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Primeval Thule - #1 Flowers in the Gardens of Midnight


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Largest and richest of the cities of Thule, Quodeth is known by many names: City of Merchants, City of a Hundred Bridges, City of Beggars, City of a Thousand Sails, the Peacock City, City of Golden Morning, or simply the Gateway to Thule. All of these names are deserved in their own way, even if some require a little poetic license and others are given in irony. Quodeth is a place of lavish opulence and crushing poverty, jeweled towers and sprawling slums. No other city in Thule bustles with such commerce and industry; gold is the very life’s blood of Quodeth. But wherever gold flows freely, so too do crime and corruption, and this truth is the origin of the most famous sobriquet for Quodeth: The City of Thieves.

                                                                                                                I

The darkly attired man placed his foot gingerly upon the floor testing it for firmness. While the outside of the House tower was of ancient stonework, he knew from research that the interior had been gutted by fire a decade before and only rebuilt a few years ago with wooden materials. He could not afford to make a noise that could attract the Towers resident, that could prove fatal, so he had been warned.

The Tower was located on the main estate of House Entata, and while he didn't know who lived in it he did know who the Entata's were and didn't want to cross them any more than he wanted to disappoint his employer.

The floor was solid and no sound came when he put his weight upon it. The night was foggy and no moon or stars shown so the room was almost black, he would have to proceed carefully feeling with light touch for the chest he had been told would contain what he sought. A few minutes search and he found the chest and the simple lock was child's play even in the dark to open...

Gidun knew something was wrong the second she opened the door and felt the salt breeze from the window which should have been shuddered caress her face, a gesture and an utterance which may have been a word drew a ghostly light into the room. She did not start or show fear and of course she did not scream as one her age and station would normally have done when she saw the twisted body on her floor her book open in it's hands. She was far beyond that. She strode forward, ignoring the body she picked up the Black Book and stared at the open page upon which was a crude drawing of a strange flower surrounded by six stick men and a host of undecipherable symbols.

She slowly closed the book knowing that she was being called.

 

                                                                                                                                      II

 

Dayse looked at the slight body lying on the slab, the dead girl, child really, had been badly used.

Why is she so pale?”

The large man standing quietly shifted from foot to foot.

No blood. Probably why the crabs hadn't got to her 'fore they pulled her out of the canal.”

Dayse cut her eyes at the mans nervousness. “Why did they bother?”

Barge man saw the tattoo, knew she was one of yours. Figured, you know.” He shrugged.

Dayse looked at him squarely as she held her hand out behind her. A dusky hairless woman heavily made up and bedecked in gold and jewels and little else came forward placing a leather pouch into Dayse's hand. Dayse counted out some coin. “See that the body gets treated properly. But I don't want anyone seeing those marks. And get rid of the tattoo.” She counts out some more coins. “Give this to the bargeman tell him to forget what he saw.” She closes the bag and hands it too him. “The rest is yours. She was working for Yellow Paa. Paa doesn't know me and I want to keep it that way. He doesn't let this sort of thing happen to his girls. So find out why she is here and not on her back pleasing some man and making coin.”

She looked back at poor lifeless Leeda at the places where she had been bound tight enough to rip the skin, at the obvious cause of the poor girls death a twisted neck that almost turned the child's head completely backwards, and at the numerous strange symbols carved into her flesh and finally at the unearthly flower cut into her abdomen.

Dayse wasn't sure what these things meant but she was sure it wasn't good and that it was only beginning.

 

                                                                                                                                                 III

 

Eight square blocks of winding alleyways crowded with shops and stalls, open market squares, counting-houses, artists’ workshops, wine shops, street vendors selling grilled meat and sweet confections, hookah and opium dens, grocers, tailors, jewelers, and almost any other trade or diversion that one could imagine, this is the great Bazaar of Quodeth, and it is said that anything can be had in this place...for a price.

 

The smell of close pressed bodies and various cooked meats caused Alberich's gorge to rise as it assaulted his nose and turned his stomach. Still he managed to keep the contents of his stomach in place as he Pushed his way out of the ally into a proper street, if it could be called that. He had drunk too much of the piss which passes for ale in this infernal city and was, in truth, still a bit drunk. I need food, He thought and let the smell of meat (which no longer brought on the urge to vomit) lead him up toward a market square.

This particular square was already teaming with activity even though it was still morning. Dozens of stalls had been set up and the venders were hawking their good, one in particular caught Alberich's eye when he saw the hanging cooked roasts. He pushed through the crowd and waited for the vendor to wait on him. As he waited he looked around studying the crowd of humans, he saw no dwarves indeed had seen none of his kin in this foul excuse for a city. He was silently vowing to get away from here as soon as possible when he saw an astonishing sight.

Theera muscled her way through the crowd, she was hungry and hungover and by the nine wanted some meat. The men and women parted as she passed many staring openly not at her dress or the amount of luscious flesh she displayed (indeed many of the women wore even less than she), but rather at the size of the warrior woman. She found herself standing at a stall where a vendor and his assistants were busy hanging various roasted meats. Her mouth watered and her hand clutched her purse, feeling it's lightness she cursed herself for giving most of her coin to her tribesmen yesterday. As she licked her lips she notices a short man almost as wide as he was tall with bulging arms, a long full beard and slightly pointed ears. A dwarf? Her mother had told her of them of course but she had never seen one before. And here was one standing right next to her staring at her breasts.

She kept her weapons concealed and moved carefully through the forest of humans. She was uncomfortable in this place. She missed the trees of the jungle, the freedom. She missed her home that was no more. Her search had led her here to Quodeth and she knew she was close. She could almost taste her quarry. That was when Aridha saw her. The woman, Girl really didn't not notice her, or if she did, she thought her just another child running in the crowd. The manner of dress showed her to be Dhari and her markings revealed her tribe. The girl was of the Katjaa, and like herself a long way from home and alone. A pang of homesickness and heartache struck Aridha, and without thinking she began to follow the Dhari Girl.

So much to do so much to see, so many stories and songs all in one place. In the months since she had left the tribe she had seen so much lived a dozen , no a hundred stories that would amaze her tribe when she returned home but none had prepared her for Quodeth. It's size all the different types of people even seeing the seamy side of this so called civilized life here, there was so much she found marvelous in all its variety. And the music. By the gods so many different ways to make song, the sounds delighted her. Neeva had been on the way to find some new clothes she had found in the few days here that her youthful figure and her tribal dress brought unwanted attention. So she had set out this morning to find some more modest clothing but she had become distracted upon entering the market square by the sound of music. The trio of musicians played intricate melodies one flute, drum and some sort of stringed instrument she had never seen, while a duo of dancers, both very young boys wearing little but jangles and bells danced and frolicked. Passers by would listen for a few moment and toss a coin into a wide mouthed bowl and give a bow to the tall woman playing the stringed instrument which she alternately plucked with fingers or stroked with a long bow. The sounds she drew forth from the instrument amazed Neeva who had never before heard such. Suddenly Neeva was jostles by a large man pushing past her to throw a coin into the bowl, aside from being push Neeva noticed an interplay between the man and the Musician, the two exchanged a subtle hand sign that only Neeva's nearness to the man allowed her to see. Neeva also didn't miss that the woman noticed her noticing either. The man made no pause but pushed on through the crowd, Neeva looked and the woman who was watching her and then back at the man who was passing by a meat seller. As the man passed from view Neeva's jaw dropped for there standing next to a hairy short fat man was Theera also of the Katjaa and a very long way from home.

 

Yngvar felt naked even though he was fully clothed, too fully clothed for the heat of this place. No he felt naked because they could see his face. The mask would have given his presence away was safely tucked away, he just hope his god were not offended. He had tracked the thieves here to Quodeth, arrived before them and with magic and coercion discovered that at least one of them would be in this market this morning to attempt to deliver one of the relics stolen from the temple. Yngvar finds a spot out of the way but with a good view and waits knowing that he cannot fail his gods.

