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Neil felt like he was in trouble.

Generally when he broke out of jail, it didn't involve someone from one of the Syndicates, and even past that, he usually had a better success rate. The charming ne'er-do-well was nestled in an alcove just beside a stone gargoyle, three stories off the ground. His teeth were clamped on a steel thread he'd procured, tying it at the base of one of the nails he had peeled off the boards from the one of the outerlying buildings by the prison. He breathed through his nose while he kept the thread steady, trying to pick the lock of the manacles on his wrists. These were harder to pick than the last locks he had to slip out of.

His thoughts drifted back to what led to this predicament...

Neil had spent his time as a courier, ever since his engineering degree was taken from him for 'endangering the populace.' The job sort of fell in his lap. He had boundless energy, great stamina, could slip through crowds and make it across urban centers quicker than anyone, and as long as he was paid well he could mostly keep his curiosity in check. Unfortunately, he got so good at it that one of the syndicates had hired him as a mule, which meant he was paid an above-average salary to deliver goods and letters to high valued customers and criminal partners, and at the end of his contract, he would be assassinated in order to keep his dealings quiet. The syndicate had figured he was too stupid to know that bit at the end, but Neil had been around the block. He had made sure not to complete his fifth and final delivery, and instead look at the contents of what happened to be a letter for one of the syndicate lieutenants, containing information on a new shipment of artifacts to be brought to the residence of the local magister to be studied or placed on display, or even to be used for state interests. Neil burned the letter after memorizing the contents and fled, though the syndicate did the smartest thing they could do, something Neil hadn't expected:

They called the city watch on him and locked him up for a 'destruction of property' charge, where the criminals could pick him off at their leisure with one of their prison contacts. Unfortunately for both Neil and the syndicate, neither knew Neil knew the whereabouts of the shipment and no one else in a hundred miles did, which meant not only was it lost to the syndicate, but Neil couldn't use that as leverage to keep himself alive. So, he waited to be attacked by one of the prisoners in the cells, and subsequently did the other 'law abiding' decision and tipped the guards off with a lie, that he and whomever was set to attack him would use it as a distraction to flee, citing himself as an unwilling participant. It worked, and as soon as the attack happened by a oft-broken nosed man with a hidden blade, Neil was watched closely enough for it to be broken up in no time. As they hauled away the would-be killer, Neil had used the opportunity to check the guard shifts and the cell mechanism on the lock, and the next night he broke out and shimmied up one of the manors in the city.

He laughed when he got the lock to unclasp his manacle, rubbing his wrists and grinning. The upside to the situation was no one knew where he was, it would take the syndicate another day to figure out he was even gone, unless there were others watching him in prison. And even if that were true, no one knew where he was now. They would need a wizard of some skill to divine his location, and he didn't think they thought him worth that.

Well, Neil wasn't a bad planner when he wanted to be, but he generally winged it regardless, so he decided he was going to spend the night in as comfortable as a place as he could...

In the abandoned wing of the manor he sat atop, so he got to his feet and found his way over to one of the balconies. It almost looked romantic were it not for the gothic horrors etched into the stone and the obsidian colored door he broke into. Opening it up, it wasn't so stuffy, but it was as empty as he had expected. But that didn't exactly satisfy him, even for one so carefree. He stepped into the large bedroom, letting his eyes get accustomed to the darkness. A queen sized bed and a foyer-like desk covered in finery, an a cupboard filled with what looked to be books and old relics were before his eyes, and a few curvaceous oil lamps placed in a set on a porcelain desk.

"Nice room..." he mused, continuing past into the corridor bedecked with paintings the contents of which he couldn't make out in the dark. Perhaps it wasn't just the wing that was no longer in use, but he wasn't going to take chances and passed by some expensive but rundown furniture, opening every door. He found long galleries, more bedrooms, drawing rooms, and even a library. It was large too. He wasn't exactly a scholar, but he read from time to time.

To cover his bases, he found the door leading into the greater estate and closed it, and then stacked as many chairs against it as possible, placing a candelabra on the hinges for good measure. He clapped his hands as if they were dusty, and went back to the original room to set down his things and eat some stolen bread.
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Some people, most people perhaps, moved from task to task in life, fumbling along without every really dignifying the work. A smaller number of people, artisans and guildsman took some pride in there craft. A few people though, master artists, generals, perhaps some politicians, took their craft to a level of real art. Assassins also fit the bill. Oh not the dockside thugs who knifed a man for a handful of coppers, not the worksman like killers who took contracts from the Skulls with their writs and codes, but the true top tier, but the true paragons of the craft, they took some pride in their work. And so, when the syndicate had asked Calliope Sal Tayrin to do a job, it didn't matter that the pay was low. It didn't matter that they were calling in the marker she owed them for past favors. It didn't matter that the target was a two bit thief she had never heard of. It was the work that mattered, and the pride she took in doing it well.

Tracking him had been a simple enough matter for one steeped in The Secrets. There had been enough hair and blood in the prison cell to fashion a tracking spell. The manor was a nice touch. Who would think to look for a fugitive in an empty and decaying palace. In theory the place belonged to some magister or another. It was required that a wizard maintained a residence in the city in order to vote on the council and so there were many such dwellings, empty other than on paper. Of course the definition of 'maintain' was rather a fluid one. Overall she decided she liked the manor, and she just ADORED the gargoyles.

The first thing the target knew was that iron hard hands were seizing him. To his credit the thief was fast, he was awake instantly twisting and trying to get free. The massive gargoyle was unconcerned by the targets kicks and strikes. It was, afterall, made of stone. Calliope sat on a chair in the corner, dressed in a red and black corset and skirt, more suited to a ball than an assassination. She buffed at one blood red fingernail with a file, her perfectly quaffed hair shining in the moonlight that poured through the window. By now the gargoyle had lifted the struggling target up, one arm coiled around his chest, the other closing around his neck in a headlock. The spell which had equipped the brute with magical silence faded and its movements were suddenly counterpointed by a sound like rocks grinding in a distant avalanche. Calliope lifted her fingers to the light and inspected her manicure, the target now totally imobilized. She snapped her fingers and with a minor effort of will, the lamps and candles lit, filling the room with soft radiance. She stood up slowly, her reflection pale skinned and dark haired in the mirror on the wall, angular cheekbones standing out in the firelight.

