Pandemonium Not Worth The Price


Character Biography
Streamers of fog yet lingered in the air, the humidity slowly ebbing away to more tolerable levels as the sun finished its work burning it off. Here, in parts of the slums leading to the Shallows, the air smelled of the fens only a mile or less away, the air rich with life and the subtle undertone of rot. At least the street was still stone, although in a terrible state of repair. The Areck slums were, after all, a blight upon the fair city of Alliria, a stain that should long ago have been scrubbed away. If not for the providence of its denizens, their ability to procure what was needed that teh rest of the city couldn't lower itself to dealing in, it probably would have been cleansed long before.

Vance D'arle was not happy to have to trudge into this place, on foot no less. His drab clothes were well made, fine wool as opposed to the linens and silks he might otherwise wear. Traveling into this party of the city, though, it was wisest to remain inconspicuous and try not to draw any attention to his elevated status, especially to the rats that infested this part of the city. They were not overly fond of their betters, after all, and there were enough of them to pose a serious problem.

Damn that woman! She had steadfastly refused to meet with him in the Inner City, as was proper! The nerve she showed in that was galling, appallingly so, but there was nothing to do but play this charade out to its conclusion. The company was small enough that it couldn't pose much of a threat to his mercantile interests, but large enough to achieve his overarching goals. The audacity of the commander could be dealt with later, after the contract had been accepted and their end of the bargain held up.

His destination was a single story building on a compound closer to The Shallows than he would like to go in person. As he stepped around a curve in the uneven street, the place came into sight. Dressed stone for a foundation, although that only extended a foot or two above the ground before being replaced by wood whitewashed to the same color as the stone itself and, surprisingly, that of the rest of the city. Rich red, black, and gold accentuation was visible everywhere on the exterior of the building, including the fence that doubtless contained a sparring yard and other elements of the company compound. The main building was where he was headed, of course.

He hurried along, well-heeled boots splashing in puddles. As he approached, the colorful accentuation became clearer, some kind of tribal symbology that was lost to him. They had said the woman was from the west, out on the savannah, a former member of some backwards tribe living out in the wild. Vance sneered to himself; a company headed by some primitive barbarian with only the thinnest skim of city sophistication about them. Reaching the door, he quickly wiped the sneer away, noting the lack of any security posted at the door as he stepped inside.

Door closing behind him, D'arle stepped into a large room, stone floor swept clean, walls washed as white inside as they were out. A few chairs were arranged along one wall, as if a place like this had much business, and a desk stoo to one side of the center of the room. The walls behind that desk were occupied by cabinets, pull-out drawers closed and each identified with a glyph of unknown origin to the merchant. A girl, perhaps seventeen or eighteen, sat at the desk. She was clearly of local stock, plain of face with dark hair tied behind her neck. She wore a well made dress of wool, died red, black, and gold - company colors, Vance decided - and was bent over her work, quill pen scribbling and scratching on cheap, thin paper. She didn't even bother to look up, and he had to quash his irritation.

In front of him, another door headed deeper into the building, and yet another door in the same corner looked to head towards the fenced in area he had seen when coming in. A pair of enormous feathers, stylized, were burned into the wood of the door.

"May I help you?" a voice drawled at him, and Vance turned to see that the girl had finally deigned to notice him. She still held the pen at the ready, but was looking at him intently. He couldn't help but notice the scar across her cheek, and the intensity of her gaze.

"Vance D'arle," you peasant, he desperately wanted to add. Instead, he sketched the shallowest of bows to the woman. "I am here to see the commander of the company. I have an appointment?" he said, indicating the paperwork scattered on her desk.

"A moment, if you will." She shifted a few papers, and then nodded. "Yes, sir. Please take a seat. The Warhawk will be with you in a moment. I see she is expecting you." She immediately went back to her paperwork without another word, and D'arle was forced to accept being dismissed by some slum urchin. Instead, he took a seat in one of the chairs along the wall - they looked threadbare and cheap but, as it turned out, were quite comfortable. With little else to do, he sat, and waited.

While he waited, he looked around the room. It seemed to lack as much personality as the exterior of the building had, serving a function and little else. There were no wall hangings, no paintings or murals. Only a window, set into the wall next to the door and barred with iron, and from that the late morning sunlight streamed in, motes of dust twinkling in the air. Aside from the girl rising to file some of the endless stacks of paper on her desk, the only other person he saw was a strange black hooded individual who opened the door from the yard, looking at him and the room, before ducking back out. The only thing Vance could see of its face was its mouth, and if Vance could have he would likely have struck them in their face. Even without seeing the rest of whoever it was, there was a sense of mockery there.

"Sir?" Vance looked up, shaken from his thoughts. "The commander will see you now. Just through that door there, the one with the feathers on it." The girl was gesturing with a hand and, once she saw that he had noted where to go, she went back to her work as if he were the least important thing in her life.

With a grunt, he got to his feet, and strode across the stone floor, boots thumping heavily. Before he could touch the latch, a voice called from within. "Come in," it said. He drew the door open, and stepped into a different world.

The light was dimmer in here, he noted as he shut the door. A woman was just in the act of getting to her feet from a pile of cushions on a floor layered with colorful carpets. The walls were hung with the cured hides of a variety of animals so that not a single inch of the walls were left to be visible, and that along with the coloration of the ceiling gave the room the distinct feel of being within a tent.

Barbarians, he thought to himself as he stepped forward.

The woman in question was stretching as the door closed, back arched and arms over her head in a way that made him have to swallow hard for a moment. A well made woman, clearly athletic and in good shape. She wore a linen shirt of decent make, and trousers that were tight enough to leave little to the imagination. She eyed him throughout, as though she knew exactly what she was doing and was interested in seeing his reaction, to which he carefully avoided giving any. Standing straight, she turned away from him, intricately braided silvery-white hair swinging across her rump as she did, the whole thing woven through with the bones of birds and feathers until it looked as they it were an attempt to mimic a headdress.

"Ah, Vance D'arle," she said suddenly, her words thickly accented traders' tongue. The Savannah was heavy in her inflection, leaving little doubt of her origins. "Please, a seat you should take." She indicated a chair towards the back of the room, sitting in front of a desk carved with pagan symbols and feathers, charms, and other things he could scarcely guess at. She rounded the desk, and then sat down heavily, leaning forward and lacing her fingers together in front of her. "Sit, sit," she said again, impatiently, as he made his way to the chair in front of her.

"Your contract, it is very interesting," she said as he settled down, picking up a stack of the same cheap paper he had seen up front. "The price, it is much. You value your daughter very much," she said. The eyes looking over her hands reminded him of a storm on the horizon, first grey, then blue, and they were sharp with an intelligence that he did not expect to find in a barbarian such as her.

"How can one put a price tag on ones' own flesh and blood?" he replied with a shrug.

"I find that I can put a price to anything," she replied. She gestured around her haphazardly, a serious expression on her finely boned features. "This, it costs much. People of the cities, they need much coin for such small land, and more still to put rock and wood on it." She shook her head, but those hawks' eyes never left his. Weighing, measuring, seeming to pierce to his soul. For a moment, he wondered if he was making a mistake. This woman was not what he expected, not half the fool he was hoping for. Either that, or she was doing a great job of hiding it.

"Be that as it may, I have offered my price for the safe return of my Alexa. I trust you've had an opportunity to look over the proposal and the details involved in this task?" At least, all the ones that he was going to put forward. With any luck, he wouldn't have to pay anything in the end, and he would be rid of....well, he could wish, anyway.

"Yes," she said curtly. "The wording, I find it odd in places. An advocate I have had look it over, look for any shifty language," she said, accent still thick enough to require him to think on what she was saying. "A thousand crowns gold is a hefty sum. Forgive me you must, but I wonder if there is something you are not telling me. This request, it is detailed, but it does not appear to contain enough danger to warrant the price." She grinned at him then, a mirthless thing devoid of any humor. "Of course, if your money you wish to throw away, then take it I shall."

"Because they are criminals, and there is no telling what you will encounter. And because they are criminals, I do not want them to buy you off, either." It was plausible enough, of course. "It will already be difficult enough to do without her being killed, but I have more faith in a mercenary company than I do in the Guard."

The commander snorted at that, but her expression remained unreadable. "Still, a tidy sum. Of course, for this work a small team is better. Half a dozen or so, no more. The cost will be in the travel and supplies required."

Vance nodded in agreement. "The Falwood isn't terribly far away, but it is difficult terrain."

"Not so difficult. Easier to approach than the open, sneaking is an option," she replied. "I dislike the amount of intelligence you have given me. Familiar you are with your foe, it would appear, but not with their numbers." She set the papers back on the table, leaning back in her chair as she did so.

"So? Is it more money that you need? This is already a ruinous contract as it is."

"Money? No. I wished to take the measure of the man who hires us. You come from wealth, from power, and trust for that I have not." She eyed him, face hard enough to detract from its natural beauty. "A taste for politics of the city-dweller I have not. I will not wait for a poisoned knife in the dark. I will accept your contract, Vance D'arle, but I will also have you know that if treachery it comes to..." She gestured behind her. An armor stand bearing a hardened leather breastplate, leather vambraces, and leather trousers stood there, and a sword with a long hilt and three feet of single edged, slightly curved steel wrapped in leather with it. Vance hadn't really noticed before, but the walls were lined with weapons, some in good shape and some broken, likely trophies. Bows, spears, swords, shields, and a few tattered, blood-stained standards as well.

"A good day to you," she said, a smile finally on her face. It was a predatory one, though, and held little warmth.


