Dreadlords The Vile Hunt

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Mother of Chaos
Character Biography
What a curious world full of fantastical life Arethil was. The sprawling diversity of its species was something that ever churned in the mind of Archon Sepia Galleus. How she yearned for the days of her youth, venturing out into the that wild frontier to see the great spectacles that the natural--and unnatural--world held. Alas, gone were those days. With her great ambition had come status, and with status came responsibility. Responsibilities that often bound her to the far more humdrum scenery of Vel Anir, and the optics that she had to maintain in order to keep hold of her status. In the times before the Anirian Revolution she was able to more easily slip away and attend to her old hobbies, but in a nation in which "morals" were something of value, that time was no more.

In her mind's eye, Sepia walked the halls of her once-glorious collection, her veritable gallery of precious babies--monsters, by any other name. Majestic beasts, one and all, some beyond the deepest fathoms of the mundane human mind. Hells, even her live menagerie was looking rather sad these days, both her physical and metaphysical stores having grown stagnant. What Sepia longed for was something new, something exotic. Arethil was a limitless wonderland of powerful and grotesque creatures, one needed only step a few meters out of the bounds of civilization. But for a woman with her schedule? For the mystique she was practically required to uphold? Bah, it was nigh impossible to do so herself.

Thankfully there was a degree of authority that came with her station, and with the great wealth she had amassed in her time as an archon and aristocrat alike. She had only asked to "borrow" a few Dreadlords. Any would do, really, so long as they had shown some degree of competence in their careers. Even the odd initiate tagalong would suffice; surely they could use the experience of a real, genuine mission on their docket! And to lead them all, a loyal hireling, one she trusted to accomplish such a task.

As those who had answered the mission's call (vague as she had made it, only stating that it was a matter of great import!) gathered within the tea room in the Galleus manor, Sepia sat in her recliner. Her lips curled upwards into a predato--er, polite smile.
"Welcome to my home, fair guests. I suppose you must be eager to know why I've invited you here..."
"Indeed Archon Galleus."
Salak, Dreadlord of the fourth rank and Anirian Stalker refused a seat politely and stood leaning on his new and rough cut cane next to the window. His blue and yellow hooded robes masked his form into a shapeless curtain.
He did not like being summoned, especially when it took him from other tasks. Like tracking wayward Dreadlords and their traitor allies. The disdain he held was on the edges of his every word.
He knew that Archons held a more than just magical might but political power and it didn't make him any happier to follow their orders than that of his Stalker superiors.
Did she need to guess why she was summoned? It was not unusual for Perrine Urahil to be pulled out from whatever duty she was fulfilling, but the young Proctor was glad to be taken away from her class at the Academy. She had left instruction for them to read up on common etiquette that stemmed from old practices, and to write a short account of how they use it. Perri could care less what they write, if they did at all, but she was glad to be away from the Initiates after wanting a reprieve for so long.

There was only one reason a Dreadlord of her talents would be summoned to the Archon's humble abode, yet she was polite enough not to voice it aloud. There were few and almost none of true healers, ones gifted to mend within seconds and make all the difference in getting a Dreadlord back on their feet to go back out to fight. Of course, this was not all she could do, yet no one bothered to consider the combat she learned in her short stint with the Academy and continued training within her rank.

Perrine hid an amused smile seeing herself and Proctor Salak present. The poor Initates must be dreading being left in the care of the less favourable Proctors.
It was difficult to blame Henk for his distrust of Archons.

Archons were the pinnacle of the Dreadlord hierarchy, the top of a deadly, bloody totem pole that had enabled and thrived on violence and needless conflict. It had been an Archon who had torn his family apart, taken the only structure that Henk had ever known and ripped it asunder before his very eyes. It was an Archon that he now hunted with every beat of his heart, whom he wished to kill with every fiber of his being.

However, it was also an Archon who had taken him in upon his return, given him the training and the guidance he'd needed to hone and sharpen his skills, to the point where he stood even a slight chance of going up against a threat of that caliber. Despite his anger, It was clear to Henk that not all Archons were scheming and underhanded. When a request for help came from an Archon Galleus, he swallowed his predispositions and opted instead to answer her call, and to hear her out.

