Private Tales A Cordial Negotiation

A private roleplay only for those invited by the first writer

Nysia

The Seeker
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As they stepped onto the pier and near the small skiff the ship that they were headed to came into full view for the first time.

The visage of a screaming gorgon had always been their, hairs of rapturous screaming snakes on prominent display even from afar. Yet as they drew closer, as they stepped onto the skiff and came into full view of the ship they would see the careful lines that had been put within the wood.

It was as though every inch of the ship had been carefully carved and seen to. Treated like a work of art rather than ship of the line.

The Red Wooden hull seemed to be pulled from the forest itself, laid in place without a line or single segment. It looked as though the vessel itself was cut from a single tree, a preposterous idea given the massive bulk which sat within the water.

Black sails hung from the mast, never moving even as wind drew over the harbor and pulled at the seas around it. They seemed almost stiff, as though forced into compliance by some unseen force.

An unnerving visage hung over the ship. Whether it was the unmoving sails or the screaming Gorgon which clung to it's prow, the Vessel appeared as a marker of nothing less than distress.

From their distance the party would be almost be able to make out small figures moving along the ship. They wandered to and fro, stepping with an unnerving assurance even as the waves of the harbor gently rocked the vessel within it's wake.

At this distance the Lamia was nowhere to be seen.

Yet as they stood at the edge of the pier the call of a crow echoed out over the harbor. It's caw resounded in the air, featherless wings flapping through the surging wind as the companions made their way aboard the skiff.
 

Siegewright

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Despite having what were arguably the longest legs of the entire group, Siegewright travelled the slowest and brought up the rear. Perhaps most would be intimidated by the impending situation; walking into enemy territory, certainly outnumbered, and unsure of how things would play out. These, however, were none of Siegewright's concerns. He stopped next to the monument, almost exactly where he had stood earlier that day, surveying the harbor before them. The way each wave sparkled and shifted should've been breathtaking, if he had lungs. However, hesitancy had the best of him.

For a moment, he was glad he couldn't make facial expressions. He was certain he wouldn't have been able to hide his distaste for the water. Rolling his shoulders as if to motivate himself, he followed Elliot forward, occasionally glancing at Srivani to ensure she was present and well. He then spared a glance to Zilvra. He was still unsure of what to think concerning the dark elf. The discussion had made it clear that while both Elliot and Zilvra benefitted from going against the Lamia, there was not much else to connect them. Should circumstances change, or if she were to obtain what she desired before they did, there was a slight possibility her loyalties could change. Siegewright didn't normally err on the side of pessimism, but in his line of work, it was an area in which caution was important.

His helmet turned sharply forward as Elliot stepped into the small vessel. The nerves he had previously steeled returned almost immediately. Watching the skiff rock uncertainly under the new weight made something feel heavy in Siegewright's chest that he couldn't quite place. He simply stood staring, probably much longer than he would've liked to admit. He then let out a small cough, despite having no throat. "Ladies first." He gestured to Srivani and Zilvra flatly, putting extra effort to hide any concern from his tone. He had heard other men he'd worked with use that phrase before, and it usually worked. He knew he would have to join them, but didn't look forward to how the boat would certainly struggle with his weight.
 

Zilvra

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"Ladies first."

"Ah, such a gentleman," Zilvra complimented Siegewright... Whatever he was. She had been studying him since their meeting at the inn and was absolutely fascinated. She still couldn't quite pin down what he was. He was unlike any golem she had ever seen before. Most were far larger and constructed of stone rather than metal, and very few had the power to speak. The main difference between Siegewright and any golem she had previously witnessed though was his ability to think for himself. The few constructs she had seen before that had the power of speech could only use this power to accept and perform simple tasks. Mostly smashing things. Golems were good at smashing things. Siegewright on the other hand... Whoever had crafted him was a genius. One thing she was certain of, this was no mindless construct simply following instructions. There was a soul in there somewhere, though soul binding was an incredibly complex art that she knew very little of. She would have to find out more, but now was not the time.

Since Siegewright had insisted on the ladies entering the boat first, Zilvra took his hand so that she might lean on him for support as she descended into the boat. She sat herself opposite Elliot, lest he expect whoever sat beside him to assist with the rowing. Certainly not a job for a lady.

With Zilvra safely sitting down, Mute offered Srivani his hand so that he might assist her into the boat. Whether she accepted his help or not, he would wait until the two women were on board before jumping into the boat and offering to take one of the oars from Elliot. He certainly wasn't opposed to this kind of manual labor. After all, that's part of the reason Zilvra kept him around.
 

Srivani

The Dancing Flame
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Srivani was quite often shown off to the public and so being recognised as the missing jewel in the King's crown wasn't out of the question. Her long cloak brushed the ground around her bare feet and was tied tightly at her downcast chin, her wide hood well covering her coppery hair and hiding her face from view.

She was tiny in comparison to Siegewright, and since she had decided that she felt safest with him - and being still clearly bitter about Elliot's failure to mention his plan on delivering her to a demoness - she stuck close to the warforged as the made their way to the docks.

The giant didn't need to use facial expressions for Srivani to tell that she wasn't the only one nervous of the choppy water. She looked up at him, amber eyes peeking out from under her hood as she offered him a small, knowing smile and reached to 'pat pat' at his arm. Her shoulders rose and fell in a deep, steadying sigh before she turned to hesitantly accept 'Mute's' hand, a shaky smile offered as he helped her into the seat beside Elliot.

She didn't enjoy the feeling of rocking and she reached sharply to grip the edge of the boat as though it might anchor her.

"I do not like boats." Srivani grumbled to herself in her thick accent and muttered a quiet plea to her gods. After the skiff ride to the ship, all she had to deal with was the Lamia..
 