"Well," she said with a satisfied smile, crossing to her immobile prisoner, the gargoyle now the same motionless statue it had been when she had collected it outside. The daub of blood on its forehead that had animated it now dry and flaking. Of course its new configuration included one apprehended target. She waved a hand and the mirrors reflection changed, summoning up an image of the target taken from the mind of one of the syndicate flunkies she had interviewed. It was a little blurry, as memories often were, but she took a moment to confirm that the target before her matched the one in the mirror. The mirror target was a little less squirmy, but she was confident she had her man.

She sat down on the edge of the bed in front of him and crossed her legs, smoothing her skirt out.

"Any last requests?" she inquired politely.
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Neil likely should have taken spellcasters into account, but this had been his one chance to rest in a bed before he had fled the city, though truth be told, he actually hadn't planned on leaving the city for a good week or two. He was carefree to a fault, sometimes. Now he felt like it was going to get him killed. However, despite the rude awakening and the manhandling by an animated gargoyle, the assassin that was going to finish the job was easy on the eyes, to say the least. He certainly could have been killed by someone far less pleasant, even if there was nothing truly pleasant about her now that he looked at her plainly. She was classically, hauntingly beautiful, but there was a viciousness and a maddening lust for what he could only guess was power in her eyes. Somehow, he felt if she laughed, her face would have grown contorted and have shadows cast along her cheekbones to look positively evil. Oddly enough, that just made him more interested. The corset helped marvelously as well.

"What a fucking pair..." He whispered, more to himself than the woman in question. Luckily he said it so quietly during his struggle, it sounded like something nonsensical. He swallowed and cleared his throat, blinking. Her question caught him off guard, and he felt it was because she was entirely confident he couldn't escape. Maybe he couldn't, but he hadn't exactly tried everything. He always got out of situations like this. However, he began to follow the line of thinking her question brought. If he was about to die, what did he want? His belly was full, he had pissed off a lot of people, and now he was looking at what had to be a dark sorceress...

"Yeah, uh, can I take you out to dinner?" He asked her nonchalantly, as if the whole situation except her was blasé. His hair was disheveled from his rest and the following scuffle, but he fixed it in the most awkward way imaginable, one arm going over the arm of the gargoyle around his neck, whilst his other hand had to snake around its entire midsection.

Of course, he would pay for dinner. It was only fair considering she halted her job for his sake, but goddamn he wanted to go out with someone as interesting as her, even if magic sort of freaked him out. He was willing to try anything once, after all.

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Calliope had heard all manner of requests in her time. Most often they begged for their lives, that was tedious and impossible of course. Sometimes they had final wishes she could honor, word taken to loved ones, body left at a particular place. Occasionally they even surprised her, one woman had asked that she kill the client who had hired her. Luckily for her reputation, people rarely thought of that one. In her entire career though, no one had ever asked her to dinner before. She was momentarily flummoxed and that really wouldn't do. There could be no art, no pride in the job if she were left without a rejoinder. Plus, the balls on this one! She smiled inspite of herself, people rarely impressed her. A slow smile curled her lips.

"Now who is the one with the pair?" she asked, standing up and walking in a circle around the gargoyle and her prisoner, skirt whisking. The gargoyle was impassive now, holding Neil tightly in its stony grip.

"Alright," she said at last.

"Pick a place and I'll meet you," she said after a moment. She rolled her finger over the ruby ring on her finger, pricking herself and drawing drop of blood.

"Oh and Neil... I wouldn't think about running if I were you, I do hate to be stood up." The gargoyle's skin began to run and within moments it had collapsed into a pile of finely divided sand. By the time the dust had settled, Calliope was gone as though she had never existed.
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"Wait! How do I..." He yelled, before his eyes going wide, realizing he was still in someone else house, expansive though it was. His next words were quieter but no less incredulous. "...pick a place...without you...around to be told..."

Does that mean she was watching him twenty four, seven? Would she see when he changed himself? What if he was cold? No, she probably just divined where he was at a certain time and found him, so she would probably do the same later. Though they hadn't set a time, either. Obviously it would be tomorrow night, but she didn't seem like the kind of woman to be kept waiting, so he should probably make it an early dinner. Well, if he was going to convince her to not kill him (and maybe get lucky) he was going to need to look really good. But where was he going to get a suit?

Neil turned his head slowly to the closet, recalling he was in an extravagant manor likely with at least a dozen closets full of brilliantly tailored suits to wear for just such an occasion. "Oh yeah, that works out." He said to himself, moving over to open it up. He yawned, realizing just how tired he still was. Well, she did just rip you out of bed in the middle of the night he thought. Neil decided to head back to sleep and get to things first thing in the morning.




18 hours later...

Kalx'molaris was a large city, with stone walls surrounding every corner except the river docks and walls of the Moribund Mountains. The city was a marvel of masonry. Every stone was tiled or set purposefully, every work of art a true work of art, and some of the greatest alchemical and mechanical guilds were located in the vast bosom of the city. The nobles were some of the richest people in the land, which helped them fund their vendettas and syndicates. Such expensive building programs and expansive structures made it hard to find something that would stand out or impress, so Neil chose a nice bistro he had found last winter; a great quality establishment with a penchant for appetizers, blood pudding, venison, and steak, and their cocktails were very good. Though Neil enjoyed the plain Dwarven rum unless he was feeling festive.

The sun hadn't fully lowered, but he stood in the shadow of one of the Cathedrals, just a few meters away from the Grim & Gallant, a warm, open door restaurant, with patio seating he thought she might enjoy as it overlooked the river. G&G wasn't very well known by the city's elite, but it was a favorite for well-to-do tourists and middle class merchants wanting to splurge their successful transactions with a stylish dinner.

Neil, surprisingly, had only taken a few items from the manor's closet. The polished shoes, the leather belt, and the trousers. He had paid for the short sleeved jerkin, and he had stolen the frock he wore over it. He called it 'fancy casual.' Just extravagant enough to accentuate his manliness, yet casual enough to highlight his devil-may-care charm. At least, he hoped that was the reaction. Either way, she was going to get a paid meal from the continent's most eligible bachelor, and after (or before) she was going to kill him. Least he could do was make her regret it, if she carried it out.
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Calliope had been watching Neil for most of the day, the same tracking spell she had used to locate him in the manor allowing her to follow unobtrusively. The aid of various glamors allowed her take on the appearances of those she had killed which by now gave her a considerable library to choose from. It became obvious quickly that Neil didn't intend to run. That was smart if surprising. Perhaps he was more than the low level mule she had been lead to believe. A part of her wondered what he had done to be marked for death, though she suprresed the curiosity. It wasn't part of the work that she knew what the target had done to deserve a visit.

