Private Tales Stealing All That Which Cannot Be Stolen

A private roleplay only for those invited by the first writer

Otto von Geist

"The Ghoul"
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The midday sun crept over the streets of Alliria, the many tall buildings of the Noble's Quarter casting an oppressive shadow over the streets below. Many of these homes were three, four, even five stories tall just for the residences, all of which contained the who's-who of the city. Entire noble families lived in these massive homes, including often newlyweds and other additions, and they were also a place of business, especially in some of the more elegant gardens on some of the properties, where nobles would have lunch and discuss politics and backroom deals. Otto was once a part of this world, and for a time even lived in the luxurious Livona mansion. But half a year ago, that was all taken from him, by the family who resided in the mansion that now lay before him: the Regisfords.

He must have been standing there for an hour, maybe longer, daunted by the architecture of the estate before him. This was it: months of planning, learning all that he could about it from former friends and allies within the court itself, and people in the Reach sympathetic to his plight, however few those people were... He checked his equipment one last time: a small crossbow, a steel rapier, a silver dagger, and various other bits and bobs like rope and a metal hook to make his escape from the top floor of the mansion. He took a deep breath, his heart pounding so hard he thought it might stop. Finally, there was a lull in the people on the street; he donned a small black masquerade mask, then made his way to the front door drawing his dagger and crossbow, and finally entered the mansion.

On the ground floor, various people were seated, having lunch or standing having conversation. Given the time of day, they were mostly women, but a few of the men were here as well. They, of course, were perhaps the real threat, as noblemen often carried swords for exactly such occasions, but Otto was emboldened by a thirst for vengeance he knew only this heist could slake. It was madness, really: entering an estate of one of the most powerful families of Alliria, armed only with a crossbow, a sword, and his wit... Yet he would not be deterred. And now that he had entered, it was too late to turn back.

"Salutations, good people of the Regisford estate," Otto said, doing a small bow and a flourish with his dagger as he drew the attention of the residents. "I am The Phantom, and I am afraid that the property of this estate now belongs to me. Surrender your valuables peacefully and there won't be any trouble, I assure you." He gave a smile and a wink to those who were looking; some of them were terrified, while Otto swore he saw at least one of the women swoon. However, the terror soon crept in and various members of the house either ran screaming or backed into walls in fear.

Yes. It was far too late to turn back.

Liviana
 
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Liviana

The Little Spy
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"Goodness child, at least pretend to be happy." Mathilda chided as she stepped up beside her. A muscle feathered in the 'child's' jaw and she let out a sharp, nasal huff. When Mathilda had come into the employment of the Regisford household, Livvy had appeared perhaps a year or two older than she. Now the woman, still ever-elegant in her service, had hair white as snow and skin withered with age. She must have passed her seventieth year, and Livvy had not aged a day. The woman had taken to calling her 'child' some time ago despite knowing well that she was several times her age, and she knew it irked her.

"I am -as always- positively radiating with glee, my dear Mathilda." Livvy answered with a tone dripping with disdain. It was the third soiree in just under two weeks. Another disgusting display of idle opulence and fake smiles between competitors posing as friends. Liviana knew all of the 'juicy' gossip that there was to possibly know, and she did not care a single iota for any of it. Her keepers however, lived for it. Each day she wore different faces, she planted secrets, caused scandals, eavesdropped and reported her findings. It was all painstakingly boring.

Today she was a server, a mousy girl with dull eyes and brown straggly hair scraped up into a knot. Her ears, as always when in the company of others, were rounded. She was, as instructed, as unremarkable as possible to avoid drawing attention. Their most valuable possession, hidden in plain sight. A cantankerous clicking of finger and thumb drew her attention and she refrained from rolling her eyes as she tended to the empty cup of one portly Lord Renfeld whom she knew to have not one but two mistresses. She offered a tight smile to his unsuspecting wife as she filled their goblets with fresh claret, and had been about to curtsy when a voice she did not recognise demanded the room's attention.

Livvy turned, setting her dark eyes on the male with the first spark of curiosity she had felt in months. She glanced around at those shrieking and trying to stash away their valuables, and at the men trying to out-man each other by expressing their outrage and warnings to the thief despite being quite out of touch in the art of combat. Liviana's lips twitched at the chaos, and she had to clench her teeth shut to allay the urge to laugh. She had nothing worth taking. She wore no jewellery and had no coin, but it was she that her Lord and Lady looked for amidst the panic, for trinkets could be replaced.

"Guards!" Lord Regisford's voice boomed over the commotion. "How did this chiseler get in here?! Apprehend him at once!" he roared, aghast at the audacity one would have in disrupting his festivities. Livvy had remained in the centre of the room, watching the turmoil unfold around her like a child engrossed by a circus. Such fear these people had for their treasures. To see it taken from them would certainly provide a much needed tonic for the tedium. The guards present, all two of them, were now making their way toward the masked criminal, and she watched that too, even as she heard the Lady Regisford call her name and Mathilda gripped her arm to pull her out of potential harm's way.
 
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Otto von Geist

"The Ghoul"
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48
Character Biography
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He didn't have much time to scan the room before the guards were already on him, drawing swords as they approached him. It didn't make much sense, but then, not much about this did from a sensible point of view, to run towards them, instead of backing away. As they neared him, he tucked into a roll, as the two guards converged and ended up running headfirst into each other, their metal helmets clanging into one another with a harsh ring as Otto made it to the other side of them safely. It occurred to him at this time that the resistance was going to be fiercer than he was prepared for--he needed an idea, and he needed one fast. And as he looked to a serving girl in the corner of the room, conveniently by the stairs, inspiration struck him like lightning.

He bounded over to the girl, hoping to reach her before she could escape. His goal was to get behind her, put her in a chokehold, silver dagger to her throat, with a warning that hers would only be the beginning of the blood spilt this day should they get too close. He had no such designs in reality, of course, and he was not given to violence the way many criminals were, which is what had made him such a favorite to the courts when he still walked these halls. In moments he would be upon her, taking the serving girl hostage, much to the shock and horror of the already terrified residents.

"I'm taking the Regisford treasury, and if anyone tries to stop me, the girl dies," he said, dagger to her neck and crossbow pointed at the rest of the room. Lives, unfortunately, were usually good collateral.

Otto then spoke softly in her ear. "Just play along and you'll get out of this just fine," he said.

At that moment, one of the younger noblemen drew his sword, charging at Otto.

"You bastard! Unhand her, you wretch!"

For the longest moment, time seemed to slow as he gained more awareness of the young noble's face. In time, he would realize that it was the face of Harold Regisford--the man his dear Marjorie had been married off to, and not only that, but the man Otto wished he could have been for her. He grit his teeth as a deep bitterness suffused his soul, and he took aim with the crossbow--aimed right at the heart--and pulled the trigger, a mechanical twang followed by a crack as the bolt hit Harold in the right shoulder, causing him to lose his balance and trip forward, screaming in pain from the impact of the steel bolt. He naturally dropped his sword, which clanged to the ground unceremoniously as Harold's fine green tunic began to be stained with crimson.

Before anyone could react, Otto looked to another nearby serving girl, unhooking a small section of rope from his belt.

"Wench! Come hither, and bind this woman," he said. She complied, arriving shortly and receiving the rope from Otto, then gingerly tying a rope around the hostage's wrists behind her back. Otto took the stunned disbelief of the rest of the residents to reload his crossbow with another steel bolt. As the binding was done, Otto tipped his hat, and said to the rope-tyer softly, "Thank you--now get out of here." She did as she was told, fleeing into another room as Otto renewed his chokehold, beginning to move to the stairs.

"You've seen by now that The Phantom does not play games," He said, stepping backwards onto the first step. "You will all remain here and remember this as the day The Phantom absconded with the Regisford fortune, lest we have any more unfortunate accidents like the young master." He tipped his hat one last time. "For now, however, I bid you adieu!"

Otto started making his way up the stairs, hostage in tow.

