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Ophidia in Herba
Posted: Tue Jan 06, 2009 12:43 am
Non in Legendo Sed in Intelligendo Legis Consistunt
"You must understand that I never intended this to happen." The bespectacled young man shifted his weight nervously from foot to foot. He couldn't be a day beyond thirty, but recent events had obviously weighed heavily on his mind, leaving uncharacteristic wrinkles around his squinting eyes and thin-pressed lips. A brilliant mind it need be; it was no small honor to be appointed head researcher on a project funded by the magocracy of Dalaran itself. The transgressing creases upon his mouth disappeared as he feigned a smile.
The man across from him was dark-skinned, and only marginally older. Letherian Hurst's broad frame seemed to loom above his nervous friend, even as he sat and the counterpart stood. At the moment he was greedily consuming what looked to be heavily marinated Alterac quail, courtesy of the Mrs. of the house. A loud smacking sound broke his cool silence as he licked clean three fingers.
The other cleared his throat. "I see you enjoy Sheela's cooking."
"Yes." He not at all subtly tore off a leg.
"My mother's recipe, you know."
"Indeed." Letherian watched as he sat down across from him. He shifted. The kitchen chair groaned in protest.
"I can't afford for this to happen. I'll lose my position, my estate...probably my license." The bespectacled professor swallowed and adjusted the thick planes over his nose. "I won't see my family for at least eight years, if at all."
"You killed over twenty people."
"I am full aware of what I did, Letherian." He could smell the thinner man's fear. His exasperation. "But you must have understanding. The Virulence is...exquisite. It's that fiend's fault that this happened. Not mine. I'm merely a scapegoat for the blame! A whipping boy that the Archmagi may hoister high and hang in the name of equity." His deep breath trembled with the urgency of his request. "You must help me, Letherian. Please."
"And what would you have me do?" He raised an eyebrow over the remains of his meal. His skepticism was no secret.
"You know Rengault Haneux better than anyone I know. Talk to him. Vouch for my good behavior and my reform. His Magisterium is surely not so stuffed in the ears as the Commissioner." The poor wretch's hope sank as he met his companion's blank stare. With a defeated sigh his forehead dropped into the notched wood of the table.
Letherian let the silence hang like choking humidity before he spoke. He would make sure to let him know he was not pleased. "I'll talk to him, old friend. But I can make no guarantees."
The other felt himself almost weep with joy, face still hidden beneath his arms. "Thank you. Thank you. I wouldn't want Sheela to be alone. It would kill her to be alone." He felt a heavy, dark hand lay itself gently upon the back of his head.
Blood and grey matter roared from the professor's forehead as the arcane missile lept from the hand and bored into his skull, rending flesh and breaking bone. He had no time to struggle before collapsing, crimson rivers spilling off the stained table. Letherian rose and removed a red glove. He turned his eyes toward the stairs and the bedroom where Sheela slept. "No, I'll give you that much. She need not live alone." He ascended.
Rengault scanned over the small leaf he held in his hand. Not quite yet forty, his fully grown beard already held threads of white. Fine purple robes marked his station as a Magister of Arcane Law. His most striking feature, of course, was his eyes. In his younger years Rengault had wooed many a magess with them. In middle age, their sky-blue depths still held the burning flame of vitality. "You could have been more subtle. I would have expected you to be, knowing him so well."
"It was unnecessary."
A faint chill ran down Rengault's spine, as though a Northrend wind had blown past even as the fire in his office crackled hot. He'd known Letherian for over ten years, and not once had he ever balked at an assignment. Nor complained, nor hesitated. He was, undoubtedly, the Magister's most treasured blunt instrument. That he would do the same to his own comrade both heartened and frightened Rengault. He had no doubts as to Letherian's loyalty. Indeed, Rengault demanded nothing but absolute and unwavering devotion from his colleagues. Yet, why he chose to volunteer for the assignment perplexed him. And he worried.
"Killing the woman was unnecessary. She wasn't guilty." The mage lowered himself into the large chair behind his spotless mahogany desk.
Letherian's answer was level and perfunctory. "She would have gotten in the way, and you know it. Had we not intervened they would have fled for Alterac City, and if she were alive it would be impossible to mask."
There was a tense stillness. Rengault stared accusingly with restrained anger. That was what he worried about. This was not the first time his comrade's bloodlust had gotten out of hand. But he could not deny the truth in his claim.
It could wait for some other time.
"...it would have taken Light-knows-how-long to get this murderer executed as he deserved, and the families of his twenty-three peers would be unavenged." He smiled. "I knew I could count on you. It must have been hard, nevertheless. Justice is often a trial in and of itself."
The assassin merely shrugged. "You have always told us to be men of action." Rengault quirked a silent brow.
"Eh-hrmm. Well. There -is- still the issue of. Cleanup." With a flick of his wrist, the papers dissolved into ash with naught but a hiss. "Shrouding Ambrose and Sheela Aduro's disappearance will be easy enough. However, he left behind a great volume of research on the Virulence that we haven't been able to locate." A pause.
"...And there is still the issue of the infant."
"Have you come to a decision yet?"
"No. But it was sloppy of you not to account for it, along with the papers and evidence." The Magister waved a dispelling hand. "I'll contact you later tonight at the usual place. Dismissed."
The brute walked out the door, casting one final shadow in the room before disappearing from view.
Rengault folded his hands in thought.
Re: Ophidia in Herba
Posted: Tue Jan 06, 2009 12:44 am
Nemo Iudex in Sua Causa
Within the clerical section of the Stormwind Guild of Magi, Bindi Fiddlespot shuffled about like a worker ant through so many tunnels. Her tiny gnome hands held a stack of documents (of vital importance, of course) to be delivered to the desk of Chauvelin Neville Aduro, CA, ASAP. She shifted the pile right and left in an effort to avoid the feet and waists of those much taller bustling all around her. She'd trekked through three busy rooms so far. Four to go.
