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Bargains


Re: Bargains

Post by Julen on

Fortunately, Julen anticipated Panterras’s attack. If he hadn’t, he might have merely stared at the approaching ball of light, bemused and curious, until it smacked him in the face. But he’d known something like this was coming. As soon as Panterras made a motion in his direction, Julen stopped struggling against gravity and let his body collapse to the floor. It wasn’t a move he planned to include in future battles. However, despite being both graceless and tactically unwise, it served its purpose. The crackling globe of orange and purple light sailed harmlessly over Julen’s head.

Everything else happened so fast -- Rollick felled by some strange trinket, Uluki struck by another magical assault as she tried to heal him. Julen didn’t even have time to cry out their names before Rollick’s dagger hit home and Panterras collapsed.

What they’d begun with such care and subtly was over in a moment of brutal improvisation. And as Julen continued to struggle against his own weakness, as he looked at Rollick and Uluki’s wounded bodies, the tiny voice inside his head volunteered one last sarcastic observation. Wow. Think of how badly things would have gone if we didn’t have a plan.

Then, Soubrette was standing in front of him, offering him her hand. Julen accepted her help rising, although he was careful not to burden her with his full weight. Once he’d completely regained his feet, Julen’s eyes glided over Soubrette, searching for any signs of injury. To his relief, he found none. Satisfied that she was alright, Julen met her gaze, and tapped his fist against his chest in the salute he’d learned from Aorle. “Well played.”

But not everyone had come out of this unscathed. After acknowledging Soubrette’s heroics, Julen staggered over to Rollick and Uluki. The scene he found was too like his most recent dream, with Uluki crouched beside her husband’s fallen body. Only, this time, Uluki was also hurt. And it was his fault. He hadn’t cut them down in combat, but it was still his fault. “I’m so sorry,” Julen babbled, acutely aware of his inability to do anything more useful than apologize. “I don’t know what happened. I tried to stop it...but it came anyway.”

“Is he going to be alright? Should I get Aorle?” Julen’s strength was slowly returning, and he felt fairly sure he could make it to the compound and back. Fairly sure.
Shim -- where the men are men, and the livestock are scared.

Re: Bargains

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

“He’ll be alright,” Uluki assured Julen. While having a second healer was certainly always helpful after a battle, it didn’t seem like a good idea to send away one warrior when the other was so visibly incapacitated. Julen was probably in no condition to fight, but that was less obvious just from looking at him; he was clearly in better shape than Rollick was. “I’m strong enough to do this. Once he’s better, I can heal you too, if… if you’re hurt somehow.” If Julen was simply tired from doing magic, there wouldn’t be much of anything she could do for him. She hoped Julen would understand having to wait, but Rollick wasn’t yet entirely out of danger. There was too much bleeding she still had to stop, and the more severe injury took priority. Her own wounds were painful but relatively superficial. She certainly wasn’t going to die from them. She would deal with the burns after Rollick— and Julen if need be— were healed.

As soon as Dash realized the battle was over, she had hurried over to join them. “Mama? Papa?” There was worry bordering on terror in her eyes.

“It’s alright, Dashie,” Uluki tried to console her. “He’ll be fine once I’ve healed him a little more, and my wounds aren’t as bad as they look.”

Dash nodded, but her eyes were still fixed on Rollick. She clearly wasn’t as confident as her mother about the prognosis. Rollick smiled at her, though, and managed to get himself into a sitting position, propped up against a pew. “See, I’m not doing so badly,” he reassured his daughter. “Your mother is a good healer.” Grimacing just slightly at the pain, he held out his arms and drew both Dash and Uluki into a gentle embrace as Uluki continued to use her healing magic.

With the two of them in his arms, Rollick turned his gaze to Julen. “There is no need to apologize. You played your part well— no illusion could have been more convincing— and we all know magic can be unpredictable. Besides, a thousand other things could have gone wrong. I never assume a plan is going to go entirely smoothly. For example, it wasn’t my intention to collapse either, and for that I apologize. Still, it worked out in the end. We’re all safe, and Panterras… can harm no one else.”

Uluki agreed. “You did well, Julen. You too, Soubrette. Thank you for your help.” She very much hoped the magic Julen had channeled hadn’t done any lasting harm to him. She also hoped what Panterras had said about her hadn’t weakened her friendship with Julen, or made him think too much less of her. Though Panterras had said it in a nasty way, Uluki had to admit to herself that most of it was true. Not the part about her children being freaks— they weren’t, they were beautiful— but the things he’d said about Uluki herself. She hoped Julen would still accept her, even after hearing all that. “Both of you played a vital role tonight, and we are very grateful.”

Rollick, strengthened somewhat now, nodded. “Yes, thank you. As you can see, our task is almost finished. Only a few small matters remain. Kira asked that her father’s body be burned— she felt, I believe rightly, that even a dead Panterras could again be dangerous in the hands of necromancers. Besides, simply leaving him here would raise awkward questions when he was found, so we’d have to dispose of the remains in any case, and someone might stumble upon a grave. I would like to bring his jewellery back to Kira— if that is acceptable to you— since it would belong to her now by right of inheritance and may have sentimental value to her, but anything else he may have with him that is of value can be divided between you if you so desire. If not, we can add it to the treasury at the compound.” Rollick couldn’t bring himself to claim plunder on his own behalf from someone who had once been his friend, but he saw no need for Panterras’s things to go to waste, either. “And then this matter is finished, I believe. Once again, thank you.”
"When you feel like you can't go on, love heals.
Hold onto love, and it will lead you home. Love heals." -Rent

Re: Bargains

Post by Quinn on

With a nod and a smile, Quinn acknowledged Julen's salute - obviously some sort of warriorly thing that she didn't quite get but appreciated anyway.