 

Eingar opened his eyes thinking he was having a nightmare, but no the foul taste of last nights beer and the clinging girl proved that he was awake. That and the laugh that he shouldn't be hearing not this far from home. He rolled out of the well used pallet that had served as abed and dragged his still drunken self to the shuttered window overlooking the busy market square. looking at the throng of people he heard  loud voices again speaking his tongue including that of his hated enemy Yoran and chief rival from his tribe and the woman who his father had wanted him to marry Hildas. Finally he found them a band of six Northmen pushing their way through the crowd with the huge shield maid, Hildas, towering above the rest of the men. As he watched the group led by Yoran stooped near a vendor they were laughing at what may have been a dwarf and a beautiful woman taller and at least from this far as well built as Hildas but unlike Hildas, this woman was beautiful and revealing a great deal of her charms. No matter the how or why of them being here this is not going to end well.

Spoiler

go forth and post, make sure to read all of the post above everything in section III is happening pretty much at the same time

 

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Yoran!  The misbegotten son of a goat and an ice-troll!  What was that lickspittle lackwit doing here in Quodeth?  For in truth, Eingar considered all of his tribe to be lickspittles now, kowtowing like Katagian eunuchs to the new chief and permitting their tribe to be absorbed - and Yoran had been one of the first, before Eingar's father's blood had even cooled on the snow.  And Hildas too?  Eingar couldn't deny that the shieldmaiden was impressive: as tall as he was, with a raw-boned handsomeness (and, he reflected privately, udders that could shame a yak).  But despite those ample charms, Hildas was as cold and heartless as Kang himself.  Every time the young Eingar had begun some drunken fumbling, she began speaking of the strong children they would bear and how she would rule the tribe when he was away raiding, which was more effective than ice water on the crotch when it came to dampening Eingar's ardor.  The woman had eyes only for the prize of shieldwife to a chief or sub-chief, and would not care if that was Eingar... or a misbegotten son of a goat and an ice-troll.

The objects of their mirth were of less concern to the young warrior, though the woman was definitely worth a second look.  Eingar took a third while he was about it, leaning on the wooden sill and absently scratching under one arm where nail-marks from the dusky-skinned wench still abed itched as they healed.  She had the look of the wild about her, and the weapons adorning her ample form did not look ornamental.  The dwarf had the look of a warrior also, doughty and tough like all his stunted folk.  With a grin, Eingar mused that here was some theatre - and with nary a copper penny to pay for the sight.

"Come back to bed, my northman."  the wench cooed, running her hands down his broad back.  Eingar spared enough attention to buss her cheek noisily, eliciting a giggle.

"Bring me ale to wash last nights from my mouth."  he told her with a wink, slapping her behind and making her squeak as she hurried to comply.  Eingar turned back to the window and leaned on the frame once more, settling in to watch.

The morning was looking up: perhaps he would gain an opportunity to blacken Yoran's eyes and knock out some of his teeth.  Again.

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Slightly red-eyed from too much bitter bear the night before, a faint pounding in her head from the background clangor of the great city of Quodeth, the enormous woman waited with barely concealed patience for the opportunity to waste a good portion of the rest of her coin on a cut of cooked meat. The meat smelled barely adequate in her opinion, but hunger gnawed at her belly, and with the land tamed so tightly for leagues about the city, Tharra would have to travel far for a decent hunt - she would have do so soon for the meat and some pelts to replenish her coin. The city folk complained if she slaughtered one of their docile cattle and then expected her to pay for it, though it has hardly worth the effort of killing a beast caught in a pen.

Cities were like pens for people as far as she could see, but at least they were interesting, if odd and loud. City folk were incessantly talking or making noise for no reason she could see. Her eyes on a leg of mutton that looked evenly cooked and even seemed seasoned to some degree - perhaps the butchers knew to give proper propitiation to the animal's spirit - Tharra glanced down at the man by her side, one of the few men in the city that seemed to know the value of silence.

The dwarf looked almost misshapen to her eyes, despite what her mother had told of his kind. He was so short yet wide, but solid and stolid as well. Her eyes lingered on the chain cloaking his squat bulk. Such armor would be a distasteful burden in the jungles of her home, but her aquamarine eyes were envious of all that steel. It was more than what all the Katjaa had among them.

The dwarf's eyes lingered on her breasts, of course, but with his height, or lack of such, Tharra believed he must come face to face with them all the time. She snorted, though it didn't sound angry or affronted. "Man or dwarf, men are all the same," Tharra said to the dwarf in a voice sweeter than would be expected from a woman with her towering, muscled physique, "fools when there is a pair of teats before them."

Before the dwarf could answer, if he would, Tharra heard the laughter, mocking to her ears. Tharra glanced over a broad shoulder, then turned fully to face the laughing men. They were taller and paler than Dhari or most of the Quodethi, indeed, the woman was near as large as herself, and unlike many city folk, they looked well acquainted with the weapons at their hips and backs.

One or two of the men's laughter slipped when they caught sight of her ears and Tharra frowned as she straightened to her full, imposing height. "Explain your laughter or shut it," the huge Dhari huntress demanded.

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The Northmen still grinning let the bulky woman take a step forward. Hildas was no beauty , she was however large and well muscled and she obviously wore her armor and bore her weapons with ease. The man closest to her Yoran the leader of this band spoke something  with a laugh. Hildas barked a return laugh and turned to Theera and with a loud brash voice full of scorn spoke so all nearby could hear.

"Jag var bara säga taht om jag hade en kuk jag skulle böja dig över och dela din röv för dig hahaha!"

The loud voice drew the attention everyone nearby even over the din of the market. and it was obvious that a few of the people understood what the woman at said.

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Aridha scampered. There was no other word for it, though she'd have been indignant to be described that way. Navigating the human crowd was a bit like running through a thicket that constantly moved and shifted, requiring great focus and quick reflexes. The first few times she'd bumped into people, she'd earned harsh words and a cuff on the scalp. She'd learned quickly though.

The Dhari giantess was a useful landmark in addition to someone she was curious about. She towered so far over the humans that Aridha had no fear of getting lost. She'd never heard of giants living in the jungles or swamps of the Dhari, and it seemed unlikely that such immense creatures could hide the way her people did...but then again, why not? Next to the great trees, even a giant like this would be a small fleck of skin. It was hard to imagine someone like that hunting well...but surely they had their own ways of hunting that they'd perfected. Smashing through growth that Aridha would have ducked under...shaking monkeys out of trees instead of climbing up after them.

Interesting questions, but it wasn't why she was following her. She needed to know what had brought her here. Had her village suffered as well? Was she too following rumors and shadows to this stone hive of human beings? Perhaps they could help one another then, on their hunt.

The giantess stopped then, and Aridha saw an opportunity to come forward and get her attention...when her large pointed ears swiveled slightly at the sound of others nearby approaching. She cut to the side, losing herself among the forest of legs and crates, and saw several large, armed humans appearing to laugh at the giantess, earning an angry look from her. Were they going to fight?

They'd not steal this chance!

Aridha quickly shimmied up the wooden post at the corner of the building the crates were stacked against and darted across onto its roof. With quick hands she strung her bow, eyes flicking from the brewing trouble below and the work of her fingers. She hadn't expected to need it this soon, but she knew well this piece of wood and sinew, and could make it ready quickly enough.

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At first Alberich's mind was, in stolid tradition, beginning to making the steady push back against intoxication, the focused method perfected by dwarvenkind. The question for his intent: a shank or more of a cutlet, for the vendor to carve? Either way, it'd better be a decent one. Quodeth had enough literal and figurative shit to spoil everything. So why did he come here, if perhaps not frequently over the years?

