Quest The Key and the Lock


Mischa Ven'rohk

"I take it you heard of the contract from one of the barkeeps?" the man asked.


A lie. It tasted foul in Mischa's mouth. It was not the Orcish way. A saying from her tribe, the Dm'rohk, translated into Common: Speak plainly, speak the truth. And she had not spoken the truth. And, as it was with lies, one often beget another. Lies disrespected the spoken word. And it hurt that she had to say one.

But it was easier. More succinct than the truth. And so she lied.

Mischa Ven'rohk and the man who called himself Isaac sat at a table in the combination tavern/inn named The Journey's Respite. Taverns and inns still puzzled her, but this one was aptly named. Her journey had been long. All the way from her betrayal of Marcie at the Sunken Tomb to Bhathairk and Alliria and the caravan and the ambush and into Vel Anir and her near fatal ordeal involving Ynsidia, Conjurer of the Ink and the weeks and weeks of recovering and surviving and more odd jobs to earn the coin to live and all the while awaiting the next vision from the Great Holy One.

And then it came. The vision. Abrupt and spontaneous, as it always had been.

A brief glance. She just so happened to see Isaac walking along the street in Anir Square, and the vision came swiftly. That Which Makes Pure filled her with a sense of purpose. Showed Mischa sitting and talking with Isaac, as she was now. Showed Mischa dressed not in her armor but in flowing cloth. A silence following, but a feeling of assurance, of trust. And then the Key. In her hands. Joy. And the Great Holy One showed her what the Key unlocked...

The man called Isaac regarded her. Nodded his head. "I think you'll be a good fit. Just what I'm looking for."

"Why is that?" she said.

"You're an orc. Fierce fighters, yeah?"

A smile from Mischa. "Strength is the way of the world. The weak are crushed underfoot."

The man chuckled. "Spoken like a true orc."

Mischa let out an amused grunt. Said, "Tell me how one speaks like a true human."

The man rested his elbows on the table. One of the two barmaids came around with their drinks; he'd bought them each a simple beer. He called it a 'friendly gesture'. Mischa just stared down at the mug dubiously. She couldn't understand the fascination with these drinks. All alcohol did was make one dizzy and stupid. Inept at fighting. And worse, disrespectful of the spoken word and honorable decorum. Her tribe had no time for such a frivolous thing. In truth, she had never taken a drink in her life.

"Well," said the man as he lifted his mug and took a hearty drink of it and set it back down, "As far as I can gather, one would have to talk like a real son-of-a-bitch."

Mischa just smiled again. Entertained his attempt at humor. Nodded toward his mug. "Then that will help."

"Always does, Mischa. Always does."

She watched him take another drink. Didn't touch her own beer. And though she knew the answer, she asked, "The barkeep said only that you needed help 'unlocking' something. Do you know what may be inside what you seek to unlock?"

And there. One lie begetting another. A disdain for herself in that moment. For setting aside conviction for expedience. The lack of discipline, and the giving in to the temptation of ease.

The man set his drink down again. Entwined his hands. Grinned in an amicable way. Said, "The same thing that is always under lock and key. Something valuable. And a whole lot of it."

Outwardly, a friendly face. Inwardly, Mischa felt contemptuous of the man. Humans and their trinkets. And they had the gall to make up tales of dragons and other creatures which hoarded all manner of shiny baubles and coins and call them covetous. Maybe a fabled knight could slay a dragon, but his most dreaded foe was a mirror.

No. Mischa knew. The Great Holy One had shown her. And maybe there were trinkets and treasures and coins and all else humans and other city-dwellers were so infatuated with inside the Vault. But there was something else too.

A monster.


* * * * *​

"I take it you heard of the contract from one of the barkeeps?" Isaac asked.

"Yes," said the small orc girl.