"Tian, your thoughts?"

The shadows in one corner of the room seemed to blur, and then a shape stepped from them. Tian stood taller than the Commander did, and every inch of flesh was covered in black leather save for the bottom of his face, barely exposed beneath a black leather cowl. Two great knives, very nearly swords, hung at his hips.

"You want the honest truth, Warhawk?" he asked, and smirked. "Man is full of shit. He's hiding something but I don't know what it is. But what did you expect, dealing with someone rich enough to be of noble blood?"

She stared at the door where the man had just left a few minutes before, expression as unreadable as it had been when he had been there. With a sniff, she turned to the armor stand, and picked up the weapon, the heft of it in her hands bringing some calm to her torn thoughts. "Turn this down, a part of me says. But the money, it is good. A step towards bringing righteous vengeance upon those who wronged my people, this is. But..." She trailed off into silence.

"But this might leave you dead, rotting in the open under the trees. Just another slain by the machinations of your so-called betters." Tian's voice was serious, but soft. "Can't say as I haven't been there before. The call is yours to make, of course, but I believe you have already made it."

She looked at him, a gleam of something dangerous in her eyes. "Aye, I have. You'll be coming along for this. I do not have many to spare, so we'll need to recruit or find contractors. Every faith in you I have, to procure what is needed. Cynthia will arrange whatever money is needed."

She didn't need to hear his assent, or to even turn to know that the former assassin was gone from the room. There is something underneath all of this. May the spirits protect us, and the ancestors shield us from treachery.
Manama had just arrived within the slums lining the outer wall of the city, a look of contempt held on her face as her eyes drank the scene before them. Her nose was held high, chin pointed forward, shoulders relaxed yet loosened for whatever situation arose. Watching the many denizens bustle to and fro, toothless merchants calling cheap wares into the open air, beggars holding out open palms crying for coin, the smell of shit and piss permeating the humid atmosphere all had her wishing she were already gone, yet resupplying and the chance at work drove her to step forward. And another, and another, until she were walking through the muck and scum littered about the streets.

'Illusions are what is given within society's bounds, to think it is better living off each other's backs, I cannot fathom how one possesses the mindset,' thought the warrior as she dodged a pair of dwarves who angrily waved fists in her direction as they scurried onwards. As she turned around to go the opposite direction she abruptly ran into the sweaty, smelly chest of a broad-shouldered oaf who suddenly grabbed her shoulders in reciprocation.

"'Ello pretty woman, don' think I've the pleasure a seein' your kind round here before! What's yer name lass, you look lost," said the giant oaf, giving her a toothy grin from under grimy matted hair hanging just above bulging asymmetrical eyes. Manama's narrowed at her contender's grip, staring into the face of a brutish man.

"Manama, and I knew not you were behind me, my apologies." She tried to step out of his grasp, to no avail, thick pudgy fingers squeezing tight on her flesh.

"Oh it's no problem Manama, many a queer folk come and go here in Alliria, I'd not been upset if ya stepped on me boots! New to town, aye? What brings a dark-skinned lass like yerself to these parts of the world?" the man asked as he towered a head over her, looking her up and down. His eyes began to sparkle at the notice of how much skin she left uncovered, her firm stomach glinting in the sun under a slight gleam of moisture, her lithe legs stood apart so that the silken sash which hung from around her waist covered little.

"Just a damsel in distress m'lord!" the dark skinned woman said, her voice mocking the regional dialect. Her captor gave a spit filled laugh at the title, taking a hand off one shoulder to wipe a tear from his eye.

"A fool too I see! Might have good luck entertaining one o' them merchant lords up in the inner city, wish we'd see more action from the lot on the docks but they only come round when they've got special shipments they see ta themselves, too good for us common folk down here in ruin. Anyways, Manama, call me Tobias, just a simple freighter." He let go of her other shoulder and extended a hand for her to shake. The girl found it rather odd, hand shaking a gesture uncommon to her. Slowly, one of her hands crept forward before she wrapped her fingers around his, and the dockworker then arched a brow himself at the reaction.

"Never shaken a hand before, miss?"

Manama shook her head no.

"Tis a simple gesture of greeting, m'lady! Next thing you'll be tellin' me you've never heard of a hug!" laughed the oafish man, however Manama had no recognition of the word. Not that it didn't occur where she came from, but the people of the desert held strict social boundaries with one another, personal space a rather larger sphere than those from the eastern realms. Their common tongue was also sparse and contained many words of the regional dialect, therefore speaking common with those who spoke it natively left her scrambling for understanding at times, different customs and cultures bringing with them their own quirks. Tobias loosened his grip in gesture to let go, however Manama held strong, allowing for an awkward silence to follow a moment, before the man said, “Now you can let go, miss, tis enough,” he said sheepishly. Manama nodded and dropped her hand back to her side.

"Tobias, I've walked much this day, can one tell me where I may find lodgings before the sun falls?" Manama asked, her accent thickening. The overbearing man pointed behind her.

"Aye, two blocks down the way, and on the way to me work. We walk together, let us go before you find yourself beneath a merchant's cart!" the jolly oaf cajoled.

Manama walked with her newfound friend, finding the man an irrepressible speaker, pointing out fine details and peculiar attractions which drew her attention to the doings of the city folk. It was all rather odd to her, these people didn't carry themselves with the same manner of distance which she was used to, even within the seven cities. After a block the man pointed out a large notice board filled up with strung up papers.

"You just keep those butter knives for show, or ya know how to use them lass?" he asked her.

Manama puffed her chest out, taken back in offense.

"They are extensions of my arms, dimwit, of course I can use them!" Tobias raised his hands and splayed his fingers, motioning to calm down.

“Okay, okay lass, just a joke, no need to go stickin’ me wit’em!” he exclaimed. “I ask cause tis work you be needin, that there’s a notice board for them contracts sellswords pick up,” he said as he pointed towards a shambled piece of oak tacked on a post with many a papers fluttering with the wind. Most were dampened by the early morning dew, ink stains blotting words on the pages. Manama walked to it and studied the contents of some of the pages, before her eyes widened at the prospects of a particular notice. The midday sun beamed down on her from above, the heat reminding her of home.

‘Such an amount, for the classifications of the job, there is something more to this… Still, it would be wasted opportunity for me to pass up the gold, even if I have to work for it the price pays for much energy to be spent.’ She stooped down and unsheathed one of the dirks from her boot, cutting off the address of the contractor’s, pocketing it in her coin pouch.

“I’m beginning to see you as a blessing Tobias, your help is greatly appreciated,” Manama said, holding her hand out to shake in thanks. It was Tobias’ turn to peer at her uncannily, before he slowly met her.

“Ain’t nothin’ miss, glad to help out a pretty lass,” he said slowly. They shook hands and the same process of awkwardness occurred. Tobias shrugged.

“Three, four shakes and then let go lass,” he laughed. She blushed with embarrassment, realizing her doing.

“I think now I go to find this place, good coin for the type of job detailed,” she said curtly. Tobias gave her a stiff nod as he wondered how it was she was a sellsword and not him.

“Right then! If no sign post is on the corner, look on the walls nearby for the name of the street! Good luck to ya lass, if yer ever back in the the Shallows, ask for Tobias around the docks, one of the boys’ll point ya my way! Be careful over there though, they’ve got sticky fingers, if ya catch my drift!” Manama did not catch his drift, but nodded in affirmation as if she did. She walked away for a bit before turning back to wave again. Tobias stood staring after her, giving a two finger salute before continuing his way to work.

Manama meandered through the ramshackle lined streets, mismatched cobblestone jutting out here and there, crowded in the afternoon. People were just finishing lunch, heading from the taverns back to the docks, the girl sidestepping many heading in the opposite direction. She huffed in frustration at the incapacity for movement. Eventually the buildings began to have more and more space between them, their appearances less shabby the closer she got to a towering wall, until eventually she came upon what seemed to her a guards post, the gated compound confusing her to thinking she were not at the right place. Reaffirming with a passerby this was indeed the location she’d received, she stepped through the gates and up to the door, opening it slowly before moving inside. Her eyes immediately glanced around the barren room, noting of its simpleness. The spaciousness of the place Manama appreciated, although she thought a bit of decorations may help the decorum. She followed the stream of light which jutted in the room from between the shadows of the bars, considering she may have still been correct on this being a guards post. She then looked towards the desk where the scarred woman sat, the disfigurement plain as the daylight.

“I’ve seen notice of a contract which listed this… Place as the headquarters where the benefactor resided. Am I correct in my presumption?” the desert girl asked.
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Character Biography
The girl at the desk had glanced up at the new arrivals entrance into the office, but hadn't anything to say at the moment about it. She had plenty of work to occupy her with, a half dozen ongoing contracts with varying numbers of mercenaries employed to handle them. The Rei Company was still new, and still small, with sixty four mercenaries currently on company payroll. Before too long, Cynthia would need help to manage all the work, but for the moment it wasn't too taxing, especially considering the pay, which was very, very generous for the slums.

When the other woman spoke up, finally, she glanced at the new arrival with a barely contained look of annoyance. "I'm sorry, miss, but you'll have to be more specific. There are currently a couple of contracts on offer here," she replied, already returning to scribbling on the cheap paper halfway through her reply after a peremptory appraisal of the dark skinned lady. "If you are here about the Elbion venture, I'm afraid you are too late; they left yesterday, fully staffed."

