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Half-truths and Almost-apologies



๐•†๐•”๐•ฅ. ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿ˜, ๐Ÿš๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿš๐Ÿ˜ / / ๐•Œ๐•Š๐”ธโ„๐•€๐•ƒโ„• ๐”ผ๐•’๐•ค๐•ฅ / / ๐•Œ๐•Š๐”ธโ„๐•€๐•ƒโ„• ๐•‹๐•ฃ๐•’๐•”๐•œ / / ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿก๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜



โ„‚๐• ๐•๐•๐•’๐•“๐• ๐•ฃ๐•’๐•ฅ๐•š๐• ๐•Ÿ โ„™๐• ๐•ค๐•ฅ / / @Chasers115@PapiTan@Baklava


๐•Š๐•ฆ๐•Ÿ: ๐•†๐•”๐•ฅ. ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿ™, ๐Ÿš๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿš๐Ÿ˜ / / ๐•Œ๐•Š๐”ธโ„๐•€๐•ƒโ„• ๐”ผ๐•’๐•ค๐•ฅ / / ๐•Š๐•ฆ๐•š๐•ฅ๐•– ๐Ÿœ๐Ÿ›๐Ÿ˜ / / ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿš๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜





Vitus & Liv


๐“๐“ธ๐“ฟ๐“ฎ๐“ถ๐“ซ๐“ฎ๐“ป ๐Ÿ•๐“ฝ๐“ฑ, ๐Ÿ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ๐Ÿ• / / ๐“๐“พ๐“ผ๐“ฏ๐“ฎ๐“ต๐“ญ / / ๐“’๐“ช๐“ป๐“ป๐“ฒ๐“ญ๐“ช๐“ท'๐“ผ ๐“”๐“ผ๐“ฝ๐“ช๐“ฝ๐“ฎ / / ๐“œ๐“ธ๐“ป๐“ท๐“ฒ๐“ท๐“ฐ

Liv had been restless through the entire carriage ride, her displeasure at being locked into a confined space with few places to hide and fewer things to steal thinly veiled beneath small, fidgeting motions. The behavior hadn't stopped even when the carriage had come to a stop, and had certainly not stopped when the servants--servants that...would actually listen to her? That was odd--had asked whether the two would be sharing a room. Having a room was, of course, practically unheard of as far as Liv was concerned. The thief gave a noncommittal gesture in response, leaving the ultimate decision to her partner.

Partner.

The term rolled in her head as she mulled over it, only partially paying attention to the tour at hand. Prior to being bonded to the noble, Liv wouldn't have used the word "partner" to describe Vitus. Victim, target, mark, even adversary were all better matches, but partner? That word was reserved for the gutter trash that she'd spent her life around. People that helped her steal coin or escape from watchmen or guards on their scent, not people that lived in estates ripe for the picking. The entire situation was still unwieldy, clumsy with uncertainty that both tantalized and terrified Liv with the unknown.

'So we ask for something an' they'll give it?' Liv questioned, the convenience of not having the words out in the open to be questioned outweighing the fact that she wasn't fond of speaking without using her voice. The thief made no attempt to mask the slight level of distaste at the concept. 'S'what it's like to be you?'

Meanwhile, Vitus had already stepped out of the carriage, running his hand through his perfectly maintained hair and taking a deep breath. Good, clean air. Truly, it was one of the few things money couldn't purchase. But this was certainly no time to lollygag about and gawk at the scenery; that much would be for later. The duo had business to attend to, after all!

"One room. Two beds. A decent view of the garden, if such a room is available." Vitus said curtly, stepping down from the carriage. There was absolutely no reason to waste the time on long-winded explanations, especially when it was just the help. He wasn't being rude, obviously; he was just being expedient. Really, it made it easier on all of them. A small thought crossed his mind as he strolled past the servants, quickly turning him back around to face them. "And a small bowl of mint candies for the little one."

'The little one.' His unwitting companion in this whole adventure. Truly, it was a miracle that he'd managed to pry the little rodent from his rafters, much less get her to agree to the bonding. It was an opportunity for greatness, one that he certainly wasn't going to miss because a street urchin didn't want to play along. But it was to her benefit as well; maybe a few items went missing from the estate; heavens knew that seemed to happen frequently around him. Still, as much as he looked down upon her...very far down upon her...he had a special little place in his heart for Liv. A battle of the brains, as it were. One that he'd just taken the upper hand in; there was no way she could steal his possessions if they shared the same room. It would be far easier to keep an eye on her!

Speaking of which, Liv was saying something.

"No dearie, I ask for something and they'll give it. Who knows what they'll do if you start running around making requests. They'll probably think you blew in from the outside and give you the boot!" Vitus said, his voice making it clear that it was not intended as a joke.

"But, to answer your second questionnaire; this," He gave a wide flourish of the arms here, showing off an estate that did not belong to him, "...is what it's like to be me, yes."

"S'weird." Liv held back nothing as she moved after Vitus, nimble fingers raking through dark locks as she swept them behind her. The fact that they caught in tangles, only to subsequently rip a handful of strands out of place when she didn't stop against resistance, did nothing to slow her down. She glanced at the servants, aware that she could probably have stolen half of their belongings if she really wanted to try her hand...but the thief did no such thing. Not until after she'd gotten a quick scope of the place, she reminded herself. Instead, she brought her focus back to her conversation with Vitus. "What're ya supposed t' want if you just ask for it an' it's there?"