"Excuse me, please! Oop! Thank you, dearie!"
Bindi passed row upon row of desks before arriving at the one she knew to be the recipient's. The tower was laid down. Chauvelin looked up and recognized the stack but saw no one there. "There you are, Mr. Aduro, sir! Have a nice day!" And with that she left. A bobbing pink pigtail traveled across the horizon of his desk before slipping away. Chauvelin's expression turned sour as he began to work.
-- Two Years Prior
The steady ticking of a pendulum had been solemnly keeping time before Rengault entered. It had been his father's clock, brought from Gnomeregan almost forty years before the First War, and had faithfully kept the hour without pause or error for the entire nineteen years that Chauvelin could remember. Rengault leaned his staff upright in the corner and eyed the young man seated at their apartment's dining table. Beneath the rented room's wooden floor emanated the dull hum of a busy Booty Bay tavern. "You're back early," Rengault's apprentice inquired cheerfully, still half occupied with the scroll he'd been studying.
Rengault sank into a wooden chair at the small table and leaned, tilting it on its back legs. "Not for long, I'm afraid, I've got a rendezvous in half an hour." Chauvelin nodded in understanding. That was the way of things when the group had their eye on a mark. Yet for the time being, the former Magister seemed in no hurry.
"Did I miss anything?" Chauvelin asked, observing the tired creases on the features of the man who'd raised him.
"No, no. The Baron's aide wouldn't listen to a word of it without double the bounty's worth and Elric hadn't even heard the name Laurus Drachmas before."
Rengault noted the lad's worried expression. "Have you prepared the latent conflux for manipulation as I told you?" He never ceased to remind Chauvelin that he was his apprentice as a wizard before all else, but this time it was also Rengault's subtle way of telling him not to fret. This entirely evaded Chauvelin.
"Good. I will demonstrate the basics to you after I return. If I find Laurus' location I will want to confirm it myself."
The novice paused at the elder's words. "You're not bringing Letherian or the others with you?"
Rengault laughed in that peculiar way that showed the youth he still held. "Letherian is a good tool and a better friend, my boy, but he was never intended to handle glass." Chauvelin wished he could accompany his master more often, but said nothing. That settled it for the time being.
Shortly afterward, Rengault Haneux was dead. They found his body floating in Crystal Lake, throat cut open and old, empty knife wounds covering his chest that had bled him into the water and left him pale and lifeless. They called Chauvelin to identify the body, and he'd held a viewing three Sundays later. It was a gray and silent affair. The attending members amounted to half of the old posse. Four in all, including the corpse. Those that came eventually scattered to the wind along with the rest, like leaves in an autumn breeze.
Rengault had lost most of his worldly assets in the ruins of Dalaran, and what remained had not been enough to sustain Chauvelin, the sole beneficiary, for very long. It had felt so very odd taking down the portrait on the wall that Rengault had been so fond of, which held the proud visage and gleaming eyes of a younger, triumphant man. Every time he looked into those eyes Chauvelin saw only the wide and watery orbs of a bloated body, and so he'd removed the painting. He covered it with a white sheet as if it was some sort of cadaver and left it there in the Booty Bay room as the door slowly clicked shut.
There's surprisingly little work for a lone apprentice of nineteen, even if you're a caster. Not that Chauvelin didn't look. In the end, the place he thought that he'd most belong was the Tower in Stormwind. His time with Rengault had represented excitement and direction; since his loss, Chauvelin's life was bleak. He loathed his job but was too dependent on it to quit. Drifting from day to day, what activity he could find in the city by night left him aching for something that he didn't know quite how to express. He had become so entrenched in routine and the circular progression of things that what remained of his old life had been reduced to nothing but a faded idol. It still slept there, somewhere in the back of his mind, like the glimmer of a coin sinking further and further into the waters of a clear lake.
He was twenty, nearing twenty one when it resurfaced all at once, bursting to the forefront of Chauvelin's consciousness and making him shake.
The thing had risen from somewhere in the middle of the stack. It was a thick, normal-looking sheaf of papers: a pardon for a man named Laurus Drachmas. How did it end up on his desk? Did they want him to review the procedure or to direct it somewhere else? Looking further, Chauvelin found that there were at least twelve pages worth of documents bound to the first. He tore off the thin string that held them together and spilt the contents over his desk.
"W-what in the Nether?" It took some effort to force himself to begin reading, but once he realized what was encompassed in the information he began to devour the words eagerly. To request a pardon was a long and tedious process for all involved. It required, for one, a detailed explanation of one's crime and life at the time, current status and what amounted to a nigh life story worth of details.
Chauvelin found himself holding the paper like a dragon over his hoard, lest some invisible hand deny him of his priceless treasure. He felt his body swell with rage. The very same that they'd been pursuing at the time of his death. Butcher. Murderer. The very same that had sent him here in the first place!
And now, this pardon. All of their work for naught if he hadn't chanced upon it! Fate was a lovable bitch at times.
Jarrold Fletcher was one of those individuals who took his job far too seriously, at least according to the cursory glances of others. He'd gotten the idea in his head that because he'd fought tooth and nail to get his position, he was entitled to all of the special treatment that was reserved for the disadvantaged. Jerrold never passed an opportunity to remind all those wealthy fops just how unappreciative they really were that they weren't out begging in the streets.
It was an exceedingly rare thing for a bastard urchin such as Jarrold to become a judge. Now, here he was; still a waif of a man but early in his seventies, with thinning white hair atop his pronounced scalp and black robes on his slight figure.
The irony was that his record wasn't quite as spotless as his desk, although he took great pride in the latter. One of Justice Jarrold Fletcher's great virtues was his thrift. He had learned from his childhood that a chance to acquire coin was never one to be passed. Opportunity had a way of appearing in the corner of your eye and it you might damn well miss something worthwhile if you didn't leap on it at once. It might be a long time before it strolled by again.
