what treasures were entombed within. Long-forgotten libraries of magical and engineering knowledge, or perhaps even artifacts of great and terrible power…

But of course, this expedition would be nothing more than a dream-struck dwarf and a collection of curious onlookers without money. The thing that makes the world go round, in the words of the gold-loving groundfolk. To be adequately financed, they needed a sponsor, and both choices were not without their caveats. To Ashera’s surprise, Hilgur left that decision entirely up to them. Their future employer took his leave to let them discuss the matter, the drow being gently pulled along on a chain as he went.

Ashera took a good look at the motley bunch who had signed up alongside her. They might only be humans, but there was time a-plenty to prove their worth. She accepted Esther’s offered handshake in good faith. However, the elf gave a distasteful look to the piratical-looking human who contemplated freeing the drow.

“If a drow is in chains, it is not without reason,” she warned the human. “Setting her loose could be the last mistake you would ever make.” Eager to move on as the others were, the elf turned to address Esther. “As for our sponsor, perhaps discussing this elsewhere would be a wise idea indeed. Far less prying ears…”

Thankfully the would-be trailblazers did not have to walk far to reach the port. They found a spot some distance away from a local mariners’ pub, far enough to plan in peace but not so far that they would be lurking in the back alleys of the city. And if any brigands were to think of jumping them… well, safety in numbers was a good enough deterrent no matter the occasion.

Ashera had been giving the matter some thought along the way, weighing up their options. To choose between the Sacred Flame, or the Bilge Rats? By the time the group had called the meeting to order, as it were, the elf was among the first to speak.

“I can understand misgivings towards the Order, but despite that, can we not trust them to remain true to their word?” she asked the others. “Their inquisitive nature does pose its own problems, but these so-called Bilge Rats… were we to enlist their aid, how can we be certain of their loyalty?”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hilgur Black-Mane Character Portrait: Dreador Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte

0.00 INK

Back at the Jovial Jackalope, second floor. The brick walls and plank floors of room twelve muffled the festivities from below. Hilgur sat upon a chair, his gloves set on the nearby table. Raw, callused hands brought a silver harmonica under his mustache, the metal glinting as it reflected lantern light.

Hilgur's fingers stroked over the top. He bobbed his head and breathed a tune into the instrument. Jovial, exuberant, high in pitch and fast in pace. His eyes squinted, and his cheeks puffed. His fingers moved and flicked to adjust the tone. His precision slipped as the song crescendoed, bringing out squeals that betrayed his amateurism and rang loudly in Dreador’s sensitive ears.

His drow companion sat beside the window gazing out below, where she had watched the mismatched trio of women leave the premises some time ago. Her hood was down, revealing long, starlight speckled ears that twitched in displeasure with every high note.

“Hilgur,” she murmured, her voice deep and ‘r’ rolling. The harmonica assault continued. “Hilgur.” The 'tune' reached a screeching crescendo. The drow slipped from her seat. Before Hilgur could comprehend her approach, the harmonica was out of his hands and hurtling across the room. It collided with a vase on the dresser and his performance ended on a shattering short note.

Hilgur furrowed his brows, and gazed at her like a hurt puppy. "I was getting to the best part!" He folded his arms, and raised his brow with a huff. "What's on your mind?"

The drow turned to him, her lips drawn into a tight line. “What... is on my mind?” She repeated slowly. Hilgur suddenly got the feeling that he had just unscrewed the lid of a jar of very unfriendly worms. With teeth. She tossed her head with a hiss, “Usst shar zra phlor vet’bol! Nin hargluk orn erak udos xul uk maav’rit!”

Hilgur narrowed his eyes. A chill crept up his spine, even as he failed to understand her words. The dwarf took one hesitant step forward, and replied, with a low, cold voice free of his typical bombast. "I think it's time for you to sleep." He drew a length of rope from his satchel nearby, and approached her. She glanced back at the rope with disdain, her features crinkling, and she backed away… into a chair. She sat still as Hilgur tied her down, wrapping rope over the innumerous rope burns already marring her arms and legs. She didn’t stop glaring at him as he did.

