Private Tales The Failure of Nobility

A private roleplay only for those invited by the first writer

Kristen Pirian

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Stairs.

Kristen wasn't particularly fond of stairs. Even with Proctor Magomo's hearty physical training regimen, she didn't like them. What? She was allowed to have favorites and to not. Those queer little exercises called "sit-ups" were perhaps her favorite. Why, they didn't necessitate going anywhere. All one needed was something in which to hook one's feet (or a friend by chance to hold them down) and that was that. Yes, she sometimes felt awfully queasy after long and difficult sessions, but it was nothing compared to when she first was made to run laps around the Academy or, more pertinently, to jog up and down the stairs in the dormitory. Oh how she felt like mush in those early days, and how it tainted her estimation of stairs ever since!

To give Proctor Magomo his due, though, Kristen was not panting and heaving and asking for small breaks. Sweats and aches endured yesterday had spared her from embarrassment (along with said sweats and aches) today.

"We will need to ascertain Herim's trail," she said as they ascended the cliffside steps. "He will have left one surely. Fortunately, he does have some rather distinctive features which mark him out. I remember that his hair is quite strikingly black, for one. And..."

She hesitated on the second, more gruesome detail.

"...he is missing a thumb on his left hand."

Edric
 
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Edric

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Black hair alone probably wouldn't be enough r them to track down Herim Urahil, but a missing thumb would most certainly narrow it down. "Well, that will help."

Edric said with a slight frown.

"We'll start at a few taverns." That was always that the Proctors had told them was the quickest way to find information.

More often than not it was the degenerates of the world who knew the most. The flow of information was passed from the street to local barkeeps as though they were pretty much information brokers. It was hard not to hear every bit of gossip when you had a constant stream of drunks at your door.

"Coin slipped into the right places will get us to the start of the trail." Jet black hair and only one thumb, that had to narrow it down. Even in a city like this.

He assumed that was why Adriana had given them the purses of gold.

As they continued to ascend the stairs Edric tensed slightly. His head turning half on a swivel as they came closer and closer to the gate. He expected the two Guards to say something, stop them, but all that was offered was a quick glance at the two Initiates, and then an utter disregard.

Edric glanced briefly at Kristen, frowning, but said nothing as they passed through the side-gate and stepped into Salesia proper. Around them the city was utterly alive, seemingly hundreds of people milled about the white marble streets, all of them utterly stuck in their own world.

Slowly the Initiate looked around, frowning. "We can start there."

He said, pointing at a tavern with a sign of a red pony bathed in colored waves.
 
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Kristen Pirian

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Oh, taverns. Was that how folk of the vernacular acquired information? Kristen could say that she had not once stepped foot inside of one (a fact that would change with a certain Drunken Mess in Vel Yuna), and father, if he ever needed information on a specific topic, always had people within his assembly who would be ready to provide it. Kristen was about to ask why on Arethil a tavern would even be a good place to begin with (would not the patrons all be in too much of an inebriated stupor to be of any use?) when Edric, more or less, explained. Money, and an exchange. Looking at it this particular way, such wasn't all that different from how father acquired his information as well.

Kristen kept her head down as they reached the apex of the stairs and approached the side gate. Not that it turned out to be overly necessary, for the guards had no quarrel with them—scarcely even a bother.

Inside the walls, Kristen brought her hand up to shade her eyes after passing through the gate. Her eyes lit up and she, thoroughly impressed, said, "What a fetching marble avenue. I wonder how much it would cost to redo Vel Anir's streets to be the same. An insurmountable fortune, I imagine."

Edric spoke and pointed, catching Kristen's attention. She moved her raised hand to the side to keep the breeze from blowing her ponytail into her face and looked to where he motioned. A tavern with a most interesting sign. Eye-catching, certainly. The painter surely had to delight in its creation.

"Well, seems as whimsical a place as any," she said.