Of course, in Judge Fletcher's case opportunity had a way of walking up to his bench with a wink and a nudge. He liked it that way and didn't expect it to change.
He was in the middle of what he considered to be a long and stressful day when the news arrived. This rather annoyed him - he hated when the courier boy came in the middle of his break. It always left him with either more work or something to worry about throughout the rest of the day.
It seemed opportunity had just told him he had best hurry up with getting that pardon passed for whomever it was. All parties involved were getting impatient after four weeks without word or sign and were liable to get very bloody nettled if the situation continued. His Honor scowled in aggravation - he hadn't given the paper a thought in a good while. These things were supposed to be done by the book, and he'd given that pardon to the Tower a good while ago. Checking out the rogue wizard's story should have been a quick enough task. The courier was shooed with assurances of trust in hand. The Judge remained behind in a flustered huff, the offending message crumbled in his fingers.
It was enough to motivate the old man to stumble his way into the Tower personally and find out what had taken them so long. This naturally didn't sit very well with the intended Magister, who said that he'd been waiting for the document the entire time. This in turn led to a frantic search within the next few days.
One thing can be said about the Tower: something may be misplaced, but nothing is ever lost. A mage's hand has a way of finding what it seeks one way or another.
Chauvelin had set himself up for the fall, in retrospect. He couldn't bring the pardon home with him. The last thing he wanted was the location divined to his bedroom dresser. Destroying it before he copied what he needed to know was out of the question, but he couldn't leave it out in the open. When it finally turned up, it had been very clearly hidden in his drawer. A simple clerical error had delivered it to him, and his claim that he had merely misplaced twelve pages of documents, opened for nearly a month, that had never been intended for him was a bit too much for the Magisters to swallow.
He was brought in without ceremony and they'd shoved his possessions into his arms. Dazed, he stumbled away from his job with a gnawing sense of unrest and a contained, burning anger.
Yet when he walked out into the sun, when his focus on events previous was finally lifted, he felt an overwhelming sense of relief. He glanced upward, and suddenly found himself grateful for the beauty of the day and the promise that it held.
In that fleeting fraction of a second, Chauvelin's previous life was over. It didn't bother him in the slightest. He had finally come to realize what had made him despair all along, and the brutal simplicity of his foolishness made him laugh. The destruction of Dalaran had never stopped his mentor. All along, the only thing holding him back was his own self-worth. There was no limit to what he could do now.
This was not a tragedy at all. It was a second chance.
Chauvelin knew just what he wanted, and no longer would he be denied. He felt his legs fill with the vigor of purpose as he advanced like an army down the streets of Stormwind. He would see that fiend Drachmas chained behind bars. He would see everything stripped away from him, just as the bastard had done. He would destroy him and leave nothing left.
"First, there are preparations to be made." Rengault said as he stepped in time with Chauvelin. "Contacts to be called, debts to be collected. We must bring everyone back together." His cheerful specter was eager for one last, glorious hunt.
Re: Ophidia in Herba
Posted: Tue Jan 06, 2009 12:53 am
Cessante Ratione Legis Cessat Ipsa Lex
"Court is now in session, the Honorable Justice Fletcher preceding."
Ivan Sokolov sweated under the oppressive heat of the Stormwind courthouse. He was not alone in this regard. The jury was of much the same inclination, and Ivan could see thick beads of sweat dripping like molasses down the forehead of the judge and off his prodigious nose. The only exception was Ivan's own barrister, an elderly man with pale skin who might as well be made of ice judging by his form and temperament. Scratching sober notes upon a legal parchment with his quill, he rarely looked up.
The trial had flashed by in naught but a few instants. The charges, the testimony, the pity and the angry stares only drew blank looks from the middle-aged wine merchant in the eye of the hurricane.
"You are hereby accused of the crimes of rape and battery, how do you plead?"
It had never been his intention. A single night laced with ale and reckless abandon was all it took to lead to this. There would be no pity, no mercy; to them he was a monster without hope of redemption. He didn't even know who she was. By the Light, he didn't even remember what she looked like, save hazy memories of a cracked and bloody face staring up at him from a dirty pillow.
How Ivan wished he could change that night, to have done it over again. And to think she was so young. Only fourteen.
Jordan Krellaker rose to speak, flashing a winning smile that would sweeten wine. He was much younger than his opposite barrister and holding infinitely more charm. "In Lothar's name," Ivan thought, "I never had a chance."
"Ivan Sokolov, this court finds you guilty as charged. Under article four, section six of Stormwind law, I hereby sentence you to ten years in prison."
Ivan buried his face in his hands and pretended he was somewhere else.
Barrister Krellaker waltzed outside the room amid the shoulders of the crowd and faint congratulations of his colleagues. He paused to shake several hands and avoided the glowering of the defendant's relatives, as was normal.
"I didn't know you were married."
Something snagged on the corner of his eye, and Jordan turned around to notice a face he hadn't seen in years.
The young man in blue stepped from the corner with a confident swagger. He did not possess the same air as the man Jordan had known so long ago.
"Chauvelin! My chum! Ha, ha!" Jordan threw his arm around him and beamed. "Where have you been all this time? Last I heard you were pushing papers in the Tower! You could have at least written me."
"I quit." Chauvelin lied. Chauvelin backed away from his friend until he was allowed enough personal space to feel comfortable. "You seem to be doing well for yourself. You've even found a girl?"
"Why, no, I'm not married. Where did you get that impression?"
"You said in court that your own outrage was because you had a daught--"
Jordan waved his hands violently in demand for silence. "Never you mind all that, Chau. Come on, it's blazing in here. I could use a spot of tea, couldn't you?" He laughed, and Chauvelin felt himself being pushed away and out of the building.
