Private Tales Gold and Grain Must Flow

A private roleplay only for those invited by the first writer

Acteon Cass

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Lord Arell stared out at the waters of the great lake that connected the Bystra and Sayve rivers together. Frustration clung from him like a thick veil. His little kingdom in the Reach relied on exporting foodstuff like most of the Reach. Arellian grain was so desired it was as valuable as gold. That was why the banner of Arellia was a golden wheat stalk over a field of blue. It was how they fed themselves and how they could live such comfortable lives.

Yet someone was stealing their ships. The transports carrying grain up the Bystra river were not returning with the goods and golds in payment for it. It was impacting their trade and already causing a panic. If their grain merchants were not paid this year then their farmers would not the next. His coffers could only cover so much of the costs before drained away completely. A crisis was on his hands and it was all due to some unknown thief in the night on the other side of that blue expansion before his eyes.

=========================================

Acteon had received a job request. Lord Arell was requesting his aid in dealing with a piracy problem. The allirian had worked for the man before and even gone out to that minor kingdom on the opposite edge of the Reach when he was working for the guard once. A former guard turned sellsword that the lord was familiar with made Acteon the natural choice in handling an issue of theft. It only made sense that a request would be sent even if Acteon was no actively working of late. Too many other wheels in motion requiring his attention.

But he could not help smiling as he looked at it. This was an investment that could pay handsomely in the future. A favor owed that could see a reliable source of food established when his plans were fully in motion. It could also prove to help legitimize his future actions with a lord's support.

So Acteon wrote back his formal acceptance of the job with amendments to the payment. He would accept none. Both parties would know what that meant and he was gambling on the fact that Lord Arell was in no position to decline.

==========================================

Mercenaries, bounty hunters, and sellswords were all gathered in the dock at Areya, capital of Arellia. Lord Arell was discussing matters with the port master as guards and workers went about loading the ship behind the gathered crowd. A bounty and open offer had been posted for a job of recovering stolen property. The pay was good but it also warned of the danger reflecting the price. Those who learned of the job by word of mouth likely never heard about the risks.

Acteon was amongst those gathered but already knew the details. He had met with the lord previously. Matters were discussed and now here they were. The conversation with the port master was finished up and the Lord stepped forward to address the crowd. His guard captain staying close with a hand on his weapon.

"Pardon my lateness. I am Lord Arell of Arellia. You are gathered here to recover our lost ships and the goods within them. The details on who is behind this is limited. None of our sailors have returned after they left the port transporting our grains up the Bystra river. You will be rewarded properly as this will likely be a very dangerous task. Any who are willing to take the risk will need to board the ship being provided behind you. You will take further orders from the captain of the ship." Lord Arell spoke to them in a booming, commanding voice. "Are there any with further questions?"

The Allirian just glanced about the crowd. Some had already left because of the mention of the ship. He couldn't blame them. While his family had deep connections to ships and sailing, he was not a fan of them himself. The rocking got annoying even on the bigger ships and he loathed naval combat. But he was willing to stay for the reward while others were not. A few were already heading to the ship and some questions asking for more details were already being asked by some of the independent sellswords. The companies and bands already knew what they needed to and were already heading on board.

Gal Borrage
 

Gal Borrage

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Gal was still learning what to even make of ‘the urban expanse’ and crowded spaces when she heard news of mercenary work. Apparently the amount of people in a capital didn’t make word travel any slower than it did amongst mere siblings. She too had only just heard about there being something going on at the docks when she decided to start telling random strangers about it too. It was what everyone else here seemed to do anyway.

While city layouts were confusing to say the least, Gal was able to tag along with other folks also heading to the docks in time to hear the information doled out by Lord Arell himself. Gal’s eyes brightened at the importance of it all.

Perhaps she didn’t know much about this place, or even the basic concept of city-living, but she already knew this job was for her. While others raised questions and concerns, Gal listened quietly, arms folded up. She didn’t have any questions herself but was still curious what others would have to say. In the end, the answers made many of the sellswords leave. Including every one of the strangers Gal had walked here with.

Eventually Gal gave a humored little huff at it all. With her elbow, she roughly nudged a stranger standing next to her in the crowd, a roguish human man with amber eyes. As she did so, she commented quietly to him.

“They’re all so scared of a boat! It’s sturdy under their feet, but with the way they all leave, you’d think he told them all to swim there!”

Gal had never been on a big ship before, but she wasn’t about to concede that to anyone. She spoke confidently, and snickered after she made her comment.


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Acteon Cass

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Most of those gathered decided the job was not worth the risk in the end. Disappointing but all the better for them. Too many hands might drop the cask in this case. They would need people to man the ships, if they had survived, after loading up the goods. But they only needed so many and they could only carry so much weight out on the water. Less people meant less weight to worry about.