From somewhere beyond the door to the left of the one with the scorched into it, there came a loud clatter, wood against wood, and a grunt. The sound was repeated again, multiple times so rapidly as to almost morph into a single solid sound, a murmur of appreciation barely heard through the stout wooden door. A moment later, there was a muffled shriek, followed by an impressive string of cursing.

The girl at the desk looked up from her work with a scowl on her face, directed at the offending noises. "I wish they would do this some other time, I have too much to do without having to listen to that racket," she said crossly. "If you do not want to wait, miss, you can step out into the training yard. Tian and the Warhawk are both out there, now, with some other guests," she added as she bent back to her work.
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Manama blinked in disbelief at the woman's demeanor, yet relaxed as she began to realize the workload the secretary was under.

'I'd be stressed too, cooped up under a roof stamping papers all day,' she thought to herself, before the ruckus beckoned her attention. The silk wrapped leather of her boots padded on the stone floor as she came to the door leading towards the courtyard and listened a moment for anybody in the immediate vicinity of the hinge hung plank. She stood still and stared a moment as she considered how best to approach the situation.

'Honeyed words, or brazen spirit? A door always hides who's behind it,' the desert girl furrowed her brow in contemplation. 'Certainly sparring is afoot, it's been a bit since I've let sparks fly, but if I am wrong about their tenacity... These easterners can be rather soft, even the guardsmen.' The foreigner, in confusion of whether she were in a law executing establishment or a common mercenary guild's quarters, due to her lack of reading skills in the common tongue, weighed the options impressed within her minds eye's view. Her chin tilted inwards towards her chest, her shoulders bending slightly forward as if she were burdened with a heavy pack. Many elves were drawn to her carefree nature regarding the societal rules, especially the city dwelling Fal'Addasians, who took her nature as to be expected from those of her tribes, accepting it within mutual accordance with the natural laws, bidden the minor disagreements on details. The fair skinned brethren of hers of Vel'Anir could not be held to hold the same respect in her eyes, and whose ways which they deemed warlike and proper rather the opposite to her. It was hard to tell how people would react in new lands, some laughed, some yelled, Manama's stomach reminding her that gold needed to flow soon for her belly to feel full. To displease her potential benefactors on first impression, she'd be ashamed of herself for losing the amount of gold they were paying for in regards to the details of this job, however minute.

Manama hesitated a moment longer before abruptly kicking the door open, sunlight glaring in from outside. She shrugged as she remembered the rude secretary, her timidness becoming overridden with self procured confidence. Stretching her arms, the girl squinted as her eyes filtered the rays from the star above, chin held high in defiance, shoulders arched back in ease. She stepped out into the blinding visage.

"A daughter is missing, or so I have heard," she said, thickening her Kalitian accent, snifffing the air in gesture of fearlessness. "I am Manama Saar Ba'Dul, daughter of Man'O Saar Ba'Dul, Medjay of the Baal'Duru Delta. I have traveled from my homeland in order to learn of the world, so that I may take on my father's legacy, with wisdom and honor! If your contract is yet unfilled, allow me to take the pouch of gold offered, and my services are yours!" Manama waited as the glare of the sunlight was just beginning to bring the sparring ground into view.

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Scythe and Nyght

Twin Mercenaries
Character Biography
Day-drinkers. See, now that was just an unfair moniker. Truthful, but unfair. They didn't always drink before the sun had even reached high noon. Just sometimes. When the coin flowed or there was cause for celebration. Nevermind today had neither of those reasons going for it today. Day-drinkers. Just sometimes.

Scythe and Nyght sat side-by-side at the counter in the Mangled Rat tavern. What a fuckin' name. They loved it. The utter balls on Yemen, the jovial and bearded barkeeper and proprietor. He wasn't trying to fool anyone. The Shallows were a dump. Made the Outer City look like a paradise, a marvel of architecture, craftsmanship, and wealth by comparison. But if you wanted a drink or some lunch and you were as poor as the rest of the saps who'd tumbled down here, where the hell were you gonna go? That's right. You were gonna walk your happy ass over to the Mangled Rat and you were gonna like it. Sure there were other taverns. But there was only one named the Mangled Rat.

Scythe took a drink of his ale. Then Nyght did the same as soon as his mug was down. It was another system they had developed. Not as asynchronous as they normally preferred. But double the pleasure. As much as could be had from drinking the swill on offer. But swill was good. Built character. Too much of the fancy stuff and they'd forget just where the hell they'd come from in life.

Though, in direct contradiction to that thought, they were a bit overdressed for the Mangled Rat. Expensive, custom coats and fine shirts, vests, and pants. Scythe's body was wearing a red ascot for gods' sake. It was likely the only one in the whole of the Shallows.

But they were here for business, alongside a few drinks and little buzz. Yemen was one of those barkeeps who kept his ear to the ground. A sellsword's best friend.

"What are you two feelin' this time around?" Yemen asked as he leaned an elbow on the counter.

"Anything that doesn't involve cats," said Scythe.
"You wouldn't believe how much some people love those things," said Nyght.
"How rich and dumb do you gotta be to hire sellswords to rescue a bunch of cats?"
"How poor and clever do you gotta be to kidnap some rich fucker's bunch of cats?"
"I think I still have some hair on me."

Yemen snorted. "Up for a trip out to the Spine, then?"

"Not just no," said Nyght.
"But hell no," said Scythe.

"Scratch that." Yemen leaned in a bit closer. Brought his voice down. "How 'bout a smash and grab?"

"Something a bit more on the straight and narrow this time," said Scythe.
"Maybe another day, if it's still available," said Nyght.

"Daughter rescue?"

"Bullseye," said Scythe.
"That's the money, Yemen," said Nyght.

And the barkeep grinned. "I've always got somethin', and that's the gods' honest truth. Good timing on this one. Fresh from a merc company today. Rei Company's the name. Lookin' for a few extra hands with the job. Now listen, you'll want to head up and out of the Shallows. Their compound is in the slums. Just go up the hump and left and you can't miss it. It ain't tall, but there's red and black and gold trim all over it."

"Thanks for the tip, Yemen," said Scythe.
"Here. For having a good ear," said Nyght.

And they each reached into the pouches on their belts. Scythe's body with his left hand and Nyght's body with her right. Each grabbed a few coins and clapped them down on the table in perfect tandem.

"You two must practice that," Yemen said as he scooped up the coins.

"He does," said Nyght.
"She does," said Scythe.
"We both do."
"It's a neat trick, huh?"

* * * * *​

Yemen was right on the money, as usual. They didn't have to burn too much daylight looking for the Rei Company compound. Good information was a godsend.

Scythe and Nyght stood just outside the front door of the building, looking at it and the adjacent fence. Hmm. A full-on mercenary company. They even had their own headquarters here in Alliria. How long before some godawful misfortune killed off half of it? Or more. Misfortune always had room for more.

Well. That'd be Rei Company's problem, when and where it happened. All Scythe and Nyght were here for was one job. As straightforward as it gets and no strings attached.

Nyght's body stepped forward. Opened the front door, and Scythe's body followed her inside. Another one of those systems they developed. They used to smack into door jambs or get stuck trying to both go through at once. Their mind-merging required particular adaptations like that.

Plain and white inside. Not gaudy. Utilitarian. What they were used to. Not the upper class trappings they aspired to, and often pretended to be. A door ajar off to the left, with some sunlight coming in. And a girl. At a desk. What the fuck did she do?

Oh wait. Servant, probably. Administrative tasks and all that. Their father's mercenary company never had one (though they didn't have a headquarters either), but the Philanthropist did. There was a more specific name for those kinds of servants, but they couldn't be bothered to remember it. They had previously thought only busy, wealthy people hired them. Guess not. Learn something new.

They walked up to the desk. Holy shit, look at that scar. Maybe she wasn't a servant. Just got saddled with a shit desk detail.
Scythe spoke first.

"We're here for the daughter rescue job."
Nyght jabbed a thumb at Scythe. "I told him it'd be an awful idea."
Scythe jabbed a thumb at Nyght. "And I told her it'd be a brilliant one."
"Just come along and give it a go, he says."
"And so here we are."

Scythe grinned. And Nyght looked reluctant. All in an effort to appear like two distinct people. It was just easier that way, when meeting strangers.


Character Biography
The girl at the desk dropped her pen with a squawk of indignation as the dark skinned woman kicked the door in on the courtyard, rising from her seat so quickly she knocked over the chair she had been seated in. "Hey! You've heard of a door latch, yes?" she yelled, planting both fists on the desk. "You just broke that latch, you're going to buy it!"

The scene in the courtyard was something else altogether, and it would be easy to ignore a hollering secretary in light of what was on full display.

Aeyliea stood facing an opponent in a ring, a wooden blade made of bundled lathes held in a two handed stance. Sweat dotted her face, left the hair at her temple damp and plastered to her forehead, and ran in glistening rivulets down her exposed midriff. She wore the hardened leather armor over her chest, and leather pants darkened about the waist with her sweat. Those eagles eyes were fixed on her opponent as they spun in a circle around each other, blades held ready.

Her opponent was a gaunt looking fellow with dark skin, darker even than Manama's own/ Blood ran in a thin stream down a forearm that he held behind his back, flesh torn just above the wrist. He held his practice weapon one handed, and eyed the woman across from him as warily as one might look upon a poisonous viper, just waiting for her to strike. He wore full leather armor himself, although from the way he moved he'd already suffered a few hits.