Half an hour later, he found himself seated upon a couch that could only be described as luxurious. Drinking tea from a glass table imported from Silvermoon! Chauvelin couldn't help but marvel at his friend's success. His accommodations had been worlds more modest when Rengault and he had last visited.
"I would have written, Jordy, but...you know." Chauvelin imparted his meaning with a circular motion of his hand.
Jordan nodded half-interestedly, sprinkling sugar into his cup. "Don't worry, I know all about it, Chau. So, you said you quit?"
"Yes. There's no room for advancement in that cesspit. And it was horribly dull." The bitterness in his statement was more than apparent. It was true, every bit. He was just omitting the fact that his "quitting" may have been more or less involuntary.
"So, what did you need me for?" Jordan asked. Chauvelin responded with a bewildered look.
"Well, if you came to see me, you must need something important. You wouldn't have remembered me elsewise." He smiled simply. "No offense. Just common sense."
Chauvelin quietly remarked something about the profession of attorney and gave a half-hearted chuckle. "I found the man who murdered Rengault."
The barrister nearly fell out of his seat, sputtering. "You mean that--Drachmas?"
"Mmmm." Chauvelin nodded in affirmation and reached toward the floor, where he'd laid his bag. After a brief search he emerged with a thin leaflet that smelt faintly of coffee. The parchment reflected why. "I wasn't able to copy all of it, but you see-he's requesting a pardon."
Jordan turned a professional eye on the paper, alternating between concentration and a disappointed frown. When he'd read enough for his satisfaction he turned back to Chauvelin.
"Yes, yes, I can see this. But where did you find it? I mean, these papers. Something such as this would have been highly confidential and--" He ceased talking at his friend's pointed stare and smiled. "You want I should take care of it?"
"That was my hope." Chauvelin noticeably relaxed, spreading his arms across the velvet rim of the couch. "That wasn't the only thing I came here for, though."
"Letherian. He left with you, and you're the only person I know who'd have an inkling of where he is."
There was a brief pause before Jordan sorrowfully remarked, "He's in the cage. The guards caught him with a few bodies in Duskwood after a bar brawl. He isn't likely to be coming out any time soon."
Chauvelin sat for a moment in stunned silence as this sank in. Letherian, a murderer? "Well, I still need to see him. He's the oldest member of the team still alive; if I'm going to find Drachmas then I can't do it alone."
"You can't just hire someone?"
He shook his head. "It isn't that simple. Letherian knows names. He has experience. I don't have either. There's a limit to what hired arms can do. I'd rather rely on my friends for most of it and let money compensate for the rest." Chauvelin couldn't resist shooting his friend a slightly resentful stare. Jordan had never seemed to feel the same.
"Why don't you come with me? Talk to him, see if we can help. At the very least I need his advice."
"I would, old friend, but I have a sneaking suspicion he's a bit sore with me." Chauvelin arched a brow. "And why is that?"
"Because I am the one who put him there in the first place." Jordan smiled thinly. "All things considered Letherian isn't very likely to engage in rational conversation if I pay him a visit."
If he wasn't shocked before, this was surely an excuse to be. He hadn't thought Jordan capable of such betrayal. Scratch that, he knew the snake was capable, he didn't know he had the guts. Chauvelin had to admit to a glimmer of grudging admiration for his dedication, even if the motives weren't wholly pure. Rengault still would have been proud.
"I did what I did for the Law, you understand."
There was an uncomfortable silence as Chauvelin drained his tea.
"I'll tell you what," Jordan bent forward on the cushion, still smiling. "I can help you. I just need you to promise me not to breathe a word of it to Leth."
Chauvelin looked up curiously.
"I have a personal friend in the court, name's Jarrold. If we were to promise that Letherian's parole was conditional on his lending of his...talents, to capturing a wanted criminal, I am sure we could work out some sort of bargain. Shave a few years off his sentence. Light knows the old man needs it, he's got more years left on his ticket than he has alive." This amused Jordan greatly in some sadistic way.
The young mage felt more than a bit torn. Letherian was guilty. He was convicted. It was done...but he needed Letherian's help, desperately.
He was also a friend.
"That sounds fair."
Chauvelin stood waiting outside of the stockade in uncomfortable silence. Since his departure from the Tower he had felt empowered; alive. All of the things that had been so sorely lacking from his life in the time preceding it. Yet, he couldn't shake the enormity of the boots he was trying to fill. The significance and weight they held, and foremost the responsibility. The responsibility to himself and his mentor. He could only pray to the Light he was doing right by him in letting Leth free.
"I'm trying, Ren."
Then the door opened, and out strode a dark, unkempt man with snow white hair. Two armed guards flanked each shoulder. He tried to raise a hand to shield his eyes from the unfamiliar sun, but his bound hands made that impossible. Instead he blinked rapidly, shrinking from the light.
"Letherian." Chauvelin looked up immediately. "Good to see you, old friend."
Re: Ophidia in Herba
Posted: Tue Jan 06, 2009 12:58 am
Nemo Est Supra Legis
It had been a long time since Chauvelin tasted sea air. The scent was refreshing and vast and warmed by the hot dunes of the desert, washing over his face and crawling through his nostrils as he strode across the dock of Steamwheedle. It brought back memories of Booty Bay, but Chauvelin found it impossible to be bitter now: his time there was viewed through lenses of pleasant nostalgia.
Perhaps that was because of what he was doing. His new passion, his new chance to change the world instead of become its victim behind a desk. "You cannot possibly feel ill at ease if you're hard at work." Rengault had said, "A man with a garden needs to rake and hoe the ground else the fruit isn't sweet."
The din of a hard day's work resounded throughout the dock. Workers were loading crates, foremen were taking inventory and one grizzled-looking woman was barking militant orders toward her ragged crew. Rough waters lapped at the creaking wood below them and crashed against the bright sands of the Tanaris shore, glistening in the sun of a perpetually cloudless day.