Elliot Aldmar

Dornoch's Most Wanted Man
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As the others were boarding the skiff, Elliot took off his gloves. He reached into a pouch on his belt and powdered his hands with bone dust, slipping his gloves back on after he was done. Preparation. Good for a singular cast of one of his spells, and precious seconds would be saved by already having the bone dust concealed and in hand.

Elliot took up one of the oars. Gave a nod to Mute. And then he started to row.

Grand Fair Harbor, gently and gradually, began to grow smaller as the skiff sailed out into the bay.

"When the deal is secure and the Lamia's guard is down, all I will need is one corpse," Elliot said, keeping up with the rhythm of rowing. "Zilvra, if you could provide that for me. Siegewright, shield Srivani--you may have to pull her away from the Lamia, depending on how it goes. Mute, buy us time and keep the Imitations at a distance."

Elliot continued to row. One revolution. Two revolutions.

"Stay flexible. This plan may not survive contact with the Lamia."

There truly was no telling how this would end, much like the buzzing feeling in the stomach often felt in the stillness before the charge into a field battle. The Lamia was a mystery, her motives only to be guessed at. Out of all the possible choices the Lamia had for the mission to take Srivani, Elliot couldn't be exactly certain why he had been offered it, nor could Elliot say what the true intentions Nysia had for Srivani were. Guesswork.

But Elliot did know what he had to do. He knew what was at stake. If he died aboard this ship, the world would go on blemished by the stains of Oban and Dornoch. The despair of the chained would continue unabated.

Closer to the ship now, with its red hull and its black sails, with the Screaming Gorgon adorning its prow. The skiff was dwarfed by its size as it pulled up alongside.

Elliot stood on the skiff. Cupped his hands around his mouth and called upward to the ship, "It's Elliot. I've brought the dancer. Cast down the netting."

The sound of the seawater, lapping at the sides of the skiff and the hull of the ship. Once they climbed up that netting and were on the deck, all possibility of turning back would be gone.

Siegewright Zilvra Srivani Nysia
 

Nysia

The Seeker
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The net was cast down without a word.

Thick cords of rope clattered against the red hull, dark woven strands of what could almost be seen as hair cast against down onto the sea. It seemed to settle into place, holding as firm as any ladder would have in preparation for the ships guests.

Almost as soon as the first hand was placed upon the rope they would feel it. An insurmountable dread that swooped in from the pits of their stomach. A creeping sort of fear, the kind not felt within the mind, but upon the goosebumps on the flesh.

Even Siegewright would feel it, the constructs very soul touched by some unseen force.

As they climbed they would see the hull of the ship more closely. The odd slats of red that seemed to have been melded together, the strange feeling of the wood as their fingers ran over it. The touch of it more reminiscent of calloused flesh than any wood.

When they reached the peak of the rope ladder they would see the deck of the ship arrayed before them.

Three great masts seemed to rise into the sky, each one adorned with that black sail. Dozens upon dozens of figures mired about upon the ship, most of them strange faceless humanoids that seemed to attend to a certain task. Some worked knots upon ropes, others dragged chains to and fro, and a few simply stood in place as though waiting for some yet unspoken command.

All of them turned to the companions as they stepped upon the deck, eyeless gazes falling upon the newly arrived group. They stared for only a second before each one returned to their task, the resounding clack clack clack of a rising chain echoing out as four of the creatures wound the capstan upward.

As eyes turned towards the stern of the ship the companions would see their query.

Laying upon a massive chaise lounge was Nysia. The great Serpent lay sprawled upon a comforting array of cushions and fabric, a small fan in her right hand fluttering back and forth even as the sea breeze washed over the deck. Bright Violet eyes skimmed over the deck, her features aloof, uncaring, and yet somehow with the focus of a predator.

The fan slowly fluttered back and forth, a hypnotic dissonance that seemed almost out of focus.

"Master Aldemar."
A voice echoed out as the companions reached the deck of the ship, the stern and marred face of Thero presenting itself to the new arrivals.

"My lady had been waiting for you."​

Behind him milled the faceless, wandering and attending to their tasks. They did not offer a second glance, not a moment more of acknowledgment. They only worked, attending to the deeds of their divine.
 

Siegewright

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Decidedly sitting in the dead center of the skiff to avoid tipping everyone into the sea, Siegewright stared down at his arm which both Srivani and Zilvra had touched. As he lacked the ability of physical touch, he was very unacquainted with it outside the realms of battle. Srivani's gentle pat and Zilvra's brief grasp burned an impression in his mind that he explored as the great vessel loomed ever closer. He had seen actions such as this amongst other, especially comrades, but he had not ever anticipated being a recipient. Despite his humanoid appearance, many still perceived him as machinery. That wasn't necessarily incorrect, but the presence of his soul had been disregarded by many.

Thoughts interrupted by Elliot's words, he looked up sharply. He certainly admired his colleagues' determination; having mortal bodies, they all certainly were putting far more at risk. Especially Srivani. He glanced her direction, renewing the resolve within himself to keep her safe. She likely had never fought before, and was going to be the center of the fray they were about to enter. He was her best chance at making it through. It was not, however, his intention to frighten her, so he said nothing.

The skiff lurched as the net tumbled seaward, causing Siegewright to clench his fists briefly. It was foolish to feel so, but he almost preferred the impending danger to this unstable boat. He stood slowly, determining he should be amongst the first to ascend as he had less to lose. He gripped the rope- which was disturbingly hair like, he noted- and then froze.