“You don’t know what you are walking into,” she taunted him, her voice mimicking the hiss of water on a red-hot blade, “Gorra’h.”




Deep into the ungodly hours of the night, fluttering on the edge of Ashera's subconscious...

The elf dreamed of a butterfly.

It was a pretty, fragile thing, its wings deep blue and spotted with white. A soft, pleasant tinkle accompanied its flapping like a metal windchime. It hovered before her nose, always out of reach, but flitted towards her occasionally, beckoning her to follow. Out of her sleeping quarters...

... and into pitch, unnatural black.

The tinkling faded out. She felt the butterfly delicately come to rest on her finger. There was no air or noise in the dark. Even the sound of her own breath couldn't breach her ears. But even so, something about the nothing that surrounded her... felt alive.

The butterfly's wings burst into flame. The fire spread quick, catching her hair and cloak, then the dark itself.

Ashera awoke with the image of the world on fire still scorched into her eyes.




"So, the Sacred Flame?" Hilgur remarked, one brow raised high. He whipped his head from Esther and Ashera towards Serena and Withro. "How'd they manage to convince ya?" The dwarf cackled and spat bread crumbs upon the table. His hearty laugh echoed through the inn, empty save for a few early birds in the dim hours of dawn. His silent companion seemed even more tested by his voice that morning, her face twitching beneath the hood.

"Hahahahaha-" Hilgur's guffaws were halted by a cough. And then several more. The dwarf beat his chest, once, twice, thrice, until he cleared his throat. "Ahem, anyway… glad to see ya comin' to a consensus. Pity that the other fella didn't make it, but! The world goes on. Now, to business…"

Hilgur leaned forward in his seat. His bushy brows knitted together, and he lowered his voice. "The nobles of Beaucourt have been whispering amongst each other." His eyes flicked left and right. "...A girl. Blue-blooded, lastborn, and the favourite granddaughter of Beaucourt's High Paladin. Kidnapped!... By a gang of brigands in the dregs below the city."

Hilgur clasped his hands together. "The Red Hatchets. Used to be the kings and queens of outlaws in the city. That is until, some, hmm, five years ago, when they started dabbling in witchpowder."

Hilgur shuddered. "They only trafficked the stuff, at first. Then one of their leaders got the bright idea to have a taste of his own product." Hilgur leaned back in his seat and sighed. "Didn't take long for everything to go to pot. Now, they're little more than blood-crazed, drug-addicted fiends, desperate for their next fix."

The dwarf folded his arms. "The nobles insisted on keeping this quiet. Didn't want to cause a panic, or worse, a scandal." He sighed and shook his head. "But it's been a couple days since she went missing. And the Sacred Flame clerics sent to save her haven't amounted to much."

Hilgur bowed his head. His jet-black eyes glinted with a smirk. "...That's where you come in. Go to the Merchants' District, head to the back alleys, and find a way into the sewers."

The dwarf held both hands up. "I know, I know. Nobody likes trudging through muck and shite. But if you make it out of there, alive and successful, I'll buy you all a round, eh?"

He flashed a wide, white-toothed grin. "And besides… this is the chance of a lifetime! Rescuing the High Paladin's own granddaughter… can you think of a better way to earn the Sacred Flame's favour?"

Hilgur cleared his throat, and leaned back. "So. Any questions? Cause I got one." He wiggled his brows. "Who are ya again? Didn't catch yer names last time." He gestured towards Esther. "Except for her. And I forgot it already."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hilgur Black-Mane Character Portrait: Dreador Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte

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Ashera made certain to pay attention throughout the briefing, though she couldn’t help but throw a suspicious glance towards the drow every so often. Deep blue skin with white freckles, like the midnight sky on a moonless night. Just like the butterfly from her dream. The elf was unsure of what her dream meant specifically, but this drow was somehow involved. She was certain of it.

As for the more pressing matters of the present, the job set before them was the perfect opportunity to gain the favour of the Order, though Ashera couldn’t help but make a face when it was mentioned that the party would have to navigate the sewers. Delving into such a filth-ridden place was beneath her… but if they had no other choice, she would just have to put up with it. And be sure to take an extra long bath afterwards.

