Sera tilted her head in confusion as she listened to the other women's words. "You can't leave? Doesn't he have access to messaging systems? . . .This Droge guy, I mean." She asked, looking to Fille.
Sera tilted her head in confusion as she listened to the other women's words. "You can't leave? Doesn't he have access to messaging systems? . . .This Droge guy, I mean." She asked, looking to Fille.
"He's an NPC, so no, he doesn't. Even if he did, he'd ignore them," Fille explained to her, with Audra nodding and sipping at her drink. "And if he knows I'm out of Rogueport, he'll bail the first chance he gets, even with the blackmail I have on him."
Sera blanched a bit. The thought of Fille staying in the city was off-putting, to say the least. But she did have Audra to look after her. So presumably, she'd be safe as houses. "Well, guess I can give you a bit of a sing-off, before I go. To wish you luck in your journey, whenever you get to leave the city." She said gently, grabbing her guitar. "You sure you don't want to dance?"
"Pretty sure," Fille confirmed dryly, looking back over at the rest of the tavern's occupants. "I'd rather not stand out in this crowd more than I have to."
She made a brief smile at Sera. "I appreciate the offer, however."
Sera nodded, grabbing her guitar and standing as the stage cleared behind her. Now or never. "I owe you a song. In that case. Looks like the mayor isn't showing?" She questioned of Audra after a smile to Fille.
"No, he's here," Audra corrected. "I saw him when we arrived. Old-looking bald guy in the back corner, the one in the red shirt."
Sera smiled brightly to both ladies, "Wish me luck?" She smirked as she backed away from the table, seeming to almost glide along the floor.
Fille gave Sera a little wave as she departed to the little upraised area of floorboards that served as the inn's makeshift stage. Several eyes followed the woman's path, including Audra's, but just as many ignored her, desiring more to drink their spirits or chat amongst their peers.
"Interesting girl you found there," Audra remarked to Fille, still watching her journey to her performance. "Not like the usual people we hang with. What's wrong with her?"
Fille sighed and spoke quietly, just enough for Audra to hear her over the low din. "She's dying. She has maybe three months left to live, and she wants to sing for every town she can before it happens."
Audra could only grimace. "Must be bad, if they put her in this world to deal with it."
"That's what I suspect too," Fille said pityingly. "So I hope she succeeds."
Even before she'd hopped up to the stage, she'd already begun to strum her guitar. A slow, steady melody building in the air, causing the patrons nearest her to cast curious, bemused or even annoyed glances. "My name is Sera. And I'm going to sing for you tonight. If there's a song you like, give out a call." she called out to the patrons as she strummed.
And then, she began to sing. And it was as though the stage had never left her. Or rather, the entire world was her stage. Her voice rose up, a soft lilt that seemed to almost caress their ears. The song itself didn't seem particularly special. A song of two young lovers, a field, a forest, a streambed and a smile. But there was something about how she sang, the sway of her body and the smile on her lips and in her eyes.
There on the stage, she practically glowed. A bard in her element, feet tapping along with the song. And when the song was done, the few patrons surrounding her had half-smiles on their lips. "Any suggestions?" She called out, strumming softly for a few moments more. If no one had any, she'd continue on with a new song, this one faster.
John's eyes flitted from one opening in the rocks to another, relaxing himself into a careful calm. His heartbeat was quiet and steady, but in his stance he felt it loudly even still. "Just one--" he began, but a blood-curdling scream ripped through the cold air, and he couldn't help but grimace. "Two," he added flatly. Those men wouldn't go down to just anything--whatever was out there would tear them apart if they separated again.
"Wolves!" one of his men cried, and he spun on the balls of his feet, sword cascading through the air into a dark mass that appeared almost from nowhere behind him. The blade connected, sinking deeply into the creature and killing it quickly. With a growl, he extracted his weapon and kicked the beast away as more began to come from the rocks, encircling them.
Wolves they could handle, though it would be costly. He had been told that these wolves were a good deal more dangerous than the troop you'd find in warmer lands, but these were all he knew. Whatever had killed his men would be more than a pack of wolves, though, to end it so quickly. He certainly hoped the woman really could fight.