Convinced that he wasn't about to attempt to flee on the next ship, she made her own preparations. As the seat of the Arcane Council, Kalx'molaris was a nexus for trade. The flow of silk, gold, gems and fine cloth from all over the Sundered Sea meant that the seamstress and tailors were among the finest in the world. Calliope found what she wanted at one of the most exclusive. She selected a velvet corset of dark leather and dragonbone, if anything, tighter than the one she had worn the previous night. Over this she added a long dress of scales of gleaming black iron, wafer thin and polished to a sheen that rippled sinuously when she moved. It hung off one shoulder, slinking down to reveal the swell of her left breast while maintaining her modesty. A long slit up the left side allowed her to maintain her mobility, as well as providing a glimpse at the black lace stockings that climbed up and out of sight. She finished the ensemble with black leather boots which reached her knees, laced tightly to compensate for the slightly over generous heels.

She appeared by Neil's side as suddenly as she had the previous night. Materializing out of the night like a wraith. He turned his head slightly and almost managed to conceal his flinch when he realized she was there. Her black hair hung in generous curls which had gleamed in the light and had been held up with a fine net of gold and silver threads.

"A good choice," she said in conversational reference to the restaurant.
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Neil blinked, though he did well to keep his composure, as well as to keep his eyes solely on hers and not exploring her body beyond a cursory glance at her dress. Neil knew the way to impress a woman and to help receive not only her interest, but her respect, was not to oggle. And it was odd to him to make sure he didn't do that here, because this woman was preparing to kill him in cold blood after they had dinner. Still, he had seen his fair share of beautiful women in his life, but she took the cake. Even looking into her eyes, he was getting lost in an abyss. For some reason he imagined screams of terror cut off by the sounds of guillotines as he looked into her eyes, but he thought they were pretty enough to ignore the potential hallucinations for now.

"I figured it was your style," He said with a soft grin. "It's my style too. I do think-"

Neil was cut off as rough hands grabbed him from behind, a look of confusion marring his face for the briefest moment before he was spun around, the hands now gripping his coat at the front seams, almost lifting Neil off the ground. Neil himself wasn't weak or short, but the man that held him was huge. He stood head and shoulders taller than Neil, which meant Calliope likely only reached his chest. His brown hair was closely cropped, and his eyes looked made of iron. He wore a brigandine that fit him like a snug vest. He was a jymen, one of the demi-men with giant's blood. Pariahs of society, most worked as soldiers, bodyguards, or bouncers. There was a chill that escaped his lips when he breathed, as if his anatomy was inverse to that of normal men.

Neil didn't even take his hands out of his pockets.

"Oh wow, I thought you were dead." Neil remarked, surprise evident in his voice. He was fully composed and unblinking, but he was still held off the ground by his coat. It could easily go wrong for him, at least by appearances.

"You first," The jymen said with vengeance dripping off his lips, his voice deep and foreboding. The half-man's cauliflower nose bulged when he spoke, evidently having been broken and reset at least six times. Neil could account himself as one of those times, he remembered. The thief smiled, showing his teeth as if he were speaking to an old friend. "You have been gone for most of the month. You better have a good explanation for this, Edwards."

"Look, I told you I had your money. I still have a week left to pay, right?" He reasoned, banking on a jymen's tendency to single-minded focus. They weren't paragons of virtue, but they honored contracts and agreements. It gave them a reputation for loyalty. As it stood though, Neil felt a small uneasiness. Not from the giant threatening him, but from something else. He didn't know if his date was growing impatient, or if she felt threatened, but he could only imagine that if she got pissed off, it might spell the end for the jymen, and Neil wanted a nice dinner, not a bloodbath. He had to appreciate the irony of his executioner saving him from another one, however. "Listen Hargond, I disappeared because I got arrested, and now I'm out. You'll get your money at the right time, I'm sorry I haven't caught up in awhile." The words sank in, and Neil saw the moving parts behind his eyes. "Look, I'd love to chat, but I have a lady friend to entertain. We'll talk about this later, ok?"

The jymen's eyes flicked to Calliope, and then back to Neil. The thief finally took his hands out of his pockets and raised them up to ease the large man, and slowly he was put back down on his feet. "Cool, now, we'll meet at the right place in a week-"

"Do not be late," Hargond warned, glowering one last time before turning his back on the couple, fading into the gloom of the coming evening.

Neil fixed his collar and smoothed his hair. "Sorry about that. Did a job with a few lads and only two of us made it. That was the other one." He said, and held his arm out for her to take. Once she did, Neil led the way into the bistro, the warmth radiating off the torches. Neil took out his coinpurse, stacked with royals, and placed it on the counter. "That outta buy us the evening, right?"

The Maître d' looked flummoxed, grabbing the coinpurse and stammering if Neil was certain, before counting out the coins. Neil didn't bother to wait past the fifth gold royal, giving Calliope and wink and escorting her to one of the outdoor tables overlooking the river. The table was oaken, with two cushioned chairs opposite one another, set beside a backdrop of the fading sun. He pulled her chair out for her before taking his seat. "You know, don't take this the wrong way, but you're the most metal woman I've ever met and I barely know you. So how about I ask you a question, and you ask me one, yeah?"

Multiple server approached, eager to get the order of whatever Neil and his lady friend would have. Their boss had likely spoken to them personally to wait on the two hand and foot, and once the two of them got their drinks, Neil asked her. "How did a dark sorceress become an assassin for hire?"
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Calliope accepted the dark red wine she was handed gracefully, sipping approvingly at the dry, sour vintage. It must have been something south from Kadar or Imbresh, though she hadn't asked. The servers were evidently giving them a moment to consider their orders and were maintaining a proper distance. It was an odd sensation to talk openly about what she did, so much of her life was kept in the shadows, either by necessity or by design. Well considering she was going to kill him after the date, she supposed there was no harm in sharing.