When Julen rushed over to his friends, Quinn stayed where she was, a little distant from the group. After all, she was the interloper who had spied on them, who had brought Panterras to their door; she had only revealed herself out of necessity and when she knew the dogooders' priorities were in line with hers, for time being. Now, that time was over, and she was not entirely sure where she stood. She noticed that once again she was perched on the balls of her feet, ready to dodge, or to flee - although luckily the two warriors didn't look in any condition to attack her. The young magical soldier was still an unknown quantity, however much she looked like just a frightened child in the arms of her parents.

When Rollick did address her, though, it was as an afterthought to Julen, and to thank her - so for now, at least, she appeared to be safe.

"If... if you don't want to lose a warrior," Quinn ventured, "I could go and find your commander." It wasn't just niceness. Continuing to appear to work with them, not against them, was very much in her interests, and anyhow if she met some new guy, a higher-up, solely in her role as someone working for the compound, not a spy, it would be harder for them to decide to do away with her now she had served her purpose. Then again, Julen didn't know about the spying.

The mention of plunder spiked an internal grimace. Warriors took these things in their stride, but it had always sounded a little morbid to her - she supposed, as she had concluded when she thrashed out this subject with her friend Zaryel, that she preferred the hands she stole from not to be in the process of cooling to room temperature.

A thought struck her. "Now that you mention his belongings," (there was a tendency in her to avoid mentioning the dead man by name), "there is the matter of his house in Marn. He's got all kinds of magical stuff in there. I doubt whether Kira would want any of it, but it seems to me it would be best off in your hands or destroyed."

"As it happens, I know a guy who could arrange for you a house fire. Nice and small, so it doesn't spread to any other buildings. We could sit him in there when we burn him - avoid any possibility of a murder inquiry. Poor guy was trying to cook for himself, they'll say, and an accident occured. Happens all the time."

The last two sentences were spoken with an overabundance of Quinnish businesslike grim cheer, brought on entirely by nervous energy. Her agitation was obvious and she felt she should acknowledge what she was avoiding.

She sighed, dragging a hand through her calculatedly untidy hair, and gave the cute little group the exhausted stare of a petty criminal far, far out of her depth, emotionally drained and sleep-deprived and badly in need of a drink.

"Look, if you're thinking we want spies and crooks out of our happy compound, just say the word, I'm gone. I'll go as soon as I finish this job anyway. Just... don't think I'm a threat still. Not a word about this place is going anywhere else, I swear. I know what kind of guys ask for it now, and I'm done working for them."

That was most likely a lie.

"So... just say the word."

She was glancing at Julen as well, Rollick, Uluki and Dash still quite obviously having other things on their mind. She didn't fancy Julen's chances much at this point either, but her worry was if other people got involved, one of them would only have to let slip what kind of a person they were dealing with and somewhere along the line somebody would decide that the sweep they'd made with Panterras hadn't quite been clean enough.

Re: Bargains

Post by Julen on

Panterras’s venomous condemnation of Uluki hadn’t made much of an impression on Julen, other than bafflement. How could someone feel such hatred toward a person who was obviously so good? As for the specific accusations, Julen gave them the same weight he gave to every other claim made by a man who thought that torturing his daughter was a good idea -- which was to say, none at all. So, as Julen stood beside Uluki, he only felt the bond between them grow tighter, strengthened by what they’d just faced together.

Julen shook his head when Uluki mentioned healing him. “Thanks, but I don’t think the magic hurt me. I’m okay.” Perhaps ‘okay’ was a bit of an overstatement. Still, he felt far more okay than he had any right to feel, with his two friends so seriously injured because of his mistake. “Just use all your energy on yourself and Rollick.”

Soubrette’s offer to fetch Aorle was appreciated, and nearly accepted, until Julen remembered one thing. Echoes. If Soubrette got anywhere near Aorle, he would hear the cries of each person she’d murdered. Even if she hadn’t actually killed anyone yet -- was it foolish to hope that an assassin hadn’t actually killed anyone yet? -- whatever career path she’d followed so far surely involved harming others. At best, Aorle would distrust anything she said. At worst, he might strike her down.

“Thank you. But maybe you shouldn’t. Aorle can...” Julen hesitated. He wasn’t sure if Aorle made any effort to conceal his ability, but it still didn’t feel right to reveal the truth without first getting permission. “...he can form strong opinions about people very quickly. It would be better if Uluki or I were present when you meet him for the first time. Just to make sure everything goes smoothly.”

If being prepared to throw himself between an assassin and an Angelsworn could be described as ‘making things go smoothly.’

Fortunately, even with only Uluki to heal him, Rollick’s strength appeared to return, until he could sit up, albeit with some assistance from a nearby pew. Julen grinned in relief as the elder warrior embraced his family. It had all worked out. This time.