This feeling... it was so claustrophobic and smothering. Never in his existence could he recall something like this, not even in his most gruesome battles. What kind of power could claw at his very soul with such dark, venomous fangs? Siegewright stepped back for a moment, processing the very real danger just above the hull of the ship.

He turned carefully so as not to disturb the skiff. "Srivani." His tone was low and even, both to remain calm and to not be overheard. "Allow me to carry you up. It will be more convincing that I aided your capture." This statement was true, but that was not the only reason. Siegewright did not understand this feeling that consumed him the moment he touched the ropes, but he hoped to prevent Srivani from feeling it. She must already be terrified. Besides, if something were to happen the moment their feet touched the deck, it would be best to have her as close as possible.

It wasn't until Siegewright finally saw the Lamia for the first time that he began to grasp this crushing presence gripping his soul. It was not often that he encountered beings bigger than himself, and the look in her eyes reminded him of a dragon he had once encountered. Leisurely, but intense, and something else he couldn't quite place. As if they were hungry for something beyond food. He gripped Srivani's wrist in one of his hands behind her; tight enough to look convincing but not enough to hurt. Tearing his gaze away from Nysia, he looked forward, and waited.
 

Zilvra

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Zilvra looked curiously at Siegewright as he first touched the rope and then instantly pulled his hand away... Well, perhaps he was merely worried that shifting his weight too much would cause the little boat to overturn. It certainly seemed to be a concern he had on the way over.

Being rather used to the "ladies first" custom, Zilvra reached out and touched the rope ladder herself... And instantly felt what it was that caused Siegewright to pull away. Something was wrong here. Something was very, very wrong. And this little venture of theirs... It was all going to end badly.

Zilvra weighed her options. At the moment, there were only two options. Boarding the ship or staying put. Right now, simply taking the little boat and rowing back to shore didn't seem like the worst idea. But no, that would not work. Elliot was no fool. He knew how Zilvra operated. There was no chance that he would ascend the ladder with his other two comrades, leaving Zilvra and Mute alone in the boat. She could send up Mute with the others and insist on taking the rear, then sail the boat away herself, but if the Lamia's crew decided to pursue her, she did not possess the physical strength needed to out row them. No, she would have to board the ship. All she could do was plan out when best to board.

Of course, the one thing she knew that it was never sensible to bring up either the head or the tail of a party. If a full on assault was planned, those leading the group would bear the brunt, and those at the rear always stood the risk of being stabbed in the back. Luckily, Seigewright chose to lead the group, carrying Srivani with him. Normally, she would try to place herself in the centre of the party, but she had no idea what was waiting for her on those decks, and she wanted a reliable pair of eyes to warn her if anything was wrong.

"Mute, you go next," she instructed her bodyguard. The man was loyal to her and short sighted enough to risk his own life protecting others. "If there is anything amiss, you let us know." Obediently, Mute took hold of the rope ladder, likewise feeling that dread that the others experienced upon touching it. He made eye contact with Zilvra as if to ask if she was sure, when when she merely nodded in response, he ascended the ladder as swiftly as he could to act as lookout for his Mistress.

To be sure that she boarded the ship next, Zilvra took a firm grip of the rope as Mute ascended, preventing Elliot from boarding before her. "There is dark magic at work here, Aldmar," she warned her companion as she waited for Mute's signal, or lack thereof. "Magic that even I have never witnessed before. We are venturing into unknown territory my friend, and I am not sure I fancy our chances. I certainly hope your pretty friend is worth it." Her girl certainly wasn't, but too late to turn back now.

Mute did not signal. There was something wrong up here, certainly. These soulless, eyeless constructs were the stuff of nightmares, but they were nothing unexpected following Elliot's description. No sign of hostility yet. And so, Zilvra ascended the ladder, and while she was not entirely without fear, she was also admittedly fascinated. What were these creatures? How were they created? They had no eyes, and yet they seemed to looking at them. Could they see? They certainly seemed to know where they were going, and performed all their tasks without any hindrance that Zilvra would have expected of blinded individuals, but how could they possibly see without eyes? It was a curious conundrum, but Zilvra could not allow herself to be distracted by these creatures, however much she wanted to know their secrets. Her primary goal was getting out of there alive.

And there was the Lamia. A proud, beautiful and striking creature... And incredibly dangerous. Zilvra wondered how quickly that tail of hers could move. How fast she could slither. Could she escape a creature like that if it chose to attack? ... No, she was almost certain she could not. So, nothing to be gained by keeping her distance.

With that in mind, Zilvra took a couple of steps in front of the rest of the group and greeted the creature with a respectful bow. "Nysia of Nar’Vhen," she greeted the Lamia politely, with her usual silvery tone. "Zilvra De Valle of Alliria. I have heard a great deal of you and your extraordinary creations. Truly, it is an honour. It is only a pity that we must meet under... Unfortunate circumstances." She deliberately kept things vague. She had no idea if Nysia had ever heard of her, or had any idea why she had come. Best to test the waters and see where she stood.
 

Srivani

The Dancing Flame
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'I've brought the dancer. Cast down the netting.'

Srivani couldn't help but sneer from underneath her hood. It was then as she heard the ropes being cast down that she looked up at the ghastly ship and her amber eyes widened a fraction, her mouth falling open. Dread and panic rose up in her chest, surging so fast that she feared she might vomit. If she could swim, she'd have taken the option of swimming back to the docks; even without the ability she still briefly considered taking her chances.

Siegewright's voice dragged her back to her senses and she flinched with a sharp gasp as she remembered how to breathe. She did absolutely nothing to hide her fear as she looked up at him. She wanted to turn back. It was cowardly, but she didn't care. She had never felt such trepidation, and she longed for her guilded cage and comforts back at the keep. Sri looked around at each of her companions, silently praying that she was not the only one who wished to retreat, but it seemed that the decision had been made already and her knuckles paled as her fingers tightened on the side of the rocking skiff.

