Private Tales In the memory of the fallen

A private roleplay only for those invited by the first writer
Three days later...

The skies over Asenstad were dark and ill-tempered. Thunder roiled and raged in the distance, cascading through the valleys and over the low hills upon which the fortress town sat. Wrapped tight in her cloak, her weapons hidden, Yarrow watched through tired eyes as the thunderhead approached, like a convict destined for the gallows.

'Gonna be a real bitch, workin' in that,' she growled, glancing sidelong at her companion. 'Rain, wind, flashes of light to give away our position. Might leave a sentry blind, sure, but damned if that don't go both ways.'

Shifting in her saddle, the she-orc jutted her chin at the fortress. Their prize awaited them within, surrounded on all sides by hundreds of his brethren. 'Thoughts?' Yarrow had a few. Most concerned the defences and the warriors manning them. How to get in without raising the alarm, for example. How to get to their target without their true identities being discovered. How to kill him and stand a chance of making it out the other side, alive if not intact.

Yarrow pondered the problem. And watched.
 
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Demise sat atop her grey mare in a state of Between. The rain passed harmless through her keeping her from feeling the rain and the cold that came with it. Her white hood or her robes was pulled up nevertheless giving her the look of a ghost. The beast beneath her snorted and stamped an impatient hoof; she seemed to share Yarrows attitude to the rain. She pursed seemed to purse her lips beneath the shadow of her hood, waiting for a rumble of thunder to pass, before answering.

"Scaling had been my first thought but the weather will somewhat hamper that," she conceded. Of course she could always go through the walls but Sister Yarrow forced her to stick to the more traditional methods. It was quite quaint in a way. "There are quite a few travellers being let through the gates; no doubt servants for each of their Ministers. We could perhaps pose as being apart of one of the convoys and slip in under their noses; but then missing servants raise questions too."
 
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'It's a way in, at least.' Success was not guaranteed, of course. But then it never was. Even the most run-of-the-mill jobs could go awry. Luc du Brecht and his coterie of zealots were so much more than that. 'Think on it. In the meantime, let's make our approach. My hands are starting to go numb.' Bloody rain.

Encouraging her horse down into the sparsely wooded valley, Yarrow dwelled on the matter. If they stuck to the road they were on, they would approach Asenstad from the north. She knew from the pre-mission briefing that there were two other gates leading into the city itself, and another that led to the fortress directly. The city's gates were guarded by garrison troops. In this weather, their moods were like to be as foul as hers.

The fortress gate, somewhat obviously, would be manned by warriors of the Light Incarnate. Unlike their city-dwelling counterparts, they would not be sleeping on the job. They were also the type to take their steel to unwelcome visitors with gusto, speaking from experience.

'Do you believe you could pull off the deception, if we decide to act as servants?' Yarrow asked, shivering as a strong gust of wind snapped her cloak back to reveal the glimmer of iron beneath. 'Admittedly, my talents lie elsewhere, but if you believe we can do it, then that's good enough for me.'
 
"I have studied the art of deception," Demise elaborated as she nodded in answer to Yarrow's question. One of her first missions had led to her donning a persona for a whole month before she had been able to kill her target. A long process but the payment had been worth the time away from home. She was still surprised by how many in the Church thought acting was beneath their station and dismayed by those who did utilise it, fell short of pulling it off - the young brother who had been a part of Yarrow and her last mission was case in point.

"This is a mission to be completed together. If this particular skill is not one you feel is your strongest then we should not do it. Which leaves us with the direct approach; infiltrating as what we are. Assassins," her eyes continued to scan the fortress as they drew closer.

"Which means scaling those walls."
 
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With grim nod, Yarrow looked up towards Asenstad. 'Works for me,' she said, already planning ahead. She had a coil of rope looped around her saddle horn for just such an occasion, and there were climbing spikes tucked away at the bottom of one of her saddle bags. Wrapped, along with spare throwing knives and a pair of push knives.