But what about the next time? After each previous occasion -- after what happened in the tavern, and then again with Finner -- Julen had made a silent vow against using magic. Now, he realized that those were vows he simply couldn’t keep. What he’d done tonight had helped save an innocent girl’s life. Even knowing the risks, how could he promise not to aid the next person who needed him? He couldn’t deny them his magic any more than he could deny them food from his table or sympathy from his heart.

Except that food and sympathy weren’t quite so likely to go horribly wrong.

Outwardly, Julen appeared comforted by Rollick’s reassurances. But inwardly, doubts continued to plague him. He’d never felt the magic like he had tonight. For the first time, he truly sensed its power. And he understood that attracting the attention of the city guard was not the only danger it posed when wielded by untrained hands. We all know magic can be unpredictable. Did they all know that? Uluki’s magic seemed pretty controlled, as did Aorle’s. Julen was the unstable one. He was the one putting everyone else in danger.

After Shim. After Shim, I go to The Judges. They’ll either get rid of the magic, teach me to use it, or...end this.

As always, the question of plunder made Julen deeply uncomfortable, so he simply nodded his agreement with Rollick’s suggestions. Soubrette’s idea about burning Panterras’s body inside his house also earned a bob of Julen’s head. “That makes a lot of sense. What do you think, Rollick?”

While waiting for the elder warrior’s answer, Julen let his gaze wander back to Soubrette. She really did have a very quick mind. Or was it wrong to admire such a thing in an assassin? Once again, Julen tried to remind himself that the young lady standing before him was a cold-blooded killer. But right now, she just looked unspeakably weary, making Julen want to offer her a hot bowl of soup and comfortable bed to fall asleep in. He knew it was a weakness. A character flaw that kept him from fighting evil with the zeal that such a task deserved. But he couldn’t hate her for crimes he hadn’t witnessed.

And what she said next truly tugged at his heart. After all she’d done for them, all the risks she’d taken, she still thought they might turn their backs on her. Crossing over to her, Julen placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder.

“No one is asking you to leave. Your actions in this matter have earned our loyalty. And, if I may say so, you yourself have won my friendship.”

Julen didn’t want to preach. And he’d already made his offer -- it was up to Soubrette whether she chose to take advantage of it. Still, he felt that one thing remained to be said. Not a threat. Just a grim truth.

“But if you continue on as an assassin, we may meet again, when you’re trying to murder someone who doesn’t deserve it.” Julen’s eyes flicked to Panterras, as an example of someone who definitely did deserve it. “If that day comes, my conscience will have to triumph over any personal feelings. And I abhor the thought of needing to kill someone who once spent an afternoon teaching me to sing the song she wrote.”
Shim -- where the men are men, and the livestock are scared.

Re: Bargains

Post by Quinn on

The sense Quinn had of a certain intrigue surrounding this Aorle character grew when Julen - in her mind euphemistically - referred to his 'forming strong opinions'. He couldn't just be headstrong, because Julen would have had to have been stupid not to notice that Quinn could make a damn good impression when she wanted to. She had met people before who were simply excellent judges of character and saw right through her. Normally she avoided them, although usually she didn't need to. Somebody with that good of an eye for deceit saw it everywhere they looked - not because they were paranoid, but because it was everywhere they looked - and generally ended up too jaded to bother exposing her. Often they admired the brazenness with which she pulled it off. However, she could just imagine the kind of guy who could have that skill and not end up jaded, but swear to fight against it wherever he saw it. He might end up, ooh, I dunno, running a compound of dogooders and refugees maybe?

She let that one pass. Julen was probably right. Rollick looked to be getting better anyway, and Julen claimed to be okay, and although that was doubtful, it looked like they'd probably be alright.

When she dropped the mask after her latest suggestion, Quinn realised just how pathetic Soubrette must look - about as pathetic as she felt, presumably. But she was also surprised to notice that the response from Julen - when surely the nicest thing anyone would be prepared to do would have been to ignore it - looked an awful lot like sympathy. The hand on her shoulder felt a lot like sympathy. She felt a smile tugging at her mouth. Dogooders, she thought.

About an hour ago, she might have responded to Julen's words with a snarky comment about what she generally did with people's loyalty. Now, she just listened to what he added to that thought, and her smile grew wider. These guys weren't just bleeding hearts. They were dogooder pragmatists, and that she respected.

Thoughts kinds of bubbled through her mind and, very unusually for Quinn, she just opened her mouth and let words come out without scripting or improvising everything she had to say.

"I have a friend," was what she turned out to say, and then she smiled again, quietly, "another friend, who's a mercenery. Sailor-mercenary, kind of guy. And he always said to me that however much he likes me, if his shifting loyalties and mine ever put us on opposite sides of a fight, he'd kill me and take the money, every time." She paused, acknowledged that yes, she was babbling, and continued. "I don't believe him. But I believe you. It's a good thing."

It took her this long to process what he'd just said, and remember that he called her an assassin. She had the feeling earlier that he'd assumed that to be the case, but she'd ignored it because of finishing the job, and she felt it was time to set the record straight.

"But Julen? When I told you I wasn't a fighter, that I didn't know how to use a sword, that was true. I'm a crook, a spy, a conwoman. I expect I get people killed - like I almost did Kira. But Panterras was the first person I ever set out to kill." She tapped where she imagined her heart to be, not staring too intently, but keeping eye contact with Julen. She figured that an acute awareness of her body language wasn't something she'd ever get rid of. "Home truth."

