Private Tales Dangerous Ground

A private roleplay only for those invited by the first writer


Character Biography
Sierra sat stiffly in the wagon with a cargo of wooden wine barrels. Gloved fingers tightened on the reigns of the restless mare. It was late, well past midnight. She was at a junction in the city. Not too close to the Academy but close enough that it kept her on high alert. Eyes narrowed on the shop across the street and the lack of light flickering outside.

There was supposed to be one.

Gods above. Her senses were spread wide in the surrounding area and the streets just beyond. Sensing the emotions of those that were still out. Most drunkards and whores. A few heading off to night-shifts. She shifted her power to the shop.


What happened to her contact? Had they been found out and dragged back to be tortured by the soldiers of Vel Anir? Or did they forget or run into trouble? Or just get piss-poor drunk. As leader of the Underground, Sierra relied on a tight network of fellow rebels to get this precious cargo out of the city and to the closest portal. It was too risky for a Proctor to do it. For Sierra to do it. Even in ordinary merchant's clothes. But tonight?

It was looking like she didn't have a choice.

The horse stamped a restless hoof against the cobblestones.

"I know girl," Sierra whispered. "One more minute."
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When did it become a tradition to give a kid a penny for Yule?

Cillian patted down his ash covered trenchcoat with a grumble then shook out his matted hair. There were not many of his peoples pennies left in the world but there was enough that it meant his time around the winter solstice was less about paying attention to his own craft and more about having to fulfil a child's innocent wish. It became quite a pain in the arse, if he were being honest. That last one in particular.

"Wonder wha' her ma will think when they come down tae a pony in tae livingroom," he shook his head with a ruthless smile. The exit through the chimney had been less than idea but given how small the home was it was near impossible to get to the door around the great beast with a bow around his neck and a tag that said Sugar lump.

The Leprechaun nodded every now and then to the odd person on the street at this hour but most of the time they paid him no mind. He probably looked like a drunk who had fallen in an inns fire then been tossed out. At least it meant he wasn't going to be bothered, which was a big plus in a city such as this one.

He was passing under the lamp of one when it suddenly sprung to life. Startled, he stopped and peered up at it.
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Stormy-blue eyes narrowed as the light finally fired up. Movement beneath it. With the way the Underground was set, only certain people knew each other. They operated as separate cells so that if anyone got caught and tortured for information it wouldn't splinter the entire organization. A wise suggestion from Harrier.

"C'mon girl," Sierra flicked her wrists and the mare clip-clopped forward on the stones toward the figure beneath the light. Coming up along his side, she pulled back on the reigns. Getting a better look at the stranger.

Were they recruiting drunks into the Underground now?

Sierra knew they couldn't afford to be extremely choosy but this?

The frown deepened on her lips but all the same, she addressed the swarthy-looking man. "I was beginning to think you wouldn't show. The wind is blowing strongly from the North."

The second part was the code. She just had to make sure he was the Underground contact. And if he was, he'd say the right thing. If he wasn't? Well, looked like she'd be onto plan B.

And the wind was most definitely coming from the South.
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Cillian tore his eyes away from the lamp which flickered with a brilliant flame to the sound of approaching hoofbeats. The golden hue of his gaze was thrown into a mix of shadow and brighter highlights giving him a more inhuman appearance than normal. He stuck his hands in his pockets and tried to act more casual than the wariness he was feeling; being approached by odd figures in Vel'Anir could lead to death. Scratch that, it most often did lead to death. The city was full of spies and specialist Dreadlords trained to hunt out those that would pose a risk to the order here. A wrong word and it didn't matter who or what you were.

"Eh?" his brows pulled down into a frown. "T'aint a Northern wind Lass, it's definitely coming from the South - it's why there ain't no snow down here yet," he pulled his trench coat a little closer. Even if it was a southern wind it was still bloody cold.

His eyes moved past her to the wagon she pulled.

"T'is a bit late to be out doing honest work."
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Ah shit.

Not the mark.

Jaw clenched. Had he taken down who she was supposed to meet? Just coincidence? She'd have to operate on that until Mister Golden Eyes gave her reason to think otherwise. And it looked like she would have to get this cargo beyond the city walls well before sunrise which was now only a few hours away.

It would be a little risky to use magic here. No telling if magic sensors were around. Or the other dogs of the Vel Anir spies or the House pets. But she couldn't afford to leave a trace.