Thankfully, he was not the only one to arrive at Galleus manor, though as he was ushered into the tea room where Sepia awaited her requested assistance he did note that it seemed he was the only one who was not a Proctor to arrive; Salak was here, eccentric as ever, as well as Proctor Perrine. Henk knew little of her, but in his limited experience with the platinum-haired proctor, she was surprisingly agreeable for an Urahil.

"You've piqued my interest, Archon Galleus, I admit."
Vibrant, inhuman eyes scanned over the trio of Dreadlords that had assembled, and Sepia smiled, a soft hum in the back of her throat. Truly the revolutionaries must have been stretched thin if this was the ragtag group that the Guard had scraped together on her behalf. How she loathed that the rank and file had any sort of influence on what the archons could and could not do in this day and age.

Alas, but such were the times, and the alternative was much less glamorous. She could not fathom scrabbling in the dirt to survive like that wretch Gilram. If that fool had a lick of sense he would have chosen rebellion, but instead he had forced himself to become some pathetic counter-revolutionary. Oh well. There was no use lamenting spent potential, especially when such ample opportunity lay on the nearest horizon.

Despite the relative obscurity of her current company, each held a certain curiosity to their histories, if their files were to be believed. The single-named Salak of the Dreadlord Academy suffered a permanent injury that earned him his tenure, but his status as a poisoner and a stalker gave him a useful x-factor that Sepia found intriguing.

The similarly mononymous Henk was perhaps the only one among them worthy of moving beyond Fourth Level by the now-unofficial Dreadlord standards, but his record was marred by his self-imposed exile. An exile and return that might have both been driven by his desire to destroy Archon Gilram. That was a nugget of information that was worth its weight in gold.

And perhaps most fascinatingly, the young Perrine Urahil. The Guard must really have had a bone to pick with House Urahil if they were sending noble daughters on one of Sepia's "errands." She was an unknown factor to the archon, but a healer would surely be a valuable asset on such a perilous journey.

"Quite," she hummed at last. "Much of my work these days is shrouded in obscurity, I'm sure, but particularly now in this brave, new era of Vel Anir's history, I have been given the illustrious responsibility of innovating our great nation's medicinal and alchemical practices."

Truths, thus far. Sepia's experimentation had not been unknown to the powers that rose to fill the voids in the absence of the loyalist leaders, and Sepia's usefulness in that regard was much of why she was allowed to maintain her status. Such endeavors also aided in her ability to remain affluent.

"To that end, I research many of the more uncanny and remarkable creatures of Arethil. The properties of many of these beasts can be extracted from their bodies and refined into tinctures and elixirs. This, in turn, can save many lives, both domestically and for our soldiers abroad," Sepia elaborated. Again, still true, even if that was not her only intent for the monster in question. She was nothing if not resourceful with her catches. "There is a specimen I have come across in my research that I need captured. Preferably alive, but if something goes catastrophically wrong, dead shall do. I feel I cannot stress enough how...much...a live capture would streamline the process of development upon your return, however. Are there any questions so far?"
Salak indeed had one or two questions.
"The creature, precisely what is it? Where does it hail from? How big is it? What are it's capabilities? How fast does it travel? Where was it last seen and when? Is it magical in nature? Who was responsible for containing it, what measures were taken to keep it contained?"
Such information was obvious to him. That he had to ask for it angered him. Instead of letting it leak into his words he drove his came into the wooden floor, screwing it in.
"I care not what wealth can be squeezed from it. Tell us what's important for us to succeed, Archon."
The word was hollow and devoid of respect.

Perrine Urahil Henk Sepia
And suddenly, Perrine knew her role in this mission.

As Salak asked the many questions, she already knew the answer in keeping it alive and contained once they capture it. That duty would fall upon her, the Dreadlord capable of healing and dealing pain. She had done this many times in her career, keeping a prisoner conscious during an interrogation so that information could be pried from their lips, and then healing them to rest before going through the motions once more.

The same could be done to a creature, depending on what it is.