And it was during this time an orc woman walked up next to him. A shoulder nudge and a comment followed. He decided to get a good look of her over. The first feature that stood out was how pronounced her muscles were. Not the kind of trait a proper noble woman would ever have. Next was how many scars were on her skin. The pairing indicated she was action if not experienced with fighting. Could prove to be useful later on.

What was curious was the lack of armor. The woman was wearing clothing for a job that would involve killing. Confidence, arrogance, or poverty? Could be any of them. What was most interesting was that her clothes had a flower pattern to the limited embroidery. Not something often seen on those in this line of work, but neither was such an orc woman.

Over all she seemed competent enough and might have thought her prepared for the job due to not wearing armor for a primarily naval engagement if not for her earlier comment. Perhaps she was trying to impress him with it but it showed her lack of experience with boats and naval combat. So the lack of armor was coincident. A shame. But he decided to keep an eye on her. She was friendly so far, had an interesting bow on her, and had the potential to be useful to him.

A smile crossed his face for her. "They might have to if the boat sinks. Some men are just not up for a challenge." His smile shifted into a smirk. "Something I imagine you have experienced all too often."

A wink followed up. The whole thing was playful but did verge on flirty. He was aware of that fact and did nothing to correct it. She seemed to be the type who would respond best to a bit of friendly fun rather than strict seriousness. Which suited him fine. Being strict was boring in the long run and he could always adjust how casual and playful he was with her as things went along.

Gal Borrage
 

Gal Borrage

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Gal was keen-eyed, she noticed the stranger glance her over. She simply didn’t think much of it. She was a lot to look at, and a lot of people had done so in one way or another upon entering the city. She decided against ever commenting on it. Before he spoke up, Gal’s attention had temporarily returned to listening to another question. Something about ship’s own defenses. She was back to looking at Acteon before the Lord had even answered.

At the man’s words, one brow of Gal’s immediately quirked upwards. Honestly, he raised a good point but before she could say anything, he was wily tagging on a remark about her companions. She frowned.

“That’s. True.,.” Gal started slowly, as if not wanting to admit it. She furrowed her brows, stern. “Most people can’t swim a whole loch--sure--but just because you can, doesn’t mean you have to brag about it! Someone’s bound pick you up and test your prowess if you say that to everyone you meet today..”


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Acteon Cass

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In the background of the orc woman responding to Acteon was Lord Arell's response about the ship's defenses. A pair of scorpions were mounted on the fore and aft of the deck. These could be used to shoot regular bolts, flaming bolts, or harpoons with and without lines attached to allow a boarding action. The sides also had raised ridges to allow a place for crossbowmen, archers, and slingers to reload in safety. The fore of the ship was also covered in a sheet of metal for ramming actions. Over all it was meant to be a quick jack-of-all trades sort of vessel dependent more on the skill of the captain than its own advantages.

The Allirian was aware of all of this already, and it was not as if the one asking the question could not have looked and seen it for themselves. But there was always someone who had to ask the obvious. It would be a bad omen if not.

The more pressing concern for him was how this orc woman had completely missed his point. It had been under a layer of subtly yes, but a layer he had thought anyone would have seen through. This woman though had not. She had taken him seriously and now was giving him a serious response.

.....This revelation excited him. Certainly not a sign of the most complex thinker, but he preferred someone like her under him. No need to waste time explaining or a need to watch one's back. If she proved the loyal and strong sort then he could already think of a number of uses for her.

The man just smiled at her and chuckled a bit in a friendly fashion. Always needed to keep a friendly tone with her for now. "I certainly agree with you, but that was not the point. I was making a joke and complementing you. A woman with such a figure both sturdy and fair would be difficult for many men to please. I was implying you would need a higher caliber man of confidence to match with you."

Acteon looked at her thick arms and smirked a bit. "I believe you could crush a turnip by flexing. Something many would wish to see I imagine. It is impressive. Makes me interested in finding out what all you are capable of."

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Gal Borrage

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The orc’s demeanor settled a little once the man elaborated. She still had a fairly serious expression on, but without animosity towards Acteon. She had decided some things about him, namely that he was a bit like her; nice but sometimes poor with words. He’d made it right as rain by the time he mentioned her crushing a turnip with a simple flex. Gal gave a hum of approval.

“I bet so,” Gal assured. She finally smirked as well. “If you’re staying for the boat ride, then I guess you’ll get to see too!”

After that remark, she raised her brows and tilted her head, looking at Acteon expectantly. She was no longer listening all that much to the questions and answers around them.

“Is there something about you I should be excited to see?” Gal asked earnestly.