The answer, he knew with the eternal practical refrain: money. Quodeth was the City of Gold, and if there were a multitude of hands reaching for each and every coin to be found, more would pop up, copper, silver or gold without fail. A cesspool, yes, but a profitable cesspool a freeblade could count on in their careers.

Whatever else, it thrived. It was not Droum, by Nergal!

And then the commotion brought him looking alertly, until Alberich realized that the source was right next to him. Scrutiny, sizing up the hulking figure beside him, made Alberich raise an eyebrow slightly at the unusual sight. Given that he'd lived more years than three or four humans put together, it was hard to find without delving directly into the supernatural.

It was not the size alone - immense though it was - or the female flesh that adorned it. Nor the lack of dress. Brothels teemed with similarly scantily-clad whores every few blocks in this place. Or the barbarian garb that existed in small quantities. It was the ears, pointed more than the human norm, but not so much as the few elves Alberich had met in his travels.

A half-elf, she was, and that fact of race was what made everything else - the towering muscular form and the handful of straps, the curiosity she posed. She noticed him then, and greeted him with amusement. Perhaps he was a curiosity in turn. 

Before Alberich could answer, raucous laughter drew the dwarf mercenary to a band of Nimothans. Six, with one brawny shieldmaiden included. Some intuition based on memory suggested they'd come straight from the Thousand Teeth, if not immediately so. And they were laughing directly at him and his interlocutor. Or perhaps more at her.

Idiotic ice-reavers. Alberich had seen fools come and go for decades, but Nimothans could set some prize examples for any scribe willing to take the effort to write their fiascoes down. He himself had more than enough composure and lack of need to prove himself to get into a fight over this. The half-elf? Quite possibly not. And though Alberich didn't know Nimothan, he knew direct insults when he saw them.

"Just a warning." Tharra found the whisper ease up, sotto voce from the dwarf adjacent to her. "The city guards don't go out of their way much, but bloodshed in the Bazaar in clear morning? That'll do it. So don't go too far with them."

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"Stay with me!"  the wench - Taila, her name was - murmured urgently as she caught at his shoulder.  "There are city guards abroad - redden your blade here and they shall throw you in the darkest cell they have."  She smiled in sultry invitation.  "If you so dearly wish to be in chains, you have but to ask.  Who are these people that you'd risk yourself so?"

"Risk?"  Eingar laughed as he pulled on his other boot, reaching around her waist and pulling her close for a kiss as he slung his shield across his back and checked his hatchets were in place.  "That implies I'd be in danger, Taila of the Sweet Lips."  It was aptly spoken flattery, at least: her lips were stained with berry juice, as were those of many Quodeth women seeking, for one reason or another, to attract a man.  Eingar reflected that the women of his people could learn a thing or two from the decadent cities - at least when it came to pleasing menfolk.  "This will be but a moment's diversion to clear my head of cobwebs."  He looked down at her as he lifted one foot to the sill.  "Cheer for me?"  he asked with a wink, then was gone.

With tigerish grace he sprang from the window, landing on the eves of a low-built dwelling.  Sprung-steel muscles flowing under pale, tattooed skin, the blond giant of a man landed, coiled and leapt again in a single motion, dropping to the street between too stalls, landing in a crouch.  He looked up at Taila's whistle, and grinned as she dropped his axe down, catching it deftly in his hand and slinging it beside his shield.  With his hammer at his waist and other accoutrements, he was properly garbed to meet his 'kinsmen'.

"Du har ingen kuk, Hildas?!"  The leonine rumble cut across the still air of the confrontation, and eyes turned to take in the new actor in this farce.  Tattooed and pale-skinned, his braided blond hair framing a devilish smile on the bearded face, this new northman was an even more imposing sight than his countrymen.  He moved at a saunter, his presence imposing itself on the scene even though his tone was one of mocking astonishment.  "Men du har en sådan härlig skägg!"

As Hildas flushed red and the men behind her muttered at the sight of the giant, Eingar flipped a coin to a merchant and took an apple from his stall, crunching it with studied insouciance, his eyes alight with malice and amusement.

"And Yoran!" the giant continued in Low Atlantean.  "Speaking of beards and here you are!  I am not sure if seeing Hildas at your side portends more to her liking of women or your liking of men, you sag-bellied bootlick!"

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Neeva looked at the female musician who had clearly noticed Neeva catching the hand signs with a slightly furrowed brow. She was familiar with hand signals, as her tribe used them as well as whistles and other sounds to convey messages during a hunt. Each tribe had their own 'language' though. These people were not Dhari, but they certainly just signaled each other. What it meant, Neeva could only guess at. Her eyes followed the large man as he moved away and into crowd, scanning him and watching his movements for some indication of what the signal might have meant.

The man moved away and passed a meat seller where she spied a short, round man standing beside one of her own! Not just a Dhari, but one of her own tribe! She was instantly recognizable to Neeva, for there was only one half-elven woman of such size among the Katjaa, and that was Tharra. Neeva knew her from her time spent learning under Tharra's mother at the direction of the Wise Woman. Under her tutelage Neeva had learned the elven tongue so that she could better understand the stories the woman had to tell. She had learned how to draw sounds and say them back as well, so that she could learn stories trapped within paper, scrolls and even carved into stone. During her studies she had met Tharra and exchanged a few words n passing, but they had never spent much time together.

Here though, in Quodeth so far from the Dhar Mesh, finding another of the Katjaa was clearly a sign. Despite the stone and walls, the Forest Gods still sent signs.

Neeva's slightly furrowed brow turned into a smile and she took a step toward Tharra when she spotted the laughing at her, which Tharra did not seem to receive well, as is to be expected. Neeva scanned over the cowards that could only dare insult in a language that would not be understood. Once again her brow furrowed and she shifted direction, moving to the side and around the Nimothians at a distance to approach them from the rear like she and Tharr were hunting some large game back in the Dhar Mesh.

It was loud here, like hunting near the great waterfall, so she focused on Tharra and lifted a hand near her mouth. She then whistled like a bird and made a small jesture with her hand to 'throw' the sound at Tharra, like the Wise Woman had taught her while her other hand idly rubbed a strip of woolen cloth hanging from her belt, the idle gesture always helped her focus. The sound would easily be mistaken by any who were not familiar with the Dhar Mesh as a smile bird call, but Tharra would recognize it as one of the hunting signals of the Katjaa indicating she had flanked their quarry.

Neeva then considered her surrounding for a moment. Cityfolk seemed to have a distaste for bloodshed,  not that it would stop her or Tharra, but it could bring problems. She spotted another large man leaping from a window with an axe being tossed down to him. The man stepped over to stand near Tharra and the short, round man, and began speaking back to the rest of his kind in the same language and in what seemed to be just as an insulting tone. 

Neeva slapped down a coin at a fish sellers stall near her and picked up the bucket of discarded fish heads. They were outnumbered, even if the two men aided them. A bucket over the head and well-placed kick to one of the Nimothans would go a long way to evening the numbers. 

 

Spoiler

Neeva is using Minor Illusion cantrip to make the bird call near Tharra so she can clearly hear it.

 

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Malok, fresh from buying a nice bit of greenberry wine to top of his freshly drained skins, took a long sip. His thirst was sated, though the watered wine he had guzzled served only to hydrate as it had been too weak to intoxicate. A shame really, but he should do some work in the scriptorium later today and he's need his wits sharp for the arcane forumlae.  Oh the new drink had been worth extra silver indeed, a tasty treat. His stomach purred as he smelled the roasting skewers of meat from the market just ahead, stimulated by the potent young wine. 

