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An Unpleasant Gathering

An Unpleasant Gathering

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

((NPC Post))

Panterras was very, very angry, and had been since Kira disappeared. Oh, initially he’d been philosophical about it. His experiments on her seemed likely to come to nothing anyway, and it wasn’t as if she could do any harm to him. Why should a great man such as himself fear a damaged child who couldn’t even talk? His life would be easier without her to worry about.

The more he thought about it, though, the more it burned. That treacherous little bitch! How dare she betray him? He was her father! He had expected more from her. She had no right to simply… abandon his work whenever she chose to. Didn’t she realize how unimportant her own needs were in comparison to his noble efforts to advance magical knowledge? How could she experience his genius day in and day out and not be prepared to make some sacrifices? Didn’t she understand that his own sacrifice was far greater than hers ever could be? This betrayal by an ungrateful daughter, after all his other sufferings, was far more he should be forced to bear.

On top of all of it, she’d stolen his Scrying focus. That spoke of a cleverness greater than he had anticipated. He had assumed that because Kira was unable to speak, she was mentally subnormal as well. All the things she had seen, all the things he had said in front of her… could it be that she had actually understood? If she had figured out how to prevent him from finding her with his magic, what if she also found a way to tell someone about his work? No, that wouldn’t do at all. One day the world would know of his genius, but not yet; the time wasn’t right. For now it had to remain a secret, and his vile, deceitful daughter was putting all that in jeopardy. Apparently she was a filthy little thief as well as a traitor. Well, he would show her. When he found her, he would make her beg for mercy before… no, he wouldn’t, he remembered, because she couldn’t talk. Still, he would punish her for her sins. Once that was done, he would have no further use for her, and he would dispose of her— permanently, so he wouldn’t ever again have to worry about the safety of his secrets.

Another dreadful consequence of the loss of his Scrying focus was that he could no longer spy on Uluki and Rollick and their friends. He had no idea what they were doing. That thought nagged at him, drove him crazy, even though most of the time when he had been able to watch them, their activities had been fairly mundane. It still bothered him that he couldn’t see, and this was yet another slight perpetrated by his damnable daughter.

The more he thought about it, the more sure he was that Kira was with them, even though he had no way to tell for certain. It only made sense. Where else would she go? He had been foolish not to see that immediately. Of course she would fall into the hands of that damned fairy woman! The fairy spoiled everything! Panterras realized, as he often had, that all his sufferings could somehow be traced back to Uluki. That’s why he would take so much joy in killing her. Slowly.

Regardless, the first thing he had to do was find some way to get his daughter back, or, failing that, to have her killed where she was. He wondered if that spy woman would do it. He’d said nothing about murder, but she couldn’t be very scrupulous given what she was willing to do. If nothing else, surely he could pay her to bring Kira back to him. Yes, that would work. He just needed some way to get his instructions to her…

Post by Quinn on

Quinn made use of her customary contingency plan - a fast horse stabled at the nearest inn outside the compund - and was changed into X and riding off to Panterras' place long before Uluki and Rollick had finished being Otherwise Engaged. She was particularly proud of the way the scarlet scarf billowed out when she rode; it was why she bought it. She would have to do more espionage work simply in order to wear it more often.

She left the horse at the Drunken Rat, picked up a few things and rooftopped her way over to Panterras' flat, with a small black cloth backpack containing Alliya on her back. The Alliya costume was as before, but with the addition of a long black wig. Her hair had not been visible before under the scarf, but if she was to be Alliya for a longer period and in front of people who'd seen her as someone else, she wanted the disguise to be perfect. Her dramatic makeup was already applied, along with a powder and foundation that, in the evening light, gave her the appearance of being olive-skinned. It was hidden now; X was just a hood and a scarf, and she doubted Panterras would notice any difference in her skin colour.

This time she used the door, but didn't deign to knock. 'X' had a (calculatedly) disconcerting habit of jumping into conversation as if pleasantries had already been conducted when in fact nobody had yet noticed her enter the room.

"Do you want the good news or the bad news first, milord?"

She smirked beneath her scarf, and it showed in her eyes. She didn't wait for him to answer. "The good news is that your friend is coming to check on you this evening, believing you to be in ill health," and one look at you will be all he needs to confirm it, "and with a view to perhaps renewing your friendship.
"The bad news is that the fairy is coming too."

She took stock of his reaction. Part of her was still buzzing - Uluki and Rollick would soon be here. They would see her, and they must not recognise her. There was nothing worse than a job gone wrong. She was routinely controlling her breathing, getting ready for the big show.

There were Lightswords coming too. Okay, that fed the fire just a little bit, by which she meant a lot. Nothing like a sense of danger to make you up the ante on stage. Some of the best performances of her life had been in front of armed, unappreciative, drunken crowds. Her very best had been so good that nobody had realised they were performances at all.

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

((NPC Post))

Panterras smiled when he heard Rollick was coming to call. This woman had done well. Panterras’s own attempts to worm the family out of the base had been a spectacular failure. You simply couldn’t trust paladins anymore. He remembered a time when they were far more… biddable. Perhaps he should have tried a more direct approach to begin with. If he’d known all he needed to do was issue the invitation…

The smile changed to a frown, however, when he realized the fairy was coming too. Yes, he did intend to deal with her, but Rollick would never let her come to any harm. Panterras would need to catch her alone to do what regrettably had to be done. But of course, she had brought it on herself, so it was her own fault, not his. Tonight might not be all to the bad. Perhaps an opportunity would present itself.

“That is interesting news. You’ve done well.” The woman had, really, all things considered. “I see my money has been well spent.”

Panterras went to light a fire on the hearth, something he hadn’t bothered with since moving in because the nights were not very cold. A fire seemed welcoming, though, as if he had intended on having guests. He suspected the fairy would appreciate the touch.

“We shall have to pretend tonight is a pleasant gathering of friends.” Given the woman’s description of the fairy’s coming presence as “bad news,” Panterras assumed she had seen Uluki’s evil ways and he could be upfront about his goals. “It is unlikely that any of my plans will come to fruition tonight. More likely I will simply observe. Of course, should the timing seem right, I will seize the opportunity to kill the fairy woman. I would have had you kill her already except for the powerful magic she contains. It would be a shame for her to be… wasted. I can see that her power is put to use. A beneficial use, not as she has been squandering it. I had intended to kill the baby first, let her watch, that seems poetic, doesn’t it?” Panterras laughed as though he had told a hilarious joke, and fully expected the woman to join in, though he didn’t check to see whether she had. “I don’t suppose they’ll bring the baby, though. It will have to wait till another time.”