Letherian was grimly silent behind his stone white hair and granite jaw. The act of freeing him, thought Chauvelin, had been remarkably more simple than it ought to have been. He only had to sign his name twice before being whisked out of the office like dirt from the broom of a good housekeeper. Letherian's thanks had come in a staccato downpour of questions, oaths and tears, a display of weakness Chauvelin was sure he was eager to forget.
The other man was much less familiar to Chauvelin, but the more he questioned the more he grew to respect him. It was an act of the Light indeed that led the two together. His name had come up as a former collaborator of the mark, but in the place of the unsavory brigand Chauvelin had expected was the complete opposite. Tiran was accredited with assisting the guard in over twenty separate arrests in Stormwind alone. He was a member of a group of noble mercenaries whose help Chauvelin had been grateful to procure. His broad brown cloak, oversized boots and loose hood threatened to swallow Tiran whole. At the moment he was holding a slow trot to Chauvelin's right, opposite the other magus to his left.
"To review one more time," Chauvelin waved a hand and licked at his now salt-caked lips, "the name of the ship is...?"
"It's called Molly's Chamber." Tiran intoned with a hint of disappointment. Or disgust. It was hard to tell behind the formality.
Chauvelin nodded. "The informant's name is Amone Harrion. And his connection to the target was...?"
"Former partner. Smuggler." Tiran replied. The trio paused at the dock's main junction, surveying the line of wooden ships lashed and anchored at port. Not more than twenty feet away, an aging sailor was hoisting a cage full of crustaceans out of the water.
Letherian grunted as Chauvelin continued. "Once we are well and truly clear of Tanaris, we'll confront him as noiselessly as possible. And the reason for this is...?" Rengault had done this exact same sort of thing whenever the old posse was out on a hunt. Chauvelin thought it was only fitting to do it too. It made him feel confident, in charge and important.
"There will be nowhere to run to." Letherian droned thoughtlessly.
"Yes. Right. So, for all intents and purposes, Tiran, you're the public 'leader' of this 'adventuring party.' And Letherian, make sure--"
"For Nether's sake, kid, I know." The old man glared, but with good nature. "Remember what we always used to say: 'Never over plan anything.' You're going to doom us all before we begin."
There hadn't been a day in weeks that Amone was absent from the ocean's kiss on his cheek. The captain grinned to himself and leaned into the wind as he would the arms of a lover. Even since he was little, Amone had dreamed of sailing. When he was five he'd made himself captain of his very own crate floating in a still pond in Arathi; once he'd learned to read his time was immediately put to use learning about the exploits of the weather-beaten sailors of Stormwind, the tall, graceful elves that cut the waves in lithe ships like delicate swans, and of course the dread pirates and scurvy scalawags of the south seas. He'd dreamed of swinging from ship to ship on a thick rope above the clamor of battle, cutlass drawn and ready to rescue his fine young sweetheart captured by the evil brigands. And he'd succeed, of course, and she wouldn't want to return to port at all: instead they'd sail around the world together for ever and ever.
When he was twenty he'd almost forgotten the fanciful wishes of his youth, but the ocean was still calling him south to Stranglethorn. He'd wanted to be a captain. Had circumstances been different and times less hard, Amone knew he would have been a hero instead of a small-time smuggler. It was just in the dice that he'd fallen in with a few of the wrong people. It was only after the first grey hair sprouted atop his head that that the dreams of his childhood novels had returned with a fervent hunger.
The men that came to him then had been Lightsent messengers, blessed to give him the greatest thing creation can offer: a second chance. A second chance worth one-thousand and change. A chance for redemption symbolized by the scorn of that he'd once held to his breast. All he had to do was lead Laurus to them. A partner's life was a small price to pay for freedom. After that it was a matter of running to Tanaris before Drachmas's friends caught up and laying down a payment for the boat. It was ragged old girl, seaworthy only in the strictest sense. There were leaks in two dozen places and the rotten boards would often creak with such violent protest Amone was sure they would give way.
"But you can't teach an old dog new tricks." He would be done at last after two thousand gold more of purple lotus, and then he'd be free on the ocean forever.
Amone stepped down from abeam the Molly's bow and strode before the mast. His first was busy overseeing the loading of cinnamon into the ship's hold, guiding an unruly crew with curt words and silvered glares. Unknown to the crew was the fact that four of those crates contained an entirely different kind of spice. He turned to his first mate, beaming like the sun.
She didn't take her eyes off of the men working. Should one of them misstep, his first would know. "We're behind schedule." They always were, as far as she was concerned.
With a nod and persistent grin, he took her declaration in casual stride, a light manner that was hardly befitting of what a strong leader should be. After all, what rush was he in to leave port? It was enough to sail at all. "You just make sure they set those crates down nice and easy now. But hurry! Of course. Those passengers we picked up in port made a showin' yet?"
"I've been making certain that your cargo is stowed safely, sir." She wouldn't snap, but he'd not notice if her teeth were gritted. "I haven't been watching for your passengers." It would be a miracle if they reached their destination with this buffoon at the tiller. Her own crew would never have dared been so careless.
He was mostly oblivious to her discontent. That or he ceased to care, or took some twisted pleasure from it. "Well, you watch for them too, number one. I'm sure you can find time. Not like we've got demons on our heels chasin' us outta port. Aughta loosen up yer britches some." Amone tipped back his admiral's hat with a measure of boyish glee. "Now, anyone breaks anythin' or anyone wants on my Molly, you call me from the cabin, y'hear?"
She didn't hide her glare, and the cursory, "Yes, sir," was hissed. She'd been given permission to kill for less than this man's impertinence in the past. If he tried anything with her britches, she would find time to break protocol just once. That she no longer had any protocol to answer to was a fact she blithely ignored as always.