The was clearly something going on up ahead, starting to unfold as he traded a few copper for two small skewers of street meat. Oh this is heaven, grilled with a little vinegar and some sort of dried savory leaf. Nibbling he quickened his pace to squeeze between a few of the onlookers who were already gawking at what might be a scene. Dining and entertainment (!) though Malok, until he heard the tone of the strange tongue being spoken. indeed this could be serious, especially as there were formidable warriors on each side of this unfriendly heat. 

With keen eyes and ears he surveyed the scene quickly, assessing threats and potential potential opportunities. A subtle flourish had his bat appear above the scene, nestling in for a ... well bat's eye view. Malok was travelling a bit light, just for going round the town, but Quodeth is a city where you stay close to your armament. No reason to draw just yet, as this wasn't his fight, but one never knew how crowds might react to scenes like this. A hand resting on the pommel of his longsword tilted the scabbard back and put his elbow out. The torchboy gawking next to him knew enough to see that his was a trained stance and stepped clear to avoid a slash from a blade that might be drawn. Malok half nodded to him, seeing his boy's deference in the corner of an eye and said "Mithra be with you boy, best not to get too close to trouble just now." 

With his other hand, Malok adjusted his hat and made sure the bandanna under was keeping his ears flat. No need to look out of place at the moment. Yes, with these sorts of barbarian gladiators getting angrier, he might just want to follow his own advice. Today might not be a day for standing too close to trouble ... but he of course he had to watch!

 

   

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The Nimothans, who had been full of humor suddenly grew serious with the appearance of this new Nimothan, Eingar, bodies tensed and hands drifted to weapons. With a foul curse, Hildas, the huge Shieldmaiden took a step forward but was restrain by Yoran who stepped ahead of her. The object of their derisive humor forgotten his focus on Eingar.

"Well now we know what causes the stench of the city. I would have thought you to be at the bottom of the sea by now in some fishes belly." He looks at Theera and gestures "or are you this ones plaything, had we known, I would have had Hildas give gift to her of a wooden cock for her pleasures with you." As he says this he seems to notice the scowling dwarf for the first time and his grin seems to falter a bit.

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"Hah!  Behold the dog that speaks!"  The giant Nimothan's laugh was a bark, a thunderclap that rang from the nearby buildings, an expulsion of scorn and disdain that even the haughtiest of nobles might have struggled to emulate.  "There is not a fish that could stomach me without bellyaches aplenty, and as for this fine figure of a female - " he indicated Theera with his thumb, smiling at her before returning his attention to the reavers in front of him " - By my name I have not clapped eyes on her before your jabbering awoke me this morn.  And I STILL like her more than you, 'kinsman'.  Draw those blades, you jackals, and your women will be crying fake tears before the day is through!"  his voice rose to a storm of thunder suddenly, pointing at the warriors behind Yoran and Hildas, his blue eyes ferocious in their blaze.  As they released their hilts hastily, his voice returned to its normal scornful level.

"Now run along, puppy.  You have not the wit to match word-smithing with me: Your best axe to hurl is 'I know I like to be the woman in bed, but what of you'.  Really now, cousin?  You are as lacking in this arena as in others.  Now either act, or run along, clamber back onto your mother's lap and suckle some more."

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Interestingly, the new Nimothan who appeared seemed to be siding with the half-elf, or against this Yoran and Hildas. Clearly the three knew each other and had some bad blood. Then Yoran finally noticed that Alberich was present, and feeling a bit more uneasy, hey? Why that was was unclear to the dwarf mercenary. Realizing he'd bitten off more than they could chew? Something else?

"Yoran, was it?" Alberich met the taunter's gaze with a flat stony expression.

"...Well?" The freeblade coolly prompted, waiting for more than an already answered name as a response.

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Yoran's eyes darted around taking in the crowd, then his face split into a huge grin.

"Hahaha, A night of strong drink perhaps we got a bit carried away."

The men behind him exchanged puzzled glances and The woman looked askance at her companion as he stepped back pulling her along with him. "No offense, was meant shield-maid, only fun,"  He backs away from Theera, Albeich, and Eingar his men and Hildas following his lead. "Eingar, see you soon."

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Neeva set down the bucket and pushed it aside with her foot as she could see the the group of Nimothians backing down. She remained where she was though, and grasped her war spear with both hands just below the head, resting her cheek against it causally. She watched them like a hawk though, so that as they moved away they would see her standing behind them and might realize the that not only were they flanked, but there were more opponents than they had even realized, and could count their blessings for the great folly they that they had just avoided.

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Malok felt glad there had been no need to defend the peace ... not that he was exactly sure of how he would have accomplished that aim ... but sure of that being a fine and noble aim ... 

As he scanned the crowd once more and moved closer to  Tharra, Albeich, and Eingar he was instantly taken in by the impressive Tharra . Though much taller than his tastes usually ran she was alluring. Then again, he had not met any other woman quite so tall. More to his interest she was half elven! He could not turn his gaze from her fine eyes, though what an impressive physique!!

In the manner that he made most decisions of the moment lately he walked directly toward her. Gracefully fixing his attire mid stride and holding his hat to the center of his being ... for he must be on his best behavior lest this is some fierce retainer sent to summon him to a dreadful function ... he called out a greeting that would befit a high positioned retainer but was also as warm as formal Elven could manage without falling below his own noble station:

"Sister of my kin, traveler away from the old city, ally of my house by measure of all houses, I greet you."

With that out of the way he switched to common 

"My name is Malokch" as he mentally omitted mention of his house for the moment and instead continued "I am glad you and your associates meet the morning without bloodshed. The sages all agree that breakfast is first order of the day, so such exercise as those might offer should wait in turn.  Please allow me to repay the unexpected delight of meeting you all with a meal at the Silver Swine on the other side of the market.  They make a simple but eminently pleasurable batch of daily ale too."

Stopping well outside their personal spaces and ignoring the uncouth Nimodians gang that were leaving, he had to reluctantly draw his gaze away from Tharra's eyes as he made a bow to all three. Were they together? Not an important point really. 

Malok did notice Neeva, pure Dhari and possibly working with them as a group. She had been stationed perfectly to attack the other group from behind. Smart tactics in any event. 

With such warriors as these he made doubly sure, all the while, to keep his stance and sword arm rigidly, respectfully, obviously not intending confrontation.  In his minds eye that he was approaching the palace of the first citizen and his fearsome personal guard. It was a little mnemonic trick to help him remember this set of detailed social protocols from a city that hadn't been his home in over seventy years. He was also deliberatly showing his back to Neeva, who may or may not be with these three ... but really, two Dhari in the same place at this hour? Very possible they were associates and he needed to show neither aggression nor hesitation.  

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5 hours ago, The Grand Scribe said:

The men behind him exchanged puzzled glances and The woman looked askance at her companion as he stepped back pulling her along with him. "No offense, was meant shield-maid, only fun,"  He backs away from Theera, Albeich, and Eingar his men and Hildas following his lead. "Eingar, see you soon."

"Aye."  Eingar rumbled, then spat to one side as though clearing a foulness from his mouth as he muttered.  "I shall keep one eye open and a hand on my hammer."

He watched them leave, his height letting him track their progress away from him as he stood motionless beside the amazonian Dhara and the dwarf.  Pale blue eyes narrowed slightly, he resembled nothing so much as a great wolf watching a rival pack leave his range, wary of any trick.  Not till they were long out of sight did he relax somewhat, shifting his posture to face the woman and dwarf.  He was about to speak when another presence imposed itself, and Eingar watched with some amusement as the bantam bowed and spoke in a liquid, musical language to the tall woman, his eyes rapt on her face.  The boy (for such Eingar supposed this beardless, pretty youth to be) was plainly smitten with the giantess, and the Nimothan chuckled as his minds eye supplied a vision of the two trying to mate.