"Let the dear Archon breathe, Salak." Perrine chuckled, not bothering to claim a seat and remain standing as her eyes flick to Henk. Their paths had not crossed since her short minute at the Academy, but Perri had heard many whispers in the aftermath unfolding in the past few years. His return intrigued her, but her attention was now upon the Archon. Whereas Perrine was gifted in healing with her own magic, it did not mean she was not interested in learning healing properties available on a broader sense; a more accessible needs for those that wish to heal but were not gifted with it like herself. "It is a great honour for us to be tasked with this. There is a need for more and more medics out there, but we are stretched thin as it is. If I am assigned here, it means this mission is of great import. If it was not, then I would be out on the front lines exerting myself."

Aiding in the capture of this creature sounded as if it was beneficial for the Anirians, to make such resources readily available. If that meant no longer being pulled to different fronts to heal, then Perrine was more than willing to help achieve that goal.

How delightfully vague a mission briefing it was. The Archon certainly showed no problem grandstanding about her importance to Vel Anir, and all that she could accomplish with only a little help from the three of them. What she seemed far less keen on was giving them anything of real substance to go on, or at least, drawing it out for dramatic tension.

Henk was beginning to wonder if maybe some of these Archons weren't far better suited for the burgeoning theater industry.

Thankfully, Salak felt similarly and began to speak up, voicing many of Henk's own concerns before being gently chastised by Perrine, before the platinum-haired proctor paid a bit of lip service to feed Sepia's ego. Usually necessary when working with somebody of status, but Henk dared clear his throat to chime in with his own concern.

"You wouldn't need Dreadlords for this if there wasn't a catch." Henk crossed his armored arms over his chest, training his working eye on the chillingly pale face of the curved and colorful Archon. He'd heard tell of Galleus' beauty, but he'd learned well that outward appearance was an easy tool for deception. "Either the creature is dangerous, or it's discretion you're seeking from us, rather than strength."

Henk wasn't sure which he preferred.
Sepia's eyebrow twitched at Salak's outburst, her expression falling flat. Goodness, the Dreadlords of the republic had no respect for their betters. No sense of flair, either.
"I don't recall mentioning profit margins, Proctor," she replied flatly.

Surprisingly enough, it was the Urahil girl that leapt to the Archon's defense. Sepia's annoyance evaporated at the gesture, having been vindicated somewhat.
"Thank you, dear. You are quite right: this is a matter of great import."

"Ought not to be so impatient, mates," a gruff voice pitched in from the doorway as another body filtered into the room. A grizzled looking man in his late 30's or early 40's, salt and pepper beard, wearing a high collared jacket and a wide brimmed hat, and toting an oversized crossbow entered the room. "Things like that'll get ya killed out on the hunt."

Sepia smiled politely, feelings on the hunter's late entrance mixed.
"Ahh, so kind of you to join us, Roy," the Archon greeted him. "For a quick introduction to you all, this is Roderick Shaw, your guide."

"Roy 'll do fine," the man interjected.

"As for the details you're seeking, I was indeed getting to them. And you are quite right, Ser Henk, this is no task for the average guardsman. The creature in question is known to be rather elusive, with quite the penchant for violence as well."

The Archon set down her small cup of tea on its saucer, then produced a small notebook from the drawer of the same end table. She flicked through its pages as though to confirm some esoteric information, then replaced the notebook within its storage space. Her exotic eyes fell upon Salak.

"In order: The beast you are seeking is called a snallygaster. A rather voracious thing hailing from the depths of the Bayou Garramarisma. They are rare, but have been reported to grow roughly twice or thrice the size of a common draft horse. They are capable of rapidly regenerating their wounds and draining the blood of their victims. They travel slowly over land, but can fly rather quickly for their size. Again, they are seen in the swamps of Garramarisma, where you'll all be headed. I cannot be certain if their abilities are natural or magical, this is part of why I need one captured for study. No one, to my knowledge, has contained one before, but I shall take responsibility for containing it once it is in Anirian custody."

Sepia inhaled deeply, having expounded quite a bit of information on a single breath. She then proceeded to take a sip of her tea and wave a hand at the man that would be the group's guide.