"My mistake then," the third(ish) level dreadlord replied smoothly. Cowled-head tipped in his direction. Lamplight flickering against the auburn highlights in her hair. Her empath magic would drift in like an invisible fog going to leech into his emotions. She'd try to tug on subtle feelings. Boredom. Drowsiness. Forgetfulness. Anything to make him feel like it was best to forget this encounter. That this never happened. Just something ordinary that could easily be dismissed if he tried to think on it again.

With a shift of the leather between her fingers, she guided her horse and cargo forward even as she worked.
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The Fae were beings of magic; their very essence tied to the waylines of magic that criss-crossed the earth. As such they were highly sensitive to it. Usually they could detect it on people, objects, sometimes even animals if they possessed such abilities. But they most vividly felt it when someone was attempting to use it on them. If they weren't careful magic could actually cause a fae to be rather ill. His mother had once tried to explain it to him but he had only been a few hundred years old and believed himself invisible. Now he had seen more of the world he wished he had paid more attention.

Thankfully this magic didn't make him ill, only a little uneasy. He couldn't quite tell what it was she was hoping to achieve but he found himself wanting to get the hell out of here.

But this was Yule and there was something about this time of year... with the lamp and then her odd words...

"Before ye leave Miss, can I ask, what did ye wish for for Christmas this year?"
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Sierra paused, surprised he wasn't already moving on. His focus being elsewhere. It made her uneasy. And his question caught her off-guard more so than his attention.

She was more than jaded. She wanted to respond that she didn't believe in wishes. That Christmas was just another day of walking a dangerous, thin line. Another day of acting Proctor and running the Academy. Another day of trying to save the magical children of Vel Anir.

But Rose made her pause.

Her Rose. Her daughter was beginning to understand what Christmas was even if her Hal was long gone. And if she successfully made tonight's run, Rose would be able to open up the few gifts she'd gotten her. Sierra had many things she wished for Rose. That she would remain safe. That she'd be protected. That she'd always feel loved. But Sierra couldn't say these things in front of this stranger or even her daughter's name.

"I don't believe in wishes," she drawled, giving him a jaded response but not ending with it. "But if I did and if I had wished for something it would be to get this cargo out of the city safely tonight."
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Like a pond being disturbed by a single leaf, the wish rippled out towards the waiting leprechaun. It was a strong and passionate one from what he could tell as it filled him with that odd desire to carry out what she had wished. He didn't think he would ever be entirely comfortable with the odd phenomenon but he had certainly come to accept it and recognise it for what it was. It were many moons ago that Cilli had learnt that it did more harm than good to ignore his purpose.

"Aye, 'tis a good wish with an environment like this," he ran a hand through his curly mane and then adjusted the faded red scarf he wore about his neck. It might have been a southern wind but it was still cold. "Well lassie, if ye'd like some help and would allow me to prove that wishes do come true... I'm a trader myself and am heading out the city now too," he nodded a little ways further down where his own cart and gypsy cob stood with her nose buried in an oat bag.

"I'd be happy to accompany ye."
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The hell?

It was clear her magic hadn't worked. Her rigid posture didn't falter. Eyes within the deep shadow of her cloak quickly assessed his form, looking for any weapons and calculating how many he could hide. If he truly was with the Anirian authorities or an enemy from another house, wouldn't he have sounded the alarms by now?But she'd already stayed here long enough. Time was running out and if she used more magic to deal with him, things would get messier than she wanted.


If he was lying, then she'd kill him when they got beyond the walls.

"If you can keep up you can come along. If you draw any undue attention to us, so help me," a warning in her clipped tone. Prove that wishes do come true?


Without waiting for him, the dreadlord flicked the reigns one more time, continuing down the street. Taking a breath, she cast her magic like a net across the city. Sensing around them. She knew if they made it to the walls, it would be a bit tricky.
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"Fuckin' wind is warmer than 'er," Cillian muttered quietly under his breath as he made his way over to Frau Frau. The mare raised her head, the tips of her ears which could just about be seen through the mane twitched to and fro as she listened to the departing hooves behind her. Cilli ran his hand down her neck in a comforting gesture but also to steal a bit of her warmth before he set about untying her from her post.

"Aye Frau Frau?" the horse merely blinked at him. In short order he was up on his own seat and guiding her along neatly to join up with the frosty woman and her cart. When they had caught up he slowed his horse back down to match the rhythm of her own, putting his reins between his legs as he set about making up a pipe.