Overkill? Maybe, but you could never be too sure when dealing with zealots of the light.

Every little helps. Pulling the peak of her hood lower, the she-orc slowed until her horse flanked Demise's. Getting through into the town proper required minimal effort on her part. A few words from Demise at the gate and a flash of a smile saw them inside and searching for the nearest stables.

By then, Yarrow was beginning to shiver. Winter in Asenstad was cruel and unforgiving, nothing like the volcanic climate of the isles they hailed from. When a stable boy appeared to take their horses, Yarrow was the first to dismount and offer up her reins.

A couple coins for his trouble and a few choice words about the weather followed. When she asked him about a place to shelter from the rain, the boy pointed past her, to a tavern across the street.

Chattering her thanks, Yarrow grabbed her pack, full of "personal effects," and made a beeline for the tavern steps. 'I say we settle in and wait 'til nightfall,' she proposed, pausing in the doorway to gaze back at Demise. The Vicar had a way of staying dry that annoyed and perplexed Yarrow in equal measure. It was also kind of impressive.

'W-we've a few days yet before the ceremony. If we-we keep to ourselves as much as possible, it shouldn't be too difficult to disappear without a trace once the job's d-done. And who knows, with any luck, the w-weather will have broken by the time we leave.' A smile appeared. It was the first time she had done so since leaving Shekath.
 
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Demise had abandoned her shifting state as soon as they had neared the city walls; a girl who could make her form non corporeal would be the first suspect once the alarm bells were rung. Playing the wearied but excited personal of a faithful servant of the light was far easier and made them one of thousands that poured through the gate to the city beyond. Unimportant. Inconsequential. Two traits that she would abhor if given to her within her own Church.

She passed her studying of the city off as gawking and tucked the odd bits of useful information she observed into the recesses of her mind. Guards roamed the streets in tight units wearing scowls that were as miserable as Yarrow's though she doubted it was entirely down to the rain. Judging by their uniforms these men were not the usual ornamental kind either, but soldiers who knew their job and had seen more than their fair few battles. Interesting that the Church should think themselves in need of such things.

Did they know there was a target on their backs?

As it was, having not sat soaking in her saddle for hours, Demise was considerably dry in comparison to her young aid when they entered the tavern. Removing her cloak was enough to rid her of the chill and unpleasant damp sensation. She glanced at Yarrow as she hung said cloak up on one of the many hooks by the taverns door.

"You should take a bath," she hesitated then pursed her lips, head canting faintly to the side as she obviously listened to her sister hiss at her to clarify. "To ease the cold." She nodded almost to herself then strode towards the innkeeper who had appeared to greet them, a smile on his weasel like face.

"Good evening, ladies. If it's rooms you're after you're just in luck, I have my best suite still free," he winked.

I doubt any of the rooms in here could be considered a suite, Nesiib snorted as the fox lightly jumped upon the man's desk, casting a glance over the ledger with other residents names. Demise plastered on a soft, sad and longing smile.

"I doubt we could afford a suite, two simple rooms next door to each other would do if you have such?" she forced the threads of hope into that last word. There was a flash of disappointment on the innkeepers face but it was somewhat softened by Demise's request and endearing fumbling of her coin pouch. She let him see the flash of silver to make them worthwhile patrons to keep.

"Of course, my dears. Best to keep the suite should one of the Priests need a room, eh? I hear they're overflowing up at the Cathedral and more than a few are being forced to mingle with the likes of us."
 
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Is she... is she saying I smell? Blinking the rainwater from her eyes, Yarrow glowered at Demise expectantly. If not for the clarification, she would have clipped the Vicar upside the ear, and that would have been a foolish thing to do considering the rank difference. Of course, the same could be said for insulting a half-orc when they were within punching-distance.

'You're right,' she said, once the relief had settled in. 'I could use a bath.'

Despite the inn's warmth, Yarrow could feel the cold starting to seep into her bones. Hoisting her pack over her shoulder, she turned to stand side-on to the bar as Demise paid for their lodgings. 'They throwing a party up there or what?' Yarrow asked, taking the innkeeper's bait. 'At the cathedral?'