Good. Things were going well. Isaac had put out the word of a job to several of his preferred and trusted barkeeps in Anir Square. Not uncommon. It was one of his many functions for the Crentor family. He was an agent. A liasion. And, more often than not, the man they called upon to get things done. Dirty things. If there was a problem, he 'fixed' it. So Isaac ensured that the Crentor's business interests didn't get fucked with by any means necessary, and they kept their hands clean by dissociation so they could keep on schmoozing with House Virak, Weiroon, and Pirian.

But he tired of it. The constant wearing down of his soul. And he figured it was time to come clean.

Isaac Makalov and the small orc girl named Mischa sat at a table in the combination tavern/inn named The Journey's Respite. One of his favorites. The barkeep was a swell guy. The two barmaids were cute, and one of them loved to fuck him. He wasn't quite sure if it was for the generous coin he tipped or his dashing good looks or if she really did like him, but that hardly mattered in the sheets. It was just after noontime. Slow. Not a whole lot of people in the Respite. Could count 'em all with only two hands.

All the better. Made for less ears. Still, he had a room already rented upstairs. For discussing the particulars of the job.

He wanted to come clean, yes, but he also wanted to be set for life. Maybe he wasn't such a good soul after all, but what was the harm in stealing from the Crentors? They were plenty rich, and he was their shadowed hand, and if he knew one thing in the world, he knew that hand was bloody as all hell. So fuck 'em. And Isaac knew just how to do it. The Crentors had a tradition of theirs. The passing down of 'The Key' from father to firstborn son. Isaac had overheard enough to know the Key unlocked the Crentor family Vault under the city, in the tunnels leading to Vel Tenebria. But he didn't think he could lift the Key alone. No, he needed a few helping hands. Outsiders. People without a stake in Vel Anirian politics.

Isaac looked at Mischa, studying her. Damn if she wasn't the smallest orc he'd ever seen--not that he'd seen too many. Still, he nodded his head and said, "I think you'll be a good fit. Just what I'm looking for."

"Why is that?" she said.

A little flattery never hurt, right? Poor girl. Not big and strong like all the others. Had to be rough. Probably why she was in Vel-fucking-Anir of all places. "You're an orc. Fierce fighters, yeah?"

It worked. She smiled. "Strength is the way of the world. The weak are crushed underfoot."

Isaac chuckled and said, "Spoken like a true orc."

She grunted. That was probably the closest thing to a laugh he'd get out of her. And she said, "Tell me how one speaks like a true human."

Isaac rested his elbows on the table. Zeri came around with their drinks. Set them down on the table. And Zeri winked at him before slowly sashaying off. Those gorgeous hips of hers. Damn he was going to miss her. Hell, maybe if this thing went right they could make a midnight escape with enough coin and treasure to last a lifetime. Talk about sweeping a woman off her feet, huh? The world could be their oyster, as it was said.

Wouldn't that be nice. Start a family. Take up a new trade. Something peaceful. Something actually good for the gods' sake. Fix things, instead of 'fixing' things. Vel Anir was a hell of a city. What'd Mischa say? The weak are crushed underfoot? Slight correction to that. In Vel Anir, the good are crushed underfoot. That was the world Isaac knew.

"Well," Isaac said as he took a long drink of his beer, "As far as I can gather, one would have to talk like a real son-of-a-bitch."

A smile from Mischa again. Hey, how about that? Building rapport with an orc. She nodded to his mug and said, "Then that will help."

And damn was she right. In more ways than one. "Always does, Mischa. Always does."

Hmm. Maybe she didn't like beer. Wasn't touching hers. Didn't all orcs love beer? Goddamn hard to keep track of what was actually true and what as a stereotype in Vel Anir. Regardless, the orc girl said, "The barkeep said only that you needed help 'unlocking' something. Do you know what may be inside what you seek to unlock?"

Gods it was beautiful. The Crentors would have no fucking idea. They didn't give a damn about anybody who didn't have highborn blood, much less the rumors and ramblings in a few select taverns. Hell, that was Isaac's job, to keep his ear to the ground for them. So he could be so damn bold as to use the word 'unlock' in his vague description of the job to all the barkeeps. Their ears were too high up in the clouds to hear it down here on Arethil. He knew what he could get away with, and what he probably couldn't. Hence the rented room upstairs. A proper precaution once he had to mention the Crentors by name.