"My name's Cillian, by the by, and I'm headin' to Alliria myself, where are you headin' lass?"
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Cloaked head turned to him, the flickering street torchlight casting her face in odd shadows until one angled just right, lighting up those shifting blue-gray eyes of hers. Showing dappled freckles along her skin. Though her features were young, her eyes echoed age from loss, pain, and experience.

"The portal stone just beyond the walls. And from there?" She sighed one hand lifting from the reigns and rubbing at the back of her neck. "Might be better if you don't know." He was already putting himself in more danger than he knew. If they caught her and he was with her?

They'd both be tortured and then probably skinned alive.

"You might be making a mistake joining me," she cleared her throat and leveled the man with a look. "This is very valuable wine."
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"I see."

He didn't. Not really. Despite his flare for the dramatics and his running streak of luck, Cillian was not always the quickest when it came to working things such as subtle messages out. There had been more than one occasion where he had found himself the object of someone's hurt pride or ire because he had misinterpreted the moment. In this case he thought she might be implying the goods were stolen. Now, despite being an honest merchant himself, he was not above rubbing elbows with thieves and black market dealers. Everyone had to make a living somehow and where there was a market there was a supplier.

"Well, I've been told I'ma bit o' a lucky charm, so maybe things won't go so bad," he threw her a disarmingly charming grin before looking back down at his pipe. With it fully stuffed he lit it and put it in his mouth. A pleasant smell of pine wafted from it.

"If ye ah.. wanted someone to move on those good for ye I could probably do that, if ye need to stick in tae city. There's room a plenty amongst tae shoes back there."
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"Lucky charm?" A small, derisive snort left the tip of her nose. "When I first saw you I thought you were just another drunk wandering the streets. But we both know you certainly are not that and not ordinary." A shrewd look in his direction - pipe and all.

Even though her magic hadn't worked to influence his emotions, the empath still kept a close monitor on everything that drifted off the man. And so far, she truly was only sensing sincerity. Unless he was really good at hiding his true emotions.

Auburn brows lofted at his offer.

Threads of her magic picked up on sincerity again. No greed. Nothing nefarious.

"No," she said quickly. "It's not a good ide-," there was a small cry in one of the barrels and a muffled sniff and then even quieter a child's plea.


Another kid's voice, slightly older sounding. "Shut-up Kristine, you're going to get us all killed."
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Frau Frau gave a snort when Sierra called her master a drunk. Cillian swore the horse could understand the Common Tongue in moments like this, but when he needed her to listen she seemed to have no clue what it was he was saying. Perhaps it was just insults about himself she understood, or chose to. He threw his mare a look of hurt before blowing out a thin trail of smoke. It formed a perfect circle then drifted away on that southern wind. He had been intent on listening to the reasons why she thought him taking over the smuggling of stolen goods was a bad idea when she was interrupted.

By the wine.

It didn't take much to work out what was happening given what was known about Vel'Anir. She possessed magic and given her accent was an Anirian which meant she had to be a Dreadlord. Those who had gifts were nothing but weapons for their state. Adding to that the sounds of children's voices and the need to get out of the city... Well...

"I... see," he said slowly. Then cleared his throat and shook of his shock. "I see why the goods are so... important," he nodded and cast a glance over to her. "Well... As I said... I'd be happy to take it to Alliria. I have contacts there who could see your goods well taken care of."
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Sierra was really beginning to like that fluffy-haired horse.

Pulling her horse and cart to a stop, she secured the reigns and took a long step into the cart behind, moving gingerly between the spaces of the barrels. This group were kids whose families voluntarily gave them to Sierra's care. Before the authorities found them out and dragged them to the Academy. It was her goal, to find them before the Academy did. Perhaps they'd have a better life then. Not be chased forever whereas escapees would alway shave to look over their shoulders.

That said, these children were far less disciplined than those smuggled from the Academy. They did not quite grasp how dangerous this journey was. And were certainly not good at taking orders.

"Jacob. Kristine. Remember what I said. Just a little longer."

A pause before both voices rang out.

"Yes ma'am."

She looked to Cillian as she climbed back in the driver's seat, taking up the reigns. The cowl of her cloak slipped to her shoulders and a hand dragged down her tired face.

