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The Record-Hunter sat upon the shingles as Zatana dashed away, completely content with recording this conversation. It did its work in silence, eerily quiet as it wrote down what was being said. Although it did not know them personally, the familiar knew enough from its master's dossiers. It filled in the names of Acrius, Faira, and even Zatana... but it did not recognize the girl who was speaking. Thus, it noted down her most distinctive feature and listed her title down as a "redheaded woman".

As Zatana passed by atop the horse, the familiar recognized her presence and hopped down from the roof, its cloak of parchment billowing in the wind as it descended. It landed atop her hand without so much as a sound, before looking up at the Drow and the scene before it. When offered the tiny book (or rather, appropriately-sized for the origami figure), the Record-Hunter gingerly took it in its papery hands, examining it with curiosity. Although she could not spot anything telling in the figurine's featureless visage, she could detect a bit of gratitude as it nodded wordlessly.

With quill and book in hand, the origami man would spend the rest of the journey transcribing the conversation into its own folds, before copying those over to the book that was given to it. It even spent some time capturing the expression on Acrius' face whilst he was talking to the redheaded woman. The face of a man who was desperate for an exit. A Record-Hunter was not the greatest at drawing and sketches, but its work was more than serviceable.

It would show Zatana what he had written down if she asked. After all, knowledge was meant to be shared.



Balthazar gave the Prince a nod of approval. He did not smile, but the spymaster was pleased nevertheless. This was a difficult decision to make, but to know that the Prince had his priorities straight was a good thing. "...As you wish, Your Majesty." The old man stood from his seat, before bowing deeply once more. "I bid you good night." He did not take his eyes off the Prince until he had left-- he was not Emperor, but he was the Prince, and such a title, required, no, demanded respect.

It was only after the Prince had left through the door did he turn to back to his business. As Balthazar awaited the servant's return, the man walked over to the window. Procuring a lacquered wooden pipe from his pocket, the man packed it with some tobacco, before setting it alight with a whispered incantation. He breathed deeply of its contents, before blowing it out into the cold outdoor air. He did not like to partake of it often but after the death of his family, he found such a practice calming, in moderation. Detrimental to his health, perhaps, but it wasn't like he had much time left on his hands anyway.

There was a knock on his door. "M'lord, I've brought the water..."

"Enter."

Sure enough, the serving girl from before had arrived, a bucket of water in each hand. She still seemed intimidated by his presence, but it was not Balthazar's job to make people comfortable around him. "I'm going to need to heat this on your cauldron, m'lord." She squeaked. The man nodded dismissively, prompting the girl to move towards the hearth in the room. She poured water into the cauldron over the fire, her hands shaking from the exertion.

Still, it wouldn't do for another lord's servants to be on such guard around a guest like him. Someone as young as her must've been a lower servant-- nobles were not expected to know her name. But Balthazar was not an ordinary lord.

"...What is your name?"

"Uhm, me?" She asked nervously.

"I don't see anyone else around here." Balthazar commented, not unkindly.

"...Mary, m'lord."

"Miss Mary." Balthazar nodded. 'Miss' was the appropriate title for a lower servant. For a proper housekeeper, the title would be 'Missus'. "...you're doing a fine job. Please, carry on."

"T-thank you, m'lord!" Mary rushed to curtsy, nearly tripping over her skirt in the process. Balthazar couldn't help but shake his head at this.

"Go on, then." His face was impassive, but his tone was relatively friendly. "...It's going to take more than two buckets of water to fill the tub."

"R-right away, m'lord!" With that, the girl curtsied once more, properly this time, before running off to see to her duty. She would leave and return with more water three or four more times, growing increasingly tired as she did so. By the end of it, there was a full cauldron of water, which she then transferred to the wooden tub. All the while, Balthazar simply idled near the window, occasionally blowing smoke from his pipe.

When she was finished, Mary gestured to the tub, a hint of exhaustion in her tone. "The bath is ready, m'lord. Would you like me to wash your back?"