They entered, Kristen pushing open the door and daylight from the outside spilling in beyond their shadows. Not crowded, but not empty, given the time of day. In one corner there were two older men having a heated argument with one another, easily the loudest people inside. Another man at one of the center tables, robed and hooded, sipping tea in an almost dainty fashion while he poured over a selection of scrolls and possibly maps. Two orcs and an elf occupied a third table, the trio looking mightily like they too had come from out of town, their travelworn cloaks only one of several hints to such.

Then, startling Kristen, the barkeep at the counter got one look at her and barked out a laugh sharp enough to interrupt even the argument between the two old men. "Ha! Look!" He gestured toward the mace at her belt. "Young girl, do you even know how to use that? Do you swing it or does it swing you? Ha, ha!"

Edric
 
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Edric

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Edric stared at the barkeep for a brief moment, a flicker of rage rushing down his spine.

He had to actively fight the urge to grab the man by the collar and slam his face into the bar repeatedly. Kristen might have gotten on his nerves, she might have insulted him, he might nearly have beaten her to death. But none of that meant this little lout had a right to speak to her that way.

Teeth clicked together as his jaw set, fingers furling. "You talk to all your paying customers that way?"

The Initiate asked, the barb in his voice more than clear.

"Or just the ones who can break both your legs before you have a chance to say 'stop'?" Edric stared at the man, the cold iron of his tone bringing a stillness to the entire tavern. Piercing blue eyes stared at Innkeep, his odd snake like pupils focused entirely on the man before him.

The man behind the counter looked at Edric, then to Kristen, frowned and then let out a slight cough.

"I...err...no-jus-just don't ahhh...see many women with such...well..."​
 
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Kristen Pirian

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Kristen had been taken aback by how brutishly forward the barkeep had been, whether it was in jest or not (though to her ears it most certainly did not sound like a jest). Edric, however, with his naturally more intimidating stature and demeanor, had the mean-spirited barkeep cowed at the drop of a handkerchief.

Would she ever have that option available to her? More so, perhaps, would she even want to be able to intimidate people in such a manner? Or would it come without her knowing, a hard set look sinking over time into her eyes and calcifying her face in a way that only witnessing, enduring, and enacting brutality could do?

"Relax..." Kristen said, raising up her hands in a bid for peace. "Reclaim your calm. I've reclaimed mine. 'Tis not the first time I've heard a tongue that was free with its opinions." Her hands descended down onto the counter. She tried for a pleasant smile to melt some of the frigidity that had iced over the tavern. "We merely came for a drink and to relax ourselves for a spell."

"O-Oh, sure, drinks, of course." And with a brief look to Edric before his eyes dipped back down and then to Kristen, "Apologies." And then he scurried over to the far side of the counter to retrieve two clean mugs.

As he was doing so, Kristen spared a glance to Edric, idly tapping the pouch of coins provided by Adriana on her belt. She surveyed the interior of the tavern with a casual sweep of her eyes. Certainly the barkeep was a viable choice to probe for a sighting of Herim, especially now that he'd been plied into a cowering obedience. But maybe the patrons could be a viable route as well? Who among them looked like they might be regulars?

Edric
 
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Edric

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Edric stared after the barkeep for a brief moment, watching the man as he quickly scurried away. Lips thinned, but he said nothing more. His eyes caught on Kristen, glancing down as she tapped the sack of gold at her waist. For a moment he considered, and then nodded in response to her.

His head tipped to the side, and he motioned towards himself and then to one of the tables nearby where the two men had been arguing. Then he quickly gestured to the Barkeep.

The Initiate knew it would be for the best if Kristen spoke to the man. Most people weren't too eager to speak to someone who had threatened to break their legs a few moments ago. Better to let Kristen's noble bearing win the man over, Edric could deal with the screaming toughs in the corner of the tavern.

Without another word he stepped over towards the empty table, seating himself conveniently next to the two men.

They watched him as he made his way over, having overheard the threat he'd offered the tavern keeper. One of them let out a slight chuckle, his mouth breaking out into a wide smile as he threw a jest towards Edric.

"Never seen Territh turn white so quick."

"I have that effect on people." Edric offered as he sat, half turned to face the men who broke out Into a spat of laughter. They shook their heads. "What were you arguing about?"