"This must be dreadful for you," he said. "But if you help me, I can make this short and painless. We head to the treasury--follow my lead and I assure you you'll make it out of this quite unharmed. Not that I could hurt a hair on your fair head, anyway, of course, but you know how it goes--need to keep up appearances and all that. Let's to it!"

Up the stairs they went, aiming for the third floor, where Otto was told the Regisfords kept their most prized possessions, and thus was where Otto could hurt them the most...

Liviana
 
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Liviana

The Little Spy
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Mathilda had hoped that she'd be able to discreetly escort the serving girl from the room, and so to have her suddenly torn from her grasp had been unexpected. The meek girl let out a shriek as she was tugged against the crook's chest, reaching to grip at the forearm that held tight against her throat. And then there was something infinitely more worrisome. Terror flared in her eyes as she felt the silver touch her skin, and what should have felt cool felt like a branding iron. She let out a bleat of panic and her glamour faltered for the briefest of moments, her eyes shifting from brown to silver and back again as she felt her energy plummet as though the metal itself could syphon it.

The Regisford's guests barely blinked an eye at the rogue's choice of hostage. They wouldn't be giving up a single coin in effort to save the pitiful girl's life. The Regisford family however, seemed to care very much. Lady Regisford was already stripping herself of what jewellery she currently wore, which was enough to feed an entire city for a month. Had she not been in such a predicament, Livvy might have felt flattered.

Screams were thrown from startled mouths as a bolt flew and struck it's target.

"Enough! Let him go!" Lord Regisford exclaimed as others saw fit to draw arms. "Please, take that blade from her throat! She will do as you bid!"He had to ensure Liviana's safety, and the only way in which to do that was in complying.

Her gaze shifted between the Lord and Lady and the injured Harold, her heart striking a staccato in her chest as she struggled to uphold her guise. She felt wrists be bound behind her back, and barely registered anything that the man said before he started leading her up the staircase, her legs weak and her head light.

"I.." Livvy swallowed, her brow furrowed in confusion at the man's assurances. "I would appreciate..very much, if you'd sheath your blade. I will comply without need for weaponry." she asked, her voice trembling as she spoke.

"Left..at the top of the stairs." she added, as though to prove her point.
 
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Otto von Geist

"The Ghoul"
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In his haste and the confusion of the moment it had just occurred to Otto that there were many shouts about the knife. He half-scowled as they reached the top of the second floor stairs, not having a taste for taking hostages in the first place but loathe to let such a valuable asset potentially escape for nothing. At the same time, the girl reminded him in a way of Marjorie, and that was enough to soften his heart in order to put the knife away, as he also hung his crossbow on his belt, freeing his hands to guide the girl and navigate the hall a little easier. It seemed she was being strangely helpful, although a knife to the throat might make anyone so.

"Your compliance is greatly appreciated--don't get any funny ideas now, and you'll make it out of this just fine," he said, his voice characteristically warm and inviting. He didn't waste any time in getting them to the purported treasury room on the left. It made enough sense that it was on the second floor, something his inside sources had confirmed, further confirmed by the ornate, locked door that lay in front of them now. There wasn't much to be done for it; he needed to break in to the room, and picking a lock wasn't the fastest of tasks.

He pulled out his tools, relinquishing his grasp on the girl.
"This'll just be a moment. Say, what's your name? Are they treating you well? I was thinking of, hurk, finding work here before today happened," He said, his voice straining as he struggled to get the lock open. He doubted the conversation would keep her here, but it was worth a try, right? Hopefully she'd be too terrified to run; having a hostage would make his escape all the easier. And he needed easier, because there were still about a thousand ways this thing could go wrong, and now that people knew, they were on a very unforgiving timer...

Liviana
 
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Liviana

The Little Spy
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A breath of relief spilled from her lips at the instant reprieve she felt as the blade broke contact with her skin, but still, she felt the strange pull at her energy, at her very life force and thus, at the magic that disguised her as the mousy servant girl. Livvy's legs could barely carry her quickly enough to keep up with her captor, and clumsily she stumbled on a step or two. She had no choice but to suppress the urge to bring her hand to the burn on her throat, and her wrists writhed against the rope that bound them.

"I have been told..." she breathed heavily. "That I am not particularly funny." she answered dryly in response to his warning, there being little in his tone that suggested he was lying about doing her no harm. The nymph didn't particularly care about the noble family's fortune, if he was here to steal every last coin and precious heirloom from them then who was she to get in the way? Shit happened. That was the balance of things, and the scales had been tipped in the Regisford's favour for centuries. They were long overdue a little misfortune.

Being free to move, she chose to lean heavily against the wall, taking a moment to slow her racing heart and steady her erratic breaths. Her brow furrowed at the questions the thief so casually posed to her, and though she wished to aim a swift kick at his most sensitive area for drawing a blade on her in the first place, she couldn't help but allow her face to betray her amusement.

"So what, you figured hard work wasn't for you so you'd just take your pay up front?.." she laughed and shook her head before letting it fall back against the wall with another quiet chuckle. Humans.

"Liviana." she added. "And I'm treated well enough, thank you for your concern." she sighed and watched the stairs. By her estimations she believed he'd have about another minute - two at most - before the other guards were fetched from the guardhouse at the far end of the estate. At least, she was certainly no longer bored.
 
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Otto von Geist

"The Ghoul"
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Otto couldn't help but notice in a moment that she seemed rather exhausted from their trip up the stairs, which he supposed he could only really pin on the stress of the moment, but it did still seem unusual. She seemed to be possessed of a charm of her own; wisecracking at a time like this took either an especially witty, or especially foolish person, and he was banking on the former. He didn't have time to think about that, though, or much of anything for that matter. He had to break into this treasury quickly, quicker, because he knew that his time was slipping away more and more with each moment he fumbled with this lock. Still, he had an idea.

"I'm afraid their hourly rate was quite disagreeable," he said, his fingers still working the lock. "And I don't know about you, but I'd hate being their maid, or whatever you are. So I've a proposition for you. While you catch your breath, I'm going to go into this treasury, and fill as much as I can into what I brought. Should be enough to sting and line my pockets. If you were to help me carry out one of these bags, I'll give you a fair share when all is said and done. You see, I need you--a hostage is my ticket out of here, I think, and you're certainly pretty enough to play the part. So what do you say? You could do just about anything with the fortune I'm about to--"

Ker-chunk. The lock was finally open. Otto didn't wait to finish his speech.

"Choice is yours!" he exclaimed, hustling into the room, where he pulled out multiple burlap bags and began filling them with as much treasure as he could find. Gold, gems, jewelry--it was a smorgasbord of options, and Otto took greedily and without question. The real prize, however, which hadn't escaped his attention, was the Regisford Star Diamond, an heirloom worth more than the entire Regisford estate itself. At least, that's what Otto had been told. It just looked like a diamond to him. He pocketed the diamond in a small pouch on his vest for safekeeping, then quickly filled the rest of the bags and headed back out of the room.

"So, have you made your decision? Clock's ticking," he said. He was ready to pull out his sword and cut her bonds at her word, lowering the bags to make good time in case she did actually say yes. It wasn't the wisest decision but there was no way he was getting out of here with all the loot otherwise, and better to give her a cut than let the Regisfords keep even a single gold piece more than they could carry...
 

Liviana

The Little Spy
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"My my. A generous thief." Livvy answered with both amusement and incredulity, her shoulders shuddering with another quiet chuckle. Her lips pursed and twisted, her dull gaze distant with consideration as she waited for him to gain entry to his fortune, or not. That he thought her 'pretty' enough to be his hostage was enough for her to snort in her smugness. This drab face that she wore was nothing in comparison to what lay beneath the magic. She was fae, she never claimed to be humble. There was no other race of beings quite as beautiful.

Her head turned as she heard the tumblers of the lock clunk into place, expressionless as she watched him disappear into the room.