"Why? Why help me - them? Why do this? I'm assuming you know that if you were to get caught death would be the best thing you could wish for."
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Cillian chewed his pipe in the same manner her chewed over Sierra's question: slow and methodically. The silence stretched between them heavy with the weight of his unspoken answer as though the world itself were also asking why. Why risk his life. Why help a stranger. The hidden voices of the universe nagged quietly at him and added to this woman's voice until he shut his eyes and took a deep breath.

"I've lived a long life lass," he sounded tired and suddenly old. Far older than he looked that was for sure. "An' in my time I've seen some... some 'orrid things. An' I ain't always had the courage to do wha' was right. Bu', I know about this city 'n' I knows what they do to ye here if you show a bit of magical talent. We might not be the same race, but magic is its own bond. Makes us an odd family in a way, eh?" he threw her a cheeky smile and then took another deep inhale on his pipe.

"Ye can take it or leave it lass, but I said I would prove tae ye that wishes do come true."
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The dreadlord gave him a long, measuring look. Again, a brush of her magic against his emotions. What she felt from him radiated deep within her bones. She remembered a time when being an empath was as confusing as it was scary. She'd withdrawn from nearly all at the Academy because she'd had to learn how to shield herself from feeling everything everyone else around her felt.

She'd mastered that control now.

And she'd learned to live with being aware of what others were feeling even with the mastery.

With him?

It only helped his offer. It would be mighty hard to manipulate the sincerity drifting off him like the smoke curling from his pipe. "Alright," she finally said, breathing out sharply through her nose. "Alright," she repeated as if to convince herself. "I mean, those whole wishes come true thing?" Auburn brows lofted on fair skin in challenge to the cheeky man. "Might take more than tonight to convince me."

With a flick of her wrist, she replaced the cowl of her cloak over her features and drove on, eyes on the road.

"Tell me more about your contacts in Alliria." It was clear she wanted to vet them more. "And if I like what I hear, we'll switch over this cargo to your cart just beyond the city walls."
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Cillian still wasn't convinced she wasn't going to toast his arse for his offer. Especially now he knew what it was she was actually doing out here in the dead of night. His fiddling with his pipe, blowing smoke ring after ring, was a nervous tick as he thought of the ways he would be able to get out of her wish. In an odd way it was like a contract and the Fae never backed out of one of those. Bastards were sticklers for rules and that meant Cillian too. The last thing he wanted, even if he could ignore the nagging feeling in his soul, was his Court coming down on him for not following the rules.

"Aye, right," he rubbed the back of his neck. "Well ah, t'aint exactly what you'd like Duchess probably, but I am a merchant n I do know others - plenty - in Alliria who are loookin' for apprentices. I could set them up there nicely with a roof o'er their 'eads, food in their belly, and a profession to set 'em up for life. Nothing fancy mind. Will be hard work - smithing, needle work, horse rearing."
Did he just call her a goddamned Duchess?

She snapped the reigns. "Yeah a merchant who has rose-colored glasses and likes offering strangers wishes," she muttered. Only Christmas would bring her an encounter like this.

"As long as they won't be sold into slavery or mis-treated for their magic then it sounds fine. And so help your contacts if I found out they've mistreated any of these kids." Her senses picked up on the swaying emotions of some sentries ahead. Caught between duty and boredom. Maybe it was standard pre-wall checks. Felt that way.

"Sentries ahead," Sierra warned quietly.

If all this worked, perhaps she'd see if he wanted to help more than this one run. Had to see if he passed his probation period first.
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Cillian chuckled to himself at her sulky words but didn't rise to retort to them. She had that protective streak women often got when it came to children and he knew better than to get involved in that. He was confident in the people he knew that they would be kind to the kids - firm, yes - but mostly kind. It might be a little bit of a culture shock for some of them seeing as they weren't exactly used to elves, dwarfs and the sorts but he was sure they would adapt. He eyed the barrels. Yeah, they'd adapt.

His attention came back to the road as Sierra spoke, golden eyes the colour of a summers sunset scanning the figures loitering by the gates as they came into view. He hoped they would be a little less difficult in who was permitted into the city.