Isaac took a drink and set it down again. Entwined his hands. Grinned a cordial grin. Said, "The same thing that is always under lock and key. Something valuable. And a whole lot of it."

He knew it. He knew she'd like the sound of that. Look at her face. See, orcs weren't all that different from men when you got right down to it. Lump in elves and dwarves and all the rest too. What'd everybody want? Security. That's right. Security. People's minds were at ease when things were certain. And nothing made things more certain than coin. Heh. Strength. That was another part Mischa got wrong.


Coin, my friend.

Coin was the way of the world.
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Su Jun Seo

Character Biography

"You have to take risks. We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen."
-Paulo Coelho
The man's presence became those moments of silence...when there was little to say...which would encourage the eyes to explore...and there he stood...a bald man, leaning against one of the backwalls. You couldn't really tell much at first'd think he was a simple peasant...maybe a mercenary, judging by those big cleavers...or maybe he was even a bandit...whom, for some reason, was just idly flipping a coin up into the could tell he was doing this without even looking at him, as one could hear the pinging sound of the metal...moments later, the coin would fall back into his palm...only for him to flip it into the air again...repeating the motion, seemingly with no end.

A secound glance at this...bald, stranger would reveal that there was somthing...very peculiar about him. For one, his clothes...didn't seem like anything a local would wear...then there was the matter of...him...he didn't look like just any other human, not in the tavern at, had one been observing, hardly anything about him was local...this man...was very foreign...and he was just standing there...repeatedly pinging a coin into the seemed....maddening....

And yet...he said nothing...why would he? His focus was on the fire place across the room...his hands moving independently of his...bored...face? By the expression on his face, he hadn't even registered anyone else in the room...then there was his eyes...they seemed...rather absent from the present he pinged the coin into the air again...

...Peculiar indeed...
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Character Biography
finding myself in the presence of so many furless folk is tiring. my medic looks hesitant to be walking though all the crowds of people as well. not that walking though the crowds was hard most people step aside the moment they see us.however there seems to be always one that has heard the rumors of our evil cousins of falwood and assume we are one in the same. furless folk always have a capacity for violence first diplomacy second, the rest of my troop are camped near by they insisted that the medic come along otherwise i would be alone in this crowd. two are better than one i suppose

the inn/bar fell quiet as we entered two large lionmen was not something you would normally see this far into town. unfortunately with the bad rep lionmen have. most furless folk did not know that we are a better more civil species, pure breed. the the furless folk started to murmur once more when we didn't make any threatening moves. a few had there hands on hilts while eyeing us but surprisingly there wasn't much of a reaction.

i walk up to the table. the description of the furless folk i would meet in hand.

i lay the paper before him without a word. i lock eyes and nod while taking a seat.

"bar keep get me two beers!" i bellow across the room.

he looks a bit shaken by our presence but delivers the beer with a smile.

i hand him his coin and drink the beer in one gulp. my medic quietly sips his.

"i hear you have a quest, from what the barkeep i met told me it could be profitable." i couldn't deny that this opens other opportunity's for me as well, rub fur with the right people and i could get support for my kingdoms grand search.

my medic nods shyly in agreement.

i smile. "im lieutenant shko leader of the 2nd division, this is my medic cre'all"

my medic nods at the man.
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Mischa Ven'rohk

Trinkets. Coins. All the useless little things city-dwellers craved and valued.

