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  #61  
Old Jun 20th, 2021, 04:59 AM
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Azar cursed under her breath. That stinking, pointy-eared, nosy excuse for an elf had nearly knocked her over, right within view of the ship! She had remained in disguise and had been snooping around, trying to see if there were any watchmen around, and the blue-skinned oaf had crashed right into her! And, to make things worse, he saw the book that she had been trying her best to conceal. If she hadn't been doing her best to be discrete she would have ignited his breeches on the spot, but she had to keep a low profile, so she contented herself with thinking explicitly dark and dangerous thoughts in his direction as she looked for a place to hide.

I can't exactly just change disguise right in front of everyone, can I? she thought.

But as she looked over The Sighing Lady she noticed that none of the crew were currently on deck. One was hanging from the side of the vessel, a little pot of pitch hanging from his belt as a small flame kept the pot warm, and was applying the pitch to some bare patches on the hull. Several were on the dock fruitlessly trying to coax Nae'laa's mule towards the ship, and apparently arguing about whose turn it was to buy a round when they had finished, and the others must have been below decks, perhaps arranging stabling for the mule. Excellent.

Affecting a hobble, she climbed the gangplank and then moved quickly fore, ducking in to the shadow of one of the sets of steps up to the fo'castle. Had anyone seen her? No shouts had followed so she hoped not.

 
Seizing the opportunity she allowed her disguise to shift back to the sailor-woman one that the crew were starting to get used to, and she grabbed a nearby mop and got busy scrubbing the deck, working exclusively at the port side where she could get a good look at the crowd.

Were Zenda and Batoyangi back? Had they already been and arrested Nae'laa and Khamyra? Azar couldn't risk going down to check because any half-competent official would have set a trap there, just waiting for her to make a move. All she could do, for now, was watch and wai…

Wait! Was that blue-stained oaf thinking about coming on board?!

She could see him eyeing the ship. This couldn't be coincidence, could it? Damn! He must have been one of the watch! Had he jostled her to penetrate her disguise?

She kept mopping as she tried to come up with a plan. She had to assume that they knew this disguise too, so she would need to change again, but she would need a diversion.

Then she saw it, the perfect opportunity, but she would have to be patient. She watched as the crewmen hauled and coaxed the poor mule along, inch by tortuous inch, the small patch of deck that she was mopping starting to sparkle like polished amber. A little longer. Just a little farther, mule. The waiting was excruciating, at any moment the watch could descend on the ship and she would have to fight, but she didn't like her odds of survival.

They will find that I give as good as I get, she thought grimly.

One of the minotaurs had actually given up on decorum and had put his forehead against the beasts rump, horns glinting on either side, and was pushing it along despite it having planted its feet now and braying in protest the whole way! Soon. Soon they would draw level with the crewman pitching the hull…

Yes, finally, they were close by, but the minotaur had got up some speed so she had to act fast!

Azar closed her eyes, leaning on the mop, and felt the flames inside of her. She reached in and shaped one, turning it in on itself and then projected it outwards.

On the dock, the little flame heating the bucket of pitch suddenly leapt, crossing the small gap and singeing the fur of the mule, which brayed loudly and then bucked, kicking the minotaur right in the face! Azar was not watching, however, as she had taken the opportunity to duck out of sight and had quickly changed her disguise.

She hurried towards the door which led belowdecks, now standing tall and trying to feign a dancer's grace. If anyone was watching, they would see Zenda going to check on her prisoners.

 

 
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Last edited by Lazer; Jun 20th, 2021 at 05:01 AM.
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Old Jun 22nd, 2021, 11:18 PM
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Myra
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"Oh! Zenda." Myra’s voice is her strange mixture of a growl and a purr as she is surprised by Azar (in the guise of the Ishadian swordswoman) on the stairs leading belowdeck of the Sighing Lady. "I’m just…" Myra stammers a bit. Azar notices that the Tabaxi wears her full pack, including her bedroll. There is a moment of awkwardness, as Myra searches for words to explain herself. She looks to “Zenda” with a guilty wince, searching the beautiful Ishadian face for a disapproving look, or waiting for a word of rebuke.

But then Myra’s feline eyes narrow. She looks Azar up and down and her muzzle bares in a snarl. Her black-furred skin pulls back, exposing sharp white teeth! The cleric of Bastet’s own Darkness flexes her forearms and long claws push out suddenly from her feline fingers! Her hand moves in a motion that Azar recognizes as the beginning of the casting of a spell, and the shadows in the stairwell grow darker and spread across the wood! Her voice is all growl now! "Who are you?!"

