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In Forsaken 10 mos ago Forum: Casual Roleplay
Faint opened the door to her room with a sigh. She took a bite from a piece of bread she had purchased from a stall on her way back, and quickly scanned the inn room’s interior for anything amiss.

The old wooden floor and featureless plaster walls were as she remembered. A single-sized bed rested at the corner of the room, facing a closed door which led to a simple dresser. Nearby was a table, where newspapers since her arrival at the town had been neatly folded, with the exception of one, which was splayed open over the better part of the table and almost entirely covered in wood shavings. With this new task to occupy her, she probably would not have much time to practice.

She carefully took hold of this piece of paper, folding it to prevent the dirt from falling all over the floor, and moved it aside. On the table where it had been, she placed her other new purchases. A set of pencils, and a small stack of bound paper, both small enough to stow in her satchel. For a moment, Faint merely stared at the writing implements. They had come as something of an impulse purchase. When she had asked Cinder and Soot for an hour’s time, her intention had mostly been to take the time to stash away some of the coin Mr. Garrick had given them, and to pick up some items from her room at the inn she was staying at.

But she had seen them as she passed through a marketplace on her way back, and thought to herself that it would be useful to have a place to keep the details of what she learned in her investigation. Maybe.

Faint took the last bite from her bread and gulped it down as though to physically swallow her embarrassment. It made logical sense, but the truth of the matter was that she was playing things by ear. It made her behavior at the bar even more embarrassing in hindsight. In her previous occupation, she had gotten used to working on her own, or under someone. She had been quick to give advice and speak her mind at the bar, hoping for someone to take charge and decide their course of action, but she wondered if by doing that it had not appeared as though she was trying to muscle her way into that role herself.

Me, the criminal. I’m more likely to make someone disappear than to find them. Gods, who am I kidding? Any experience I have with this either comes from fiction or from being on the opposite side of this chase. The others had not said as much, but she wondered if they didn’t resent her for her suggestions. She would have.

She blinked when she realized her face felt hot, and she screwed her eyes shut, taking a stabilizing breath. There were other things she should be doing. She knew that. Worthwhile things at that, for once. A moment later, she sat before the table, taking a pencil in hand.

An hour later, Faint arrived at the entrance to the Garrick estate. Unlike before, she had brought her travelling cloak, and her favorite pair of long knives were strapped to her belt, kept out of view by the gray cloth unless she chose to part it.

Even with the familiar weights at her hips giving her confidence, though, she couldn’t keep the surprise from showing on her face as she looked at the tall walls. She had not realized Forsaken held a place like this. When the old gentleman had referenced an estate, Faint had somehow visualized a collection of small buildings some kilometers away from the town proper. Not a fortress walled off from a busy part of town. The parts of the gardens she could spy through the gates only surprised her further. Had they truly been hired by the wealthiest man in this place?

The real estate business must be booming, she thought wryly, finding it hard to believe Garrick’s business of hiding convicts could prove this lucrative.

Faint shook her head with a grimace. Whatever her thoughts on the matter, the view before her was important in terms of the incident.

This would have been a hurdle for their culprit to overcome. A walled off estate in view of anyone crossing the streets, with only two apparent entrances. The crime had seemingly taken place sometime in the middle of the day, where people would be out and about. The location and the walls themselves would limit a kidnapper’s options severely, as anything that scaled or flew past the walls at this time would have most likely drawn someone’s attention. Yet, their patron claimed nothing untoward had been seen that day.

She entertained the thought of pulling out her notebook to write down her observations before something red and yellow at the corner of her vision drew her attention. She glanced to the side to see Cinder intensely glaring at the complex. After a moment, she turned around, glancing about the crowd as though looking for someone.

Faint blinked, almost surprised to see her there. She had half-convinced herself that the Genasi woman and the otter had merely agreed to come to the estate only to humor her. Quickly recovering, Faint moved closer with a small smile on her lips. “Cinder, over here.”

Once closer she glanced about, hoping to find the other member of their party, but Soot wasn’t anywhere to be found. “It seems we’re short an otter, but…” she sighed. Perhaps she hadn’t been entirely wrong earlier, but she put that aside for the moment, glancing back to the building. “What do you think?”