There was little choice in the matter, and so Sri gave a quick, flustered nod at Seigewright, her eyes closing tightly as she allowed him to carry her onboard, all the while whispering in her dead language; a prayer to the gods who had long abandoned her. The dread seemed to drape over her like a cold, wet blanket, weighing her down and chilling her to the bone. Her grip on the Warforged tightened as her feet were settled down upon the deck and she reluctantly opened her eyes before wishing she hadn't.

The genasi froze as she let her terror-stricken gaze drift from faceless to faceless, her breath catching in her throat. But, it was nothing in comparison to the Lamia. An audible whimper tumbled from her lips at the sight of the serpentine woman. Her body shuddered, her legs weakening and threatening to buckle under her weight as she took a step back, though her back only met with her ‘captor’.

Tears pooled in her eyes as she looked up at Siegewright and then to Elliot before letting her gaze fall to her bare feet rather than look at this nightmare any longer..
 

Elliot Aldmar

Dornoch's Most Wanted Man
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Siegewright slotted himself appropriately into his role, offering to carry Srivani up to put on the necessary airs of being one of her captors. Elliot gave him an approving nod. Of course, judging by the readily apparent reluctance visible in brief glimpses from under Srivani's hood, that wasn't the sole reason Siegewright had made the offer.

The net before them was extraordinary, and it was not the means by which Elliot had boarded the ship for his first meeting with the Lamia. Zilvra said outright that there was dark magic at work and this gave voice to what all of them were surely thinking. Though Elliot couldn't have said what manner of magic Nysia had at her command, a gambler's bet would have--fittingly--been on black.

I certainly hope your pretty friend is worth it.

A glance to Zilvra. "Her worth is her own. It'll come from within, or it won't at all." And to this opinion he held, the thought awaiting to be enumerated upon moments later.

His turn to grasp the netting after Zilvra ascended. Elliot reached out, touched it, and it was like Zilvra's voiced warning mixed with Srivani's trepidation coiled together like a twinned dagger and stabbed into his heart. The midnight grip of dread radiated out from Elliot's chest. His brow narrowed sharply, his lips trembled and his nostrils flared. Stay. Stay the course. Call to mind your meditations, your teachings from the Dreng'toth. Know that discipline. Courage does not exist in the absence of fear. Control it. Do not let it control you. That which is aware of the fear is not itself afraid. Your morals have guided you here, and they are not conditional: this fear is no reason to abandon them.

The moment passed, Elliot's expression flattened back to neutrality, so much as it could, and he ascended the netting.

The layout of the deck fit neatly into his recollection from memory. He hadn't gotten a count on the Imitations before, and he wasn't going to bother with one now. Either their presence would matter little, or would matter not at all. If it mattered little, it might well be that they became a non-issue after Nysia was dealt with, dropping devoid of life without her commands or presence.

Elliot looked to Siegewright and Srivani, and the glistening wetness about Srivani's eyes did not escape his notice. Yet, under the demands of the present circumstance, he could not offer reassurance--nothing but an impassive captor's face as it were. He knew it was troubling, immensely so, for those who had known nothing but the ostensible safety and meager comforts of a slavish life to depart from that and embrace the uncertain and the unknown. But one day, in a distant future, perhaps Srivani would look back on this hour of liberation and know it to be the most important hour of her entire life. Just as Elliot knew well that very same hour for himself, when at last he fled from the stifling oppression of Dornoch.

Thero greeted them. They approached the stern of the ship, and the Lamia perched like royalty upon her lavish chaise lounge. Zilvra spoke first, and then it was Elliot's turn to make his initial play.

He made a small gesture of his hand back to Siegewright and Srivani. Said to Nysia, "I needed a few extra hands to make the extraction and transport work. I've already negotiated their cuts of the payment I am to receive. No more is required."

No greed. The transaction proceeding as planned. And, as daring as it was to "capture" Srivani with so few resources and people, a marvel that the transaction was happening at all. This was impression Elliot wanted to leave the Lamia with.

If all was seemingly within the ordinary, nothing was needed to be guarded against.

Nysia Srivani Zilvra Siegewright
 

Nysia

The Seeker
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The fan fluttered back and forth.

Bright violet eyes narrowed upon Zilvra as she spoke, flickering to Elliotn a moment later as he offered his explanation. The Lamia's expression never changed, never shifted. The only sound was that of the gulls high in the air, the press of the winds over the ship, and the gentle caress of the fan moving back and forth within the nightmares hand.

For a painful amount of time Nysia seemed to remain silent, watching her prey. All the while her fan seemed to flutter back and forth, the touch of her fingers soft enough to make it appear as though she hadn't even moved.

Slowly he gaze fell upon Elliot.

"Is that so?" There was a surprising softness to her tone, yet it seemed her words echoed within the ear to an unnatural amount.

The fan flickered back and forth. "Is it really necessary to lie, Elliot?"

Her eyes flickered over Zilvra, head turning for a brief moment as the Lamia's gaze fell over the other two companions.

"Honestly, I expected better of you." As the fan fluttered back and forth a strange purple mist began to form around the Lamia. It seemed to purvey through the air, drifting, crawling towards the companions. "I thought you knew."

The Lamia offered. "Understood what I am."

As the spoke the mist drew closer and closer, enveloping those who stood before the great Serpent. It wrapped around them, and then slowly began to change. It was a twist, an ether that seemed to warp the very perception of reality.

The world seemed to grow smaller, the space around the ship seemed to shrink, and her words echoed within the mind.