Re: Bargains

Post by Julen on

“So you’re not a--?” Several expressions rushed across Julen’s face in quick succession: surprise, and then relief, and then embarrassment. “That’s wonderful! When you told me Panterras had hired you for this job, I just assumed that he’d hired an assassin, even though you said you never intended to kill Kira. Gods. You must think I’m an idiot.”

Pushing a handful of loose brown curls back from his forehead, Julen gave Soubrette a sheepish smile. “I’m sorry. I never should have believed such a terrible thing about you. My gut told me you weren’t that kind of person.”

Julen might have been a lot less proud of his gut if he’d realized just how much his reaction to Soubrette was based on her earlier manipulations. And he might have been a little less quick to reverse his opinion if he’d pondered the unlikelihood of a successful assassin actually admitting to being an assassin. But, for better or worse, Julen hadn’t been betrayed by someone he trusted. The evil people in his life were so clearly evil that it was almost reassuring. He wasn’t Uluki. He hadn’t yet felt the blade of a friend.

Of course, it wasn’t as if Soubrette had turned out to be a saint. She did call herself ‘a crook, a spy, a conwoman’. Julen still felt glad that he hadn’t sent her alone to speak with Aorle. But frankly, compared with making her money as a hired killer, these now seemed like fairly minor infractions.
Last edited by Julen on Wed Apr 02, 2008 3:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Shim -- where the men are men, and the livestock are scared.

Re: Bargains

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

Rollick considered Soubrette’s suggestion about the house fire when Julen addressed the matter to him, but he quickly saw some insurmountable obstacles. “A good thought, but when we scouted the premises before, it was clear Panterras lived only on the lower storey. There are likely others living above, and we can’t gamble their safety on your friend’s ability to contain a fire to only one floor— particularly a lower floor, as fire climbs upwards. Also, I doubt Panterras owned the building himself. It is highly unlikely the landlord knew what was going on, given how much trouble that could bring down if Panterras was caught by the officials. The money from a cheap flat rental just wouldn’t be worth the landlord’s risk, if that risk was known, so I must assume the landlord is blameless. That being the case, I wouldn’t want to take away their livelihood for our own convenience, and risk leaving them destitute from the loss of the building.”

Rollick paused for a moment, thinking, weighing options. “Perhaps an abandoned building might serve, though. We passed another on our way to this one that looked likely to collapse at any moment, so burning it instead would be no great loss. Panterras could be taken for a homeless man who built a campfire inside to keep warm, only to have the blaze catch while he slept. Such tragedies are, unfortunately, not entirely uncommon, and I think such a thing would not arouse undue interest from the Guard. We have already smashed Panterras’s magical laboratory and his store of potions, so all we really need to do is destroy the body, and it need not be done in his own home.”

Uluki said nothing as Rollick spoke, and then Julen and Soubrette. She assumed the others would perceive her as completely intent on healing, but she wasn’t. Healing came so naturally that, while it required some level of concentration, it didn’t occupy all her thoughts for the duration. Currently her thoughts were in fact very scattered.

She couldn’t help being somewhat worried about Julen. Not about his physical state— he was likely right that he didn’t need to be healed— or even about this incident in particular, but about how little control he seemed to have over his magic. Rollick had appeared to take the whole thing in stride, and Uluki doubted very much that it was just to make Julen feel better. Rollick admittedly didn’t understand magic, so he was never particularly surprised to see it behave wildly or abnormally. Uluki, as a magic user, knew more about how magic was contained, harnessed, and used, so she was much more concerned that Julen was in danger from his own powers.

Uluki had known Julen couldn’t prevent the illusions, but until she’d seen him actually use his magic, she hadn’t understood just how powerful he was… and powerful, out of control magic was a very perilous thing. Uluki knew that very well. There was a time her own magic had been beyond her ability to restrain it, and she’d become a murderer, albeit an unintentional one. That horrible accident had brought her more guilt and loss than the deaths of any of those she had once faced in combat, and she didn’t want that to happen to Julen. Something had to be done. But she wanted to talk to him about it privately, not in front of all the others.

She also couldn’t banish the blood-soaked images that continued to haunt her even now that the fighting was done. She watched them fall, again and again. Dash, then Rollick. Rollick, then Dash. Blood everywhere, but not enough to obscure her vision or to conceal the horrors before her. The sounds, too. Dash’s screams. The harsh noise of metal striking wood as Rollick’s armour and sword hit the floor, immediately followed by the dull thump of his head. It was all she could do not to cover her ears, but she needed her hands to heal Rollick, and it wouldn’t make the awful sounds go away anyway, any more than closing her eyes banished the images. It was all burned too strongly into her brain. She knew she had not really lost them, but she was still residually terrified of how close she’d come to it, especially with Rollick, whose injuries were not feigned. That knotted her stomach up; she couldn’t bear the thought of living without him.

As Julen and Soubrette talked, Uluki finished her healing of Rollick, then turned her attention to her own face and neck. The damage from the burn was simple enough to correct, but she was utterly exhausted from healing all of Rollick’s wounds, so when she had finished she reached for Dash’s hand and held it, glad to have her daughter safe and close, and leaned against Rollick and closed her eyes, comforted by the steady rise and fall of his chest.

