Ulna delves into a tome of secrets considering a meeting with Seyjan. The Black Pawn and his thieving comrades learn the dark truth of the bone scarabs.
Of Fire and Smoke
Pages turned, simple parchment with a stain of time despite the care given by the owners. Age itself lives within all things, be they flesh or simpler forms. Spine not as straight as first binding, edges frayed, touches of fingers and oils shifting shades, scents of cedar, pears, and perfume rising from within its heart despite the coppery notes of old blood. Any would look upon the work and know it hailed from an ancient time, crafted by skilled hands. A perfection in imperfections.
Within the cover, faint lines of a map passed, something of cities and slopes shifting to dunes and endless space. History breathed through illusion. A scattering of lithographs, jade and gold inlaid designs, and stark lettering in pitch and kohl depicted a story…a tale…or something legitimate. The moment held a familiarity, of when the book first accepted words and most recently being held and read from. But…something was not quite right. Leaning closer, she read as the pages of today shimmered and shone through to the pages of the past…
It is told that at the dawn of creation awoke the great tree of Anlon, leaves and bark etched in the history of all things. A first and last man, beast, and all magical beings lived in the heart of this tree. But those of the Crown have a void within that no possession, power, or knowledge could fill.
And in their infinite greed, the Crown dreamed of expanding dominion over the entirety of creation. The blood of many a man, demon, elemental, and raksha spilled in their war, and Balor, the king of Lapis witnessed the slaughter in quiet and despair for he felt not this need to destroy as the others. What lay in his heart must remain away from his brethren, his mind, his being. Locked until sundered. Bound until breached. For the others would not understand. Taking such an action would destroy him within the Raksha for they shunned falsehood.
In secret, he placed this knowledge deep within the Anlon, wise in its soul. The roots of the tree passed through time, this place, unto the next. Ken and care, it knew when to reveal and return this knowledge. As the great king laid to rest a part of himself…Anlon offered an ironbound sliver… as a key–
Ulna woke in sweats, sheets and paper soaked through and sticking along her arm and side, chalk staining her fingers. Regi gave a croak of fear, likewise consumed with the dreams she had and felt. “Dreams…just dreams… Easy Regi.” She pulled the small monkey close, red and blue chalk dusting fur.
As clear and bright the memories were in sleep, they faded as if rubbed at the edges, tarnished. Dragging the damp pages, she hoped to find words, the slippery hand written things caught between the edges of sleeping and waking. Perhaps Seyjan could discern them?
Not this time. Upon the parchment in fine detail laid a book cover, designed, drawn, so perfect and precise. As if waiting to be found. As if… “I saw it in …damn where?!” Nearly flying from bed, she dug through notes, pages falling from neat stacks back into the chaos from whence they came. “Must be the library, right Regi?”
The monkey scratched his head and fell back to slumber.
Of Shadows in Night
Pebbles turned and twisted between fingers, small and nearly round with enough edges to catch on things. Enough purchase to make a crack of noise, yet rounded to crunch when stepped on. A careful crafting of mud and limestone. Never once did they rattle, just shifting deftly, a constant drill for his hands. The Black Pawn settled in a corner, tensing muscles in segments to keep from cramping. In the crux of two buildings and a laundry line, his dusted clothing melded in the night lit nothing. Gauze even hid the white of eyes lest a lantern wander past. Blackened and dirty toes shifted, holding upon a sill.
Rook and Knight settled in shadows across and down in the lee of a crates and barrels. The Bishop in White laid under canvas in the back of a small cart, breath not even disturbing the fabric. In the center of the intersection between buildings set a well with a series of buckets and ropes. The Black Queen shadowed the Hulon merchant, Guires Ressler, to one of the many chocha bars in the port district. Vastly boring and not lucrative, she at least kept him busy while the others scoped his metal flakes and jeweler supplies in his warehouse area in the docks. But then he received a letter. Spying a view of it while refilling his glass was easy, deciphering it took a bit of time and trade of lotus opium to a book binder.
A contact would meet him, provide a map, to the final meet. That started a couple hours ago. Queen kept to his side until he received a new parchment with just a map and time. She knew the place. And now the crew waited. The Mouse mentioned a bit trouble brewing in Gem, maybe this meeting would give them more than just easy warehouse theft…but real information. A dangerous bit of work espionage, but he knew someone good for buying it.