Panterras turned back from the fire, including the woman in a conspiratorial smile. “It seems we’re ready for our guests, then?”

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

All their arrangements had been made. Uluki had talked to Rosemary about watching Martin, and Rollick to Merohl and Metellus about providing backup, and all of them had been eager to assist. Uluki was grateful to have such kind friends, not only for the practical help they provided so generously, but for the emotional support they offered without fail. Uluki and Rollick paused to bid the girls and the baby goodnight just before they left, in case they were sleeping by the time their parents returned.

Uluki had started fussing with her hair again, but Rollick occupied her hand by holding it. The four of them set off toward the house listed in the address on the envelope, and while they walked, Uluki and Rollick briefed the two warriors on the situation. Most of it was just the basic facts, of which there were few.

“Barmitheon Panterras was my friend, once, but we lost contact. I believed him dead, and have had no word of him in ten years. That is why I’m unable to give you a more specific idea of the situation we will face.” Rollick regretted that, but there was little he could do. “Whether we will find Barmitheon friend or foe tonight, I couldn’t say. Perhaps he really is a sick old man in need of companionship. Perhaps he intends to lure us into a trap. It might be that someone has taken him hostage, or that he is indeed dead and someone else is using his name. He may be alone, or he may have hired bodyguards. He may not be there at all. I am sorry to be unable to tell you more than that, but I am grateful for your willingness to assist us should things be untoward.”

Uluki nodded in agreement, hoping not to be dragging the two men into a bad situation, but the warriors did not seem bothered by the potential danger, and once again reiterated that they were happy to help.

Rollick continued, “Regardless of the situation we find there, one thing is vital. No matter how innocent things appear, and no matter how charming he may act, it is of the utmost importance that nothing be said about the girls who arrived at our base today. The crippled one, Kira, is indeed his daughter, as he will no doubt tell you, but we are not certain that he is not the one who caused her pain. It is my hope that he is innocent and has done no wrong to her. Until we are absolutely sure of that, no word of her whereabouts.”

The warriors seemed quite willing to comply with that, and seemed doubly prepared to be on their guard upon hearing what the man might have done.

Uluki realized there was something else she should add. “I have a history with Panterras too, and I’m afraid it was not such a pleasant association as Rollick’s. Panterras may well still hold a grudge against me.”

Merohl seemed about to object, but Uluki shook her head.

“Some anger on his part is justified. He made mistakes, but so did I, and I am prepared to apologize for them. My hope for tonight is that we can smooth out any tension between us. I need you to understand that he may be angry with me, and may say things about me that are… unpleasant. I tell you now, reconciliation is more important than any slights against me or my honour. Unless I am in danger, there is no need to defend me. I would not have our chance at restoration and friendship in the future put in jeopardy to protect me from words.” She shot a meaningful look at each of them individually, settling on Rollick the longest, holding his gaze as she said, “I know your choice has already been made, and there is no need to prove your loyalty to me. I already know I have it. As long as I am not physically threatened, there is no need for concern.”

None of the three men seemed pleased with that idea, but neither did any of them argue with her over it. A short time later, they arrived at the address listed on the envelope. Exchanging a quick glance with Rollick, who was still holding her hand, Uluki raised her free hand to knock.

Post by Quinn on

"Well spent indeed," Quinn replied.

The poker face was not necessary in her X disguise, but it was her natural reaction to the sort of things Panterras was suggesting. Something inside said, 'Nutjob. Do not anger'. Every time the man opened his mouth he seemed more crazy. Maybe Quinn should never have gotten involved in this in the first place. Maybe some of her starting assumptions had been wrong, but there was no time for examination now. She would have to simply observe.

"Almost ready, milord. A few points. I think you a definitely right to postpone any... extreme action against the fairy at this point, especially before you have turned her husband back to your way of thinking. He's a strong man - imagine what a bewitched fighter will do to protect his fairy! I would ask you to allow him to believe that you are ill. It is so much easier to gain a person's trust when they do not perceive you as capable of being a threat. In addition, I remember how you spoke at our first meeting, and I would tone down the 'power and greatness' versus, 'people who don't matter' talk at this point. I think it might be some side effect of the bewitchment, but he's come over all paladin. You know what I mean? Take it easy. I'll be here. They think I'm your neighbour... call me Alliya, or Miss Lewton. We're aquaintences. I'll speak to them before they enter."

She took a deep breath. "So, if you'll excuse me..."

Quinn slipped outside, where she switched her X scarves for brightly-coloured, foreign-looking embroidered ones and donned her wig. One scarf loosely draped over her head left her wig visible but obscured some of her face, breaking up the image. Finally she put on some bright red exotic-looking shoes with a hidden heel that gave her a good three inches in height. She left X in the small bag hidden in the shadows by the side of the building.

Just as she turned the corner, a blue woman, husband and entourage were knocking on the door of the address she had given. The place had looked deserted last time Quinn had been here, which was why she chose it; the owners were probably away somewhere.

As she went to speak, the doubt came back, recalling what Panterras had said about the baby. Just observe. That's all you have to do.

"Are you - Missus Uluki, isn't it? And you must be Mister Rollick." Her voice was disguised, not merely accented but slightler deeper, darker and more lyrical that the voice she used for Asra. This was it. Moment of truth. Would she be spotted? No doubt showed in her face, just a spot of confusion when she took in the Lightswords. "I didn't realise Lord Panterras had so many friends!" She extended a hand to each of them in greeting.

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

Uluki smiled, taking the offered hand. “Miss Lewton?” Because of course it must be, if the woman knew their names. She must have sent the letter. “It’s good to meet you. Yes, I’m Uluki, this is my husband Rollick, and these are our friends, Merohl and Metellus.”

She simply skirted the issue of why the Lightswords had come along. Now that Miss Lewton was standing before them it seemed quite rude to suggest a lack of trust in her, and it would be clear Panterras had never seen the two men, so it was useless to claim they were also concerned friends. Uluki thought it best to introduce them by name, and leave the rest vague.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you.” Rollick also grasped the hand she extended. “We were quite concerned when we got your letter. I haven’t spoken to Barmitheon in years. Is he…?”