"Thank you, but that won't be necessary, Miss Mary." He might've been an old man, but he could wash his own back. Balthazar reached into a nearby coinpurse, before holding a pair of silvers in his hand-- a large payment for unskilled workers.

"I-I can't accept this, m'lord."

"Consider it payment for a job well-done." Balthazar let the barest hint of a smile shine through his stoic exterior as he dropped it into her palms. "...I'm sure that Duke Karstilli pays you well, but I suppose it should go without saying that you must keep this secret from the other maids."

She was silent for a moment, before accepting the money. "Y-yes, m'lord."

"I may call upon your services again in the future, Miss Mary." Balthazar said. "...but it is late, and I'd like to enjoy my bath in peace. Rest for now-- I'm certain you will have much work to do tomorrow."

"Of course, m'lord. Good night." She bowed properly, before exiting the room and closing the door behind her. The man nodded as she left.

Balthazar sighed. The seeds were planted-- perhaps with a bit more coaxing, she would make a suitable informant within the keep. For now, however, there were things even he could enjoy. The man emptied his pipe, disrobed in silence, and then moved to enjoy his bath. The old man clicked his tongue as he dipped his toe into the water.

The water was not as hot as he liked.
The Record-Hunter wordlessly hopped onto one of the shingles, procuring a feather from a nearby nest for use as a quill. With practiced precision, the familiar began to transcribe the conversation taking place on the streets below. If it had more time or materials, perhaps it could come up with a sketch of the scene, but it was an archivist, not an artist. Still, the thing began its work, writing down the words in tiny script upon a piece of paper.

---

Balthazar simply nodded in response to the other questions. Indeed, it would certainly be easier for them to avoid patrols altogether, but if push came to shove, eliminating these Orcs would be the smart thing to do. After all, dead men tell no tales. When the discussion was finished, the warlock wished the assassin and the mercenary good luck, and then bid the Prince and the Duke farewell, before leaving the War Room.

There would be time for more planning tomorrow, and he knew that rest would be necessary to keep his mind sharp.

Bergkoff Keep was a fortress of respectable size. At the Duke's behest, Balthazar was given lodgings in one of the guest rooms on the second floor-- something the old man had appreciated. A fire had been lit in the room's hearth to provide light and warmth and to remove the dampness in the air. His luggage and belongings had been brought here ahead of time, which allowed Balthazar to do some more work before going to bed if he wished to do so. The attached lavatory had a garderobe and even had a large wooden tub.

There were a number of things he would've liked to do, but something stood out to him-- something he knew that he would not get the chance to do as the battle intensified. The man turned to the serving girl who had led him to his chambers. She was a small thing who seemed a little intimidated by Balthazar's presence, in spite of her efforts to hide it.

"Please fetch some water." He started. "I've been on the road for weeks now, and I'd like the take the opportunity for a bath if I can manage it."

"R-right away, m'lord."

The girl scurried away, prompting the old man to let out a sigh-- one of both relief and restlessness. Even in his old age, his presence was imposing; something that was both a blessing and a curse. Still, he was glad that even as the splendors of youth fade, his authority had not diminished. As he took off his coat, he heard a knock on his door.

"That was fast. It seems the Duke has some well-trained servants." He opened the door, half-expecting to see that same serving girl with a bucket of water in her hands. Instead, he found the Prince. It seemed his bath would have to wait.

"Your Majesty." Balthazar bowed low. "Please, enter."

Balthazar gestured to the seat in front of the desk that had been provided for him with his free hand. Once the Prince was seated, the man spoke. "Now, what is it that you require of me?"

"That was something I wished to speak to you about." He nodded at Leonidas' inquiries about Helmsguard. Balthazar walked over to the coat hanging on the wall, retrieving the slip of paper that he had left out during the meeting during the War Room. "I was hoping it could wait until after the siege, but one must be aware of what is going on around him-- disasters rarely wait for the previous one to finish before appearing."

The man quickly scanned the parchment before relaying its contents to the Prince. "It appears our mutual friend has yet to respond. Strange, considering how punctual she usually is." Balthazar starts. "Normally this would not be much cause for alarm, but it appears many of my informants around the area have stopped checking in." He paused, raising an eyebrow in thought.

Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action.

"It seems the Helmsguard region is the epicenter for a great many things. The spies that did report in have spoken of a plague that has taken the land." He stopped for a moment, his face more dour than usual. "...and although we cannot be certain, there are reports of the Undead in the region." Troubling news, to be sure.

Balthazar looked the Prince in the eye. "...I know what you must be feeling, but we must not split our forces." He said. "We should focus on breaking this siege. Once that is complete, we can turn our sights on Helmsguard." Leonidas was much like his father-- a man of just morals... but while he was a rational man, he was also subject to bouts of passion. The spymaster could not allow the boy to stray from the task at hand.

He had promised his friend that much.

"...Was there anything else you would like to know, Your Majesty?"
>tfw we're alive


On a more serious note, it's glad to hear from ya. I wish you the best of luck in finishing your requirements. I'll try to get a post out sometime soon, but I'll need a bit of time to reacquaint myself with the setting and the characters, heh.
The paper man felt as light as a feather and seemed so delicate that a strong breeze could blow it away... and yet it was warm to the touch, with strange pliability to its paper surface. Magic was truly a strange thing. Standing at about four inches tall, the Record-Hunter could easily fit in the palm of your hand. The familiars have a degree of inquisitiveness to them, and they seem to study their owners as much as their owners study them.

Balthazar's face was impassive as it was normally was, as Zatana examined it. "They have enough paper to function on their own-- though they'd certainly appreciate a piece of charcoal, or some ink and a quill if you wish to provide it." Blood would do in a pinch, though Balthazar left that out. He would not order his Record-Hunters to delve into Zatana and Faira's things, but he had a feeling that they would do so anyway-- these familiars were not mindless constructs; they had minds of their own, and if scrounging through things in search of secrets brought them closer to their pursuit of knowledge, then there was not much he could do aside from outright forbiddance.

"It would be best if you returned before daybreak; we may require your assistance in the attacks to come." Balthazar told them. It would also be much more difficult to return to the city if they had arrived in the middle of the day, though not impossible. "If you finish your mission early, then head back-- I do not wish for either of you to be injured or worse."

He was certain that they would be fine so long as they were careful, but he had to watch for that external threat. This Orc invasion was strange, and Balthazar was certain that whatever it was, it was sure to cause complications in the future. It was imperative for the team to return without catching its attention-- if it knew that the Prince's agents were out in the field, then it would a great windfall in its favor, which was something the warlock could not allow.

"Any other questions?" The man asked the assassin and the mercenary.
Balthazar gave the Duke an appreciative nod. "We are grateful for your assistance in this matter, Duke Karstilli." Plans worked best when everyone was on the same page, and the Duke's aid will be a great boon. The spymaster would have to send for a few men to bring his luggage up to his room and study, but that would be dealt with in time. For the remainder of the day, the two nobles spent their time in the War Room, plotting their next move, and ensuring that the logistics of the city's defense never once wavered.

As it turned out, during the defense of the western gate, Zatana had leaped down from the walls to stop the sappers from damaging the gate. Curious. This was something he had expected from Acrius or perhaps one of the Beastmen-- not a well-trained foreign assassin. Balthazar made a mental note to account for her unpredictability in the future, he doubted that this would be the last time she did something he did not expect.

In the end, the Prince decided against reprimanding her, which was something Balthazar would agree with. Her decision to leap into the fray was a calculated one borne of quick thinking, rather than a rash one borne of panic-- the warlock would go as far as to say Acrius could learn a thing or two from Zatana, really. Still, while she was unhappy about staying away from the frontlines, it was probably for the best to keep her away from the crowds for now.

---

The attacks had halted sometime near the evening, and yet even still, guards were posted along the walls, which was a wise decision. For all the primitiveness of Orcs and Goblins, they were often craftier than most give them credit for. Balthazar was well-accustomed to long days of planning and paperwork, and he had made himself well at home in the War Room. Even so, the warlock felt a little sore, his eyes tired from hours of inspection-- were he ten years younger, he would have no issues keeping pace with this much.