The fateful footfalls signaled the arrival of their target. Larger around the middle, enjoying his easy life more than most, Guires strode the center. He leaned on the well, dropping a large satchel of possible samples for whoever would purchase the wares later. Pulling free a thin handkerchief, Guires mopped at his face, staring at times at each of them, yet never once reacting. Every breath and movement became a crucial waiting game.
Eyes closing to steady, the Pawn heard before seeing the other approach. A figure hard to discern, perhaps here the entire time! Dark layers of cloak and fabric seemed to whirl shadow-like around the body, a glint of metal seen but not from reflections. He had not the time to consider.
“Punctuality is required for meetings such as these. I wish not to wait further, Ressler.” Something sibilant laid the speech. “Show me.”
The merchant paled and chilled despite the heat. His bejeweled fingers shook to open the satchel, the darkness pushed away as he brought up and shook a glow stone. Shades of teal and sharp light picked out edges. The figure was masculine, strong, and armed lethally.
He dipped a leather-clad hand into the bag, a fistful of metal flakes following, sifting back below, revealing something hidden. A domelike cover, mandibles, markings forming a strange runelike shape, opening and closing as wings. Pawn nearly cursed realizing what it was…Bone Scarab. Deadly flesh eaters outlawed for ages untold within any place the living dwelled. Where locusts devoured crops, these scarabs devoured flesh. Endlessly hunger and difficult to kill.
“Beautiful…” The figure breathed the words, raising the scarab closer, as it woke further. The merchant nearly wet himself as it shifted and turned more and more in that grasp. But the figure returned it within the flakes which kept it silent, sleeping. The flakes of the dead, scorched bone, not metal as they thought. What if they had just taken the warehouse?! Without knowing!? How dead Chiaroscuro would be now…
“I have a few here, if they satisfy?”
“Oh yes, you shall be rewarded. And the case?” The merchant visibly cringed, as if hoping that piece would be forgotten.
“Aya, with the rest in the warehouse. If you send your men to collect, they will receive the full order and the case we found. And the reward?” He asked, swallowing around his fear.
“Of course, one now, the other later.” The figure brought forth an urn from his side and the dark cloak, a vessel of midnight and gilded markings in some odd script. The figure hefted the satchel over his shoulder, and strode away. “Unto midday tomorrow, my men arrive. Fair dealingss.”
When the danger passed, Pawn watched Guires fall against the well. He wept openly, holding the urn to his chest. Slipping from shadows, he and the others moved as one, surrounding the area as the Pawn laid a blade against the shivering jugular.
“Who and what was that, merchant?”
Exalts and Allies
Gera, A hired mortal for security with experience in farms and Moderate farm / moderate scythe / exceptional reaction – 5th child from the vineyards who dreams of something greater. She wields a scythe for threshing fields, and starting to learn bow & arrow
Mikhail, A mortal veteran of battle and adventure, she will join the crew and their work when they have official contracts and work. She wields long swords, long bows, spears, many other weapons. She remarked having traveled with Lunars, being saved by Shriek in Rathess.
Heinrick, A northman warrior and woodcarver captured and forced into slavery by the Guild. The group purchased his freedom, setting him free and offering him a job. He owes a life debt to the group.
Zora, Solar mouse, currently in the aspect of Night, spoke of needing to save this spirit before a terrible storm would fall upon the city. A horrid alchemist was about to kill this spirit in a place called the Juicer. She explained the situation with the aid of Frila and the rather annoyed beauty.
Den’lan, Lunar mouse, currently in the aspect of Changing, assisted with further information and offering aid. Unlike his robustly rude cousin, he seemed to have a quieter scholarly way about him. He is outfitted in fine artifacts, small rings, a backpack, books and scrolls, and fantastic goggles.
Lana embodied beauty with a callous annoyance about the eyes. She indicated she worked at the Violent Femme, a specialist much like Seyjan, with a bit of something else about the edges. Despite being only mortal, she has a series of small artifacts and skills to hide her actions within social circles. According to Zora, she owes a mighty favor and seems to hail from somewhere deep south.