Meeting of the Minds

The farms and houses of Shim, a single inn known as the Red Chalice, and an old manor on a hill overlooking it all to the north.
User avatar
Navarre
Citizen
Posts: 133
Joined: Sun Jul 03, 2011 2:53 am
Name: Navarre
Race: Elf

Re: Meeting of the Minds

Post by Navarre » Fri Aug 26, 2011 12:34 am

Navarre paid for her tea shortly after Rosemary. She made a habit of not carrying a lot of bishani on her person when she went out, but she had more than enough to afford the highest quality tea they had available. Taking her tea, she gave them cashier a friendly smile, then followed her companion to a secluded table at the other end of the shop. A wise decision, but they still needed to be careful -- an aristocratic woman having a drink with a peasant would undoubtedly draw some attention. They needed to keep their voices down.

She took a seat across from Rosemary and closed her eyes, taking a sip of her tea. Decent, but she'd definitely had better. After Rosemary addressed her, she remained silent for a few moments, still holding her teacup in her hands, her expression unreadable.

"That we were," she answered after a while, opening her eyes. Her pleasant smile had turned into a suspicious smirk, and the friendly feeling that once surrounded her had vanished entirely. "This little game of ours, while enjoyable at first, has become more than a little tiresome. Let's get down to business, shall we?"

Chuckling darkly, she took another sip of her tea, then lowered her cup. "We are kindred spirits, you and I. The odds of us running into one another on the street were astronomical, but it has happened all the same. Perhaps we were fated to meet, who knows. At any rate, let's start with the proper introductions. I'd very much like for you to go first."

She paused, her twisted grin spreading. "Oh, and don't worry, dear -- I won't repeat anything you say at this table. I hope you'll show me the same courtesy."

Derin Edala
Citizen
Posts: 340
Joined: Thu Feb 26, 2009 6:12 am
Name: Derin
Race: Human

Re: Meeting of the Minds

Post by Derin Edala » Fri Aug 26, 2011 1:11 am

Dangerous. This was getting far too dangerous. Was it worth the gamble? You never could tell with these people. Humans were... less inclined to viciousness than she was used to.

"My name is Derin Edala," Derin said, lowering her voice to a whisper. It felt dangerous to say it, even though she knew nobody could hurt her with it while she was under the "protection" of her current curse, even though it was merely a vocal approximation of her true identifying spellform and the words themselves were harmless, even though she'd gone four years under the name without a flinch or a problem. This woman brought her old caution back. And then there was the potential for trouble with the Guard. "I've been here nine years. Or six, depending on how you calculate it," she added as an afterthought. "And you are...?"

User avatar
Navarre
Citizen
Posts: 133
Joined: Sun Jul 03, 2011 2:53 am
Name: Navarre
Race: Elf

Re: Meeting of the Minds

Post by Navarre » Sat Aug 27, 2011 10:44 pm

Navarre raised her cup to her lips after her companion revealed her name, taking a long sip. She had actually hoped that Derin would reveal more about her nature, but perhaps that was a little naive on her part. Derin was still playing her cards close to her chest, and she could respect that. Mortals always sought to bring the greats down to their level, to take away their gifts and cast them into mediocrity, so it was only natural to be secretive. As curious as she was, she could wait -- the information would come at its own pace.

"My name is Navarre," she answered, lowering her tea again. "Not the name of my original self, but I've left that ugly bit of my past behind me. I'd like to think that I've become a much better person since then. An entirely different person, one could say -- in more ways than one."

She crossed her legs. "I've been a scholar for several decades now, although I've lived in Marn for much longer than that. I've seen the city from... many different perspectives over the years. It's been quite interesting, to say the least. And very enjoyable."