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  #63  
Old Jun 23rd, 2021, 05:19 AM
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As she stepped through the door she was confronted by a wall of darkness, from which a patch of deeper blackness spoke making Azar jump! It took her a moment for her eyes to adjust, and then she saw Khamyra was already prepared to leave. This was all the confirmation that Azar needed; judging by how aggressive she was acting towards 'Zenda', it seemed that the tabaxi had come to the same conclusion that she had about the trustworthiness of their erstwhile companion.

"Fear not, Khamyra, it is I," she said, letting the disguise drop from her face for just a moment before pulling it back up and then turning to peer back out to the deck to make sure nobody was following.

"We must leave, quickly. But where is Nae'laa? Surely she must be right behind you?"

She peered down the stairs into the hold expecting to see the cinder woman climbing up to meet them, but was confronted only with faint torchlight and the low grumble of some members of the ship crew. Where was she? They had no time to spare!

"Please, guard the door, I will urge Nae'laa to hurry, we must be gone before our enemies can assemble!"

 

 
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  #64  
Old Jun 24th, 2021, 04:25 AM
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"What enemies?! And I haven’t seen Nae’laa." Myra lets the darkness go and the shadows on the stairwell recede back into the corners where they belong. But she looks far from relieved or at ease as she watches her sorceress companion head down the stairs with such determination. "Azar! What enemies? And why are you disguised as Zenda?"

Slowly, Myra’s blue eyes widen with a spreading understanding! "Wait. You don’t think…?" Azar’s look of fierce resolve is all the confirmation the cat priestess needs. "But why would she betray us now? And to who?"

Myra thinks back to the previous night and the ambush on the docks by the Wharf Rats gang. Could Zenda have engineered the whole thing? She had recently come from the east. And presumably through this very port on her voyage from Ishadia. But Zenda had fought as hard as any of them. And Batoyangi… Myra’s thoughts went back to those terrible moments in the water, when she could feel the cold darkness of death closing about her, filling her lungs. Not the concealing darkness offered by her own goddess, but one that sought to pull her from this very world. It was Bato who had pulled her out of that darkness. And Zenda who had killed the last of the Rats.

"Azar, I don’t know." She says slowly to the former slave’s back. "You know far more of the intrigues of the world than I. But so much has happened these last weeks; Could these fears of yours have another…older…source?"

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  #65  
Old Jun 25th, 2021, 01:41 AM
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I'd do anything for love...
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The plan was simple.

Step 1. Lure the minotaurs to his den of debauchery.

It wouldn’t do Kazimir any good if those sorry sods wasted their gold in the taverns and brothels before Kazimir got his cut. Better to take them somewhere nice and private-like so he could take his time when he robbed them blind. And it just so happened Kazimir knew a place or two where he was still welcome and his tab ripe for the abuse. A private little hole in the wall where the watch was paid fat sums to mind their own business. The Stool Pigeon. It was the perfect joint for his gilded magic. The absolute best. Which led him to:

Step 2. Booze them up.

Nothing made a stranger friendlier than a belly full of liquor, and coincidentally, Kazimir had himself a keg of raspberry ale he’d yet to put a dent into. It’d cost him some time to drag it from The Beheaded Rooster but it didn’t look like the sailors were given leave just yet by their captain. A cursory glance across the ship deck showed they were having some difficulty moving an arse off-board, which put a stop to anybody else using the gangplank, as a line built up behind the group of minotaurs that were desperately trying to shove the mule forward, pushing and shoving and grunting until--

"HEE-HAAAAWWW!"

WHACK!

"Ooooh…" Kazimir winced. "Right in the kisser." A few passerbys stopped to watch when the unlucky minotaur roared out in pain only to scramble out of the way of the escaped mule that rammed its way down and through the crowd. Kazimir watched the circus act of sailors stumble down the gangplank after the stubborn beast, and while he humored the thought of getting into their good graces by helping them rein it in, twas the matters of the heart that stole Kazimir’s attention in the end. In the corner of his eye, he caught sight of that familiar head of fire he admired from the barbershop. Tall, dark, and deadly walked across The Sighing Lady’s deck, already back from her stroll through Kazimir’s dreams.

He clutched his heart like Freyja herself jabbed him with her arrow of love. Or was it a blade she carried? Ehhhh. He was a little fuzzy on the details but no matter! Point was that the fates themselves brought the two together, and Kazimir wasn’t going to look a gift horse-- or in this case, a gift mule-- in the mouth. "Right. New plan. Screw takin’ the horned laddies from the stables. We’ll have us a rip roarin’ time on their ship, an’ get nice an’ cozy wit Red at the same time." Question was how exactly was he going to convince these slabs of meat to let him onboard without any collateral. He could risk running back to the tavvy for his ale, but with the day he’s had, he feared Red would slip away before he got back!