But Panterras, having waited so long, had become impatient and wanted to see what was going on. His guests were finally here, and he had no intention of biding his time any longer. He stepped outside, utterly forgetting to pretend to be a sick old man, but having the good fortune of actually being one. The haggard appearance Panterras had acquired over the years shocked Rollick. Uluki was concerned that the man looked unwell, but didn’t remember him clearly enough from before to see how much of a change it was. There was something else, though. He reminded her of something she couldn’t quite place…

Unable to hide their worry but doing their best to be pleasant anyway, Uluki and Rollick both greeted Panterras, then introduced Merohl and Metellus. Panterras acknowledged the two warriors graciously but without curiosity, before returning his attention to the couple. “Ah, Rollick, so good to see you after all this time. It has been a rough road for both of us, and far too long since we’ve spoken.” His voice was cheerful as he addressed his friend, but was noticeably drained of pleasant emotion as he added, “And Uluki. Don’t you look… bewitching.”

Uluki blushed, her blue cheeks turning a little purple, but she merely said, “A pleasure to see you again, Lord Panterras. I had hoped if we met again it would be under happy circumstances. I’m sorry to hear you have been unwell.”

“Ah yes, I’m sure you were deeply concerned.” He made no effort to disguise the scepticism in his voice. “I see you have done quite well for yourself. Married a Council member. That was very… ambitious of you.” His tone left the words “gold digger” hanging in the air, but unspoken.

Rollick frowned, clearly displeased by the implication. “It may strike you as ambitious, while others would question the wisdom of marrying a man past forty, penniless and without prospect of ever being otherwise, who had lost his position in the world and narrowly escaped the clutches of evil on his mind and body. Luckily for me, Uluki chose me for my heart, not for external considerations, either good or bad.”

“Your… heart. Of course that is what she cared about.” There was open disbelief in his voice.

Uluki felt Rollick tense, and she laid a calming hand on his arm, trying to remind him that this didn’t matter. He took a breath and relaxed before replying. “If you truly did wish to see me, you should be glad that she did. I would have been in a grave these last ten years, were it not for her. She saved my life. I live and breathe, and stand before you because of her love for me.”

Panterras chortled, and made a show of stifling it. “Yes, no doubt she did. There seems to be no end of drama wherever she goes, does there? What an interesting coincidence. I suppose we should all thank our luck stars that Uluki just… happens… to be around whenever things go badly.” He gave X an I-told-you-so look, as if some point had been vindicated.

Uluki looked like she’d been slapped, but she quickly recovered herself. Unable to come up with any even reasonably polite response to Panterras, she turned her full attention to Miss Lewton instead. “Standing out here in the street is not likely to be beneficial to Lord Panterras’s health, and I apologize for detaining him after you have taken such trouble to find us. Perhaps it would be better if we speak indoors? And I would love to hear the story of how you two became acquainted.” She couldn’t imagine how learning that information would be important in determining what was going on— regardless of what Panterras was up to, this woman was surely an innocent bystander. Truth be told, though, Uluki could use a pleasant story to break up the stream of not-so-veiled insults, so she would listen with interest to whatever tale the woman provided.

Uluki was starting to doubt Panterras would be prepared to accept her apology. It seemed a decade passing had done nothing to dull his bitterness toward her. Still, she would try when the moment seemed appropriate. With any luck, maybe Miss Lewton could smooth things over a little...

Re: An Unpleasant Gathering

Post by Quinn on

Quinn gave a light laugh at Panterras mistep about Uluki, shaking her head in an oh-he's-such-a-joker kind of a way and simutaneously glancing at Uluki as if to say, 'humour him.' It was at this point that Quinn decided she no longer had any faith in Panterras' ability to help her out at all here, and she would have to do it all herself. If he couldn't do the smart thing then, she doubted his ability to do the smart thing later on - that is, take her advice about not killing anyone and so forth.

She would have to take this inside, but Panterras' place didn't look so inviting. On his turf he would be more likely to have the guts and the equipment to do something drastic. Luckily Uluki's words gave her the inspiration to move this onto neutral ground.

Exhcnaging a quick eye contact with Panterras, a sort of she's-rumbled-us kind of a glance, she said, "Yes, yes of course. You must forgive me for not being ready to receive visitors, I've been out all day. Just let me..." She picked up her bag from the street, took something out and jammed it into the keyhole. A few seconds later, the door swung open. It was a trick she had down to perfection; picking a simple lock with such ease and confidence that she looked like she was unlocking the door to her own home.

She breezed through the hallway into a small sitting room, and flitted about, lighting candles as she spoke. "Well, I moved in about four months ago, and I'm rarely out during the day - I sing, you see, I'm a musician - and I noticed Barmitheon tended to be around a lot of the time as well. He's a quiet kind of a man, as I'm sure you know, but we eventually got talking on the doorstep, and - you know - we're just good neighbours. I noticed that he never seems to have people call on him, and he did mention you two, and he seemed to want to see you, but he didn't want to be the one to speak first - you know how it is - so I intervened. I hate it when friends fall out. I'm a bit of a busybody, I suppose, but I'd like to think a good intentioned one. Drinks anybody?"

She turned to the now well-lit room with a smile. Okay. Go.

Re: An Unpleasant Gathering

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

“I hope we haven’t inconvenienced you,” Uluki told Miss Lewton with concern. “We should have sent some word we were coming. It’s just that we got your letter, and were worried…” Uluki found she liked Miss Lewton. She seemed quite pleasant, and it was kind of her to be so concerned about her neighbour. The woman might claim to be a busybody, but Uluki saw only compassion, and Panterras clearly needed some. “Drinks would be wonderful, thank you. Whatever you have. What a lovely home this is! Thank you for your hospitality.”

Panterras, meanwhile, seemed completely unaware of his guests’ reaction to him. Rollick was angry, Uluki hurt, and the two warriors were staring at him with a silence so frosty you could practically feel the chill, but he paid the four of them no mind, staring instead at a candle flame as though entranced.

Uluki broke the silence. “Lord Panterras, I wished to apologize to you. I am deeply sorry for any harm my actions have caused you. My mistakes were made in ignorance, not malice, and I hope you can…”

“Silence.” The harsh tone Panterras took caused the hands of all three warriors to leap to their weapons, ready to defend Uluki. Panterras seemed not to notice. “I will not have your empty words. There can be no absolution for your crimes. You may have tricked Rollick into accepting you, but I am not so easy to seduce.”