Edric asked, deciding it was best to be direct. A tactic which probably would have made Kristen cringe.

"Ah, that new fuckin' advisor to Lord Oren. I think he's trouble wearing a nice collar. Pedric here thinks he'll be good for the city."

"Ah. Never really got into politics." Edric admitted, not connecting the dots that this 'new advisor' could very likely be the man that they were looking for. Both the two men chuckled, heads shaking at Edric's response.

"That's cause Politics is an old man's game, lad."

Pedric offered with a chuckle.

"You and your lass long for Salesia?"

The Initiate blinked for a moment, glancing at Kristen and frowning. "She's no-err…no, were just passing through."
 
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Kristen Pirian

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A sweet smile opened more doors than a dour frown, mother was fond of saying. And so when the barkeep returned with two tankards (and looking rather relieved that the owner of the second tankard had gone off to conversate with patrons), Kristen offered him a sweet smile. Certainly they had gotten off on terrible footing, but that didn't mean this barkeep was an altogether bad person.

The smile seemed to work. The barkeep, Territh, set the two tankards down before Kristen on the counter, gathered his wits to speak, and then said, "Your, uh...your friend there always like that?"

"He maintains a certain constant intensity, yes," Kristen said. "Do not fret over it. I would have stopped him before he could have injured you." Now that had the bitter tinge of a lie to it, and Kristen could almost feel the withering gaze of her mother burrowing into her. But it wasn't completely a lie. She would have tried to stop him, protesting mightily in that effort...it's just that it would have taken a miracle from Aionus for her to actually succeed. Not that the barkeep needed to know that.

Territh did, however, sigh, as if breathing out some of that relief he'd worn on his expression. "Well...sorry again for disparaging you like that. I got myself a wild tongue, always have, and it doesn't help I'm from a place that don't see many womenfolk taking up arms; it's men's work back home. Though..." He seemed to take in Kristen's full height then, the full measure of the six vertical inches that separated them, "...I suppose you've got the stature for it, eh?"

She couldn't help but warm to the compliment, despite herself. Her reply was one of self-deprecating humor to further lighten the mood, "I am in no grave danger of bards composing a song about me."

It worked. Territh chuckled. "Heh. Grave danger. Heh, heh. That's somethin' else." Then he added, "Can I ask you a question?"

"You may indeed."

"You sound rich." Then he scratched the back of his neck, wandering eyes in contemplation as he seemed to be second guessing himself. "I don't know. Does that make sense? Here. What I mean to say, is that you don't sound like the usual lot I get coming into my establishment. I mean, you got an accent, that much I can tell, but it's more'n that."

"What wonders one can weave with a vast vocabulary," Kristen mused, pinning down his thought for him in so doing.

"Yeah. Somethin' like that."

"Mayhap you've heard others who speak as I do, and their fortunes they clearly displayed in the lavish threads of their attire?"

The barkeep started snapping his fingers. "Come to think of it, you're right. There's been some new faces around Salesia. Heh, 'lavish threads' alright. Man even had the same accent you do. Can't for the life of me remember his name though, I only heard it in passing and it's slippin' away. Oh, I hate when that happens, I pride myself on knowin' names."

Then the barkeep looked past Kristen and to the two old men with whom Edric was speaking. "Hey, Pedric, you old bastard. What's the name of that new advisor again?"

Edric
 
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Edric

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"Eh?"​

Pedric had been about to throw out a poorly phrased euphemism about Edric passing through his 'lady' before the Barkeep interrupted him. A thought process that was utterly interrupted by the man who stood behind the counter.

"Names...ahh, Herim! Yeah that's what the Salesian Sun called 'em. 'Parently from somewhere out east. Didn't give a surname though. Apparently the fucker likes a bit of mystery."​

Edric's head immediately turned on a swivel.

It made sense that Urahil would take a position of an advisor, but something sat in the back of his mind. "How long has he been here?"

The Initiate asked with a frown. Adriana had said that she'd been capturing ships to try and cut-off Herim's arrival in Salesia. Had that been a lie? Or had the man simply been able to slip past the Anirian Ironclad and into the city.