“H- Hello?” A meek voice inquired from the street, followed by the appearance of the gentle looking moon elf who had once more assumed her role as the naive but well-intentioned noble adventurer of the party. “I'm so glad I managed to find this place! And the two of you, of course. There are some rough figures indeed in this town.”

“Yes, I’m sure you were terrified,” came the dry reply of the genasi, who had made her way over to Faint once she spotted her. She glared at the elf but seemed to make a genuine effort to look less than unfriendly towards Faint. “Hello. Yes, he disappeared off to… somewhere. I don’t know. Probably running for the hills, the poor bastard.”

Faint snorted. “Not so poor after this morning, I’d say. Though speaking of…” she looked at the moon elf that had joined them with a slight frown, “Not to be rude, but I had assumed you had taken the money and left when you weren’t downstairs. How did you know to be here now?”

“Miss Cinder told me,” Val replied with a slight sniffle as she drew back cautiously, drawing doe eyes at the Fire Genasi. “It is true some unfortunate business required my departure from the inn, but I know Miss Cinder well and I knew where to find her. Where her dragon Ulliess goes, she is sure to follow, and he is rather hard to miss.”

A forced smile crossed Cinder’s features. “I’ll have to remedy that. Can’t have my enemies readily finding me, can I?”

Faint nodded at first, hearing what she had expected to hear. After all, it had already been made abundantly clear that these two shared some history, even if Cinder did not give the impression of being half as thrilled by it as the noblewoman. Encouraged by the girl’s timid demeanor, it took her a moment while Cinder returned the banter for Faint to realize she had all but admitted to following the Genasi there.

“Huh,” Faint hummed, mostly to herself. She supposed the noblewoman did come off as rather overeager in some ways, at least in matters related to Cinder. The pair certainly had an odd dynamic. “Well,” she said abruptly, almost as if to keep herself from wandering down that rabbit hole, “I suppose when it comes down to it we were all hired by the same person. You can call me Faint,” she added, extending a hand past her cloak.

“Miss Avaliah Valleau, but please, do call me Ava,” Val replied, removing a brilliant blue silken glove, as ancient elven etiquette demanded, before shaking Faint’s hand with an equally brilliant smile.

“Charmed,” Faint answered warmly, trying not to dwell on how soft and dainty the noble lady’s hand felt against hers. Her own must have felt rough and weathered by comparison. She had to force herself not to pull back early at the self-conscious thought, and returned a rather hesitant smile as she drew her hand back a moment later. Introductions taken care of, she glanced between Cinder and Ava, then cast one last look around for the missing otter before finally deciding there was no more point to waiting. “Pleasing as this talk is, standing out in the sun like this is far from comfortable. Why don’t we take the chance to see if the guard won’t let us through the gate?”
In Forsaken 11 mos ago Forum: Casual Roleplay
“O-oh. Glad you see things my way,” Faint belatedly answered Cinder. Perhaps in different circumstances she would have caught the condescending undertone of the woman’s voice, but she was too busy trying to process the sheer temerity of Lak Lok, which had gone past the ravings of an unreasonable costumer into the territory of armed robbery. It seemed the Kobold was intent to uphold certain stereotypes about the species.

She was reminded of former acquaintances. Greedy, brutish, and full of that overconfident swagger born from getting away with too much with far too little resistance. In her experience, sometimes those people would learn humility, but often too late, and often at a cost to those they worked with. Occasionally, the people around them were not willing to live with the risk and took measures themselves.

And he’s being sent out to look into the corpses. The ones we hoped to ask the authorities about. The mere thought of Lak Lok having anything to do with that made her feel queasy. Maybe we could send him out to the wilds on his own, let him and whatever beasts are out there sort each other out. She found herself surprised by her own uncharitable thought and sighed, shaking her head.

“I was hoping to order some breakfast, but I’m not sure I can trust anything sent to this side of the room after that,” she commented wearily, working herself up to addressing the kobold. She was encouraged by the disapproving frowns she saw in the others’ expressions. “There’s a lot I want to say about what just happened, but I’ll stick to the practical. Lak Lok, it will be a problem for the rest of us if your first response to someone annoying you is threatening them at gunpoint… and your second is robbing them at knifepoint,” she added after a moment’s consideration. “A bit of discretion’s all I ask unless you’d rather work on your lonesome.”