“That is completely uncalled for!” Rollick’s voice was heated for the first time since the conversation began. “She’s trying to make things right with you. You could at least listen to her…”

“You’re a fool to defend her, Rollick. She took everything from you.”

“Fate took things from me. Not her. She gave me back more than I ever had before.”

“You’ve settled. You couldn’t have what you really want, so you…”

“No. This is what I really want. My life with her, and our children, and our friends. I’m happier than I ever have been.”

There was a look of deep disappointment in Panterras’s eyes, as though Rollick had sorely wounded him. “And the past?”

“Is in the past. There’s no benefit to dwelling on it. I’ve moved on, and frankly, so should you.”

“Move on, yes.” Panterras seemed dismissive, then changed the subject. “Rumour has it you have a baby. How lovely. Children do have a way of keeping a good man in a marriage, don’t they, should feminine charms prove insufficient?”

Uluki ignored the last part. “Yes, we’ve been blessed with a son, Martin, and two daughters, Dash and Zee.”

“How pleasant for you both. I have a daughter as well, as Rollick likely told you. Tragically she developed a debilitating illness and was left with severe physical and mental handicaps. I was working to develop a cure for her, but unfortunately her illness meant she was afflicted with delusions and paranoia, and the poor thing convinced herself that it was I, her loving father, who hurt her, rather than the ravages of her disease.” Panterras looked down and sighed. “Unfortunately, her departure means she will never have access to the cure I have finally developed for her through many years of single-minded hard work. I don’t mind for myself, I would do anything for her, but it’s a shame for my poor little girl. If anyone had seen her, and told me where she was, it would do a great service to her, though she is not capable of comprehending it due to her illness. So… if you have seen her…”

“I am lucky enough to be a man of means,” Panterras continued after a pause. “I would like to use those means to assist my daughter if I can. I would provide an ample reward for anyone who could help her by bringing her back to me. I could provide a comfortable lifestyle… beyond comfortable… to a family who had been living close to the margin for years. With money to spare, even, and think how many refugees the extra would feed and clothe. I would love to be able to make such a donation to a worthy cause… but of course, I have to save my money for ensuring my daughter’s safety. The person who helped would also gain my friendship, and would encourage me to see my way toward forgetting the mistakes and wrongs of the past. So if you could give me any indication where she was, everyone would benefit.”

“Sorry, no idea.” Rollick’s expression was unusually blank.

“We do hope she is safe and well, wherever she is,” Uluki added, all the while thinking, Damn you and your blood money. The longer Panterras spoke, the more sure she was that he was the one who had hurt Kira, and Uluki would do nothing to help him retrieve his victim. She had no proof, just a gut feeling, not enough to condemn the man… but more than enough to tell her she couldn’t take the risk.

Panterras seemed surprised and a little angered by that answer. He turned to the woman he had known as X, acknowledging her directly for the first time. “That offer extends to anyone, of course, Miss Lewton.” His eyes were questioning, wondering whether the woman would contradict the fairy and her husband. Would the spy woman tell him the truth? It would be interesting to see. His disappointment with Rollick aside, perhaps tonight would also tell him where another set of loyalties might lie...
"When you feel like you can't go on, love heals.
Hold onto love, and it will lead you home. Love heals." -Rent

Re: An Unpleasant Gathering

Post by Quinn on

Quinn listened to every word that was being spoken as she poured mugs of somebody else's ale in the tiny kitchen.

The exchange with Rollick about Uluki gave her pause for thought. If she was Uluki, surely she'd make a bewitched man defend her a little more, rather than just ignoring digs like that as if the man was beneath his attention? That was a hypothesis in doubt. Maybe there was a genuine two-way partnership there. Rollick definitely didn't seem under the thumb in any respect.

She nearly spilled it when Panterras started talking about Kira. She didn't need to see Panterras' face to tell that he was lying. It became clear that he had done that to her.

She returned with the drinks and watched the conversation avidly, with an expression of concerned interest. Uluki was just any other bog-standard dastardly person, not bad to be around and at least damn good at what she did - Quinn generally enjoyed or at least did not mind the company of such people. Panterras, on the other hand, was somebody Quinn was beginning to cultivate a personal dislike for. Not that it mattered from a business perspective, but if someone like Quinn was feeling vindictive there were many, many ways she could bite the hand etcetera while still coming out on top. But he was so... slimy. Quinn prided herself on being pleasant to know. She brought smiles to the faces of the people she foxed! Ten minutes of listening to Panterras try to talk smooth and you needed three baths just to feel dirty! Incompetant, too, a complete incompetant, as he had proved earlier, but it didn't matter because he had money. Quinn had money as well, of course, but she didn't use it. That would be like... cheating. A thought briefly crossed her mind... it may well be possible for her to ensure that Kira escaped and Uluki got the money! What better way to annoy him?

It didn't both her, of course, that Uluki was also 'bad'; in her experience most everyone was, and Uluki she didn't personally dislike. That was a thought then.

She bristled internally when Panterras turned his offer to her. She knew what he thought she was, but it still irritated her... just because you would do some things for money, people assumed you'd do others. Because you'd act, people thought you'd 'perform' sans costume. Just because you'd spy, people thought you'd kill. I never raised a weapon to someone. The mantra of Quinn's rare moral dilemmas.

She looked him deep in the eyes, giving him her best steady eye contact, calm demaneour, still but not too still body language, everything people thougth of when they thought they could tell a liar. "I'm terribly sorry, Barmitheon. Of course, if I do see her, I'll do what I can." There was a certain weighting to the last phrase that only somebody who knew her as X would have caught. Anything, Panterras.

After all, the last thing she wanted was for him to ask anyone else.

Re: An Unpleasant Gathering

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

Panterras nodded, satisfied. Obviously X wouldn’t contradict Uluki and Rollick to their faces. Much as Panterras would have loved to see their expressions when they were proven to be liars, it didn’t make sense to reveal what they knew too early. Once Rollick and Uluki left, he and X would discuss the best way of getting Kira back from the compound. Until then, he needed to focus on the matter at hand, but he was relieved to be sure of his ally.