Sewer-spelunking aside, the task seemed simple enough, and they would be doing the city a service by way of pest control. Ashera could only hope that those vermin hadn’t done anything too brutal towards their hostage…

“Hm? N-names?” Ashera piped up as the dwarf concluded his briefing. Of course, they had yet to introduce themselves, had they? With a respectful nod of the head, the elf complied. “Ashera Vallenai. A pleasure to make your acquaintance, Hilgur.” She paused for a moment, her brow furrowed. “I may have a question. Will you accompany us on this job, or will you stay behind and see how we fare?”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hilgur Black-Mane Character Portrait: Dreador Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte

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#, as written by StarGW
The night turned out to be rather restless for Esther. While she never slept well in the first place, she was also genuinely excited to get the expedition underway. It didn't feel like a poor man's attempt at gathering a crew, however little she knew about Hilgur and his partner. She actually could adventure again instead of wander as a raven. For once, in a long time, she felt like she has something exciting to do.

Which is why she woke up with a bit of a yawn, joining the other four at the table with slightly baggy eyes while munching down loudly on a beautifully-red apple that paired nicely with the Jovial Jackalope's warm lighting and active chatting. Say what you would about Beaucourt, and there certainly was a lot to say, they knew how to grow and cultivate fruits.

"Working us to the bone before we even start the expedition?" Esther commented with an amused look, more intrigued by a rescue mission than thinking it as busywork. "I guess even the nicest streets need some cleaning up." She opened her cloak for a moment and looked over her bandoleer of vials and pouches. "Hmm," she muttered quietly, noticing a couple missing powders and liquids that she had yet to restock. "No permafrost, low on peppermint and vile petals..." She shook her head, red hair gently swinging behind her, before closing the cloak. It was hard to find actual alchemy supplies at Arc en Lume.

She looked up at the dwarf again. "Name's Esther Alfsson. If you'd like, I can introduce myself each morning so you don't forget." She finished her apple and threw it into the tavern's wire-interlaced garbage pail, slightly prettier than Stormhold's generic large garbage buckets. "And speaking of names," she turned her head toward the drow with narrowly intrigued eyes. "I don't believe we've been introduced. Who are you? "

Dwarves, as always, love their secrets. Why would one work with a drow?

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hilgur Black-Mane Character Portrait: Dreador Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte

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#, as written by Byte
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Fire and steel. She had conceded, perhaps unwillingly, but to go as far as to say that Serena had agreed? Hardly. Her reservations about the Order were genuine and on the way back to the tavern the little pirate had shut down every attempt to try and convince her it was the right choice. ‘Agree to disagree’, wasn’t it? She was pretty sure that was a perfectly fine option.

‘A lot more jolly this time ‘round, ain’t he?’ Serena eyed the dwarf, trying her best not to smile too hard lest she set something off. Guessed the man was an early-riser, not like his silent little pet. The pirate only chanced a hasty look at the Drow sitting beside the rowdy dwarf, eyes trying to find some form of contact. Curiosity usually got the better of her only this time Hilgur managed to catch her attention. That plump and tiny body had some volume to it to be sure. She straightened, wondering for a moment before meeting the dwarf’s gaze with a smile.

“What can I say?” Serena shifted to face Esther. “I couldn’t refuse those sparkling blue eyes.” Buttering up some fellow adventurers? Nah, but she felt compelled to give the compliment anyway. Wide grin and a hearty chuckle in hand. In truth? She couldn’t think of a real reason why she hadn’t up and decided then and there to sod the lot and try her luck elsewhere. A coupon for a future argument? Maybe, but Serena figured ‘They’re not boring.’ was a good reason for the time being.

“Great, we’re digging through a latrine pit. Want me to haul a bucket back so you can smell too?” No round could wash the stink off of her, she’d rather just not crawl around in a shitpit at all to be honest. Why must it always be the big fishes these people wanted to catch? Nothing wrong with a fine sardine in the nets.