And then there was the matter of his pickled cologne. Kazimir sniffed his still-drenched shirt and grimaced at the briny smell. Hardly the sort of the scent that would send the lasses running towards him. Well, Trollkin ladies maybe. They did like a man with a bit of musk on him. "Not her, though." Kazimir muttered and scanned the streets for a water barrel fit for ruining. It wasn’t the perfect solution but a quick wash should dilute it just enough that it wouldn’t overshadow his sparkling charm. However, just as he spotted a fine soapy mark nestled underneath a line of laundry did Kazimir freeze on the spot.

He blinked his slate grey eyes and gave them a rub with his blue-stained hands as he swore to heaven and hell that ole Red with the legs that go allllllllllllllllll the way up was mozying her way through the crowded street on the other end of the dock. But that was impossible. She was just up on the ship! Right? Right?

Kazimir swiveled around on the heel of his foot to face The Sighing Lady again. He squinted hard against the rising sun as he scanned over the heads of minotaurs and humans alike before his jaw dropped, the elf struck speechless as he saw her-- the same bloody woman who made him a fool before the gods-- disappear down into the ship’s guts. Kazimir stumbled like a drunk, twirling haphazardly in the middle of the street, arms out to balance his dancing feet, and somehow, someway, wound up facing that same fiery woman stalking her way through town with her furry shadow at her feet.

Two Reds wandering about Candano at the same time.

Kazimir slapped himself to make sure he wasn’t dreaming, and that sweet sting of pain that followed could only mean one thing.

"Twins." Such a word could only be whispered in hushed and sacred tones and Kazimir was not one to turn away from such holy traditions. But be still his beating heart-- twin redheads cut from the same beautiful cloth as Frejya herself, here, in Candano, on one of Kazimir’s unluckiest days? It had to be a sign. A sign that loudly and clearly screamed that he ought to forget his worries with Scarlet and instead focus on the more pressing matter of earning a date with the both of them. And who was he to ignore divinity, especially when he was nothing more than a humble actor in their grand play.

That said he was definitely pressed for more time than he was before as Red Number One was fast approaching her ship. There was no time for a quick jog to The Beheaded Rooster or for a wash in a barrel. No sir. Kazimir was going to have to get a little bit more magical than that. Smoothing his hands down his shirt, Kazimir muttered beneath his breath words of power, tugging at the threads that bound reality together for his own selfish purpose. But whereas a man would have wished for gold or fame, Kazimir, with a mere word, cleaned his shirt free of the week’s stains. He marveled at the clean cut of his orange tunic. It shined brighter than it had in months, which should be good enough to catch one of the lasses’s eyes.

But what to do to earn their favor, he wondered. Cheating the lasses' men wasn’t exactly the chivalrous thing to do but…"Ah." Kazimir’s eyes twinkled as the answer presented itself before him. The minotaur who took a hoof to the mouth was helped up by his friends. Nose wet with blood and his smile busted. The perfect man to make ole Kazimir a saint in the eyes of a goddess. Rubbing his hands together, Kazimir popped a silver grin, wet his thumbs to smooth out each eyebrow, and then sauntered up that gangplank like he’d walked it a million times before.

"Oi!" He shouted to the minotaurs huddled together. Kazimir doing his best not to flinch when they all turned to look at them, snorting in disapproval of the stranger on deck. But Kazimir, ooh, he made himself small and inconsequential, like a kitten who wandered too far from home. He held up his hands to show he's unarmed, gesturing softly. "Easy, easy, laddies. Not here to add more trouble to yer day. In fact, I was just mindin’ me own business when I saw what happened to yer friend ‘ere." He pointed to the minotaur holding a freshly bloodied cloth to his nose. "Helluva thing to take a hoof to the noggin’ an’ still be up an’ about. Woulda killed a lesser man, like myself fer instance. But yous minotaurs, ooh, yer made o’ sturdier stock, you are."

The minotaur who pierced his nose with two silver rings snorted loudly. "What do you want?"

Kazimir oozed a smile that would have made your teeth rot as he bowed to the three. Arching his arm all the way up and over his head before it came to rest against his chest in a fancy flourish that was completely unnecessary. "S’not what I want, my friends, but what I could do fer ye ‘at I’m after. I am an elf, you see. An’ like all elves I only seek to help the weak--" Two of the three minotaurs snorted. "--the injured, I mean, the injured. I try to help 'em when I can. I am a creature o’ magic. Born o’ the sun an’ the stars, wetnursed by the moon herself." Noting their confused expressions, Kazimir said simply to the poor sod bleeding out. "I can heal ye."