Contrary to how legitimate her question was, the girl didn't seem to be giving it much weight. Instead of anxiously waiting for an answer, her attention was divided again between conversation and action. Liv glanced around the area as they walked, her attention not entirely focused on the servants so much as looking for potential escape routes--always better to have a way out than to be stuck in a worst case scenario.

What kind of inquiry was that? Truly, Vitus could think of no other answers to the young rogue, save for the obvious one:

"My word, what a ridiculous question! When you get to a grandiose stature such as this, why would you ever want to want? It's all at your fingertips! There's no need to want or desire anything when you get to this state; it's the end! The top!"

He was completely unaware of how uncomfortable Liv seemed to be in the situation; rather, he was marveling in the shadow of the structure. He was worried that he'd start to get homesick without his staff around, but with a place such as this...it was better than he could have dreamed of!

...well, not quite. He could dream of some incredibly magnificent things, after all.

"Hm..." Liv mulled over the response. She wasn't surprised, but the thief could hardly say that she was convinced either. It might have been true, to a certain extent, that living in the lap of luxury was the height of achievement--she definitely knew her fair share of thieves that thought that to be the case--but she couldn't imagine it. Being restless felt like an integral part of her life, and being complacent was all but a foreign idea to the youth. How Vitus was completely at home without a hunger for more was beyond her.

She did not bother attempting to hide that either.

"Sounds borin'. I don' think I get the uh..." The word that she was looking for was on the tip of her tongue. Scrunching her face in a moment of concentration, the ragamuffin did her best to replace it with something that sounded relatively the same. "Aplee? 'Sat the word?"

"Appeal, but that was close!" Vitus said, in the same manner a teacher would speak to their kindergarten class. He'd subtly been trying to expand Liv's vocabulary since she'd been roosting in his house, to limited results. As far as he was aware, she could read a little bit, but he'd never actually found any notes from the little urchin, so it was hard to tell if she could actually write. He'd be a little irritated if she couldn't, considering how much the calligraphy pen that had 'mysteriously vanished' was worth.

"It's an acquired taste, I suppose. I'm sure if you got to taste the richness of it for yourself, you would wholeheartedly agree."

"Acquired?" Liv frowned at the word, turned it over in her head, eventually giving up her attempts to understand it, marking the defeat with a shrug of her shoulders. "So 's this a taste of the...richness?"

The physical words came accompanied by mental ones directed toward the man.

'What's a uh...mem...' She fumbled the word a few times more. 'The thing they said the garden is. Mem...memorl.'

"It is a taste, savor it to the fullest extent of your abilities while you have the opportunity."

He was a little caught of guard to hear Liv's voice inside his head, but quickly shrugged it off. Perhaps she was just too embarrassed to speak the thought out loud. It would be a shame if that were the case, because Vitus responded out loud, instead of through the little telepathy they'd been given.

"Mem-or-ree-al." he said, carefully pronouncing the word for Liv. "It typically means that the structure is dedicated to someone. Like, it's in honor of, or something to remember them by. Usually for dead people though; you don't often find a memorial for someone that's still alive. We call that a 'tribute'."

A dedication to the dead--another thought that went a bit further than Liv's understanding. The girl stewed over it silently, uncertain of why anyone would want to be reminded constantly of what had already passed. Outlived, outgrown, it didn't matter. Frowning to herself slightly, Liv raked her fingers through her hair in frustration, a hefty sigh coming with the action. Things were more complicated when the questions of where the next meal weren't involved.

"Rich folks're weird 'f they think 'bout dead people all the time." Deciding that was plenty of new information for the day, Liv chose not to pursue the subject herself. Instead, she sped her pace up, hands fidgeting impatiently as her focus drifted from the tour again.

She didn't bother trying to hide that either.

"We don't think about them all the time, dearie. But some people have had enormous impacts on other individuals, and those people would like to remember that." Vitus said, trying to explain in the best way that he could. It was a rather difficult experience to convey if one had no prior knowledge of it. Still, it seemed his words may have been lost on her, as she appeared to be getting rather antsy again.

"Shall we go look around the inside? I need to make sure the staff is familiar with you so that they don't try and chase you out, at least."


The tour of the estate had ended with little incident, primarily because Liv had decided that she did not, in fact, need to add to her collection of stolen goods quite yet. The thief was reasonably sure that wouldn't continue being the case with Avarice in her possession, but without the compulsion of "do or die", the motivation to steal without abandon had been dampened considerably.

That, and Vitus had been there the entire damn time.

It hadn't occurred to the girl that sharing a room with her partner would hamper her ability to indulge in procuring items that did not previously belong to her. That, fortunately (or unfortunately) had been the primary concern on the street rat's mind while they had prepared for the obligation of dinner. Odd that the meal was an obligation and not a treat. The complaint only fell behind in Liv's priorities when it came to the hassle of dressing herself, her ratty old garments replaced by something that looked like it would fit a lady. A lady that Liv most certainly was not. The folds of the fabric got in her way,stifling the ease of movement that she was accustomed to, frustrating her even when she'd finally managed to piece together what some of the additional items were.

"Can' I wear what I came in?" Liv questioned while struggling, for the third time, with how to manipulate the skirt of a dress without it catching or snagging on any of her personal belonging. "Damn thing don' even move right!"

"Absolutely not." Vitus said, adjusting in collar in front of a mirror. He'd been modest enough to wait the frankly absurd amount of time it had taken for Liv to get herself dressed, but he needed to make sure he was immaculate. Of course, he would be wearing his traditional outfit; the colors of the Ayolous family proudly embroidered along the collar and down the front. Although, he hadn't met any of the dinner party yet, so he sincerely doubted that anybody would appreciate the finer details of his clothing. No matter, he'd be sure to introduce himself properly to the important attendees.