The older woman slower her circling, the bones in her hair clicking together as her eyes cut to the door being kicked in. Her opponent, sensing the moment of apparent distraction, lunged forward in a vicious thrust. Very much like the viper that had been reflected in his eyes, the woman seemed to slide past the blade deftly, a twist of the wrist striking the mans' own weapon violently and knocking it away and down, into the dirt floor of the circle. When it grounded, with all of his weight behind it, he came up short, and with his balance now completely and utterly lost, she struck as quickly as a snake, movement of wrists only rapping him across his knuckles, forcing him to release his weapon, then again in the forearm, only to be finished with a vicious step forwrd and a kick to the chest that sent him barreling backwards into the dirty.

"It was a try, Haman, but worth it, it was not," the woman said, flinging the weapon to the side as though to clear it of blood that was not there, before grounding it before her. She extended a single foot forward, and bowed to her opponent. "Next time, perhaps better luck you will have?"

Haman was getting to his feet a little slow, and another woman was moving across the packed dirt floor without any sense of urgency, a vial of something in one hand and bandages in the other. The commander of the company turned, and espied the young woman in the doorway, her stormy eyes latching on to hers. They seemed to look beyond the dark orbs themselves, examining something within.

"We are met well," she said in thickly accented response to the young woman's introduction. "Aeyliea Terraossa din Belgar, daughter of Kiala Brightwing din Belgar, of the Norei. The spirits sing your name in my ears, Manama, even as the laughter of my ancestors follow young Haman," she said, the ghost of a smile touching her lips. It was a pitiful offering, but a great deal more emotion than she was wont to show any outsider. She cast a side-eye at a man sitting on the edge of the roof directly over the top of Manama's head, and rolled her eyes at his smirk. "The world of the city dwellers is a whore," she continued, indicating vaguely with her hands their surroundings. "And like all whores, she has great coin, if the stomach to get it you have. You would don the war-paint and lock blades for coin, or for honor?" The blade in her hand came up in a blur, flung end over end over the top of Manama's head, to be deftly snatched from the air by the shrouded man on the eaves.

A shriek of rage from within the doorway Manama had kicked open caused the woman to look up sharply. "Boss is outside! Through the door some of your friends kicked open rather than being civilized about it!" Something crashed inside, sounding very much like a drawer being rammed home. "I'm going to break! She's out there!"

A few moments later, another slam, this time the door to the front of the building.

"Perhaps a bit too much work. A words with her about guests, I need to have," the Warhawk said flatly, although it was quite possible she was having a difficult time maintaining her composure just then.
Manama smiled and nodded in affirmation at the comment of the city dwellers, her long flowing braids flowed with the slight breeze the sword made as it flew above her. The warrior didn't flinch, much as bells went off inside her skull, walking amidst the center of the sparring area, barely noticing the shadowed presence that was just behind her

"It would be a lie for me to say honor alone, for a belly must be fed, but my honor is my life, and would rather I die for it than live in its shadow," she proclaimed to the white haired woman, her blue eyes entrancing the desert girl, two mirrors held in the visage of the woman's head. "I am a fair woman, as long as you reciprocate the notion, Commander." When the help raved over the state of affairs, she jerked a thumb towards the door. "A fair thing, to take what is needed from my pay for damage caused, but not too much, mind you. I don't play a fool like most do in the face of tests."

She stood proud, her aura emanating dominion over herself, assured of her movements, thoughts, actions. Manama undid the straps across her jerkin to allow the sheathed bow to drop from her side, also undoing the quiver, setting it near her worn travel pack.

"To be assured of my skill, allow one of our companions here to face me, of their own volition of course," she said to Aeyliea through grinning, gritted teeth, hopping on the balls of her feet to get the blood flowing in her legs. Manama had not seen conflict for a few days, her steel itching for the whetstone, her muscles protesting for movement at the very moment. Her mind cleared itself with ease, closing her eyes and focusing on her breathing as she moved to stretch in various poses, the limits of her clothes stretching with each motion. Taut chocolate skin glistened under the blue sky, Manama preparing for battle.

"If anything becomes damaged in the course of this spar, I must ask that you take it as expenditures, however," Manama said, smirking.

Scythe and Nyght

Twin Mercenaries
Character Biography
Well, that was easy. Sure the scarred desk woman was angry, but they'd take being yelled at any day over having to wait and read the whole damn contract and sign this and all that. Hell, Scythe and Nyght could barely read as is. Lots of trial and error and burning hard-earned crowns on hiring some stuffy old scholar or another to teach them. Father could have at least helped them out with that before getting back-stabbed. That would have been just too convenient though.

You live. You learn. You get paid. Or you end up in a ditch. Whichever.

There was a curious bit to what the scarred woman had said, and Scythe and Nyght glanced at each other. Old habits died hard alright, but this one was fine. Helped to put on the 'We're two different people don't ask too many questions' show.

And they kept the show going.

"You've got a friend out there?" said Nyght.
"Maybe you've got a friend out there," said Scythe.
"Your friends would be the type to kick open doors."
"Some doors need a good kicking."
"Well try explaining that to her."

Scythe and Nyght looked back to the scarred woman.

"Thank you for your time," said Scythe.
"We'll be on our way," said Nyght.

They walked across the whitewashed main room and toward the open doorway. Nyght's body first, then Scythe's. And they squinted their eyes some as they stepped outside and back into the sunlight. Each standing beside the open door that probably was broken, much to the scarred desk woman's ire.

A sparring ring. A man and two women out there. And they caught the tail end of the darker-skinned woman saying something about expenditures.

They crossed their arms and waited. They weren't exactly sure what was going on between the three, besides that the man among them had taken a good licking from something. They weren't sure who the boss was yet, either, or if it even was one of the three currently there. The scarred woman said the boss was outside, but maybe he had to take a piss or something.

But...this was a sparring ring. And they knew sparring rings in one context, from their old raider days.

Scythe leaned his head toward Nyght. Said low and quiet, "Wanna bet?"
Nyght leaned her head toward Scythe. Said low and quiet, "It's good to test our luck."
"Nice to know ahead of time, how the wind's blowing."
"She is a fickle mistress, Lady Luck."
"Should we tempt fate?"

The dark-skinned woman looked like she was up. She was fighting either the man or the woman with the knickknacks in her hair. But which? Ah, didn't matter.

They placed their bet on her. Time to see if some expenditures were going to get knocked the fuck out of one of those other two.


Character Biography
The warleader snorted at the young womans words, and shook her head to a clattering of bones and fluttering of feathers. "A latch or a door, either is cheap. This compound, it cost little in the grand scheme of things, what is one more door to that?" She made a gesture over the head of the Manama, towards Tian. "This is Tian. He is my Stormcrow, my second. He carries my lances for me in battle, by the lights of my people. He shall be your sparring partner." She noted the pair that stepped through the door kicked open by the first, and eyed them, expression cool.

"How am I supposed to make coin if I have to do the fighting, boss?" Tian grumbled as he leapt nimbly off the roof, dropping ten feet to land perfectly balanced and as smoothly as if it had been practiced a million times before. Despite his eyes not being visible, he gave the very distinct impression of eyeing the woman up and down rather boldly, and then whistled softly. "How am I supposed to keep up with a young'un like this, anyway?"

She had already turned away, going into the shade provided by the wall of the building opposite the main office, a building that looked very much like barracks. She stooped and picked up a leather sheathed bundle with the grace of long familiarity, and slung it across her back, cinching straps in place so that the long hilt of a sword stuck out over her left shoulder.

She turned, and strode across the edge of the ring as Tian and Manama walked into it, heading straight for the newly arrived pair, long braid swaying behind her. The pair were well dressed, and well armed. And so close to one another in appearance it was difficult to tell them apart. Something wafted on the air, some inner sense that told her that there was something different about this pair, something she could not put her finger on. Sharp eyes took the measure of both as she came to stand directly before them, expressionless face subtly shifting from one to the other.

"Greetings, warriors. I am Aeyliea Terraossa, Warhawk of this company. To whom do I have the pleasure of speaking?"


"Only thing that's going to get damaged in this spar is my pride," the odd cowled man said as he strode beside the young woman, feet crunching in the dirt. "Its been a long time since I've had my ass kicked by beautiful, so go easy on me, ok?"

He reached the center of the ring, and then spun to face Manama with a bow. "The names Tian, son of no one, at your service my dear. I'd ask that you go easy on an old man like me, but I have a feeling I would be wasting my breath." Both kives were quite suddenly in his hands, held in reversed grips so that the backs of the curved blades protected his wrists and forearms. Something seemed to shimmer around him, and the scent of burning tin wafted through the air.

The bouncing girl grew excited as her eyes studied her opponent. She unsheathed her curved scimitars and held them in likewise fashion as Tian. She said nothing to the hooded grump as her nose picked up the smell, yet she dismissed it from her mind.

'Incense from a nearby burner, perhaps.' She tried to remember if she'd seen any upon entering the Guild Hall, yet realized her mind drifted off track, eyes darted back towards the man. Padded feet lithely carried the agile girl into full speed as the smile widened, sparks of steel ready to rain. Right before she'd reach Tian, she'd drop into a sliding kick to try and slide between his legs, hoping to rip one out from under him and take him to the ground.

The absolute faintest smirk gave warning that this was perhaps not the wisest choice on the part of the girl. He didn't even try to avoid her, instead shifting his stance and throwing his weight to one side. The attempted trip came, and he allowed her to grab a leg...and with incredible agility and even more incredible speed, he pivoted, allowing her momentum to draw him down. He was already moving the same direction as she was, elbow aiming for a shoulder with all of their combined momentum behind it.