Glancing up towards the door to the kitchen, Faint left a handful of coins at the counter and stood up. She had not bought anything for herself, but felt obligated to leave some manner of payment after the earlier display. Regardless of her issues with some of their ‘team,’ it seemed like everyone’s tasks had been sorted out for the moment, which meant there was work to be done. She faced Cinder and Soot, “I need to take care of some things. Does meeting up at Mr. Garrick’s estate an hour from now sound good to the two of you? For now, I suggest we split off before someone at the back decides to kick us out or involve the authorities.”
Faint nodded as the rest continued to discuss their plan of action, with the diminutive kobold joining the conversation to say he would be joining them in searching the wilderness.

Before she had a chance to wonder if the small creature had a way to defend himself out in the wilds, a waiter approached with his meal. Faint started from her seat when Lak Lok pulled out a rifle much too large for his body and held the man at gunpoint. She glanced around to see if anyone would make a move on the furious kobold, but was surprised by the lack of concern from the other patrons. Though, she noted, there is also the choking minotaur and that runaway eel to gawk at… Bewildered as she was by the nonchalance in display, she only noticed that Lak Lok had freed the waiter to focus on his meal when the poor half-elf fleeted past her on the way to the kitchen.

I-is this a common occurrence in this side of the world? she wondered, noting with some embarrassment that she was the only one that had jumped from her seat at the sight of Lak Lok’s iron. At least she had not reflexively reached for a weapon.

Taking her seat again, she noted the conversation had begun to take a specific direction. The group as a whole did not seem to dispute the initial options she had presented, barring Graves’s suggestion to consult the dead victims directly, but neither Flick or Cinder – if she had not misheard the moon elf when she had first appeared – agreed with the notion of a smaller group venturing the wilderness, preferring instead safety in numbers.

In different circumstances, Faint may have argued against bringing everyone out to such a supposedly perilous place, but after Lak Lok’s demonstration, something told her that was likely a needless concern.

Faint shrugged, conceding the point. She had not been in these parts long enough to gauge the safety of the wilds surrounding the town. “I can only defer to the two of you if you think the wilderness around these parts is dangerous enough to warrant staying together. That said, it does mean we have to decide on what we should focus on first. It’s early in the morning, so we should be able to spend a good amount of time looking for that trail if we head out once we’re done here. Mr. Garrick did mention something about hiring a guide, did he not?” She eyed each of the genasi at that, wondering if it would not be one of them, given their apparent knowledge of the area.

“Truth be told, my one concern about heading out so soon is that I’m afraid we may miss something we would have picked up on had we taken the time to learn some more in town.” She sighed, reaching into her vest to produce the previous day’s newspaper. She let it fall flat on the counter. “Beyond what Mr. Garrick told us, I only know as much about the situation as I’ve read in this week’s papers.”
The otter did not respond immediately, and after a moment of awkward silence, Faint began to suspect she had led with the wrong foot. She began to utter an apology when one of the others in their group of misfits suddenly approached and thrust a glass into her hands. Faint blinked as the man, who introduced himself as Flick, took a seat and addressed her.

The rest of the group soon followed, spreading out over the bar. Faint winced as, no sooner had Flick suggested the group would need a miracle to get anywhere, the necromancer suggested gathering information from the dead. There had been cases mentioned in the newspaper of mutilated corpses being found, most likely the end results of these abductions. She glanced over her shoulder at the other patrons, expecting the comment to have drawn some unwanted attention, but if others were listening, they disguised it well. Necromancy may not have been outlawed in Forsaken as it had near everywhere else, but that did not mean people liked the idea of strangers disturbing the town’s dead. She herself was reluctant to make use of such methods, but she forced herself to think objectively. As Flick had pointed out, a normal investigation hadn’t produced any results so far.

She took a swig from her drink, hoping to hide her grimace, but the burn of alcohol did little to help in that regard. A little early for this, I think. She put the glass down on the counter, gesturing at the waiter for some water.

Finally, the Soot said his piece, finishing with introductions. Faint wondered at his insinuation. It seemed to her that he was suggesting someone in a position of power was involved in the recent happenings in Forsaken, but couldn’t guess what had given him that idea. Unless there was something he knew that she didn’t, she could only chalk it up to personal experience.