"Few days, I think. Though The Sun said that he's been advising the council for months. 'Parently he's 'invaluable'."​

Edric slowly looked over towards Kristen, the slight concern he felt more than evident.
 
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Kristen Pirian

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Bold of Herim, to allow for such a fanfare to accompany his arrival. Mayhap he thought his position here in Salesia to be very secure, his breaking away from Vel Anir to be immaculate, for he did not seem overly concerned in the slightest that he might be found out.

So focused on the rogue Urahil was she that not a thought was spared with regard to Adriana and the Ironclad's attempts at interdicting his ship. These thoughts remained the exclusive domain of Edric.

Kristen was far more concerned with smoothing over the conversation, guiding it naturally and subtly away from the subject of Herim now that she and Edric had gotten what they were looking for and burying the fact that it had even come up under a heap of mundanity. Territh and the tavern's patrons might remember two new faces coming in if they were asked, but no one specifically looking for Herim, no—that would be merely a subject that was one of many for your everyday, mostly forgettable small talk.

Part way through her chat with the barkeep, she had a moment of self-awareness. Of just how cunning this was, conversating with others not for the simple human pleasure of it but with a stark goal in mind, this goal like a core of ice concealed by a shell of assumed genial warmth. It was...a touch disturbing. A noble's tactic, perhaps, but also a Dreadlord's tactic.

"Well," said Territh, clapping a hand down on the counter with an air of finality as their chat came to a close. "I'll leave you to it then. Lemme know if you want another drink or a bite to eat."

"Of course, Territh, I shall not hesitate," Kristen said. She sipped some of the beer in her tankard. Mostly for show, the taste was abominable.

Territh went off further down the bar counter, engaging with another pair of patrons who'd come into the tavern in the meantime. Everyone else in the tavern had long since gone back to minding their own business as well.

When Edric came up beside her, she said in a low voice between the two of them, "What do you think?"

Lord Oren. Herim. Where there was the first, there was bound to be the second, the object of their mission. But even if, if, Herim was overconfident or complacent in his situation, with Oren being a lord there was certain to be complications.

Edric
 
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Edric

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"I'm wondering why Lady Lorel didn't just put that Ironclad into the Harbor and seize this city." Edric said, though he was mostly being rhetorical.

Though he didn't understand the nature of more in depth politics, even he knew why they couldn't simply conquer Salesia. The old Vel Anir might have done it, Adriana may even have wanted to, but the Republic wouldn't. That was simply the way of the new order. Not conquest, but diplomacy and an open hand.

Couldn't very well do that if you went about seizing cities. Better to be a bit more…clandestine.

Edric shook his head, and then decided to answer Kristen a bit more seriously. "If Herim got here a few days ago that means Lady Lorel's timeline is off."

He pointed out.

"She was stopping ships to try and catch him, just saw us as an opportunity to be a bit more effective." Edric frowned. "But if he was already here, and even before that communicating with this Lord Oren…then it's likely he's far more established than we thought he'd be."

Making their task all the more difficult.

Edric frowned, looking at Kristen. For a few moments he just thought, considering all they knew, all they had to do still. The quickest way to get Herim was to go to the man protecting him. "I think we need to speed this up. So we wait for nightfall and pay this Lord Oren a visit."

The Initiate said with a shrug.
 
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Kristen Pirian

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Kristen's first thought, charitable as it was, was that Adriana had perhaps received expired information. It had to be no true fault of her own, right? Why bother interdicting ships if Herim had outpaced every Anirian vessel and made it here to Salesia already? Likely because she was working off of said outdated information—the Republic, unfortunately, one step behind. At least it was this by Kristen's reckoning.

...then it's likely he's far more established than we thought he'd be.

"A delicate situation," Kristen concurred. She wet her lips and then pressed them together into a thin line. With Herim entrenched within Salesia as they suspected, the tight rope across which they had to walk to complete their mission without causing an incident became all the more precarious.

Kristen paled slightly at Edric's suggestion. Without causing an incident...she'd thought it too soon.