Mischa had thought of them. In reference to man Isaac. His stated reason for wanting to open the Vault. And, yes, as much as it pained her, she too had been forced to place value on coins. In Bhathairk, when she was staving off starvation. In Alliria, when she was wandering and awaiting a vision. And here, in Vel Anir, to aid in the recovery of her wounds from the street/alley battle she had unwittingly walked into, and again, to buy fresh meat to eat. Perhaps that was the curse that befell orcs who became too familiar with city life. A detachment from the old ways, from the spirits of the land and the wilds, a distancing from the visceral thrill of the hunt and communal feasting. And what took its place? The covetous coin. Base metal, ripped from its earthen home, stripped of the dignity of being forged into a tool of tangible and obvious use.

The sound. The pinging sound. Mischa became more and more aware of it, and, finding a tiny bit of shame in it, she knew what that sound was.

Yes. A coin.

Mischa's eyes trailed from her untouched beer to the man. She stared at him. Annoyed, of course, by the repetitive sound and by what he used to make it. But curious. Especially after seeing the twin cleavers. She had no notion of how foreign or not he truly was. But his face. Putting the coin flipping aside, his face. There was something...deadly serious about it. And Mischa respected that. Yes, he appeared bored or perhaps lost in a trance by gazing into the hearthfire of the tavern. Mischa could understand. A shame, that those cleavers of his remained sheathed. Surely they thirsted for battle.

Isaac took another little drink of his beer. Noticed Mischa staring at something. Hmm, what took the little orc girl's fancy, now? Isaac turned a bit in his chair to glance over his shoulder and follow the line of her sight and spotted the man with the coin. Hey, look at that. Simple garb, got weapons, looks foreign, loves coin. Perfect. Isaac was specifically looking for outsiders. For the safety of it, naturally, but also that it'd be an easier sell for the cover story he'd imagined for the party. Well-off merchants from Alliria, see? What a melting pot, that Alliria. Got folks of all kinds, doesn't it, my Lord? Just like you've always said.

Isaac said, "Hey, friend." Eh, not so specific. Could mean anybody. Granted, not very busy in here, but still. "Hey, bald friend."

And Isaac touched the mug of beer sitting untouched in front of Mischa and slid it carefully over to one of the empty seats at the table. "Thirsty? Wanna have a sit? Maybe a little chat, eh?"

And then...heh, speaking of outsiders. Catmen came in to the Respite. No, not catmen, that didn't seem right. There were much bigger cats out in the Savannah and the world at large--not that he'd seen, but he'd heard. Tigermen? Eh, no ring to it. Lionmen? Hmm. That seemed right. Right enough.

At first, it just seemed the two lionmen wanted a drink. And damn that would've been a shame. The more outsider-y his associates looked, well, all the better. Looking the part was just as important as acting the part. And, well, Mischa was an orc and that was fine, but damn if she didn't just look like a green-skinned human; save the ears, sure, but those famous orcish tusks seemed too scared to poke out of her mouth. And the bald man, yeah, he looked foreign and gave off a strong "ain't from around here" vibe, but he was still a man; it'd work, sure, but playing into the Crentors' stereotypical views of Alliria would be a big boon.

And damn if these lionmen didn't fit the bill.

But then, stroke of luck. One of the lionmen laid a paper down on Isaac's table. Heh. Who the fuck did that? Probably Mackaroy. Barkeep who fancied himself a scribe. Wouldn't've been the first time Mackaroy put something in writing that he just damn well could've spoken like pretty much every other barkeep.

And Mischa...well damn, what the hell was her problem? She looked, frankly, intimidated by the two towering lionmen. Hard to blame her, Isaac supposed. Their heads did damn near scratch the ceiling, and they seemed made of nothing but raw muscle and fur.

The pair of lionmen got their beers and one spoke to Isaac. Quest? Heh. Wasn't that quaint. Sure, if it kept the pair of 'em cool and collected and capable now and all the way through the party tomorrow such that they could lift the Key without so much as a hitch, then it a quest.

"Hmm. Shko," said Isaac. "You mind if I call you Shko? Not much of a military man, myself. Did my time in the Guard like everybody else and got out soon as I could. Well, good afternoon and well met, Shko. Cre'all. Name's Isaac. Suppose you been expecting to see me."