Aleina shrugged her shoulders off-handedly, still fiddling with her teacup. "I told you I cleared my schedule, didn't I? Why--what do you have in mind? Hopefully not that compound--Elle'n wouldn't like it if you moved in without giving her good warning.
Terrel grimaced guiltily as the embarrassed man retreated. Well, it was his own fault if he couldn't keep his act together; she wasn't here to protect the runts. She could hardly protect herself.
"No, really, I'm fine," she said honestly, mostly just hoping they would go back to leaving her alone. All she really wanted was to just be noticed as little as possible.
"Then presumably she'll let me know. Not a peep from her. She mentioned she needed this done, it's in my best interests to get it done too. And soon." He said with a mixture of amusement and something more gentle. "Maybe we need marriage counseling. But I fear she'd shoot the counselor." He joked a moment later, running a finger along the rim of his tea-cup.
Stamarian 7th Armored Legion. Cher Plek Roadways
The grizzled trooper's eyes narrowed thoughtfully. She seemed---nervous? But then. She was on a military truck in the middle of a heavily armored convoy. So he couldn't fault her for the feeling. "As you wish." The trooper nodded, yawning and standing slowly. "You need anything, one of the boys can help. I'll be taking a walk." he trudged towards the edge of the truck, ready to hop off in a few moments.
Several voices spoke up at once, more than Fille had expected--several of the patrons had turned to listen to Sera as her show went on, and she hadn't quite noticed as she listened along with them. "She's good at catching attention, isn't she?" Audra commented, having noticed it herself. Fille could only nod--one way or another, Sera knew how to make herself stand out.
It was a little difficult to hear over the conflicting voices, but the other girls picked out some of the things they were requesting. Fille's face slowly flushed red--half of what they asked for was tawdry as all hell.
Sera replied to each cat-call and suggestion with a flash of a smile, her moves turning more seductive, suggestive and erotic as she strummed faster. Her foot tapping along with the beat as she started up a new song, this one considerably more risque.
Now she sang of a jilted lover and the man's attempts at revenge, escalating quickly and in many a lewd manner. Here a wry, knowing smile crept across her cheerful face as she sang and strummed through the next verse of the song.
Her eyes alighted upon Audra and Fille as she finished up he second song, smiling broadly. Here in her element, she seemed to command the stares of yet more patrons. Obviously, many looked half-ready to throttle her. But many more seemed willing to listen. She gave a half-bow to the two women, smiling goofily as she sang the last few words.
Edited by Ajax on February 22, 2015 at 6:19:04
Audra raised an eyebrow in amusement as Sera responded positively to the crowd, and the lewd song that came from the woman's lips only caught the attention of more patrons. "She is good!" she remarked to Fille. She saw that even the mayor was beginning to pay attention. "I can see why people are talking about her."
"Eh? They are?" Fille asked, glancing at her friend. Audra nodded.
"Cropped up on the forums when I went asking about Liam. She's been making a name for herself. He had to have taken notice."
"And it escaped Rogueport's informants?" Fille prodded, skeptical that they'd miss such a thing. Audra only shrugged.
"She's still a bard. Not of much interest to thieves unless she shows up here."
Sera beamed to the crowd, strumming along as she spoke out. "Maybe you've heard of me, maybe you haven't. They call me the Outlander Bard. And I'm trying to sing for the people of each village, town, and city I come to. Sort of a finale of the township's leader."
She strummed a bit faster, swaying her body. "Tell me to beat it. Or beat my face in with a chair, if you've half a mind. But if you'd rather hear me sing---well. Mister Mayor, anything you'd like to hear?" She called out.
The man started at being addressed so openly from the stage, blinking as he took in the sight of the foreign lass with the guitar. After a moment he recognized her from an earlier discussion that evening. A grimace crossed his face as he deliberated.
There were quite a few jeers and boos when the mayor finally asked for something considerably less ribald than what Sera had finished singing.