"Roy, the illustrations, if you would?"
The hunter grunted in response, then delivered a square of parchment to each of the present Dreadlords. An artist's depiction of the beast in question could be found drawn upon each.

The beast would somewhat resemble a bird, though quadrupedal and lacking feathers over most of its body. The exception was the wings on its back, which looked practically ragged. The creature bore a long, whip like tail and a similarly long neck sprouting from a bulky body, with wicked claws at the ends of somewhat underdeveloped limbs. At the end of its neck was a beaked head with a single, cyclopean eye, and a mass of tentacles spilling from the beak's maw. A rather grotesque thing, all in all.
Salak listened and looked upon the beasts form.
A word formed in his head.
He turned the paper over to show the others.
"This creature is too dangerous to have anywhere near the Cities. I strongly advise that you abandon this venture Archon Galleus."
With the he tossed the paper onto the window ledge and met the gaze of Sepia with all seriousness.
He was never NOT serious but he could always find more to be serious about.

Sepia Perrine Urahil Henk
Perrine did not stifle the snort after Salak's refusal. The creature was everything he claimed it to be, but she supposed he forgot that she was present. So was not only here as a healer, but as the key to keeping such a beast weak enough for the travel back here for the Archon's mission. Did many believe she was gifted strongly as a healer? That not only could she heal devastating wounds, she too could be the one to inflict them? A snallygaster would be immobilised once captured, by none other than her hand.

So the Dreadlords did think she had other uses than healing up ugly scars and shallow wounds.

"The Bayou." Was all Perrine commented, face contorting with discomfort at the thought. "Well, then. I will be needing to wear different boots."

No upsets from her, just merely agreeing to undertake this mission. Her periwinkle eyes then drift to their guide, flashing him a winning smile. "You do not have an Anirian accent. Visit here often?"

It took every ounce of professionalism in Henk's body not to groan at the prospect of being deployed once again to the Bayou. Only several months prior he'd been tasked with traveling to the Garramarisma to break up a rather nasty little cult of rouge mages with a deep hatred for Anirians, and while he'd managed to accomplish his task, the stay hadn't been a pleasant one. Returning so soon was not at all on his bucket list.

However, his excursion to that muddy armpit of the world had offered him a brief encounter with the very creature that Sepia wished them to capture. Suddenly, the reason he'd been sought out for this particular assignment became far clearer. As likely the only one of their group who'd seen a snallygaster, Henk would at the very least know what to look for.

Even so, the small amount of trust he'd placed in this Archon was already beginning to wane a bit. Sepia claimed that she wished to use the beast for medicinal purposes, but the history of the city to seek out such powerful creatures for more morally dubious purposes was far from lost on Henk. What good could come from such a grotesque blood-sucking horror was an absolute mystery to him, though.

Casting a glance at the mangy-looking guide they'd been provided, Henk felt a brow raise, involuntarily, at 'Roy'. "You worry less about us and more about getting us there." He spoke, seemingly agreeing to the task. He did not trust Galleus or Roy in the slightest, but with Salak's refusal, he wasn't going to let Perrine attempt to tackle a feat like this one on her own. If he deemed the creature too much of a threat to deliver to the Archon, he could simply attempt to render it unusable.

"A concern though, Fair Miss Galleus." Henk addressed her respectfully despite his misgivings. "There is the matter of transporting such a large creature all the way here from the Bayou. That's no meager distance, and while a boat would suffice for ferrying it across the water, land travel will be... insufficient."

Sepia Salak Perrine Urahil
The Archon's patience was being tried by this impudent proctor. Any humor in her vibrant stare quickly drained away. Tendrils of her hair began to subtly rise with a seeming life of their own.
"Do you take me for an amateur, Proctor? Do you think I do not know how to handle monstrosities? That I am unprepared?"

Sepia raised a hand, and from the sleeve of her dress began to pour a black, ichorous substance, which drained onto the floor and spread rapidly into an ominous puddle. The liquid began to bubble upwards as it spread, until something began to rise from within the ooze.