"It is important to make a decent first impression, especially if we are to be dealing with some of the more influential people of the Empire. I will not have you sully appearances by showing up looking like riff-raff." he rolled his eyes as he walked over and grabbed a part of Liv's dress in an effort to help. "Heavens, Liv, you're nearly exposing yourself. Put your arm through this hole, here."

"No, 's too tight." The thief objected, her tone petulant and her expression defiant. "Can' put anythin' through there, 'n it makes it hard t--this keeps gettin' stuck."

Frustrated, Liv pulled aggressively at the skirt again, agitated by how easily it fell around her legs, between her legs, taking up space that could make her movements falter. One wrong move might have been acceptable for her noble "friend", but Liv didn't like entertaining the idea of not being able to move as freely as she wanted to.

"I don' like this thing. I can' move 'n it like I want."

"Please, that's not even the most complicated dress I've ever seen at a seating such as this." Vitus said, as Liv wriggled around like a frustrated child. "What kind of movement do you think you're going to need at a fancy dinner, anyway? These kinds of occasions are perfectly put together so a large range of movement is not required."

He sighed heavily. Hopefully she wasn't going to be an embarrassment; he'd hate for their 'partnership' to be looked down upon as a whole just because the little brat didn't like her outfit.

"Not rekwird don' mean I won' want to," Liv grumbled while grudgingly shoving her arm through the gap that Vitus had specified. As expected, it fit her perfectly, which was too tight as far as the thief was concerned. After all, if she stopped moving, she died. That was how it had been before her sudden assimilation into Vitus's estate.

"I don' like this." Liv repeated, this time less petulant and more concerned. "...les' finish this fast."


Lord, there were more children here than he would have expected. Clearly, he had worried far too much about being the sloppiest looking pair during introductions.

Vitus's eyes flitted merrily over the lot of them as dinner progressed, his thoughts and opinions on them mercifully quiet. It seemed as though there were groups of all sorts joining them at the table tonight. From the more fanciful looking pairs, to the...not quite as much. He chuckled inwardly to himself at the thought; most of these guests were probably far over their heads here at the estate. They'd likely never seen such elegance in their lifetimes, whereas this was common fare for those around the table who could enjoy such luxuries. Surely, he had it...

Dear gods, what was that atrocious smell?

Liv had remained uncharacteristically quiet, her hands fingering the silverware. Disinterest was evident, but the thief did little more than keep her observations. Keeping her hands to her own belongings was...harder than it should have been.

After what seemed like far too many people to bother remembering the names for, introductions had finally passed to him. Of course, he'd been ready and prepared; it was his duty to make sure that all present knew his name, of course. He stood, motioning for Liv to stand also, as he spoke with great authority and pride.

"Friends, acquaintances, and all those in between! Allow me to introduce myself, for those of you that do not already recognize me: I am Vitus Ayolous, and the pleasure is all mine. With me is my...'companion', Liv, and we shall both operate at our highest caliber in our duties. As, I hope, the rest of you shall!" he finished, raising his glass in a single-person toast.

"Don' take 'm too seriously."




โ„œ๐”ž๐”ณ๐”ข๐”ซ๐”ค๐”ฏ๐”ฌ | 13๐”ฑ๐”ฅ ๐”ฌ๐”ฃ โ„œ๐”ฌ๐”ณ๐”ž, 4711 | 2000



The others would not miss her for long, nor would they really notice considering Tomomi herself wasn't going back to the estate to tell them where she was going. Making sure her weapons were still there and securely attached, she started on the hike towards the swamp.


The swamp was three to four miles to the south, typically only a hour's walk if one could find the few footpaths that led towards the area. Unfortunately for Tomomi, she'd been following a deer trail for the last hour or so; despite stepping in a few mud pits she hadn't noticed (the dried mud nearly up to her knee on the left leg) and walking through more spiderwebs than she could count. At least the fallen trees and the rocky bluffs were no issue for her; her wings safely carrying her over those obstacles. Eventually, she had managed to enter a marshy clearing - a little deeper into the swamp than she probably would have liked to have been, but she had technically reached her destination.

Beyond the sixty feet or so that her natural vision allowed her to see in the dark, everything else was shrouded in only the faintest of moonlight. A few clouds passed overhead, further reducing the ambient light to near-darkness before they passed. Despite being night, the swamps were alive with noise; the clamorous sound of hundreds of insects all chirping at once, now that the cool night dew had brought them from their hiding spots.

Looking around at what she could see, her feet left her ground as she concentrated on flying, her small wings fluttering unconsciously under the trappings of her clothes. Straining her eyes to catch anything out of the ordinary, she started floating about the place.


On a normal day, the swamp wasn't very lively or interesting - the occasional spot of quicksand being too high a cost for even the most curious of people. During the night, it was both not lively, and also dark, making spotting much of *anything* a difficult trial. From her airborne vantage point, there didn't seem to be very much to find down below. The only thing that stood out were the fireflies that danced across the clearing - every so often one would zip across the field at an alarming pace. They seemed...too fast almost, and there didn't seem to be any pattern.

Frowning, she flew down onto the clearing, walking towards the group of fireflies, one hand resting nonchalantly on her weapon.