Didn’t think she was alone in that either. Wilthro managed to conceal a shiver underneath his feathery cloak, and Blondie wasn’t exactly subtle with her face pulling something between a grimace and a disgusted sneer. Like she’d already imagined wading through the grimy muck of feces and other unpleasant leftovers. Serena couldn’t blame her for second guessing, at least.

“Couldn’t we just, y’know, light a bonfire in the name of the Order and dance around in our undies? I can chant in Orcish if you want to make it look convincing.” She shrugged, probably another instance of dealing with it and hoping the light at the end of the tunnel is as bright as they say it’s going to be. “Got any perfume on one of those belts?” A furrowed brow turned to look at the alchemist of the group. “Failing that, maybe a nosepeg?”

She’d have to endure either way, didn’t want to fold and leave the table just yet. Had worse jobs, certainly. Serena kept her spine from letting a shiver crawl up into her neck hairs. Yeah, shitpit sounded about good in her mind, considering.

“Serena,” The pirate answered promptly, jutting a thumb at the owl on her shoulder. “And this feathery traitor is Wilthr-OW! The tiny beak managed to grab a hold of several strands of brown hair. Serena gave her companion a teary-eyed and stern look. “He’s a bit of a git.” She hastily added.

Where questions were concerned, Serena couldn’t claim she had any. She did however muse on the thought of their dwarven recruiter joining them in the sewer, probably neck deep in shit compared to everyone else dragging through at waist-height and she couldn’t help but grin at Hilgur. “Only if he’s about this tall.” She commented jokingly a flat hand raised at Esther’s midriff, knowingly mocking the dwarf’s short stature. Although Serena was fully aware of her own shortcomings in that regard.

The other one, though? Yeah, she wasn’t sure about that. The pirate chanced another look at the silent Drow as Esther prompted her for her name, expectant what this one would say. If she would speak at all. Hadn’t minced a whole lot of words last time they gathered, whether out of choice or inability… Serena could only guess. Still, she was curious.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hilgur Black-Mane Character Portrait: Dreador Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte

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Hilgur scoffed, his eyes squinted with a smile at Serena’s sarcastic offer. ”A tempting offer. These nobles and their perfumes…” The dwarf cringed from head to shoulders. “...They set off my allergies.”

The dwarf then nodded at Ashera’s introduction. He brought a hand to rub his beard, two fingers disappearing within the coarse, hairy curtain. “Nah, lass. I got business elsewhere.” He wiggled his brows. “These rumours don’t hear themselves.” Hilgur gave an unimpressed look at Serena’s wisecrack, having evidently heard that one before… and variations thereof. ”That ain’t a fair comparison.” He gestured to all of Esther, his brows knitted together with a huff. ”These Stormhold longlegs are taller than the blasted doors!”

He looked to the other two - three, if he was counting the owl- in the party, a satisfied gleam in his eyes. ”Hmm, hmmm.” His mustache raised with a smirk as Esther inquired about Drei… as if he was waiting for someone to do that much. Hilgur turned to the drow, then prodded her with his elbow. ”She asked ya a question. It would be rude to ignore her, eh?”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hilgur Black-Mane Character Portrait: Dreador Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte

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Dreador's slight form didn't sway despite the prodding. Her head lifted and turned towards Esther as she regarded her. Dark lips pursed over her pointed chin. Slowly, her hands raised and shed her hood with a calculated effort. The metal collar around her throat shifted, its chain leading down beneath the table and tinkling like a metal chime.

"What will you use it for?" She asked. It was a voice that bled both eroticism and ire, thickly accented and distinct from the quirks of Beaucourt or Stormhold. Even from the drow they had encountered in these lands... but for Serena. Still, there was one thing they all could be certain of: it didn't come from Zoltia. She quirked a dark brow. "My name."

Her un-drow-like eyes flicked to scrutinize the others. All varying degrees of idealism, she concluded, scanning from Serena, to Esther, to Ashera. But each one still an eager, wide-eyed fool. And young, too. The elf, barely out of adolescence.