As though the substance creeping across the tearoom's floor had been a deep lake, a creature no less than fifteen feet in length pulled itself from the cascading murk. The inky pitch of Sepia's summoning magic rolled off of it and evaporated, revealing a monster that lay in appearance somewhere between a lizard and a wolf, with thick, spiked scales along its body, wickedly sharp rows of fangs, and glimmering eyes that matched its summoner's in color.

The creature snarled at Salak and made to stalk towards him before Sepia clicked her tongue twice, and the beast immediately came to her heel, rubbing its head upon her knee and purring as though it were an enormous, terrible cat. Sepia stroked the top of the monster's head, never having taken her eyes off of Salak.
"I am Archon Sepia Galleus. This. Is my domain."

After a long, pregnant silence, Roy coughed.
"Uhh...yeah, luv. I'm an Ixchel bloke. Come 'round whenever Miz Galleus needs somethin' hunted. How ya goin'?"
The hunter cast a nod and a confident smile at Perrine, folding his arms across his chest. Numerous scars could be made out across his forearms, sleeves of his coat rolled back for the moment.

Sepia's demeanor quickly shifted back to a more jovial tone when Henk voiced his more valid concern.
"Indeed, Dreadlord Henk. I would not expect you to undertake such a mission without being properly equipped for the task. I desire success, not suicide. Roy, the scroll, please."

Once again, the hunter complied, so as not to force his employer to have to rise from the comfort of her seat. He stepped off to the side of the room and opened a glass encased scroll rack, pondered it for a moment, then plucked one of the case's contents. The hunter then stepped back towards Sepia and gingerly presented it to her over the back of her large chair, seemingly taking his fair share of caution around the woman's summon.

Sepia unfurled the scroll and displayed it for the Dreadlords present to see.
"A scroll of reduction. Reading it out takes time and the syllables must be pronounced correctly, the target not moving terribly erratically, but...should you cast it correctly, the spell will shrink a monster of the Snallygaster's size down enough that you can fit it within a bottle."

"Or in this case, a rat cage. Wouldn't want the bugger to asphyxiate after catchin' it live, heh."

"Quite. The spell should hold for about a month, more than enough time for you all to make your return. Does this all satisfy your worries?"
Vulgar displays of power seldom intimated Salak but he wasn't without fear and the monster summoned from the goop told him much.
That Sepia Galleus planned to use the creature to expand her own monstrous arsenal.
That he now knew his role to play in this debacle as, at least to his knowledge, he had the most experience with college magic and scrolls were notoriously fickle magics, prone to... unexpected results if the incantation was not pronounced precisely as written.
The last was that under no circumstances must this mission succeed the monster must not fall under her control as this one has and since the others were set on going Salak felt he had little option.
Backing away as the monstrous sludge crawled towards him he allowed his own disgust as this vapid display to show on his face.
They wouldn't believe him otherwise.
"You, make your point quite vividly Archon Galleus."
As the thing slinked to his hosts heel he straightened himself.
"Very well. Of course, The Academy shall miss it's proctors during this time. Compensation is to be expected while we are away."
A risky ask but he had to keep up the pretense of expecting the mission to go well.

Sepia Perrine Urahil Henk
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"Uhh...yeah, luv. I'm an Ixchel bloke."

All interest had been lost after Perrine murmured a distracted, "That is lovely, dear." Her eyes, that periwinkle blue, had been fixed between the match that was being held with the Archon and that of her colleague, Salak. It had brought a smile to her lips as she watched with earnest, before flicking her eyes to Henk. He seemed on board with the mission, and while Perri could not recall what it was that the returned Dreadlord could wield, she could see it in his being that he would not go down without a tough fight.

That poor snallygaster once they find one.

"The Initiates will not miss me." Perrine assured anyone that listened, pulling at her tailored sleeves to her blouse. "I daresay one of them had sway with getting both our names put on this list." The Proctor chuckled.

"Right. That settles that. When are we to leave, again?"

The talk of missing proctors was lost on Henk; As he recalled, Proctors were far from the bright and shining light within the Academy that they so oft presented themselves as. There were exceptions, but he'd been betrayed by those of the title on more than a handful of occasions, and he'd not regained any particular respect for their authority after they'd allowed a rouge sect to grow within their ranks and spark a rebellion.