In front of Tomomi, there was a small cluster of fireflies that had seemed to stop, floating and dancing around curiously. It was odd - they didn't seem to flash like normal fireflies did. Rather, they seemed to be a constant glow that just danced around. In fact, there didn't even appear to be an insect in the center. Moreso, the actual size of the orbs seemed to differ, a realization that was easier to distinguish now that she was closer.



For a moment, she was struck by an irrational horror, almost making a decision to just zip out of there asap. But instead, she shook her head, clearing out the fear before going in for a closer look. It looked... well, it looked like nothing she had ever seen before, but she had a slight idea of what it could be. It might be some sort of yuurei or just the souls of the dead, but she was neither an omyouji or a priestess, so she would have to find someone who can talk to the dead in this place. Scratching her head, she looked around for anything else that seemed off.

Besides the orbs, the swamp was pretty much as one would expect a swamp to be. Across the clearing, a stirge, full of blood from the evening's hunt, was on its way back to its nest. Nearby, a small tuft of grass parted to reveal a spider the size of a small dog: A giant crab spider, which Tomomi recognized as native to the area.

Scratching her head, Tomomi decided there wasn't anything else she could do in this area, and started the long hike back home.

The hike back wasn't too difficult; the Samurai actually managing to find one of the small footpaths back to Ravengro. With no threats of quicksand, mud pits, or the trail winding off into an unwanted direction, Tomomi would be back in town before midnight.


โ„œ๐”ž๐”ณ๐”ข๐”ซ๐”ค๐”ฏ๐”ฌ | 14๐”ฑ๐”ฅ ๐”ฌ๐”ฃ โ„œ๐”ฌ๐”ณ๐”ž, 4711 | 0000



After his talk with Iris, Ganth had decided to look around the nearby swamp, where the perpetrator could have gathered the Stirges. He headed out just a bit after midnight, fully armed and prepared for whatever dared step in his path.



Unlike Tomomi, Ganth had no difficulty locating one of the footpaths that directed him towards the marshes. In fact, the Inquisitor could likely spot her footprints as he followed the same path that she had taken back into town. As with his colleague before him, Ganth made the trip fairly quickly, only requiring about an hour's worth of hiking before making it to his destination. Without the benefit that her wings gave to hear, any other path would have been difficult. However, he soon found himself staring at the same area she had been observing: The swamps were alive with the sounds of insects gathered by the festering waters, while the moonlight above only faintly illuminated the area. There were no fireflies that sparkled in the darkness for Ganth, though there were shadows that flitted across the sky, likely stirges on a midnight prowl.


There was certainly a presence here, but almost like an after-image, or a memory. It was definitely the same presence that Ganth had felt back at the tavern, and it had a heavy influence over this area, but Ganth could instinctively discern just from the lingering effects that this was not where it was strongest. It didn't originate here, it had just been here at one point. What the 'entity' actually was, however, was a question that Ganth found himself unable to pin down exactly. His Inquisitor blood tingled, the hairs on the back of his neck stood straight. It was, without a doubt, unnatural; he could determine that much.

Puzzled by the emerging facts, Ganth decided to head further into the swamp, hoping to find something to piece all the scattered fragments of clues together.



It was odd; even as Ganth explored deeper into the swamp, a few questions arose. The first and foremost being: 'Why stirges?' Sure, maybe insects were easier to control with magic, but there were so many better insects in these swamps to use. Even the large arachnids he saw scurry through the underbrush were better targets: the poison from a giant crab spider could sap a man's strength in under a minute, leaving him completely helpless. Sure, the stirges could drain someone of blood, but that really wasn't a viable option unless the target was restrained in some way. And for that matter, why attack a fully populated building at all? There had to be enough lone targets after dark. There was something special about both the scene and the stirges, Ganth knew it. Still, there was not much to be found here in the swamp. Nothing felt out of the ordinary, and as it was bleeding into the early hour of the morning, Ganth decided to leave. He had what he came for.




โ„œ๐”ž๐”ณ๐”ข๐”ซ๐”ค๐”ฏ๐”ฌ | 13๐”ฑ๐”ฅ ๐”ฌ๐”ฃ โ„œ๐”ฌ๐”ณ๐”ž, 4711 | 1800



The town's dampened atmosphere was a welcome change from the bit of indignation that had arisen after the Inquisitor's inadvertent blurt. "Excess" indeed and Iris kneaded the thought around in his head until it was little more than a misshapen impression of Ganth. He had believed the knight to be awkward and shy and the sort who stood his ground over the silliest of matters. But to be called excess by someone like that was biting, because he already knew he didn't fit with the group of scholars and warriors that the professor had collected, that he wasn't fit to fill in the ranks. It felt sharp against his ribs, like an accusation that had all but reversed the knight's assertions the day prior. Stay, because it was disrespectful to ignore the dead's last wishes, but salt in the wound because he was "excess" here.

He shouldn't have felt so personally offended, but having an honest conversation with the Inquisitor last night had allowed him the illusion that maybe they understood each other somewhat.

As with so many things in his life, he was wrong, again.

So he threw caution to the wind in a fit of spite and dressed once more in the provocative dancer's outfit that he knew would attract the prolonged stares of anyone interested, leaving his skin slightly damp from the bath and his hair just wet enough to entice. But he was past caring at the moment, because this was the only skin that fit him, so he exited the estate and stepped into town, leaving behind only the large silk outerwear that usually draped over his form. To the outfit's credit, without the light material covering its wearer, it looked all the more lascivious--a scandalous affair in the otherwise quiet town and Iris watched the wholesome families shield their children's eyes from him while the more austere looked ready to drop dead from heart attacks.