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Acteon Cass

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The woman relaxed and had settled into a better mood after Acteon shifted his approach with her. Less subtlety and more straight forward comments and compliments for her. She affirmed his comment about the turnip and even gave him a smirk to go along with it. Would seem she approved of the act and likely was to show him later on. The down time onboard would certainly not prove to be boring it would seem. A welcome change of pace from normal.

The follow up question got a smirk out of him. She wanted to know what he could do. Certainly was plenty of things he could do. It was more a matter of what she would likely find interesting. Going off their very limited conversation, perhaps some feat of strength? He was stronger than humans himself, so that would not be too difficult.

"Plenty of things. I will be the strongest human onboard the ship. Perhaps arm wrestling and other similar tests of strengths would prove exciting for you? I also have a pair of dice on me if you enjoy games of chance. We could win plenty of coin with them playing against other people on the boat. A beautiful woman such as yourself with me is sure to bring me all the luck we would need."

The man smiled at her in a friendly way. Already he was beginning to form some plans on how he could possibly win her over to his side. If she could actually crush a turnip by flexing her arm then he would be a fool not to try and make use of her. He would even seduce her if that was what he needed to do.

Lord Arell finished answering the last questions of the undecided. Most ultimately chose not to join. Too little information and too great of danger for them. With it all done, the man walked over to Acteon and Gal. He would give the orc woman a quick look over and then nod to her in approval. His attention would then turn to Acteon.

"Mr. Cass, I assume you have already formed at least one plan for this job." Lord Arell said in a casual yet authoritative way.

The Allirian just smirked at the lord. "At least one. Would not be here without one."

"Good. I am trusting you with the success of this job. My people can not afford for this to fail. Even if you can only recover some of what was stolen so long as it is enough to ensure the grain merchants will be in business next year then my people can pull through." Lord Arell said with a serious expression.

Acteon nodded to the man. "Just remember our arrangement and everything will be fine. You came to me for a reason. Do not forget why." Then he bowed to the Lord of the port. "We should be boarding now that the stragglers finally made up their minds."

Lord Arell gave him a nod then left. Acteon watched him leave for a moment before turning to Gal. "I am Acteon Cass. Never did give you my name. Time for us to board. Doubt the boat will wait for us too long."

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Gal Borrage

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Gal’s curiosity was piqued by Acteon’s proclamations. He was confident in his abilities, and more than arm wrestling her, Gal was actually half-tempted to make a boat-wide competition of it. Apparently being a pretty girl was good luck around these parts, so she was interested to see how that’d pan out for someone like Acteon.

“How does..” She trailed off when she noticed the atmosphere around them had changed. Lord Arell was walking this way, and Gal immediately silenced herself. She dipped her head momentarily to the man but did little else while him and Acteon spoke.

Apparently there were more complexities to this job, at least for Acteon. Gal was unbothered by the small conversation these men had; her job remained the same as far as she was concerned. Still, it said something about who Acteon was compared to anyone else here. Including Gal.

“Acteon then! I’m Gal Borrage, but most people I hunt with call me Skycatcher.” Gal replied as she took a step towards the ship. She stayed walking alongside Acteon as they headed onboard.

“Sounds like you made your job here more stressful than the rest of us. You need a lot of extra money for a debt or something?”


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Acteon Cass

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The Allirian took note of what the orc woman called herself. Skycatcher. An interesting title to have. A quick glance at her bow which likely held the answer as to why she was called that. They headed towards the ship and along the way she was back to the friendly chit chatting from before.

A smile was his first response before his words. "I am leading things on the ground while the admiral takes care of the naval side once we find our thieves. And no it is not for extra coin. It is for far more valuable resources than that."

A chuckle escaped him. She could not know how amusing her mention of debt was in context for him. "The debt owed is not mine but rather someone owes me a great debt. This job will get me one step closer to collecting that debt."

When they came to the ramp up, Acteon stepped to the side to allow Gal to go up first and offered her a hand to help her up. Both were the things a gentleman would be expected to do for a lady. She no doubt needed no help with getting up but it was the act of offering itself that he was interested in. It was a moment to test the waters and see how she responded. Some women enjoyed the special treatment while others might find it annoying. How he interacted with her later on depended on how she reacted now.

After she was up on the ramp, he would follow behind her. What greeted the both of them onboard was a ship full of marines and mercenaries in lighter armor and close quarters weapons on their hips. The sailors actively moved around like ants in their colony or bees in their hive. The mercenaries did their best to stay out of the way or help, but most of them failed in this task due to the cramped space and lack of experience.

"I need to greet the captain and confirm plans. I will find you after and you can demonstrate how to crush a turnip by flexing your arm for me." Acteon said to Gal in a friendly tone. "Sound reasonable?"