"We made a bargain, little Drow." Nysia's voice thundered. "And I expect my payment."

As she spoke, the mist that had slowly been creeping forward began to manifest. Serpents crawled from within the shadows, creeping forward and wrapping themselves around those who stood before the Lamia. Slowly they skulked upward, reaching, grasping. "Or..."

The word rang out.

"Shall I make a new bargain..." A wicked smile touched her face. "With your companions?"

As she spoke, the serpents that had been creeping forwards slowly seemed to shift.

Each and every one changed, though how they shifted became different for every one of the companions.

Zilvra would see the serpents suddenly turn to gold. Their flesh seemed to shimmer and glow, lightning with the spark of wealth as coin's fell from their skin and collected around her feet. Her clothes changed, shifting to silks and linens fit for an Empress. A wealth that even the Merchant Kings of Alliria would have been envious of. Power.

Siegewright would see the serpents shift, draw around his legs...and then see flesh begin to form. A body of steel and metal would turn to skin and muscle. A hand of steel would turn to that of a man. The passing of a snake would becoming something far more real than any sorcerer would have to offer. Life.

Then the serpent would touch Srivani. She would see the snake touch her flesh, roll across her stomach, betwixt her chest, and surrounding her throat. The Genasi would feel the brief touch of a collar of her throat, a chain dragged around her body. Then it would shatter. Broken chains fell to the floor, a clatter of steel an iron falling to the deck. Freedom.

These visions came to pass, falling over the companions.

Drawing their attention as the Lamia suddenly snapped forward.

Within the span of the breath the great serpent fled from her perch, rushing over the deck of the ship. Her tail snapped forward, wrapping around Elliot before he could move an inch. Her Index, sharpened steel as it was, dragged beneath his chin along his throat. "Will you take what you want?"

Nysia whispered.

"Or, will you use my gifts to run?" A wicked grin spread on her lips. "Like your father?"
 
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Siegewright

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..... What........ What is this?

Every one of Siegewright's senses he possessed were practically screaming in his consciousness. At first it was because he had never felt magic so potent and dark, but then it seemed to shift. His grip on Srivani tightened unconsciously as he looked at his hand holding her. My hand... It was actually a hand. One of flesh and bone. Was it? That couldn't be right. How would he know? Siegewright knew of course that he must've once been human; there was not magic powerful to fully fabricate a sentient soul. Or so Ranulphus had told him, though that was long ago. But his memories of his life before died with his body. He didn't know what flesh truly felt like, or what anything felt like.

All the same, he continued to stare in wonder. Could it be true? He did not want to hope; he had come to hate the burning and consuming feeling he used to get when wondering what it would be like to have a body. He had been told that was called jealousy, and that it was an ugly feeling. It certainly seemed so. The many nights he wondered what it would feel like to sleep and experience dreams like he had heard others fantasize. What would it be like to eat? What kinds of foods did he like? Did he have a favorite in his life before?

That's when it finally hit him. He could feel. Srivani's shaking hands in his jarringly pulled him out of his trance. He had never felt anything in the decades, possibly centuries of memories he held. His forged body had not been capable. Was this Lamia truly capable of restoring human flesh to a soul that hadn't been human in so long? A real body that enabled him to feel every tremor as Srivani experienced what he imagined was similar to his own illusion? What type of power and darkness would lie in that ability?

At this thought, Siegewright quickly began to look around. He could only see Srivani due to her proximity; everything and everyone seemed to be shrouded in suffocating mist. Elliot and Zilvra could be gone, for all he knew; the mist was so thick it was impossible to tell. He wasn't sure what compulsion overcame him or how it managed to reach him through Nysia's incredible powerful magic, but the voices crying to him from the beginning finally seemed to reach him. He quickly tugged Srivani into his arms in an effort to protect her from whatever may be enthralling them.
"Do not listen." He whispered low to her. Siegewright did not know much of Nysia, but he doubted that her honeyed words came without tremendous price. "It is likely a trap, and a dangerous one."

The illusion of his flesh would likely fade soon as he turned from her temptation. Although he was quite certain it was simply a bribe- a promise of what he could have at great cost- he relished it for just a moment. It was so nice to feel something, even if the situation was rather bleak. But there were more important tasks at hand. The impending battle before him seemed almost insurmountable, but Siegewright was not one to go down without a fight.
 
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Srivani

The Dancing Flame
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The pregnant silence that fell after her companions spoke was palpable. Even the gulls seemed to quiet and the sea to still. She heard her own heart pounding in her chest, trying to hammer some sense into her to flee, but there was nowhere to go. She knew before the snake woman spoke that something was wrong.

Nysia's soft sonority sent Srivani rigid one moment and shuddering the next. The words seemed to slither into her mind and crawl down her spine, gooseflesh blooming across her flawless flesh in their wake. She didn't dare look up, she felt the Lamia's eyes surveying them, heard the cunning in her tender tone. And she knew it wouldn't end well.

It was the sight of the unnatural mist creeping balefully toward her feet that caused her to look up, a sharp gasp catching in her throat as she pressed back against Seigewright. If she lived through this day she would remember it as the day she realised her fear of serpents. Her whimpers and whines as she tried to kick at them soon turned to a scream as one coiled around her leg and slithered up her body to wreath its way around her throat. That the snake shifted to something more solid did nothing to mollify her, her chest heaved in panic under the weight of collar and chain and she bleated her pleas for it to stop.

And then it did.

Srivani stared down at the broken chains, shuddering as she gasped for air through her dying sobs. It was a strange sensation, to see even the illusion of the collar and chains she'd worn her entire life, even if they had been as invisible as the cage she'd resided in. Her brow furrowed. She didn't understand.