There was only one public place to go with such an outfit and it was the town's tavern, easy enough to find when he questioned a passerby and watched the young boy point him towards the building with a baffled look at his attire.

The town had certainly taken notice of Iris, and the reaction inside the tavern was very similar to that outside. Nearly everyone stopped and stared the moment that the courtesan stepped inside. One man look a deep breath of his dinner in surprise, while another nearly shot his drink out his nose; both incidents invoking coughing fits from their respective actors. Sitting at one of the tables along the wall, a woman wearing a loose-fitting leather vest grinned coyly at the sudden intrusion, taking a deep puff of the skinny pipe she held in her hand.

The tavern was dead silent for a moment, even the usual boisterous laughter of its owner had been halted. The silence was finally brought to a sharp end with a loud 'CRASH'! One of the Varisians who had been setting up had accidentally dropped his music stand, and it clattered noisily to the floor. The sudden shock caused a few people in the establishment to jump in surprise, and a general murmur fell back over the tavern. It was certainly quieter than before, and Iris would easily be able to note the numerous glances sent his way. Some of disgust, others of curiosity, and one of amusement from the woman to the side. Along the bar, one man was brutally squeezing his friend around the waist, forcibly expelling the hunk of steak he'd inhaled. The man's chastizing tone could faintly be heard from Iris's position: "Good heavens, Heimlich! Be more careful when you're eating!"

With a mischievous smile, Iris sauntered to the bar top, seating himself beside a burly man who was doing his best not to stare.

"Care for a drink, my lord? I'll pay."

"As generous as you are bold?" the man said, scoffing slightly and casting a not-too-subtle glance up and down the courtesan. "Works for me; I'll never turn down a free drink. Zokar! Dwarven stout, on the fancy lad here!"

The portly bartender brought up a glass, pausing for a moment to get some sort of visual confirmation from Iris. No point pouring the drink if nobody was actually going to pay for it, after all.

The Aasimar flashed a sweet smile at the bartender, fishing through the cleverly tailored pockets in the light, opaque sleeves of his current outfit and withdrawing the silvers for pay, placing them carefully on the far end of the table, easily in range of the barkeep.

That done, he turned back to the man beside him. โ€œThe meek may inherit the earth, but the bold get things done.โ€œ He leaned closer, coy smile and honeysuckle perfume drawing near. โ€œAnd I wouldnโ€™t mind a bit of bold fun from you later.โ€œ


"Well...if the rest of you is as welcoming as your personality, I'd say we could be very bold later. But you've got to be honest lad, and I won't hold it against you; are we talking business or pleasure here?"

"Today? You're in luck. It's on the house."

"Well, in that case - why don't you scoot a little bit closer to me." the man said, slipping his hand around Iris's back and forcefully pulling the barstool next to him. "You can keep my lap warm during the performance if you'd like."

"I love people who get started immediately." Iris licked his lips, slipping easily off his barstool and onto the man's lap. He straddled the hips without even feigning interest in the performance on stage, body facing the grinning patron. His fingers found the curves of ears and jaw and he traced a teasing touch while the man took a swig of alcohol. "I'll give you a personal performance later, too, for being so accommodating," he whispered, lips next to the man's ruddy cheeks.

The inquisitor Ganth chose that exact moment to wander in, following the possibility of unrest into its very nest: the local tavern. Immediately, his eyes caught the almost transparent gilded outfit Iris was wearing, and the inquisitor frowned before he could catch himself. Then again, Iris was a courtesan. He was free to seek entertainment from anywhere and anyone, and it was definitely not any of Ganth's business. So he smoothed the frown away and made his way into the most crowded part of the tavern, casting his gaze around for any particularly interesting character.

Someone who wasn't garbed in far too tight sheer and silk, at least.

However, his search turned out to be fruitless. With little choice left, he went toward the bar and took a seat after ordering a drink for himself. Still, he found himself stealing glances at Iris and his...companion. On Iris's part, the glances went mostly unnoticed, occupied as he was with caressing the neck and shoulders of his current partner, hands dipping teasingly into the collar of the man's tunic while lips and tongue left small marks across the exposed shoulder and collar bone. For a second Irisโ€™s eyes met Ganthโ€™s and the courtesan regarded coolly the drink in Ganthโ€™s hands. The Inquisitorโ€™s Lady considered the whore โ€œexcessโ€ but apparently the vice of imbibing was perfectly fine. It reeked of choice and convenience and a man who wasnโ€™t as honest and principled as Iris had first thought. He looked away, returning to the sweaty scent of his current company.

Having had nothing else to do, Tomomi had decided to simply revisit the tavern, and perhaps drink something more conventional than the ghost drink she had before. It was delicious, but she did not think she could keep up that sort of expenditure for long, not before she had all those platinums anyways. Again, her mood slightly lifted at the thought of all that money for so simple a task.

Humming slightly to herself, she entered the tavern and sat down at the bar before realizing most were gawking at... a rather familiar figure, though wearing the most outrageous of outfits in a rather outrageous situation. This was what she was supposed to travel with?

"B-by the gods! Ha-" She started blushing a deep shade of red as she tried to calm her mind. "H-have you no shame!?"

It took a moment for Iris to realize the outburst was directed at him and even longer to care enough about it that he finally lifted his head from the manโ€™s shoulders. Only to flash a brazen smile at Tomomi and run a tongue over his lips.

He returned to slow kisses and small marks soon enough, the womanโ€™s reaction hardly new to him.