Fille only sighed at the antics. "Is it always like this here?" she asked of Audra. The other woman grinned and leaned back in her seat without an answer.
She gave a simple, gentle nod to the mayor. The man she'd come to see, and more importantly. To sing for. Bringing to bear almost two decades of rigorous vocal training and entertaining, she sang. This song a far more gentle, slow-building piece.
Her feet glided across the dirty, grime-covered floorboards, her hands strumming the guitar in a haunting melody as she sang of a father's dying words to his daughter. At first, the song seem depressing. But as she repeated the chorus, the evidence of a hopeful message, carried on by the daughter's heart, became clear. She beamed and smiled to the patrons, winding her way through the bar, making it seem to almost every patron that she sang only for them, even if only for a few precious, heavenly seconds.
Despite the grumbles of the patrons, things seem to move on smoothly, and soon even then those grumbles died down as the patron went back to their drinks and their discussions, half-listening to the songs and music that Sera provided as the tavern's ambiance.
"... so did you find out anything about what's going on with the Thetas?" Fille asked, turning towards Audra.
"Nothing concrete yet. Thetas keep to themselves, you know," Audra said. "Lots of talk and speculation, someone was going up and down about a prophecy, but everyone agrees that that Oracle guy set everyone after the Arcanum Relics. Beyond that? Not a clue."
Fille grimaced, glancing down at the grimy floor. "Too soon then."
"Pretty much. I'll keep my ears open about what's going on, send you anything that could benefit you, but for now there's nothing I can do for you Thetas."
"Just as well, since I have to stay in Rogueport until Droge's done," Fille said. "That'll be a wonderful vacation."
Audra laughed at her sarcasm. "Ah, you'll come to like it here!" she reassured her. "No stuffy rules like in the other towns."
With her songs ended and her quest, at least in this town, complete. Sera finally made her way back to the table, slinging her guitar over her back. She felt a touch giddy, smiling brighter, her face flush with the drug-like effect of singing for others.
"Thank you," She said to Fille and Audra. "This would have been a lot harder, if it weren't for you two."
Fille smiled at the girl's gratitude, while Audra nodded. "Happy to help, especially when it means I have another favor that Fille owes me," she replied, causing Fille's smile to falter for a moment. "You certainly have a talent for this."
"It's too bad that the Mistress wasn't here," Fille said, deciding to ignore Audra's jibe for the time being. "Guess the mayor will have to suffice."
"What're you talking about?" Audra asked, glancing at her friend. "I told you they were both here."
Aleina quirked an eyebrow at the Stamarian man, wondering if he was more interesting than he let on to. "Oh? Did you know Elle'n well, before her father was killed?" That had certainly caused a buzz. 'Project Theta Kills the Viceroy of Tsuminar' the headlines had read, and countless thousands everywhere had hoped against hope Stamaria might begin to unravel at the seams. Even still, no one knew if the majority of Stamarian command were NPCs, players, or Thetas, and she doubted that would change anytime soon. For most, they were little more than mythical figures--NPC or Player, no one ever really considered their ability to come back, because the idea of them dying in the first place was all but ridiculous. They were still investigating how Gladish had been culled from the herd, but no doubt something sinister was at work; more chances he had been killed from within Stamaria than from outside.
But it didn't matter much right now, least of all to her. Stamarians were all rotten to the core, she was convinced. They took up a good deal too much space, hardly leaving anyone else room to breath, so she took her chances to jab them in the side, when she could.
The wolves fell around the group, their corpses hitting the ground in a smoldering wreck, dissolving before half a dozen heartbeats to make room for the next one. One with their weapons, the men shredded the monsters with experience, but a dread edged at all of them. What fueled the assault? The wolves were not stupid creatures--anything but, really. They attacked when they had advantage enough for victory. Even now, though, there couldn't be many left in this pack, but something was on the move; they could all feel it.
"Time to move," the green-clad man spoke levelly, loud enough to hear. They couldn't outrun the wolves to the village, but they could make it to the foot of the mountain, where things began to clear, and then they could see what they were up against. "Bromling, take lead. Keep it steady until they falter, then we'll run."