All three minotaurs regarded Kazimir with suspicion. He could feel their gaze pry at his fine elven features and his pointed ears to the queerness of his clothes. It all spelled outsider to them. Foreign as foreign comes by the South Sea standards. Kazimir waited ever so patiently for them to sort their business out and nearly smiled a fox’s grin when they wordlessly gestured for him to give it a try. Rolling up his proverbial sleeves, Kazimir cut his eyes behind him to see if one of the Reds were around to appreciate his miraculous work before he rested his hand on the injured minotaur’s face.

And began to sing.

"So bitter and so sweet
These tears you seem to weep
But fear not, my friend
What you face is not the end
Hear me now, my friend
Today's sorrows are on the mend

So bitter and so sweet
These tears you seem to weep
Crimson streaks and hallow cheeks
Do not give what your pain seeks
Hear me now, my friend
Today's sorrows are on the mend

So bitter and so sweet
These tears you seem to weep
But hear me now, my friend
Today's sorrows are at an end..."


Last edited by Strangemund; Jun 25th, 2021 at 03:12 PM.
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  #66  
Old Jun 25th, 2021, 02:03 AM
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It took most of the day, wandering the streets of Candano with Zenda in search of that black powder that made those little steel weapons bang the way they did. The scent off them was smelled like sulphur rock, odd and off-putting. He'd never seen any devices like them and, to be honest, they seemed quite small and puny and not worth the trouble. But he was a pack beast by nature and tagging along with the swordswoman and exploring the city was all he was interested in doing regardless.

Freedom. That's what the gnoll felt and reveled in as they went from place to place, Zenda doing the talking. He had a mission, yes, but it was one of his choosing and for which a great reward awaited should he succeed. It was a much different life than fighting for someone else's pockets. The sights and colors of the city rolled by and it turned out that Zenda, that woman who seemed to dance even as she walked, spoke the imperial tongue herself, though she'd given no hint of it before. The gnoll's grin was toothy and wide, not having to speak the annoying Common tongue when he called out occasional scents for them to follow. Although he did wonder why she had kept such a thing a secret.

Soon, it was time to return to The Sighing Lady, at least for the gnoll. Zenda had fed him, but he wished to lounge in the shade of the sails and escape the heat for a while. Bato cast a long shadow in the streets as he moved, quite conspicuous in the crowd, though the looks were of curiosity and surprise, rather than fear, perhaps as minotaurs dotted the crowd and they towered as high as he. Soon, he stood at the base of the gangplank that led to the deck above and his ears flicked at the sound of singing from above.

"Hrm," He growled to himself as he began to ascend the wooden bridge. He'd never had much use for music.


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  #67  
Old Jun 25th, 2021, 11:32 AM
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Zenda, aka Red the First
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Zenda strode down the pier towards The Sighing Lady, blissfully ignorant of the fate that awaited her. In one way or another, her life would never be the same... probably not for the better.

The first thing she noticed was the smell, vaguely reminiscent of pickled feet left out in the sun too long. It wasn't an overpowering essence, but it managed to cut through the cacophony of scents that permeated the docks. Bilge, rotting seaweed and sailors who hadn't bathed in months all faded into the background with a faint, acrid odor floating on top and cutting through the nostrils like a knife quenched in vinegar.

The second thing Zenda noticed was the song. It was lyrically primitive and sung completely a cappella, but it was the voice that was so captivating. Her ears picked the music out effortlessly from among the hustle and hubbub of the crowded dockside. Was it coming from the direction of The Sighing Lady? "Hmm." She made a low, appreciative noise, deep in her throat. Her musical soul rose in response to the sound of that voice and mentally wove rhythm and harmony around it as she envisioned how she would dance to a polished version of the song.

It wasn't until she got past the minotaur stevedores that she first laid eyes upon the singer. What could she say about the figure that greeted her gaze? He was... clean. She could give him that much. Most of the people out and about on the streets of this warm Candano day were soaked through with sweat by this time. He had obviously given some thoughts to his appearance. But other than that, she was not entirely sure what she was looking at. He was blue. That much leapt out at her. He was... small. Not tiny enough to be a halfling, nor broad enough to be a dwarf. That strange color, those pointed ears... and his height. Perhaps some variety of goblin? He rather looked like a lump of clay abandoned halfway through sculpting, like whatever deity made him had slapped together a few features, then gotten bored and wandered off.