The choice was hers.. Gods. How long had it been since she'd had a choice? She wished it were as easy as choosing the more enticing option. She trudged, weighed down by bleak reality, and came to lean shoulder and head against the doorway to watch as he bundled his bounty into bags. She admired pretty things for the fact that they were pretty rather than what they were worth, she cared little, but she knew well the power that wealth held.

The 'why' he would offer her some of such treasures wasn't much to fathom. If she lent her hand in carrying more than he could, then he'd be better off for it. The thought of accepting amused her, given that the Regisfords seemed prepared to give up every last piece of precious property in order to ensure that she, their most valuable asset, was kept from harm. How she'd love to be a fly on the wall when they realised that their efforts had been in vain.

"I'm afraid its not as simple as making a decision." Livvy answered, but what she'd said triggered something in her memory that caused her brows to lift. She couldn't leave, not of her own accord, she was bound to stay here and do as she was bid. But, they had said nothing about being taken.

"Though, there's little I could do to stop you from taking me..." she said conspiratorially, her eyes fixed on his with a quirk of her brow.
 
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Otto von Geist

"The Ghoul"
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Otto had to confess that most of the maids he'd met while still living in the Livona estate as a courtier before weren't quite so clever, or at least, didn't have the sort of temperament that would lead them to absconding with a burglar such as himself. It led him to believe that "Liviana," as she called herself, had more going on beneath the surface. It presented him with an interesting dilemma; he was all too aware of the games noblewomen would play with each other, and he wondered what kind of game she was now playing with him. A simple minute or two of questioning might sort things out, but they didn't have a minute or two. It was leave now with the gold, or leave then in shackles, and spend the rest of his miserable life in a cell in the Allirian dungeons.

"Of course, I understand, it's too pressing a question to answer all at once," he said, quickly setting the bags down. He had a quick idea: tie all the bags together, then hoist them onto his waist so that he could carry all the treasure while still being able to move, albeit not as quickly. This way, he could keep Liviana's hands tied and keep up the hostage act.

He met her gaze with an impish smile. "I suppose I have no choice. I must take you as my hostage. Why, there's nothing you could do to stop me!" He approached her, turned her around and held on to her bonds, nudging her forward. He did so with a gentleness one might mistake for a touch of affection--he couldn't help it, since the thought of hurting a hair on this poor woman's head was simply abhorrent to him. He spoke lowly: "We need to go to the third floor. 3rd room on the left." Then, loudly: "I have a hostage! If you take even on step on these stairs I'll slice her to ribbons! Remember this as the day The Phantom ruined the Regisfords! And this is only the beginning!"

Oh yes, there was much more in store for the Regisfords. But, one step at a time. He led Liviana up the stairs quickly, making their way to the room he spoke of on the 3rd floor. The door and handle were both unassuming, of the same craftsmanship as the rest of the estate, yet Otto felt a certain trepidation as his hand reached for the lock. Right, he was forgetting something--he reached for his steel sword, half-unsheathing it and then using it to cut Liviana's bonds.

"You're going to need your hands in a moment," he added, quickly. Then, he opened the door to the room and quickly rushed inside, pushing Liviana in first, then closed and locked the door behind them before looking in. As he turned around, his face grew pale as he observed, sitting on a wooden chair with her hands primly in her lap, her. Marjorie. The woman who he'd almost had a life with. The one he'd lost to the Regisfords. The one he hadn't seen since that day, since the guard captain came and arrested him, and he was exiled from the city. She wore a plain green dress--she must not have been expecting company--with flowers in her silky brown hair: two pink carnations and a dandelion.

Oh no, he thought. He remarked on how tidy her bedroom was, the very picture of a noblewoman's living quarters. She wore a terrified expression on her face, her gleaming blue eyes widened and hands suddenly clenching together, but she made no sudden movements.

"Marjorie," he said, softly. She looked back at him, with a gaze that pierced both his mask and his soul. Otto was almost paralyzed at the sadness in her eyes.

"Otto," she said, her mouth dropping slightly. "Otto, is that you?"

He was the one frozen, now, his hand still holding the back of Liviana's blouse, his grip slackening at the utterance of his name.

"What are you doing here?" Marjorie asked, her voice full of concern.

"I uh... I came here to ruin them. The Regisfords."

She shook her head. "Otto... do you think that was wise?"

He grit his teeth. Tears welled in his eyes. "Otto von Geist was exiled from Alliria. I am The Phantom, the scourge of the Regisfords, the greatest thief who ever lived!"

To his dismay, Marjorie suddenly stood up. She cast a glance at Liviana, then looked back to Otto. "Take me instead," she said, holding her arms out to him.

It was everything he wanted. It was what he wanted her to say the first time she told him she was marrying Harold Regisford. He'd fantasized about a moment like this for months since being exiled, making their great escape together and living together somewhere new. Yet Otto's stomach churned as she said it, feeling an unbearable knot tie in his innards at the mention of it. They would even have enough money to start over--and do quite well, if the Regisford fortune was worth as much as his sources had claimed. The "yes" wanted to burst from his mouth so badly that his lip trembled, yet he instead gripped the back of Liviana's blouse tighter. He looked down, his eyes downcast.

"No, I..." he started. "Marjorie... It's over now, don't you see? You're one of them now." He kicked the floor twice with his foot, trying to expel the anxiety that was running through him. "Don't you see? They'd hunt us down until our dying days. I cannot give you the life you want," he said, his mouth turning to a bitter scowl.

"We already had the life we wanted before," Marjorie said. "All you need do is--"

She was interrupted by a loud banging on the door. The guards, Otto thought. It was now or never--he had to choose. It burned inside him as he saw the sudden terror in Marjorie's eyes and Otto was brought back to reality. The gold felt suddenly heavy on his waist but he wasn't going to leave empty-handed. Not now. He quickly pushed Liviana towards the balcony door on the other side of the room, opening it and preparing the hook and rope to make their timely escape. He gave Marjorie one last, longing look, uttering a sorrowful "I'm sorry" before turning back to Liviana.

"Hold on to me," he said, waiting for her to do so. As he grabbed the rope and prepared to descend, he looked back one last time at Marjorie, whose face was now swollen with an anger he'd never seen before.

"This won't be the last you see of me, Otto," she said. "I'll hunt you down to the ends of the earth. You'll be mine, do you hear me?"

Those sudden threats were the last thing he heard before rappelling down off the balcony rail into the city streets below. He urged Liviana to quickly follow him around an alley corner, where he opened a manhole to the city's sewers, a ladder awaiting them beneath. Otto quickly descended, the treasure still secured around his waist as he quickly reached the bottom, looking up to see if Liviana had followed before taking a step forward and stopping, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath. If she followed, he'd say to her:

"Good gracious, I'm so sorry you had to see that," he said. "Well, the good news is we're about to be quite rich... stick with me, and you'll never have to work in a nobleman's estate ever again." Otto gave her a quick wink, almost as if that scene in Marjorie's room hadn't happened, as if he could forget what happened just by being charming again, like his sharp wit could cut away the sadness eating away at his heart once again, as if he'd never left the life he'd just ruined...
 
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Liviana

The Little Spy
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"You really have quite a thing for the theatrics, don't you?.."

It'd been a rhetorical question. The man seemed to have fallen from centre stage and straight into the Regisford's worst possible nightmare. It was entertaining to say the least, and the drab servant girl's lips twitched with a ghost of a smile as once again he proclaimed himself the 'Phantom' and dramatically declared his warning to the household. There was little way she could be afraid of him. Hell, he'd removed the blade -no doubt another pretty prop- from her throat and had offered her freedom and enough wealth to pursue it. Behind his mask his face was quite clearly handsome, and his voice was warm honey; he was hardly as frightening as his moniker suggested, hence her amusement.

Third door, third floor. He knew this place? The girl's brow had furrowed at that but she made no complaint, she wasn't in much of a position to argue, being an unfortunate hostage, after all. Her wrists free of their bonds, Livvy rubbed at the skin as she held them against her chest, though in being shoved into the room to find Lady Marjorie sitting there, the girl stopped moving almost entirely. Only her wide and apparently frightened eyes shifted between the two as she listened, her mind whirling in bewilderment.