The man on the receiving end of the kisses gave a small chuckle, turning to face Iris. "You tease. Keep this up and I'll have to-" he started, slowly lifting the courtesan up onto the polished wood of the bar. He'd no sooner done as much than the barkeeper slid over. "Hey you two! Ass off the bar - I just cleaned that." he said in a slight authoritative tone, as the target of Iris's affections slowly set him back into his lap.

Meanwhile, the soft tune of the band started up; a rather lively piece that seemed to brighten the overall mood of the entire room.

Ganth simply coughed awkwardly into his mostly untouched drink, eyes darting between Iris and Tomomi. The lady's reaction was most certainly uncalled for, given their current location. Then again, it wasn't any of his business to intervene. Iris seemed to be taking care of himself well enough.

โ€Let me know if youโ€™d like to leave early. Perhaps somewhere more private after the show, my lord,โ€ Iris murmured into his customerโ€™s ear, hands still sweet against rough skin as he kneaded the tension from the manโ€™s torso in touches that alternated between flighty and firm.

"How can I turn down such an irresistible off-" The man started, interrupted before he could start standing from his barstool.

In the midst of the performance, a ragball-sized object smashed through one of the windows, scattering small pieces of glass across the unfortunate patrons along the wall. The curious object hit the ground and rolled for a moment, before two buzzing wings revealed its true nature and lifted it up into the air. The large wings were accompanied by a fairly large needle sticking out of the thing's face, and it seemed to bounce around in the air, searching. From the window, a second one followed in, also bouncing across through the tavern a few feet off the ground.

There was a single moment of confusion before the tavern erupted into panic; people immediately diving under tables, the musicians all dropped their instruments where they stood, and those that could flee out the door could. The possible exceptions to these were the three adventurers, the bartender, and the man currently impeded by being under Iris.

The bug that had crashed through the window immediately took the advantage, bearing down on one of the tavern guests that had frozen in surprise. Still sitting in his chair, eyes wide with shock as the remains of his spilled drink dripped off the table, the insectoid immediately went to work. Flying down, the bug drove it's proboscis into the soft part around the man's collarbone.

"Tch."

Almost immediately her hands dropped down to her weapons, but the first zipped by her and stuck its head into that man. Too late to prevent that one, and the others will surely take care of it. Tomomi could still prevent the other from attacking another innocent. Letting out a piercing whistle to attract its attention, she readied herself for the second bug's inevitable attack.

The second bug turned to face Tomomi, her shrill whistle apparently having its intended effect. Similar to the first bug, it swooped down at her, proboscis ready. However, in the middle of swooping, it seemed to pause for a split second; just enough to throw Tomomi off guard and allow the bug to sink its own needle into the same area, piercing through her soft skin. Tomomi would already feel some of the effects, as she experienced the indescribable sensation of her blood being siphoned away. Nearby, Ganth's eyes widened as he stood up, uncaring of the drink that he just knocked over. Reaching for the morningstar on his belt, he swung it down at the creature attacking Tomomi.

From its stationary position on Tomomi's shoulder, the bug was fairly easy to hit. With a great swing of his mace, Ganth crushed the bug, killing it immediately. The blow was enough to dislodge it from the samurai's shoulder, and it crumpled wetly to the ground, a mixture of insect blood and her own blood staining the spot on her armor where Ganth had squished it.

The last to respond, Iris had disentangled himself from the man beneath him and had finally turned to face the creatures. His first instinct had been to run, but that had luckily passed while he maneuvered off the man's lap. More importantly, there was music in the air and he wasn't sure if anyone had noticed it yet. He had heard the song first, before the sound of breaking glass signaled the start of chaos, an ethereal sort of instrument that he couldn't identify but music was as much a part of him as his bardic magic and where song was the medium, he could stand as the combatant. It wasn't his first idea, or even his second, but he had none of his weapons with him and at least the bugs seemed responsive to sound. Too responsive, actually, and their movements seemed synced to the lilting notes of that unseen musician. So he wondered if one magical song could clash with another.

He stood protectively in front of his companion, almost unknowingly. Then sang.

It was an entertainer's song, one of many that the brothel played, full of catchy refrains and upbeat rhythms meant to stir excitement in their guests, but nonetheless it was a song and in it he imbued as much supernatural force as he could muster.

There was a noticeable effect as Iris began to sing; namely that the unheard song grew louder, as if issuing a challenge. Where Iris's song grew in rhythm, the nearly imperceptible tune attempted to match. It went back and forth; a battle between teh courtesan and the unknown musician as the breathy tune rose above the din of the tavern to the point that everyone could hear it. The bug pulled its large proboscis out of the man's skin, blood trickling down his body as he slapped his hand over the wound and quickly ducked under the table. Like a snake to its charmer, it lazily bobbed towards Iris as he sang, wings fluttering to the tempo of the dueling artists. On his part, Iris looked increasingly disgusted as the bug neared.

When Iris's voice reached a crescendo, the other music ceased entirely, as if it had admitted defeat. The bug in the air seemed to spasm and circle around for a moment, seemingly confused.

Scrambling to pick up the nearest unoccupied bar stool, Iris swung it clumsily at the nearest airborne arthropod, making weak contact just as the creature moved midair. The impact was hardly sufficient, but at least knocked the bug several feet away.

Tomomi gave out a rather unsightly shriek as Ganth swung his mace uncomfortably near her face. Thankfully the bug and her armor combined protected her from having her shoulder blades crushed, but it still was an experience she'd rather not go through again anytime soon.