When Malokch introduced himself and bowed to the group as a whole, the Nimothan eyed him a little more suspiciously.  The boy had a poetic way of speaking, and radiated 'soft city dweller', yet was also comfortable with the sword at his hip.  And Eingar had never had anyone describe meeting him as an 'unexpected delight', though he suspected that the delight was more due to the ample charms of the woman than those of the dwarf or himself.  The odd part was that the boy was offering them food and drink.

Hospitality was something that he was on steadier ground over.  This boy had, for whatever reason, offered breakfast and ale.  And Eingar was certainly hungry.

"Lead on, then, with my thanks."  he told Malokch.  "But if this is some southron trickery..."  he grinned savagely, teeth white in his bearded face, an expression somehow more intimidating than a scowl would have been at that time.  "Well then, now is the time to retract the offer.  We take hospitality and the offering of it seriously in the North."

With that, he turned to Tharra and Alberich, offering each of them a nod of greeting. "Well met, stout legs and longshanks." quoth he with a grin, his spirits high after the refreshing hurling of insults at Yoran and Hildas.  "I am Eingar of the Thousand Teeth, and I owe you my thanks for the opportunity to dent Yoran's head, even though the cur decided to retreat like the nilthing he is!"

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Yngvar felt his brow raising. That was.... not how he had expected that to play out. Even when outnumbered, Nimothans were known for an almost suicidal bravado. It was something that many of them took pride in. Perhaps a new social development in their tribe? Possible. Though he only gave way once he noticed the Dwarf. Bad personal experience and an unusual amount of sense, perhaps?

He shook his head, clearing it. Ultimately, it mattered little.

That being said, he glanced around. Making note of the absolute lack of guards on the Market. Even in a city renowned for its Thieves, the distinct lack of lawmen was both unsettling and suspicious. Given most merchants concerns for their wares, in fact, he would be surprised if there weren't a higher proportion of guards than normal in this city, usually. Someone had cleared the Market of their presence beforehand. His hand fell to the haft of his Axe, loosening it in it's fastenings. Best safe than sorry.

With a Mental command to his familiar, which promptly took to the air with a caw and a beat of Ravens Wings, he continued to browse the Market, keeping a close eye out for his quarry. Much as he might wish to relax, he had work to do. Pleasure later, when business is concluded. The lack of guards would be both a blessing and a curse. He had little doubt that he would need to resort to violence before all was said and done. They would not interfere with that. But at the same time, neither was his target restricted in his actions. He briefly gave some consideration to the crowd around him.

Hmmm. Unless he wanted to rack up a significant bodycount, a number of his spells were going to have to be restricted. Single Target. Point to point. No explosions or area spells. Though they remained an option if all else failed. How annoying.

Stepping around the Smaller of the two Dhari on his way to another stall, he nods his head in respect for her earlier manoeuvre, a quick smile creasing his attractive features as he continues on his way. 

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Aridha watched with alarm...they were going to leave! She'd be stuck in this city of giants, where the ground held no footprints and there was no grass or branches to break, and she wouldn't even know where to start looking! Here were TWO wearing Dhari garments! It could not be coincidence!

Still holding her bow, she dropped down to the awning of the building she'd scaled and somersaulted to its edge to flip herself off and down onto her feet not far from where the giantess and the humans held their palaver.

"Wait!" she piped in the Dhari tongue. "Don't go yet! I need to ask you something!"

The little one's head was not far past Theera's knees, but there was no mistaking her for a child seen up close.

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Tharra's dark brows lowered, a frown of vague disappointment and confusing crossing her face at the actions of Northron men who were now walking away. She had been expecting a scrap to establish dominance, she especially had wanted to pound the scornful look from the face of the woman who thought herself her match. Even after the big man of the same kine who spoke too much exchanged challenging words in the same unknown tongue, she thought they'd fight, believing their numbers giving them the advantage of her and the blond man's greater height and might.

A numbers advantage that wasn't as great as they believed when Tharra heard the twittering of a red-winged kestrel, though only a brow twitched in surprise at hearing the call of the Dhar Mesh bird. But then they seemed to acknowledge the dwarf among them or something other and withdrew like curs, though they hid it behind smiles, except for the ugly, boarish woman, who also seemed disappointed with the lack of a tousle.

She did not understand, but she did not waste any words on their retreat. Nor did she understand their talk of wooden cocks. She glanced over and down at the man who was nearly as tall as herself and gave him a direct appraisal. He seemed sufficiently endowed and well formed. Perhaps she would tousle with him in another manner at a later time to make sure. She liked her men large and cities seemed to make most men smaller in some fashion.

As the Nimothans turned their backs and melted into the press of bodies, her large aquamarine eyes widened in genuine surprise at the sight of her kinswoman. She had known one was flanking the pieces of saber-cat scat challenging them, but she hadn't expected it to be the apprentice of the chief Talespinner of the Katjaa. A familiar face

Thinking of cities making men smaller, Tharra had taken no more than a single step towards Neeva when she was accosted once more, this time by a boy with cheeks as smooth as her own. She had her second real surprise of the day when he spoke to her in her mother's native tongue and revised her estimation of his age, though she had been bigger than this man when she had not yet been proclaim a woman among the Katjaa.

"I am no sister of yours," Tharra replied in feminine rumble in stilted, accented Elvish - Malokch could tell it was not her native tongue but one learned later and not often used. "And know not which city or houses of which you speak."

Big teats may make big fools of men, but the Elf Man was going to put such a crick in his next as he admirably met eyes so far above his own. Tharra hadn't realized Elves were so short. Her mother was tall, even among Dhari women, but this Malockch seemed hardly taller than the dwarf to her, and half as wide. He made up for it with many words to say he wanted to buy them food and drink. As she was hungry and her purse was tight, she intended to accept.

The enormous half-elven Dhari woman returned Malokch and Eingar's greeting with a minimal nod and a faint curve to her lips, though the massive Nimothan received an appreciative glance. "I am Tharra. Of the Katjaa," she added after a slight pause, before looking directly down at Malokch and nodding over his shoulder at the fit and incredibly beautiful, blond Dhari standing behind him. "I accept your offer of food and drink if you will include by kinswoman, Neeva, a Talespinner of the Katjaa."

And then the tiny Half-Woman burst into their midst, a third surprise of the morning. The Half-People were known among the tribes of Dhar Mesh and the Forests of Gronak, but rarely spoken of and even more rarely seen, but known to respect the Forest Gods. She thought they should have been called Quarter-People, the woman was so small, as small as a toddler, if obviously built like an adult.

Tharra scowled, not for laying eyes on one of the Half-People, but for yet another interruption to relieving her hunger.

"Then come with us and ask your question, Half-Woman, but I hunger first," Tharra commanded in Dhari before looking back at Malokch and switching to Low Atlantean. "Include the Half-Woman as well and let us go. I do not think she will eat much."

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As Yngvar passed the Dhari Neeva, his questing eye caught site of Gadar, no  more than ten feet away but at the same time a disturbance at the two major entrances of the market drew his, and everyone's attention.

Armed guards pushing into the market at both ends beating people back, from the entrance closest to the center of the city  a procession of what looked like priests followed by more armed men. This holy procession forced its way to where Tharra, Alberich, Einjar stood with their new found companions.

A tall long bearded priest held a silver chain in his hand suspended from the chain what appeared to be a globe of water or some other liquid. the globe flashed and the priest looked at the six strangers.

"You must come with me do not resist, and no harm will come to you." The guards are surrounding the motley group but their weapons while ready are not threatening

The globe flashes again and the Priests spins, holding it up higher, the crowd in fear part away leaving Yngvar exposed in plain sight. The priests hand flies up and three guards rush toward him. "YOU! You shall come as well!"