Derin Edala
Citizen
Posts: 340
Joined: Thu Feb 26, 2009 6:12 am
Name: Derin
Race: Human

Re: Meeting of the Minds

Post by Derin Edala » Sun Aug 28, 2011 4:43 pm

"When I arrived in Shim," Derin said carefully, "I encountered an unexpected level of suspicion. A woman of my acquaintance showed kindness to the wrong sort of person and we ran into people with unusual magical abilities. I was forced into a rapid change of... lifestyle. Thus my, uh, current position." Derin wasn't going to go into details about who the wrong sort of person was, not until she was sure she wasn't facing another government spy. "Ideally, I need access to the library. I've avoided it, preferring to keep a low profile for awhile and avoid creating suspicious patterns. Time is not, I'm sure you understand, an issue." She paused and sipped her tea. It tasted different than any tea she remembered, and she realised she'd never had tea in Rosemary's body before. "You have somehow managed to survive here a long time and gained access to as much information as you could desire, with a respectable reason you'd need it. I assume you're looking for the same thing that I am, and I'm sure we could help each other. But this is my question: how suspicious have your activities actually been? In this town, where opening the door to the wrong person or running into someone with the right kind of magical surveillance and a barely escapable death sentence, is it safe for me to be around you?"

User avatar
Navarre
Citizen
Posts: 133
Joined: Sun Jul 03, 2011 2:53 am
Name: Navarre
Race: Elf

Re: Meeting of the Minds

Post by Navarre » Wed Aug 31, 2011 8:17 pm

"I wouldn't have survived for this long if I were a fool; the same can be said for you. With old age comes experience and a talent for discretion. I flirted with danger on occasion in my younger years -- I was reckless at times -- but I've learned from my mistakes and have taken great care not to repeat them. It's such a blessing to live a long life in this chaotic world of ours, and I don't intend to risk all I've worked for by engaging in... less-than-reputable activities."

Navarre absently stirred her tea, her eyes focused on the wall across from her. The girl was right to be suspicious of her -- she was the first to admit that she was a fairly suspicious person. She had committed atrocities in previous incarnations, yes -- unspeakable horrors that would make the bile rise in one's stomach -- but those days were behind her. For now, at any rate. She needed time before she could once again fall into her own practices, but as Derin had said, time wasn't exactly an issue. All she had to do was play the waiting game.

"So, to answer your question, yes, you would be quite safe around me. Little old ladies like myself usually aren't up to much. My... little trick to keep the years off might not be admirable in some eyes, but rest assured, it isn't dangerous -- or, more importantly, suspicious -- as long as it's handled professionally."

Derin Edala
Citizen
Posts: 340
Joined: Thu Feb 26, 2009 6:12 am
Name: Derin
Race: Human

Re: Meeting of the Minds

Post by Derin Edala » Sat Sep 03, 2011 1:28 pm

Derin nodded. Navarre had taken a new name, something she herself hadn't even thought to do beyond the obvious necessary masquerades. An invented name because her true name would be recognisable to Derin, or one she'd carried all along as a precaution against demonologists? Either way, it spoke of prudence. Derin wasn't remotely concerned that Navarre would know her by her name. The chances that she was somebody Derin had known on the other plane were too remote to consider, and she hadn't been famous. The way Navarre talked, Derin probably hadn't even been created before Navarre ended up in Pal Tahrenor.

Living in Marn for so long without trouble; that, too, was a good sign. Derin knew that she should behave with a lot more caution; coming out to a tea shop and basically admitting who she was had been inexcusably dangerous. But she'd never been cautious, or she wouldn't even be in such trouble.

"In that case," she said, "we may be able to help each other. Professional handling of any issue is easier in numbers. What I need at this time is information. With your position, I'm sure you have enough of that for your purposes, but I also suspect you might look favourably toward some assistance." She looked the old woman up and down meaningfully. With her current age and the book she'd come to acquire, it wasn't all that hard to put the pieces together. "After all, there are no ties between us in anybody's records or memories. Should any activity turn the heads of the wrong people, blurring the trail with completely unrelated help can only make things easier." Derin wished she'd had a co-conspirator the last time she'd had to switch bodies. Having somebody else pass on or sell the bracelet would be so much less risky than the methods she'd been forced to use.