Gal Borrage
 

Gal Borrage

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Gal listened to the man as they walked. At the mention of a very valuable resource, she gave an understanding "ahh," as if she had a good guess as to what it was. Or at least the notion that there were things far, far more valuable than plain old coin. She had no questions on it, but her confidence faltered when he went on, mentioning collecting a debt that someone else owed him. She raised a brow confusedly before looking to the ocean. Her brows furrowed, the orc was silently pondering the man's situation.

When they reached the ramp up onto the ship and Acteon offered Gal a hand, she blinked in surprise at first before gladly taking it. She grabbed a strong hold of his wrist as he helped her onto the ship. She let her hand loose once she stood firmly next to Acteon again. She opened her mouth, about to say something but paused when someone bumped into her.

The ship was crowded and Gal became distracted immediately. She was as tall as many of the men but broader than most humans. Especially with the length of her bow on her back. She took care to stay close to Acteon but was actively paying attention to where she was standing at any given time while they were on the deck.

"Huh? Oh!" Gal side-stepped to avoid a sailor walking through their conversation. "So be it then, Acteon!" Gal brought her attention back to Acteon and huffed out a little laugh. "Don't expect to not show off in return--oomph--!"

Gal was then bumped from behind by someone in the thick crowd. As Acteon left, the orc woman was turning around to deal with her deck position once more.

...

While she struggled to find her footing among the other mercenaries at first, Gal was not a lost sheep for long. In minutes, she had managed to make nice with a few of the others. One of them, a middle-aged, gruff human lass welcomed giving Gal a little bit of a tour of some of the floors. These brawny sword-carrying folk weren't allowed in every room of the ship, but there was still plenty of wiggle room and depending on where you went, there was enough space to loiter.

Gal didn't stay in the quiet stretches of the ship with her newest companion for long. After exploring for a little bit, the two sought out the loud crowds again. By the fifteen minute mark a well-sized group of gruff, battle-ready bastards had become a boisterous band in one of the lower decks. There was a game of dice happening in the center of the circling crowd, and bets were being made. The middle-aged lass was on one end of the bets and rolled every roll with this smarmy, keen smirk on her face. She was always confident to match someone's bet.

The game was simple enough for Gal to catch on to the basics, but she was sure she was missing something about it. It just seemed too random for people to be so confident. So, she stayed on the sidelines, among the crowd. Rooting for her new friend and joining into the excitement the group whipped up whenever something happened.


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Acteon Cass

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The captain of the ship was an older, experienced man. His hair was graying. His skin tanned dark for the generally fairer skinned Reachmen. Yet he was fit and the air about him demanded respect. He was in his quarters going over things with various important members of the crew. Reports mostly on their state of preparedness for the journey and tasks ahead.

The Allirian waited for his turn, which annoyed him. He had better things to do than wait. He had an orc woman to keep an eye on. She seemed unfamiliar with ships and he wanted to avoid anything happening to the friendly woman. But he had to wait. It was the proper order of things and breaking it would only cause undo tension before things even began.

The captain waved Acteon over after two reports. The younger man walked up to his desk.

"Acteon Cass I take it." The captain said in a serious yet respectful tone. "Lord Arell informed me you would be handling the ground engagements. You have my thanks for that. Hate fighting on land. Gives people too much incentive to run as easy as it makes it."

Acteon smiled to the older man. A career soldier it would seem. Made dealing with him easy. "I would have to agree with you there. More control over your men with a ship, but also more to lose if you make a bad call."

"I guess I better make good calls then." The captain said with a slight chuckle. "Admiral Tavore. Before you ask, and I know your type so know you will, I requested to be a part of this mission. One of my sons was the captain of one of our missing ships. I owe it to him to personally rescue him if he is alive or see to gathering his bones myself if he isn't.... Do we have an understanding on how important this is to me?"

"Perfectly. I have no doubts my father would do the same for me." Acteon said to the man.

So a personal mission for their captain who also happened to be one of their highest ranking military members. This was proving more profitable than first imagined. Not only would the lord owe him but now also an admiral. He didn't show it but internally Acteon was howling with excitement over this turn of events. How much could he gain from this single job? The potential was growing greater with each new piece of information.

=================================

After discussing the general order of command, where they would land, and how they would operate after was discussed, Acteon left with the captain. The younger man needed to find his new orc friend. The older man needed to get the ship sailing.

Instead of asking around, Acteon decided to rely on his sense of smell. He had gotten the orc woman's scent while they stood next to each other before. Warm grass and cooking over a campfire. A pleasant scent, especially considering how bad many orcs tended to smell. So he took a sniff of the air and caught the faint trail of where she had been.