It felt odd to have absolutely no idea in the Gods' names what was going on. This was exactly the sort of scandalous gossip she was used to exhume from the exalted. There really weren't many skeletons left in many closets, but shit, this one still had some meat on its bones.

So, Otto von Geist of Alliria, once desperately in love with Lady Marjorie and scorned by her marriage to Harold, hence the unfortunate incident with the crossbow - though noted that the injury hadn't been anywhere near fatal and so, most likely still cares enough for Marjorie not to cause her pain by murdering her husband in cold blood, and...

'Hold on to me'
To be continued...

Livvy had the good sense to throw a worried look to Lady Marjorie, one of a desperate damsel beseeching for help as she had little choice but to do as commanded. Then again, to Lady Marjorie, Livvy was nothing more than the diffident serving girl and her attention was very much locked on Otto, as though she hadn't existed there in that room with them at all. Again, she did as she was asked without protest, apparently so frightened for her own welfare that she'd lost her voice entirely. Being close against him was less than comfortable however, what with the silver he carried clawing at her senses, but it wasn't long before her feet were on solid ground again, and Livvy's teeth unclenched as she followed his direction.

The girl's nose gave a brief wrinkle at his decision to plunge into the literal bowels of the city, but given the cries and shouts she could hear, she didn't have time to come up with a better plan herself. If she was found alone and fleeing the household, that wouldn't likely make much sense. A groan scraped at the back of her throat as she relented and climbed down after him, steel scraping stone as the grate slipped back into place.

She stared up at the shadows passing overhead, her pale features dappled by the rays of light that spilled into the tunnels. How long had she been there? She had honestly lost count of the years, of the people she'd watched sparked to life and grow strong and then frail only to be snuffed out. How many generations had she belonged to?

Free.

She was free...

And she was in a fucking sewer
.

Livvy turned as Otto spoke again, his voice once again chipper despite the hurt he so obviously felt. Her head tilted with an expression of gentle confusion and his insouciance, her throat clearing quietly. "Are you alright?" she asked sombrely, ignoring what he'd said and lacing her fingers together in front of her as she fixed him with a look of compassion.
 
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Otto von Geist

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Already, even in the dank, putrid sewers, thoughts of Marjorie were flashing through his mind. Not just of the recent encounter, but of past events as well. She had been his whole life before, then was severed from her like a gangrenous limb without thought or care of his own well-being. His concern rested on the latter part of their conversation, and what she'd said had given him pause to think. Something felt very wrong about their interaction, and it was afflicting him with a particular madness only a lover scorned would know. But he had this... serving girl... with him now, perhaps an unlikely partner, perhaps just someone to give gold and let walk away with lips sealed. It didn't matter--he only had so much more to do to completely ruin the Regisfords, and then he would never walk within these city walls ever again.

Liviana's voice felt like a rock thrown into a window, shattering it to a thousand thousand pieces.

"Oh, I... I'm quite alright," he said, taking off his mask. "I'm Otto, by the way--I know you heard my name, but I felt like a proper introduction was still in order. I'm known as "The Ghoul" among my former peers, but you'll also be pleased to hear that I am Lord High Executor of the Allirian Sewers, and thus you shall be safe as we pass through my domain, as ripe as the stench is."

He started leading them through the sewers. It would only be a few minutes of walking the walkways before they reached another ladder, but Otto asked a question as they walked.

"Anyway, I know your name, and you're just a serving girl from what I can tell, but I wondered if you might join me for a well-deserved feast, where we'll discuss, well... let's call it additional opportunities. After all..." he turned and looked at her with a smirk. "I got the impression you were more than a little willing to be a hostage."

He then climbed up the ladder, peeking both ways out of the sewer cover before climbing up entirely. He'd turn around to lend a hand to help Liviana make the final step out. Conveniently, they were now directly in front of a large restaurant and inn, The Golden Glass. He put his hands on his hips and looked to her. "You don't have to choose all at once--maybe some of the finest food in Alliria will help you think. Well, shall we?"

Otto gave her another one of his trademark smiles before turning and heading into the restaurant. There, he'd get a table for them--giving some story to the maître d' about how they were to be wed soon and simply needed a sudden reservation for a table and two rooms--which was enough to get them a small booth that was probably available anyway. They would be seated shortly, at which point Otto relaxed and looked to Liviana as they awaited the waiter, and in the meantime, their conversation could continue in earnest.

"So... before I get to the details... are you in?"
 
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Liviana

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The girl's dreary gaze narrowed somewhat as he took off his mask. It hadn't really obscured much of his face anyway, in that it was clear that he was handsome, for a human, but seeing his face fully visible now only confirmed that fact. Her lips twisted in beguilement as he informed her of yet another epithet, one just as sinister as this 'Phantom' that'd he'd used earlier.

"Such formidable monikers.." she commented with a lilt of sarcasm in her tone. "And my hero, apparently." she added as he assured her safety in the sewers, the stench of which she strived to ignore.

She couldn't help but smile as he invited her to a 'feast', and that he seemed to want to involve her in more of his nefarious plans. Why, she had no idea. To him she was 'just' a serving girl, and a feeble one at that. He'd only proven to her once more that he was the antithesis of those monstrous names he went by. He'd taken her with him because he saw someone who'd longed to be free. He was not the fiend that he believed, or portrayed, himself to be.

"And you are just a thief." she commented, a slender brow arching at him. "Also I'm not quite sure what you mean." she added indignantly, and started up the ladder after him. "Willing to be a hostage. Preposterous."

Livvy reached up to take the offered hand, saving her the shame of having to physically crawl out of the sewer like a common rat. She smoothed out her skirts and straightened herself, taking a moment to savour a greedy lungful of fresh air. His offer, and that roguish smile of his, was met with a yielding smirk and she followed him in, glancing around in the hopes that there were no familiar faces to be seen.

"In?.. In your custody? Yes. I am your hostage, that is the way it must be. Thus I have little choice but to be, as you say... In." she smiled.

"Sir, Miss, right over here if you please." a scrawny young man directed them to a table in the corner, and some wine was promptly decanted.
 

Otto von Geist

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The sights and sounds of the lavish restaurant around them were cool and controlled. People spoke in calm, mannered tones, and a small string quartet were releasing dulcet tones that rested gently on the ears of the patrons around them. Otto was used to this type of fine dining from his days among the nobility, and he suspected Liviana was no different. Her eloquence wasn't wasted on him, not one bit, which only made him suspect more that there was more to her than met the eye. For now, though, it seemed she had taken the bait, and having a partner only made the next part of his plan easier.

"Well, you see, it's a true story--I once was part of a staged kidnapping where the hostage was far too sweet on me for my comfort. She rather fancied a man willing to take her away from her home, but alas, I was just playing a part," he said. "But that's neither here nor there. Later tonight I'm going to count up our earnings, and give you your fair share. After we divide up the earnings, you can either make your own escape, or you can stick around and get ready for another helping."

He took a sip of the wine, as properly as any nobleman might, as he was taught. He wasn't quite ready for food yet though. No, that would come later. Some meals needed to be delayed.

"You are delightfully coy; I suppose it must come with the territory. I'm far too curious now for my own good about who you really are. I think it's only fair that you illuminate things a little bit for me--after all, you know quite a bit about me now, and being my hostage and all, you must know I'll do terrible things to you if you don't comply."

His guard was more than up when it came to Liviana, though. From her words, her actions--it seemed she was almost playing a game of some kind. Her revelation of her identity in any form would be the second tastiest morsel of the day, with the first being the robbery of the Regisford estate, of course. He only hoped he wasn't gorging himself on more than he could swallow. Such gluttony was often the death of thieves.
 
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Liviana

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The servant girl's muddy gaze drifted from table to table, preoccupied with her paranoia. There were many that she recognised, but none who would recognise her in her current face, thankfully. It was his story that she'd only been half paying attention that finally caused her to turn when she realised what he'd said and she planted her elbows on the table and rested her chin on her fists, her expression one of great intrigue.