He crashed down on top of her, elbow connecting solidly as the rest of him followed. At such close proximity, he couldn't help but not her head bounce off the soft ground, grunt of pain exploding from her mouth as thought forced. Girl is a tough one, he thought to himself as the pair of them rolled away from one another. Her youth gave her a little bit of a leap on him, for she was on her feet before he was. It had been a long time since he had been given a proper challenge, and this was shaping up to be one.

He was just getting to his feet when she was on him, lithe actions difficult to block from a half standing position. Steel shrieked on steel as their blades met but, alas, the girl had an advantage. For the moment. Those blades at the distance she was fighting from put him at a distinct disadvantage of reach, and though he parried most of the bloods, bright pain lanced through his left bicep as a blade struck home, flinging brilliant crimson that glistened unnaturally into the air. It was a shallow wound; the leather had done the job of absorbing most of the force.

"No blood," the healer woman snapped from the sidelines, and Tian scowled as he blocked and parried the girls blows. his heightened speed was only enough to grant him the barest of edges, and perhaps not even that when facing a youth such as Manama. "Its not my god damned blood, woman," he snapped back.

And then stepped in close to Manama, trying to get within her reach, where her weapons were far less effective and his great hunting knives held the advantage. He could parry the blows easier here, too, avoid mortal hits...and, of course, he was close enough to kick her.

Which is what he tried to do, rigth square in her smooth midriff. What kind of guy wouldn't appreciate such an expanse of bare flesh....and try to plant a boot in it while the woman in question was trying to skin him alive?

Reminds me too much of my teenage years.
Manama’s grin was gone in face of the geezer, suddenly a more worthy foe than she’d originally anticipated. Her staunch belief in her abilities wavered as the kick planted square in her stomach, the girl idiotic enough to fall for the depth of range granted to him. Her eyebrows furrowed as she stumbled two paces before falling on her back. Manama moved with the vapid speed of a viper to reclaim foothold, still winded from the boot.

Regaining her foothold was little help when Tian immediately closed the distance again, getting within her reach, making her have to change the way she cut at her foe. Making it awkward.

This was Tians' own style, of course, up close and personal. She could wound him here, but so close the wounds would not be severe, because she had no room to get proper power behind her attacks. Fortunately for her, lethal force was not permitted, else she would have sprouted a few throwing knives already. She was extremely good with those short swords.

"Lovely dance, m'lady," he said, then pressed his own attack against her, knives a blur of motion difficult to track, seeking flesh in the least lethal of manners.

Manama was silent except for her ragged breathing, pain in her stomach another item to be categorized and stuffed away in the heat of the moment. The leather of her jerkin whined in stretching contortions of body movement, blades ringing against blades, Manama’s scimitars too long for her to properly approach her target in full enough force. Manama immediately dropped a sword from her grip and let it clang to the floor as she yanked on her silken sash to throw it in the man’s face.

“Hope the view is of your liking!” the dark skinned desert woman snarked.

Sweat streaming down his face, he barked a pained laugh. "Not the color I fancy, my dear!"

And then he rushed in close, to put the crown of his head into her face in the most classic of barroom brawl tactics: the headbutt.

Through the wisp of green and yellow which momentarily fluttered in the air, his forehead collided with her forehead as she leaned directly into the unperceived trick, trying to force a blade to his throat for yield before he could recuperate. This was of course to no avail, as she instead fell backwards, unconscious in the dirt of the arena. The desert woman’s nose leaked slightly, and any could see how the bridge kicked off to the left a bit. She lay face up, half naked as dust wafted around her body, swords splayed on either side of her.

Scythe and Nyght

Twin Mercenaries
Character Biography
The woman with the hair knickknacks pointed at something. Above the dark-skinned woman's head. Above Scythe and Nyght's own heads. Tian? Was he the boss? Nope. He was a Stormcrow. Her second. What the hell was a Stormcrow, and what happened to the first one? If they had to guess, a Stormcrow was some kind of mage, and the first one probably blew himself up. That usually happened. A man without magic knew his limits. Knew damn well he couldn't, say, lift a boulder. But, for some reason, mages always seemed to have bigger heads on their shoulders. Usually thought they could lift mountains or some such nonsense. And it ended up messy.

A man dropped down and landed a ways in front of them.

And Scythe and Nyght both flinched, their hands jerking for the crossbows strapped across their backs, before they relaxed a second later. They didn't know why that scared the hell out of them, but it did. The woman even pointed up at him. The man even said a little something before jumping down. They just...they didn't think someone would actually be perched up on a roof like that. Scythe's body looked up and to the left, and Nyght's body looked up and to the right. Checking for more. Just to be sure.

And the woman who Tian had addressed as boss came toward them. With the leather armor. And the midriff. Huh. Why bother with the armor in the first place? Just fight comfortable. Or, better yet, get the drop on your target and don't fight, just win. Could do that naked if you wanted to and you played your cards right. Now that'd be a story for the collection. Get a few heads turning in the Mangled Rat, that's for sure.

Aeyliea Terraossa. Scythe and Nyght were immediately perplexed by her. Mostly due to their own assumptions and experience with other mercenaries and mercenary captains. Direct and blunt, like a club to the face. Didn't care very much how they sounded or how they came across to others. They couldn't remember a single one ever using the word 'whom' before. Hell, they didn't even know that was a real fuckin' word until they got their first contract from the Philanthropist and broke into the clandestine world of upper-class and noble intrigue. Either Aeyliea was as good at putting on airs as Scythe and Nyght hoped they were, or she actually was well-read and versed in addition to being deadly. Now that was a combination, alright.

Safe route. Don't even try the sophistication act. They basically blew it with the scarred desk woman anyway. No big deal.

They each lowered the hoods of their coats.

"Warriors? Well that's flattering," said Scythe.
"We're sellswords through and through," said Nyght.
"You wouldn't catch me dead on some front line."
"Glory's not our style."
"But coin sure as hell is."

Wait. Warhawk? The word itself seemed to have some bite to it. Most of the time it was Captain. Cap, if he or she liked you.

Don't dwell on it. Introductions.

Scythe extended his hand. "I'm Samuel Blair."
A pause. And Nyght extended hers. "And I'm Samantha Blair."
"Or you could just holler Sam at us."
"You'll get at least one of us to notice. Promise."

They preferred to use their actual names for new acquaintances. Saved their raider names, the ones they had become more accustomed to over the years, for people they knew and hazarded a little trust. Like Yemen. It spared them questions. The obvious ones. Why are you named after a farming tool and why are you named after a time of day? And the dangerous ones. Haven't I heard of you two before? Robbing a trader caravan some years back sound familiar to either of you?

All the while, the sparring match went on.

And, not all that long after the introductions, the fight was over.

That was a neat trick by the dark-skinned woman. Something right out of Scythe and Nyght's own dirty and underhanded wheelhouse. And if Tian didn't appreciate the view, then Scythe and Nyght sure did. Her upper half wasn't looking so good, though. Busted nose. Her own trick having backfired on her. That had to sting. Ego blow.

But worse.

Scythe and Nyght had lost their bet. Lady Luck wasn't on their side today.

That shit didn't bode well.
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A tiny head poked up above the fenced area of the sparring grounds, nose held high as the ovals barely reached above the blockage.

"What happened, lad? Heard them boots fallin' to the ground, couldn't make out what else after," piped a gruff voice.

"Old stooge caught himself a woman, sirs, and aye, it be that woman you's was talkin' to's. Reckon she'll be hoisted up but she got a good kick to the belly, and a headbutt to the face, don' think she'll be up fer a minute!" The child was enamored, his dirt smudged body throwing mock punches throughout the fight, and after the yell from Manama rung out in the air, was now silent on the shoulders of the dockworker. The boy whispered something of a headbutt but Tobias questioned the urchin's validity, and when no more words or sounds came he looked up to find the child's mouth open, agape.

"What, what is it boy?!"

"I ain't ever seen a woman before mister, didn't know they had pieces of ham between they legs was all!" said the boy in wonder. Tookins grabbed him by his collar and set him to the floor.

"Ain't ham lad, but ya treat it similarly when they asks you to, now run-along fore guards catch us peepin, an' don' tell yer mother bout what you saw," he said, flipping a gold coin off his thumb into the palm of the urchin.

Tookins strode around to where the gate was, and found himself in the midst of an angered woman, ranting in hushed whispers to herself about the necessity of door handles and the inability to have peace, fumes from a roll of tobacco perched between her lips. When the old hoot made eye contact she immediately quieted, yet her gaze towards him filled with contempt.

"Aye lassy, no need to sober up on my account! Docks have a man doin' twice the yammering, three times the noise, ain't got no complaints with me love!"

He scooted past her and headed up through the doorway, into the large, unadorned hall. When he immediately noticed a shut door, and one drifting with the breeze, sunlight drifting in, he knew where to go.

'Why'd ya even follow the desert girl, Tooky?' he thought to himself, shrugging off work feigned to the interests of the outsider due to her inescapable palpating aura he'd hooked on to since she bumped into him. He didn't know what'd be the next thing to do as he walked out into the open area, noting of the group of three standing further away, the hooded individual standing over the sprawled out beauty. Tookins walked over to inspect the damages, and when he saw the bridge of the nose bent he gave out a guffaw, doubling over above her head to laugh, bits of spit speckling her cheeks.

"She told me she's a warrior, all I see from here's a kitten with butter knives!" he hooted out.
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Character Biography
"In no way, under no circumstance, will I take it off, woman."