Cursing in her language, she turned towards the last bug, drawing her old trusty sword, before running towards the bug and attacking it, drawing a slash aimed towards it.

The slash landed, the finely folded steel of Tomomi's blade cutting almost effortlessly through the carapace of the creature. Two pieces of bug fell to the ground, a small portion of silvery wing fluttering through the air as the insect's bloody meal slowly oozed across the polished wooden flooring.


Silence fell over the tavern as people slowly started to emerge from their hiding places. The bartender rose from his position behind his bar, while the man Iris had been accompanying himself with hadn't moved at all; stunned even after the bard had squirmed off him.

"Hey, are you okay?" Iris asked, running his hands over the man's arms and shoulders to check for any bugs they might have missed. He looked shell-shocked and frankly Iris felt the same, but he at least was coping with it a bit better.

The man quickly composed himself, anxiously brushing the front of his shirt as he spoke. "Yeah. No, I'm perfectly fine. Just a little surprised, is all." His surprise quickly melded into a curious combination of admiration and curiosity, as he looked at the courtesan with inquisitive eyes. "What did you do just now? It was...enchanting."

โ€Some bardic magic. Nothing spectacular, but I saw one respond to the whistling. Thought it couldnโ€™t hurt.โ€ He sighed in relief as the physical search turned up no further bugs before leaning onto the man. โ€Sorry, did that spoil your appetite?โ€

A quick glance at the wounded man surrounded by folks working to stem the arterial bleeding forced Irisโ€™s hand. He raised an arm towards the general location of the small crowd as bright, sparkling magic danced over his fingers and palms, the spell forming and taking effect. White and gold lights like tiny stars danced towards the injury, coalescing around the wound until it was no longer visible before dissipating, leaving only healthy skin behind.

Iris turned back to his willing companion once the spell had finished its task. โ€Do you still want to leave early...?โ€œ

"Well, the show is over, so I don't think it's leaving 'early' any more. I think we'd be leaving right on time." the man said, standing from his barstool. "Plus, someone should show you a little gratitude for what you've done." he said, wrapping a burly arm around Iris's petite waist.

โ€I donโ€™t need much, and nothing of value,โ€ Iris smiled, tracing fingers down the manโ€™s arm as they walked towards the door. โ€Itโ€™s enough gratitude that youโ€™ll indulge me.โ€

Meanwhile, Ganth glanced over that the shattered glass, before quickly running outside, determined to catch the culprit before they could escape. However, there was no villain to pursuit; nothing but the darkness of the night waiting for him. Disappointed, the inquisitor took a few moments to inspect his surroundings, then went back inside the tavern.

Inside the tavern, things were slowly coming back to normal. Most of the patrons had crawled out of their hiding spots, the band was slowly picking up their instruments and gathering up the sheet music that had fluttered across the ground in their panic, and a few people were gathered around one half of the deceased insect, one person prodding it gently with their foot.

Tomomi however, opted to stay, going to the bartender, sparing only a glance at the rather risque bard, and the inquisitor. At the very least, she knew now the bard was more competent than they looked. "This happen often?" She asked the bartender, rubbing the spot on her shoulder where the bug bit her.

"Not like that, it hasn't. I've never seen the damned things be that aggressive. Certainly never seen 'em come through a glass window, neither." the bartender said, pulling a clean cloth from a space underneath the bar. "You want something for your shoulder, by the way? I ain't got nothing but rags and drink, but they can make do in a pinch."

She stared at the dead bugs for a while longer, before turning towards the bartender. "I'll be fine. What are those anyways? I've not seen anything like those yet in my travels so far."

"I don't know if they've got an official name, but we call 'em Stirges. Every now and then they'll blow in from the swamps, but they usually just satisfy themselves feeding on the livestock and float back from where they came."

Sighing, Tomomi grabbed a bar stool and sat down. "Don't suppose you have anything strong to drink? For those two as well โ€” " she started to gesture towards Iris and Ganth, though the former seemed to have already left," โ€” if they're so inclined, though I see that small one has already left.."

"Where are these swamps? What would these Stirges be doing all the way out here?"

"On the house." The bartender said, pouring from a bottle into a small glass; it was a fine whiskey, one of the finer options the local tavern had on tap. "There's a small swamp a few miles south of here, but I wouldn't recommend going there. Not very many footpaths, and there might be beasties about. Probably not safe if the stirges are acting like this." If he were going to add anything else, it was cut off by the inquisitor.

"Indeed." -Ganth concurred, finally lifting his gaze off the dead creature lying on the floor -"They aren't known to attack settlements. Something must have...drawn them out." -He frowned slightly at his own conclusion. It was too vague for his liking, still based mostly on guts feeling and intuition, instead of concrete evidence. Still, at least, he knew where he would heading next.

"I must depart." -Turning abruptly, the Inquisitor nodded a curt goodbye to the barkeep and Tomomi, before heading into the night.

"Thank you," she spoke to the bartender, giving only a nod towards the Inquisitor as he left. Downing a bit of the whiskey, she grimaced at its taste, before going back to finish it. It helped the pain somewhat. It was probably just a coincidence, the way these bugs came out here. Perhaps they were driven by hunger, or had simply wandered too far from their usual path. But, combined with the incident during the walk at the funeral, it felt rather... convenient? Odd? It was probably nothing, but she felt like she should investigate the swamps regardless. If there was nothing there, at the very least all she would have lost is some time in exchange for peace of mind.