User avatar
Navarre
Citizen
Posts: 133
Joined: Sun Jul 03, 2011 2:53 am
Name: Navarre
Race: Elf

Re: Meeting of the Minds

Post by Navarre » Tue Sep 06, 2011 12:12 am

Navarre fell silent for a while, silently mulling over the implications of a possible alliance with this girl. Having an assistant, an ally, would be very useful -- and she had entertained the idea before -- but it had its downsides. The more people she involved with her little schemes, the more likely it became that it would all fall apart somewhere down the line. Most mortals had weak hearts, and it was still unclear if she and this girl truly saw eye-to-eye. It was entirely possible that Derin found her immortality through more acceptable means, and that she would be appalled that someone would murder innocents in their sleep just to fend off the reaper for a little while longer.

But fortunately, it seemed like she was at least somewhat open to questionable methods, just as long as they didn't implicate her. That was understandable; she felt the same way. This girl most likely wouldn't betray her. Besides, she would have just as much to lose if their little secret were ever brought to light. There wasn't anything to worry about... for the time being, at any rate.

"I've managed to get by without assistance for quite some time," she said finally. "Unfortunately, it's becoming harder to... carry out my business successfully. What might start out as an odd coincidence turns far more suspicious if someone begins to notice a thread, even if decades have passed. This hasn't happened yet, but I've made slip-ups, and I fear that I will one day have to deal with some... unwanted vermin. I'm experienced with pest control, but I'm more than a little out of practice, so to speak."

She took another sip of her tea. "I can provide you with information, but I would prefer if we took care of that before I "move." I'll be able to take some of my books with me, but I won't have as much access to the University library as I do now. Time is of the essence right now, but we'll be able to operate at a more leisurely pace in the future."

Derin Edala
Citizen
Posts: 340
Joined: Thu Feb 26, 2009 6:12 am
Name: Derin
Race: Human

Re: Meeting of the Minds

Post by Derin Edala » Tue Sep 06, 2011 10:35 am

Derin nodded. "If time is a factor, perhaps you could simply get me a position at the library before I help you move. I'm sure the recommendation of a respected academic would go a long way. Time isn't a factor for me. It should be faster to get somebody a job than track down a lot of obscure information, should it not? My academic skills are fairly good, so working my way up through academia wouldn't be a problem. And then one of us has a foot in the door, so to speak, should you need to return to academia."

Derin was wondering whether she should ditch the name Rosemary. The body was still good, but a farm girl suddenly showing herself to be the super-literate protege of an academic who died soon after was suspicious. She could scar herself, perhaps, badly enough to make herself unrecognisable? Take a new name, pretend to be an acquaintance of Madellynne's from another town? It'd put her in a good position before Navarre's switch. (Derin should probably inquire about the details of that before agreeing to too much. If she was bound in an item like Derin was, the switch would be fairly easy, but there were so many more complicated ways to bind a demon.)

User avatar
Navarre
Citizen
Posts: 133
Joined: Sun Jul 03, 2011 2:53 am
Name: Navarre
Race: Elf

Re: Meeting of the Minds

Post by Navarre » Mon Sep 12, 2011 1:04 am

Navarre sipped her drink again. "Finding you a position wouldn't be difficult. The library is almost always looking for assistance, and although the administration might frown on your background, I wouldn't imagine you would be turned away. After all, as you said, the recommendation of an established academic goes a long way."

It was true -- she would be able to get her a position easily enough. More importantly, Derin raised a very good point that she hadn't considered: if Derin were still involved in academia after her transfer, she would be able to maintain at least some of her access to the library. That would be quite a useful advantage. Her plan for her next life required that she have a great deal of information at her disposal, but keeping too many of her old books would be far too suspicous. Yes, it looked like Derin would be more helpful than she had expected.

"I won't be... moving for a while, so rest assured you'll have more than enough time to carry out your business. I should be able to help you locate whatever you need. Of course, if you are looking for... material that may be considered controversial, you'll most definitely have to go through me. Such materials are generally highly restricted."