"What a wonderful story. So, what was wrong with her? The girl who was sweet on you?.. Or, is it you that's completely delusional?" she asked with a tilt of her head, the seriousness in her expression lasting for another moment or two before it gave way to amusement and she sat back, lifting the goblet of wine to take a small sip.

She swallowed. "I've no interest in shares. And nothing in this world is ever fair. Besides, hostages as I believe, do not normally earn a wage for their trauma of being kidnapped."

Liviana brought the wine to her lips again as Otto inquired as to who she was, and she stared at him over the rim of the cup as she drank in a long, slow sip. It was dangerous territory to ask her kind such questions, but she cleared her throat and licked the claret from her lips as she set the goblet back on the table with a small smile.

"It's rather fun to know that I can pique your interest simply by being coy, and bored." she mused and tilted her head as she studied him for a moment, a glint of mischief in her brown eyes. "Alright. I am not just a serving girl as you believed. I am also an errand girl, a cook, a maid, a nanny and a grounds keeper. I am multi-talented, you might say." she flashed her teeth in a wide grin. "And, bored, as I said. But, in service none-the-less. I am not allowed to quit, but there is little much I can do about being taken against my will." her shoulder shrugged.

"And so. I must remain your hostage, until they give up looking for me." Which in all likelihood would not happen any time soon. Livvy was their key to so many doors and their answer to so many questions, they wouldn't give up on her easily. It was a good thing, therefore, that she was so good at hiding.
 
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Otto von Geist

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While he was very much engaged with the information she was revealing, Otto lazily rested his cheek on his index finger, watching her movements as she spoke with a particular curiosity--the way a child might look at a puzzle box. As her multiple 'talents' went, they described almost everything a spy would do, or say. Why else would they keep a woman such as herself around? Servings girls and maids weren't that pretty--the ones that started out that way usually didn't stay that way. Moreover... why else would she describe such a bizarre contract, where her status as a hostage needed to be guaranteed? He swore he could sniff the potential magic involved much as one might smell the wax on a seal. Yet, he was still unsure of who she was, yet he knew now that something was involved, and she was likely not to be trusted. If she was a spy, as it seemed to him, having her as a hostage would be even more valuable than when he still suspected she was a maid.

He twirled his finger on the table. She could probably tell how much thinking was going on just by reading his face, yet Otto would conceal his suspicions nonetheless. After all, how much could one trust someone claiming they needed to be a hostage? Did that not make Otto a hostage himself to her preference?

Being a spy, he suspected she was used to dealing with noblemen. Otto had similar experience. She would find, however, that he was no docile lamb to be fooled by some disguise. And the shares of gold? A wolf needn't ask the sheep for its gold when it already has mutton within its grasp. But he could use his earnestness as a trap of itself.

He waited for the waiter to return, and ordered himself some seasoned roast chicken and a bit of fresh fruit--apples, in particular. He took another sip of the wine before finally responding.

"I suppose hostages don't get paid, you're right. And being that you are still a hostage, unwilling and all, it would seem you'll need to do exactly as I say. I may have need for service of a maid on the morrow, and I think you'll do quite nicely. As for this evening... Well, our work isn't yet finished. We've much to sell, and I know just where to sell it. You'll accompany me, naturally. Then, tomorrow, The Phantom will strike again. Where? No one knows, really."

He admitted to himself he wasn't used to being in this... commanding... of a position. Especially not with a woman. Truthfully, Liviana had struck a nerve when she'd playfully asked about Marjorie and the situation in the estate. Yet Otto was far too experienced in the language of the court to display his anger openly.

"Marjorie Livona's marriage into the Regisford Estate is perhaps one of the most successful positions she could have hoped for given her station. We should all be so lucky to marry into wealth and security. I suppose that, after today, that makes Marjorie Regisford quite unlucky. Word tells she had a long affair with some scoundrel from the streets she used to meet in the marketplace... but the bastard was caught stealing some noble's purse, and he's been banished from Alliria for good. I doubt he'll be coming back."

Still, the words echoed in his head: I will make you mine. They coursed through his veins like a venom which sapped his strength and made him weak. He could feel it in his knees, and even a gentle tremor in his hands here and there. Thankfully, the food would arrive soon and he wouldn't need to work hard to conceal this detail.

Truthfully, though, when she'd said that he felt like a cornered rabbit, quietly awaiting the fangs of the viper. And it was the familiarity of that feeling which frightened him most.

As the food was just about to arrive, he asked Liviana a question:

"Tell me something, Liviana, as one who knows of cages: what would you do to be free?"
 
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Liviana

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It was indeed obvious how much thinking was going on in his mind at that moment. She couldn't really blame him. The entire situation was ridiculous and she was certain that any other maid would have screamed and pleaded and cried before rushing back to her household at the first given opportunity. No-one in their right mind would wish to remain a hostage. Livvy was in her right mind (at least she thought so), but she'd been a prisoner of sorts for longer than she cared to acknowledge - she wasn't free there and she wasn't 'free' now, but at least now she would not longer be subjected to the tedium that was the secrets and scandals of the Allirian superiority.

Still, only a fool would trust a man who'd held a blade to her throat less than an hour ago. His company was, engaging, to say the least. Then again when he realised that he'd have her compliance, her lips thinned. She really hoped this wasn't going to be a problem. The last thing she needed were iron bars caging her in. Her throat cleared and she took a long sip of her wine, her dull eyes fixed on him as he told her the story behind he and Marjorie's past.

Ah.

Livvy dropped her gaze as she set her cup down and licked the wine from her lips. She had never been particularly fond of Marjorie and had in fact, tried her best to stay out of the woman's way lest she find herself being ordered around like some common maid. Though she supposed, to Marjorie, that was exactly what she was - but she could tell that the woman simply enjoyed degrading her.

Her eyes rose to meet his once more as the question passed his lips, and she lapsed into stunned silence. She had never been asked that question before, and it'd been so long since she'd considered such freedom a possibility. It made her think of her home, her family. Unshed tears pooled along her lower lids, her dim eyes glistening and glassy with distant thought. She was rather glad of the well-timed interruption that came in the form of two plates of roast chicken and fruits, and she took the short time to compose herself, her chin lifting and shoulders squaring. Her gaze hardened on him as the servers left them to their conversation.

"There is little that I wouldn't do, but even less that I can do." she answered with a soft frown. "I.. belong to that family. It is not a contract that I can easily free myself from.. But, by you stealing me away, it is no longer within my power to fulfil the agreement now is it?.." she asked rhetorically and lifted a fork to stab it into her chicken with a little more force than was strictly necessary.

"What is it exactly that you'll be needing me for?" she asked, and stuffed an overloaded fork-full of food into her mouth, her cheeks bulging as she chewed. Fuck manners, she was sick of having to pay attention to every little thing she did or said. She may not technically be 'free', but from now on, she was being whatever the hell she pleased.
 
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Otto von Geist

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Otto couldn't help but chuckle as Livvy started to speak with her cheeks filled with food. He rather thought she looked like a squirrel, or a chipmunk in that moment. But it was a happy laugh, one that had him feeling like maybe whatever was troubling this 'maid,' was something that his actions had in some way given her a respite from. But his mind turned back to what she'd said before: a contract. And now he had more than just a little suspicion that there was magic involved. But Liviana had been successful in convincing him that she was a victim of the Regisfords, perhaps just as much as Otto was.

He took a few bites of his food before speaking, ignoring her immediate question. "It would seem the Regisfords, too, have robbed you in some way. Well, I may be a criminal, but you have my word that as my hostage, I will give you more freedom than the Regisfords could ever have dreamed of. It's just one more thing that I can take from them. And, from the sound of it, it seems like something that will really hurt them."