After a moment, when the time seemed right in the conversation, Uluki suggested, “I know Rollick and Dash and I are very tired, and I’m sure the two of you are as well. Perhaps we should return to the base soon, to rest? Soubrette, if you wish to join us we’d be happy to provide you with food and a bed. You have more than earned our family’s friendship too.”


((Continued: viewtopic.php?f=5&t=1648))
Last edited by Lylessa Uluki on Tue May 13, 2008 3:22 am, edited 1 time in total.
"When you feel like you can't go on, love heals.
Hold onto love, and it will lead you home. Love heals." -Rent

Re: Bargains

Post by Quinn on

A gentle smile crossed Soubrette's face as she watched emotions chase each other over Julen's face. It was her genuine, slightly amused reaction to his embarassment, but would also serve to reassure him that she wasn't offended by his presumption - it took nerves that she'd always assumed she didn't have to kill people. Now, tentatively, she was rethinking that assummation.

Quinn nodded sagely, acknowledgeing the sage counsel of Julen's gut - it was, after all, what people usually attributed the effects of her manipulations to. Internally, she was perhaps a little disappointed. She had thought, by the way he acted with the knowledge of her being an assassin, that he had been unconvinced by her subtle techniques and had eventually come to like her, to some extent, anyway, but apparently not. The best way to test such a theory would, she supposed, be to stop trying. Maybe she would do that, if she knew how.

She was not surprised that Rollick answered her question rather than Uluki; Uluki had up till now been doing a splendid job of holding it together and was justified in taking a little quiet time; Rollick struck her as less sensitive to the terrors of Julen's illusionary terrors.

Quinn, to be perfectly honest, had completely forgotten about the flats above and beside Panterras' lodgings, probably having confused his place in her memory with the imposing gothic mansion a man of his nature should have been living in, for no better reason than to warn neighbours away.

"Your plan makes sense," she said to Rollick, "but disposing of the body like that will keep the police off it for so long. Eventually, somebody who knew him will want to know what happened to him." The face of the source's source, Ears, floated into her mind, and she smiled slightly. "For what it's worth, I can put about the underworld that the guy simply made angry people that one does not wish to make angry, who would rather not be named. That's a conversation-stopper, and what's more, it's true. And if there is a police investigation, if they get as far as the shadier sources and learn that, they'll most likely end the investigation there. They don't really care if one shady character falls to another."

Uluki caught Quinn's attention again when she emerged from her silent recuperations, with an offer in line with Julen's earlier one.

To stay at the compound... as herself? Quinn had never really given the matter much thought. Although Julen's trusting smile made it almost seem possible, she really couldn't see a future for herself that wasn't pretty much the same as her past - for a given value of 'the same', when every game was different and an all-purposes crook had to learn the rules as she went along - and certainly not something as radically different as the compound. She knew she wouldn't forget it either. That was another thing she didn't doubt. Probably, the cynical part (roughtly 79.5 percent and counting) of her suggested, she would always remember that there was a steady position here for her, and by remembering it, have a comforting thought for when the manure hits the thresher that would mean she would never need it.

In the end, she surprised herself by agreeing. "Yes... thank you." She tried not to catch Julen's eye. He would, she was sure, only look hopeful that this was an indication of her accepting his offer, and she didn't feel like imagining what his disappointment would look like if, in the morning, she was nowhere to be seen.

Re: Bargains

Post by Julen on

Returning to the base sounded like a wonderful idea. Although he’d mostly recovered from his magic-induced fit, Julen felt tired. And he knew that, as much as he just wanted to crawl into bed, two lengthy conversations still lay between him and sleep. One of which he was looking forward to, and one of which made his stomach clench in anticipatory dread.

Julen beamed when Soubrette accepted Uluki’s invitation. He wasn’t quite naive enough to believe that this signaled a permanent stay, but it was a good start. At least she knew she had a safe refuge waiting for her if she ever needed it. And the chance for a different life. Now that he’d discovered Soubrette wasn’t an assassin, Julen no longer feared being placed in a situation where he might be forced to kill her. But still, she’d proven herself to be such a valuable ally on this night -- it was a shame to think of her skill being wasted on trickery and swindles.

And, being perfectly honest with himself, Julen conceded that he possessed a more selfish reason for hoping Soubrette might eventually give up her life of crime. He just liked having her around. “Excellent. When we get back, I’ll introduce you to Aorle. Let him know how much you’ve helped us.”

“If we’re careful, I think we’ll be able to transport Panterras’s body without being seen. We can leave it in the building Rollick mentioned. It should remain undiscovered there until Soubrette can set up things with her friend.”

As the words left his lips, a peculiar fact occurred to Julen. Soubrette was such a useful ally largely because she was also a conwoman. She had talents that more upright people didn’t develop. She associated with the sort of shady acquaintances that they shunned -- Julen felt fairly certain Aorle didn’t know a single arsonist. Was it wrong to benefit from such things? Were they tainting their efforts? Or, worse still, were they corrupting Soubrette by encouraging her to do dubious things just because they were convenient? For a moment, Julen struggled with these new concerns, before finally giving up. This was just another grey area he would have to learn to live in.