Derin Edala
Citizen
Posts: 340
Joined: Thu Feb 26, 2009 6:12 am
Name: Derin
Race: Human

Re: Meeting of the Minds

Post by Derin Edala » Mon Sep 12, 2011 9:56 am

Derin nodded. She dropped her voice further, as low as she dared without bringing suspicion from nearby patrons. "We should be able to complete both our goals free of complications, then. The materials I'm after are of more an historic than practical nature, but they probably will be restricted anyway. My background might cause suspicion. It might make more sense to create another." Rosemary was not known to be a quick study, and shouldn't even be literate. She stared at her own hands, suddenly aware of the sophisticated way they cradled the china cup. "I have a slightly more noble past in a suitably far away town." It shouldn't be too hard to fabricate a suitably educated past, to scar her face beyond recognition and play a far-away acquaintance. She could blame accident or disease for the deformity, put her mind to books as a noble daughter unmarriagable on her face alone. "If we begin as soon as possible, we can ensure I'm at a useful position by the time you're ready to move on."

User avatar
Navarre
Citizen
Posts: 133
Joined: Sun Jul 03, 2011 2:53 am
Name: Navarre
Race: Elf

Re: Meeting of the Minds

Post by Navarre » Thu Sep 15, 2011 9:06 pm

Navarre listened patiently, holding her cup just above the table. Indeed, it would be for the best if Derin crafted another background for herself. The administration would undoubtedly appreciate assistance, but only if it came from a reliable source. Derin, as Rosemary, was just a simple farm girl, and while it would be possible to get her a position, it would be more than a little suspicious -- and suspicion was the last thing she needed at this point in the game. This operation of theirs could be a little risky, so it had to be handled with the utmost care and precision.

"A new identity would be the best option," she said softly, then finished off the last of her tea and lowered her cup onto the table. "While you handle your affairs, I'll do my best to smooth over the transition on my end. I'll drop a few references to a promising assistant here-and-there, just so it doesn't come as a complete surprise to the administration when I request a position for you. As long as your new background at least somewhat resembles an academic's, we shouldn't have a problem."

She tilted her head to the side thoughtfully, pausing for a few moments. "We'll need to remain in close contact," she said after a while, her voice decidedly lower than before. "Handling our business will be quite troublesome if we have to put on a show like this every time we meet. Would you like to stay at my mansion in Marn?"

Derin Edala
Citizen
Posts: 340
Joined: Thu Feb 26, 2009 6:12 am
Name: Derin
Race: Human

Re: Meeting of the Minds

Post by Derin Edala » Mon Sep 19, 2011 3:02 am

"That might be best," Derin said, "but we'll need to act quickly. The more time you spend with Rosemary, the more suspicious our trail becomes. I'll be..." she searched her mind for the most unobtrusive possible minor noble family to impersonate. Not that anybody here would know anybody from her noble life. Not that anybody would bother to check. But there was no such thing as being too cautious. She needed to appear on family trees, at least, just in case. Holes in her story had nearly gotten her killed in the past. "I'll be Shani Overhill," she decided, remembering the young Overhill girl who died in a fire. She'd be about Rosemary's age if she'd lived. "A noble girl who was horribly scarred in a fire and turned her mind to academia, not being able to attract a suitable husband on appearance." It wasn't unheard of for embarrassing family members to 'die' in the family records and be sent off somewhere, supported by their family but unable to embarrass them. Highly unusual, yes; suspicious, no. "I can alter my appearance tonight, drastically enough to not be mistaken for Rosemary. Then all we need to do is set up a small paper trail, fake correspondence and so forth, to make it appear that our families are friends. There shouldn't be any hurry for that." Derin was already wondering what she should use to burn herself. Kerosine would be best, if she could find it; simple wood coals would work but not nearly as well. And what about the risk of infection? She didn't want to kill this body right now. Hmm...