He felt ready to retire for the evening, but men like him would not rest until the work was yet complete.

Zatana and Faira had arrived here in the War Room at the Prince's behest. Balthazar stood across from the assassin and the mercenary as Leonidas gave his orders. A scouting mission to the east, where scouts had last spotted enemy movement in the region. They were to take stock of the area and note down anything of interest. If they managed to find the tunnels that the Goblins were using to move around in, then they were to mark it for future destruction.

It was not a particularly exciting mission, but the best plans were ones that minimized risk.

When the Prince had asked whether or not that was all, Balthazar merely nodded. "That would be all, yes." He says, before speaking again. "...Though I will advise you to be wary; this does not seem to be any ordinary Orc invasion. I would advise caution." The warlock then reached into his coat pocket and retrieved two slips of parchment. Strange symbols, some familiar and others otherworldly were written on the surface.

"Take one each." With a silent incantation and a snap of his fingers, the papers seemed to fold in on themselves, forming diminutive origami figurines that resembled cloaked men. On his command, the Record-Hunters walked across the table and looked up at Zatana and Faira. "They are my familiars-- they will be of little assistance in a fight, so far away from their source of power, but you can carry them with you so that I know where you are going." He told them. "Just in case." They could leave these familiars at a place of interest to check later, or they could use them in case they are captured. The Record-Hunters were also adept at gathering information, but unless they were left near enemy paperwork, it was unlikely that they would glean much.

"They write secrets upon their bodies... but I would not open them if I were you." He says in a serious tone. More than one fool had tried to decipher the indecipherable-- and Balthazar had given them fair warning. Still, the little things loved to learn, whether that was from books, their masters, or from strangers. Their inquisitiveness may serve the two well on the mission to come.

Merik Roak


With great strength, the lizardman threw spear after spear at the oncoming Goblin forces. These were not javelins, but impromptu projectiles that were supposed to be hammered into the ground to form an outer palisade. They worked well enough for his intended purpose, though. The logs would often pierce through one or two Goblins as they charged forward, breaking past any paltry defense they could muster. If it did not skewer them, the sheer mass of the object would often crush the target, leaving them with broken bones-- a slow death for cannon fodder.

Merik smelled something in the air before he spotted it. It was not blood, sweat, or metal... It was that telltale scent of blackpowder. At the sight of the sappers, and the reactions of his allies, he knew these to be dangerous opponents. With renewed vigor, the Beastman redoubled his efforts, attempting to kill the sappers before they reached the gate. To his surprise, he heard his name called by Zatana, and before he could muster a response, she had leaped over the battlements to face the sappers in melee.

He was half-tempted to follow her down, but she had instructed him to help cover her, and if that is what she wanted, then that is what he would do. Merik slowed his volley of attacks, trading rate-of-fire for accuracy and precision (as much that can be provided with projectiles as large as the ones he was using, at any rate) as he threw his impromptu javelins at any Goblin who was attempting to ambush his comrade. If her dance was a dance of death, then his display was like that of an angry god, doling out punishment to those who sought to defy him.

The Goblins began their retreat as their attack was repelled. In the end, Zatana had managed to escape, but she had been caught in the blast zone of the explosive. The elf was collapsed on the ground, and many of the soldiers seemed hesitant to assist her. Wordlessly, the Lizardman approached, uncaring of the fact that she was a Drow. As he strode through the crowds, his imposing figure was made evident-- this was a Beastman who had thrown palisade stakes from atop a wall like they were javelins. Not many people wished to step on his toes, so to speak.

"Merik thinks Zatana needs rest." He offered her his scaly hand to help her up-- and it seemed like he was more than willing to carry her away if it was necessary. The Lizardman seemed unfazed by the faux pas taking place at the moment and simply thought it best to get her injuries treated to.

Balthazar Trevarthen


Balthazar thought upon the Prince's question. This entire invasion was rather atypical, and it had oddities that distinguished it from the norm. Firstly, while Orcs often bully Goblins around enough to lead them, Orcs are usually never so far from the frontline. More importantly, this entire attempt at a siege is... strange. Typically, they're more than happy to pillage the lands around fortified areas and force the defenders to sally forth and face them on the field, but moving to a siege is a display of tactical acumen not typically present in most Orcs.