Amone's airy footsteps followed him past the door and into the cabin. The two-bit scoundrels he'd managed to pick up shouted and groaned as another crate was heaved on the ship. One let out a curdling cry of pain and clutched his crushed hand while the others laughed. The three passengers were the last thing aboard, and after a brief inspection Molly was ready to launch. Ropes were cut, the anchor was hoisted and with a tremendous creak from the aging boat and a holler from the crew, she listed off port and caught the wind.
Re: Ophidia in Herba
Posted: Tue Jan 06, 2009 1:03 am
Facta, Non Verba
A rough sea grabbed at the ship as it tossed, long tendrils of whitecap waves prodding into blasted gashes. They hissed against flame and cinder and dug in, inexorably dragging her vessel down. No shouted orders, no disciplined crew nor incensed pleas to Elune saved it. Her sleek vessel was lost to the waters, and with it, her command. Her crew. Her duty.
The northmen fled, disappearing into the black waters. In their escape they unwittingly stole her life away, and in their wake she was left destitute.
It would have been very fortunate for them to have drowned.
The little adventuring party shared minuscule quarters within the bowels of the ship. It was cramped, filthy and slightly damp; much like everywhere else on the Molly, really, but this part especially so. In total, the contents of the room amounted to two hammocks, one small table and a very lonely chair. Chauvelin was at rest reading in one of the hammocks, gently swaying with the ship's motion, ignoring her incessant creaking. Letherian was more restless. "What the fuck is the hangup, kid?"
That was the voice of the largest one, with stark white hair and dangerous eyes. She'd paid the three men little mind since they'd boarded the Chamber, and they had mostly kept to themselves. Outside of the door, the kaldorei paused. Hangup? They were in the middle of the ocean, what more did he want of them?
Looking up from his book, the younger mage frowned. "Leth? What do you mean?" Chauvelin never quite lost patience with Leth no matter how he was abused. Consequently, his voice was even, unperturbed, merely curious.
"I mean," began Letherian, "that we've been on this boat for two bloody weeks and you haven't given a word about it yet. Are we going to do this or what? There's three days until we reach port? And you're reading. When I said 'Don't overplan, you little brat' this wasn't what I had in mind." The old man puncuated his statement with a pig-like grunt. From outside the door, what began as idle curiosity sharpened into suspicion immediately. The first mate pressed herself to the wall, ear close against the bunkroom's door.
The rustle of a tome being closed was mostly masked by that damn creaking. There was a pause, and then a tired-sounding third voice spoke up in a light Tirisfal accent. "Opportunity will present itself eventually. Patience. He hasn't exactly been 'alone'. 'Tis better to move in one sure stroke than fumble with light blows."
"Oh, shut up."
Her mind raced. There'd been no altercations, she'd made certain that the crew had been at least passingly polite...all three were in there, and they were all scheming. They'd been on the boat for three weeks without incident. Had they been planning this all along? Her eyes went wide, and she mouthed the name silently. "Amone."
Inside, a very pregnant silence seemed to linger in the air. The younger voice spoke this time. "Two days. If there isn't a convenient time before then. Two days." The younger was clearly their leader. Briefly, she puzzled to herself. They couldn't be that bright, not if they thought the Chamber would be a pretty prize. Of course, if they'd just been looking for the most gullible captain, they'd definitely picked a sure mark...
There was a grunt of acquiescence and then a heavy, lumbering footfall. It would only take three steps to reach the door of the tiny cabin. She was partially down the hall before the second fell. Then she took a composing breath, slowed, and walked for the ladder topside. She risked the tiniest hint of a grin. Let them try. She'd have to get Amone alone for them.
A slow, uneventful day by anyone's standards. That satisfied Amone. It was late afternoon and he was manning the rudder against a brisk breeze, rippling water below and billowing sails above. The muffled voices of the crew carried over from the stations on other parts of the ship. It was impossible to feel alone on such a small vessel, but Amone had no idea how very alone he truly was. The voices rose and fell to the rhythm of the ocean, and gradually they disappeared, lost in the hypnotic flow of the captain's thoughts. One more load. Just one, maybe two. He couldn't wait. Just then, the sound of footsteps behind him heralded an approach, and he turned away from the ocean.
Chauvelin, Tiran and Letherian had paused in front of him, smiling. Amone returned the gesture and wiped beads of sweat the size of junebugs off his brow. "Ahoy, fellas. What can I do for ya?" The captain was only very mildly annoyed, mostly good-natured. It was only then that he noticed the pointed grins of the magi to his sides, and the way the foremost of them was grasping the hilt of his sword. And it was also then, too late, that he saw they were flanking him.
"Don't be alarmed." The sonorous voice of the swordsman held no malice at all. It didn't soothe Amone's panicked expression in the slightest. Tiran repeated himself softly. "Do calm down. We don't want trouble."
"Don't want trouble?" His voice was purposefully louder than it ought to have been, which made the three uncomfortable. "Think you're going about this the wrong way!" Letherian made a motion as if to spring, but Tiran held out his hand. Chauvelin gripped his staff a little tighter. He was afraid of this. They couldn't exactly accost him now, nor tip him into the ocean. The whole point was to make him fear for his life so he wouldn't summon help, not because they intended to kill him. Botched. Damn.
It took a moment for all involved to realize that the help Amone seemed to be expecting was a long time in coming. From the decks below, not a single cry of assent sounded. "I said, you--!" Amone suddenly went pale. Where were they? What was this? "Mutiny! That's what this is about, isn't it? Ela! Get over--"
In a flash of lightning, the sharp tip of Tiran's sword pressed perilously close to his throat. "Don't so much as squeak or I shall be forced to end you. I really don't want to, old chap. It's not personal at all, you see."
"Damn it", cursed the captain mentally. Where was she? If he trusted one person to bail him out of this, it was his reliable first mate. This couldn't be happening. Not now! He wouldn't let this end when he was so close! She would get here. She had to hear. She wouldn't mutiny. His only choice was to stall for time. In that decision, he did exactly as his three assailants wished. "What...do you want with me?" The voice was one of a cowering child.