Nor did Sepia's assurances bring peace to the doubts his mind still held about this mission. This, though, he did not display; It was better that he set out to perform the Archon's requested task, and change his plan on the fly should he deem it necessary for the City's safety. Salak seemed skeptical enough to convince to go along with such an impromptu elimination of their target should the need arise, but he did worry about Urahil. In her, Henk was too unfamiliar.

"A physical containment means won't be necessary. I can confine the creature at a more manageable size myself, so long as I am undisturbed in the process." He offered, his working eye focused far more on the material provided than on the lovely Archon Galleus and her scraggly little sidekick. "Well... if it's to be done, we should get underway. I don't have any desire to spend more time away than I need to."

Reaching into his cloak, Henk pulled a small glass vial from a pocket hidden within it. "Here, this may be useful." Sliding his pinky finger into the vial, he closed his eyes as the digit began to glow brightly, before evaporating into tiny specks of light which filled the vial. Pulling his now four-fingered hand away, he corked the vial and held it out to Sepia Galleus.

"Keep it within your view. When it glows brightly, it is a signal from me that the target has been captured and we are returning." Biting on the inside of his cheek for a second, he adds. "If it shatters, that means we've likely run into trouble."

A small *hmph* escaped Sepia as she reclined back into her chair, snatching up her tea to drink from it once more. Salak would be one to watch, that much was certain.
"Fret not for your students nor your wages, proctors. All shall be taken care of generously, I assure you."

That much was a promise. Even should one of them not return, their reward would be issued even more generously to their next of kin. Or, failing any locatable family, one of Vel Anir's illustrious orphanages. Charity did so warm her icy heart.

"You shall depart in three days. I hope this allows you enough time to make your preparations. Do tell me if you require additional aid, I would rather not tarry. The sooner this beast is under Anirian detainment the sooner we can stem the proverbial bleeding of our most strained forces. I dread not think of the lives lost due to our lack of urgency."

Another polite sip at her tea as the archon closed her eyes and folded one leg over the other, ever prim and proper. One eye flicked back open as Henk proffered his device, and once again she quirked a brow at the odd development.

"Very well, Dreadlord Henk. I admire your resourcefulness. May it serve you well on your journey."

"Let's just make sure whatever we're crammin' the beastie inside's got air holes, aye?" Roy pitched in.

"Yes, yes, thank you, Roy. I trust you all will do your best in serving our great Republic. Thank you all, dearly, for your service. Now, if there is nothing else...?"

Sepia trailed off, an expectant look upon her monstrous mien; one that implied "ask now, or get out."
Salak left without any ceremony or notification. He simply moved like a shadow and walked out the door. His cane tapping the ground as he went.
*Let them ask what meaninglessness pleases them*
He waved away a servant offering to show him the door. He remembered the way out well enough and three other exits if it came to it.
*Her man Roy will be first, do it on the road wait until they are far from unwanted eyes. Avoid contact until then, that shouldn't be difficult. He won't even feel it.*
Thoughts of murder played on his mind, he had to be cold now. Getting it done was about putting the Republic first.

Perrine Urahil
Perrine was only too happy at the idea of an extended amount of time away from the Academy. Wages were not on her mind, not when she knew she would not have to deal with healing any Initiate.

Three days to prepare meant three days to get a proper wardrobe packed. She would need to restock her vials and ingredients, her poultices and her herbs. Of course, she could use her magic to heal, but using too much of it could drain her reserves.

"Well then, I will be sure to see you in three days." She smiled, lighting up her face as she nodded each to the Archon and then to Roy. Salak wasted no time in farewells, and so Perri paused before Henk, smile receding to a smaller one. "You best not be late."

Henk | Sepia | Salak
With a small bow, Henk turned from Archon Sepia along with the three others. There was no reason for him to further inundate her with meticulous questions about the finer details here. As beautiful as the Archon was, he had no desire to test her patience or her temperament.

His feelings about this mission remained a mixture of trepidation and confidence, but he had no reason to feel as though he was in any particular danger; He knew himself capable of defending against a Snallygaster, and Salak and Urahil, while relative strangers, were not the type he considered to be traitorous.