“It’s nice to meet you all. I’m Faint,” she told them. After a small pause, she added, “Of presence, not of heart, or at least that’s how it’s supposed to be.” She let out a self-deprecating chuckle at her quip. The bartender approached then, leaving another glass in front of her. She took it, but rather than drink, she settled for thoughtfully studying into the clear liquid. Rather than making merry with her new associates, her thoughts kept turning back to the job she had just accepted. She needed to know how to proceed, and that partly depended on what the people beside her decided to do.

“It’s not much,” Faint began calmly, thinking back to works of fiction she had read, and to times she had personally witnessed similar investigations, “but Mr. Garrick did leave us with some leads. According to him, his wife, Sarah, a woman likely to be in her fifties, was somehow abducted three weeks ago from the safety of their home. We know nothing of about motives, or method, but supposedly a maid says she heard something around the time Mrs. Garrick was taken. It might be worthwhile to visit so we can question the witness and examine scene of the crime.

“That said, three weeks is a long time. Assuming these disappearances are all connected, it would be better if we knew of a more recent one.” At that, a thought struck her, and she glanced at Nemo, or, more accurately, at his badge of office. “If we could get the authorities to share information with us, that would be ideal. Is that a real badge, Nemo? You might have an easier time approaching the guard than us. Might even be able to ask for permission to look at one of the deceased victims without getting ran out of town.” She gave the necromancer and his skeletal attendant a pointed look at that.

“Last, but not least, there is supposedly a trail leading out to the wilderness out west where some of the victims’ belongings have been found. We might find something out there too, perhaps even something belonging to Mrs. Garrick. We have enough people that we could split up to chase down each lead separately, but at the same time, that’s not the reason Mr. Garrick gave for hiring a large group like this. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were people on the lookout for suspicious groups out west where those clues are.”

Having laid it all out to her satisfaction, Faint nodded to herself. “So, what are your thoughts? As far as I’m concerned, the quicker we manage to put this to rest, the better, but if we do split up, we still need to discuss who will go where, and where to meet up to share what we found after the fact.” At that, she glanced out to the door Abraham had used to make his exit. “I said I would stop by Mr. Garrick’s house later, so I would rather be there when the time comes to look into it.”
Faint winced when the male genasi gave voice to the thoughts she had kept to herself. Gods, man! Have some tact!

To the question posed to the group, she simply droned, “Perfect strangers.” She would have left had that not been the case.

Her thoughts returned to the previous topic as the next person stepped forward. It had to be said, even the necromancer, who should have been the most interested in discussing the topic of the victim’s death, showed a modicum in delicacy in approaching the subject.

Thankfully, the rest of the group did not seem keen to dwell on the subject. In fact, the diminutive kobold and towering Warforged were so quick to pledge their service it made Faint feel the slightest twinge of unease. She had to suppress a light shudder at the metal giant’s proclamation that they would bring the perpetrators to ‘justice’, and she realized the being carried what passed for a badge of office for authorities around these parts.

It took her a moment to remind herself she had committed no crimes in this land.

What about her, then? Was she ready to offer her help to this stranger, now that she was fairly certain this was largely a chance meeting? Perhaps in another time, she would have agreed right then and there. Now, however, the thought of simply agreeing, no matter how noble the cause, scared her. How was that any different than how she had lived her life until then, doing as she was told again and again, as if tossed by the waves?

A favor of this magnitude was too much for her at that point. A transaction, however, was easy to understand. As the female genasi brought up the matter of payment, and Abraham produced the notes, Faint only balked at the amount offered so casually for a moment before quickly taking her share.

My hiring fee, she told herself. As a mercenary, she supposed, or a detective. It was somewhat disheartening that her best assets for such an occupation would be the same skillset she had learned for her previous one.

She shook her head slowly. If she had been ready to discard that side of hers so readily she would already have found a place at a bar or diner, or perhaps even a hospital. But she had waited until someone had reached out for her instead. She did not want to think about what that attachment meant. ”It’s a first step for myself either way,” she muttered in a low voice.

The first genasi in the room stepped out soon after taking her payment. The otter, however, took the chance to ask about the state of affairs with the town’s authorities. Faint didn’t like Abraham’s answers. Undermanned and stuck. In the meantime, the bounty would be giving rise to multiple motley crews of hooligans — much like this one — interested only in the money and likely to cause trouble of their own. It seemed to her like the stability of Forsaken was poised to deteriorate rapidly.