Mischa said nothing. Just sat there. Shield beside her chair and clutching that sword of hers in her lap. Funny. Girl could somehow afford plate armor but not a sheath?

Isaac waited a moment. For the bald man, hopefully, to join in and take a seat. He'd have a nice little motley crew assembled here. And he took a drink of his beer again. Just a bit left in the mug.

And Isaac looked from Shko to Cre'all to Mischa and, perhaps, glanced the bald man's way.

Said, "How do you all feel about parties? Fancy, uptight parties?'re not exactly invited to, but you're there anyway."
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Su Jun Seo

Character Biography
The bald man caught the coin the moment Issac called out his discretion, an indifferent look remained as his focused shifted from the fire to him. Something must have been running through the man's head, as he paused a moment after Issac had offered him a drink. Perhaps he was contemplating the offer...or maybe he was simply reading the people in front of him.

Regardless, the bald man would tuck his coin into his clothing, before sauntering forward at a leisurely pace...grabbing the empty chair and quickly flipping around, taking a seat with both legs spread over the back of the chair, resting his arms on the top rail of the chair. When the fellow sat down, at first he glanced to his side, first at the orc he was sitting next to and then the lion fellows on the other side.

Reminded him of that one run in with their kind, a fascinating experience...

Saying nothing still, the bald man reached over and finally took the mug, giving it a sniff first, his face showing a bit of suspicion marked over his face. Didn't seem to deter him all that much, though, as the man proceeded to take a sip of the drink first, slowly draining the top a bit before removing the mug from his lips. Placing the beer mug back onto the table, he replaced his hands back onto the top of the chair's top rail, still remaining silent as he seemingly starred past his current host...indifference still plastered all over his face...​
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Eren'thiel Xyrdithas

The Broken Sword
Monster Hunters
Character Biography
Vel Anir.

Of all the enclaves of Man, this place had always prompted the most mixed feelings in him. It was truly a testament to their determination and perseverance as a people in spite of their fleeting mortality. The streets and stone reminded him of his own home, which while built in similar fashion was far less imposing. The city of his people, even though constructed in manners more akin to dwarves than elves, did not seek to dominate the land like the anchor that was Vel Anir. But within its walls he found at least a mild sense of familiarity.

But then, there was the reality of the heart that beat beneath the stone – a selfish and greedy drive that sought to claim what it called its rightfully own. Among many others, Vel Anir had crossed the elves of Falwood on occasion, where between the trees the ranks of Men were shredded and broken, but upon the plain… curse them for their intemperance toward their neighbors. And yet there he sat, nestled in the darkened corner set away from the fire.

The Journey's Respite. Indeed.

He had been about the city for several days, not entirely sure of how he should proceed. His travels had brought him here by chance, and with no real aim or desire to have ventured in it was strange when he felt compelled to enter the gates. He didn’t often feel that way and given his overall contempt for most of its populace he was sure there was meaning in the strange allure. And sure enough, as the words fell upon his ears, he concluded that he had found purpose here. In fact, he’d been listening for some time – even a whisper would be hard pressed to escape his ears in this quiet a place.

Lock and key? Hmm.

He’d long suspected that the highbloods of Vel Anir had come upon some particular things that did not belong to them - or any of the likes of Men as far as he was concerned, and after so many decades it was not impossible to believe. It would seem whatever had guided him to where he sat now sought to address this notion.

He casually stood from his seat and with the faded blue cloaked wrapped loosely around him he approached the gathering of misfits at the nearby table, the sound of armor gently clinking with each heavy footfall. He was loathed to associate with, well, quite frankly any of these sorts: the Lionmen were harsh and unsightly to his eyes, the men both seemingly driven by a singular covetous cause, and then the Orc. She was petite even by human standards, almost innocent looking. But he couldn’t help but feel the darkness in his heart broil with distaste. Listening to her speak even the few words she did served to agitate him.