Why did she want her brought here, only to offer her freedom?

She jolted as Siegewright dragged her from her daze and into his arms and she looked up at him, his illusion not visible to her, though if it had been she might not have clung to him so easily. Protection was offered and comfort was taken as she wrapped her arms around the solid torso of the war forged and buried her face against his chest, letting his words sink into her mind and holding as tightly to them as she did to his waist.
 
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Zilvra

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"Is it really necessary to lie, Elliot?"

Oh dear... Well, this was not going to plan. From what Elliot had said before, the element of surprise was the sole advantage that they had. Turns out, they did not have it. Likely never did. From the looks of things, Nysia had known about the betrayal since before they had even boarded the ship. And now they had no plan whatsoever. Damn, all of this trouble over a whore. No, it wasn't even about the girl. Zilvra could've easily lived without the revenue she was brining in. It was her injured pride that had caused all this trouble. The offense that someone would take something that was hers without so much as acknowledging her. Zilvra couldn't simply let that go, and so she had gotten in over her head with an extremely powerful enemy that she had no hope of defeating. She really needed to pick her battles better... But at this point it seemed unlikely this would be a lesson she would get the chance to learn.

As the purple mist began to emanate from Nysia's fan, Zilvra backed away from the Lamia towards the rest of the group. She may not be able to escape it, but at least she could be sure to surround herself with her allies and make sure that she was not the closest target in Nysia's path. Of course Mute, loyal as ever, took a step forward to stand in front of her, drawing his curved twin bladed in the process. When the mist hit, he was the first to be hit.

When the snakes started forming around them, Mute attacked instantly, cutting and chopping at every beast that came near, though it made very little difference. With every snake he killed, multiple more appeared until the group was completely overwhelmed. There was nothing he could do for the others, and eventually even himself.

Zilvra used her limited defence magic to conjure a small ball of blue flames on each hand.. Whatever powers these snakes possessed, she imagined they were as vulnerable to fire as any other serpent. Luckily for her though, these snakes did not seem interested in attacking. Instead, they seemed intent on providing her with everything her heart could desire. Wealth, prestige, the most beautiful gown of the finest silk that coins could by. Lowering her guard momentarily, as it seemed she was in no immediate danger, the drow took a moment to admire the quality of the clothing... Though it was not the fabric itself that impressed her so. "Illusion magic," she assumed, looking in awe at not only the physical beauty of the dress, but also feeling the texture of it as she lifted her arms and the silk gently slid over her skin. "Finest I've ever seen," she complimented the Lamia's handiwork with a smile. Zilvra was quite talented with illusions herself, but they were mostly only visual and audible. She had yet to master the illusions of touch, taste and scent. Whatever kind of illusion this was, it was absolutely first class.

While Zilvra admired Nysia's magic, Mute was quickly losing his battle with the snakes. While he attempted to kill every serpent that came near him, he eventually became overwhelmed until the snakes completely covered his body, and as he cried out in terror, one even managed to slither inside his mouth. Mute dropped to his knees and screamed as he grabbed hold of the serpents, desperately throwing them away from his body, but when he went to grab the snake that had entered his mouth, it was gone... In fact, all of the snakes were gone... But there was something still there. Something in it's place. The snake was no longer a separate entity anymore, it was part of him. As he got to his feet, Mute looked around desperately at the place where the snakes had once been. And then... "What's happening?"

That voice... It was had come from his own mouth. It was his! Not the soft, timid child's voice that he'd had when his tongue was taken from his as a boy. It was a man's voice. And it was his! He could speak again! "I... Is this real?" Mute asked in amazement, looking back and forth between the faces of his companions. "How is she doing this."

And Zilvra could hear him. They all could. So, this was no illusion magic after all. This was real. Fascinating... But also extremely dangerous. "Calm down, boy," Zilvra advised. "And keep your wits about you. Can you not see what is happening? This Lamia is offering us all of our heart's desires on a silver platter." ... Yes, everything they could dream of. For Mute and Seigewright, desires that could not even be attained through natural means. And if there was one thing she had taught Mute, she hoped he would remember it now... Never trust a silver platter.

"Will you take what you want?"

Nysia whispered.

"Or, will you use my gifts to run?" A wicked grin spread on her lips. "Like your father?"

"And what is it that you desire?" Zilvra asked the Lamia. "What new bargain would you strike with us?" Zilvra was no fool. Refusing the Lamia's offer would be suicide. If Nysia thought that none of them could be useful, then they would be expendable, and she doubted that Nysia had much patience for expendable individuals. Zilvra's best move was to stall for time... Or, of course, alternatively, she could always accept the deal.
 

Elliot Aldmar

Dornoch's Most Wanted Man
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Is it really necessary to lie, Elliot?

Elliot shared in that very moment the same thought as Zilvra. That surprise was their advantage, a first and final strike their optimal method of solving this problem. And their one advantage was gone--with it, the initiative. How the Lamia had gotten the better of them, Elliot did not know, and it was no longer important.

All that he had said back in the Inn about the risk of this venture was damn true. Though he could not speak for Siegewright or Srivani or Zilvra, the feeling of necessity impinging upon him had forced him into a disadvantageous position, and he loathed that it was so. Fighting uphill was always fraught with peril, regardless of the force of necessity pushing at one's back.

Yet he had deemed that it must be done. And so here he was, risks once solely in mind now playing out in reality.