So distracted was she by her brooding, she barely noticed when the otter excused himself and stepped out. A moment later, realizing that something was off, she pushed herself out of her corner, blinking at the otter and genasi’s exit. They did not seem like they intended to walk out of the job, but those lines of questioning had seemed lacking.

“W-wait, aren’t we forgetting something?” It seemed bizarre to her that they would agree to find the man’s wife, then fail to ask for any details surrounding the wife’s disappearance.

Perhaps now that they had been given their upfront payment, the matter of solving the criminal mystery as a whole, the one worth a bounty of $30000 weighed more heavily on their minds than the man’s initial request. After all, he had never promised payment upon completion of that task.

Are they putting the cart before the horse on purpose? she wondered.

Pulling herself together, Faint turned to Abraham. “Mr. Garrick, I imagine you already went through this with the guard, but do you mind if I ask some questions about Mrs. Garrick’s disappearance?”

The old man nodded. “Of course not. What do you want to know?”

Faint had been half expecting to be rebuffed, but now that she’d been given room to talk, she realized she’d never imagined she would be on this side of such an interview. A part of her couldn’t help but feel like a sham leading the gentleman on even as she gave him a thankful smile.

“Thank you. Let’s start with the last time you saw Mrs. Garrick. Could you tell me when and where that was?”

"It was exactly three weeks ago. We had our normal morning routine, ate breakfast together, and then I went to work. When I came back, she was gone. There were signs of struggle inside the house, and that's it. There were no strange tracks outside, no blood, nothing."

Faint blinked. “She was taken from your home?” The wheels started turning in her mind. That was not what she had expected given her initial impression of this case. She imagined victims would have been picked out randomly from the streets, but that didn’t seem to be the case here. “At what time did you return? Do you have any servants, or relatives living with you that might have seen her after you left?”

"I returned at my usual time, around four or five in the afternoon. We do have a few servants, but they didn't see anything. The maid heard some banging, but when she went to check it out there was no one there. She assumed someone dropped a few things and didn't think any more of it."

And, being the maid, she likely immediately cleaned up any evidence. She resisted the urge to groan. As if following a three week old trail wasn’t difficult enough.

It seemed all too possible that Mrs. Garrick had been targeted. Money could be a motive, given the old gentleman’s apparent wealth, but there was something missing from that interpretation. “Given that you haven’t mentioned it already, I assume you haven’t received any ransom notice,” Faint noted.

"No, I have not," He confirmed.

“Is that servant still working for you?”

“Yes, she is. Been working for our family for several decades, and feels terrible, poor thing. She keeps blaming herself, but it's not her fault."

“It isn’t,” Faint agreed, though in the back of her mind she tagged an I hope to the end of that thought. She paused to organize her the information she had been given, dimly noting how tenuous all the leads the conversation had revealed thus far had been. Though, she admitted, she supposed that if the case was clear-cut, no one would have approached them.

“Did you notice anything odd before the disappearance?” Faint chanced. “Perhaps a stranger loitering around the estate? Maybe your wife mentioned something, or she behaved oddly at some point? Please try to remember. The smallest detail could be a vital clue.”

He shook his head. “No, there was nothing out of the ordinary. I mean, we were all worried about the disappearances around town, so all of us were a little on edge, but besides that everything was normal."

Faint sighed, a bit of her frustration seeping through. She bit her nail. She thought there might have been something there, but... the way he makes it seem is almost as if she got magicked away. “That’s not much to go on,” she admitted. “Has it been like this for all the missing? Taken from their home with barely a trail to follow?”

"Yes, it has. I believe I already mentioned a little something about that, but all of the cases are like this.” Faint couldn’t tell if the hint of vexation she caught was aimed at her or at the situation in general. “People plucked from their homes, on the street, at work, really anywhere. No so much as a footprint, and no witness."

Faint frowned, “What about the supposed clues to the west, then? Where do those come in?”

"There were a couple of very vague clues leading out into the wilderness. Some pieces of fabric, dropped items that were identified as belonging to some of those who went missing, and small things like that. Not a lot, but enough to spark some suspicion."