Spoiler

If you do not resist you will be marched away . you will not be disarmed or even searched. if being marched away isn't something you feel like doing you can either fight or try to run. the main avenues are blocked but there are allys and doors and windows in which escape could be made

 

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Malok sized up the situation and stated in a most persuasive and charming tone "I'll come, though I need a good breakfast. Actually we all do, so you'll need to set a good table this day. If this is some sort of trickery I'll be missed at the scriptorium and the east bird counting house too." ... tilting his head as if there was nothing wrong in the world and smiling a wide smile he thought 'This day is becoming quite curious.'. 

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Gidum’s fingers passed over the cover of the book in a hypnotic pattern, almost as if she were stroking it. Her eyes were on the fallen thief, but her gaze turned inward, to her labyrinthine thoughts. “Someone tried to steal you,” she mused.

The book shivered in her hands, laughing silently.

“It was very foolish,” she agreed, before her thoughts fell inward toward the dark knowledge that lived in her head now.

She was startled out of them by Darli, her handmaiden. “Mistress Shubure?” she asked nervously as she hovered in the doorway. “Did you sleep?”

Did she? Gidum gave it a second’s thought, then dismissed the question as relevant. The early light of dawn was pouring through the open window; she'd been lost inside her head for a long time. Turning, she said, “Have someone clean this up.”

The servant entered the room slowly. “Clean wh-- Oh Sweet Kishar!” Darli staggered backwards, hands flying to her face. “What--What is that?”

“Who, Darli. It was some thief,” Gidum said casually, taking another look at the twisted corpse. The servant continued to stare. “Darli!” When the terrified woman turned to look at her, the ghost said, “First, find that bag that Mother got for me last year.” When the servant didn’t move, she added, “Shoo!”

A short time later, she walked out into Quodeth’s busy streets and turned toward the Bazaar. The Book bumped against her hip, counter-swinging with her movements. Occasionally, she felt it move in the embroidered bag, signalling her to go one direction or another. Once, it quivered inquisitively, and Gidum shrugged. “You can find anything in the Bazaar. I hope to find the symbol there, or find one knowledgeable in lore who isn’t bound to a temple or group.” Another shiver and the living ghost sighed. “It’s not like you told me what I need to know.”

As she entered the gates of the Bazaar, the unique smells of Quodeth commerce already assaulting her nose, she paused at the sight of the guards and the bearded man. The Book shifted and Gidum squared her shoulders. She walked forward, passing through the guards to stop in front of the man holding the sphere high. The light flashed over her sinister tattoos and fine clothing alike. “I believe you want me to come, too,” she said to the priest. Her gray eyes locked on his, dark with terrible knowledge.

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"Ha'ney," Aridha corrected Theera indignantly, "not half-woman! What, am I missing my legs?"

There might have been more coming, but the commotion across the bazaar interrupted her. Her ears flatted back along her skull as her eyes slitted, and away went her bow into a slipcase on a strap over her shoulder. Out came a pair of well-used bronzed swords.

When the priest made his demand, and the two were added...one picked out apparently at random, and another simply joining in as though she'd purchased a ticket...Aridha snarled in Low Atlantean, "If you can take me to Odass Stagg, I will come with you. Otherwise I've no time for you and your glass ball."

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Neeva stood there, leaning against her spear as the Nimothians departed. The back down, for some reason, but they were likely to return to this story. Maybe the big Nimothan by Tharra's side frightened them, it was clear that they knew each other. Maybe they had been on the receiving end of sound defeats at the hands of the round men. Or maybe they simply knew their strength did not match that of those assembled before them, without even realizing they were already like so much prey for the Dhari. Regardless, words would be spent on them sooner or later.

A smile played across Neeva's face when Tharra saw her. She took a step toward her kinsmen herself when the scrawny man approached Tharra, speaking in the tongue of Tharra's mother. It was odd to hear it, not only again, but from a man's, or at least boy's, lips. He babbled on before finally making some sense and offering a meal, all the while keeping his back to Neeva. If that is what he thought of her, then it would be simple enough to repay.

Tharra added her to the offer of food, as if the small man even had a choice, and then the Half-Woman, bow in hand, sprouted from the the legs of the crowd, wanting to ask something of them, speaking the Dhari tongue. There was surly more at work here. Finding another Dhari here would be beyond rare. Finding one her her own tribe was clearly a sign. And then the big Nimothian, eager to fight his own kind, appeared. A boy-man who spoke elvish approached and now, a  Half-Woman who seemed to be seeking them out. The Half people were known to the Dhari, but most had never seen one, much less in this city of stone. 

The omens were too plentiful and far too blatant to ignore. Forces were hand hand, bringing together this mix of unusual people by the most outlandish of circumstances. There was no "coincidence", a term some used who could not portend the signs and omens sent to them.

Then the guards came in with the Wise Man or Shaman wielding a flashing orb. The bearded man singled them out, as well as the man who acknowledge Neeva a few moments ago after the fight. The man demanded they all go with him.

There were hands beyond understanding at work here, and there would certainly be a story to tell.

The boy-man stepped forward, trying to secure a meal for all, which man Neeva chuckle as she stepped forward and extended a hand to Tharra, grasping her forearm and shaking it while swinging her other arm around the giantess, totally ignoring the guards and bearded man, as Dhari were apt to do.

 "Look at that," she said to Tharra in Dhari, "He is already making sure to have food on the table for you. I think he wants to be your wife." she said with a grin, teasing Tharra.

Neeva then looked to the Half-Woman quizzically and crouched down to her eye level. 

"No offense, but it seems like you are missing a little of everything." she said with teasing smile in Dhari before rising up once more as another peculiar woman approached and invited herself along.

"I have seen many omens this morning, and this is another." she said to the group of oddly assorted people in Low Atlantean, speaking now with a strange authority.

"I would caution dismissing the signs. It is folly to ignore such powerful and plentiful omens such as this. Do as you will, but never say you did not know." she explains.

"Come. Let us go and hear the Wise Man's words." she says to Tharra, the Half-Woman and more generally to the others.

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First the elf showed up to make offers of breakfast - which to be fair sounded good... then the next Dhari showed up, then the wee halfling with a focus on the tall barbarian half-elf. And then priests and guards demanded their attention. "The sign is that he's not making a request here." Alberich grumbled in response to Neeva and the halfling. "And really, I'm not inclined to throw my arse in the fire and oppose. You're gonna have to make time, little one."

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"The small warrior is right."  Eingar growled, his good humor once again deserting him at the twin affronts of mysticism and being ordered, as though he were some galley slave.  "Who are you to give me orders, priest?  Perhaps your sight is so decayed that you mistake me for one of your city-bred dogs, to come when called and do tricks for a scrap?"  The huge barbarian unhooked his hammer with practiced ease, lifting the heavy stone head to point at the priest. 

"Omens and magic be damned.  You want me to come with you, then give me good cause.  I'll not obey you simply because you command it!  And do not think to sic your dogs on me, or I'll shower you in their brains before feeding you your own manhood!"  His pale eyes were frosty stone, with no give in their cloud-shaded depths, and his deep voice was the rumbling snarl of a sabertoothed cat before it strikes.

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Alberich muttered something highly unpleasant beneath his beard. No, he'd gotten an idiot Nimothan here as well. Eingar found, to the huge tribesman's surprise, a mailed fist clouting him in the back. Height unfortunately, prevented Alberich from reaching Eingar's head like he'd wanted. "Did your home replace your mind with a lump of ice?"

This wasn't a matter of crime, he figured, else the guardsmen would be focused on them anyway. Apparently, the group was a matter of interest to one of the temples - which suggested business. "You'll do it, because you might just make some very good friends as a result."

"Or," his gravelly rumble continued, "that someone considers you worth more than that musk ox of an old friend of yours. And that you're not as stupid as both."