Rollick was also thinking about when they could leave, rather more longingly. It was almost more than he could bear, listening to this man insult Uluki, but trying to respect her wishes on the matter and not interfere. He couldn’t wait to be home so he could kiss and hold and caress her, praise her and tell her how much he loved her. Try to make her forget all the horrible things Panterras had said to her, to wash away the dirt the man had thrown at her. Rollick had decided almost immediately he no longer wanted any contact with Panterras, so now it was just a matter of sitting through the conversation to try to figure out if he was actively doing evil, rather than just being petty and cruel. That had to be done, regardless of Rollick’s own feelings on the matter, to protect others from harm. It couldn’t be over too soon, as far as he was concerned.

Uluki, of course, was not privy to this decision yet, and assumed Rollick still had hopes of friendship with the man. Rollick had struggled so much, lost so much, and Uluki didn’t want him to have to sacrifice anything else for her sake. She plastered a pleasant expression on her face and tried to be as sweet and polite and adaptable as possible, so she wouldn’t ruin this chance at fixing things.

Realizing Miss Lewton was going to be carrying an awful lot of mugs by herself, Uluki got up to help. She thought maybe if Panterras could focus on Rollick for a moment instead of her, the man would calm down and start acting more sane, so when Rollick also seemed inclined to help she shook her head.

As Uluki passed Panterras, he whispered something to her, too low for Rollick, Merohl, and Metellus to hear, but which X, who was standing closer to him, probably could. Panterras figured it didn’t much matter; they were allies, after all. In as charming a tone as possible, and with a pleasant smile on his face, he caught Uluki’s eye and whispered, “Rollick could do better, you know. You aren’t good enough for him. Everyone knows that. Everybody pities him.”

Uluki froze and wrapped her arms around herself, staring at her feet. She said nothing, gave no other indication that she had heard.

If Panterras had said Rollick didn’t love her, it would have been so clearly untrue that she would have dismissed the words instantly. Her husband had never given her any reason to doubt his affections, and from the moment he had realized that his feelings for her were returned, he had been straightforward, open, and demonstrative in his love. Uluki would never have believed Panterras if he’d claimed anything to the contrary.

Whether intentionally or not, however, Panterras had managed to hit on the one thing that would cause her to worry. Uluki knew she was very, very lucky in her marriage. Rollick was a good man and a wonderful husband, and treated her better than she had ever imagined a partner could. Sometimes she wondered if she deserved that, though. Rollick always reassured her that she did, but he wasn’t exactly the most unbiased.

She knew Rollick was happy with her. He made that clear. But could he be happier with someone else? She had never meant to bind him to her at the expense of his own needs. When she had saved his life at great material cost all those years ago, it was done for love, but not expecting to be repaid in love. All the repayment she had needed was having him alive, having him around to talk to, maybe to give her the occasional hug. Her reward was to be seeing him safe and happy… whatever that entailed. Rollick was with her because he wanted to be, not as a condition of accepting her help.

Was it true that everyone else felt sorry for him? She had to admit that it could be. There were things she could point to that suggested otherwise, of course: Aorle saying he knew Rollick didn’t have to be bewitched to want her, Julen saying he knew Rollick was a good man because she loved him… but Aorle and Julen were both kind and compassionate, and seemed to see the best in everyone. It could be that everyone else felt differently, just like before. She had no illusions about whether people in their old home thought she was good enough for her husband.

She wished she had more to give, but she was scarred and broken. She was clingy and strange. Rollick never treated her that way, of course. He treated her like she was wonderful, like every gift was a treasure. Did she deserve love like that? Rollick would say yes, but maybe the others were whispering behind their hands, saying no. Maybe people really did feel pity for him because he was bound to her…

Uluki stood still, hugging her arms around herself, as though she was in a trance.

Rollick hadn’t heard the words, but he could see Uluki’s reaction. “What the hell did you say to her?” he demanded.

“Nothing of consequence,” Panterras said with a smile that suggested he was a little too pleased with himself for his words to be true.

“What did you say?” Rollick insisted, his tolerance finally exceeded.

“It doesn’t matter, love,” Uluki murmured.

“Yes it does. I’m sick of how he’s treating you.” Rollick stared at Panterras, and though his voice was even, there was still more than a hint of controlled anger in his eyes. “I have always considered you a friend, Barmitheon, but it is painfully obvious you have ceased to be one.”

Panterras looked surprised. “Rollick, I still have great respect for you…”

“No you don’t.” It was a direct contradiction, but Rollick was quite confident in making it. “You have no respect for the woman I love, so you have none for me. We came here to try to mend things with you, and you can’t even be civil to her. You’ve convinced me that there is nothing worth mending. Can you not see how you’ve changed?” Rollick could, and it deeply saddened him, but he was angry now, too. “I will not stand for any more insults to my wife. Is that clear?”

His words seemed to snap Uluki out of her reverie. Her smile returned, and she went to assist Miss Lewton as she had intended to before Panterras waylaid her. “I’m so sorry,” she told the woman. “We wouldn’t have come if we’d thought things would turn out like this. I didn’t mean to upset Lord Panterras, or to cause trouble. I’m just… sorry.” The apology was quite genuine, and her face showed her regret.
"When you feel like you can't go on, love heals.
Hold onto love, and it will lead you home. Love heals." -Rent

Re: An Unpleasant Gathering

Post by Quinn on

Gazing determinedly into the middle distance, Quinn heard every word Panterras said, and had to keep herself from gasping. Rollick wasn't bewitched and Panterras knew. She saw a woman trying desperately to put on a brave face for her husband, who was speaking to a potential murderer. This called for a serious reassessment of priorities.

Another person might have dwelled on having deceived innocent people, and on having worked for such a despicable person. Quinn was not such a person. She didn't dwell on the past, she didn't think there was any such thing as an innocent person, and despicable was relative. However, Uluki and Rollick were, she conceded, relatively innocent. Helping them seemed like - well, Quinn didn't think in terms of 'the right thing', but it was the next thing to do. And it looked like making a tidy profit for her with a minimal amount of killing. Panterras had money. Panterras needed Kira out of the way. Getting the money and not killing Kira was the only rational thing for a contrary oppertunist to attempt. It had style, too. Panache. As a story, it would read well; that was all she had to live up to.

"It's quite alright," she said softly to Uluki, although it didn't matter if Panterras heard her. "There are things I hadn't quite realised about my friend."

Speaking a little louder, to include the rest of the room, she said, "I'm sorry this meeting has not been more productive. If you have more to discuss, then I ask you to do so, but if not, there is no need to practise social niceties. Barmitheon, I wouldn't advise you to continue this discussion, it is evidently agitating you, and at your age..." she trailed off, giving him a meaningful look.