Chauvelin replied levelly, "We're here concerning an old partner of yours. Name's Drachmas."
He was doomed. Doomed. Dead. No. The captain's eyes went wide. They'd come for revenge. All this way, and he'd hired them for revenge. Laurus hadn't lied when he'd told Amone that if he ever crossed him, he would find him and end the treasonous snake in the most gruesome, painful way possible. Amone thought fast. He was used to thinking on his feet. Countless close scrapes, near misses and bar brawls in his fifty-three years had taught him well. He had no regrets. With a swift motion, the smuggler leaned out of the blade and ducked low, simultaneously drawing his dagger.
Tiran had seen Amone's motion. He had made the necessary adjustments in form to compensate for Amone's attempt, but a new entrant threw him off guard. From out of the shadows she slipped, appearing behind Amone to pin her former employer's arms swiftly. "Captain." Her voice was even, smooth as steel and every bit as sharp. "I suggest you tell them everything you know about the mage."
For a momentary eternity, the world stood still. The captain still clutched his dagger, motionless. When it passed Letherian whirled about, staff pointed threateningly at the deckhand. Chauvelin was trembling. "T-the Nether is this, Silvertide?" Amone whimpered pleadingly. "Listen..."
For the first time since she'd began Amone's employ, she grinned. "Your passengers asked you a question, sir." Her grip on his wrists tightened. Twisted. She was very good at her work, and missed it horribly. "And it appears that you're in little position to argue. I highly suggest that you tell everything you know about Laurus Drachmas. Swiftly."
"Arrrh!" The air in his lungs fell out, crushing his chest in at the pain in his hands. The dagger dropped. His reply came quick and high-pitched. "I don't know what they told you about Laurus, but he's a horrible, horrible man! These people have come to kill me because I--ahhh! Broke a deal with him!"
"That's unfortunate." Of all the men to fall into the employ of. The twisting abated. She would coax, not punish. Punishment could be saved for later. "Get that out of my face," she snapped at Letherian. She wasn't working the mage. He wasn't warranted the smooth coaxing that was directed to Amone. "Is he telling the truth?"
Letherian thought better than to argue at this time but didn't drop the staff. Tiran glared at him - a common gesture between the two. "A-Actually, I think he has it backwards." The youngest spoke with a measure of pity. "We didn't come here to kill him. Far from it. I don't know what altercations occured between the two. All I know is that they were partners."
"He's lying!" sputtered Amone desperately, struggling in vain against the elf's grip. "Laurus wants me dead!"
She turned her attention to the trembling youngest. He was green, it was evident in everything about him. "I'm keen to hear why you're seeking him." Were they going to kill him? What more could the mage have done?
"None of your business." growled Letherian.
"I very much disagree. Sir," she addressed to the man in her grasp, "why else would someone seek him? Your old partner, that is." She ignored the flames of fury licking at her from inside. They, too, could wait until later.
"Hold on." Chauvelin held up a hand and immediately grew more stable. "...How do you know that Laurus is a mage?"
Silver eyes flicked to him. Her grip on Amone tightened acutely. "I believe that can be discussed later. I'm afraid I'll be in need of new employment soon, anyway." She could make anything sound like a threat. In this instance, it just happened to be sincere.
The former captain yelped in pain. Letherian and Tiran maintained position in the back and exchanged a few hostile whispers. Chauvelin nodded in understanding, stepping in and leaning close to Amone. "Now, if you'll start cooperating, I will guarantee you'll walk off this ship in one piece. So far, you've only succeeded in making yourself more trouble than you're worth. And if you continue to do so, I can find someone else. Understood?" Amone let out a pathetic little weeping noise.
"I would listen to the pup if I were you, captain." Experienced enough to know when to take charge of the situation, it seemed. She couldn't remember his name, but this one wasn't as green as she'd thought him to be.
"Tell me everything you know about Laurus Drachmas. I want to know his residence, his income, his favorite food, and where his family is. I don't think you have a reason to lie, now that we have an understanding. You might even live to see us remove him from your list of worries."
Amone Harrion considered this. The noise of lapping waves filled his ears, and he thought of the ocean. The vast, boundless, free ocean. Everything Amone Harrion knew came spilling out in a waterfall of sound and sobs and explanations. How they met in Booty Bay, those long few years ago. Shady jobs and purple lotus and dream-filled smoke. Then the betrayal, how those men had convinced him of Laurus' "conviction" and final arrest. Amone had thought himself safe.
Chauvelin listened to all this, nodding slowly, and when all the chips were finally down, Rengault smiled broadly. Like a wolf.
"Miss Silvertide?" he inquired.
"Eh?" It struck her then; deference. She wasn't in charge of this prisoner, for once. "There is still a day to port. I can steer us in."
"Thank you." He nodded slowly, eyes locked coldly on her. "Would you please release the captain, now?" There was a moment where it seemed she might refuse. Then, cleanly, she she removed her grip and stepped away, arms at her sides.
The smuggler fell to the deck with a crash, chest heaving and arms writhing with newfound freedom. Tiran leaned forward and snatched up the fallen dagger. "So, ah. Where's my crew?" He groaned, rubbing at all the places he was in pain.
"Belowdecks." Calmly, the first mate took her place at the helm. "They'll be fine. They put up fights. Some more than others. Don't untie the bound ones."
Tiran and Letherian did a brief double-take at the elf. Chauvelin nodded approvingly. "We'll seal them there until we reach port. But the captain here has a choice."
Amone blinked and licked at his dry lips, blood finally cooling again. "I do? You said I'd make it out in one piece."