A few of the men grunted, and their circle shifted. Swords still flaring out to meet their marks, the fighters took careful steps over the rocks, preparing for a tedious return trip. Almost within the first step, though, the wolves halted, a few whimpering as one-by-one they backed away from the swords, turned tail and ran.
One or two of the men laughed triumphantly, but most stayed silent, and all of them shifted uneasily, the sizzling noise of the wolf flesh on the stone fading away into the wind within moments. They had stopped again, each man listening closely, but John suspected there would not be much time left. It was certainly time to move, now.
"Are you injured from your descent?" he asked the woman suddenly, wondering if she could run or if he would have to carry her. He had seen no limp thus far, but she seemed a proud one.
Taking the moment to fire off a couple warning shots back at the wolves, hastening their retreat, Atalanta took a brief glance at her health meter and nodded to John. "I took a few dings but I'm still mobile," she told him. Her HP had taken a few good hits, but thankfully she hadn't suffered any crippling damage. She could still hold her own if she stayed out of melee range. "Don't worry about me. I'm pretty sure I can keep up with the rest of your boys."
"Good," John replied, taking a moment to undo a rag on his belt and use it to wipe off the blade of his sword before sheathing it. To whatever made wolves flee, swords would be no good. He opened his mouth to give an order, but one of the men beat him to it.
"Golem!" came the scream, and John spun in that direction.
Towering above them, descending from the rocks and hurtling in their direction, a monster had begun an avalanche of sorts. Three times as tall as a man and five as wide, it looked almost like a person, except its face was gruesomely contorted and where flesh should have been, stone and wood wrapped between each other in coarse sinew. No, blades would be no good at all.
Before any of them could so much as move, the rapidly advancing monster had easily picked up a boulder with a single hand and hurtled it at the group, a roar bellowing from its maw of a mouth that chilled John to the bones. The men scrambled to move, but an instant later the boulder found a mark, colliding into one of the warriors with a sickening crunch that threw him straight into a wall.
"Run!" one of them finally managed to bellow and, like sand in the wind, they began to scatter, and it was wise that they did. A golem could only hunt so many as were in front of it, and this foe could easily kill the whole lot of them in a few swift strokes. Only, one of them would have to stay behind to slow it down, and so John's feet remained planted.
"What the hell...?" Atalanta breathed as she spun at the shout of "Golem!"
The woman faltered for a moment as she took in the sight of the monstrous construct. A crude amalgamation of stone and bark towered over all of them, as large as a building and as angry as a dragon. The brief instant she had been stalled was all it needed to kill one of the men with startling ease.
When someone shouted for the others to run, she didn't need to be told twice. She spun and took a few steps, but something caught her eye. John's green-clad form didn't move from its spot. She turned to get a better look, and saw from his face that wasn't fear or shock that kept him rooted. It became quite apparent what he was doing.
Stupid macho idiot!
She spun back around and crossed the distance to him, grabbing him roughly by the shoulder to grab his attention. "You guys are tough but you're not big enough to kill that thing on your own!" she told him, raising her voice to be heard over the wind and the golem's incoming rampage.
Sera's expression faltered at Audra's joke. Or was it a joke? Was she really going to cause more havoc for Fille, because of Sera? And then the next comment---
"The mistress was here? Guess--I got to sing for her. Shame she couldn't suggest something though." She finally ended with a slightly saddened shrug.
"Oh god's no. I kept up on her and her father. But never knew her. I get the distinct feeling though that she's either going to end up ruling the world. Or dead in a ditch in three months. I'd much prefer the first option. Hence, trying to make myself useful for the moment." Larent replied with a smile.
Something seemed---not quite off about her so much as he seemed to annoy her. Which wasn't all that uncommon. But he had the rather distinct feeling it was because of what faction he belonged to, rather than his personality.
He carefully straightened his teacup and saucer. Expression growing a touch more serious. "If she's half as good as I think she is. She'll either know we're doing it today. Or signal me to stop. Life's a game. yes?"