Another bite, and he wiped the bits of food from his mustache with a napkin. "Tonight, let's just say it'll help me to have someone else there to help sell. Even thieves get jumpy when it comes to exiles. As for tomorrow... I could use a distraction. But saying it like that, well, I don't want you to think you're expendable. And I would be entirely untoward, and like the Regisfords, if I were to command you to do this with little choice in the matter. So I will instead say this as a suggestion. But you are not bound to it. If you feel your life is threatened or that it's not your own volition by which you follow me... Then you may wait somewhere, perhaps here or some other place of lodging. You are a prize too valuable to let go, I think."

He finished his food, once again wiping his face with his napkin.

"I won't let you go back to them," he said, his eyes meeting hers once again, his voice deadly serious. The man was hellbent on revenge, and stealing away a spy from the Regisfords was only the beginning. Besides, if she escaped now... she knew too much. And she would likely be obligated to tell them. This fact had him taking another sip of his wine, reaching the bottom of his goblet at last, and while he wanted more, there was the business of the evening to attend to still...
 
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Liviana

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'It would seem the Regisfords, too, have robbed you in some way.'

Livvy had to refrain from outright snorting at that. He had no idea of what they'd robbed her of. Still, it was as unbecoming of a Lady to be bitter as it was to stuff her cheeks full of food. Her brows rose and she gave a slow, sage nod in agreement, perhaps fortunate that she was too busy chewing to allow any words of resentment pass her lips. Her eyes glanced up at him briefly as it seemed that he was rather talented in observation, or perhaps the dice were in his favour today and his guesses were merely lucky ones. Livvy’s abduction would hurt the Regisfords more than he could possibly know, and she was quite certain now that they had every resource available spreading out to search for her. The thought forced another glance toward the empty doorway, and she swallowed as she looked back at him.

It seemed to hit her just how much trouble he’d be in if he were to be caught. And that if he were to be caught, he could not keep to his promise that she would not be allowed to return to them. It’d been a long time since she’d had to suffer an iron door and bars on her window, but after this, she could only imagine the level of security she’d have to deal with.

The girl gave a singular nod in understanding as he explained the terms of her involvement and the choices she had. She wasn’t about to argue with that. Livvy had never so much as touched a weapon in her life, but she was quick and hiding wasn’t an issue.

“Alright.” She confirmed, her brow drawing into a small frown as she lowered her voice. “You know they’ll be searching everywhere for us, don’t you? Wouldn’t it be wise to lay low for a little while? I… We probably shouldn’t even be here.”
 

Otto von Geist

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He wiped his face with a napkin one final time before answering Liviana's concerns. "You're probably right on that. Especially since I was identified by... well, you know who. But they won't have time to find us. You see, my plan is to be done with this business by two nights from now. Only two things of value remain to the Regisfords... their jewelry store, and their bank vault. In that order. Tonight, when I sell... there's a magic lockpick that can break through enchanted locks. With that, just about anyone's vault could be... compromised." He said, with a wink. "And jewelry shops are never as well protected as they should be."

Even as he said it, he knew it was a foolhardy plan. He'd only spent the better part of a few weeks outside of Alliria plotting and planning it, with limited resources and no way to quickly contact any of his potential allies within the city itself. Truthfully, he was already tired, but there was still so much more work to be done tonight.

"The night is young, Liviana. Let's get back to business."

With that he stood up, leaving an indiscriminate amount of his own money on the table as an appropriate payment. He offered his hand to help Liviana out of her seat as a gentlemanly gesture. After all, she was his new partner in crime and he thought a little courtesy might go some way into easing her into the clandestine actions they were about to take. Then again, if she was a spy... then this might as well just be another Tuesday. But, it was time to go.

The night streets were mostly empty except for a few guards patrolling here and there. One passing by asked what the two of them were doing, to which Otto offered a drunken story about them being newlyweds and just enjoying the sights of the town together. Before long, they'd reach a dark alley lit only by a single torch, and in only a few minutes after arriving, a few shady personages surrounded them.

"Well, well, well, if it isn't the exile himself," one of the figures said. He had a goatee, but otherwise his face and the rest of his features were obscured by a hood and a cloak.

"I'm not in the mood to talk, Mouse. I've got the goods if you've got the key," he said, his eyes narrowing as he felt his pulse pick up. He hated meetings like these.

"No time to talk, eh? Not even for your old buddy, Mouse? Sounds pretty serious. Well, if you say so," he said. The man pulled a small box out of the inside of his cloak, as Otto pulled one of the bags of gold out of his own pack.

"I'm afraid that time is one of the many things I don't have. But, it's good to see you again. Maybe even for the last time." Otto held out the bag, which he hadn't even carefully proportioned, but knew based on the jewels he'd stuffed in there that it would be worth a fortune.

"Thank you kindly for your custom," Mouse said, trading the box for the bag of jewels and gold. "Oh, and just because I'm a real friend, I went ahead and let all the big rats know what you were up to, and to stay out of the way. Warned 'em the guards would be really keen on this one, and that they didn't want any part of that. Of course, I don't think I even lied to them. Just spread the news for you."

A small bead of sweat formed on Otto's brow at the mention of potential other criminal elements. "I... thank you, Mouse. You're a real friend."

"Don't forget your roots. Some of us still remember what you were like before that siren abducted you. We could really use more thieves like you on the streets. Softer. Less keen to draw their blades when it gets hot."

"I could never go back to that. But... It's good to be missed. Thank you."

"Heh, yeah, I suppose it is. Who's the girl, by the way? You already find a new squeeze after they kicked you out on the street like a dog?"

"She's... just someone I met. Someone I can trust."

Mouse raised his eyebrow at this.
"Someone you can trust, eh? And how well did that work out for you last time?"

"Mouse--"

"I know, I know. Time. Let's be off then, lads. The Ghoul's going to strike again tonight, it seems."

Otto scowled at this, but managed a response before they got too far. "Take care of yourself, Mouse."

There was no response. The meeting was over, the shady figures left, and just like that Otto had acquired the magical lockpick he needed to get into the bank vault. He opened the box just to be sure, and inside a small purple, velvet holding, was the pick itself, which seemed ever so ordinary except for a very faint bluish outline which suggested its magical nature. He closed the box shut, sticking it inside a pocket close to his chest, and buttoning the pocket.

"Sorry," Otto said. "But now we can get going. The jewelry shop isn't too far from here. I'll go over the plan with you now, if you're ready. We're not looking for crown jewels or anything, but we're just trying to get as much as we can, as fast as we can get it. I imagine there might be guards in the front of the store; you're a pretty distracting sight, if I may say so, and I'd like you to get their attention while I sneak in through the back. Once you've done that, circle your way to the back and meet up with me. I'll have a few bags ready for you to fill. We'll be in and out in probably 10 minutes, or less. Understood?"

He paused, letting the information sink in. Then, he added: "Oh, and Liviana? If it comes to it, I want you to run if things go south. That's an order, as your captor."

He turned, looking towards the street they were to go down next. The Regisfords were powerful, but how organized could they have gotten in less than 12 hours?
 

Liviana

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How easily he lied.. And the town guards just accepted his fabrications as the truth and went on their way. It was enviable, really. So much so that it made her sick to her stomach and reminded her how little humans could be trusted. She went along willingly, too wrapped up in her paranoia that she might spot someone who would recognise her as she was. The household maid was a face she wore often enough that her continued use of it was a risk, but still, the Regisfords had bound her to their family for centuries because they knew what she was. Nobody else could know what she was, lest she be used for whatever other dirty work they were unable to get away with on their own.

Livvy's muddy gaze shifted around the alleyway he'd brought her to, and she'd been a breath away from voicing her opinion on his choice of haunts when a voice caused her heart to strike a staccato in her chest and she whipped around, and around again when she noted that he was not alone.

Mouse? She stared the man so inaptly named 'Mouse' up and down as she edged a little closer to Otto, keeping her lips tight shut and her arms wrapped around her ribs as she listened to the 'friendly' exchange. She shifted back a little as Mouse acknowledged her, and as though they'd been given permission to do so too, his companions looked her over like meat on a hook and her stomach churned.