"Strength is the way of the world. The weak are crushed underfoot." She'd said.

Spoken like a true orc indeed. But of what strength did she speak. The barbarity of the orc’s pride had been their folly many times in the past. For all their “strength,” they had still been ultimately beaten even in what should have been their time.

They know nothing of true strength – to look forward, and not back. But then, perhaps he suffered the same.

As he drew nigh to their party, without offering any words he grabbed a chair and slid it close-by and sat. An armored hand reached up and slid his hood away. His eyes ignored the others and looked at Isaac intently. He imagined the sight of his long, pointed ears would be enough of an indication that he was well aware of the partially revealed task and interested in coming along, regardless of the present company.
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Mischa Ven'rohk

Mischa regarded the bald man. He had an odd way of sitting. Chairs were a relatively new thing for Mischa, some brief exposure in Bhathairk, yes, but new. She figured it out. Didn't all humans know how to sit in a chair, what with their propensity for sedentary living? The bald man could clearly see how it was supposed to be done, as Mischa had some years ago. Was he insisting on sitting in the chair incorrectly? Odd.

Still, it seemed he held great respect for the spoken word, and did not and would not babble frivolously. Strange, that a man could seem so orcish.

Then came another. Sitting at the table.

Mischa's eyes narrowed. Slightly, but visibly. Those long ears. An elf. An elf who, like the bald man, also said nothing. At least he looked toward Isaac. And kept his teeth tucked inside his mouth.

Isaac glanced at the bald man and to the new arrival--an elf, excellent, lots of good stereotypes about them--and to Mischa. He spread his hands expectantly, making the rounds on all three of them again with his gaze.

"So...quiet bunch. Alright, alright, we can work on that. It'll be fine for now."

Isaac sucked at his teeth. Then clapped his hands together.

"Alright. Let's try this. Nobody knows anybody's name and that's awkward, I get it."

"You know my name," Mischa said.

Isaac held up his hands in an apologetic manner. "Hold on, hold on, I'm getting to it. Let's just take a moment, right? Take a moment and at least get to know each other's names and a couple crucial details. We all gotta work together on this. Make a nice little happy family at least for today and tomorrow. So."

He cleared his throat. "Name's Isaac. And I fuckin' hate fancy parties. Getting dressed up is nice I suppose but the stuffy formality ain't for me. Which, gotta say, is all the more reason for me to work my ass off to ensure this job of ours to goes right. Never have to go to a fancy party again."

Isaac gestured to Mischa. "Now you."

Mischa glanced at the bald man. A split-second look to the elf before her eyes averted and went back to the bald man and to Isaac. And she said, "My name is Mischa Ven'rohk. Of the Dm'rohk tribe."

Isaac waited a bit. Then asked, "And..."


"And how do you feel about fancy parties?"

Mischa blinked. Looked back to the bald man as if in search for some answer. "I don't know what a party is."

"Great," Isaac said flatly. A juxtaposition with his grin. This might take a little more preparation than he anticipated. But as long as Mischa and these other two could bullshit for about an hour or however long it took to lift the Key, then all would be well in the end. "So, silly question, I know, but how do you feel about getting dressed up. Expensive robes and clothes and accessories and such. Looking like, you know...someone rich."

Mischa glanced around. Uncertain. Looked back to the bald man and even to the insufferable elf this time. Wasn't that a thing elves did? Make fine clothes and lounge around in the forest all day in them? Would he know? Could he tell her what clothes made her look rich and what clothes did not?

This was a test she had not expected. Not in the slightest. Perhaps That Which Makes Pure sought to test her mettle in something that was not battle. Something she had never done. To see if her strength was general, if she could adapt and overcome things unanticipated and unable to be solved by the sword.

Mischa said, "I could wear those clothes." Then, more resolutely, "I will."

Isaac nodded. "Good, good."

Then he would ask the bald man and the elf the same three basic questions:


How do you feel about fancy parties?

How do you feel about getting dressed up?