Elliot drew one of his daggers when Nysia's fan fluttered, but the effort came to nothing--the Lamia disappeared behind a veil of thick purple mist. This mist rolled forth, coming to envelope Elliot and the others, separating them through obscurity. He looked left. Looked right. Widened his stance and narrowed his brow and cast hard, observant eyes about his surroundings, but it amounted to nothing. The mist shrouded everything beyond arm's reach. It was at times like these that Elliot lamented the fact that he did not have as skillful a grasp over the art of Necromancy as did the masters of the Dreng'toth.

We made a bargain, little Drow. And I expect my payment.

"I know."

Options flickered through his mind, presenting themselves and weighing their own viability. Elliot knew what he needed to depart this ship with, the cover of Darrethyn Ilsendrith intact and without the danger of being unraveled on a whim. The question was what he would need to do in order to secure this state of affairs.

He heard Siegewright speaking to Srivani elsewhere in the haze. Heard Zilvra speaking to her bodyguard Mute. Heard someone else whose voice he'd not heard prior.

Then something burst forth toward him.

Before Elliot knew it, he was constricted, that great span of a serpentine body that was Nysia's lower half coiled around him. His right arm, the one which held his dagger, was pinned against his side. Only his left was loose--though it could do little more than brace against the Lamia's scaly hide. Elliot clenched his teeth, grimacing. He felt a sharp claw against his neck as he, now, was face-to-face with Nysia. If only he had that corpse! They lacked surprise, but a close-range Corpse Explosion was just as devastating without it.

Or, will you use my gifts to run? Like your father?

An intense flash of anger, of hatred, sparked in Elliot's eyes at the mention. He didn't even need to know what business Ormarel had had with Nysia, or even if Nysia was speaking any measure of truth. The mere mention, unexpected as it had been, was enough to elicit a reaction.

It took a hard, forceful recalling of the Dreng'toth's stoic and meditative teachings to separate himself from that brilliant anger, that radiant hatred, and to stay on course.

Constricted as he was, Elliot struggled through bared teeth to say, "I'm here...to amend...the deal."

He completely disregarded Zilvra's questions of Nysia. She was free to pursue that line of action as much as Elliot was free to pursue his. But he had a fair idea of where Zilvra's would lead.

Nysia Zilvra Siegewright Srivani
 

Nysia

The Seeker
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Navaia only smiled.

"What price can you put upon your dreams?" The Lamia mused as Zilvra made her demand.

The Serpent kept her eyes on Elliot, those bright violet orbs never leaving his own gaze. Yet the others would feel as though they were being watched, as though every step and move could be seen. It was unnerving, out of place. Like they had been thrown into some place beyond the reality they had lived in for so long.

"What cost is fair..." She mused. "For a voice? For power?"

The serpent turned her eyes away from Elliot for the fist time, gazing through the mist. "For humanity itself?"

There was a pause, then she returned her attention back to the Drow within her clutches. Elliot would feel the tail around him tighten slightly, constricting around him as she finally answered Zilvra's question. Her voice loud enough for all of them to hear. "I do not desire. I only provide."

She smiled at Elliot.

What she wanted they could not provide, none of them could. Each of them could make their bargains, and in those bargains they might help her build steps. More than that they could not do. That task she had for herself.

"Elliot wanted a life, a name that was not his own. Freedom to move, to do as he pleased. In this land or any other." Her expression never changed as she spoke. "In exchange he brought me a bird. A bird that demanded nothing less than the Freedom he now has."

After a moment of silence she continued on. "But it seems, he got attached."

The Lamia loomed over Elliot for a moment more, her tail twisting back and forth until just as quickly as she had seized him she swept herself away. The mist around them did not fade away, but it's constriction around them lessened.

They would be able to see each other fully now, the realities that existed within the Serpent's magic.

"But I am not unreasonable." Within the shroud of purple Nysia seemed almost more massive than she had been before, the fan in her hand slowly fluttering back and forth as she watched the companions. "What is your amendment, dearest Elliot?"
 

Elliot Aldmar

Dornoch's Most Wanted Man
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Breathing itself became difficult as Nysia coiled tighter. Elliot's nostril's flared, his eyebrows arched and his forehead creased as he strained to keep a steely composure, strained against the evergrowing fire in his chest. He could hear the Lamia speaking, addressing him and the others, but the true registration of the words was delayed, halted by the immediate and mounting need for air.

Then, abruptly, he was let go. Elliot touched down to the deck on a knee and a hand, taking in a few large gulps of air. He had a moment, before he stood up straight, that perhaps the better play would have been straightforward aggression once they had boarded the ship, instead of stringing along the pretense of peace to try to leverage an advantage they did not have in the first place. But, retrospect was retrospect. Useless in the present moment.

What Nysia had been saying earlier came to mind now. I do not desire, I only provide. That was as bold-faced a lie as the aforementioned pretense, else Srivani would still be on display at Beaufort Castle. Only the dead were without want. He'd have to pay close attention to glean what it was that Nysia did desire, since this whole affair had shifted into a negotiation. Not the way Elliot had wanted it to go, but the solid option was out. Not completely out, but effectively out.

And so it was a negotiation. Ostensibly.

But I am not unreasonable. What is your amendment, dearest Elliot?

He met eyes with Nysia. Said, "A name and a life not my own. That's what I need. Not what I want. You are incapable of giving me what I want." Unbeknownst to him, Nysia had harbored a similar thought.

Elliot sheathed his drawn dagger. A symbolic gesture more than anything, given the disparity of circumstances. "But you can help. And you can benefit."