"I am sorry, Mister Rollick," she could tell how much he wanted to leave. "I will ask you not to worry Barmitheon. Your reaction is understandable, but for the sake of his health, I think the two of you had better talk of other things or not at all." Miss Lewton was the picture of a brave face put on over disappointment.

Re: An Unpleasant Gathering

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

Panterras finally seemed to notice how badly things were going. “Forgive me; an old man forgets himself,” he said somewhat vaguely.

Uluki seemed happy to latch onto this rather nebulous apology. “Of course, Lord Panterras. You’ve been ill, and I imagine under stress as well. I know you have every reason to be angry with me, and I don’t expect you’ll ever like me, but I just hoped that we could get along.” For Rollick’s sake, she added mentally, hoping he would understand. She gave Miss Lewton another apologetic glance; the woman was so clearly disappointed, and Uluki wanted her to know it wasn’t her fault that the meeting she arranged had turned out so badly.

“I… hope that too.” Panterras didn’t sound even the slightest bit sincere, but he had said the words, and Uluki considered that enough for now.

Rollick didn’t seem quite so ready to let the matter drop, but he followed his wife’s lead and changed the subject. “What have you been doing these past ten years, Barmitheon?”

For the first time since they had arrived, Panterras seemed interested in something other than insulting Uluki. Uluki decided to keep her mouth shut and hope Panterras stayed interested. “I’ve been continuing my experiments. I’ve learned quite a lot.”

“Still trying to reverse the afflictions of aging? If you’ve had any success, I hope you’ll share it with me. Arthritis is a curse.” As Rollick spoke, just for an instant Uluki was finally able to imagine what it had been like when the two men were friends, and she felt wistful.

“No. Erm… no.” Panterras suddenly sounded a little evasive, breaking the nostalgic impression as quickly as it had begun. “Something different now. Something more… fundamental.”

“Anything I would understand?” It was an honest question, not sarcasm. Rollick knew almost nothing about magic, especially when it was theoretical rather than practical.

“The principle, certainly. The mechanics… perhaps,” Panterras paused a moment, thoughtful. “I’m trying to understand the basic nature of evil.”

Rollick could not have been more surprised. “You can figure that out by magic?”

“That is my hope, yes. Though my experiments have not all been fully successful, a true magician and scientist learns from failure too. Some, of course, have gone better than others.”

Something was tugging at Uluki’s brain again, more urgently now, but she was too distracted and emotional to know what to make of it.

“And there’s money in that?” Rollick asked, not rudely, but candidly.

“No, of course not. Why?” Panterras seemed utterly baffled.

“Well, you said you were a man of means…”

“I’ve always been a man of means, Rollick. I’m surprised you’ve forgotten.” Panterras stared at him.

Rollick realized he had inadvertently brought the conversation back to dangerous ground, but it was too late, and the question couldn’t be un-asked. “Well, I know you were in the past, but after what happened with the Council, we were left with nothing but the clothes on our backs…”

“Well, the clothes on my back were worth far more than yours,” Panterras said unkindly, and rather inaccurately. While Panterras had always been wealthier than Rollick, they had both been wearing Council robes at the time.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend.” Rollick was in fact quite surprised. Panterras had always had plenty of money, but had never been prickly about it.

Panterras shook his head. “No, it’s not that. You’re right, the ‘means’ I spoke of have been acquired since the fall of the Council. The story of how I came to own such things again is not at all interesting. Investment, mostly.”

Panterras knew Rollick wouldn’t inquire any further about the specifics, and Panterras wasn’t inclined to tell him that he’d made the amount he initially invested by letting those people who wanted to make magical soldiers use Kira for their research. Panterras hadn’t had any further involvement in that project, but it had provided much-needed income, and had helped him realize Kira would be the ideal subject for his own experiments too. Panterras figured that Rollick, who was not at all scientifically minded, might consider that a little callous, so he left it out.

Rollick simply nodded, eager to steer things away from finances after making the man upset again so unexpectedly. This was so strange, having taboo subjects they had to tiptoe around, discovering those subjects utterly by accident... “And what brings you to this part of the world?”

“Same as you, I suspect. Teleportation accident. There seems to be some kind of magical disturbance that empties out near here.” Not true at all, but it made more sense to claim it than to invent an unrelated reason that placed him so conveniently close to them.

Rollick found it hard to reconcile these two sides of Panterras. Now he seemed relatively friendly, but it was impossible to forget those awful things he had said to Uluki. Rollick still had no intention of re-establishing contact beyond this meeting— Panterras was too volatile, and obviously still hostile to his wife, not to mention the very real possibility he was doing horrible things— but Rollick felt he was getting closer to something, closer to the truth of what was really going on. Because he was not concerned about the future of the friendship, he took a risk.

“Did your experiments ever involve making magical soldiers, Barmitheon?”

Panterras seemed taken aback. “I told you what I was working on. Why would you ask such a thing? Just because Kira happens to look a little like Dash doesn’t mean I was involved in that business.”

Uluki spoke at last, though she knew she might come to regret it. “How did you know that?”

“What do you mean? I know what my own daughter looks like!”

Rollick saw Uluki’s point instantly. “But how did you know what Dash looks like, and why did my question make you think of her? You’ve never seen our children, nor did we tell you anything about our daughters’ background, which is far from common knowledge. How do you know so much about our family?” The question wasn’t hostile, but it was clear they would push for an answer.

Panterras had absolutely no response to that. Obviously he couldn’t admit to the Scrying; it would seem creepy and inspire distrust. He looked at X helplessly, wondering if she could suggest any story that would ease him out of his difficult situation.
"When you feel like you can't go on, love heals.
Hold onto love, and it will lead you home. Love heals." -Rent

Re: An Unpleasant Gathering

Post by Quinn on

Quinn was surprised that the conversation was continuing, but showed no sign of this and resigned herself to listening quietly. It turned out she was better at this conflict resolution stuff than she thought. Maybe she should go into business sorting out messy marriages.

She gave Panterras an encouraging look when he agreed with Uluki; to the others, it would simply look like she was pleased he was trying to be nice, to Panterras it said 'well done', and in Quinn's head she added, that's probably the most sensible thing you've said all night.