She glanced around the tavern, all of sudden concerned that anybody and everybody might be trying to listen in on their talk. No one was, but nothing summoned the feeling of being watched like conspiring to commit the sort of thing they were planning.

"Mayhap..." she began slowly, confidentially, "...we ought to move our discussion to a place less open."

Edric
 
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Edric

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Edric looked around at Kristen's suggestion, frowned for a moment and then nodded. Pushing himself up from the table he left his drink, walking up to the Barkeep who was mid conversation. The moment he noticed the Initiate approaching the man quieted, turning towards Edric as he cleared his throat.

"We need a room." His words were quick, direct. No point in beating around the bush. The man nodded his head, quickly darting to retrieve a key from behind the counter.

"Th-that'll be ten silver."

It was clear that despite Kristen's calming words the Barkeep was still more than a little weary of Edric. It was an emotion that he didn't capitalize on, without question pulling out the ten silver coins and paying the man before he took the key. "Thank you."

He remarked dryly, then motioned for Kristen to follow.

They quickly moved into a narrow hallway, heading down past two or three doors before they came to the same number as was labeled on the key. The room wasn't impressive; a queen sized bed, a small desk with a mirror, and a wash basin with some likely very cold water.
 
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Kristen Pirian

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Unheard to both Kristen and Edric as they departed the common room and went down the hallway, the old man Pedric did make that joke about Edric "passing through his lady" to his friend, and their argument about Lord Oren and his new advisor dissolved into laughter right then and there.

Kristen entered the room, taking the initial moment to walk over toward the small desk and mirror and to idly check her face, her hair. Mother had always been keen on making sure Kristen was diligent with her appearance, and such care had more or less become second nature to her now. She did her quick check-up without even very much thinking about it.

"Accosting Lord Oren will be a line that we cannot uncross. I don't know what reach the man has, but he is nobility, so I believe it fair to say that Salesia will be made far more hostile, and our time slim."

She looked over at Edric then.

"I suppose you have some experience in this, having survived a similar affair. Mayhap it will prove a good model for what to expect and how to plan." She crossed her arms. "How did Sene go for yourself and Noel?"

Sure, they weren't killing Lord Oren (not necessarily), but the result was likely to be same. Oh Kristen was hoping that Edric was not about to say that they improvised the whole thing in Sene.

Edric
 
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Edric

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Edric gave Kristen a strange look as she checked herself over in the mirror. His eyebrow raised and he shook his head, as though he couldn't quite believe what he was seeing. It was that face she would be greeted with when she turned to look at him, leveling her point about Lord Oren.

It was a good point, undeniably.

Waltzing into a Council members Manor and putting him to the question was more than likely to create some waves. Even someone as simple as Edric could see that future, but by his estimation it was also the quickest way to bring this to an end.

A frown touched his face when Kristen mentioned Sense. His muscles tensed slightly. "Different situation."

Edric remarked.

"The city was under siege by the Radiant Church when we were captured, and they already knew we were Dreadlords." There had been no way for Kristen to know that of course. After their return to Vel Anir the whole thing had been buried about as deeply as could be. The Republic being afraid of embarrassment.

"No one has to know here." He contended. "Surely this Lord Oren has rivals. Maybe they're…displeased with this new advisor and decided to take some harsher methods."

Edric offered with a shrug, probably the first politically smart idea he'd ever had. All spawned from not wanting to look like a complete fuckup.
 
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Kristen Pirian

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"If only we'd a convenient siege to bewitch the attention of Salesia's guardsmen," Kristen mused. She planted a hand on the desk and leaned on it, looking to one side, lips scrunched in minor vexation. It didn't matter all that much if Lord Oren's men knew them to be Dreadlords or thought them to be henchmen from a rival lord, they'd still be after them.

If they caught wind of what transpired.

"When I was younger, I accidentally kicked a fallen nest full of hornets," Kristen said. She smiled ruefully at Edric. "That was a lovely day at the park, I tell you."

She straightened, crossing her arms.

"We must inquire of Herim from Lord Oren, on that I very much concur. But we must take care not to kick the hornet's nest here in Salesia."