If there was one thing she could say for the Regisfords, it was that she very rarely felt afraid whilst in their.. employment. Her work was carried out in the warmth and comfort of opulent establishments and soirees, not in grimy back-alleys surrounded by thugs and thieves. At least the so-called gentlemen of Alliria made some sort of effort to at least pretend they weren't ogling her, where this lot even winked and whistled at her like animals. Her nose wrinkled and she huffed, but she didn't dare say a word.

Livvy watched them go, a breath tumbling from her lips that she hadn't been aware she'd been holding. She remained quiet as she examined the lockpick and listened to his instruction, her brow furrowing as he outlined her task. A distraction? A lone female on these streets certainly would be a distraction. Feeling vulnerable, she hugged her arms a little tighter around herself and cleared her throat with an obedient nod.

"Alright.." she answered quietly. "I will."

Peeking around the corner of the street, she noticed the guard. He wasn't one she recognised at least, and so she could only hope that was mutual. She drew in a breath and stepped out onto the quiet road, the faint clicking of her boots drawing the guard's attention. He stepped out of the doorway and onto her path, a look of concern marring his brow.

"Miss. Are you alright?" he asked, for women didn't wander the streets alone at night.

"Oh. Forgive me, I am not from here.. I.. I was separated from my family." she laughed awkwardly under her breath and ran her fingers into her hair with a huff. "Would you be so kind as to direct me to the nearest inn?" she asked meekly, and the guard seemed to be assessing her attire. She hadn't exactly had time to grab a cloak or jacket before being abducted. The guard's head shook and he glanced up and down the street before nodding to her.

"I'll escort you, there's the Silver Siren around the corner." he gestured, and Livvy followed gratefully.
 
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Otto von Geist

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Otto didn't feel particularly great about sending Liviana to be a distraction, especially now that he knew she was bound to the Regisfords, a living treasure of sorts. He quite liked that idea for a moment, stealing something from them that had no monetary value that at least could be easily measured, but was worth more than anyone could have imagined. Something like that, anyway. And that would make him the greatest thief of all--by stealing things which cannot be stolen.

Still, as he watched her distract the guard and he made his way to the back of the Regisford jewelry store, he couldn't help but feel a little guilty. He saw the way she wrapped her arms around herself, and wished he'd done, well, something. But business was business, whether or not a woman was uncomfortable. Especially a hostage. Well... right?

Finally, he reached the back door to the store. He looked around briefly before fishing a lockpick out of his pack, taking a minute or so to carefully and quietly pick the door. The last tumbler of the lock got stuck--it seemed it always did--but Otto kept calm and managed to open the door nonetheless. He slipped inside, hoping Liviana would be back shortly to help haul out the gear.

Inside the store itself, it was quite dark. The primary source of light came from the reflection of torches on the jewelry within. Not willing to risk setting off an alarm or trap of some kind, he reached for the small lantern on his belt, lighting it. He knew the light might attract the wrong sort of attention, but he needed to be able to see what he was stealing. He figured by setting the lantern on the floor in the center of the room that it might be shrouded enough so as to not draw attention. Then, he proceeded forward, and finally made it into the main store floor, where most of the display jewelry was. He set the lantern on the floor after he was pleased to see no traps of any kind, then pulled out a few bags from his pack and began his work, the jingling of jewelry softly punctuating Otto's breaths in the quiet store.

He wondered how long she would be. In fact, he wondered if Liviana would be coming back at all. Maybe she'd turn him in, too. He'd thought of that, of course, but all the same it still made him start packing the jewelry that little bit faster. Jewelry was lighter than gold, so in theory this wouldn't take very long, which was to his advantage given that the Regisfords might already be looking for them...
 
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Liviana

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"That's very kind of you, Sir." the lone woman said spiritlessly and shuddered in the effort to appear cold. Livvy allowed the guard to lead the way, answering his questions as vaguely as she could in her inability to lie.

"Where are you from if not from here?"..

"Ah, I'm from much further east of here, you likely haven't heard of it." ...​

"Where are your family?." ..

"I don't know right now, but I'm sure they're safe."...
As they turned the corner, the street was a little more lively, particularly around the building that stood alone that she could only assume was the Silver Siren that the guard had mentioned. Livvy paused as her brown eyes flicked from face to face, quickly trying to establish whether she recognised any of them. Unfortunately, Mouse and a friend of his were amongst them, leaning roguishly against a wall, eyeing the two guards who were asking questions as they went inside.

Regisford guards.

"Ah, I see it. Thank you so much, I'm sure I can make it from here." she nodded quickly and looked up at the man.

"I should make sure y--"

"Really, there's no need. I wouldn't want to make myself look like I require the escort of a guard.." she laughed awkwardly. The man considered this for a moment, though he too had noticed the two guards entering the building and so seemed satisfied that she would be safe enough. He dipped his chin and she thanked him once more.

She started walking. A glance behind her told her that though the guard had stopped escorting her, he had not stopped watching her. She smiled back at him and muttered a quiet curse under her breath. There was little choice in the matter, she'd have to continue into the Silver Siren. Taking another path would only send the guard after her.

Nobody else had noticed her yet, luckily, and in the span of time it took to draw in a lungful of air and let the breath tumble slowly back out, her face was entirely different. It was still not her own, but it was no longer that of the Regisford's maid. Her skin had aged and darkened, her eyes almost black and her nose crooked. She was spared only the quickest of glances as she passed Mouse and his companion, and she wandered into the tavern inn without garnering much attention at all.

The guards were at the bar, quizzing the oblivious barkeep who's head continued to shake and who's expression remained entirely void of any knowledge of what they were talking about. Something about a phantom, about a thief and a girl. The so-called girl stood by the doorway unnoticed as she watched them move from table to table asking their questions without much luck at all.

"Saw a girl like that in the Golden Glass earlier. Was with a blonde fella." she heard a gruff old man bark. Livvy's eyes rolled. She didn't have time to stay and play these games. It was too much like work. She hurried back out, noting that the guard no longer stood on the corner and that Mouse and the other one were nowhere to be seen. Slipping into an alleyway, she let the old woman's facade melt from her skin until she was once again as Otto had met her, and she rushed along the lane to the back of the shop he was currently looting. It was a shortcut, but the guard would be back at his post in a few short minutes.

She knocked quietly, the door creaking open as she peeked in. "Otto..?" she whispered, finding him illuminated by the dull glow of the lantern. "We don't have long, he'll be back any m--" she cut herself off, or rather, the sound of the creaking door turned her words to stone in her throat and she froze in panic.

She'd been followed.
 
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Otto von Geist

"The Ghoul"
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He was interrupted as he heard a knock, the back door of the jewelry store creaking open shortly thereafter. He blew out his lantern, quickly packing the loot and sliding to a back wall as he heard the door shut again. He waited in the shadows behind a wall, steadying his breathing despite his suddenly elevated heart rate. Even if it was, hopefully, just Liviana. After all, she could have brought the guard with her. He peeked quickly to see who had entered, confirming it was the same woman he'd kidnapped, nodding in the dark.

"Good to see you, Liv-"

The door opened again. Otto turned, and out the glass panes of the front of the store more figures could be seen. Armed guards, or soldiers. Not the type of people he wanted to mess with. He thought maybe he could escape out the back if it was just the one guard, but then he would probably have to leave Liviana behind. And Otto had a thing about leaving people behind, not just because he'd promised Liviana he would keep her safe, but because his own hide had once been saved by Mouse in a similar situation gone wrong. Actually, he really wouldn't have minded Mouse's optimism or wisdom right about now.

You shouldn't be here in the first place, he probably would have said. Always wait at least a week before hits.

Yeah, well, I don't have weeks,
Otto thought. Thinking quickly, he crept up to Liviana, taking her by the shoulder to get her attention. He pointed with two fingers to the guards out the front door, then turned back to the open back door, where a single person stood in the doorway. It seemed like another guard.

