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There were a number of ways that the night could end, but none was more exciting than meeting a snake-faced woman carrying Pyre's Fortune. If it was the real thing, then here was a potential prey that could potentially be her last. Imagine how much the Emperor would pay to have the little stone returned. But first, she had to talk to people with the right connections to authenticate the woman's claims. Finding the dragon could wait another night.

The cloak she wore billowed about her ankles as she made her way to the exit. The light tapping of her boots were lost in the usual sounds of loud voices and laughter. It could have been just another night in the tavern, except that she heard the snake-faced woman's voice call after her. Did the mage think she could get away from the mysterious woman that easy? No, she didn't, but she did wish it was.

Catarina sensed magic before silence enveloped the establishment. The little hair at the back of his neck rose and she felt her boots glued to the wooden planks. She dared not to turn around when the silence was broken by one strangled cry, followed by a dull thud. Several dull thuds.

When the last man fell, and she saw red from the corner of her eyes, the mage slowly turned around. The face that met yer hazel eyes was calm and seemingly pleased. All around them were dead and dying men. The bartender, Catarina noticed, was slumped on the bar with the edge of a knife barely visible behind his head. This was the work of Pyre's Fortune, no doubt. No mind mage could have done such damage at such a short period of time. But how did it end up in the woman's possession? Nevertheless, she needed to get her hands on that thing before the Dragon finds it.

Catarina drew the two short swords strapped at her waisĺ. Rune gleemed as the swords were freed from their confinement. She pointed one at the stranger as Catarina smiled back. "I was going to let you walk away," she said then paused. A movement on one of the windows caught her attention.

The snake woman missed it. There was something pressed on the window, something that the stranger might have been looking for. And the one holding it, if she was not mistaken, was none other than the Dragon himself.

The smile on the mage's face faltered. She glanced quickly at the window then back at the snake woman, and made a hasty decision. A spell circle appeared at her opponent's feet, then the floor boards cracked and broke as the earth beneath them crept up her boots to restrain her movements. Just then, Catarina made her move aiming for the hand that held Pyre's Fortune.
The second round of drinks landed on their table without a fuss. Neither of the women bothered to thank the bartender. The mage could not talk for the woman, but Catarina was filled with curiosity as to what the Dragon would bargain for. She held the woman's steady gaze with cool confidence while she waited for the big reveal.

It did not take long though before the thin line of the woman's mouth relaxed into a semblance of a smile and she presented the contents of the pouch. It was a finely made wooden box with smooth edges and a tiny hole where the woman's special key fit in. The snake-faced woman, who refused to touch the second mug, unlatched the box then peeled the silky layers of protection inside to reveal the Dragon's desire. The mage's eyes widened.

"Pyre's Fortune," she whispered just as the woman announced what it was. Te mage involuntarily grabbed her second mug then she took a swig.

The Academy at Aldcourt was where she first heard of the artifact. It was said to be in the posession of the Emperor himself, guarded by his elite circle of mages, the Golden Shield. There was also believed that it was the sole reason why a human was at the throne. No way could it be the real Pyre's Fortune. And if it were, then perhaps she was looking at the next biggest bounty.

Catarina leaned back shaking her head. "Forgive my bluntness, but that couldn't be real," she said in a matter of fact tone. Her mouth was set in a hard line while she fished for a couple of coins. "I'm sorry, but it felt like I wasted my time. It was nice meeting you, though. Please enjoy drink, but please excuse me."

She got up from her seat and went to the bar where the bartender was wiping plates. Tired eyes looked up from the plate. "Here," she slapped the coins on the table. Normally, she would have called the bartender to the table then pay, but she was eager to be away from the snake woman. She did not trust the stranger.

The bartender picked the coins on the bar, then nodded. He was about to turn his back, but he hesitated and did face her again. "A man in expensive clothes said to tell the snake-faced woman that the deal's off," said the bartender. "Tell yer friend, he said so." He jerked his chin towards the woman.

Catarina's ears perked up. "He?" Her eyebrows rose in curiosity. "What does he look like."

"Like jus' another man, madam. Brown hair, green eyes. Though ye kin spot him 'cause of his odd clothes." She nodded, then tossed another coin at the bartender's direction.

"Thanks," Catarina walked from the bar, but as she passed the snake-faced woman, she said, "The deal is off."
Maruiin. She heard of such a place before, though the mage couldn't quite recall where it was. She was distracted by the grace that accompanied the snake-faced woman's every movement. Even the way she set the package on her lap looked like a dance. It made Catarina realize how much she lacked on that aspect.

She smiled at the stranger, but her eyes lingered on the edge of the table where the package disappeared into. "I hope the ale would not disappoint," she said, then listened carefully to the reasoning behind the conclusion that she could be the Dragon.

The snake-faced woman had a point. It could be that the description on the posters were all wrong and the Dragon was a woman, or a dwarf, or maybe a real dragon. Catarina did not think to try and track the target using means other than his alleged physical appearance. She took a mental note to do so. But thanks to the snakr woman, Catarina was a little more certain that the Dragon was in Padstow.