Tian was standing face to face - that is to say, she was standing looking up at him not quite face to face - with the healer, he had a finger jabbed into his chest and scowl on her face. That auguring looking she was giving him was, perhaps, exactly what you would expect between a woman and a man when the man was being stone-stubborn stupid about something that was, all in all, really quite simple to see.

"You've blood running down your god damned arm, Tian, take the fucking thing off!" she snapped at him.

Aeyliea eyed the two, and the woman laying on the ground in a certain state of undress, and shook her head as she looked back to the pair of sell-swords in front of her. So much was going on here, today, that it was almost too easy to lose track of the small details..but her sharp eyes picked them up, anyway. There was something off about these two, something she couldn't put her finger on and even less explain. A gut instinct, or something more, warned her that there was more here than met the eyes.

Of course, she couldn't betray any of her thoughts, especially to the subject of those thoughts, and especially when she knew little of the subjects themselves.

"Your name sings in my ears," she replied to them politely. Her hard eyes continued to examine them. "Captain is fine, if more familiar with it you are," she added, having noted the faint reaction to her title. A stolen title, in truth, because she was no chieftainess, no war leader among her people. Yet, anyway.

"Look, just go tend to the girl already. Look, see? Its not bleeding anymore." Tian's words drifted across the yard, and the put-upon huff of the healer followed it. "And get her some clothes too! Appreciate the view, but half the fun is winin' an' dining em, and whispering sweet nothings. Maybe have a word with her about being a little less...eager." The other woman, crunching across the ring, snorted at that as she came to rest next to the girl, pushing yet another newcomer out of the way roughly as if he were a piece of meat. Studying her face for a moment, she took hold of her nose, and twisted it, just so. The crunch of bone was faintly audible.

Aeyliea spun to face the people in the yard suddenly, so swiftly dust skirled around her feet. "Next time, you use the practice weapons," she snapped at Tian, her temper flaring as suddenly as a summer thunderstorm. "Drub you I will, next time. And you!" The last was directed at the stranger, a fine finger stabbing at him through the air. "She stood toe to toe against my second-in-command." For thirty seconds or so, anyway. "At least she had the nerve. Who are you, and why are you here?"

A pause.

"And someone clothe the damned girl already!"

The black-clad man was clearly having a difficult time restraining his laughter at this point. Aeyliea eyed him balefully, then turned back to the pair of mercenaries, her cheeks a touch darker with anger. "You are here for our dear friends' daughter?" she asked the pair, a certain amount of venom devoted to the latter part of that question. She clearly did not like who had hired her on, but was also quite willing to take their money. "Pays' hundred twenty crowns gold, Allirian weight. Get skewered by some brigand, get nothing. A fee I will take if you cost me in healing supplies, too."
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Tobias scowled at the push, stepping back to give the rowdy healer space. Had it been a man he might've shoved back, but the crone only ordained a tongue which he stuck out at her like a child. Moving around to where the 'second in command' stood, he studied the inside of the unconscious girls legs a moment before giving a casual shrug to the white haired woman.

"The lass here was stupid enough t'ask fer it, bravery seems strong in her, but needs more seasonin' if you ask me! I'd take him on if the situation called fer it, but I don' pick fights, no ma'am I don't, just finish em I do." His tone trailed off at that, the distance of a thousand yards seen through one of his eyes, the other still sinking into the dark flesh of the desert girl.

'Figured it'd be darker down there.' He thought to himself, reminiscing on days of old. After a minute he grabbed the silk sash laying in the dust between him and his friend, throwing it over her legs to cover her up.

"Oi, lassy, time to wake up!" he said as he stood over her and the healer.
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Manama awoke suddenly as the bone snapped, eyes widened as the pain filled her nasal cavity. An audible shock twisted through her throat as her pupils honed in on the healer, unaware of Tobias for the moment as her attention then turned in on Tian.

"Kutaaka! (Bitch) You were one unfazed to fight with me, I should have known cheap tricks would be conjured! Afraid of a blade?! Let us fight again!" she yelled at the victor, pushing the healer back as she flung herself forward, grabbing one of the swords as she moved. Manama bared her teeth and tensed up to swipe her scimitar at him when the oafish Tookins wrapped his arms around hers from behind, stepping over the healer with hand movements signaling apologies as he did so.

"Woah lassy! Fierceness runs through yer veins, plain as day to see, but that ain't the only thing plain as day to see right now! Let's calm yerself fer a moment and redress." His poignant scent immediately brought Manama out of her heated state, confusion then poured in as she wondered how he'd got here. Looking down, she realized that only the tool belt and thin leather straps of her jerkin covered her nether regions, and she stomped on the leather boot of Toby's to free herself. The dockworker's face contorted in malice as the bolt shot through his body, stepping backwards almost on the healer. He swayed a moment as if he were about to fall on her, but regained his balance. "Blast it woman! I bet the men of yer lands pee sittin' down, if all the women be of yer nature!"

Manama stood atop the silk as it fell back beneath her in her attempt to lash out against the rogue, and removed the jerkin boot which clamped it to the earth before bending over to pick it up, much to Tobias' query.

'Definitely thought it would be darker.' he said to himself.

She fashioned the sash around her waist, the cloth now set safely upon the skin, unaware of the looks she held from the men. Picking up both blades and wiping off the sparse blood from one of them, she sheathed them before stomping towards Aeyliea and her companions, blinded with her insecurity over losing.

"I demand rematch!" she barked at her potential employer, all worries of impressionism fleeing in the face of her defeat.
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Scythe and Nyght

Twin Mercenaries
Character Biography
Sings in her ears? She had a way with words. Interesting phrasing, too. If more familiar with it you are. Was she nobility or something? Aristocrats and all the rest had their own way of speaking too. Like a whole other language, but with the same words as the trade tongue. Maybe just being around Aeyliea would learn them a new trick or two. A turn of phrase here and a turn of phrase there. Additions to their sophistication repertoire. A little side bonus to the job.

Scythe nodded. A pause. And Nyght nodded.

"Captain's good," said Scythe.
"Yeah, I don't like birds," said Nyght.
A glance for show. "Why don't you like birds?"
A glance back. For show. "They shit everywhere."
"Ah, right."

And they both grit their teeth at the same time when the dark-skinned woman's nose was...adjusted. Good gods, ouch. Scythe's body had the 'winning' total of broken noses between them, tallied up from before their mind-merging and after it. They knew how much it sucked to fix that.

Busy place. A big man came through the open door to the outside arena and immediately started talkin' shit. Did he have a bet? Good on him. If he bet on roof-lurker Tian then maybe Lady Luck would call it a wash and everything would even out. Hmm. Trouble-maker big man. Got yelled at. Every mercenary and raider band had one. Hell, probably needed one. Helped to have some fuck-up or troublemaker or smartass for everyone to vent at. Jokes needed butts, too.

Aeyliea turned back to them. First it was the desk woman, and now it was Cap herself. Talking about some friend they supposedly had. Who the hell was this guy? They probably did know him, whoever he was, though. Wouldn't be the first time they'd made a friend and didn't know it. Some drinks went down hard.

"That's the job," said Scythe.
"One twenty? Well, that smooths it over for me," said Nyght.
"We'll try not to die."
"You might. I won't."
"You wound me, Samantha."

Oh look, the dark-skinned woman was back up. Shame. She had put the cloth sash back on.

Well, if anybody was fighting comfortable out of this lot in the arena, it was her. But Scythe and Nyght just couldn't bring themselves to give up the coats. Ah, she takes the gold, but they got the silver. Fair enough.


Character Biography
Tian paused in his walking away, and turned to face the young woman as she lunged forward, restrained by the newcomer. A mirthful smirk crossed the visible part of his face, and he bowed to Manama in as mocking and insolent a manner as he could. "Girl - and that's what you are, a child - you would do well to take the lesson in humility and reflect on what you did wrong. Only the young are fearless towards death; I have courted her many times the whole length of your life, and think of her as a fond aquaintance." The words were delivered with brutal honesty, and without the faintest hint of condescension.

"This rematch, you shall not have it. Demonstrated the ability to fight, you have," the mercenary captain snapped. "Alise, does the girl need further tending?"

"She'll live for a little longer, boss," the healer replied, getting up and brushing her knees off. She gave the big loaf who had stepped over her an appraising look that was frankly direct and to the point enough to leave nothing to the imagination - some tryst was very likely there, if Alise had her way, the commander warranted. "Someone else is too shy to shed his clothes in the company of women-" Tian grunted, muttering something about showing her something. "-so all is well."

"Who hear is ready to stop playing the fool, and get to business?" She crossed her arms under her breasts, one foot forward and a hard expression on her face. "Or watching children has this become? No time for it have i," she added. She looked at the fellow who had just arrived. "Here for business, are you? Or just to try and coax a girl into a roll in the sack, perhaps?"
Manama glared at Tian as he spoke his piece.

"Annuk knows true conquerors, Makana kapra da kullo!" (He who fornicates with goats, in the second hole)

She then turned away from Aeyliea to follow up with her question to Tobias, stomping to where he stood with arms crossed as she awaited explanation.

"I too am interested to hear your reasoning for spying on me, Tobias! I did not think we were far enough on the path of friendship for prying eyes to watch my wandering image fade in the mirages of distance, why is it you follow me?" she asked as her accent thickened, now a noted sign of her rising temper, hot like the desert sun. Her eyes honed in on the ruddy cheeks blooming red like the petals of a rose, an eye enlarging as it met hers, another, the smaller, looking away towards the ground. It gave off a rather startling appearance which aired out feelings of disgust in the girl, pursing her lips and furrowing her brow in tumultuous indecision as she didn't know how to respond to the look, her face clearly giving signs of the emotion, suddenly sinking to embarrassment for she didn't want to hurt his feelings, which was too late. The oaf sheepishly stroked his shaggy, bedraggled strands of hair, and when his face tilted towards the earth the one eye never left hers.