She was about to ask for more details, perhaps going as far as to ask if any of the discovered items had belonged to his wife, but stopped herself. Something told her she bad pursued the topic far enough in front of the husband. She would be better served by looking into those herself. Regarding the search, there was still one matter she wanted to address before she was satisfied with this interview. “Can I see that photo again, please?”

"Sure," He replied, holding out the photo. The woman in the frame had graying blonde hair, a beautiful, expensive looking dress, and was smiling brightly towards the camera. Or, Faint amended a moment later, at something beyond it. When Abraham spoke again, he seemed to have been transported to somewhere else. “This was supposed to be a serious photograph, you know. It was our 35th wedding anniversary, and we were commemorating the event. I tripped and fell into a water trough a few seconds before the photograph got snapped, and it came out with her smiling."

“She looks gorgeous,” Faint said, a touch hesitantly. She’d had to force herself not to say ‘looked’. Fortunately, the wistful look on the old man’s face told her he had not caught her reservation. Emboldened, she asked, “Could I hold onto it for the investigation?”

Abraham started briefly at the question, as if waking from a reverie. He looked at the picture briefly, a touch possessively, Faint thought, before a brief smile crossed his features. He handed it to her. “You can take the picture... But please make sure to bring it back to me, if at all possible.”

“Thank you,” she said, taking the photo and studying it more closely. There was something truly radiant in the woman’s smile, but even then, Faint couldn’t pick out anything that might make her the target of a kidnapper. A thought suddenly occurred to her as she studied the picture. “I just realized,” Faint noted, guiltily. “I never asked her name.”

The old man nodded, taking a deep breath. She could tell from the creak of the floorboards that he was putting more of his weight over his cane. “Her name was Sarah. Sarah Merian Garrick."

Faint’s eyes snapped up from the photo and onto the man’s tired face. The ‘was’ in his answer broke her heart.

She averted her gaze, speaking tightly past her constricted throat. “If at all possible, Mr. Garrick, I’ll bring back more than a picture.” She paused to slide the photo into one of her pockets. The act helped her find her center again and she sighed, loosening some of her tension. “In any case, thank you for answering my questions. I might stop by your estate later to speak with your maid, and to look for clues where the disappearance took place, but for now I need a moment to digest all this.”

Glancing aside at some movement, she was startled to find that other members of the party still remained in the room. She tried to hide a light flush of embarrassment as she took a step away from Abraham. “Sorry to keep you waiting. I’m going to look for the others. They should hear some of this if they’re going to try to untangle this mess.”

Her piece said, she inclined her head lightly in a perfunctory bow, and stepped out. As it turned out, once she had glided down the stairs only took a single to locate both the genasi and the otter. Not particularly inconspicuous costumers, these.

She took a moment to consider these two, then, remembering how the little otter had been gleefully talking the ear off a random patron before he had gone upstairs, decided he was the more approachable of the two. Not to mention softer-looking one.

She pulled out the chair next to him and sat, signaling to the person manning the bar. She chanced a glance at the Genasi, trying to make eye contact, but after a moment she turned to the otter in its quiet pondering.

“You left before we could ask anything about the wife’s disappearance,” she noted. It sounded even more chiding than she had meant, and she grimaced. “Sorry, don’t mean anything by it.” Her eyes trailed over the otter’s glossy fur, and a part of her wondered if it was supposed to look like that even while dry. She stopped herself from reaching out to feel it. Instead, she asked, “What do you think about this? Ever seen anything like it?”
Faint felt a soft brush against her leg as the otter slid past her. She stretched her fingers, as if to catch a passing feel of its fur, before she caught herself and pulled her hand back.

Unfortunately, there was little chance to share information with the other two people in the room before the floodgates opened. Barely a moment had passed since they had moved into the room before a new arrival interrupted them, followed by another, then yet another, each stranger than the last, with nary a chance to acknowledge one before the next made their entrance.

Faint found herself gravitating towards a corner of the room as the place grew crowded, and she quickly began to feel silly for thinking herself well-armed for the occasion when among the new arrivals there appeared a man with greying hair trailed by a skeletal giant, soon to be followed by a horned, metallic giant. Fortunately, as the regard of each of the new faces fell over the other occupants, they merely afforded her a moment’s attention before dismissing her and studying their more abnormal companions. Which suited her just fine.