When Panterras revealed what he had been working on, it was all Quinn could do not to smile wryly. It was painfully clear to her that there was no such thing as 'evil' - it was at most a quality, an adjective, not a noun, and most likely it didn't exist at all. There was stuff you did and stuff you didn't do (and most of the stuff Quinn didn't do she didn't do out of self-preservation), but clamouring on about abstracts as if they were real things was not exactly her style. Not that she hadn't performed many a piece about abstracts like Love and Goodness, but they were what they were - entertaining fictions.

She processed and remembered what was being said, but on a concious level she was still persuing this chain of thought when Panterras put his foot in it again and jolted her out of it.

"I can answer this one." said Miss Lewton smoothly, "I was at your compound today to deliver that letter, I stayed for a while, talking to people, because I knew Barmitheon would want news of his old friends. I caught sight of your daughters at one point, and asked someone who they were because, while they are pretty young ladies, you must admit they are a tad unusual. I was told that they were Dash and Zee, your daughters, and I was struck by Dash's resemblance to Kira." She smiled at Uluki and Rollick, in a that's-a-nasty-misunderstanding-out-of-the-way manner, then glanced at Panterras. "When I described them to Barmitheon - which I apologise if you would rather I had not done - he reached the conclusion that you might perhaps have been kind enough to adopt girls who w=had been created as amgical soldiers. I know nothing of such things, myself." She beamed again, around the room, floating a little inside. I wasn't often she got to use her gift of the gab in such a challenging situation, and so far she thought she'd done rather well.

Re: An Unpleasant Gathering

Post by Lylessa Uluki on

Well, that made sense… sort of. The first part certainly did. Of course Miss Lewton would have noticed such a startling resemblance between Dash and Kira, and she could easily have seen Dash when she paid her visit. What didn’t make quite so much sense was the conclusion Panterras had drawn. In Uluki’s whole life, she had never met anybody— besides Zee and Dash, obviously— created to be a magical soldier. It just seemed a very uncommon thing. It didn’t seem very reasonable that upon seeing unusual physical features in their daughters, Panterras would immediately leap to the correct conclusion about where they had come from. How did Panterras know that was even a possibility if he’d had no involvement in things? It appeared an absurd guess, even though it happened to be true. Even if the girls’ similar appearance was a coincidence, Panterras had too much information. Uluki suddenly felt chilled, not from her hurt feelings of before, but because it now seemed her children were in danger.

Dash and Zee’s origins were not well known even among their friends at the compound. Aorle, Julen, and Thetta had been told, and Dash had probably told Kaydee, but those people were absolutely trustworthy. There was no chance Panterras had found out from any of them. So how had he found out?

Apparently Rollick was thinking along the same lines. “Really, Barmitheon? Do you often draw the conclusion that people’s adopted children are magically enhanced soldiers, or just in our case?”

Panterras scowled at him. “They have horns and wings, in case you didn’t notice.”

“I did. Funnily enough, Zee isn’t the first person we’ve met with horns, is she? Yet you didn’t make that assumption last time.”

Panterras suddenly felt boxed in. Damn, he’d forgotten about Mara, and Rollick was right, he hadn’t claimed anything like that about her. He had no real answer for that, so he turned defensive. “And you didn’t formerly behave in such a hostile manner. We were being quite civil to each other. Why do you insist on breaking our rapport?”

“You’ve been spying on our children, and I want to know how and why.” Rollick still sounded calm, but his tone was deadly serious.

Panterras desperately wanted to scoff at Rollick’s belief that his children were the important ones, but that would only cause further trouble. “Miss Lewton explained to you…”

“She explained her part of things, yes. Yours remains a subject of concern.” Rollick was actually puzzled why Miss Lewton would apparently consider the idea of magical soldiers so… well… commonplace, but he wasn’t sure where that fit in, if at all. “If you provide some sort of plausible explanation for how you knew, I’d let the matter go.”

Panterras grasped wildly. “Uluki told me.”

Rollick made a disbelieving sound. “No, I said a plausible explanation. You haven’t seen her in ten years, and in case you failed to notice— as I suspect you did given your treatment of her in front of me— I have been here the whole time. I know everything she said, because I heard it for myself. She didn’t say that.”

“Not now, no…” Panterras managed an almost genuine look of contrition. “Rollick, I’m so very sorry. I never meant to hurt you. I resisted temptation as long as I could, but… gods, she’s relentless when she wants a man. I wasn’t strong enough to avoid falling prey to her charms. On her part, I have no illusions about whether I am an attractive man, but my title, money, and influence were more than sufficient to spark her… desire. I’ve been sleeping with Uluki for weeks now. I can only apologize humbly for...”

That was all he managed to get out before Rollick punched him, the strong fist connecting sharply with his face. The two Lightswords moved instantly to stand on either side of Rollick, not interfering but making it clear they would not hesitate to become involved.

Panterras was, if anything, pleased. “I know you must feel hurt and betrayed that she…”

“Hurt and betrayed, yes. Because of Uluki? Gods, no. I feel hurt and betrayed that a man who was once my friend is telling such despicable lies about my wife. Consider that a warning.”

“Lies?” Panterras laughed, made doubly unpleasant by his split lip. “She has a hell of a scar down her front, doesn’t she? All the way to her hip. I can tell you where all her scars are. She likes to be held, after. Gods, she’s clingy, isn’t she? She always likes to cuddle when we’re in bed. Likes me to call her ‘dear one’…”

Rollick punched him again. “You don’t have any idea what the hell you’re talking about.”

Panterras put a hand to his mouth. “Don’t I? And where’s your proof I’m wrong?”

“I don’t need any. I know her.”


“I know her. I don’t claim to understand how you’ve found out all these things about my family, and I suspect when I find out I shall be even angrier, but I can say with absolute certainty that you’ve never touched her.”

“And I can say with absolute certainty you have my daughter. You’re as much of a liar as I am.”

“Maybe if you’d taken better care of her, she’d still be here.”

“Perhaps. And how good is the care you take of your own daughters, I wonder? It would be such a shame if sweet Zee or lovely Dash should come to grief in some tragic accident…”

At that moment, several things happened at once. Rollick drew his sword and lunged at Panterras, the Lightswords also drew their weapons and joined him to surround the man, Uluki watched in complete astonishment… and Panterras disappeared.

Rollick sighed as he slid his sword back into its sheath. “Did I mention that he teleports?” And of course, there was no way for them to track or follow him.