"Oh, don't worry about that, Sera," Audra comforted her. "I liked what you sang anyway, and I was impressed you got these louts' attention away from their beer. That's not easy to accomplish."
Fille blinked, then glanced back at Audra. Did she just...?
"... you're the Mistress of Thieves, Audra?" she asked before she realized it, her voice just barely above that of a shocked whisper.
Audra only grinned back at her, then reached into a pocket and pulled out a pendant engraved with a curious symbol--the same thing she must've shown to the bartender when she got Sera her gig. "Finally caught on, did ya?"
"This one is, anyway," Aleina mused, considering what Larent was offering. Today? Elle'n had said he was going to run the operation, more or less, but there had always been a sense that she would command it from on high. If anyone had been born to be a Stamarian dictator, it would be her, and something about that thought gave Aleina a small smirk she couldn't quite shake.
"She's not all-powerful or anything. If she was, she'd hardly have gotten launched onto the sidewalk like she did. As much as she'd like to lord herself over us, she's not a queen." Not yet, anyway. And she never would be, if Aleina got her say in it, but she doubted Elle'n would trust her so far. No, this was only as personal as the uniforms, right now.
"Okay, let's do it. If she throws a fit and disowns us, I bet whatever we're going after is worth plenty enough even if she ditches us. Not that I think she will--too much on the line, right now. The only pieces Elle'n can afford to sacrifice right now are bits of her pride. She said it was more than a two-man job, though. I've got some talents, but being in two places at once isn't one of them."
The golem dug its feet into the ground, sliding to a thunderous halt as the men bolted in every direction, confused for a moment as to which one to chase after. John watched it closely, even while listening to Atalanta's words, ready to spring into action the moment that creature made up its mind.
"I know," he responded, quietly now. He wasn't ready for the creature to target him while she was still here; it would defeat the purpose. "I also know that whatever stirred this pocket of evil is headed to Thimbelatch, and our home as is as good as rubble if this creature kills all of us out here. Someone needs to stay behind. Who you are, though, and what you're doing and where you're from--these things I don't know, but I suspect you didn't come here to die. There's no cowardice in you running, just as sure as there's no courage in me staying. It's simply what must be done."
The golem shifted and looked at the two of them, snarling all the while, and John shifted his feet, "Go now or die with me here. That much is up to you."
Atalanta grimaced behind her shredded cloak and shook her head in exasperation. Bravado without all of the fanfare of bravado was the worst kind of it. She gave her gun a quick once-over to make sure it was ready for what was coming.
"I have a better idea," she told John, looking back up at the construct they faced. "You stay alive long enough to let me figure out how to kill this thing. You think you can manage that?"
Sera tried to come to terms with the revelation. Weighing options and seeking understanding . . . what was the point of secrecy? Safety? Yet, she ruled the town. But why mislead her friend? And yet, anything she could say would most likely hinder the situation.
"Why?" She finally blurted out. "I understand not telling the crazy bard. But you two are friends, aren't you?"
He stood, glimmer of a smile crossing his lips, though never showing quite in his eyes. "I've some resources of my own. Two of mine will be joining us. Try not to murder them. Good Stamarian help is hard to come by." He winked, spinning on his heels and heading for the door.
"The less people are aware that the Mistress is a player, the better, right?" Audra countered, leaning back in her seat as she put away the pendant. "Besides, if people knew she was friends with the Mistress of Thieves, all kinds of unsavory types would be hounding her to bum a favor off of her for me."
Fille grimaced at the logic. Audra was right--she really didn't want scum coming after her to get them in contact with Rogueport's leader.
"I wasn't actually planning on revealing it to either of you, but... well, special circumstances and all," the Mistress continued with a shrug.
"How'd you even become the Mistress?" Fille asked quietly. "I thought the Mistress of Thieves was always an NPC."
She could only sigh at the question. "I used to work for her. Made it up the ranks and became her right-hand woman. I was satisfied with that position. But I think she got nervous about my ability in the business, so she had me assassinated."