"Being made into property makes one particular about the little that belongs to them," she continued, her head tilting as a long fingernail scraped against the collar trapping her skin, like she was trying to burrow beneath to an itch. "I made the mistake of giving the gorra'h my name. I don't like the way he uses it." Her voice had become a low purr, every 'r' rolling off the tip of her tongue. "And so I am... particular."

Her head tossed. "If it's an order it's 'darkie', if it's a question it's 'sky eyes', and if I'm in the way it's 'move'." She stated like it exhausted her. A side-eyed glare was shot Hilgur's way. "The request extends to you." The drow's gaze then turned to Ashera. The corner of her lips twisted into a little antagonistic smirk. "I have seen your looks, dryulk. I will give you a treat. You may call me shakra vyelt on any occasion."

Her hand made a sarcastic gesture, half-way between presenting herself and waving the lot of them off. If she was resentful before, now her tone was downright venomous.

"It will be my pleasure serving you."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hilgur Black-Mane Character Portrait: Dreador Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte

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#, as written by Byte
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“Not that tall.”

Dwarf’s and their obsession with heights, Serena couldn’t quite tell what the problem was. You’d think a dwarf would get used to being the shortest straw in the room, but Hilgur sure sounded like it bothered him. Somewhat. “I’ve seen bigger.” A toothy grin beamed from the pirate’s face, first at Hilgur then, somewhat deliberate, at Esther.

She was taking far too much pleasure from making such a statement.

Maybe she could’ve savoured it more, but, well, there was something about the unison silence when the quiet Drow of the group was prompted to speak and the mood compelled even Serena to shut up and listen.

For the longest time she eyed the Drow, a cold lump of rock in comparison to the others surrounding the table. A jarring contrast, even. Maybe that was just how these people were, cool to the bone and unappreciative of anyone prodding too hard. She couldn’t claim to have any expertise on the matter, and back home there weren’t a lot of Drows who were willing to hang out and chat with the locals.

Skittish, unfriendly, quick to scarper. That was the general consensus where these darkies were concerned. There was something about this particular Drow, though. Something that hung around her neck. And it wasn’t the fancy collar. If Serena wasn’t curious now, it would certainly kill the cat at some point.

For the longest time she kept looking, and then it moved. Subtle, measured.

The Drow was judging. A look of contempt, or was it indifference? She could never remember. But Serena could feel those eyes piercing everything and everyone, and she had to try not to flinch too quickly. Wilthro krept closer to his companion’s back, careful not to fall off. He wasn’t keen on the looks either, it seemed. A weak ‘Coo’ emitted from its tiny beak; eyes glazing from one member of the group to the next. Careful to avoid the bright blue eyes of the Drow.

‘Gorra’h? Heh, clever.’ Serena wanted to brace herself for a laughing fit, and was glad only a meek chuckle escaped her. She hadn’t failed to pick up on the Drow’s pet name for her owner, and the woman’s eyes glanced knowingly at the dwarf; sizing him up once and nodding to herself, a smirk flashing only briefly in the presence of the frosty figure. Sure, Serena wouldn’t count herself comfortable. This one had a definite bite to her bark kinda vibe.

Hated, or wasn’t particularly sweet with, her dwarven companion at the least. Any other opinion was inferred through the contempt in her tone.

“Nice to meet you...” A wry smile. Particular.” Perhaps a bit casual, but anything to clear the air so to speak.

The pirate didn’t for one moment think she could play around too much. Liberties were taken where she could find them, but on the other hand she wasn’t stupid either. And she may have slowly and subtly inched closer to the looming height of the Stormhold giant for want of breaking that Drow line-of-sight.

Serena turned her attention to Esther. “They say the nobles here shit rose petals,” She retorted with a smile matched the alchemist’s own. “Let’s hope they’re right.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hilgur Black-Mane Character Portrait: Dreador Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte

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If Ashera had been on edge around the drow before, it was nothing compared to after she spoke. The elf knew of drow slaves, many of whom reduced to relatively docile things with very little fight in them. She also knew of instances where particularly reckless and desperate drow attempted to steal elven magic for themselves, each time ending in abject, contemptible failure…

But this drow was neither of those, and she knew it. That alone made her one to watch out for. Ashera held her ground when the drow turned to address her directly, permitting her to refer to the slave as… well, something she’d rather not repeat out loud. The elf’s brow quirked, perplexed. Why ask to be named in such a degrading fashion, whether deserved or otherwise? If this was part of some insidious drow scheme, Ashera was not about to take the bait.