"I uhm.... Well you sees I..." he seemed positively taken back by the situation, for he had been asking himself the same question the whole time. "Truth be told, just felt like it ta be honest witchya, didn' think nothin' of it til I got here..." He moved the hand which ran through his hair to his scruffy, shoddy beard, inquiring in his head the same question. "Truth be told, I told meself to fuck off wit' the idea of runnin' to them docks fer that measly drinkin' wage when I saws how much the price was fer yer inquirings, yes I did!" He shrugged his shoulders as the eye which stared at the ground shot up to the woman in charge. "I've got military background from me younger days... Been a bit since I've raised sword to another, tradin' it in fer the measly dirk as tis all I've needed to get by 'round here, but I got meself a bit of skills ya may find useful, given the situation. Lemme hear out the details of said plan, and don' be fooled by the slow talkin, ma'am, er, commander?" He understood the place to be that of a mercenary guild, yet higher ups always preferred different titles, depending on the person. "Ol' Mad Eye's got plenty of tricks up his sleeve he does, Mad Eye Toby bein' me nickname 'round here." He then peered behind her with the smaller eye, before both eyes, the normal, and the bulging, fixated on Scythe and Nyght in the same order listed. "Oi! I knows you two's from somewhere, mighty familiar ya are..." He tapped his chin a moment as thoughts trickled in his head, before the light bulb which flashed was evident in the enlarging of both eyes, the larger seeming as if about to completely pop from its socket. As Manama watched this her stomach flipped, as even though she'd seen much carnage and gore in her time, the man's face was absolutely ridiculous, in a sick sort of manner. "The Mangled fuckin' Rat, cheated me in that bet between the halfling and the midget fight set up by Yemen ya did! How's a man supposed to tell a small fellow from... Well... A small fellow?! I want my blasted money back!" he barked at the pair.
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Scythe and Nyght

Twin Mercenaries
Character Biography
Cap was getting them in line. As much as she could. Even the best leaders had a hard time getting the boys under control when they were all rowdy and fired up. Hard enough time doing it without cracking a few heads anyway. Scythe and Nyght weren't sure who was and wasn't a part of Rei Company aside from Cap herself, but whoever was would probably be the ones to get a nice shiner first if everybody didn't pipe down and listen to the big woman in charge when she was fuckin' talkin'. They also weren't sure if they were on the list or not. Some Captains didn't give a damn if you were an independent hire-on, they'd still corporal punishment the shit outta you for not falling in line.

And crossed arms paired with a stern voice was the universal sign of 'Listen up, or I'll make you listen up.'

So Scythe and Nyght each held their hands in front of their bodies and damn well listened up. Good coin was on the line, afterall.

But the dark-skinned woman and--Tobias? She say his name was Tobias?--weren't done yet. If they weren't careful, one of 'em was on track for a good smack. Let 'em. In a merc company or raider band or, hell, probably even straight military, you always wanted somebody else to take the heat from the boss. Get 'em tuckered out so they didn't notice or didn't care so much about your own fuck-ups in comparison.

Oh, Tobias wanted in. Grunt turned dockworker turned merc. Even if he forgot how to the swing a sword somebody could just toss him a shovel when they got into a fight. Big guy like that could probably beat the skeleton straight out of some poor sap's skin with it.

Holy shit, look at those eyes. Like a grape and an apple held together by a nose. Mad Eye Toby. No kidding.

And he knew them from somewhere. Goddamn it.

Ah, close one. Another man of impeccable taste, frequenting the always elegant Mangled Rat. Nothing about stealing anything, like a wagon-load of goods or a pocket-full of some peasant's spare coin. Well, apparently they stole something, but not like that.

Maybe they did. Maybe they didn't. Sidewinder ale was a hell of a drink.

Probably best to sweep this one under the rug as quick as possible.

"You shoulda bet on the halfling," said Scythe.
"Scrappy little bastards, they are," said Nyght.
"You can tell because they're the scrappy little ones."
"Who are also bastards."
"Not to be confused with the little bastard who's scrappy."

They shrugged. At the same time. A bit of a slip. But they weren't expecting to be under the grape-sized and apple-sized gaze of Mad Eye Toby so suddenly.

"Tell you what, I'll buy you a drink after this contract's done," said Scythe.
"Double tell you what, I'll buy you one too," said Nyght.
"I'll even try to get lovely miss dark-skin over there drunk and get her to buy you a drink too."
"And I'll steal her sash so you can sniff it."
"That make us even?"

Banking hard on getting those big ol' cheeks of his blooming red again. Get him too flustered and all-too-eager to agree on a couple drinks as recompense and get the matter done and done.

Cap needed to speak anyway.
Tobias crossed his arms now as his eyes returned to Aeyliea's visage, the bulging one returning to as normal as it could be described. He shook his head in agreement of the twin's notions of repayment yet tapped his boot on the ground in airs of defiance at their genial nature, as if he didn't want to give in to their jokes. He didn't need her sash, the memory was good enough for him, and when the girl stayed turned around from the captain, glaring at him and then remorsefully looking away, he grabbed her by the shoulders and turned her abruptly to face the blond haired woman.

Manama had suddenly realized she'd been so caught up in her own head that she completely ignored the captain's immediate words, blushing herself as the epiphany struck. She shook the oaf's hands off her shoulders yet stayed quiet herself, now also cross armed as she awaited the words of the woman, still sending venomous glares in the wake of Tian every so often.


Character Biography
It was difficult to see the rising color in her cheeks given the coloration already present, but it wasn't difficult as all to see those cold eyes seem to ignite from within as she listened to the banter between the varying mercenaries in her company. She was on the point of snapping, only the most colossal of self discipline keeping her from-

"Like a pack of children at their first raid, awaiting their blooding," she growled in her native tongue, the words short and clipped and riddled with glottal stops. Tian raised his head at that, snickered a bit. He was conversant in the Norei language, if few others in Alliria and abroad were. "Tian, please have Cynthia set up the table in my office," she said, switching to accented common. "The materials, she shall gather too, yes?"

"Yes'm, I'll get on it," he said as he began to purposefully stride across the training yard, coming close enough to Manama to make a quiet kissing gesture and a smooching sound before continuing on. He ducked inside the door, hanging akimbo on one hinge. A moment later, some feral growling that must have been the girl at the desk, done with her break, replying to Tian.

"Your worthiness with a blade I will trust," she replied to Tobias, her voice carefully flat. She looked at the others, eyes like chips of ice, cheeks a touch dark with annoyance that she couldn't completely hide. "Follow me, you all will. The mission, it is not here. Details, there are, must needs be explained." She certainly hoped they were bright enough, the lot of them, to figure out that such a substantial reward for something so mundanely referred to as 'a fetch quest' probably meant that there was a lot more to itthan outwardly appeared.

Such as the fact that I don't trust the one whom has given me the job. It stank of an ikka a week dead in the plains sun in high summer, enough to gag a maggot from a mile away. If only she didn't have to use unblooded, unknown warriors for this. She oculd lamost have been comfortable with any of the Old Guard along. Tian would be a blessing...but even Tian's formiddable prowess would only go so far. At least the girl has a bow. Tian has his knives. The rest will do for close in work. And, of course, if they had any shamans with them...

Unlikely, but every eventuality had to be considered.

She turned without waiting to hear of their ascent or approval, stepping back into the building. She cast the desk girl a cold look as she turned to enter the door with the feathers on it. Cynthia shrank back from it, pausing a moment in her gathering of what appeared to be a map and papers that had to be contracts, bowing from her seated position as if that would atone for harsh words and lack of discipline. Aeyliea sniffed at her, and then pushed into her office, where Tian was in the process of unfolding a low table, low enough that everyone would have to sit on the cushions piled o nthe carpeted floor to sit around it.

She stood inside the door, and waited for them to arrive.
Manama quickly trailed behind the woman, and when they entered the space she was taken back with surprise. The table in the center reminded her of home, wondering suddenly of her employer's origins. She had thought her to be from another human city, one unheard of, her eyes glancing about in curiosity and wonder at the ornaments which adorned the room. She quickly walked towards one of the blades hung between the banners, eyeing it over before moving to sit at the table, near the head furthest from the door, facing it. She looked at Aeyliea in waiting for further order.

As Tobias filtered in behind her, he had an eye on a few of the blades as well, yet most of his attention was given towards the Vel Anirian standards, his left, normal eye peering at one of them while the right, larger eye jumped out at another on the opposite end of the wall, grimacing at the sight of his old home. His new boss definitely had enemies, it seemed, had. He didn't think that they were still growing the branches of the family tree if their banners hung before him. Houses always vied for power in the region, rising and falling as the tide of the ocean, so only few were truly recognizable to him, never the one to pay attention towards his betters. Coin and bloodshed were the only things he cared about in his youth, what he lacked in older years. He turned himself and sat crisscrossed next to Manama, stiffly and with apparent difficulty as his knees creaked a bit, evident feelings of youth draining from him. Manama scooted to the side a bit as he leaned close to her for a moment in settlement. His left eye peered towards Aeyliea and the doorway while the other assessed the scene as a chameleon's.