"That was great." Tomomi spoke as she finished her drink. Rising up from the stool, she checked her weapons before heading out and waving farewell. "Better get some big sticks. Just in case more bugs come."
Bad Idea?




Siena | Brent | Ernie
Emma | Marcus | Chris

A Collab by @Papitan @ERode @Diggerton @Chasers115 @Dragonmancer


๐•Ž๐•–๐••: ๐•†๐•”๐•ฅ. ๐ŸŸ, ๐Ÿš๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿš๐Ÿ˜ / / ๐”น๐•’๐•๐•• โ„๐•–๐•’๐•• ๐•€๐•ค๐•๐•’๐•Ÿ๐•• / / ๏ฟฝ๏ฟฝ๐•š๐•˜๐•™๐•ฅ๐•™๐• ๐•ฆ๐•ค๐•– / / ~๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ๐Ÿ๐Ÿ



Whoops, accidentally spilled this everywhere:



โ„œ๐”ž๐”ณ๐”ข๐”ซ๐”ค๐”ฏ๐”ฌ | 13๐”ฑ๐”ฅ ๐”ฌ๐”ฃ โ„œ๐”ฌ๐”ณ๐”ž, 4711 | 0800


Ganth

The morning came as quickly as the night had, yet it didn't seem to alleviate the subtle darkness that was still cast across the town. Dawn had come, evidenced by the crowing of an old and sickly rooster, but the overcast weather threw a sort of gloom across the entirety of Ravengro. Truthfully, the citizens of the little village had nearly grown used to either overcast or rain, and this was one of the brighter days they'd had in the last week or so. When the sun finally did shine through the crowds, there'd probably a small festival for the occasion.

For now, however, the gloom was immovable. Inside the Lorrimor estate, it was slightly better lit; the oil lanterns upon the wall seemed to flicker comfortingly - an astute observer might deduce that the lighting itself was another one of Lorrimor's creations. The oil in the lanterns remained at the same level, and the flames seemed to cycle through a pattern that only lasted a few minutes.

Upstairs, Kendra tossed in her bed. She'd fallen asleep without realizing it, and her own body was greedily sustaining the moments of slumber it had been lacking recently.


As the morning came, Ganth left his room quietly as to not disturb the courtesan, before commencing another round of the estate. Upon completion, seeing as there was no one about, Ganth decided to take a walk into town, forgoing his armor and weapons to blend in easily with the masses.

Morning in the town square of Ravengro was usually a fairly similar experience day-to-day. It was too early for the village children to be out playing; save for Pevrin, who was busy putting the daily news up on the Posting Poles around town. Most of the people who wandered to and fro were either workers, usually getting a drink and a bite to eat at the local tavern before tending the fields or heading to the lake to fish, or people hoping to get the jump on market goods as soon as the buildings opened their doors. Today, there was a fair share of both in the center of town. As Ganth's eyes scanned the few locals who darted around, he could see no signs of trouble. All seemed to be quiet for now.



Of course, there was more than one way to find trouble for an inquisitor. While some people might take the brash route and hunt for it like prey, Ganth knew that a gentler approach was often the best. Despite him being a foreigner, there was something about his appearance that made him seem trustworthy. Perhaps it was the slightly angelic features or the small smile; whatever it was, it meant that the gossiping womenfolk that walked around felt no need to hide their words as they walked past.



Ganth stopped short when he finally caught something of interest. Unrest. Vandalism. A lead worth following, for now. He waited for few moments so that his approach would not be suspicious, before turning toward the women then, feigning ignorance.

" Greetings, ladies." -He bowed his head, letting a friendly smile grace his lips -"Would you mind giving me directions toward a...memorial? I have heard of such landmark here in Ravengro."

One of the women looked to Ganth, a coy smile on her face as she did so. "Memorial? We were just talking about that! You wouldn't happen to be eavesdropping, would you? That's very naughty of you."

Slightly behind her, the other woman visibly face-palmed. "It's a little southwest of the town, along the river's edge."

"You have my thanks." -Ganth merely took the teasing in strides and bowed once more before departing, heading toward his destination.

With directions given, it wasn't very difficult to find the memorial referred to. Aside from the church, the 25-foot-tall statue was probably one of Ravengro's most distinctive landmarks. Despite the moss that had begun to grown over some portions of the stonework, the image was still strikingly clear; a proud, muscular human man wielding a truncheon and dressed in leathers, guarding over the town. A few names were carved into the base of the statue, but they were slightly overshadowed by the vandalism on the memorial. A large crimson 'V' had been painted over the names, almost calligraphic. Ganth knelt down next to the memorial, running a finger over the large V, trying to determine the material of the paint.



This was no paint; this letter had been painted on with blood. A fairly decent amount of it, from the looks - not enough to kill a person, but definitely enough to do some damage.

The revelation was disturbing to say the least. Ganth brushed the last of the dried blood off his fingertips, then decided to look around the site for any evidence of violence.

Oddly enough, there was none. Aside from the slight drops that rolled down from the letter, there was no additional splatter anywhere. There were plenty of footprints, but far too many to actually track anyone down - likely gawkers having come to see the memorial's latest addition. Stumped, Ganth took one last look at the bloody 'V' before leaving. Clearly, there wasn't much left to find there. He walked by the riverbank on his way back, glancing occasionally at his surroundings.
@manapool1

Sorry, but the RP is currently not accepting new players, and likely will remain with the current group of players for the entirety of the campaign. The interest is appreciated though, and you're free to check back and see how the party fares over the course of the adventure!
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