As he moved to depart, Perrine briefly addressed him, the smile on her face diminishing as she sized him up. Henk did not blame her for her trepidation; he was an unknown with a reputation, and she a Proctor who'd likely been briefed on his past actions. He would be skeptical too.

Nevertheless, Henk again bowed his head.

"I've no intention of letting you down, Lady Perrine. I eagerly await our next meeting."

Perrine Urahil Salak Sepia
Such insolence among the ranks these days. Sepia sighed and sank back into her chair as the trio made their exit. By Kress, Dreadlords in the old Vel Anir were likely to be disrespectful as well, but at least it came from a place of ambition and ignorance for whom they were dealing with. Back then Sepia could have just brought them all within an inch of their lives and they'd all have been enlightened, well behaved little boys and girls from then on. Now she had to play nice.

"I can tell you're not happy, Boss," Roy said as he closed the doors to the tea room.

Sepia rubbed her temple and pulled at her lower eyelid with the hand not presently lifting her tea to her mouth.
"You do know me so well, Roy. And I imagine you already know what I'm about to say next."

The hunter's bearded mug crinkled into a sly grin.
"Keep an eye on 'em? Don't worry about me, luv, I've dealt with me fair share of sneaky beasties out in the wild. People, too."

Vibrant eyes slid over to the grizzled hunter.
"There are three of them. Low ranks or no, you're not to underestimate them, do you understand? I'd rather not lose my favorite hunter to the paranoid delusions of a band of unruly insubordinates."

A chuckle escaped Roy.
"Not to worry. I've read the dossiers you were so kind to provide. If they decide to try and neck me I'll give 'em the slip and be back here quick as ya like. And if they don't, well, the ol' Snally Gal should be an easy catch. That Henk bloke seemed like he had a good 'ead on his shoulders."

"Quite. Thank you, Roy. If you haven't already, go ahead and make your preparations as well. I could use some time alone to...decompress."

"Course, luv," Roy finished before swiftly making his own exit.

Sepia let out an "ugh" as she placed her now empty tea cup down. The beast at her side cocked its head at her, still happily purring as it lay by her side. The archon extended a hand towards it and it lifted its head to meet her, Sepia idly scratching the top of its head.
"Such work to do, my little darling...such a burden upon your dearest mommy, yes it is," she baby talked to the creature, scrunching its face in her hands. "But all will be worth it, in the end. This I know."
"This *mission* cannot be allowed to succeed."
Salak had summoned both Perrine Urahil and Henk to his office, a dark room that smelled of ink and suspicions and was full of paper stacks as well as the walls being papered with them. In a word the room spoke of obsession.
He was standing at his desk with his back to them looking through a pile of seemingly random papers.
"It's here somewhere.. ah."
When he turned around he looked exactly as he was, which was a man who had not slept in two days. They left on the morrow and he had no intention of sleeping that night either, not when there was work to do. His hood was down and his hair uncharacteristically unkept.
Laying the paper on the table he pointed at the vague scribblings as if they made sense, which they did, to him, because he knew Stalker's Cant. A code for secret messages and important information.
"I have reason to believe that Sepia Galleus is involved in unlawful and dangerous magichemical workings."
His pale finger traced the unintelligible markings.
"This document is a copy that I requested from an old comrade in the Stalkers. It states that recently Sepia has been acquiring any and all of the most dangerous creatures on the continent to her menagerie. This alone would not be so strange, Powers know that the Houses are not without their, eccentricities."
He resisted the urge to look at Perrine to cast unspoken suspicion on her. He had no proof, yet.
"Worse however is the other, less known events surrounding House Galleus."
His fingers flashed into another pile and procured a new piece of paper.
"For at least the last year every Alchemist, Naturalist and Apothecary in Vel Anir has been summoned to House Galleus. At least one has gone missing without trace, Jolene Hernst. By all accounts a revolutionary in the field of Alchemical research. Her lectures at Elbion were truly enlightening."
Salak had seen one while on assignment. He was intrigued but had no real idea of the greater scope of what she spoke.
His green eyes met them both in turn as he spoke his next words candidly.
"Whatever Sepia is up to I intent to stop it. Are you with me?"