By the time Ashera finally averted her gaze from the drow slave, her new comrades – Esther and Serena, they introduced themselves as – were already making plans to combat the worst of the sewer’s dank and distasteful environs. Sound ideas, certainly, but there was always room for improvement.

“Perfume is one thing, but once we are out of there, the first thing I shall do is take a bath. A nice, long, hot soapy bath…” Ashera let out a dreamy sigh at the thought. She could almost feel the warm water against her skin already… Wait, no, it would not do to stand around daydreaming with such an important job ahead of them. “Ahem. Perhaps a mask of some form would not go amiss? Some cloth round the mouth and nose with sweet-smelling herbs stuffed inside. How feasible would it be to fashion something of the like, Esther?”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hilgur Black-Mane Character Portrait: Dreador Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte Character Portrait: Maria Solaster Character Portrait: Anaïs Botrel

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Lio looked up from searching the bodies. He flopped the arms of the bandit he was propping up in the shape of a 'W' towards the others with a shrug at Maria's 'reassurance'. Then he let the body drop and hauled himself up, bouncing a small sack in his hand.

"WELL," he interrupted the tension lingering from the threat-or-not, "No ring here. Just a bottle of brown with something living in it, and a bag of -" He put a pause on sloshing around an ale bottle to pull the sack open, and a cloud of grey burst in front of his nose. He pulled the drawstrings closed as he doubled back, coughing. "... That's witchpowder. Raven, catch." He ditched the bag at her, then furiously rubbed at his twitching nose. "You'll think of something to do with it. Don't mind me if I start getting snappy." He pressed a thumb against his nostril and blew out his nose, hard. "Or pass out. We'll take your lead, Solaster."

The group moved on, walking past bodies and rubble. They found one of the grates the bandits escaped through. Lio stepped to the front, paler than usual, and yanked the grate from the doorway. The rust-red metal gave way with a shrill noise.

The party ventured forth. Further and further. The path grew narrow, into an old, brick-laid tunnel. Their steps echoed through the mouldy, dirt-encrusted walls. Faded remnants of graffiti etched upon the tunnels. Images and writings of red hatchets, growing older, darker, and blurrier the further they went.

And then, at the end of their path, they found… a door. Slightly ajar. Broad and thick, with a cool black colour peering between layers of rust. Darkness seeped between the cracks. A droning, rumbling sound came from within, like the growl of an old beast.

This was the only way forward. Lio pushed the door aside. The metal shrieked as it ground against the stone floor. Wilthro's lights shined into the darkness, and revealed…

A towering silhouette. More than eight foot tall, with arms like great oaken logs, held high and stretched far over the party. Strips of bone and carrion dangled from the ceiling like a macabre curtain. Inflamed by the owl's bright lights, the shadow's bellowing growl ascended into a roar, and the party's ears rang from such unearthly vibrations as it lunged for them!




Meanwhile, above ground, where the daylight was reflected in sparkles across the canal. The Royal Beaucourt University stood as a shining jewel in the Diamond Quarter. Behind its rustic arched windows, the finest scholars of Arc-en-Lume had conducted their studies and tended to its archives for more than five centuries.Three shapes exited its front doors. A tall, thin human scholar, a stout dwarf with an ink-black beard, and a drow woman in a hood, bound to the dwarf by a silver chain.

“...I’m tellin’ ya, Philibert. This will be the discovery of a lifetime!” The dwarf argued, with a loud and spirited voice wholly typical of his kind. “Think about it! Gala-Dor, home to the first and greatest dwarven kingdom!” The dwarf continued, his arms held high, his hands splayed open for emphasis. “Its significance to history can’t be disputed!”

“Significance to Dwarf history, Hilgur,” the scholar corrected as he pushed his spectacles upon the bridge of his nose. “No offense, but it’s not a subject many in Arc-en-Lume care about.”