"Thanks," she murmured when the bartender approached theit table. Absently, she reached for the wooden mug and took a sip that was longer than that of the other woman.

"I've brought my part of the bargain. Do you have yours?"

There it was, finally, a crack on the snake woman's perfectly polite mask. And there sat Catarina who thought that the woman was a fan of the Dragon who could possibly share with her what she knew about the man, or woman. But the snake woman talked about a bargain with the Dragon. What could she be holding? Regardless, it was something the Dragon wanted.

Smiling, the mage put the mug down ever so slowly. It was easier sweet-talking men than women. This particular woman, Catarina thought, was not the type who was easily fooled.

"Ah, straight to the point. Maruiin should learn to take it slow and savor the moment." She took another long drink from her mug before she continued with as much edge as the other showed. "Will you show me. Then I will decide if it is worth what I offer."

"But before that." She raised a finger, silencing the protest that was about to come out of the other woman's lips. "Another round here, please," Catarina called sweetly to the waiter.
It was not Catarina's intention to draw attention to herself, but calling forth lightning was not as discrete as she would like it to be. By the time she realized her mistake, there was already at least a dozen pairs of curious eyes looking for the next juicy story. She unclenched the fist that was engulfed in flames to let the ashes of the glove fall to the ground as she extinguished the bluish flame.

"Let this be a lesson," the mage said raising her voice. There was no point in hiding ot running away, she thought. It would only make her look a lot like the offender. Although she hoped that nobody alerted the city's constables. "For any of you who has ever thought of assaulting a woman in the dark." Thankfully the fake Dragon was still unconscious. Murmurs rose from the small crowd. It was time to make her exit, but then someone approached.

"Am I speaking with the Dragon?"

It took Catarina a few moments to understand that the woman was talking to her. In her peripheral, two men broke from the crowd and ran towards the fake Dragon, calling him "Boss." Catarina couldn't care less about the minions taking their boss away. She was focused on the face that managed to look both human and not.

"I've heard much about your great power, but forgive me if I'm surprised. I'm honored, to be sure," the green-skinned woman said. That smile on her thin lips made the mage uneasy.

"I could be," Catarina shrugged. She pulled the hood of her cloak over her braided blonde hair. What could she gain by pretending to be the Dragon? Perhaps she would find out soon enough. "Come, let us talk somewhere with a little privacy."

She led the way back to the tavern where he spotted the fake Dragon. Furtunately, the table at the far corner of the room was still available. She took it, then gestured to the bartender. "Two of your house blend," she ordered.

Catarina turned her attention back to the woman. Under better lighting, she could see that the stranger oddly resembled a snake. She was half expecting a slender tongue would peek from the woman's lips. "I hope you drink ale. This place might not look the part, but they serve good ale. You are not from around here, are you?" Catarina made it sound like an accusation. "And why did you think I am Dragon?"

Everyone knows that the Dragon was a man. The posters did depict a sketch of a man, but then again, she had just made a mistake because she relied on the wanted posters. Perhaps she could learn from the stranger. Perhaps the stranger knew something about the Dragon that Cataria and the rest of the kingdom missed.
When one talked of the Dragon, one was talking about destruction and despair -- of women taken against their will, daughters sold to the highest bidder, sons and fathers whose blood painted the paved streets, and babies with their futures stolen. Nobody was exactly sure how he looked like. The posters of him actuly differ from town to town. Although if one would ask around, he was described as a monster of a man whose skin was hard as stone that no sword could pierce it, and his eyes would glow like twin suns when he was angered, then he would open his mouth and spit fire. That was how he got his name, they said.

To Catarina, he looked like a pot of gold. A big one, in fact. And she would never forget the moment she first laid her eyes on him. He was exactly how she envisioned him in her mind -- brown hair, tanned skin, cruel eyes made more cruel by a perpetual frown. A scar from the right temple to the bridge of his hawk nose and down to his left cheek bone split his face in half. While he wore propee clothes, the brownish loose fitting tunic and vest did little to hide heavy muscles.

The Dragon slammed a couple of coins on the table and yelled, "Bones!" The only feature she could not verify was the constellation tattooed on his hand, which was the real reason why he was called Dragon. Her mind was screaming at her to check and be sure, but her heart was already sure this was the man.

"Over here you lazy piece of meat," he yelled again, gesturing with a thick arm. The other patrons seemed to not mind. Maybe they were used to the commanding presence of this man. The bartender, who was cleaning up the table that, a minute ago, sat the most wanted fashion offender, visibly sighed and left what he was doing. Catarina thought this had got to be the man.

The moon was full and bright. It cast its pale light even on the darkest of the alleys between two warehouses near the docks. Then suddenly the sky was lit by a web of lightning. One split the sky and zapped its way to the earth, lighting up that space in between two warehouses. It cast a long harsh shadow of a woman, then disappeared as suddenly as it came.

On the ground where the lightning kissed the concrete floor was the spot where a leather glove was. Its pair was clutched tightly in the mage's hand. Her teeth gritted, she uttered something under her breath, then her hand was engulfed by blue flame.