“Well, the choice of career options for blood magicians is smaller than you think. As you probably know, blood magic is a forbidden school, so none of the legitimate Magic Guilds will teach it.” Most people with magical potential had a particular school to which they were drawn, perhaps evocation and divination and could manage spells in other schools only with difficulty, if at all. Blood magic was a potent and extremely rare calling, most people who were born with the gift managing to kill themselves very early on. Like its darker cousin, necromancy, blood magic was forbidden because of the terrible and insidious perils it posed. In eons passed there had been Empires carved out by wizards who spilled the blood of thousands to power their great and terrible rites. These days the Arcane Assembly suppressed blood magic users, somewhat hypocritically as most of them had tried a few spells at some point. The Temple Cities were worse of course, sending out the Gilded or the Dustmen to snuff out blood magicians wherever they could be found. Calliope had been born with the gift, but her ability in other schools was too slight that she could ever hope to gain an education in the arcane arts, guilds only being interested in those they thought would be able to repay the debt in coin or political influence.

“When my gifts first manifested themselves I was taken in by a cult, they used me as an assassin for their own ends, got me some basic training,” she continued taking another sip of wine. Most of that training had been in the form of dusty grimoires, half of which had been ancient religious propaganda and the other half of which had been riddled with errors and misinformation.

“Eventually, they wanted services I wouldn’t provide, and I decided that I could make my own way without all the tiresome theology.” That had been a revelation to them. They had other mages among their little coven of course but she had been with them for years at that point, ample time to learn the subtle truths hidden among all the pious nonsense.

“Plus,” she added in a conspiratorial whisper, “it is really fun.” She leaned back on her chair slightly, enjoying herself more than she would have thought.



“What about you Neil, what was it that you did that caused the Syndicate to cash in one of the markers that I owe them? I don’t mean to boast but I am rather an exclusive service, they don’t whistle me up for every little thing.”
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Neil listened intently, his chin on his hand, elbow on the edge of the table. In some places it was considered poor manners, but from where he grew up it signified curiosity. He hadn't even touched his whiskey yet, though consciously he was waiting on food before he started downing any drinks. Midway through her conversation, Neil ordered the steak and mashed potatoes ladled with imported oil he heard was quite good, then they returned to their discussion and he simply watched her again. It bothered him how she could be dangerously sexy and yet adorable at the same time, and it bothered him more than he thought that way when she was planning on executing him. Well, he had a plan for that, but it was the thought that counts. He was taken out of his googly eyes when the food arrived, and she asked her question.

"That's fascinating. I bet you get the same rush I do when I'm..." He thought for a moment, then shrugged. "Well, doing what I shouldn't be doing. Guess that's a character flaw of mine."

He took the knife and fork and began to cut the steak. Wisely, he hadn't brought a weapon in case she scanned him somehow, but the restaurant kindly provided their own weaponry, even if was a last resort. If this darkly beautiful sorceress wanted to kill him, he was going to make it difficult in more ways than one. He gestured toward her with the knife. "Going right to the big questions? You're up front, I like that," he said, popping a small slice of steak in his mouth. "Oh, I like the steak too." He added as an after thought.

He ate another slice and then washed it down with alcohol, enjoying the tingling tastes that sparked in his mouth. The thief wiped his mouth with one of the cloths provided, very happy with the meal. "You know, I was going to save that until the end of the dinner because it was going to be what convinced you to not kill me, but I can tell you the crux of it to get you interested," He remarked with a grin and a wink. Beside them, a ship slowly floated up the deep river that bisected Kalx'Molaris. On its hull, reaching from the depths, were huge scratch marks only something like a kraken or sea dragon could make.

"So you likely know I was a mule for them. I did well, I think. I'm pretty good at getting in and out of places and situations, so it was the dream job, for a bit. I guess they thought I was a bit too good, and a little less than trustworthy." He mused, sipping his drink. "Well, once they decided to get rid of me, I got wind of it and took the last job they thought owed to them. But instead of delivering the letter, I looked at the contents inside, memorized it, and then burned the package." He began to twirl the knife betwixt his fingers, not threateningly, but in a playful manner. "My mistake was not knowing how I would let them know I was the only thing left alive that knew the location of what they wanted. And as you've probably guessed it, I will instead extend an offer of partnership to you."

Neil smiled, pleased with himself. Even if he died, it would be interesting. He leaned forward and gave her a surreptitious whisper in return. "But before you know what the package is or accept the terms, let's just have some fun."

The dark haired scoundrel cleared his throat and sat back, holding his glass up to be refilled. "I find the possibility of death spices things up, particularly on a date. Besides, I'm still curious. Let's say you finish up your favor with the syndicate, are you going to stay in the assassin business or try something else? Not to be stereotypical, but stories always talk about goodly wizards becoming scholars or advisors, and bad ones usurping kings. Have any lofty ambitions beside wiping my handsome face off the face of the world?"
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Bargaining, it was a predictable if slightly disappointing tactic. It wasn’t really Neil’s fault of course, he didn’t know the rules in her mind. One didn’t simply abandon a job because another job presented itself. That would be sloppy, and she couldn’t abide sloppiness. Fortunately he didn’t press the matter then and there as he might have done. Calliope at her steak. It was very bloody and she cut it into small neat bites before popping each into her mouth. The vegetables sat ignored, unworthy of attention. She wondered if it had occurred to Neil to poison her meal, that would be an interesting choice, if a little unorthodox for a thief, and besides, when would he have found the time to arrange it? Unless of course he had a standing arrangement to poison dinner guests with the restaurant. That was an interesting prospect, but seemed unlikely to come up enough to be practical. A good way of doing business, poison, something of a challenge compared to a blade or a spell, she should use it more often.



“Well,” Calliope began, reaching down and lifting a napkin to blot the slight accumulation of blood from her rare steak away from the corner of her mouth.

“I suppose that my ambitions are the standard sort, extract vengeance from those who owe it to me, establish my place in the world,” she lifted her wine glass and took a sip. First on her list was the cult which had exploited her, then the mages who had trafficked her to them in the first place. The thought warmed her and her lips turned up into a predatory smile. Those might have seemed like little ambitions, but the members of the cult were widespread and well placed within society, burning them all out would not be easy, but a task was a task and Calliope was meticulous when it came to carrying them out. The skills she had honed as an assassin would be very useful in that regard.

“Oh, and I want to live forever,” she added as though it was an afterthought, continuing to eat as though she had said no more than she wished one day to visit the Temple City of Ivashti.

“What about you?” she asked around a mouthful of bloody steak.