"It is indeed rather puzzling-- if they are not at the front lines, then they must be elsewhere, doing something they consider to be more important..." He started. "...or they could be waiting." The spymaster mused. It was, of course, an outlandish claim. Orcs were creatures of bloodlust who liked nothing more than to test their mettle; the thought of them waiting in the reserves was strange.

At the Prince's request for strategies to draw out the Warchief, Balthazar paused for only a moment, before explaining several plans. "I am in agreement with the Duke-- a good first step would be to close off the entrances they are using for their supply lines." He started. "If we deprive them of their access to supplies, reinforcements, and retreat, then they will be out in the open, and be forced to make rash decisions. When that occurs, perhaps we can lure them in with the prospect of attaining much-needed supplies, and then crush them when they move to take it."

Of course, the concept itself was simple enough... but with decades of experience under his belt, something told the man that this alone would not do. "...now this tactic would work on any normal Orc invasion, but we may be dealing with something else." Unlike most nobles, pride was not one of Balthazar's virtues-- he was not afraid to express caution and discretion when he did not have all the details. "I will have my men seek out more information on their leadership. For now, our next move should be to close those tunnels and seek our allies. When we learn more, we can think about what comes next."

As if on cue, signal bells could be heard in the distance. An attack on the Western front. Whether it was an attack in earnest, or an attempt to probe for weaknesses, Balthazar was uncertain. He had a mind to tell his ward that his place was at the war table-- that battles were often won here in the strategy room, rather than on the battlefield... but he did not. There was much to plan, but little to act upon. Besides, his presence may raise morale in the men, so instead, Balthazar simply nodded. "Of course, Your Majesty. Fight well." The lord bowed low, waiting for the Prince to leave. The man then turned to the Duke.

"Duke Karstilli, I would like your scouts to coordinate with mine-- I believe expanding the net will give us more knowledge of the battle to come." Making sure their agents work in tandem may be difficult, but it will mean that they can rely upon an external source of support; something they will need in a protracted siege like this.
Balthazar shook his head in response to the Duke's inquiries. "I don't have too much information about him-- he seemed to be perfectly content with lording over the smaller Orc and Goblin tribes, as well as raiding the occasional caravan." The warlock says, thinking more about Waruk Shieldbreaker. "It makes me wonder why he had such a sudden desire to besiege Bergkoff." The man posited openly, before allowing the conversation to be steered towards more relevant matters.

Realizing that would've been unwise to speculate too much, for now, Balthazar decided to wait for more information to come. He would have to send informants over to see what is going on with the Dwarves-- if they were able, they would have lent their assistance by now. Something... or someone must be delaying them. He would find out what.

The spymaster looked over at the Prince as Leonidas spoke. Balthazar had some skill in tactics, logistics, and even naval strategy, but his main strength came from his decades of experience as an advisor, and of course, the information he receives from his network. With that being said? Emperor Graham and Siegfried were better-equipped and trained to deal with such things, and as such, the Prince received more than enough training to make tactical decisions on his own-- the warlock was simply here as an aide.

Still, when the Prince asks for counsel, then it is the advisor's job to provide it. "I believe cutting off the head of the snake to be a viable option if it can be done." After all, if the Chieftain falls, the invasion will fall with him. Unless of course, this Warchief is a pawn in someone else's game. Only time would tell.

"Alternatively, we could try to collapse the entrances to the tunnels that they are using to move around the region." He says, pointing to the possible locations on his map. "I suspect that it will be no easy task, but if we can do it, it would only a matter of breaking down the remaining forces. An army without supply lines or reinforcements is certain to crumble, given time."