“This wasn’t how I imagined tonight turning out,” Uluki said, a huge understatement. “But at least… now we know.” She wrapped her arms around Rollick and buried her face in his chest. She wasn’t crying, just trying to express her deep, deep, sympathy.

“Yes, now we know,” Rollick said a little heavily, wrapping his arms around her, accepting her comfort gratefully. After a moment he gently released her and turned to Miss Lewton. “I’m so sorry to bring violence into your home. You have my apologies about that. We’ll… leave now.”

There didn’t seem to be anything more they could do, so they made their way out. Rollick took Uluki’s hand, squeezing it lovingly. “Thanks… sorry…” Uluki murmured to Miss Lewton as she slipped out the door.

Out on the street, Uluki started shaking, the tension she had been holding inside finally needing release. Rollick wrapped an arm around her. “I’m sorry, Rollick. I’m so sorry I ruined things.”

“There’s no need to apologize, dear one. This wasn’t your fault by any stretch of the imagination.”

“If I hadn’t been here…”

“You don’t have to apologize for existing. You didn’t do anything wrong. You didn’t cause this. It’s probably better this way anyway.”

Merohl’s attention was focused on the house next door to the one they’d just left. “That’s the house he came out of. If you wanted, we could break down the door and see what he’s hiding. I know you may not want to, since he’s your friend, but…”

Was my friend,” Rollick corrected. “Yes, please do it.” Merohl did so in an efficient and yet amazingly unobtrusive way, and the four of them went inside.

Rollick and Uluki searched the main room while the two warriors tackled the bedroom door, which was surprisingly rather well reinforced. Rollick took out some of his frustrations on the desk drawer locks and began to go through the contents. There was little of interest, except…

Rollick found the log book and flipped a few pages, then looked like he was going to be sick. “Gods, I can’t even stand to read this. He’s a monster. He was the one who hurt Kira.” Uluki took the book out of her husband’s hands, read an entry or two, and her own stomach turned. Such horrific abuse recorded in a clinical, disinterested hand; the vivid and methodical description of his acts and their painful aftermath penned in obsessive detail. It made her heart ache. At least now they had their proof. Cold comfort.

Merohl and Metellus had the bedroom door open now and called to them, and they went to join the two men. The room was quite bare of furnishings, but full of various types of strange and obscure scientific apparatus, as well as jars and bottles of strange liquids.

“Do you have any idea what all this is?” Metellus asked doubtfully.

“Not a clue,” Rollick answered with perfect honesty. “We should smash it. All of it. Otherwise he might use it to hurt someone else. We found his records. He wasn’t up to anything good. I don’t want this equipment to fall back into his hands. It isn’t suitable for looting because though it could probably fetch a price, it could end up with someone just as unscrupulous. So… we smash it.”

The warriors accepted this and set to work, and even Uluki joined them, breaking bottles by throwing them against the wall. She hadn’t realized how angry she was at Panterras until that moment. He had threatened their daughters! He had tortured Kira! When the jars and bottles were gone, she wished there were more.

There seemed nothing more to find or do. Uluki looked around to see if Kira had any possessions they could bring back to her, but didn’t see anything that appeared it would belong to a young girl. In fact, there didn’t seem to be any personal items at all. Uluki suspected that although the room had a mattress, Panterras slept elsewhere, though his notes suggested he’d left Kira locked up here.

Rollick took the log book with him, though he seemed to find the mere presence of it upsetting. Uluki understood both the revulsion and the need to bring along the proof. Rollick would have to kill the man who was once his closest friend, and Uluki knew her husband too well to think he would take that lightly.

They stepped back outside, and Uluki took Rollick’s hand again. “I love you so much,” she said, the only comfort she could think of to offer.

“I love you too, dear one,” he replied quietly.

((Continued: viewtopic.php?f=5&t=1450))
Last edited by Lylessa Uluki on Tue May 13, 2008 3:16 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: An Unpleasant Gathering

Post by Quinn on

Quinn wanted to stand there with her mouth hanging open in shocked laughter as Panterras dug himself deeper and deeper, but even though she doubted she'd be noticed, she restrained herself. This was entertainment. Of course, it was important to remember that she was still involved. Her flight-or-flight reflex clicked onto standby when the Lightswords indicated their readiness to get involved; the sort of fighter who called themselves 'Lightswords' rarely meant good luck for Quinn's kind.

The expected move for X, she reflected, might have been to protect her employer, but it was not a prediction anyone with half a brain and experience in the area would make. X - and, let's face it, Quinn - was a bottom-feeder in the sea of adventure, and would be most likely to scarper or hang around to nick some boots and teeth. Hopefully it wouldn't come to that.

"It- it's alright." She accepted Rollick's apology, almost forgetting to be Miss Lewton. Tch, magic, she was thinking. She remembered to look slightly dazed, not that Uluki and Rollick were paying attention to her - it was just a screensaver for her face while her mind was racing. So they know. They know about Panterras, he knows about Kira - and I know about all of them. What a mess. The next thing - the next thing is I make it so I haven't killed Kira. Which, for the sake of clarity, means I make sure she lives. So - I'll have to get in with them, there's no other way. Which means... I suppose it means coming clean.

The noise coming from next door told her that coming clean would soon not be an issue; if Uluki and Rollick were in there looking for evidence of Kira's imprisonment, they would know that there was only ever one girl imprisoned. Asra was rumbled.

For somebody so used to having the world as her oyster, this was a major shakeup of Quinn's mindset. The world was no longer vast and ripe with oppertunities; there were only two paths open to her. She could split. If I split, I've killed. Somebody would be dead because of me - sooner or later. And there's no question of actually doing the job. It's not much to ask, is it? All I need is to believe that I'm not actually that much of a bastard, that's all. The only alternative was to help Uluki - and the only way I can see of gaining her trust now is to tell her who I am, because the moment she works Asra out the suspicionometer will be going through the roof. Quinn knew there was only one Next Thing to do, and studiously avoided a certain little nagging voice. Nobody knows who you are. Nine years you've lived a lie, you really think you can stop now? You can't do this! You can't go around introducing yourself to people as if you were anything but an amalgamation of frauds. Who the hell are you? Arlechina Quinn? You haven't been since you were thirteen.

You don't even have a

Shaking that out of her head, she looked around the empty borrowed house. "Panterras? Come out and talk to me, they're gone. Hello?" The 'me' was reassuring. There was a me. I am a real person. Okay. She took a deep breath, trying to recover from that little introspective moment there.

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