'Oh, aye!' He chuckled, hooded eyes looking her up and down. 'A biggun, from what I hear! Through traffic has damn near tripled since the word got out,' he grinned, leaning across the bar to whisper conspiratorially in her ear. 'Apparently, there's some bigwig in town. Luc du somethin or other. Real fancy bugger, if y' pardon my saying so.' He leaned back.

'You two here to see what all the fuss is about?' The Innkeep inquired, a curious gleam in his eye.

'Just passing through,' the she-orc replied, extending her hand. 'Now, if you'd be so kind as to hand us the keys?' The Innkeep nodded, whistled sharply. 'Olga! Rooms for our guests!' A harried-looking woman rushed over to them, skirts a-trailing. Catcalls and ribald jests followed her across the room, and only died off when she reached the two women.

'Rooms, was it?' Olga asked, nodding. 'This way!'

Stomping upstairs, her clothes dripping, Yarrow waited as Olga unlocked the door to her room. 'This is you,' she said, passing over a key, 'and the one next to it is yours!' Another key, this time to Demise. 'If you need anything do not hesitate to ask.'

Smiling, she disappeared back down the rickety stairs to the ground floor.

Yarrow could hear a wash of voices drifting up through the thick wooden floorboards. Muted, at least. Thank Mother! 'Did you hear what the innkeeper said? About the Priests walking about town?'
 
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"Breathe, Demi..." her sister chided in a tone that was meant to be teasing but betrayed the concern beneath. The assassin blinked and briefly glanced down to see the blood pooling beneath her fingernails where they had dug so tightly into her palms. She needed to get a handle on those emotions; they could get both her and Yarrow killed. It infuriated her that those monsters could still do this to her, could send her back to that day when the Cardinal had gently drawn her and Perish away to explain that their homes, their family, their entire race was gone.

Demise turned her focus to the others filling up their inn. She spied a group of elves who looked to be travellers like they were pretending to be, a few dwarves with their axes who must have been the personal guard of a couple who looked to be from Dornoch judging by their clothing. She even caught sight of a Drow and Tiefling in the corner before their climb up the stairs obscured the room from view.

"We will need to be careful when wandering too," Demi sighed, the key weaving between her fingers as she watched the woman's retreating back. "It will also make locating our mark a little harder," she shook her head to dismiss the concern. They would get this job done, she had vowed it to the mother.

"Call yourself a bath, I will go find us some food and then we can make a plan."
 
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Nodding, Yarrow disappeared into her room to deposit her things at the foot of the bed. She didn't say it, but she had noticed how Demise had gone to the other place again. It was in her eyes, and the way her face seemed to fall, as if reliving an old memory. Yarrow had plenty of those herself. A number of them she could have done without.

Calling for a bath, the she-orc began to undress. It was still raining by the time she was finished drying herself.

Donning fresh clothes, she went down to the common room to join Demise. The innkeeper hadn't been lying. The place was packed with people, most of them bearing the telltale signs of a hard day's travel. Wet cloaks, windswept hair, furious appetites. Speaking of which...

Slipping onto the bench opposite the Vicar, Yarrow smiled. 'Been waiting long?' she asked, knowing it had been less than an hour since their arrival to the town. She laid her arms on the table, leaned closer. 'Anyone interesting stopped by in my absence?' Yarrow had told Clay to watch the stable and gate in case anyone came around snooping. So far, he had seen little worth mentioning.

The Vicar, however...
 
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You need to get a handle on that temper, Demi, Prevail sighed as the Vicar disrobed. Though she could have felt better staying in the clothing of her people they were too obvious to those who knew what to look for. If there were that many Priests in attendance then she could very well have the misfortune of bumping into one of those who had studied her race. The priests here had, after all, wiped them all out. Red clouded her vision again for a moment before she blinked it away.