“What were your big plans going to be?” The unspoken assumption being ‘assuming I wasn’t going to kill you when this date concludes’.
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"So nothing major then?" Neil quipped with his easy smile. Despite impending death, he didn't seem too concerned or nervous. Perhaps the old adage of candles burning half as long blaze twice as bright, but then again Neil didn't take such things to heart. He had spent much of his youth listening to older, learned men talk when he wasn't out with his friends, absorbing knowledge like a sponge, without having the proper life experience to give him clarity. It made much of his life a 'fill in the blank' experience. The longer he lived, the more the knowledge he had was connected like lines to dots. Meanwhile, he did his best to bullshit his way through the rest of it.

"You know, I'm not really in 'the know' with magic, but I'm assuming you don't mean necromancy and...the whole, becoming a skeleton thing. That sort of problem has plagued people for years, right?" He asked.

"I think you'll find I'm quite ambitious," She retorted, a dark twinkle in her eye. The sorceress raised an eyebrow, indicating Neil answer her question.

"My big plans?" He asked, pondering her question. It was something he often asked himself. Neil wasn't a long term planner or schemer, at least not in the traditional sense. When he put his mind to plots, he did fairly well if he was honest, but as for his goals? Women did like goal oriented men, after all. He couldn't just say nothing. "Well I find the establishment of the world to be pretty corrupt and ineffectual in retaining order or providing fairness to anyone, so I suppose my main goal would be to topple the established order and have an enjoyable time doing it. But I don't entirely know how to conceptualize that, you know? You-" He gestured toward her with his hand. "-have a deadliness about you that I couldn't match, so amassing as much money by nefarious means is generally my goal. I'm pretty good at it too, considering they hired you to kill me."

Neil turned from her and looked at the setting sun, the barest sliver of red light receding past the buildings across the deep river that cut through the city. Neil knew it was time. He felt it in his gut, even if it was going to be a bit dodgy. At least he could appreciate the little things, like the setting sun. Most people didn't stop to garner what they could out of life, he found.

"But I find I like to live moment to moment." He said, and then sighed. He changed his demeanor to show a hint of regret and trepidation, shaking his head and reaching into his jacket to take out the poison Hargond had slipped into his pocket. He could tell she tensed, but when she saw he had a small vial, there was less immediate cause for concern, at least to her own well being. He gave her a smug grin, heroically pushing off his fear of mortality to go out with style. "Speaking of which, this was actually a nicer date than I had anticipated. Usually, when it comes to men, your dick lies to you. But mine told the gods' honest truth this time. It's too bad death has to get in the way."

With that, he placed the vial to his lips and downed the tyroxanide like a shot, right before her eyes. Whether she knew what it was or wasn't, he didn't know, so he decided to give her a small explanation. He cleared his throat as the pungent aroma wafted out of the bottle. He placed it on the table with a 'clack.' Breathing in through his nose, he mentally prepared himself, and then laughed at his own fear. "So, to save you the trouble, I just drank some poison. Now, I know what you're thinking. How can you trust me to know it was poison? You'll have to get your hands dirty yourself, even if it has to be in front of all these people. But don't worry, just play along, and you'll have no blood on your hands and I'll be dead."

Neil tentatively grabbed the steak knife, and only when he held the knife was it evident he was shaking lightly. His eyes locked with the blade, and he gave a long sigh one final time. "You know, I've used knives to get my way a few times in my life. This is the first time they're betraying that trust." He lamented, and then he slit his wrist, giving a small yelp as the blade sank deep into his skin. Neil shuddered, swallowing and trying not to make a scene. Oddly, his eyes met the gaze of one of the waiters who happened to look over, and when Neil realized he didn't understand what was happening, Neil sliced his other wrist without breaking eye contact.

The waiter dropped his plate, shattering a full course meal for a gathering of local merchants and gasped, before giving a horrified, primal screaming. Neil closed his eyes at this point, leaning on his forearms as the blood began to seep out of his veins and onto his trousers, dribbling on the floor. He really hoped he wasn't making a mistake, and his life began to flash before his eyes. Playing in his aunt's garden, doing uncouth things with his friends, listening to his father speak to he and his sisters, and seeing his grandfather on his own deathbed.

"It hurts," was all he could say, opening his eyes to look at Calliope one final time, and it was his final words. He closed his eyes again and slumped against the table, fading into the cold oblivion of death.
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Of all the things Calliope expected to happen, her mark killing himself was not among them. She froze, fork laden with bloody meat halfway to her mouth, fuming. How dare he? How dare he ruin her kill this way, it was like a finger painter meddling with a master artists composition. For a moment she wished she knew some necromancy, so she could raise him up and kill him properly. Blood ran from his wrist, staining the table cloth and dripping onto the floor, a slight foam forming at the corner of his mouth from the poison. A waiter screamed and a moment later other patrons began to take note adding their own shrieks of horror to the chorus. Calliope set down her fork and lifted her napkin to dab at the corner of her mouth. The mottled fury of a moment before drained from her face to be replaced with icy calm. She swallowed down the rest of her wine and stood up.



“Unlucky in love I suppose,” she told the crowd, sounding as philosophical as she could, then she reached into her purse and flicked a gold coin down onto the table as a tip and walked out the door, metallic gown swishing behind her.



Chapter 2



Magister Therman was a disagreeable man. He was arrogant, he was corrupt, and he had a number of unsavory personal habits that would have made a ghoul blush. For all his bloated form, and disgusting appetites however, he was a senior member of the Arcane Council, wielding blackmail like a cudgel across a large swath of the Enchanters as well as diverse members of other factions. He was also the foremost expert on magical defences in the land, his skills highly sought by Magisters and lay Nobles alike. It was well he was so detestable, that made it easier, but even if he had been a saint, Calliope would still have decided to kill him. Therman’s tower was a fortress in every sense of the world, impregnable even for her, hundreds of concentric rings of magical security, wards and enchantments, glamors and guardians, that would take a master weeks to prize open. All to protect his privacy and, more importantly to Calliope, his library. Rumor had it that he had a copy of Kor Kalen’s Workings, an innocuous name for a book allegedly written by an apprentice of the legendary Kor Kalen - Sorcerer King of Inganok. The existence of Inganok, of Kor Kalen and of the book were all conjectural, but that was a lot of conjecture to ignore. If such a book existed it would be strictly forbidden by the Arcane Council, to be burned on sight, along with its owner. Such rules tended to be somewhat difficult to enforce however, provided the user of the tome took some pains to be discrete. There was no way that Magister Therman would ever be so crass as to be caught, and so long as the book remained behind his impenetrable walls it was safe. Which was why Calliope was going to make sure that it was taken from within that twisted fortress.



