Private Tales What is Common to Mankind

A private roleplay only for those invited by the first writer
No Temptation Has Overtaken You New

This particular brothel didn't have much of a name. Apparently it was just called "the Ten-One-Three". A reference to something Zael didn't get, some Elbionese thing or Marte Cartel inside knowledge; that paranoid prostitute hadn't really been in any mood to explain. But the name wasn't important. It was who was inside that mattered. Vale was the star of the show, the big reason why Zael was in Elbion in the first place. Sure, there were a few other things, a couple of which were done, one of which that wasn't, and there was that party night at the tavern with Junius (not really business, but it was fun), but Vale was the prize. Just like Talus had for his Revolution, so Zael reckoned, gathering support was the thing you did all up until it was go-time—you could never have enough, especially against a foe that was nothing less than the entire might of Vel Anir.

The Ten-One-Three was deeper in the Quarterfell than all the other brothels, those all close or fairly close to the conspicuous dividing line between the district and Elbion proper. Zael was glad to have Ruslan at his side. Not that he couldn't handle himself, but walking in a pair rather than alone probably kept the night owls whom they did pass by polite. Being all by one's lonesome might've invited a few inconvenient attempts of thugs and thieves to try their luck.

Through the old streets they went.

Until, in a dark square, one of the buildings which was situated slightly back from the others on one side had etched into the space above its doorframe "1 0 1 3". Outside a burly man leaned against the wall by the door in the glow of the greasy lantern. This was it.

But as soon as Zael and Ruslan came into clean view of the doorman, he snapped an uninviting gaze to them and said, "I don't know you. Go back the way you came."

"We're expected."

The doorman scoffed. "I don't care who you think you're coming to see, I don't know you. So get lost. Before I make you lost."

Zael glanced to Ruslan, Ruslan to him. And the two of them did as the doorman said and turned around, going back the way they came.

"A warm welcome," Ruslan commented as they walked. Then asked in a perfunctory way, "So is that it?"

"No," Zael said. "We're just gonna have to make our own way in."
Through a circuitous route did they vacate the sight of the doorman and come around again to the sides of the Ten-One-Three. The first outside wall they checked didn't look especially promising, but the next one did: a boarded-up door, some old side entrance taken out of service.

"Alright," Zael said, hopping on the tips of his toes, cracking his neck, and throwing a few quick practice jabs, all in the effort to get his blood rushing. "This is our in."

"You have a quick way to get through, I imagine?" Ruslan said.

"I do, and it's gonna be loud." Zael clicked his tongue against the roof of his mouth. "I also gotta make sure I don't set the whole place on fire."

"That 'Cartel' would be none too pleased."


As Zael pressed his hands to the boarded-up door, Ruslan said, "So we just go from room to room, looking for Vale as fast as possible?" That one isolated part would be easy enough: Lucy Vale, given what descriptions Ruslan had heard of her tonight, had a distinguishing birthmark above her stomach and beneath her breasts. And, presumably, they wouldn't need to worry about the birthmark being covered up by clothes.

"That's the plan."

"Surely the men of the doorman's ilk will prove themselves obstacles to our effort."

"We'll stick close together—you check the doors on the left side of the hall, me on the right. And we don't get separated. Just drop whoever's in our way. Don't kill em, though, that wouldn't look too good."

"And it would be harder for Vale to call off her hounds if that happened."

"You read my mind. That's the whole idea. Find Vale, get her shoo away the angry muscle, and then we talk business...and you get your notion of what a persistent brothel partaker like Vale looks like."

Ruslan entwined his fingers and stretched out his arms. Took in a breath. He had been prepared to delve into some illegal goings-on this evening, and this certainly was much like it in character. If this went poorly, likely he would have to depart from Elbion sooner than he would have liked, but such was the risk.

"Let the commotion commence."

Zael nodded. Then looked to the door.

And his hands became enwreathed with a dangerous orange aura.
The old door blew apart in a wicked flash of magic.

Some things couldn't be helped. Small licks of fire curled around the frame, and Zael, being no pyromancer, wasn't able to stop them—better hope the goons inside could, once Lucy Vale was found. There was a man, one of the Cartel's enforcers, just on the other side of the door, and he caught the worst of it; he laid sprawled out on the floor from the inward force of the explosion, his faces and clothes marred by the barrage of splinters and broken boards. Bad luck, hotshot.

Time was now against him and Ruslan. The longer this took, the messier it would get. The two of them stepped over the fallen enforcer—who still made a token attempt to grab at their ankles as they did—and began throwing open doors as they made their way through the hall. Neither bothered to shout Lucy's name. Nothing so dramatic was needed. All either Zael or Ruslan needed was a quick look inside, because, aside from her birthmark, Lucy being a woman while most of the clientele were men made the task that much easier for them. Here a fat man, there a tall pale man, there a man who never cut his beard once in his life.

An enforcer came round the corner in the hall and charged them. Zael surged forward and grappled with him, yelling over his shoulder, "Rus!" as he ducked. Right on cue, thank Kress, a hell of a right hand from Ruslan swung over Zael's head and walloped the enforcer in the jaw, dropping him. Behind Ruslan though, the tall pale man, stark naked, sagging balls and all, but with a crazed look in his eye, came at them both. Zael whipped around and with a punch propelled by a burst of flame from his elbow struck the tall pale man hard in the nose. He slumped over hard, hitting the wall and sliding down the rest of the way, much of the crazed look and spirit for a fight gone from his eyes.