"She's right, you won't be of any good if you go into a frenzy," Nesiib sighed and jumped onto the bed. He sat and watched with those unnaturally red eyes as she dug around for something less conspicuous to wear.

"I'll be fine," she waved them both off after she'd dressed and promptly shut the door on both their faces.

It was a hard job finding a small section of the inn to sit in. Groups came and went, a mix of locals, travellers, and drunkards who had stumbled 'accidentally' into another bar instead of home to their beds. Squeezing onto a bench already stuffed with the two Dornites, an orc, and a group of human merchants, Demise raised a hand to indicate she'd like a drink. The woman who had shown them to their rooms earlier nodded to see she'd seen and a moment later Demi was cupping a mug of pleasantly warm, spiced cider.

"Food?" the woman asked on her next sweep by and Demise nodded. At a place like this heaving as it was there would only be whatever was on the fire. The Vicar just hoped it wasn't pork. As she waited, sipping her drink, Demise leaned back and listened. She was not entirely sure how long she sat there before Yarrow jolted her from her quiet observations. Her eyes swept over the half orc briefly before turning back to the minstrel on stage.

"Good, your teeth have stopped chattering," it had been a rather irritating noise. Weren't orcs meant to have thicker skin? "Not much that is concrete, though apparently there is to be a parade in the morning after the Church's mass. Our friend will be giving out blessings it seems.
 
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And yet you're cold as ever. Smiling still, Yarrow waved down Olga, ordered a pint of something strong. 'I assume you've already started working on a plan, then?' She asked, shortly after her drink arrived with the night's main. Pork, goodie! Arranging her plate just so, the she-orc got a good look at the rest. Hard-boiled vegetables accompanied by a couple slices of freshly-baked bread. Nothing fancy, but given how close the tavern was to the town gate, it didn't surprise her.

Demise looked none too pleased, though.

'Oh, lighten up, Demi!' Yarrow grinned, tucking into her food with relish. 'It won't kill you, refined as your tastes no doubt are.' She meant that literally. There was no hint of poison nor were there signs of anything being undercooked. 'Cept maybe the minstrel up on stage- he was awful!

'I've half a mind to attend this parade tomorrow,' she said, feigning small talk as they- she ate. 'All our friends are going to be there, including your "special someone." Perhaps you'd care to surprise him?' Her smile turned a touch insidious, but no-one seemed to notice. That was the beauty of it all. 'Of course, what you have in mind for him might be better off without an audience.'

Hint, hint.


'Any ideas?'
 
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"My kind do not eat pork," Demise was not sure why she had bothered explaining the disgust on her face to her partner rather than allowing her, like most others in the Church, to assume it was simply because she was fussy. Her younger sisters did not keep to the traditions of their ancestors, but Demise and her elder sisters did. Maybe it was because the others had been so young when they had fled the massacre. She did not bother to flag down the waitress but rather picked at the uncontaminated vegetables and bread instead.

"There is no point in attempting to climb the walls in this weather, it is too dangerous. The parade gives us our first chance to get a look at our friend in person. Perhaps he will show some weakness," though her tone suggested she doubted that. They both knew the Church of Light were too smart. "Given what we encountered on the way here, however, I am cautious about being in the crowds. Clearly we have a mole, whether that is a Sister or Brother, or someone trusted outside, and we do not know what other information they could have passed on to our enemies."
 
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Yarrow nodded. She hadn't forgotten about the ambush nor the brother they'd lost. 'I asked Clay to keep an eye out for our tagalongs once we reached the mainland,' she told Demise, waiting until she was done chewing to speak. Her knife scraped the wooden plate as she cut herself off another bite. 'Nothing so far.' But that wasn't to say they weren't coming. Oh, no!

The Church of Light's hunters were crafty, and smarter than some of Yarrow's kindred gave them credit for.

They would show up sooner or later to blow the horn on their whole operation. Probably during the parade, at the worst possible moment. Sod's law and all. 'About our little vermin problem,' she said, referring to the mole. 'Do you have any clue as to who it could be? I know it isn't you, and I think you know it isn't me,' she paused, took a sip of her ale. Ah, that's the stuff!