User avatar
Navarre
Citizen
Posts: 133
Joined: Sun Jul 03, 2011 2:53 am
Name: Navarre
Race: Elf

Re: Meeting of the Minds

Post by Navarre » Sun Sep 25, 2011 1:16 am

Navarre nodded. "We shouldn't have much trouble crafting a believable history. I doubt we'll attract much scrutiny -- we nobles seldom do -- but it's still important to have a solid story to fall back upon, just in case. But as you said, we can worry about that later."

Everything seemed to be proceeding smoothly. She would spread word of this "Shani Overhill" girl as a potential assistant to smooth over the transition, and Derin would mangle herself to give the impression that she had been in a fire. Derin really had the hard end of the deal, didn't she? It was hard for her to imagine living with a horrible burn on her face. If she so much as had a scar she didn't like, she'd be looking for another potential vessel. Come to think of it, Derin seemed a little too willing to do this. Perhaps she needed access to the library that badly. Or was it something else?

A waitress came by and asked for her empty cup. Navarre smiled and handed it to her, then watched as she walked off, her aged eyes slowly drifting down to her rear. If she hadn't already decided on her next victim, this girl would have been pretty high on the list; or if she'd been in a male body, she would have taken her for a night of fun. Oh, how she missed those long, long nights. She'd be having plenty more of them soon enough (especially if her plan worked out), but for now she had to focus on business. Pleasure could wait.

She turned back to Derin. "Unless you have anything else to add, I believe we should continue this discussion later. As you said, the less time I spend around Rosemary, the better. Perhaps tomorrow at my mansion?"

Derin Edala
Citizen
Posts: 340
Joined: Thu Feb 26, 2009 6:12 am
Name: Derin
Race: Human

Re: Meeting of the Minds

Post by Derin Edala » Sun Sep 25, 2011 5:03 pm

Derin nodded. "Shani will meet you tomorrow." She stayed only long enough to get Navarre's address before leaving. Where to now? Not home; Kori might be there. Better to leave no trail at all. She headed to the inn instead, where she excitedly took aside the maid on staff and whispered about a handsome trader boy who had offered to marry her. She was leaving right away, she said; leaving her dreary town life behind.

Let the maid think what she wanted. She might think Rosemary a silly girl in love, setting herself up to be used and abandoned; the next day, when she heard of Rosemary's father dying, she might think it bad luck or she might think Rosemary a killer. It made no difference. Either way, Rosemary was leaving Shim with a trader. The blacksmith, Kori, had been with her that morning; he might be a problem. He was the only person she'd known who she'd interacted with that day, and she certainly hadn't acted like somebody about to leave. Maybe he'd think her a manipulative murderer. There was a risk that he wouldn't, that he might look for her... but no, that risk was slight. And he wouldn't look among the academics of Marn.

Any other loose ends?

No. No, she'd done everything. Derin headed to the market. She bought some cheap cloth for bandages, a lace veil (nothing flashy, but the sort that a lady might wear for privacy) and some cloth that was a little too fine for peasant work. It wasn't the fine silk she was used to working with, but even with her savings, she was on a budget. In a couple of days, she'd have at least one dress appropriate for a minor noblewoman living on a small family allowance. Kerosine, it seemed, was unavailable, or at least out of her price range. That was okay.

Derin spent the night in an unremarkable inn in Marn. She wore her new veil in the common room and kept her hair piled under a scarf. The inn she'd chosen was the cheapest place she could find with private rooms that had fireplaces. After she'd settled in for the night, Derin used her utility knife to inexpertly hack off her long ginger locks at shoulder height. The uneven remains were braided in a multi-plait design that was fairly popular in Shani's hometown when Derin left, although probably quite out of date now. It didn't matter, Marn had different fashions anyway. She laid the blade of her knife in the fire while she tied her braids. It glowed red by the time she was done.