After Rollick had recovered enough of his strength, they headed back toward the compound. Julen and Rollick carried Panterras, while Uluki and Dash followed behind. Sometimes, when he glanced over his shoulder, Julen saw the mother and daughter reach out to touch each other, as if reassuring themselves that the illusion he’d cast was really nothing more than a horrible dream. Meanwhile, Soubrette slipped along ahead of the group, darting back to warn them about the rare passerby in time for them to duck out of site. Then, once Panterras’s body had been deposited in the proper building, they proceeded onward at a more natural pace.

Upon entering the base, Julen immediately sought out Aorle. At first, he was worried that his friend might have returned to House Anstrun, but he soon spotted him sharing a small meal with Rosemary and some of the other refugees. Beckoning for Soubrette to follow him, Julen moved to join them. As soon as he was in hearing range, and hopefully before Aorle had a chance to sense any echoes, Julen launched into his introduction. “Aorle? This is my friend, Soubrette. She was invaluable tonight in our effort to end the threat posed by Panterras. Soubrette, this is Aorle Karr, my friend and commander.”
Shim -- where the men are men, and the livestock are scared.

Re: Bargains

Post by Quinn on

When Julen said he would introduce Quinn to his commander, she smiled and nodded and said that she would be charmed and all the rest of it, and what was more she fully intended to be, but after that she retreated into a distracted mood for most of the walk back, picking away at something in her mind. Acting as sentry was something that needed doing, but it also gave her the oppertunity to walk without any of the dogooders trying to start a conversation.

The problem was this: Quinn no longer really trusted Julen's character judgement now she knew he hadn't seen through her at all. In this she was, she was aware, oversimplifying a bit, there had been times when he saw raw, genuine emotions from her and heard words that were coming straight from Quinn herself, but at no point had he reached the conclusion that she was a despicable person other than through the 'knowledge' that she was an assassin, and even that contradicted his 'gut feeling'. So either she wasn't as despicable as all that or Julen was a poor judge of character. Therefore, she no longer really trusted him to introduce her to what sounded like a white-knight-type and for the latter not to spot her and deal with her, particularly considering what Julen had said that indicated that Aorle was a good judge of character. Of course that was only Julen's assessment, and it couldn't be trusted because... etc.

She let her thoughts chase this loop around a couple of times, then silenced them and returned to her base state of mental activity, which was plotting exit strategies, until Julen beckoned her over to a table. One head at the table belonged to a man of imposing stature whose head practically gleamed with shiny shiny golden hair. Ooh, I wonder which one of them is Julen's commander, Quinn pondered not at all.

Then, when she clocked the man in front of her instead of the shiny hair, she was practically stunned into silence. There was a little something actors were into called Presence, or stage presence; a talent at appearing larger than life, appearing, when one is portraying a fictional character, just that much more real than the real people. Had Quinn still been a student in the process of learning the art of stage presence when she met Aorle, she may well have offered to trade body parts for a fraction of the aura he commanded. Some real-life people had more presence than usual; it either made them appear inexplicably charismatic or effortlessly intimidating. This guy was presence. Genuine, not put on in any way, as far as she could tell. Or perhaps, genuine and calculated. Presumably he made an impression on regular people, but his impression on someone who was really looking was more marked.

Eventually Quinn gave herself a gentle internal swipe round the head and remembered what that whole mouth-throat-tongue thing did. She cleared her throat.

"Good evening," sir? My lord? Commander? Gods knew with nobility, which is what she assumed he was. She had long since been of the opinion that they should come with a key. Soubrette settled for a slight inclination of the head, not keeping her eyes off the vision before her.

She started to say something else, then thought better of it. If the guy really was, as Julen had suggested, inclined to snap judgements, one should be coming along any minute, and she decided she would wait for it. To be safe, she would wait for it on the balls of her toes with her mind flicking through fast-motion images of the last time she'd been in a fight with someone who knew what he was doing. Even as she did so, she suspected her movements were being read by the expert eyes of an experienced fighter - although that could easily have been paranoia on her part.

Re: Bargains

Post by Sir Karsimir on

Read her motions he did, more from habit than any kind of suspicion. This was a simple indulgence, him relishing the knowledge of his profession. What he so enjoyed were the intricacies of the knight's craft - strategy, tactics, footwork, placement of the body, leverage, and weapon position. Having spent twelve years as a scholar of combat, Aorle could not help but wonder how anyone could perceive professional warriors as simple-minded brutes.

Leaving those idle thoughts behind, he stood and greeted the woman presented to him with a courtly bow, during which he reached to take her hands and raise them to kiss each palm in turn. He was aware of her stance as if waiting for something bad to happen, and deemed all he could do was seek to set her at ease. "A pleasure to meet you Frau Soubrette, and my thanks for your aid." Then he glanced towards her feet and back. "Be at ease. There is no need for me to be feared by the woman who helped save a brave child's life."

Glancing towards Julen, mixed his wish for a report with friendly concern. "I trust all is well? None of you have been hurt?" He felt sure if anyone was hurt he would have been told before the introduction, although he was not one to leave the matter unchecked. "I understand Rollick chose to leave the sharpshooters behind." When Sir Aorle learned that his friends were leaving the compound to fight a necromancer, he wanted them supported by concealed archers who could take down the sorcerer with a minimum of fuss - from what he understood, Panterras was without defensive magics, and so would be helpless against incoming arrows launched from surprise. The offer was refused, because Rollick knew more of Panterras and they had a plan to exploit the crazed sorcerer's weaknesses.