Placing her tankard down, she gazed across at her Sister.

'It's got to be someone higher up. Someone who knew about the mission before we left home.'
 
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Demise took another sip of her warmed cider to avoid responding right away. Yarrow, it seemed, had come to the same uneasy conclusion as she had. She had gone through with Nesiib and her sister the very short list of those above them who had known about their mission. None of them were without motive, including her sister Blessing.

"Blessing wouldn't put you in danger," Prevail appeared perched upon the table almost as soon as the thought of their elder sister had crossed her mind. Demise gave her the barest of glances prompting her to hold up her ghostly hands. "She wouldn't! She's one of the Seven."

If they even were the Seven anymore. They hadn't seen Malevolence in nearly two years now.

"Speculating will not help us with this business trip. We must assume that every facet of what we were told, our friend was too. That means they know two of us are here in the city and expect us to approach our friend. So we need to think creatively. What would they expect of us and let us do the opposite."
 
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Yarrow continued to eat, her thoughts and feelings on the matter coming second place to the hot food and warm drink laid out on the table in front of her. Demise was right, as always. Speculating wouldn't help them, even if some of their guesswork was on the mark. They needed proof, and a way to get to their target without being cut down in the process. Du Brecht's knowledge of their operation only made things more difficult.

But then it only took the one of them to end his life.

'I'll be sure to think on it,' said Yarrow. 'Just hope our mutual friend doesn't know we're coming. Would spoil the surprise.' Smiling, Yarrow scooped up a piece of bread, used it to mop up the fatty grease pooling on her plate. In her experience, every assassin had their own, unique modus operandi. It was partly why the Church's success rate was so high. Yarrow, though she knew some of the same tricks as Demise, had her own way of doing things, and vice versa.

The insider was bound to know their identities. But had they gone so far as to share them?

No point speculating, Clay reminded her, eavesdropping on their conversation from outside. Yarrow harrumphed, nodded. A peel of thunder sounded, lightning knifing through the closed shutters to bathe the common room in arcane light. Silence descended. For a moment, people watched, waited for the unease to break. A dwarf over by the bar made some comment to his mate, making him chuckle.

Conversations were picked back up, brushed off. Music and laughter followed. Yarrow let it wash over her. The innocence and spontaneity of it all made her feel warm inside. 'It'll be alright,' she said, 'tomorrow, I mean. The weather will pass, the parade will go ahead as planned.'

And we'll do what we set out to do, she thought, her gaze faltering. One way or another.
 
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Demise watched the way the flames in the torches flickered, fighting against the small threads of wind that squeezed in through gaps in the window panes or underneath the gap in the door. Storms were an omen to many but she had always scoffed at such things unless they were written by the mother herself. It was just her own dreary thoughts of a mole, the history of their target, and the attack on the road that made her feel so on edge. Not the storm. Drawing her eyes away from the flames she glanced across to Yarrow. The orc seemed as unsettled as her though it was sometimes hard to tell.

"Ironic, coming from you," the shadowkin snorted and yawned showing rows of pointed teeth.

"Even if it does not go ahead, all will be well. The Mother watches over us," and that was all they needed to succeed. The rest of the meal passed in relative silence and Demise bade her companion a goodnight before retiring to her own room. Despite her troubled thoughts she found sleep in the end and when the morning came she felt an odd sense of readiness for the day. Which was why she found herself rapping against Yarrow's door not soon after sunrise.

"Wakey wakey, give yourself a shake," Prevail sung in her ears and slipped through the door. Demise sighed, resisting the urge to simply follow her.

"Yarrow? I thought we could go for a walk and see the sights before the parade," she called, conscious of an ears that might be in the hallway with her.
 