The next door Zael threw open was it.

There, lying on the bed alongside two other naked women who recoiled with fright, was Lucy Vale: black hair, freckles, birthmark. She was far prettier than Zael thought she'd be.

Two other enforcers, their meaty arms, came through the doorway to ensnare Zael and Ruslan both around their necks. "Lucy Vale!" Zael exclaimed as he struggled against the grasp of the man who held him. "We're Dreadlords! Here to see you! Business!"

That snarling look of indignation on Lucy's face gave way to a kind of pleasant surprise. " that right?"

Ruslan, going right along with it even though he wasn't a Dreadlord, just said as he too struggled, "Yes!"

And Zael added, "Call them off before they get hurt!"

Lucy snapped her fingers. "Release them."

The fighting and the struggling stopped. The two enforcers who held Zael and Ruslan did not yet let go, but all motion ceased. One of the two asked, bewildered, "The boss isn't going to like this. They broke in through the—"

Lucy snapped her fingers again as if to add extra emphasis to her command, "Then Ingmar can deal with me. Tell him that. If his anger is kindled, tell him: 'Talk to Lucy.'" She smiled, thinking perhaps that fight with Ingmar was already won. Then again with the harsh demeanor to the enforcers, "Now release them. I wish to speak with these two men."

Another moment passed.

But then the enforcers relented, each letting Zael and Ruslan go. Lucy made a shooing motion with her hand at them, and even said to the two women with whom she had been sharing her bed: "You as well. Out." The enforcers and the prostitutes all left the room. Ruslan closed the door.

And Zael said, "Anyone ever tell you you're easy on the eyes but hard to see?"
Tonight marked a strange sort of milestone for Ruslan, and it was certainly due to his Gezi, to his traveling to a foreign place with a different culture from whence he came, and, most specifically, to the various establishments he sought out in particular tonight. That milestone was this: he had in this one night seen such a plethora of naked women that it easily eclipsed the whole of his life prior. This was something he neither enjoyed nor detested.

It had to be said, though. Did Lucy Vale intend on going through with the whole of this negotiation...while naked? It seemed so, as she lay there on the bed in such a state, making no attempt to dress herself or to cover herself with the sheets.

Ruslan would let Zael do the talking, and merely nod at the moments where such affirmations were timely, merely play along with the idea that he, too, was one of the Dreadlord representatives sent by this "Archon Gilram."

How Zael did not find Lucy's state to be awkward was beyond him. That she was beautiful made it all the more difficult to focus, to keep one's eyes where they ought to be rather than where, by their base nature, they wanted to go. But therein, perhaps, was a certain power being shrewdly exercised by Lucy, one that involved no magic at all.

Would his Anirian friend find himself under her spell?
Lucy tossed her head back, letting out a pleased laugh, and then, looking back to Zael and whisking some of her hair from her face with a hand, said, "No. You would be the first."

"And I'm also the first Dreadlord to come talk to you about Gilram, aren't I?"

"I was wondering when it would happen," Lucy said, her toes wiggling with a clear excitement to match her beaming smile.

"You were playin a dangerous game," Zael said. "Coulda been somebody else lookin for you. The Republic isn't above killin people in their own countries. I would know."

Lucy just tittered. "What are your names?"

"Zael Castomir."

"Rus," said Ruslan, who, unbeknownst to Zael, was keen on not giving his surname.

"Well, Zael, the pleasure is mine. But I'll tell you something about me...I always play dangerous games. But I play smart. I let word trickle toward Gilram's rebellion through some trusted contacts. And if loyalist agents of your Republic had gotten wind of it? Ha. Let them come." Lucy smirked, and this with no subtle display of haughtiness. "You Anirians like to think you've got the world wrapped around your warlike finger. You like to think your Dreadlords are invincible. I would like nothing more than to humble any would-be assassins from the Republic. Elbion trains the best, the most formidable, the most distinguished mages in all the world, a fact you Anirians conveniently like to forget."

Zael, far from insulted, grinned. "That's the kind of spirit we're lookin for."

"Let me be clear: we, the Marte Cartel, will not be sending the dear Archon an army."

"We're not lookin for one."

"Good—though it would have been fun to burst your bubble." Lucy shifted as she lay on the pillows, swaying her body ever so slightly, deliberately, as her breasts swayed along with the motion. "There is...opportunity in strife. Conflict. War. If we could have managed to get in on that first Revolution of yours, well, you and I wouldn't be having this conversation right now. Let's be frank with one another, hmm? Should the dear Archon succeed in remaking Vel Anir in his image, it would be nothing but beneficial to have him in our debt, to have special business privileges in his new order. Isn't that what it always comes down to? A little this for that?"

"That's why I'm here," said Zael. "To hash out the this's and the that's. What you want, and what we gain. We come to some terms, I take them back to the big man, and if he's in, then we have a deal."

"Of course," said Lucy. "But before we begin, there's one little thing you have to do."

"And that is?"

Lucy, lying with one leg crossed over the other, now spread them apart and smirked indulgently. "Satisfy me." With an enticing, half-lidded glance to Ruslan, she added, "Both of you."

She sighed theatrically and said, "You interrupted me while I was in the middle of something. And this is forgivable...if you finish the job. One man just...ahhh...isn't enough for me...but both of you might have a chance. Satisfy me...then we can talk business."