"Evenin' lads," Cilli pulled his horse to a stop as the city Guard stepped up to take a look at who it was approaching at such a late hour. They held a lantern up to cast a pool of light over their faces. "Traders on our way out, early appointment in Alliria I'm afraid."
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One of the soldiers eyed them closely, not quite hiding the look of distrust for the man with the nearly glowing yellow eyes. The anirians were always jumpy around outsiders. And if Cillian had pointed ears Sierra would've ditched him long ago. Prejudices were strong in this city and it was no secret. And the last thing she needed was extra attention.

Sierra cast her power tightly around them, playing on the soldiers emotions as elegantly as playing the piano forte. Everything was fine. Normal checks. Nothing to see here. Move along. Move along.

She could see the look pass the soldiers faces from suspicion and mild curiosity to sudden boredom and disinterest. "Alright. Lesse what ye got and ye can be on yer way." One of the soldiers circled to the back of their carts and prodded at the wine. A second looked through Cillian's cart. They didn't look too hard and Sierra only hoped if they opened one barrel up the couple inches of wine on the fake top would fool them enough.

She had to be careful, though. Dreadlords sometimes helped the guards along the walls.
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Cillian's cart was full of shoes, which one of the guards seemed to think was amusing, but aside from the one snort they dismissed him as boring. That suited the cobbler just fine considering what was in Sierra's wagon. He tried not to look over his shoulder at the guards who were hanging around the back of her cart. They didn't seem to be doing much of a thorough search, talking more to one another about the after shift drinks than about what they saw before them. He hoped the kids knew to keep as quiet as little mice.

Despite his nerves outwardly he remained relaxed, continuing to puff on his pipe and offering a pat to his horse. The guards in front of them didn't even spare them a look and continued to stare straight ahead like the good soldiers they were.

"It's pretty late to be heading to Alliria," one of them said, probably to try and make himself feel a little important by making the two traders sweat a little.

"Aye, I woulda been 'appy to 'ave stayed a little while longer but dae mrs 'ere caught me looking at one o' those pretty girls in Shepherds Hook n now she 'as tae arse." He rolled his eyes for added dramatic effect.
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While Sierra's eyes bulged as big as the goddamned twin-moons, they were luckily hidden within the shadow cast by her cloak. As quickly as they bulged they narrowed in Cillian's direction. One hand tightened on the reigns as the guard gave a low chuckle.

"Nothing wrong with looking I always say." He poked the blunt end of his spear against the wine barrels tapping a few times.

"Yeah and that's why yer single ya big oaf," chimed in the second guard, finding that moving his tongue was keeping him warm on this cold night. The second guard turned away from the wine barrels and scowled at his counterpart.

Sierra cleared her throat. "If that's all, I'd like to get on the road so I can show my husband the error of his ways."

"Don't envy you," the chatty guard called out to Cillian with a smirk and waved his hand for the gates to open. "All clear," he barked down the line. Sierra remained tense. Rigid. She knew not to celebrate quite yet. It was still a long road ahead though the dangers would be considerably less once they passed under those gates. It was quieter beyond the gates. Mostly farm and woodland. A few small towns. Most would be tucked in their beds after the night's celebrations and feastings.
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Cillian grimaced and not an ounce of it was an act. He had a feeling he was going to pay for that comment as much as if he were her husband. He waited for Sierra to go through the gates first before clicking his tongue and letting FrauFrau follow her out. The look on his face was apparently amusing enough because the sound of laughter drifted after them in a taunting manner enjoyed by men. Only when the gates were shut did the laughter cut off and the pair found themselves blissfully alone now on the roads.

Or maybe not blissfully.

"So, ah, the portal stone Duchess?" he flashed her another grin.
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Took her ears a little to adjust to the silent night. Clear, crisp skies. Not as much firelight polluting the stars as from the city behind them. The quiet was strange to her. It reminded her of those first few nights she'd spent with Hal on that island when she'd been nearly 17. And didn't like the weight the memory pressed against her chest.

Finally, she let that cowl of her cloak fall to her shoulders. The loudest sounds around them were their own horses hooves on the road. The creak of the wagon and barrels behind her. And Cillian's own cart and horse. And Sierra could swear she saw a glint of something more intelligent in his horse's eyes when they weren't buried behind all its hair.

The wind blew in their faces now. South they went. "On to the Falwood." That was another problem she'd have to figure out once they got there. It wasn't usually a full-on dreadlord going into enemy territory. She wouldn't blame any elves for shooting her on site.

Head snapped in his direction. A tick along her jaw as those golden eyes got under her skin. "Why do you keep calling me that?"
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