Scythe and Nyght

Twin Mercenaries
Character Biography
Scythe and Nyght were a touch taken aback by Aeyliea's switching of tongue. Hadn't expected it. Should have, but didn't, what with the hair thing she had going on too. One of those 'not-from-around-here' details. Did that mean she wasn't upper class? Maybe. Not necessarily. Who knew. Maybe a Warhawk was a noble where she came from. How the hell would they know. Still, they could pick up a fresh phrase or two from her. Learn a string of words put together in that exotic sort of way. Like Details, there are. There was a good one right there.

Hey, why are you named after a farming tool, and why are you named after a time of day?

Details, there are.

Hey, why is it that when I'm massaging your feet, your friend over there looks like he's enjoying it too?

Details, there are.


Well, time to get to it.

They followed Sash Girl--good enough name 'til they learned better--and Mad Eye Toby inside. Feather door. Happy coincidence, that. Thinking about foot massages and all. And they entered the room after Toby and--

Wow. She really hated wolves. Antelopes? Bears? All of 'em and then some. Look at those walls. Good thing she didn't have a company dog here. Poor thing'd piss itself every time it got a good look in here. Get that 'I'm next, aren't I?' sort of feeling.

"Where's the chairs?" said Scythe.
And Nyght punched his shoulder.

Had to make up for that little shrug slip back outside. Even if both of their shoulders were a little sore now.

They sat down cross-legged across the table from Sash Girl and Mad Eye Toby. Relaxed like they were sitting around a campfire. This wasn't all that bad, actually. Made them feel right at home back in their tiny tent in the raider band. Damn thing was heavier than it looked, but at least the thick canvas kept the cold and rain away. Mostly.


Character Biography
The captains sniffed disdainfully at Scythes' question. "Chairs? They are for the weak. People of the city, they use them. Not I," she replied. She herself took a seat at the head of the table, settling down on crossed legs as if this was as ordinary for her as breathing, and as comfortable as the others likely found chairs to be. She seemed to be completely at her ease in this setting, as if the world outside this room was considered a threat, and she always had to remain on guard out there.

"Wait we must, for the maps and papers and things," she said after a moment. Her fingers work an expertly hidden catch that kep the scabbard and her sword on her back, and let the weapon fall free, catching it expertly and leaning it against the edge of the table. The door opened, and Cynthia's head appeared. She directed a young girl, perhaps fourteen or so, into the room with a tray that bore slices of beef and cheese and bread, as well as a carafe of water, before the clerk vanished. A moment later, as the nameless helper set the tray on the table, bowed low to the captain, and then scurried back out of the room, Cynthia returned, Tian in tow. The latter carried a map with him, the former a thick stack of papers.

Tian flopped down next to Manama with an insultingly innocent look, and made a throwing knife appear in his hand, trimming his nails in a nonchalant manner as Cynthia placed the papers on the table, and then spread the map. It was a detailed geographical representation of Falwood, the eastern marches of it, with old notations smudged into illegibility here and there. Newer, clearly fresh notations, had been added to the map in a section of densely wooded ridges and valleys in the forest.

"The basics, you have all heard," Aeyliea said, glaring at Tian who, in turn, gave her a lazy salute that made her hackles want to rise. She ignored him for the moment. "High-born wench stolen from the home, held for ransom. Standard fare." She picked up the papers, and looked through them, separating them out into individual stacks for each member of the party. She then handed them round, expression and tone business-like and brisk. "The contract. All of the details, they are there. One hundred twenty crowns gold, Allirian weight, each. you die, you forfeit your portion to the company." She smiled at them, a very feral smile that seemed to beg them to do something stupid and make her wealthier by it. "Everyone, you should already be familiar with these things. Now, more details there are."

She picked up a different stack of papers. These she did not pass around.

"Contracting agent is House D'arle. Mercantile family, deals in commodities. Some interests in arms, no major contracts with any criminal syndicates were uncovered, although," and she paused a moment, flipping a page, sharp eyes dancing across the page as she scanned it, "although it appears there is some...questionable activity six months back. Trust them I do not, hence why I bring up this information."

She gestured at the map. "Enemy appears to have holed up in this valley here," she indicated the valley on the map. "At least forty strong, maybe less, maybe more. Brigands and bullyboys, hired muscle for a criminal family in Alliria. Which family, our client has not indicated yet. Probably won't."

"D'arle has some connection to the underworld," the former assassin piped up, flicking a bit of dirt from under a nail absently. "Could be our friend slipped up, got too deeply involved in something and is looking for a way out."

The woman at the head of the table nodded, bones and beads clicking in her hair as she did. "My suspicion for the price, that is. Too much money, even for a daughter. Doesn't bode well at all." She looked around the table. "The goal is to sneak in, sneak out. Experts may you be, but eight to one odds are a fools gamble. More men, I do not have at the moment. Tied up in other jobs. A daunting task for a few, this is not the first time we have done such. New, you all are, but faith I have." Mostly, anyway, she allowed in the privacy in her own head.
This was a woman Manama could respect, her head nodding rigorously in agreement with the comment made towards Scythe, her back straightening as she seemed to sit up taller in face of her idealizations becoming confirmed.

"You are not of this land..." she said quietly under breath aloud, in Aeyliea's direction. Manama grinned in face of the challenge, and even more so at the amount of gold. 'One hundred and twenty gold is enough rations for three months!' she squealed in her mind's eye, the desert girl's face reddening in excitement now as even Tian couldn't pervert the mood, even as her eyes still narrowed whenever they turned to his presence. She knew that this price for such a lowly endowed job had to follow with more, suspicions confirmed by the way the commander and Tian spoke. Her eyes scanned the papers over and over again as she reread the job description and maps of the unfamiliar Falwoods, her eyes paying particular attention to the map. She began to trace out different routes to the objective with a finger as she lost herself in the image of the job.

"This is definitely interesting... Especially able to pay this much to each of us... How much will the company earn, I wonder? Forgive me, not a question to ask, it is not of my business, only curious..." She continued to lose herself in the logistics of the job. 'Six people, at least forty noted henchmen, probably another twenty above that, at least.' Scouts were always inaccurate, this was something she learned early on in her life trailing behind the boots of her father. 'Count at least ten adversaries for the each of us, I hope they are of equal intelligence to the ex-assassin...' Lines creased in her forehead, furrowed in thought, tapping the tip of her chin in contemplation, until Tobias' mannerisms had her distracted once more, as if it were the first time.

'Fuckin' savages always think they're above us city folk,' he thought to himself, yet his face showed no apparent sign of emotions except for a slight grimace at the information his mind were piecing together, his oafish expression resolute for the most part when Aeyliea spoke to Scythe.

"Let's talk 'bout these surspicious(pronouncing Ser-spic-yoowaas) endeavers ya found out, Spy Master," spoke Tobias, who'd been using his left eye to peer on the dark skin girl next to him, as if she didn't know, while the right swiveled about between the twins in front of him, the banners hanging in the room, and the papers which were scattered across the low sat table. His back was stiff in having to sit like this, definitely not what he were used to. The simple freighter had his suspicions confirmed already of the commander's origins, and while he wasn't seemingly too well versed in history, knew what kind of nature of trouble he'd get into letting his past slip into the present. Tobias took it easy in his speech and mannerisms, many a people caught off guard by his sudden change of pace when his seriousness became revealed.

"I dunno yer name, Mister Shady, so allow fergiveness in yer heart fer meself, I'd not caught it," he said towards Tian. "Anyways, I'd hate to throw me whole hand out on the table right now, but I'll say I've got connections of me own in ar fine city's... Underbelly... An' I can support these here claims of yer contractor dealin' in the shadows... Contractin' meself once 'er twice on the man's account, though ya didn' hear it from me, I ain't no rat mind you!" Both eyes suddenly swiveled to the twins across from him, his resting jovial expression of dumbfounded confusion turned suddenly serious in the light of his next words, deep set lines creasing throughout the middle aged oaf's face in somber resolution. "Rats get mangled, these two know the meanin'... I'm sure the rest'a ya know too..." His bulging eye swiveled between all the faces a moment, before he took the platter into both hands and began munching on the assortment of beef and cheese, taking the occasional swig from the vase, water-falling as any gentleman would when sharing with company, a vase, since that's what it looked like to him. 'Strange fuckin' customs this woman's got.' "Anyways, I ain't popular on the docks fer me looks, if ya couldn't tell," he said with his mouth full, bits of half chewed food beginning to dot the different pages with remnants of particles unswallowed in front of the heavyset man, shoveling more in between sentences, his large eye almost turning to the size of an apple to signify he were extra happy. "Damnation of all that is holy, I'll marry the lass who cooked this, wait fer her to come of age if I have to! Anyways, me skills ain't simply just that of a simple freighter, as it may seem... Maybe sometimes, there's an extra shipment unaccounted fer that made its way on board, er maybe there's a little less from the other one. Sometimes, lil birdies whisper ta me, an' I whistle their tunes, if ya catch me drift!" he said as a proper salty sea dog, taking another swig from the vase, before placing it in front of Manama. She quickly passed it to Tian. "That lil birdy we be speakin' of ain't been whistlin' fer a while now, been a right proper tune I'd been used to hearin' every other week er so. I'd not know where it was he went er why, but if more infermation yer wantin' I might have the place to go." He kept eating until he realized he'd almost consumed half the plate, shoving it across the table towards the twins. "Try this 'ere, mighty tasty!" he said as more flecked projectiles made their way through the air, a mighty sum caught up in his scraggly beard. Saving it for later, that was always Toby's excuse for a messy beard.