“Make way, make way for Mighty Magister Therman!” cried a knight in glittering armor. He marched at the head of a column of footmen arrayed in the gaudy orange and puce livery that Therman favored. Behind them came a dozen young men with pimply faces and fine garb mounted on bay stallions, Therman’s apprentices. The young mages formed a square around a large an ornate carriage, bedecked with so much gilt work it was a minor feat of biomancy that the four great white stallions pulling it didn’t burst their huge hearts with the effort. Naturally enough the carriage bristled with arcane defences, even if one could get past the soldiers and the apprentices, one would still have to contend with the great Magister himself. Killing him was an impossible task, or nearly so. For all his subtly, his power, and his defenses however, Magister Therman did have two weaknesses. The first was that he was predictable.

“Make way! Make way you curs!” The Captain of the Guard called in a haughty voice. That seemed rather a waste of effort. The Bridges was a thoughrouly respectable district, populated mostly by successful tradesmen that catered to the nearby Assembly, lexicographers, alchemists, jewelers, tailors, gilded scribes, all of whom had obsequiously scrambled out of the way at the approach of the coach. The soaring bridges from which the district took its name arched up over The Fingers. The Fingers were great natural gorges which had been by the delta of the River Hallicut in eons past, before it had been channeled into the Great Star Lake. Hundreds of feet deep, The Fingers were further expanded by tunnels and cave systems that ran beneath the city. A hundred bridges spanned them, leading in towards the Tower of Assembly that was the heart of the city. Many were simple stone constructions, but others were great works of metal and magic which soared majestically over the heads of the cities most wretched denizens. Calliope sat at a booth watching the spectacle of Magister Therman’s procession. With one hand she sipped from a cup of bitter tea, while the other was gently painted with intricate henna tattoos by one of the tea houses employees, picking out her pattern with the precision of a jeweler faceting a gem. It wasn’t quite time yet, but it would be soon.
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Dying had not been fun.

Neil was still fuzzy over his recollection of events, even though he knew exactly what had transpired via dictation, as he was alive now because he had played his role perfectly. Even with such precision, his resurrection had been an extremely dodgy affair. Had he died in any other way, there would have been absolutely no way to cheat death without some unholy ritual, and call him superstitious but he wasn't comfortable going that route, provided he could even get a necromancer to do him a favor. No, it had to be this way, and somehow it had worked, though he still felt pangs of what he called 'death's hangover' days later. The headache made him try and recall what exactly had happened that night...

The tyroxanide had been lethal, or it would have been in any normal circumstance. Normally the poison was ingested unknowingly by the target, and within minutes it began its terrible work, seizing the heart and central nervous system, clotting the blood and sending the victim's vital organs into a slumber where there was normally no return. However, tyroxanide also halted global cerebral ischemia, preventing brain death for a period of twenty two hours, which, coupled with the blood clots that kept Neil from truly bleeding out once he had cut his wrists, had given him the opportunity, however unlikely, to be resuscitated. Had his friends not acted quickly, he would have stayed dead. Luckily, all of his previous information and the catalyst of what revived him was Hargond and his alchemist friend, Elmhir, who was absolutely ecstatic at being given the opportunity to conduct this experiment.

Hargond had quickly followed to the place they had been preparing to dump Neil's body, knocking out the two gravediggers and taking his limp, technically dead form to Elmhir's sanctum within the Aedis Alchemica that night. Obviously, Neil was only privvy to what he had been told, but he had awoken with a needle in his arm connected to a tube that fed into Hargond's arm, the half-giant's blood bright, ice-y blue as it flowed into him. Neil hadn't thought much of it at the time, having forgotten who he was, much less where he was, for a good ten minutes. His wrists having been bandaged and his body strapped to a table, he had only been allowed to move and get up once he had correctly and calmly told Elmhir his name, age, and why he was there.

Calliope had been right, he supposed. Dying was not fun. Some might say he cheated death, but really he felt like death kicked his ass and he was mercifully let off the mat after a soul crushing day of regret. Maybe living forever was the way to go, he pondered. Though in his briefest of thoughts in the deepest part of his heart, he had fleeting memories of something. Something bright and warm, and infinitely beyond this world in scope and beauty. He even glimpsed the smiling face of his grandfather, and it had brought him some inner peace he hadn't realized he had needed. Maybe the death part wasn't the problem, but the dying and the revival themselves. He didn't know, and either way, he was glad to be up and about, even if he still felt a bit weird.

Now he found himself watching the procession of Magister Therman, one of the more loathsome individuals in the vast metropolis of Kalx'Molaris. Neil wasn't the killing type, but he wouldn't really mind if this one got thrown off the parapets of the outer walls. The ne'er-do-well slipped through the crowd like a fox leaping through and over thick brush, trying to follow one of the traders who was making his way past a few of the closed businesses to try and haggle with a city grocer. Neil merely followed quietly, brushing up against the occasional onlooker and snagging a coin purse when he was able. A few times he didn't do it as delicately as he liked, but with how packed the streets were, he need only duck and keep moving to disappear. Unfortunately, one of the times he ducked, he popped back up and turned back to his quarry, only to find the old man having disappeared. Incredulously, he glanced around and realized he couldn't spot him anywhere.

"Great," he complained, and decided to make the executive decision to step up the closest stairway, leading to one of the patios that had a fine vantage point over the crowd. Knights with gleaming swords passed, breastplates polished to shine the sun across the faces of the masses. Just one of their horses was worth a house on the countryside. Too bad Neil wasn't very learned in riding except the basics. He gave a low whistle at all the money that was tramping by, having momentarily forgotten his mark as he just stood, leaning against the iron railings of the patio and watching the small army display its strength to the city. It was hard to imagine the Magister was only one of half a dozen men of such power in the grand sovereignty of Kalx'Molaris.