Glances, then, back to his companions, now that he could see them in the wake of the mist's partial retreat. Brief, scrutinizing looks, for Elliot was taking in their measure. Assessing what he knew of them. Zilvra? No. She was far too mercenary (though he didn't fault her for that), her line of work fostering the kind of ethic that was wholly unsuitable for what Elliot was planning. Srivani? Emphatically no. Elliot could read it in her demure face that she would outright lack the resolve. And after that flirtation with returning, willingly, into the King of Oban's custody, it was clear that she could not be relied upon--nothing short of a miraculous demonstration of right character could change Elliot's mind there. Siegewright? Maybe. But he had the distinct potential to be swayed by the misbegotten morals of others, the selfsame morals which history had proven too meek to be of service in what needed to be done. Siegewright lacked his own self-made ethic, and that, as it stood, just wouldn't do.

So Elliot said to Nysia, "I will only discuss it in confidence. Between you and me."

Let them think what they would think--Zilvra and Srivani and Siegewright. It might even be true. But this was what Elliot determined he must do.

"I will tell you what I propose then."

Nysia Zilvra Srivani Siegewright
 

Siegewright

Mercenary
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The words to describe what Siegewright was feeling weren't coming to him. It was akin to being caught in a flood; both overwhelming and a sense of being trapped. And yet, when Srivani wrapped her arms around him in fear, it didn't seem so bad. For just a moment, the mist didn't seem as dense, and the rest of the world didn't appear so far out of reach. It was less... lonely? Was that the right word? He had been asked if he was lonely once or twice in his travels, but he wasn't entirely sure what that meant. In that instance, it made a little more sense. Hesitantly, he placed a sturdy hand on her back. A minimal gesture at best, but he was already overwhelmed. Too much so to say anything.

It was a shame that most of the feelings weren't this pleasant. Dread skittered its long fingers down Siegewright's back; another new experience for him. Nysia's piercing gaze seemed to scorch right through his armor, despite her not even looking at him. He lacked the intellectual depth to fully understand her implications, but her statement of only providing did not seem right. Why after all would she be interested in taking Srivani in the first place? Such saint-like words coming from an other-wordly creature left Siegewright uneasy. He turned slightly, keeping Srivani blocked in his arms and noting the marks on her neck. It must have been part of her illusion.

That's when the others caught his eye. Zilvra being presented with fine silks and treasures that would leave even the most wealthy kings drooling, and Elliot in Nysia's reptilian grasp. He watched their exchange intensely, feeling that his intervention would only make things more dangerous for Elliot and the others. He had gone quite a bit of time without saying anything; merely keeping a hand poised at the hilt of his broadsword should it be needed.

He had successfully avoided flinching until Elliot announced he would communicate with Nysia in private.
What is he doing? The actions and motives of the living had never truly stopped baffling him, but this moment especially so. Surely it would be far too dangerous for him to go alone, wouldn't it? Siegewright considered asking if he could join- lacking a physical body made for a great body guard-, but the message in Elliot's dark gaze insisted otherwise. Besides, leaving Srivani with only Zilvra and hosts of soulless bodies didn't sit well with him.

Did Elliot not trust him? Had he disappointed his comrades? These thought accompanied an aching in his chest; yet another new feeling of which he wasn't fond. He had fought so hard to find some kind of purpose and be of use... did it not work? Trying to smother battling narratives in his mind, Siegewright stared at Elliot intensely.
"We will wait."
 

Srivani

The Dancing Flame
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The genasi remained riveted to Siegewright as she listened to the voices and watched the mist settle, bringing her companions and the Lamia back into view. She gathered from Zilvra and Mute that she had not been the only one tempted by the demon's illusions, and she dreaded to think of what motives lay behind them.

With her cheek pressed against Siegewright's chest, like a child hiding fearfully by a mother's skirts, she watched the interaction between Elliot and the Lamia, and a cold shiver spider-walked up her spine at the dark elf's terms. Srivani lifted her head slightly, her brow furrowing in confusion.

Her amber gaze rose to look up at the mercenary protecting her with a look of trepidation and a mute plea that he not allow Elliot to hand her over, having assumed that to be the drow's intention.

"What is he doing?.." she asked quietly, echoing his thoughts.
 

Nysia

The Seeker
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There was a brief pause. It seemed to hang in the air, silence.

Mist swirled all around them, slowly flowing like a tide. A pule rang through the unsettling fog, holding in place even as Elliot demanded privacy. A smile flickered over the Serpent's lips, her eyes quickly snapping to the Drow's allies.

She watched the unease folding over them, the way they seemed to shiver slightly. How they wondered what their 'friend' was doing. There was a delight in that, a certain joy.

Nysia mused for a few moments, as though she were prepared to deny the young mans request. Her fan fluttered back and forth, small drips of the strange purple mist flowing down from it's end as she sat there considering. Then after a moment her head dipped in a nod. "I suppose."

Her smile widened.

"I can offer you that much." As her words dripped from her tongue the mist seemed to pull away, slowly drawing over the deck of the ship and down to the sea.

With it went the reality that had clung to the others. Siegewrite took on his normal form, the sense of Freedom held within Sirvani's chest disappeared, and the richest surrounding Zilvra suddenly disappeared. It was an emptiness that remained without Nysia's touch.

An addiction lost, calling. A craving setting in.

The Lamia motioned slowly to Elliot. "Come then."

She purred, and without a moment of hesitation she lead the Drow towards a large door situated on the aft of the deck. The gateway was decorated with the visage of dozens upon dozens of serpents, each one with an unsettling visage that seemed to stare into the very soul.

The room beyond was decorated no less garishly than the rest of the ship, an echo of the chambers that Elliot had stood in when he had made his first bargain with the Lamia.

On the deck of the ship the rest of the Companions would find themselves surrounded by the strange Faceless golems. They moved around the deck, attending their duties. Some tended the sails, others raised the anchor, and just behind where Nysia had once been remained Thero. The odd mask of a man.