Hilgur’s spirit deflated with his shoulders.

The scholar sighed, and looked down upon the dwarf with creased brows. “And that’s not even the biggest issue. This… this map, the one you claim to possess... Where is it?”

Hilgur’s stance turned rigid. His expression grew darker. “I told ya. It’s confidential. Ya’ll just have to have faith.”

The scholar turned away. “Hmph. Well, unfortunately, the University must again refuse your request. We can’t provide investment without evidence.” He glanced at Hilgur from the corner of his eye and turned his nose up. “We are academics. Faith is not empirical. Good day.”

Hilgur watched as the scholar strutted back inside. “Lousy smartass beanpole son of a...,” he uttered under his breath. With a shake of his head, the dwarf walked away, towards a bridge over the canal, with the drow in tow…

...Right into Anais’ view.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hilgur Black-Mane Character Portrait: Dreador Character Portrait: Anaïs Botrel

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Anaïs considered her plan of action as she walked down the canal-side road toward the university. The dwarf had just been there yesterday, right? So if she started there, she could pick up his trail and-

Well, shit, there he was. Her eyes followed him for a brief moment as he walked across the bridge to the other side of the canal, accompanied by his drow friend with the silver… necklace. It certainly couldn’t be a chain. That was illegal. Anaïs jogged briskly after them, tied hair bouncing against the back of her neck and her boots thudding softly against the wooden planks of the bridge.

”Hey! Hey,” Anaïs called out, slowing to a walk a bit behind the pair. She glanced down her nose at the dwarf, then traced his path back the way he’d come. ”You just came from the University, right? Sainte Pucelle Memorial Archive?”

Anaïs cleared her throat softly when the two stopped and turned to face her. She straightened the front of her robe as she stepped up to them. ”Sorry. Sorry, I saw you there yesterday.” Anaïs didn’t tilt her head even slightly as she spoke to the dwarf, instead gazing down her thin nose at him, though her eyes repeatedly flickered toward the drow woman hidden in the cloak, as if trying to make it seem like she was consistently addressing both of them. ”I think you were talking to Philibert? I honestly didn’t expect you to go back, he’s not exactly the type to change his mind, and his refusal seemed a bit… firm. Oh, sorry, I’m Anaïs.” She moved to offer her hand, hesitated, and then let it fall.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hilgur Black-Mane Character Portrait: Dreador Character Portrait: Anaïs Botrel

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Hilgur's steps came to a stop. He looked up, one brow raised, towards the woman who called for him. Her pale, narrow features and clean robes screamed 'noble', which stood in great contrast to her ...unpretentious… speech.

"Aye, lass. That I did!" The dwarf reached up to snatch her falling hand, and shook it quite vigorously. "Hilgur's the name. Hilgur Black-Mane."

The dwarf stepped back with a sigh, his right hand reaching to stroke his beard. "Ha! That egghead's more stubborn than a Jellico mule..." His cheeks raised over squinting eyes, failing to stifle his laughter. "...And twice as ugly! Hohohohoho!"

The dwarf cleared his throat, his grip unfaltering around the drow's chain. "So, what can I help you with?" He raised his other eyebrow, hoping against hope. "...Don't suppose you came to finance my grand quest?" Hilgur scoffed, his eyes drawn to her book holsters. "Maybe ya be the one human scholar interested in dwarf history?"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hilgur Black-Mane Character Portrait: Dreador Character Portrait: Anaïs Botrel

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Anaïs pulled her hand against her stomach when Hilgur released it, rubbing her fingers together in an attempt to will away to intense desire to wash her hands. "I don't know about the one human scholar," she said with a slight titter. "Gala-Dor's just… I mean, we get claims like that at least once every couple of- we just aren't really afforded the budget to go chasing after every groundless rumor, and the nobility isn't exactly the most academically minded, so..."