She stuffed a wad of bandage cloth in her mouth before picking up the knife. There was no reason to clench and crack her teeth. Pain, she reflected as she pressed the hot metal against her cheek, was a curious sensation. She would be the first to admit that she was a little neglectful of her body's senses (well, she wouldn't admit a weakness like that unless there was a reason, but she knew it to be true). She had rather a lot of minor burns even for a maid or kitchenhand simply because a total lack of regard for her own physical wellbeing made her slow to learn from painful mistakes. But while pain was being experienced, it couldn't be ignored. It had a sharp, urgent, right-now quality akin to some overpowered brute marching through one's territory and leaving a path of fragmented spellforms behind them. It was quite difficult to hold the knife in place and keep from screaming.

Derin burned her right cheek, the right side of her neck and the top of her right breast. That should be enough to explain wearing the veil all the time. Presumably, anybody seeing that level of scarring would assume that a large proportion of her clothed form was also scarred. After some thought, she scarred part of her right calf, too. She couldn't risk the arm; bringing that knife too close to her silver bracelet might melt it. She rubbed ash from the fireplace into her woulds before dressing them, ensuring they'd scar very visibly. She'd have to keep all ther wounds covered until they healed over or she'd never be able to pass them off as from a childhood fire, but once they looked reasonably old, she'd be set.

Then she went to sleep. At sunrise the next day, a veiled young woman in a peasant's dress with an outlandish hairstyle would ring Madelynne's doorbell.

User avatar
Navarre
Citizen
Posts: 133
Joined: Sun Jul 03, 2011 2:53 am
Name: Navarre
Race: Elf

Re: Meeting of the Minds

Post by Navarre » Thu Sep 29, 2011 1:55 am

Navarre remained behind for a few minutes after her guest left, sitting alone with a thoughtful look on her face. She eventually rose from her seat and left the shop, giving the same maid a friendly smile as she stepped out the door. Surprisingly, it was still light out; it seemed like they had been talking for hours, but in reality not much time had passed. Alexander would have definitely given her shelter for the evening, but the last thing she wanted was to stay in Shim any longer than she needed to. Besides, she had more important business to attend to.

She wasted no time starting her journey home. Her walk home, usually uncomfortably long for her tastes, seemed oddly short today. There were so many things weighing down on her mind. This wasn't exactly unusual when the time was coming for her to jump, but this time was different. The secret of her immortality was no longer exclusively with her. She'd understood this for a while, but it hadn't truly begun to sink in until she was nearly back at Marn. The grand play that was her life moving into its next act. She was used to scene changes, but this...

Was she nearing the climax? No; that would imply a falling action, which would naturally lead to a denouement. This was merely a broadening of horizons, nothing more.

Before she knew it, she had reached Marn. As much as Navarre wanted to head home, there was business to attend to. She made her way to the University to pick up some... relevant books. Normally this wouldn't take too long, but she still had to help Derin. Instead of avoiding her colleagues, she stopped to chat with as many as she could, making sure to mention her up-and-coming new assistant to at few of them. Most seemed a little surprised that she had accepted help -- one even pointing out how distant and independent she seemed -- but were ultimately glad that she was finally "opening up" to other people. Hah!

By the time Navarre returned to her mansion, a blanket of darkness had fallen over the city. She stepped through the door, and was quickly greeted by her maid.

"Madam Vendeleur, it's a pleasure to have you back!" The brunette curtseyed respectfully. "Your dinner is --"

"Clean out the spare bedroom, we'll be having a special guest tomorrow," Navarre told her coolly as she removed her shawl and hung it up in the closet. "Make sure to lay out clean sheets. I'd like for you to remain out-of-sight tomorrow, as well."

The maid nodded and headed upstairs without a word. This was not an uncommon request for her master; despite her age, she had a habit of bringing "special guests" over around once a month. Although this was clearly a different kind of visit, the wording meant that the maid was none the wiser about her lady's intentions. Despite her youth, she knew when to stand aside and not ask questions, which made her a valuable servant.

It was early in the morning when Navarre, sipping her tea in the study, heard the doorbell ring. She rose from her desk and headed into the entrance hall, greeting her veiled guest with a smile when she answered the door. "It's a pleasure to see you again, dear! Come on in, I was just sitting down for tea."

Locked