Suppressing a self-deriding smile, she noted that her confidence in her ability to defend herself shrunk the more convinced she grew that that she would not need to.

Until finally, one last person joined them. At the scent of smoke, Faint glanced away from the demure elven lady and the victim of her surprise tackle. A bespectacled, sharply dressed man looking rather advanced in his years puffed from his pipe, studying the bizarre congregation from the entrance. After a moment, the old gentleman made his way towards the bed, announcing what she had already guessed.

Here stood the man who had singled her out, and who was willing to pay a collective four grand for this band of strangers to listen to him. As it stood, the old gentleman wasted no time getting to the point.

Faint grimaced at the picture the man produced from his pocket. Not simply the matter of lost earnings I imagined, then. The request had quickly taken a more personal cast. To herself, she noted that people had not only gone missing from the town. If the papers were to be believed, a number of corpses had been discovered as well. Were those unrelated incidents, or were those the corpses of the missing? Had she missed that information in the newspaper, or would they have to reach out to the authorities, or the affected families, to confirm that?

How long ago did he say she went missing? Several weeks? If her premonition was correct, she did not like Abraham’s odds of being reunited with his spouse. Dimly, she wondered if there was a deeper meaning to the presence of a necromancer in their midst.

With some consternation, she realized she had already begun to think of ways to approach the problem. This is wrong, she thought, I should not be here. She had not exactly been trained to make people reappear. Yet at the same time, she could not help but feel a certain longing for the idea.

Faint shook her head sharply. Before she even considered riding out to see the clues the old gentleman mentioned, she needed to know more about this man, and the reason why he had chosen to invite her.

As the otter stepped back, giving the others a chance to make their questions, Faint pushed away from the wall, drawing attention to herself. “My apologies if this seems rude,” she hesitated for a moment as their regard fell on her, but she soldiered on, “but who are you, exactly? I don’t imagine many would be willing or able to offer upfront payment like this.”

Their patron turned to look at her, nodding in understanding. He puffed on his pipe before answering. “As I said, my name is Abraham Garrick, and I'm a... realtor, of sorts. You see sometimes people come to Forsaken looking for a place to hide from certain people. This doesn't always work out as they'd hope, so when they find themselves on the run again, I'm the person they call. I help them to find a more permanent state of residence, one that they won't easily be tracked to. This business turned out to pay quite well, and I've been doing it for somewhere around thirty years.”

Faint blinked, trying not to let the surprise show in her face. “I see.” Depending on the situation, she might have business with this man completely unrelated to the current mystery.

Though, considering her own financial straits, she could not imagine how lucrative such a career could be. Unless that by a ‘more permanent state of residence’, he means the clutches of whoever was hunting them in the first place. That said, running a scam that dangerous for as long as he suggested would have been suicidal, if not impossible.

Though she could sense the other occupants waiting for their own questions, she couldn’t help but to probe further. “What makes you believe that we could do better than the authorities, or one of those other groups you mentioned? At the very least I don’t recall having a reputation.”

"Young lady," he started, seeming almost affronted by the question, but just as quickly, he seemed to deflate. Dourly, he continued, "Frankly, I'm desperate, and you're all the best I could find. Each of you has a certain set of skills that I believe could come in handy on this sort of mission. You have the fighters, people who can protect you all, someone to provide food, a guide, people who can track, and people who can get information out of people. If the other groups could do better, they would have by now, and I'm sick and tired of waiting for someone else to do something. I'm too old to go out there myself, or I would, so y'all are the best I can do."

Though she wondered which of those categories she was meant to fit into, the man’s demeanor did not seem like an act of any kind. Faint found herself looking away from the old Abraham. She guiltily reminded herself that the man had approached them for the sake of his missing wife. She could imagine how helpless he might feel.

“I can understand that. I’m sorry,” she said, stepping back to the wall to let another take the interrogator’s role.
When Faint first read the letter that had appeared at her room’s doorstep, she had had to suppress her first instinct to gather the few belongings she had with her and leave the town.

Faint had arrived at the town of Forsaken less than a week ago, the last in a series of towns and cities she had passed in her bid to put as much distance between herself and the life she had known until then. The difference between this town and the previous ones was that this was the farthest she could head west without delving completely into the wilderness. When she realized she had been singled out, her first thought was that someone who knew her previous occupation had managed to track her down.