And so he followed it around the ship in the same order of events as she had taken. Looked like she had been following someone as a second scent trail was paired with her's.

When he eventually found her it was as part of the group for a dice game that had started up already. She was not participating so much as watching. So he joined in next to her. As he did, he bumped her side gently with his elbow.

"How has the game been going?"

Gal Borrage
 

Gal Borrage

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Gal felt someone nudge her and she immediately looked over. Her expression brightening to see a familiar face; Acteon! At his question, Gal barked a laugh; "I don't know!"

Gold had been exchanged, she'd booed, ahh-ed, and cheered, but she hadn't been keeping track of anything. She was pretty sure the aged woman was doing well, or Gal hoped as much, but she decided to spare Acteon the details.

The orc nudged him back with her own elbow as she then asked a question. "How about your plans? All set?"


Acteon Cass
 

Acteon Cass

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Based on what the orcess said and the lack of any details that followed, Acteon had to guess she had no idea how the game being bet upon was played. Wise for her not to place any bets then, especially as common as cheating happened to be. Her own nudging was followed by her questions. Lying to the woman seemed like it would backfire in the long run and since there was no reason to hide the details now that they were setting out from the dock. He decided to keep her informed.

"For now. The finer details still need to be discussed when we have more time. Setting sail takes priority."

Acteon looked over at Gal with a smile. "We should find you a turnip to crush. I have a bit of gossip about the captain to share with you. All good things, but it might be important for you to know what kind of person is in charge of the ship you are currently trapped upon."

The crowd of betters got loud as a particularly risky (and that much larger) bet was won by Gal's new friend. Her opponent was not happy about the outcome and already was throwing out accusations of cheating. A couple hands were moving to weapons, but nothing worse had happened yet.

Gal Borrage
 

Gal Borrage

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Gal nodded when Acteon kept the 'fine details' to himself for now, satisfied enough that he didn't seem pissed now that he was officially committed to being on this ship. At the mention of the turnip, the orc took a step away from the crowd, about to leave.

The two had their own plans, and Gal wasn't invested in the game here enough to insist on staying. His following comment about the person in charge, and being trapped on this ship, caught her attention. Her light expression turned curious, but just as quickly as all of this happened, her mood changed again.

There was trouble in the center of the crowd with fingers pointed at the aged lass. Hands going for weapons. Gal had noticed trouble rising for one of her friends.

"Sure, sounds important, Acteon!" Gal said spiritedly enough while putting a hand on his arm to push him back a few steps. "Hold that thought for a second though, okay?"

After saying that, bumped her way back into the crowd. Initially she was taken by the others as joining their anger, but Gal made a beeline for her friend's opponent. Gal didn't hesitate in clocking the man in the jaw.

"She's HONEST! SO BACK OFF!" Gal bellowed as she knocked the man right on his ass.


Acteon Cass
 

Acteon Cass

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When Gal placed her hand upon Acteon and pushed him away while speaking in such a friendly way, it got his full attention. He even raised a brow at her. Then he watched the scene that unfolded next. The man who had accused the woman of cheating was punched square in the jaw and sent flying onto his ass. The orc woman even yelled at him.

Acteon had to hold back a laugh.

But things did not stay comical. Those who had already put their hands on their weapons were drawing them. The first punch had been thrown after all. Chatter was already kicked off and angry little threats handed out. One particular fellow even promised to run her through the back in the night.

That was not something Acteon would allow.

And then the ship jerked. Some of them lost their footing and tripped which caused them to fall into the person standing next to them. Next thing anyone knew half the gathered people had been toppled and the other half had spread out still on their feet.

Time for him to put a stop to this. So Acteon stepped forward use to ships already. "The game is over. Put your weapons away and find something productive to do or I will have you thrown overboard."

The one who made the threat earlier to Gal snapped back, "And who the fuck are you to order us around?!"

Acteon looked to the man. "Let me show you." He looked over at Gal. "Would you like the honor of throwing him overboard? I do not need someone like him when our lives are on the line."

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Gal Borrage

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Gal had taken a fighting stance, ready to defend herself while giving the chance for her friend to run. Or at least otherwise defend her. She hadn't expected the ship to lurch, but her posture was already stable and she only swayed awkwardly in her spot. Well, she definitely didn't like that aspect of boats...

She stayed alert, ready to be struck at, but she hadn't expected Acteon to step forward and take the authority in this situation. Gal stared at him in complete surprise. After he addressed her directly, Gal had to pause for half a second before responding. As soon as she had registered his position in the situation, she smiled.