"I did. But, you see, before we set out to sail, I informed the authorities at Booty Bay that this particular ship was carrying highly illegal cargo into port." A gull cried out overhead. "You were doomed from the start regardless of what I promised you, I'm afraid. But because you were so helpful, I am going to give you about five minutes to seize the opportunity to make it off this boat in one piece. Assuming we're close enough to shore that you survive the swim, that is."
Amone's cooling blood turned to ice during the silent minute he lay on deck catching his breath. The smuggler took one last look at the three-no, four, there were four now- and then he swore. There was a splash as Captain Harrion fell into the ocean.
Re: Ophidia in Herba
Posted: Tue Jan 06, 2009 1:08 am
Non Facias Malum Ut Inde Fiat Bonum
In a modest room with little in the way of comfort, the four of them huddled. The provided table was simply too small to accommodate them all, and the lantern's cheap oil gave off half as much smoke as it did light. It seemed to little offend those gathered. Most were simply used to it, and they all had seen worse.
Flickering shadows danced on the face of the young frost magi. His hands were folded in a very businesslike manner over the table, in sharp contrast to the more relaxed pose of his fellows. Letherian was tossing some sort of rune into the air, while Tiran was practically melting over his seat in fatigue. Against the wall their newest compatriot leaned. She seemed to keep an unconscious distance from them ever since they'd left the Molly in the hands of the customs officials.
Chauvelin licked his lips, fingers writhing thoughtfully between his palms. "Thanks to our little boat ride, we have updated information on where the target resides and who is guarding him. The problem is that we need a case. The best lawyer in the world isn't going to be worth one iota without evidence. We have all the necessary funds-it's just a problem of execution. Here, in Dalaran, rides our best chance at making that case. Problem is, uh, getting him to come, and I don't think he's going to travel willingly."
"You're saying we storm the Keep? All that runaround, and...that?" The rune was slapped on the table as Letherian interrupted. Obnoxiousness was par the course for him, but Chauvelin vowed to have a word later nonetheless.
"Not exactly 'storm', but that's the general idea." That's what Rengault would have done for sure. "The most direct approach is often the best. The intent of the law is simple, words are open to interpretation."
Tiran shot a concerned frown across the room, pressing a thumb to his temple. "In his home? I'm rather sure that's illegal, you know. I'd rather we not take an angle of attack that will damage our own objective."
"It's not breaking the law. Anyone would agree that the results ultimately aren't illegal. That's the point." The mage explained this to Tiran as if to a child.
"I'm more concerned about what happens if we miss." Letherian grunted. "The guy's a rogue wizard. He's got an escape route, and in case you forgot, kid, he's not so alone this time around."
"You're not serious." From behind them came her incredulous voice. "I thought this was something that you lot did. Getting him to come willingly, as though we'd need to say 'Oh, pretty please come and let us strike, would you?'
"All that's not how you get Laurus Drachmas out of his cozy little place entrenched in that Keep." She dragged a crate across the floor and nudged Tiran aside so she could wedge herself between the conspirators. "I've had the pleasure of working with him. And one of his compatriots, as well. There's an absolutely simple way to get him to come to us."
In truth, Tiran wasn't sure it would work. 'Twas a miracle he got this far. Silently he creeped inside the Ironforge bar, found a table and sat, waving away the queries of the innkeep with a smile. No drink necessary. Now, he needed to report. Tiran steaded his shaking hand into still granite and reached for his box.
Whispered tones entered the speaker as Tiran relayed his position. The channel's judgmental red eye faded out again as he flipped the switch, and then sat waiting, eyes fixated on the door. His nerves were dead. Any minute now, the target would enter the bar. There were several patrons situated at the other tables, slurring out stories in a session of male bonding. It was unfortunate that they would not be alone for this.
"Pain isn't going to motivate him, I assure you. In fact, I would almost describe him as remarkably stubborn. What we have to do...I can't believe I'm having to tell you this. What we have to do is make him want to come to us. Give him no alternative. When your quarry runs to ground..."
"...you leave him no ground to run to."
"Clever boy. Perhaps there's hope for you yet."
"Actually, I think I saw that in a play once."
She sauntered inside casually, making a show of looking over all other patrons before finally finding him. She could have been tipped off by the fact that he was one of the only non-dwarves present. When she approached, he grinned, unfolding his arms and setting both feet on the floor. A quiet nod indicated his request for her to sit.
They leaned in towards each other, and in hushed tones denials and warnings were exchanged. First one then the other soured in their verbal cat's play of back and forth.
"He's not alone. That's our striking point. If we curve things just the right way, we can get him to bend. Break his routine habits, disrupt what he's comfortable with. All we have to do is provide the initial nudge, and his disorientation will do the rest for us.
When I was working with him, I found one thing that reached him, without fail. A trigger of sorts, so to speak. It's said that you never learn more about someone than when they're enduring pain. I've always held to that."
The crunch of metal boots on the bar floor interrupted them. Around the pair, the bar went silent. Tiran didn't so much as twitch a finger. Fells's smug smile faded, and she only risked the barest glimpse over her shoulder.
Dwarven men in guards' plate spotted their table. Slowly, they approached. When she turned back to him, it was perhaps the first time he'd seen her sincerely frightened. There was pity in his eyes, and the fact that it was genuine only made it worse.
She kicked the chair out from under her, lept over the table, and ran.
"Have you ever seen nightstalkers bring down an elk? First, they jump out and startle the prey. After they've whipped up so much panic the poor bastards are screaming and tripping over each other with fear, they divide the one they want from the rest of the herd. Swipe at its tendon, claw at its flank and bite until it collapses from exhaustion. We don't rush into this and take the bull by the horns."
"Yes. Yes. Successful. Not smoothly, no. Very well." The channel's red eye winked out. Such a shame it turned out this way. She really wasn't a monster. Just horribly misguided. Tiran shook his head. She should have given up quietly. He'd even offered to send a message!
Well, she'd get her courtesy message regardless. Come morning.
"All we have to do...is isolate him."