Perrine Urahil
Are you with me?

Perrine's face had stilled into a permanent look of concern for her colleague. She stared at him, deeply concerned at the display he had put on. There had been no chance of retorting, no chance of getting a word in without Salak ignoring and speaking over any of their interruptions.

The Urahil Healer lifted a brow and unfolded her arms, sitting up straight as she was the first to speak after his tirade.

"Salak? You better get some sleep and food in yourself before we go. What you are saying is nonsense." She sighed, almost at the end of her patience. And here she thought the Initiates were the ones responsible for her sanity being on a tether. "Galleus has pioneered some of the most advanced medicinal properties Vel Anir has seen in years to come. The Revolution saw many natural born Healers perish, and those of us that remain are being worked to our bone ensuring everyone is back into top shape. The medics? They need this research she does."

Perrine shook her head. She was not impressed with the other Proctor. She looked to Henk, remembering that he too benefited from her services as a Healer. There was just some things a medic could not learn or heal like she could. "How's that knee of your's, Henk?"

"Either way, Salak ol' boy, I want no part in this business you are putting out there. I will go on this mission for the personal reason of being part of the process in seeing what breakthrough the Archon has with this endeavour. Perhaps then, I can retire from my busy life. Get some sleep Salak, else I will use my Great House privilege and standing to have you removed." Perri smiled sweetly, as if she spoke only words of enlightenment as she rose up and vacated the office.

She had enough on her plate as it is without this old man paranoia.

Henk Sepia Salak
Henk's eye followed Perrine as she departed Salak's office. He couldn't claim that he blamed her for being unwilling to participate in sabotage of a mission assigned by an Archon, let alone one of Sepia's renown. There was no attempt from his lips to convince her to stay, nor did he immediately join her in protest.

It was only when Salak's door had clicked shut behind her that the scarred Dreadlord turned his head back to the one who'd called him here. Henk had known Salak did not trust a word that Galleus said; That much was obvious to anybody with working senses. He hadn't expected the Proctor to come to him with a plan of undercutting the mission in order to put a halt to Sepia's work, or at least stall it.

"She has a point, Salak." He admitted, his tongue rolling into his cheek for a moment as his working eye slid shut in thought. There was doubt within his mind of Archon Galleus' intent as well, but... If Salak was incorrect in his suspicions, it would jeopardize all he'd worked for since returning. "I don't trust her either, but I've already made myself an enemy of the Republic once. I won't do it again, not if there's a sliver of doubt in my mind."

Henk's good eye opened again as he stepped forward and looked down at the 'evidence' collected on the Proctor's desk. What he could make out was concerning, but he had nothing definitive, certainly nothing that would get the Republic to step in and investigate.

Eventually, he let out a sigh and peered up at Salak.

"I'm on thin ice. The first sign of disobedience and I lose my only chance at what I want most. You're asking me a great favor here, Salak."

With a pregnant pause, Henk bit his tongue and nodded slightly.

"I'm going to conduct this mission with the intent to succeed, as I would any other. However, if I'm given any reason to believe you are correct in your suspicions towards Archon Galleus, you will have my support." Henk raised a finger, "On one condition. I know you and Perrine both outrank me, but I'd like to take command on this assignment. If you trust me with that, then I will trust you when the time comes. Do we have an understanding?"

Salak Perrine Urahil Sepia
The door closed.
Henk's confirmation of her position stung though he'd never admit it.
"You'll have your reason and more Master Henk, mark my words. This story about medicinal research is a cover for something."
He had only his suspicions but it was enough. He was right, he only needed to prove it.
"You'll lead the mission and if it comes to it I'll do what I can for you."
A flood hit him then. Fatigue like nothing else. He almost collapsed at his desk. Papers slid from the top as he momentarily lost balance and struggled to get to his chair.
His leg was hurting again, maybe it hadn't stopped and he only noticed now. Either way.
Salak sat, head in his hand cursing it all.
He had clean forgotten that Henk was even in the room anymore.

Perrine Urahil