Another self-reflection, much like the one she had talking with Territh the barkeep. Speaking as she did now, in such a tone and with such words, she scarcely recognized her own voice. A distant cry from the girl in the desert.

Mayhap a glimpse of things to come. Of what could be.

Edric
 
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Edric

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Edric didn't necessarily disagree with Kristen.

There was every possibility that stirring things up would come back to bite them in the ass, even he could see that. Problem was, the Initiate also didn't know what else they were supposed to do. At the end of the day he was a hammer.

His solution would always be striking the Anvil. "Okay."

Edric grunted, making his way over towards the single bed in the room. He sat himself down, staring at Kristen through the reflection in the mirror.

"Then what do you suggest we do?" He every much doubted that she had meant they would have to be extra sneaky. It more seemed that she either had an idea herself or that sneaking in should be an effort of last resort.

It wasn't like he was entirely inflexible either. If Kristen had a better suggestion he would go with it. Mostly because they could always fall back on his idea at the end of the day anyway. Lord Oren's manor would always be there, and even if the bastard doubled his guards it wouldn't present much of a problem.

Not for him at least.
 
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A glimpse of things to come.

Of what could be.

"He cannot be allowed to tell anyone about the young man and the young woman who accosted him. No one can."

Anyone who witnessed them could set into motion that kicking of the proverbial hornet's nest. Kristen and Edric stood out: they were tall, distinctive, had easily recognizable features. Masks would make for a good precaution, but a hectic fight could see them ruined—they could not be relied upon entirely. It was best to adhere to the notion that once they set foot onto ground in which they had no business being, they needed to be as ghosts.

"I understand this is easier said than done."

Mayhap in Edric's case it was easier done than said. But, for everyone else, that stood true. For her, it stood true.

One way or the other, Lord Oren couldn't be allowed to raise the alarm. Better that he be thought missing, having gone away on some flight of fancy perhaps, than for the surety of fugitives to be known.

And by that same reasoning, better that he be found dead, telling no tales, than alive and angry and ready to stir up all of Salesia. Oh god. It didn't need to happen, he could be kept somewhere, or perhaps set upon outside of his manor and outside of the city if incredible luck blessed them, but...such might be little more than wishful thinking.

Oh god.

"In any case," Kristen said, swallowing. "It would behoove us to engage in a spot of pre-planning. Scouting out Lord Oren's manor as best we can, assessing the proximate layout of the city, the patrol routes of guardsmen, the nearest gates out of the city and best paths to them, things of this nature."

A different situation from Sene, indeed.

Edric
 
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Edric

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It didn't take a genius to pick up what Kristen was putting down.

Whatever the fate of Lord Oren would have to be, Edric didn't really give much of a shit. As far as he was concerned he was on the same level as Herim Urahil. If he had to die, then he had to die. There would be little qualm with killing him. "We'll do it carefully."

He agreed with a nod of his head.

Stealth was not exactly Edric's forte, but he could manage it as well as most other Initiates.

"It's noon now." A little after, but close enough. "That will give us a few hours to find his manor and stake it out."

Most Initiates, most Dreadlords for that matter, were not agents of silence. They were taught to be weapons, soldiers. They were meant to tear down buildings, not sneak into them. Yet the Academy had taught a lesson or two on a more subtle touch.

That was what they would have to rely on now. "We'll need a change of clothes too."

He remarked. "Something that will better blend into the dark."
 
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Kristen Pirian

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A change of clothes. Something to better blend into the dark, and something that could be easily discarded if necessary. At this thought a shiver worked its way down Kristen's spine. For whatever reason, it was the implications of that thought, discarding their clothes if necessary, the accompanying mental image, that got to Kristen more than her previous thoughts. The shiver wasn't one of fear. Instead, one of uncertainty, perhaps akin to being told several dire fortunes and knowing that one of them would come true, and not knowing which one.

What was for certain was that this felt like the first time Kristen was truly applying herself. Putting what comparatively few lessons she'd learned from the Academy to use. And, where normally there might have been a joy, an excitement, at the prospect of going to the market, there was only a workwoman's diligence, as if it weren't much more than one step among many in the construction of some craft.