"Gladly!" Gal practically chirped. She grabbed the man by the back of his shirt, picking him up like a cat at the scruff of the neck. She held him up, as if ready to parade him off, but she only brought the man close to Acteon. Frankly, she didn't want to drown anyone, but she was definitely wanted to discourage who she saw as a bully.

She cocked her head in order to grin at the man she held. "Anything you want to say before you're fired?"

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Acteon Cass

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The man was like a kitten snatched up by its scruff. He did not know what to do. Escape from the orc woman would be impossible. The situation utterly dumbfounded him. He was playing dice and getting cheated then punched by this woman and threatened by a stranger claiming to be in charge of being thrown overboard. Was this some sort of setup against him?

Acteon watched the man's little wheels turning in his head. The look in his eyes spoke he had not realized the situation he was in but was trying to turn it into some sort of twisted story with him as the victim in the center. Typical behavior of unruly fighters. They always found some way to justify their lose as not their fault. He did not need a man like that.

He glanced at Gal.

But his companion did not seem to be so eager to follow through with the threat so much as just teach him a lesson. He could work with that.

"If he wishes to avoid the ocean then best he keep quiet. Unless he is providing me the name of his company and captain. I will provide them a chance to take responsibility before one of their own meets the waves."

The man froze up. Good. Acteon hoped for that reaction. It meant he was correct when he assumed the man was not a free agent. So Acteon just waited. The man refused to talk. After a minute of silence, the Allirian decided it was time to move things along.

"Time to throw him overboard Gal." Acteon said with a smile.

Immediately one of the other mercenaries that had been standing near the kitten man spoke up. "Wait! He is part of the Red Iron Blades. Our captain is Keela Vou. I can take you to her."

The hanging man began to squirm and gave the one who spoke a nasty look. Acteon was happy with the outcome. He said before waving for Gal to follow, "Please do. Your captain will surely want to hear about this."

And then the man left with Acteon following behind.

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Gal Borrage

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Gal had expected that, back at the docks, she had only bumped into and befriended a random man. Like she had done many times before, and would undoubtedly do again and again. It was continuously surprising to see the scruffy man take command. It was amusing, and Gal had never gotten to play this part before.

Another individual gave away the kitten man's faction and higher up. When Acteon started to follow that man who dobbed, Gal wasn't far behind.

"Looks like we're going places then!" Gal proclaimed to the kitten man before hoisting him up higher and flopping him over one shoulder of her's. She didn't pay his complaints any mind. She then waltzed after Acteon.

For a minute or two, she stayed a few strides back. Behind Acteon, one could hear the yelp of a grown man as an orc woman shifted him from one shoulder right over to the other like he was nothing more than a sack of potatoes. She had moved him to being on the opposite shoulder to where Acteon was before she picked up her pace in order to walk beside her friend.


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Acteon Cass

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The way over to this Captain Keela was taking some time. Not because the ship was big but because of the congestion already present on the boat. There was far more mercenaries present than Acteon had expected. It would make the land portion of the operation work out, but it might cause problems down the line when they recovered sailors (hopefully still alive) and supplies/shipments. Weight was always an issue when it came to sailing regardless if it was fresh water or salt water.

As they walked along he decide to make some chit chat. Certainly his orcess friend would enjoy it as well.

"Gal, how much experience do you have with fighting? Any training with organized warfare or just some skirmishing and raiding?"

It was not much of a question, but still an important one. Her unique bow had interest still and knowing what she could do and had done might help him figure out her place in the land operation.

"For myself, I was an Allirian guard member. Made it to detective and sergeant before I left. Became an independent sellsword after. Done all kinds of jobs. Once I even took a city for this self proclaimed god-king without any bloodshed. Convinced the mercenaries inside to switch sides. Really was for the best. Situation got dangerous fast. Necromancer unleashed their undead on them once they entered the city. Only real opposition they had. Heard the daughter of the city's ruler took over after he was executed. But can not confirm if that is true. Only heard some rumors."

The one leading the way chimed in. "Heard about that. So you were the one who took that warhorse and switched sides then? From what I heard the leaders of the mercenary bands all lost their heads, but everyone else was spared. Any truth to that?"

Acteon smiled as he listened. Seemed the events were not lost to the sands as he had expected them to.

"Sadly it is. One of those rulers who thinks they have to show strength through force and can not trust them because they switched sides. As I said, a self proclaimed god-king. We are just people trying to survive through fighting other's battles. Why would we risk our lives after having already lost? Most clients throw us at the heaviest fighting just to get the most value for their gold. Punish disloyalty. Man just wanted to spill some blood but could not drop his facade of a 'generous ruler' in front of his subjects."