His eyes swept to his right, seeing if his mark had maybe stepped up onto the patio with him. Instead, he met the gaze of one dark sorceress Calliope, who's eyes were now on his as well. He couldn't recall a more awkward few seconds in his life, even if this could be called his second life. For a moment, he was glad to see her. He wanted that second date, and she had been on his mind more than once since his revival. But as it were, he felt a large sense of self preservation overriding his reckless self, so he merely smiled guiltily to her, and then ostentatiously vaulted over the railing the full dozen feet onto the street below, ducking and dodging through surprised men and women before leaping out of the jungle of human beings and into an alleyway.
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It would have been the perfect job. Done so neatly and in broad daylight that every assassin between here and the Free Cities would have marveled at it. All Calliope had to do was wait for the perfect moment to spring her trap, the moment when all the clockwork of days and nights of preparation, dozens of spells, hundreds of inked sigils, all came together. Then her eyes locked with a dead man. For a moment she thought she was simply hallucinating, she had thought of him more than once in the intervening weeks, partly in admiration at his pluck and partly in frustration that her job had been completed in a way she hadn’t really anticipated or earned. Now she saw him, apparently alive and well, she didn’t quite know what to think. Or at least she didn’t until Magister Therman’s carriage clattered past her magical ambush point, barkers still yelling obnoxiously, and onwards to his day of debauchery and dark dealings at the Arcane Assembly.

“Fuck!” she snapped, yanking her hand away and scratching herself on the henna needle. The woman applying the ruined image cringed back, apparently believing she had punctured a clients skin.

“Please mistress, I’m sorry, forgive…” Calliope wasn’t listening. Instead she sprang to her feet took a running start, jumped onto the stone balustrade and leaped out over the shocked gasps of the crowd. Twisting slightly in the air she landed on the sidewalk, took the three steps to the bridge at a sprint and hopped over the lip, dropping to the alleyway below like a falling arrow, skirts billowing out around her. The various denizen’s of the alley, stared in shock, watching a second person dropping from the sky what must have been moments after the first. She scanned the alley, searching for Neil, a slight commotion at the end of the dark narrow street was all she needed and she sprinted towards it. This was foolish, it might be a trap, but she had seen the shock in his eyes and reckoned he was as surprised as she was. Well maybe not quite as surprised as she was, given she thought he was a corpse. If she lost him now there would be no easy way to track him, and as the Syndicate had said, and experience borne out, he was a slippery bastard. A staggering drunk stepped out from the end of the alley carrying a bottle in a paper bag.

“Have a drink with me girly,” he mumbled toothlessly. Without breaking a strike Calliope raised a hand and an invisible force blew the drunk off his feet and smashed him into the mounded garbage and out of her way.

“Read the fucking room!” she shouted as she sped past in pursuit of her quarry.
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Neil was two blocks ahead, very certain Calliope was hot on his tail. A brief part of him wondered why he was running. He knew this would happen eventually. Maybe a part of him liked the chase, though he guessed a large part of him wanted to find her in a far more talkative mood. She looked ready to slice his head off without even sparing a word. No, no she was too curious for that. Besides, when did he ever try and run from a hot woman before? Even a murderous one.

He skidded on his heels as he turned a corner, a few bums stumbling out of his way and throwing insults at him for interrupting their rat barbecue, three small, skinned rodents on a spit over a fire they had managed to make with trash and loose clothing. Neil didn't even stop to say sorry, practically leaping over a peasant that was crawling along the ground, chasing a rolling schilling he had dropped. Neil found the third block ended in a dead end, his heart skipping a beat. He couldn't come back to life again, he had come to terms with that. Had he only bought himself one week!?

"Fuck," he groaned, his eyes sliding right and left as he gained a new idea. He sprang, pushing off the left wall to hit the right wall, pushing off that to the opposite wall, up and up until he grabbed a clothes line fully half a dozen meters off the ground. He thought to traverse it like a primate to make it to the roof, but the sudden weight caused it to snap. Quickly he spun the thread around his hands, between his four fingers and thumb to keep it locked onto his grip as it sent him hurtling back the way he came, over the alleyway intersection. He had the briefest glimpse of the hobos he had just ran through now cussing at the dark woman and blocking her path. Just as they passed out of his sight, he heard screams of indescribable terror and pain from them.

The clothesline swung him up to the window of a large building, Neil leaping for his life and grabbing the arches and kicking the window in with his foot. It shattered the glass, Neil climbing in as quickly as he could allow without cutting himself. Inside was an office of some administrator for whatever business he found himself in, luckily closed due to the festivities. He sprinted out into the hallway, running down the hall and taking a left when he saw an opening. It was a balcony overlooking the main street, trumpets and cries of jubilation just beneath him. He made it to the balcony to look over, seeing at least a thirty foot drop to the cobblestones.

"Nope, not here." He stated flatly and turned back, only to come fact to face with Calliope, standing before the tapestries that billowed in the wind. Her fashionable bun of dark hair only slightly disheveled.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa, hold on!" Neil yelled, holding his hands out as he put one foot on the balustrade of the balcony. He didn't know exactly where to jump, but it was probably better than whatever torture would be enacted if she wasn't to be reasoned with. "Hey, come on, just, wait. I can totally explain, and when I'm done you'll actually..." He was going to say 'laugh' but her look didn't seem very mirthful. Neil took a breath, just looking at her for a moment, trying not to smile at the predicament.

"Are you not a little curious on how I'm alive? Come on, I know you are." He said confidently, hopefully. "I did die, you know. I swear it. The mark was done. The syndicate got what they wanted and I got what I wanted and you got your debt filled, right?... Calli?"
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Calliope looked around theatrically for a moment. Neil blinked and arched an eyebrow.

"Never a gargoyle around when you need one," she lamented. The tapestry flapped nosily in the breeze, as though demanding her attention. There was a gryphon woven into the fabric. Her eyes brightened and Neil followed her gaze.

"Hey, hey, steady on," Neil entreated, glancing nervously at the image of the gryphon. Calliope folded her arms beneath her breasts. It was true that Neil had been killed, even if it grated at her sense of rightness that he was still walking and wisecracking. She pulled one of the long silver pins from her bun and began to twirl it idly in her hand. It would make an adequate tool to spill blood, her's or Neil's, either would work. She really should finish him off and get back to her other project. She thought of all the work that had been wasted by his sudden appearance and a germ of an idea began to form in her head.

"Alright," she said after a moment, relaxing her posture ever so slightly.

"Lets get some lunch and you can tell me why you still have a pulse. After that... well I'm not making any promises."
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Neil had used as many layman's terms as he could to explain, mostly because he wasn't 100% certain how to explain it himself. He knew the gist, of course. The poison and the bleeding, along with a special transfusion during a limited amount of time to jump-start his system. He liked to think he had been a genius planner, but at the end of the day, he had friends in the right places, with the correct know-how and the correct blood that could help him come back from an extremely specific form of suicide.