"Let's take the back," he whispered harshly. Suddenly he was running to the back door. He clearly took the guard by surprise, and Otto was able to shoulder him and knock him down. He was elated as he burst through the back door, but this was slowly replaced by dread as he realized that this guard wasn't the only one waiting for them. No, there was a whole cadre of them. Weapons pointed, crossbows primed. Otto's eyes widened, then he sheepishly raised his hands in the air, expecting Liviana to be close behind him. He didn't know if she'd betrayed him, but he knew he was about to find out.

"Well, well, well. If it isn't... The Phantom," a familiar voice spoke. Too familiar. One Otto hated more than anything in this world. A man step forward, clad in mail and a golden-laced tabard, conspicuously missing his left arm, a bandage prominent on what Otto assumed was a stump. "Or... would 'The Ghoul' be more appropriate? I think it would. You certainly were rummaging around like a corpse-eater. And it would seem one of our little birds decided to join you. You know, she's been following you around this long--I can't help but think she's been helping you from the start."

It was Harold Regisford. In a few seconds, Otto blinked as he realized his bolt from earlier had resulted in an early amputation for the nobleman's arm.

"How did you--"


"Oh I'm sure you'd love to know that, wouldn't you? Well, as it happens, someone saw you dining at a certain establishment. If you really thought you could escape the eyes and ears of the Regisfords, then you're even more the fool for having broken into our estate and stolen our fortune. We've a nice cell prepared for you already, which you will be going to. But first..." Harold said, emphatically drawing his rapier and pointing it at Otto. "Draw your blade."

In days past, nothing would have made Otto happier. He'd thought of killing Harold for Marjorie before, so that they could escape together. Alas, it seemed that things had changed, as Otto's only urge now was for survival. Yet he hated the man, and accepted his challenge, slowly drawing his own rapier. Deep down, he knew that killing Harold would only cause problems. Not just for him, but for Liviana as well.

"It's a simple arrangement. A duel. I win, and you spend the rest of your days in the Regisford oubliette, where I will personally see that you suffer for what you've done. If you win, you're free to go."

Otto suspected that wasn't true. It was the type of arrangement one only made when they were sure they would win. "What about the maid?" he asked. Otto had already hatched a plan: he would lose on purpose, knowing they would be locked in the dungeons, but at least they would be alive. At least, that would be true if Otto were actually the better swordsman. Which may not have been the case.

"Oh sure, she can go free too if you win. Whatever you wish. She clearly is no longer of use to us. If you fail, you can both spend your lives in the dungeons."

"It seems you've given me no choice," Otto said. "Very well... I accept."

A fiendish grin crept onto Harold's face.
"So be it. En garde, villain!"

And with that, the duel was on.
 
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Liviana

The Little Spy
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Panic drained the colour from her already weak pallor, and with her eyes frozen wide in terror, the meek girl appeared quite ghostlike.

'Lets take the back' he'd said, but before she could coax her tightly-bound muscles to move, she heard the crash and whirled around, seeing the guard fall. She had been about to follow when she heard the familiar voice and her roast meat threatened to make a sudden reappearance.

She moved quickly now, slipping in behind the counter to peek through the curtain onto the scene outside. No.. Her mind writhed with fear as it wrapped every logical thought she tried to create in doubt, every scenario led to her being back in the Regisford's house under far more security than she could cope with. Her first taste of freedom in countless years had been but a measly sliver, but it'd tasted so fucking sweet.

Livvy listened as the men spoke, her brow knit in some attempt at concentration as she scoured for an way to get them both out of here. Without him, she was bound to the Regisfords until they died, or miraculously forgot her true name. They were now, it seemed, a package deal. Though he had told her to run if things went south. Run where? There was no way out other than straight into the waiting arms of armed guards.

Something stirred nearby and Livvy turned, seeing the guard that Otto had knocked over trying to push himself up. She moved quickly, sliding across the floor and reaching for the man's balding head which she slammed down into the floor before he could lift it. She had to slam it twice before he fell unconscious again, and she fearfully checked that he still had a pulse. He did, and so she moved back to the window to watch the fight unfold.

She didn't know enough about Otto or his skills in combat to know whether he could win this or not. Harold was skilled, though now disadvantaged, but whether or not the Lord won the duel - she knew that the rest of them wouldn't allow Otto to go free.
 
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Otto von Geist

"The Ghoul"
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Otto's mind was too focused now on Harold Regisford to have noticed that Liviana had already been attempting to procure an escape of some kind for them, or at least for herself, though if he had he doubtless would have been appreciative to say the least. Now, he was locked in a deadly duel with the man who had stolen his lover from him, the woman he'd hoped to someday marry--a real rags to riches story, at least for Otto-- now separated by months and distance with nary a word to show for it, discarded like trash or an old dress and cast aside. No letters, even. And he'd had no part in the decision.

The frustration of it all had him wanting to kill the man who stood before him many times. In fact, when Harold had charged him in the Regisford estate itself, he had aimed for Harold's heart, not his shoulder. And while Otto was planning on giving the fight to Harold, he'd find some other way to win.

Otto opened with an easily parried thrust, sidestepping the anticipated counterthrust from Harold. He could tell the nobleman's movements were sluggish, doubtless still weak from the injury and operation he'd suffered as a result of the crossbow shot. Otto backed up, tightening his stance and pointing his rapier at Harold as he began to circle him.

"That's a good look for you, Harold," Otto said. "Half a man, half a body!"

Harold snarled at this, swiping at Otto, which he easily deflected. "I knew you'd try to come back for her. A rat sticking his nose where it doesn't belong, just as you always were, and even now you can't resist."

Otto half-swung low at Harold, causing the nobleman to stumble back as he barely parried the strike, then made space between them again. "Strange of you to speak of thieves when you're the one guilty of theft," Otto said, attempting to conceal the growing rage under the surface.

Harold lowered his guard for a moment, shrugging at Otto's accusation. Otto could have struck, but held instead, his rapier still pointed at Harold.
"The real pity is that you never even knew. It was all a game, rat, and Marjorie would have had you chasing cheese for the rest of your miserable life for her own amusement."

Otto had heard similar accusations before. His grip on his blade tightened as his anger welled. "No, Marjorie loved me. That's why she let me live with her. Why she picked me up off the street and spent so much time with me."

Harold laughed at this.
"No, you fool. You had all the romantic interest to her of a pet. You amused her. She paraded you around to her friends like some kind of exotic oddity--the urchin rescued from street! It was a farce! One big joke, and you were the willing subject."

Otto couldn't contain it anymore. In his anger, he gave a ragged thrust, and even as weak as Harold was, the move was far too easily telegraphed, and parried. Open for a moment, Harold then hooked Otto's blade with his own, casting it aside, leaving Otto defenseless. Harold held his own blade at Otto's throat now.

"Damn you," Otto spat.

Harold grinned cruelly.
"Don't worry, you'll get to see her again. You may find the bars of your cage to be quite familiar, actually. And for stealing the Regisford fortune... well, I have more than a few ideas on how to make you pay for it."

Otto's eyes widened, and then shut, knowing he'd lost. Harold's words about Marjorie had cut too deeply, and now he'd failed not only himself and his revenge, but this magical maid or spy or whoever she was as well. He supposed now he'd have some time to think about things, however, as Harold called his guards over, and before too long, the both of them were blindfolded and marched somewhere. After what felt like an eternity, they were cast into a cell--not a traditional oubliette, but rather a very small opening in a rock face in the forest with a half dirt, half wooden floor. It was incredibly small, with barely enough room for Otto and Liviana to not be touching either each other or the iron bars of the cell itself. The two of them were cast in, with Harold giving one last remark before leaving them alone in the dark.

"I'll be back for you," he said. "Perhaps both of you, actually."

Otto removed his blindfold just in time to see Harold and the guards leave. Otto was still too shocked to do anything more than lean back against the uncomfortable cave wall, the words about Marjorie still cutting far too deeply for him to recover. After all... what if they were true?
 
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