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"To ignore omens is to invite misfortune. Do so at your own peril." Neeva says in a deadly serious tone to Eingar with her eyes narrowed for a moment.

"I an Neeva, Talespinner and soothsayer of the Katjaa. My tribe has no doubt in my abilities to read signs and omens. Simply ask Tharra here." she announces, motioning the the half-elf giantess.

"I read the signs and alert the ignorant to them, so they be prepared for the fortune that is on its way to them, be it for good or ill." she explains, her tone dark and serious.

"Only a petulant child is so sensitive that they must react with violence, or the threat of, at the mere hint that somebody might command them." Neeva says, looking Eingar over for a moment.

"Now are you a child, or a man? A brave and fierce warrior who knows the strength of his arm and speed of his hammer so that he need not take affront at even the slightest, perceived insult?" she says as she slowly extends a hand to rest on the back of his own, near his hammer.

"Scant moments ago I thought I saw the latter, ready to aid my kinsman without a thought." she adds, attmpling to place her hand on the back of his, her voice now soft and soothing.

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Tharra glowered down at the priests of the city gods, and shared a bit of it with Neeva as well, but shifted her weight awkwardly as she spoke of the omens and portents. "I have no liking of being commanded by city men," Tharra added to her kinswoman's words to Eingar, "but the Talespinner speaks true of her way of reading the omens - I have seen it."

The mighty thewed woman shrugged, iron muscles rippling dangerously and her other charms jostling prominently as she folded her powerful arms across her chest. "I go, and if there is no food and drink and they seek to restrain us," Tharra's vivid eyes hardened like gemstones on the priests, "we beard them in their den and kill any who bar our way."

She glance at Eingar, a faint grin on her lips, then down at the dwarf and tossed her head, her twin tails of sable hair twisting. "Clout the dwarf back and let us be on our way."

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If Eingar's mood had been dangerous before, Alberich's clout and scathing words turned the atmosphere deadly.  Blood drained from the Northman's face, and those nearest could hear the leather grip of his hammer creaking as his grip tightened on it, accompanied by grinding from his teeth.

And then the blonde woman stepped up, her words spoken with calm authority that drew the attention of the enraged man.  Eingar paused: soothsayers were not to be taken lightly, and he glanced down at her as she laid her hand on his - not to restrain him by force, for she had no chance of that, but as a plea for him to restrain himself.  She was beautiful, full of quiet wisdom and respect for him as a warrior, and her soft tone penetrated the volcanic core of rage that burned in his heart, calming and cooling it enough that the corded muscles of his forearm unclenched, his grip loosening on his hammer as he brought it down slowly, hooking it back onto his belt.  He nodded at Neeva, accepting her words, then smirked at Tharra's comments.

"Aye, if it be a trap we'll decorate the walls with their blood." he said in agreement, winking at the two Dhari women before looking at the priest.  "I'll come to hear what you have to say."  Then he turned towards Alberich.

"Nobody strikes me, you stunted cur."  he told the dwarf, his tone calm but with an undercurrent of the rage that bubbled inside him.  "I am not one of your bastard-born whelps for you to cuff and snarl at.  Try such a thing once more, and your blood will stain the ground."

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Yngvar's hand fell to the haft of his Axe, knuckles white and leather creaking with the force of his grasp. Right there. He. Was. Right. There! Gods only knew when he would be able to chase down that artifact if he lost it here. But if he reached out to strike him down, it would only cause his end here and now. With a deep breath and a muttered imprecation he released his axe and breath, visibly calming himself before turning on his heel and striding towards the Priest, face once more composed and blue eyes cold as a winters day on the Glacier. He could still feel the magic tingling at his fingertips. Ready to jump to his command.

He nods in satisfaction at Tharra's comment and falls in beside Neeva, offering her a polite, if clipped greeting in her native tongue,  a faint scent of ozone settling upon the group from the bare leash he holds upon his power.

He sniffs in disdain before addressing the priest.

"We seem to be in accord and will accompany you, for the moment. Though might we get on with it? I cannot speak for others, but I have duties I must fulfil, and this diversion is actively preventing me from being able to complete them."

He awaits impatiently for the group and their.... escort.... to begin moving.

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Malok calmly, confidently stepped closer to the priest, looking him over and looking over their glassware globe in a single glance. Despite his keen perception and considerable arcane knowledge the specifics of the divination device were unknown to him. Priestly magic he hadn't been privy to ... yet. He did, however, recognize the priest.  As he gracefully slipped into a spot at the cleric's arm ... and ear ... Malok said "I've seen you at the great temple, haven't I?  What's your name, honored one?" 

At the assorted grumblings and comments from the group Malok gestured and gave a nod in the affirmative, his body language all but leading the priest in his own steps. Priests love to talk, this is an almost universal rule, so Malok would get this one going along that most natural of paths. The priest would also notice, no doubt, the fairly expensive holy symbol of Mithra around Malok's own neckalong with his other signs of subtle wealth.  Many priests also warm up to the well to do by habit. 

Malok is a keen student of people and how to persuade them. Earlier, with the outlanders and the giant Thaara he hadn't been doing anything but saying hello and making careful introductions. Now he actually had try and be social, to shape some sort of outcome beyond status quo. To be fair the outlanders were a bit ... socially mal-adjusted ... plus the half elf clearly wasn't from Imystrahl or even from one of the outlying trade hubs along the claws. Thank the gods for that, but it just wasn't fair to hold them to a high standard of civility. In their lands he would be the outlander, but he would like to think he'd follow their ways at that point. It was understandable that they had mistaken his eye contact as being entirely amorous interest, as they were correct in part. His lightning fast mind mind did quickly play out several interesting scenarios as to how such a coupling might work. He would have to climb, scaling Tharra like a mountain. She's probably never done more than rut with village idiots though, so pleasing her would be a simple matter in skilled practice. Humans don't even play anything like the regular Elven coupling games as young adolescents ... its just so immoral and wasteful. 

...

Buuuuttt back to the task at hand. He would charm the priest with banter and let the man's own nature provide him with some early information about their current summons. Perhaps he would also learn something of why he had the feeling that this unlikely meeting of disparate yet exceptional individuals was somehow destined. 

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Aridha glanced at Neeva, and her demeanor...well, it didn't soften, but she seemed a little less confrontational when she looked back at the priest. She didn't want to ignore omens, it was true...and she herself had noted it was strange that something seemed to have brought them here like this.

But the spirits were silent here...or perhaps it was simply so noisy that she couldn't hear them. Regardless, she felt uneasy about this robed man and his crystal orb. Still, she had no better path to her quarry before her now. Perhaps this was something the spirits had sent her to help guide her?

She'd give him a chance. No more. Even for soothsayers, omens were tricky.

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A moment of tensions it looked as if blood would be shed, but words of wisdom prevail and weapons are lowered and the strange group of men, women, dwarf, halfling, human, and elf go with the priest and guards.

The priest notices Malok and speaks to him. "Your visage is known to me as well, Malok, Exile of Imystrahl, my name is Praden Tor and further explanation awaits at The Golden Hall.

As the strange procession of outlanders and temple guards leave the Market Square, Yngvar glaring after his escaping but unaware quarry and sees him being drawn into a open doorway. As the door way closes he sees a face and recognizes one of the Nimothan who was with those who accosted the others in the group he has been drawn into.

 

Spoiler

Thus ends scene one. If you have any further questions or things you wish cleared up PM me and I will respond. The next scene will be posted in a day or so.

 

 

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They march through the streets of Quodeth surrounded by the Temple guards and the contingent of priests drawing stares as citizens stare at the unusual procession. Arriving at the Golden temple of Mithra they enter not through the great doors but by a barracks gate leading into a compound and then into the working portion of the temple.