Neil explained all of this as they waited for the sandwiches he had ordered. The trenchers at this place were supposed to be well made. They had found themselves at one of the lesser, albeit charming places a few blocks away. The establishment was a smaller, local business called Griffon's Perch, which didn't comfort Neil because he saw a few statues of the majestic beasts framing various entryways, so he insisted they eat outside where he could see all would-be automatons.

"Look, I know it's annoying, and I know it wasn't a big worry for you, but I kind of want to like...not be dead permanently for awhile?" He said with a helpless shrug. "So it was either do that or be gone for good, and I know you really had fun, so I had to make sure we could go on a second date, you know?" Neil winked, placing his chin on his palm.

"Besides, I did have an offer for you last time I spoke to you, though it looks to me like you have a plan of your own." Gods her eyes twinkling malevolently were pretty. He kept reminding himself how he was insane for even speaking to her, but he supposed she was just crazy enough to have lunch with a risen corpse so he wasn't going to start being too critical on himself.

"You know," he said smugly, being a perfect fool as always. "If I like your idea enough, I might even let you kiss me. I know it's only the second date and you came on a bit strong threatening to murder me, but what can I say? I like your style."
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Calliope shook her head in mock amazement. It was a wonder he managed to get around so nimbly with balls that large. It was clear he was still nervous though now he had explained the situation to her he needn’t have been. If Neil had faked his own death, as she had originally assumed, she would have felt the need to kill him out of a sense of professional work ethic. Given that he had actually died however, she felt that her agreement with the Syndicate had been honored. Neil had died as a result of her action, even if that action hadn’t been anything as crude as a blade or a spell. If they wanted him to stay dead, they should have been more specific in the wording of the contract.

“You are off my target list as far as the Syndicate goes,” she told him, picking a piece of beef out of her sandwich and dipping it into a spiced gravy that seemed to be all the rage these days. She popped the morsel into her mouth and chewed daintily.

“I am a little put out with you for disrupting my morning though,” she admitted, her crimson lips making a moo of annoyance.

“It took me weeks to prepare that spell and now I won’t even get to use it,” she bemoaned, taking a sip of the peppery wine that was apparently the special of the house. In the morning she would need to start reapplying the many sigils she had painted to make the attempt again… unless…

“You must be something of a thief for the Syndicate to hire you. What would you say to working a job for me? If you succeed it will make you a legend. If you fail… well if you fail you die.”

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'So no pressure then' was all Neil said to it, and two drinks and a couple of hours later, when Neil had planned on saving his own life, he was now risking it again for the woman who now stood waiting for him in the shadows of a dark alley half a kilometer from the curtain wall of Magister Therman's keep. Even with the dying light of the sun plastered on its stone, it still looked menacing. The keep was outfitted with great iron spikes, six meters long and segmented like insect legs. They ringed around its superstructure every story, forged over a century ago by Basilean architects to defend against the unlikely chance of a dragon landing on its spire.

Doubtless it was impervious and likely detrimental to any sort of magical aid assaulting or infiltrating the grounds as well, hence why Calliope had offered the job to Neil. She hadn't exactly offered payment yet, even with 'job' being the wording, but he would hold out for something good. She clearly didn't want to kill him again. Not if he didn't give her reason to, at least.

"You're wearing that?" the dark woman asked with a skeptical look once Neil arrived. He glanced at himself, wearing simple, workman's trousers and a dark shirt made of cotton. A small necklace of sterling silver clung to his well maintained traps just around his neck. Truth be told, other than the less than bright shade of his top, his shoes were the only thing that seemed suited, the heels sturdy and soles made for travel and rough terrain.

The rapscallion couldn't help but smile when he looked back at her. "I don't work for a guild, girly. I don't have much equipment, just experience and a bit of skill. Otherwise I wouldn't have signed up with the Syndicate, you know?" He couldn't see what she was wearing behind her cloak, but she seemed to be gripping something long in one hand, though it was veiled by shadow and cloth. She pursed her full lips, but motioned for him to get to work. He started walking, but he pointed at her as they started toward the wall. "Alright, but you owe me something good. Not a lot of girls can get me to risk my life after they were about to kill me themselves. You're lucky I'm starting to like you."

The two made their way towards the eastern streets, keeping out of sight. Neil was impressed by how well she moved, but there was something else about her that made her appear darker and less noticeable than a normal person would be. Even he sometimes had a difficult time perceiving her within a shadow unless he looked directly at her, and he surmised it must be the properties of her cloak. Soon, they came in sight of the wall, men armed with the latest steel halberds patrolling its length.

"Neil?" She asked, the ne'er-do-well stopped and turned to look at her. She pulled her hood big and looked at him. "You're cute, but not enough to make me forget you haven't told me how we're getting in."

"Oh, right." Neil said whipping his finger as if to make an invisible checkmark in the air. "Well, it's pretty simple. We could go through the front, but without an invitation that won't work. We could go from the back, but we would need to climb one of the peaks of moribund. And that would be hard even for me, much less both of us. We'll probably get spotted or fall, or I'll fall and you'll do your magic stuff, but you don't want to waste any of your tricks before we're in. So, if we can't go in the front or around the walls, we'll go under it."

"The sewers?" She said incredulously, and Neil gave a nod of assurance. "It can't be that simple."

"Oh, not at all." He admitted, turning the corner to reach a steel grate beneath an alcove of one of the smaller market plazas, merely a street from potential onlookers. Neil made certain to kneel down beside it and wait until he was certain the shadows and distance kept them from being spotted. Slow he reached for the steel, and to Calliope it almost looked like he had the strength of an ogre when he lifted it off the stone hinges, but in reality, the grating had been filed away previously. He set it down gently to halt any noise. "The sewers sort of turn into these catacombs with patrols and traps. A friend of mine was one of the artisans asked to go and maintain some of the stonework below a few months ago. He didn't get a great look, but he gave me an idea of what lay further in."

The scent of refuse and worse wafted from within the hole that looked just big enough for them to squeeze through one at a time. Calliope curled her full lips in disgust, but true to what Neil expected, she wasn't going to be deterred from a mere smell, though a small wall of invisible air began to coalesce around her, presumably to keep the stench out of her nostrils. Neil merely tied a bit of cloth around his mouth, knowing he wouldn't have to endure it long.

Taking in a deep breath, Neil crawled into the darkness, keeping his feet steady on the tumbled stone below the drain. He offered his hand up for Calliope to take, and when she took it he said. "So, if we pull this off, will that impress you enough or do you want the head of the King of Andred? I'll take a little bit of cash too, if that's ok by you."
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