Anaïs's voice trailed off again, and she cleared her throat to try and get herself back on track. "An-anyway, rather than funding, I was actually hoping to, um." Her eyes lingered on the "necklace" for the briefest of moments, tracing its length from Hilgur's hand to the drow woman's throat. "Sign on."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hilgur Black-Mane Character Portrait: Dreador Character Portrait: Ashera Vallenai Character Portrait: Esther Alfsson Character Portrait: Serena L'aporte Character Portrait: Maria Solaster Character Portrait: Anaïs Botrel Character Portrait: Orcimedes Lavatrina

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Lio gave the group a flat look with burning red eyes. "You sorted?" He snapped, sniffed, then shook his head. "...Sorry. Here, let me get it."

He gripped the door handle and pulled, the ice cracking against his strength - then it flung open, and he ducked out the way with it, and Ashera's bowstring sprang back as the arrow flew through the doorway.




Though Dreador looked still, beneath her hood, her eyes were darting about in sync with her rush of thoughts. She followed the twitch of Anais's fingers, the hand on her chain, the woman's glances at it. Her chin lifted, just enough to raise her sky-blue eyes to meet hers with a wary expression. She lifted a dark, slender finger and wound the silver chain around it. And tugged.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hilgur Black-Mane Character Portrait: Dreador Character Portrait: Anaïs Botrel

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Anaïs caught sight of a thin dark finger curl around the silver chain and tug it loosely in the drow woman’s direction. Her eyes shot to the bare glimpse of a sharp chin beneath the hood, then to Hilgur, then to the bridge they were standing on. Her eyes trailed something only she could see - the path of a guard patrol which had been across the bridge some twenty minutes earlier. If they kept to the usual schedule…

”I’m so sorry, I didn’t catch your name.” Anaïs turned to face the drow more fully, her elbow angling ever so slightly between her and the dwarf she was bound to. Not enough to be suspicious, but enough to act, even a little, as a divider between them. She was speaking ever so slightly louder as well - just enough to make sure they were noticed, without being conspicuous. ”Are you a member of the expedition, or- he’s looking for funding, right? Are you a representative of a possible financier?”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hilgur Black-Mane Character Portrait: Dreador Character Portrait: Anaïs Botrel

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Hilgur's thick, sausage-like fingers caressed his beard as he listened to Anais. His bushy mustache and beard hid it well, but his bunched cheeks and squinted eyes were filled with glee, her contempt for him flown way over his head. "Oho! Another one joins the expedition. And you sought me outside of the Jackalope, too. I approve of your enthusiasm!"

As they talked, Anais slid between Hilgur and his drow, talking to the latter. The dwarf's brows furrowed, and his black eyes glinted sharply. The drow hesitated to speak and looked to Hilgur, as if asking for permission. "She's my assistant." His smile returned, but this time it didn't reach his eyes. "You need not concern yourself with her, lass. She's with us for cleaning. Only the cleaning." She bowed her head, flicking her big eyes up to Anais like a wounded animal.

Just then, two Sacred Flame guards emerged on the centre of the bridge, their chain suit crinkled, their armour plates scraped together, and their bucket-like helms bore fire-coloured feathers arranged in an arc. They slowed their steps, and turned their attention towards Anais, Dreador, and Hilgur.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hilgur Black-Mane Character Portrait: Dreador Character Portrait: Anaïs Botrel

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Anaïs turned her head ever so slightly to look at Hilgur over her shoulder, a frigid contempt in her pale blue eye that hadn't been there before. "It's rude to answer for other people."

The clank of metal sabatons at the end of the bridge was a clocktower bong alerting her to the limits of subtlety. Slavery might be illegal in Beaucourt, but Anaïs knew well enough that the guards wouldn't look twice at a drow unless they were forced to, and without the weight of noble status behind her words public declarations would just be handwaved away with false promises of an "investigation". No, the knights would need either an explicit acknowledgement of the crime from Hilgur, or they would need to arrive to that conclusion themselves before their oaths would compel them to act. But how to go about doing that? Hmm hmm hmm???

"I love your necklace!" Anaïs declared loudly, stepping closer to the drow and framing the silver collar around her neck with splayed fingers. Their noses were mere inches apart; Anaïs had no doubt the drow's first instinct would be to step back, and Hilgur's would be to pull her back into place. "You simply must tell me where you got it!"