The party of strangers thrown together by seeming random circumstance are shown to a large hall, cold meat, cheeses and bread are served as well as water, no wine or beer. They eat and make some small talk. Tharra, Alberich, Eingar, as well as Neeva, the Halfling Aridha and the elf Malokch seem to form an easy group but the other two, the second Nimothan who calls himself Yngvar and answers any queries with yes and no and grunts all the while staring at Eingar. As for the strange exotic woman who has not yet given her name she remains aloof. Only acknowledging words spoken to her with dark smouldering looks which leave those graced with the star in an uncomfortable state of arousal, for her sensual beauty fills the air of the room and her every move brings forth erotic thoughts.

They are given time to eat and drink under the eyes of servants and only a couple of guards as the begin to push plates away the doors at the end of the hall open and a few more guards come in a dn ask them to come with them. They move to a smaller hall with a large desk and only one chair behind it here there are three priests, the one who had fetched them from the market, another priest balding and bearded, and finally Oruk-Maneth High Curate of the Golden Temple.

 

Oruk-Maneth old and bent surveys you his dark eyes lingering on the exposed flesh of the women, narrowed in contempt, until he spy's Malokch to whom he steps up closely.

 

“Hmm, the elf who professes faith in Mithra, humph.” quickly belying his age he spins away and takes the globe of water from the first priest then turns back to you all holding it up. “Alright then, let it be on your head.” with a gesture the guards and the first priest exit the hall Oruk-Mathen shove the globe into the bearded priests hands and follows them out.

 

Leaving you alone with the bearded priest with the globe. "I am Aldor Pol, and I am sure you all have questions."

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Aldor Pol the bearded priest

He looks at Gidum a slight frown upon his face. "Shubure, i have not seen you at Temple recently."

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Gidum ate mechanically, the food tasting as ash on her tongue. She required strength and as such needed the food, but she took no joy in the consumption. Meat, cheese, and bread passed through her lips in equal portions, and she finished first.

She wanted to take out the Book and read, but she didn’t dare reveal that it was in her possession. To amuse herself, she studied her companions, judging them by which stared at her, or what they said to each other, or what they ate. It was an amusing diversion, nothing more. She didn’t have her brother’s gift for reading people.

Leaving you alone with the bearded priest with the globe. "I am Aldor Pol, and I am sure you all have questions."

He looks at Gidum a slight frown upon his face. "Shubure, i have not seen you at Temple recently."

She stiffened at hearing that name. “You have not seen me because I have not come.” Her gray eyes locked with his. “I am not called by that name any more; I am now Gidum.” She leaned forward. "What insight do you have on our calling?"

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Aldor Pol swallows as Gidum turns her gaze onto him, temptation, desire surge though him he finds himself taking a step back from her and catches himself. "As you wish, Gidum. You, were not called, but came here of your own volition." He sweeps his gaze at the rest assembled. "The rest of you however were. Mithra, the Lord of the Sun and Sky has need of thee."

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The food was hearty, at least, and Eingar had packed it away as only a starving bear after hibernation could eat, all the while studying the trappings of this southern god's temple, his avaricious eye seeing wealth beyond counting, even here away from the glamour of the public worship area.  He had grumbled - good naturedly for the most part - at the lack of strong drink, but ever pragmatic he had drunk deeply of the clean water, feeling his hangover subside.

His head restored and his belly filled, he turned his attention to the others who had been summoned to this southron temple.  The tattooed woman stirred his blood, eerily so, for she did not smile nor speak, and yet there was a tightening in his loins as their eyes chanced to meet, something compelling a twist of desire from him.  Tharra and Neeva, both beauties, had the clean look of the wild in them, as did the diminutive woman as fierce as a wolverine.  No city folk, these.  Yngvar was surely of his people, yet did not introduce himself nor do other than glower at his countryman.  The boy-elf seemed soft, but Eingar was wary: elves were sorcerous and not to be trusted.  And the dwarf... Aye the dwarf.  Suffice to say that Eingar did not have many words to spare on the stout warrior: he was quick to anger, and slow to let go a grudge, especially one born of being struck.

When the tattooed woman - Shubure or Gidum as she preferred - asked her question, Eingar tapped his drinking cup on the table in tacit agreement.

"Aye, then?  So why have we been summoned so?" he demanded - politely so, for him - of the priest.  "What need has your god of me?  I am hardly a religious man!"

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"He asks what need your god has of him," Aridha piped up, nodding at the bearded blond man. She'd eaten small amounts of food, but quickly, nibbling away at handfuls at a time, allowing her to keep her eyes on the others almost all the time. "I ask what need I have of your god. Food and drink are fine and well, but nothing I can't provide for myself."

She wanted to believe this wasn't a waste of her time, but the world existed to crush hopes.

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Neeva let Tharra eat. It was obvious she was hungry and there would be time later to speak with her kinsman. Instead she ate along with the rest, preferring the leaner meat and bread. As she ate she looked around, considering each who sat at the table, as she was sure they were all doing as well.

Tharra was from her own tribe. She knew her, as Neeva had studied under Tharra's mother. Indeed, that was where Neeva had learned the tongue of the Elves. She knew Tharra though, which is to say they had met and spoken from time to time, but they had not spent any particular time together. She was of the Katjaa though, and at least a familiar face, one she knew she could trust.

The half-woman may be smaller, but they were not all that dissimilar, both being from the Dhar Mesh and having similar lifestyle and challenges. Her interest in them was not yet explained, but Neeva was sure it was only a matter of time.

The round man was unusual. Xana, Tharra's mother, had told Neeva about the dwarves, but she had never seen one before. He seemed as wide as he was tall, but only a fool would think him simply fat. He had strength and the well-worn hands of a warrior and the eyes of a man who had seen many battles. Much like Tharra, Aridha and herself, the dwarf seemed quite out of place here as well. Not for a lack of familiarity with the city as much as the apparent rarity of his kind.

The two Nimothans were quite different. Eingar was loud and boisterous. He was quick to anger as well, but not without fair reason when things were pointed out to him. He too seemed to have seen more than his share of strife and combat, but his heart was not war weary or lacking in courage. Yngvar, on the other hand, was quite the opposite. He was quiet and had barely spoken a word. His irritation or frustration was clear to Neeva as well. The source of it was not clear, but It was something that Neeva would stay aware off...

The boy-elf was quite unlike the other men at the table. Though he was likely older than he looked was not what step him apart though. It was overly polite and had a fondness for flowery words and speeches, not to mention the fact that he tried to hide his pointed ears under this head wrap and hat. This all made him seem like little more than a boy (or even a girl by some standards) and a soft one at that. Neeva had not expected to meet another elf, especially one such at this.

And then there was Shubure, or Gidum now, it seemed. She was not involved with the near-melee with the other Nomothians like, nor was she even told told to come with the priest. She had, instead, invited herself along, though it was likely she had been watching the events that were preparing to unfold beforehand. She seemed important, though more likely the daughter of somebody important. Still, she had a look about her. She ate, true enough, but Neeva could tell she took not joy from it. She did not particularly try to speak to any of her fellow diners either. She was in a room full of people, yet clearly alone... either by choice or position. But aside from all of that, there was still something unusual about her.. different... something Neeva had never encountered.

A table full of diners, all as unusual and out of place in this city as she was, and yet they were all brought together.. an omen that even the priest seemed to see. There would likely be many tales to tell from this in time.

"It is early and the blood of many of us ran hot with the anticipation of battle before we were... summoned. Some are recovering from too much drink, others are tired and some are annoyed. We do not have time for your words to drip like sap from a tree. So I advise you, Aldor Pol, worshipper of Mithra, to speak like the river... clear and swiftly.. lest temperatures begin to rise once more." Neeva offered sagely.

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