The brown haired man at the tavern, who now lay with a broken nose and other broken bones, there was no constellation on his hand. This was not the Dragon, this was a waste of time.
Several hundreds of ships visit the City of Padstow every month -- cargo ships, passenger ships, occassional war ships, not to mention pirate ships. It would seem that Lord Willelm, Marquess of Padstow, and his subjects do not discriminate. If it was a sea vessel whose captain could pay the dues imposed by Lord Willelm himself, then it would be welcomed in the city.

Padstow was not a small city. Despite its apparent distance to the capital, it could generate a sizable revenue due to the sheer volume of sea vessels. There were four districts that divide the city -- the port district to the east facing the Great ____ Sea, the market district (where one could find a combination of stalls and white two-storey concrete buildings) occupied the area after the port district, the residential district was west, and the residential district for nobles and rich business owners was north of the market, up on a hill overlooking the city.

The market at Padstow was the busiest in all Adalind. It was where products from all over the continent, and across the sea, could be found. Padstow was even known as the city that had it all. There was nothing that could not be found in Padstow.

Such was true for Catarina Frost.

The biggest fish of them all - The Dragon - appeared at the Fisherman's Hall, a cheap tavern frequented by pirates and other characters with questionable moral standards. The information she bought was true, after all.

Catarina leaned back, hoping the shadow at her corner table would hide her. There were about four empty tables and six, including hers, that were occupied. It was not the best night for the tavern. Neither was it for her. She pinched a bite from the stale bread served an hour ago, then dunked it into the tankard of sweet light Ale before thoughtfully nibbling on it.

Any or all of the patrons might be part of the target's crew. She could not act. Not yet. It was best, perhaps, that she study her target. Find that moment of vulnerability, then strike.
"Your mother is waiting for you," said the innkeeper after Eryn entered the establishment. "Better go see her." Elias continued wiping the tables that were set on the common area of Golden Arrow Inn. He was expecting the guests to decend from their rooms any moment now to order breakfast before they start the hike to Scarlet Heights.

Eryn, on the other hand, went straight to the back door leading to the kitchen where she found her mother with her helper Mrs. Greene. "Here are the eggs and the other things you asked, mum." She smiled as her mother raised her head from the pot. "It smells good!"

"Thank you, dear. Spiced duck chowde is on the menu," the older woman answered. Her features and coloring was very much similar to Eryn. "Will you be accompanying the tourists up Scarlet today?"

Eryn nodded, stuffing her face with freshly baked bread. It would be another long day up Scarlet, but she was looking forward to a moving target practice. She was tasked by the Satchels to keep the tourists safe by warding off malicious monsters. It was a job she secretly enjoyed, because of the challenge and thrill. Her mother passed a glass of warm milk to her.

"You know you don't have to do this, Eryn."

"It helps me pass the time," Eryn responded. "I'll be home as soon as we get back to town, so don't worry yourself and father too." She turned to the door and was already half way out.

"Just be careful."

To this, Eryn nodded. She picked her bow and arrows that she left behind the counter in the common room, then bid her father goodbye before she left. There was a couple of humans dressed in traveling clothes waiting for breakfast at one of the ten tables inside.

She breathed in the crisp morning air and felt the reassuring weight of the bow strapped on her back then heard somebody call her name. She turned her head and found the only dwarf in Loudwater. "How are you today, Lutz?" She smiled. Lutz was the best blacksmith she knew of. He was a close friend of her father and she had known him since she was a girl.

"You climbin up Scarlet today? I was think'n about goin' up myself for a quick hot spring dip, but storm clouds are comin in pretty quick from the east..."

"Yes. You should come with us. More exciting company for me. I am on my way to the meeting place." The usual meeting place was in front of the Mayor's residence. It was easy enough to describe and was as easy to spot.
Even with the recently finished construction of the second storey of the Golden Arrow Inn, Elias Linwood, the innkeeper, still had to turn down a cuple of tourists that morning saying that all eight rooms were occupied. He had thought of building two more rooms, but there was not enough money at that time. Thanks to the Satchel family, whose passion brought a steady supply of tourists to Loudwater Village, Linwood's business was good.

It was actually better than good that he had enough money to spare to buy his daughter a new set of bow and arrow from a travelling merchant. It was made by a craftsman from the elven capital Eledell, the merchant said. Linwood had never been to Eledell, or in any of the sacred lands of the elves for that matter, but the bow was light and balanced and he thought Eryn would love it.

Speaking of which, there she was, a spitting image of her mother, carrying baskets of fresh produce and arguing with the neighbor again. Linwood sighed as he pushed the window wide open. His daughter inherited his wife's elven features, but none of her grace. The innkeeper watched as Eryn Linwood left the argument with a deep frown and stomped her way to the inn.

As usual, she would bring it to her mother who would cook the meals for their guests, while Eryn would prepare herself to join the trek up Scarlet Heights. The Satchels employed her as an extra layer of protection for the tourists.

Case 648 sounds like a lot of fun. PM me?
Hi both your supernatural plots interest me. If you feel like RPing any of these with me, send me a PM :)
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