Another moment’s consideration, however, made that seem unlikely. If the pursuers she feared did appear, she very much doubted they would introduce themselves with a job offer. Before the letter had arrived, she had indeed been asking about the kind of employment that could be found in Forsaken. This, paired with the fact that she had first arrived at the town with her weapons at her belt, and that she regularly kept tabs on the bounties posted in the town’s newsletters, may have given someone certain ideas about her.

She was still worried. Even if someone had taken her for a bounty hunter or mercenary, it made little sense for her to be sought out when she had no reputation to speak of in these parts. Meeting the so called “A.G.” and asking directly seemed like the surest way to dispel her suspicions. In the best case, they would simply turn out to be the owner of a silk farm dissatisfied with the progress made by the authorities in solving the string of bizarre crimes outlined in the papers. Glancing down at her dwindling coin purse, she reflected that there were more practical matters to consider, too.

Faint looked back to the newspaper in her hands, her breathing relaxed, her focus on the sounds and conversations that surrounded her. Largely by virtue of the boisterous otter traipsing over a nearby table, her gaze kept flitting to towards its occupants as she idly listened to their conversation.

The place where she was staying was at the opposite end of Forsaken, but ever since receiving the letter, she had made excuses to visit the east part of town. However, with only two days before the meeting date, and reluctant as she was to directly approach the innkeep with her questions, she had learned nothing of use. This was the first time she had dared to enter the building. She had walked into Caraway Inn early in the morning, at that time before sunrise when the only ones awake were those races most active in the night, or those who sleep had trouble finding. Given the sheer diversity of the inhabitants of Forsaken, she was glad to find several tables already occupied. No one looked at her askance as she quietly took a seat and resolved to keep watch for anyone who appeared to be at the inn for the sake of the meeting described in the letter. The waiters ignored her, and she made no move to call their attention.

She blinked as she caught the sound of the inn’s door, and glanced towards the bar just as a Genasi woman approached the barkeep. She tuned out the surrounding noise, listening to the brief exchange with sharpened senses. A moment later, something was given to the woman, and she walked away towards the stairs.

It was likely not the one who had called them there. The woman’s clothes looked fit for travel, and the air about her was not what she expected from the sender of the contract letter. One of us talented creatures, then.

Faint paused for a moment, seeing if any others had chosen to wait as she had, to ensure that this was not a trap meant only for her. She was rewarded by the sight of the otter clambering off the table to follow after the woman.

It seemed it was her turn. Faint had dressed simply for the occasion, leaving her cloak and her more obvious weapons in her room. She had quickly come to realize that the pair of long knives would draw even more attention in this town than a six-shooter. She always kept multiple blades concealed on her person, however, even without counting the single survival knife she had left visibly strapped to her thigh as a kind of warning, so she did not feel defenseless in case of foul play. She nodded quietly to herself and rose, folding the newspaper and stuffing it inside her vest before climbing the stairs herself, footfalls eerily silent.

She had to pause at the sight that waited for her at the top. Right in front of room 310, the otter from before was adorably scratching at the doorknob, growing more visibly frustrated with every second. She covered her mouth to keep too wide a smile from spreading over her lips as she approached.

Faint coughed conspicuously as she approached, giving the otter a kind smile from her vantage point. “Do you need some help?”

She didn’t wait for an answer before she knocked on the door, announcing their presence. She paused for a moment, glancing down at the otter, then opened the door. To her disappointment, only the Genasi woman waited inside, sitting by a window.

Faint hesitated for a moment before walking into the room. “Good morning,” she said, deeply aware that her accent made it obvious that she was new to the frontier. She produced an envelope from one of her pockets. “I don’t suppose either of you sent this.”
I get this feeling like Faint will not like Valanthe very much. Hard to say why. She'll also probably spend the whole time wanting to touch Soot's fur but feeling too embarrassed to ask.

Jury's still out on our fiery friends. Will depend on how much and what kind of attention they pay her.
Faint 1.1a patch notes: Added some stuff in the likes/dislikes section. Changed the quote. Changed the questionnaire (might be more depressing than before since the questions she had avoided needed an answer, actually)

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