Privately, Aorle felt this was more because Rollick did not want to pass on the responsibility of killing a former friend. A few factors convinced him otherwise; the first being that Panterras may have in the past ten years shown the sense to develop at least some way of protecting himself from arrows, a spell Aorle would personally expect to be most in vogue among sorcerers, and the second reason being that Rollick knew what he was doing - he chose the place deliberately to deny Panterras any cover or hidden allies, and this prevented him from concealing snipers as well. So after making his suggestions, he left the older, more experienced warrior to command his own ambush.

Turning back to the others, Aorle nodded courteously to excuse himself. "Fraulein." Both that word, and his deep accent were a clue to his homeland. Depending on how wide her knowledge, Soubrette may have recognised him for a Kreuzlunder or Kreuzenvolk, the people of a mountainous region neighboured by dwarves and ruled by a strange mix of feudal knights and foppish courtiers. Judging by the obviously military sword at his belt, accompanied by a dagger worn at his rear hip and a hanging mace on the other side, he fell squarely into the 'knight' catagory.

Having excused himself from the crowd to speak freely, Aorle walked. He nodded to Julen after catching his eye, "Your time is your own, my friend." Thus, ensuring Julen felt free to concentrate on his marriage without being bound by any of his military duties.

Returning his attention to Soubrette, he inquired, "How may I be of service, my lady?"
My faith protects me, my kevlar helps.

Re: Bargains

Post by Julen on

“We’re all fine now,” Julen assured, in response to Aorle’s inquiry. Of course, both Rollick and Uluki had been badly hurt. But mentioning that would also involve going into why they’d been badly hurt -- Julen didn’t want Aorle to think it was through any fault of their own, or because of any weakness in Rollick’s plan. However, he also didn’t want to go into the details of his blunder. So the addition of ‘now’ at the end of his sentence allowed Julen a technical evasion.

Aorle would need to be told eventually. But not yet. Not here. Not with Rosemary gazing over at him with something that looked surprisingly like warmth.

Ready to intercede on Soubrette’s behalf, Julen stuck around until it became abundantly clear that Aorle wasn’t going to smite her. Either he wasn’t sensing her echoes, or they weren’t as bad as Julen had feared they might be, or Aorle was simply willing to overlook them because Soubrette had helped them. Whatever the reason, Aorle appeared to be treating their guest with the utmost courtesy. So, when Aorle told him he could go, Julen greeted the dismissal with a grateful smile and a salute. Then, without either of them needing to speak, he and Rosemary headed up to their room.
Shim -- where the men are men, and the livestock are scared.

Re: Bargains

Post by Quinn on

The knight's rather quixotic hand-kissing move came as something of a surprise to Quinn; such procedures were traditionally a nightly or courtly thing of course, but given the circles Quinn typically moved in, she associated it more with overly affectionate luvvie types, which created an interesting image.

Frau... 'Frau', what did that mean? She'd heard it before... Quinn caught his eyes as they flicked back to her face and knew that her suspicions had been right; she was being read. She gave him a slightly embarassed smile when he attempted to put her at her ease, hoping that, while she acknowledged her paranoia, he too acknowledged his somewhat intimidating presence.

Fraulein, see, again... she nodded to him and scanned her brainbanks for a clue. Oh yeah... that nasty cold place where she didn't really speak the language and she'd conned a few dandies out of their funny money. Apparently, there were non-fops from there, but she'd never met any until today. Then again, it wasn't often she met anyone at all from outside the country, or anyone who'd been outside the country. It was rare enough that generally, she would strike up a conversation on the theme.

When Sir Aorle spoke again, it was a line that, however much death and destruction she'd seen that day, never failed to send Quinn's mind straight to the gutter when she heard it, performed or for real.

As she scanned her brain frantically for a response that wasn't a lewd suggestion of some kind, she pondered how exactly he would react if she said the first thing that came into her head. The man was a curiousity, that was for sure. And why that particular greeting she wondered?

It didn't escape Quinn's attention that Julen stayed around until he could be sure that Aorle wasn't going to prove any kind of a threat to her, and for that she was grateful - and it made her rethink her earlier thoughts about his character-judging skills. After all, he had hit upon the same tactic as Quinn - a cautious approach - and Quinn was the expert. She refrained from waving when he left, noticing he was with a woman and the look on each of their faces independently spoke volumes. Complicating or interrupting that would not be good.

"I'm not asking you to be of service, Herr Aorle," she said, her pronnunciation fastidiously correct in an attempt to make it obvious that she was, if technically local, at the very least well-travelled. "I just wanted to be introduced. I've heard a lot about you." She gave him a slight smile. "You could be of service by humouring me, I suppose."

Having extracted her mind from the gutter again, it returned to the subject of this man's commanding presence. We could use a guy like that back in Marn, that's for sure. Her smile - more like a good-natured smirk - this time couldn't help being tainted a little by the original dirty thoughts. "I hope you don't think me forward or anything. Amongst other things, I've worked in the theatre, and I wondered where a warrior learns to project such an air of... well, I don't know, presence, you know, an aura. Or does it come naturally? I can tell... I mean I can tell you're not like the fighters I know." You don't sell your sword for the price of a few beers.