"Tell me about it. Hate working for those types. Once worked for this emir who thought he was a divine prophet and tried to get us to do a suicidal charge into his enemy. They had 5 for our every 1 and our walls were barely holding. No way we were charging to our deaths for his pride. People wanted to turn on him but were hesitant so we did first. They didn't hesitate but a second before joining us. Never did go back to that damned desert after that." The man made a spitting motion but did not actually spit on the deck. "So what about you orc woman? Got any stories?"

Gal Borrage
 
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Gal Borrage

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Acteon spoke of his past. Of bad men, bloodshed, and close calls. According to the one leading them, this was some kind of well-known story, but Gal had never heard it before. It didn't entirely surprise her; her clan members rarely went into town and any that did, if they heard of Acteon's scrapes, wouldn't have considered it as interesting of a tale to tell compared to reporting to the clan of a nice florist or detailed museum curator.

"I come from the Goldwalkers, and they never cared to seek out trouble." Gal replied. In spite of the answer, she didn't seem thrilled nor appalled by what these two men had been through; she was used to some aspect of death and battle.

"My sister always wanted to see the heat of battle like that, but she was kind of alone in that.. When we could see war coming in advance, we walked around it. Gave it a big berth." She shrugged a little, the gesture made uneven by the weight of the man on her shoulder. Her tone had been calm, she didn't have exciting tales to tell and dismissively added.

"Yeah, the worst were the roc birds but they're no god-king. I've lived a peaceful life!" Gal smiled at the men. "Happy too... Doesn't sound like you guys get much out this stuff besides being someone's campfire story." Her blue eyes went to Acteon, a brow raised. "What stops you from just hunting deer and hare for a living? You're done with the guard, but you're back here, so, close enough, right?"



Acteon Cass
 
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Acteon Cass

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Acteon paid close attention to what Gal told them about herself. She was from a more peaceful tribe and sounded like she had spent little time away from them. He began to wonder if this was her first job as a mercenary and sellsword when she mentioned not understanding why they would take the work nor the difference from it and being a guard.

She continued to become more useful to him as time went on. A strong fighter with a bow the size of one mounted on a scorpion that was not prone to aggression was a truly rare find. Hopefully no one else picked up on her potential value during the mission before he had a chance to secure her for himself.

"Hunting is not as profitable as mercenary work. Certainly hunting would be far more enjoyable and generally less dangerous, but people do not value hides and horns as much as a sharp blade in most places. Most of our work does not end in fighting either. Mostly you get paid to stand around looking intimidating and being bored. Bandits and pirates do not attack caravans and ships that are heavily guarded. Like your tribe with war in that way."

Their guide nodded along and said little comments to back up what Acteon was saying. The man on her shoulder had started to squirm around as he noticed all the looks they were getting with him on her shoulder. Acteon paused in his conversation to make sure the man was not doing anything dangerous behind her back.

Sadly, he did. The man produced a dagger out of some hidden place. As he moved to stab her in the back, it pierced something else: Acteon's hand. He let the blade slide through his palm and then the gripped the other man's hand hard. A yelp left him as he let go of the dagger, which Acteon pulled away before the fool could regroup his thoughts.

As Acteon pulled the dagger from his palm, he continued on like nothing had happened.

"As for why I am doing this work now instead of being a guard, it is far more profitable. Certainly not consistent or guaranteed paid, but the potential profit is far, far greater. I am able to pick my battles and work as well. I owe no one any duties. It might be violent and dangerous but profitable and free. And the profit and freedom are two things I desire."

The guide stopped them and produced a bandage. The man doctored Acteon's wound with practiced speed as he cursed out the one who inflicted it on him. When he was done Acteon smiled to him. "Thank you."

Then his attention went back to Gal. "The work of the Allirian guard is similar yes, but very different. They are not allowed to loot as they act defensively in the interest of Alliria and her allies throughout the Reach. Their allies pay the council for the protection of the guard and the city sends guards out like mercenaries to defend their client state. But the guard's pay does not change unless they are promoted. No loot. No extra pay. Yet all the same dangers with likely more restrictions. Hence profit and freedom being things I desired after I left the guard."

Gal Borrage
 

Gal Borrage

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Acteon made these kinds of jobs sound like they normally had little injury. She couldn't help but think about how previously he mentioned people being scared of the ship going down and everyone drowning horribly. Perhaps Acteon still had the most realistic outlook and those mercenaries whom walked off the dock had just overblown their own fears. Gal just nodded in agreement about it being like the Goldwalkers in that way. She didn't expect to see behavior like her family in a city like this.

While she was considering the nature of these sorts of jobs, Acteon moved towards her back quickly. Since the man she held had already been passively squirming, Gal hadn't noticed anything off until Acteon's hand was punctured. The orc gasped sharply and just as quickly yanked the man she held off her shoulder--but didn't let him go. Kitten man was back to being held by his scruff, and at arm's length away from Gal.