Kristen touched and jingled the pouch of coins at her belt. "Then let us be off."

She crossed the room back to the door, and in the motion of doing so said, "I suppose it might be prudent to come up with a quick story if anyone asks." Hand on the door, and looked back with a thin smile and said, "Not refugees this time."

Whatever fabrication they came up with to satisfy casual conversation, still it would be best to let Edric do the talking in that case. Kristen knew that, however resolute she might feel now, there existed the strong impulse to tell the truth once she was in the moment. That iron—the ability to lie when necessary, if she indeed even had it within her—still needed to be hammered out smooth.

Edric
 
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Edric

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Edric nodded his head, picking himself up from the bed and making for the door. He stopped, glancing back towards Kristen with a slight frown.

A cover story would be a good idea, especially if they were going to be walking around the palace. For a few seconds he considered, his brow furrowing. Then he remembered what the old man had said downstairs. A shrug rolled over his shoulders. "We're a couple looking to start a new life here in Salesia."

The idea wasn't all that far fetched.

"Made our way here from Eastern Cortos." Those lands were mixed enough that their Anirian complexions wouldn't be too out of place. They might still get some questions, but the area was close enough to Vel Anir that they knew at least a little bit about it. "Now we need to find work."

They didn't need to share their 'life' story, just enough that whoever asked would be satisfied.

Refugees were common enough in this day and age, and Salesia wouldn't make for a bad home by any estimation. They just had to lie convincingly enough to pass it off. "Good?"

Edric asked, waiting by the door.
 
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Kristen Pirian

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We're a couple looking to start a new life here in Salesia.

Her brows jumped up high. Kristen's response caught in her throat, only a brief and half-formed throaty sound coming forth. Her protest, which was certain to have included the words forward and presumptuous, fell short of being even remotely articulated. Mayhap it was for the better. Mother meant well, of course she did, but this natural reaction to talk of this kind was ill-fitted to her current situation. This wasn't a game of nobility and suitors, no. This was Dreadlord business.

And, as it so happened, the fabrication was practical and believable. If they looked the part (did they look the part? did they?), then they ought to play the part. All for the better if they were never asked about themselves, even in polite and friendly conversation, but if they were 'twas best to keep themselves from garnering unwanted curiosity...or suspicion.

"Good. G-Good. Yes, fitting enough."

She was about to open the door when the sudden intrusion of a thought stayed her hand for a moment longer. Her brow flattened, lips pulled into a straight and tight line—that distinct look of realizing something that had been right before you for a good long while.

She looked to Edric and said flatly, "Does the Academy intentionally send out pairs of Initiates who could plausibly pass as a couple?"

For, presumably, occasions just like this. The more Kristen thought about it, the more there was a kind of subtle brilliance to the idea. When were lovestruck couples ever seen as a threat?

Edric
 

Edric

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Edric stopped for a moment at the question, frowned, and then nodded his head as if he too had realized something. ”Yes.”

It made a certain sort of sense. He’d never much thought about it, but it really was a good cover. Two young kids traveling together tended to either be siblings or star-struck lovers. Both easy enough to believe in situations they got themselves into.

It had worked extremely well for himself and Ralene in Wissburg. That was why he had thought of it now. It seemed utterly reasonable that the Proctors did the same thing on purpose often enough. Especially considering that the Initiates tended to be in the same age range as one another.

”We’re not really trained to be spies.” Edric said with a frown. ”I guess they want us to have a way of…blending in more easily.”

Some Initiates had magic that could help with hiding in plain sight, but Edric was most certainly not one of them. He was still convinced the only reason they’d sent him and Ral to Wissburg was because of their relative strength.

It was after all, the reason they’d made it out alive.
 
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Kristen Pirian

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Kristen was visibly mulling this idea about, her brow still furrowed and her eyes in their downward cast sliding over to the left for a moment, then sliding over to the right.

Huh. The concept truly was so simple that it practically hid itself from ready recognition. Only by sheer happenstance did the thought enter into Kristen's head, as if a special set of circumstances had finally coalesced together and allowed her to see with a renewed clarity this thing which hid so cleanly in plain sight.