In the end, it was up to the Prince to decide what to do. He could likely even make a decision on his own if he wished. Balthazar simply stood to the side, allowing the Prince and the Duke to converse some more before speaking once more.
The warlock simply nodded as he followed along. Buildings take damage during a siege-- this much was an inevitability. However, Balthazar was still surprised to see destruction done to parts of the keep itself. He had not seen any siege weapons on the way in, which left sabotage or magic as the cause of the destroyed war room. Goblins and Orcs rarely took up the arcane arts, but their shamans are known to have knowledge of the more primal magics. Still, it was a good thing that Duke Karstilli had survived; a city can survive the loss of a building, but the death of their leader is much more difficult, especially during a siege.

As the Prince asked his questions, Balthazar reached into his coat pocket, retrieving the envelope that had been delivered to him. It had likely been opened at least once before in spite of the presence of the unbroken wax seal, but he was confident that the information was not compromised. Now in a secure location, the man opened the letter, reading the battle reports and placing the map on the desk whilst keeping the letter to him within the envelope itself. There would be time to read that later. Once he was done, he placed the reports on the desk for others to review, if they wished to. The papers on this desk would prove useful for both tactical and strategic analysis of the battle to come.


"Our scouts once reported numbers between two hundred and a thousand, but my informants say it is the latter. We can expect at least a thousand enemy combatants." He starts. It could be rude for an advisor to speak before the lord of the house can, but not only was Balthazar himself was a lord, he was also the Prince's aide. His word was to be respected and taken under heavy consideration. "Eight hundred Goblins, two hundred Orcs, and perhaps an Ogre or two, lead by Waruk Shieldbreaker, an Orc Warlord of little renown."

"In addition, they've been using the underground cave systems to travel. There appear to be several prime locations for us to cut off their supply lines, but we'll need more time before we act upon that." The spymaster looked up at Duke Karstilli, an eyebrow raised. "Can you corroborate this information? I must know if my accounts are still accurate."

Of course, in spite of how well-informed Balthazar can be, Duke Karstilli was indeed the lord of the house. They would have to follow his lead and not the other way around, even if the Prince was here. Still, the warlock knew that the Duke was a man of reason, and was not a man with a hot temper. If the spymaster recalled correctly, the Duke was a man of honor who appreciated it when things were simple. A man of the people. Balthazar waited politely for the Duke to answer both the Prince's questions as well as his own.
The walk to the city keep was an interesting one. A few soldiers gawked at the Prince and his retinue as they walked through the streets. Others gave their due honors, bowing and nodding as they passed. All the while, Leonidas was openly discussing racial prejudice with his officers. The warlock had known Prince Leonidas since he was in his mother's crib, and because of that, this information was nothing new to him. The Prince meant well, and he certainly had a point.

Indeed, reform was certainly possible. To eliminate racial discrimination within the Empire was not an easy task, as noble as it may be. It would explain why the Prince was so eager to induct foreigners and members of other races in his retinue-- by displaying to the world that the Crown Prince's most trusted men and women were not only Human, but also Elf, Dwarf, and Beastman showed a great deal of solidarity. It proved that, at least on a small scale, cooperation and fellowship was possible.

...but Balthazar knew that things were rarely that simple. As the Prince's Royal Guard, these men and women were the best of the best-- and because of that, they were under great scrutiny. Any failure or misstep would be noticed and remembered. If these occur, they may even set relations back for generations to come. The warlock's thoughts drifted to Zatana; if word got out that she was a Drow, men and women across the Empire would treat her with suspicion, and if-- no, when her loyalties become divided, people will remember what she does. Like it or not, she was the representative of her race, and she knew it.

If the Prince truly wished to see a united Empire of Man, Elf, Dwarf, and Beast, he would need to choose who he trusts with great care.

"Well said, Your Majesty." Balthazar commented as they walked. "Though if I may speak? Grudges and bad blood remain long after the deed is done for a reason: to forget how an enemy had wronged you is... naive. Very rarely do people perform injuries upon one another without a reason." He explained. "A good man may choose to forgive an enemy, but a wise man would remember what they had done."

"To forgive your enemies, but to remember their names." He said. "To offer one hand, but arm the other... that is how diplomacy must be done." Balthazar concluded. "Perhaps in a perfect world, all deals could be done in good faith. In a perfect world, men like me would not exist."