Quinn was babbling again, but it seemed natural. Considering what a day she'd had.

Re: Bargains

Post by Sir Karsimir on

"Then humour you I shall." he smiled, followed with a playful bow reminiscent of a curtsey, humour was what she asked for. Being of service brightened him, was the chance with each moment of each day to have meaningful impact upon the world. And brightening the days, hopes and hearts of others was well-worth doing.

For his own part, Aorle well-favoured service above freedom, felt that service was to pledge his life towards something greater and worthy, while freedom was to do as thou wilt without meaning or purpose. To the Sword of Heaven, a life of freedom was a life unlived.

"I would rather be forward than backward, my lady." There were questions which he wished to ask, but there were courtesies to observe, not the least being answering what she asked of him. On that note, he had to think about the answer. "Much of it is natural." he admitted, knowing that the ability to persuade and inspire was among his strengths over other knights. "The rest is developed more than learned. One can learn posture and mannerisms which are part of bearing, the ability to speak as a soldier as much as a person. More comes from dealing with fear. We learn to stand and fight when faced with death, fear still exists, as does pain, they simply stop mattering enough to hold us back." In his own case, Aorle found his surety came from the fact he feared not pain nor death nor humiliation. He feared not to take back an ill-chosen word. He feared not to face consequences of his actions, they would be, whether he faced them or not. "Many of the best warriors live by a Code of Right. As a Temple Knight, I live by the codes of Chivalry and the Teachings of Angels. In that Code, we gain respect in ourselves and in our conduct, which we openly carry with us."

With his serious thoughts broken, he smiled once more. "Does that help you my lady? Is there more you would wish to know? And please, tell me more of yourself, and perhaps of the fighters you know." In a way, he enjoyed surprising people on this front, shattering many unfounded assumptions about professional warriors.

He was unspecific in the path he was strolling. Perhaps towards the ramparts and following his way around the inner edge of the compound, but if Soubrette chose a direction, he was more than happy to follow.
My faith protects me, my kevlar helps.

Re: Bargains

Post by Quinn on

It was pleasantly surprising when Quinn completely and utterly failed to get called on her babbling, and the knight instead responded with charming gentle humour. Quinn immediately liked him and almost as immediately started running through why in her head, because there was always the possibility that this was how it felt to run smack-bang into a mirror when you're not looking for one. I mean, come on. Rule Number One of Quinn is 'To a good approximation, everyone is a bastard'. Compare the chances of, in that world, hitting upon someone so not-a-bastard and so compatible with her that she would immediately have an affinity with them, and the chances of being intercepted by a manipulative bastard like Quinn, an impresario in the art of being liked. No contest. The only variable was, what was his game?

She listened to him play down his gift, and got stock of her ideas. She wasn't doing the Uluki thing again. She wasn't going to grossly overshoot, and she wasn't going to rule out completely ascribing good motives to people. So, Sir Aorle was playing to be liked because... because he was nice? Maybe? He wanted to create a good impression of the compound? He was brought up that way? She would take these assumptions with a healthy dose of cynicism, but she would accept them, for the time being.

When he talked about fear, Quinn listened. It was something she knew. 'Fear still exists, but it stops mattering enough to hold us back' was a perfect summation of how she had actually come to the conclusion that she would help kill Panterras - but when she imagined the fears someone like Aorle faced, they were all of things out there, big guys with swords and all that, whereas what Quinn was afraid of was guilt. Or maybe it wasn't even guilt. It was 'being that kind of person'. Weird.

And Aorle went right on to talk philosophy a little more, about his Code of Right. This kind of thing was something Quinn thought about - or tried not to think about - pretty much all the time, and it was interesting, to say the least, to actually have a conversation about it.

Quinn smiled up at Aorle when he expressed an interest in knowing more about her. What was there to tell? All or nothing, she suspected.

"Yes," she said, responding instead to his philosophical answer. "Yes, I suppose it does. Thankyou. But..." she lapsed into silence for a moment, trying to think of her question. "I don't know, a Code... this is nothing like anything I've heard of with fighters, you understand. But I don't normally mix with the classier ones. It's just, you speak of having a Code, which I suppose is like rules, but everyone here I have dealt with expressed their morality more or less in terms of consequences." The few lessons she remembered from her childhood had sometimes gone into philosophy, and Quinn acknowledged this difference, and had always held much more respect for the consequentialist ideas of morality - although how relative everything was changed day by day.

"You asked about me. What's relevant here, is that, as Julen or Uluki will be sure to tell you I expect, is that this isn't a topic that is exactly discoursed on at length on a frequent basis among people I know. But it seems to be an interest of yours."

Quinn stared hard into his eyes, whcih was the first move of a stooge when they were trying to work out how to trust someone, but all her usual techniques had already been tried. Despite Aorle's effortless charm, it hadn't escaped Quinn that he had something else he wished to say, and she tried to leave the conversation as open as possible because, frankly, she was very interested to find out what it was.

What she did too, as they walked, was to try to keep out of secluded places, becuase despite the assumption she had decided to make, she still wasn't (and indeed, never was) 100% on trusting Aorle, and felt it was reasonable to predict that he was less likely to try something in front of refugees.

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