This had to be a Republic thing. Why, Kristen could hardly imagine how this tactic would have worked under the old way of the Academy. Well, no, she did have some idea, if the tactic was in place then: there would have probably been a lot of "couples" who were sent out and a lot of single Initiates who returned.

If it were still so, the old way, it would have been her who hadn't returned. She would have been dead in the wheat field, or dead much sooner than that.

Dead, because she was weak.

Kristen didn't waste any more time grappling with this truth; she would be stuck here in this room all day if she allowed herself to do that. "Well," she said, "Let's go put on airs then, if need be."

Not her particular specialty, putting on airs, but she could follow Edric's lead and nod or shake her head easily enough. And, at worst, it was only small talk they needed to worry about. It was not as if some Inquisitor would come round and take umbrage with her for the mere mention of the name of Aionus.

Kristen opened the door and headed out.

So it was to the market then, to find some replacement clothes for the night's deed. The first step in this final stage of, at long last, returning home.

That is how a Dreadlord is made, isn't it? came that thought again, the very one she'd had earlier in their trek.

Step by step.

Edric
 
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Edric

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It wasn't long before Edric and Kristen found themselves in the midst of Salesia's largest market square.

Dozens upon dozens of vendors were arrayed all around them. Some sold vegetables, others meats, and still others the precious clothes that the two Initiates were after. Anyone and everyone around them was shouting, calling for his supplies or offering some sort of discount.

The whole thing was more chaotic than the battlefield.

If it wasn't for his stature Edric could easily have seen himself swept up within all the chaos. His head practically swimming as he grabbed onto Kristen and began to drag her to one of the stalls. "Here!"

He shouted through the din of noise, tugging his noble companion alongside him. The stall they approached was occupied by a woman swept in robes, her face lighting up as she noticed the two teenagers approaching her.

"Good evening sir and madame! Are you looking for something specific? A dress of the Deletara? A Suit for a night out? A woman loves a good suit, no? I sell only the best, I assure you. Please please. Look."​

The woman said, gesturing wildly to her wares.
 
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Kristen Pirian

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Kristen had missed out the market of Sene. Had she not, had she been there in the proper hustle and bustle instead of only going down a busy street to the docks, she might have felt as overwhelmed then as she felt now in Salesia. Goodness! There was just so much...noise! So much noise, so many people, so many smells (not all of them particularly pleasant, mind). How many people could possibly fit into these small streets and squares? This was something that commoners dealt with regularly, but to Kristen this was all wildly new. She'd always been curious, of course. But there something to be said about the sheer strength of the separation a simple carriage window put between her and the outside busyness of a market. Being on the ground was just so much different.

Edric, thankfully, was able to spot the sort of vendor they were looking for. Gosh, how could you even do so if your eyes didn't swim above the surface of the crowd, as did Edric's and Kristen's own?

The merchant was friendly enough. Not overly companionable as she feared, but not gruff either. Kristen made a note to speak in a more colloquial register, trying to not lead the merchant to the same conclusion Territh had surmised so quickly. No need to complicate things by inviting conversation and questions about her nobility.

"Nothing so fancy as that," Kristen said, smiling politely and speaking loudly enough to be heard over the constant din of the market. "Something a little more modest. Practical, yeah?"

"Then you need to step over here!" said another merchant, also selling clothing, his own stall right next to the woman's. A portly man with a widow's peak and a salt-of-the-earth charm to his grin.

"Phillip..." the woman said in a warning tone.

"Listen," said Phillip, "Cyllia is gonna gauge you on the price for garments you don't need. Practical, you said? Well have a look here! I got practical, durable, sturdy." Looking directly at Kristen when he also pitched, "You won't have to worry about mending them every week, I guarantee it!"

Kristen blinked. Her first impulse thought: Mending? What the servants do? With the needles and the thread, right?

"What we have here is a fine young man and a fine young woman," Cyllia said. Then, looking to Edric for confirmation, "Isn't that right?"

Edric
 
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