"...but this is not a perfect world." His gaze was vacant, his mind elsewhere for just a moment before he returned to reality. He spoke no further, simply allowing the Prince and his retinue to absorb the meaning in his words. Heavy-handed as it may have been, he hoped that the Prince would learn a little something from it.

Balthazar was at Leonidas' side as they entered the keep. Many of the Prince's retinue had accompanied them to the Keep, but only nobility could join the War Council. The Prince was, of course, required little in the way of explaining: he was royalty belonging to the Grand Empire of Man. To decide against inviting him would be a grave insult. Balthazar, on the other hand, was a noble of House Trevarthen. He was in charge of a small province in the countryside, though his duties to the Emperor have made it so that he has little time to manage his own area. Due to the lack of an heir, the warlock had left the province in the rule of a governor that he had appointed. The last time he checked, the area was prosperous enough to suit his needs.

"Duke Karstilli." Balthazar bowed formally. "It is good to see you again, though I wish it were under better circumstances." They had seen each other several times during courtly functions, and although they were not friends, they were acquainted enough. "Perhaps we can share our insights in regards to the battle to come; though I suspect it will not be anything you hadn't already known." He commented politely-- for Balthazar to insinuate that he had a better idea about the invasion to come would be a tad insulting, so he opted to take the edge off with a few clever words here and there.
Balthazar looked over at Zatana with an aloof expression. She had arrived with his package. "Zatana." He outstretched his arm towards her, taking the envelope from her hands. The warlock brought the thing close to his scrutinizing gaze, flipping it over once or twice to inspect it for damage. He was certain that nothing was taken from it; it did not feel any lighter or heavier than his usual reports. The seal was unbroken-- but that did not mean it was not tampered with.

He would have to assume that this information was compromised regardless. Nevertheless, he gave the Drow a nod and a rare word of praise. "Excellent work." Balthazar said as he secured the envelope in his coat pocket. It would not do for someone to snatch it out of his hands as he walked through the city. As Zatana, Acrius, and Faira split off to speak with one another, Prince Leonidas and Rudolf had prepared to move towards the keep.

Before he could follow them, however, he was spoken to by the group's Lizardman, Merik. Balthazar did not look upon the Beastman with any particular favor-- he simply treated him the way he treated everyone else: with a degree of impassivity. Sometimes, he was called upon to teach the rest of the Prince's retinue in certain topics that they needed to learn. The warlock had given the Prince advice on matters of intrigue, Acrius several pointers on magic, and Merik... general information about the Empire and the lands surrounding it. The Lizardman was a curious one, and while he was less adept at sitting down and learning from history books, he took to stories well enough.

"Merik." He greeted the Lizardman as he approached. When Merik had offered a glowing blue mushroom, the warlock adjusted his glasses in response, taking the cloth and mushroom in hand. "A Beryl Waxshroom." Often sought after by dye makers in search of the titular blue-green pigment, this mushroom was safe to touch, but the spores could irritate the eyes and the fungus causes great stomach pain if eaten. If processed, the lustrous colored liquid can be used as a dye or be placed in a lantern to be used as a light source that only needed to be shaken to glow. It also had its uses in a few magical rituals-- typically those involving the Moon, as well as Life and Death.

The warlock let out a sigh, securing the fungus in his reagent pouch. "Yes, Merik. You were very useful." It was rather uncommon to hear the man praise people twice in a single day, let alone an hour. Still, he figured that initiative should be rewarded, and he knew the effect that his words could have on people. As the Lizardman walked away, Balthazar moved to rejoin the party en route to the city's keep.

The Duke of Bergkoff was likely awaiting the Prince to see how their forces could coordinate. It would not do to keep him waiting for long. Balthazar gave Rudolf a parting nod as he left, presumably to meet with his men. The keep was aged and weathered-- the warlock was reassured somewhat, knowing that these old walls would hold, when the time came for it. It had faced sterner stuff than an army of Orcs and Goblins, after all.

The man continued to be at the Prince's side as they walked inside. It was time to establish the War Council.
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