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For all her deep-seated fears, Yarrow slept well. Having risen and dressed early, she had spent the wee hours of the morning milling about her room, checking and rechecking gear that she knew was perfectly fine. Nerves, she thought, just pre-op nerves. She always got them, no matter how hard she tried to take her mind off things. Wonder if Demise gets them, too?

There was a knock at the door.

Straightening up from what she was doing, Yarrow made her way over to open it. Her feet padded softly across the wooden floorboards, barely making a sound. Friend or foe, hunter or hunted, it made little difference. Easy, now, Clay growled in her ear, it's your friend. Funny. Yarrow wasn't aware she had any friends in Asenstad. Except, well...

Opening the door just a crack, the orc smiled as she recognised the figure standing on the other side. 'Demise,' she said, taking a couple steps back as the Vicar spoke. She looked... prepared. Ready, despite the war Yarrow sensed raged just beneath the surface. 'The sights, huh? Sounds good!' Pulling on her boots and giving herself one last pat-down, Yarrow left her room, careful to lock the door behind her.

'Have anywhere particular in mind?' she asked, a fake cough covering up the rumble of her belly. 'Maybe we could, I dunno, get some breakfast along the way? I'm famished!'
 
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Demise had forgone her robes once more for a plain, simple blouse and a long brown skirt. With her hair half gathered up off her face she looked like any other girl setting out into the market for a day of shopping. She even carried a small wicker basket she had found the Mother only knew where. Her cloak was a similar shade to the sandstone most of the buildings were made of; some habits never died.

"Oh, the innkeeper was telling me about the Covered Market, it's meant to be the thing to see in the city. Lots of traders - I'm sure there will be food down there too," she explained in an excited tone and nodded to a passing patron who gave both women a smile as he passed. Even when the sound of a door clicking shut behind them told them they were alone once more, Demi didn't change her painted on demeanour.

"Let's start there, apparently if we climb right to the top that's where this church everyone keeps talking about is. Perhaps we'll get to see a bit of the parade."
 
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'Perhaps we will!' Smiling beatifically at Demise, Yarrow led the assassin down to the common room. The place was pretty much empty when compared to the night before, with only a few people still sitting at the tables. Most were snoring, but one or two raised their drinks in wary salute to the passing couple. 'Goh an'y coi?' One of them slurred, letting out a burp that would have put a farting donkey to shame.

Ignoring him, Yarrow strode out into the street.

'Fresh air, at last!' She sighed, sucking in a breath. The previous day's storm had dissipated sometime during the early hours of the morning, ushering in a bright -if somewhat brisk- dawn. Sunshine bounced off the slate rooftops to paint the streets in pale gold. Townsfolk called to each other as they went about their daily routines. No-one seemed to pay any mind to the two strangers.

As the Innkeep had so kindly informed them, there were plenty of unfamiliar faces about Asenstad right now, and Yarrow's was hardly one to admire.

Linking arms with Demise, the she-orc started walking. They were just two friends out for a morning stroll. Nothing to see here. 'Anyone active in town that I should know about, before we commit?' By "active" she meant agents Demise was in contact with. Sources and resources shared with them by the Church, or else cultivated by the assassins themselves.
 
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Demise admired every building they passed. She loved the Mothers home beneath the mountains and volcanos of their little Isle of course. The darkness and heat were both things she had become comfortable with. But there was only so much the disciples could do with with their homes. More often than not their rooms were little more than caves in the rockface and then decorated as such as each disciple deemed necessary. It was unsurprising then that it was the grand scale of buildings, the artful curves and use of glass, that drew her eye the most. Of course, there was the other reason she admired buildings.

"Not that I know of," Demi said in that distracted tone as her eyes flickered from the top spires of the church to the turrets of the building next to it and the many different slants of the rooves that would best provide a shadow to hide in. "But if this gathering has drawn so many Priests here then I would not be surprised to find a Sister or Brother among the crowds too," as soon as she gave voice to the almost thoughtless words she paused and then replayed them. Demise frowned and bit the inside of her cheek.

"Multiple jobs could be problematic."

Especially with a mole among them.
 
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