With him at a distance from the three of them, Gal turned her head to Acteon and gave the man a grave stare. She expected him to react, to demand something out of her and the guide they had been walking with, but he held himself casually. At least the guide reacted severely as well, or else Gal wouldn't be sure what to make of these cityfolk..!

Acteon's attention was soon back on her, but Gal's own focus was constantly flicking back to his hand. Admittedly, she felt like she had missed a good chunk of what he had said to her.

There was a pause when Acteon finished his answer. Gal wasn't sure what to say at first before pushing out a "..right."

She decided Acteon had maybe lost feeling in his hand in one of those prior battles in the guard, or maybe just wanted to save face. Rather than risk any further danger, she faced the kitten man again. With her free hand, she pulled the spare rope off her belt and made quick work binding the man's wrists together.

"Seeking freedoms seems like a good difference to have. I can't imagine feeling stuck and restrained like you make the guard sound.. Sounds like it's easy to do a lot of things you didn't actually want to do." Gal commented as she pulled the ropes tight on the man. He howled something about his wrist.

"For me, I---STAY PUT--" Gal narrowed her eyes at her prideful kitten man who struggled and spouted choice words for the three of them. She glowered at him, intense and aggressive. She then flopped him behind herself, holding him by his bound wrists as she dragged him along with his ass on the floor.

"--I think for the next job I try to do, I want to try busking! I want to see how many people would pay to see me crush vegetables, or rocks!" Her mood changed back to light-hearted shortly after she started talking. Her delight on the subject of careers and ambitions, exploring the world and seeing people, was apparent in her voice.


Acteon Cass
 
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Acteon Cass

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Their guide had stopped and was just watching as Acteon continued on as if his hand was not just stabbed and the orc woman so casually followed along with him. His band brother was tied up now, which he should have recommended they did before things got violent. The circumstances around their words was so serious while what they talked about was so casual. The moment was a little too surreal for him and so he just kept watching as he waited for his moment.

Acteon, feeling the wound in his hand yet still not showing it, listened to the orc woman. Her line thought was less complex than his own concerning things, which was likely more of a good thing given the scope of his ambitions. It was pleasant to have this kind of straight forward conversation with someone without having to constantly keep an eye for subtle context and hidden meanings.

A smirk crossed his lips when she finished talking about her intentions for her next job. "Why wait? Once we are done here we can go entertain our fellow companions by having you do your busking. For a fee of course. Never overlook a chance to earn a living off your talents. You never know when you might need the coin in the future."

Such as when a corrupt council member in Alliria decided to seek revenge for losing out on a lucrative contract to your father by forcibly dismantling your family company on false charges and illegally seizing your property. Having other skills to rely on certainly helped in such a situation. His father found that out the hard way, but he could not blame the man for dedicating his life to his craft.

"Just to make it clear, the guard has many advantages to joining. It is a good way to earn some favor and make connections with all sorts of people in Alliria and the Reach. People such as Lord Arell. What the guard lacks in pay and freedom of choice in your jobs it makes up for in training in valuable skills, getting to know powerful and wealthy people, and improving your reputation. If you do not want to keep going up in the guard or are not as dedicated to the job of upholding the law and protecting your people then once you have those other things the guard starts to become what it was for me. They are still my brothers and sisters even if I am not actively one of them anymore."

He hated to admit it but developments of late had made that all too true a statement for him. The guard was still important to him and he was far more willing to aid their needs than most others even if they were becoming as corrupt as the rest of Alliria of late.

Acteon smiled to their guide. "Sorry for the delay. You may continue taking us to Captain Keela."

The Allirian motioned for Gal to continue their conversation if she wished.

Gal Borrage
 

Gal Borrage

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Gal puffed a small laugh at Acteon's response. She had a lop-sided smile, not jumping immediately at the opportunity he pointed out yet also clearly not discouraged by it either. She liked having fun and already considered a number of those on board, Acteon included, to be her friends. But there was something missing for it to be busking--or a number of things, as far as Gal was concerned.

She didn't bring back the subject when Acteon changed it to the guard. She nodded her head, understanding.

"I guess some people need those kinds of things in their life. Some people's lives get really complicated!" Gal replied as she roughly yanked on the ropes around her captive's wrists and started walking alongside Acteon again.

Training, the acknowledgement by the wealthy, and your reputation in general. Gal imagined there was a good amount of comradery that came with it all too, even if you had your hands a little tied on what you could choose to do or not do. Gal thought about these things briefly before asking a question.

"Say, Acteon? Were you born in the city?"


Acteon Cass