The blue man seemed to be gently cupping the snout of one minotaur. Zenda quirked one eyebrow at that sight. Her career had exposed her to a broad spectrum of desires and tastes, she tried not to judge anyone for what made them happy. (Except for the man who had offered her a hundred gold to wrestle his maid in a large vat of marmalade. So sticky.) But the physical implications of the pairing were frankly mind boggling. How would it even work?

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Old Jun 25th, 2021, 12:43 PM
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She was relieved when the meal ended with the captain asking nothing more of her, though she could have easily done without the intrusion of the sorcerer. Her master was the last one to communicate with her in such a way, and a chill crawled along her spine. So much so that she barely had time to wonder at Azar’s change of demeanor. As soon as the others left, she gingerly made her way off of the ship, avoiding as much attention as she possibly could - not that stealth had ever been her forte.

Luckily, the streets were bustling enough that her cowl warded off most unwanted attention. Even those that noticed her seemed too preoccupied to bother much more than a second glance. It was one of the reasons she loved ports so much. She was far from the only oddity to travel through such places. Then again, so did rumors.

She pulled her cloak tight around her as she slipped down another alleyway, before finding herself before several elaborate stalls and stores that seemed to hold anything one could be hoping for. Well, not anything. A good hour of searching turned up no sign of any books that would help her decipher the text in her master’s book, nor the journal that they had been given. Instead, she settled on a couple of blank books before moving along to another store that boasted wonderful magic items - the vast majority of which she couldn’t afford. She’d searched long and hard for an amulet to keep her hidden from scrying eyes, but only found one once back when she could scarcely feed herself. It only figured, then, that now that she could afford one none were to be found. She left with a bag that might help her with some of her other concerns, however, should the need arise.

It was on her way back that she heard of a local fortune-teller. She perked up, knowing from experience the lengths a charlatan will go to influence the will of others. Nae’laa had gathered exotic or arcane-looking items about her in order to make her own ruse more convincing. It had worked wonderfully. Ironically, it was only when she left the deserts that the flames began to speak to her, delivering knowledge and warnings alike. She couldn’t help but think there was something significant in their timing, their arrival, but had yet to discover it.

Shrugging off the thought, she made her way into the shop. A soft rattling rang through the shop as she pushed through the curtains adorned with tiny bells. At the announced arrival, a horned head peeked out of the back, another area separated by colorful silk curtains. His long, blue horns had various rings embellishing them while his garments matched the colorful nature of the curtains he emerged from. He tried to talk her into a reading, only letting her browse when she promised to return for one later. As she anticipated, she found shelves filled with an abundance of dusty, aged (some artificially so) trinkets and scrolls. The jhinnborn’s excitement waned as they turned out to be nothing more than props. She was about to give up as she flipped through the last book. It was a fairly mundane tome on fortune-telling and of little use to her, or so she thought, until she noticed an archaic looking page folded between two others. It took every bit of composure she could muster to stop a look of pure joy from flashing across her face. Five minutes, two gold, and one feigned attempt to leave empty-handed and she emerged from the shop with a scroll of Clairvoyance - an ironic, if not fated, find.

She did her best to sneak back onto the boat unnoticed, avoiding Myra which was made only marginally easier with the help of Ember who she’d left on board to keep watch. When she arrived back in the shared cabin, she dumped her bag out, shuffling through her new finds and rearranging her pack in a way that probably would have appalled every member of her new found group, save perhaps Bato.

She had just begun copying down a second copy of the journal they’d received when she heard her mule going crazy on deck.

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“Wha-” she started but didn’t finish, instead letting her eyes glaze over as Ember bounded towards the stairs leading to the main deck. She only barely noticed Zenda and Myra in time to duck the Animals from plane of fireanimental weasel behind a support beam. She watched carefully, worried that she had been seen, but it seemed that the two were preoccupied, partially with the discovery that Zenda was actually Azar. It took only a moment for Nae’laa to grasp the situation.

They’d been betrayed.

Of course they had.

This was why she was always alone.

She almost bolted then and there, thunderstepping back to shore and disappearing from there. No, too loud. Invisibility? Quieter, but then again maybe the noise would distract everyone enough to make her escape easier.

It was only Azar’s concern that gave her pause. She hesitated, then made a decision that would have surprised her only a week ago - perhaps even a day ago. Instead of running, she brought Ember out from behind the beam, where the creature hissed to get their attention, flaring the flames that lined its onyx back, then scampered back off down the hallway to the cabin without looking back.

 


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  #69  
Old Jun 25th, 2021, 03:13 PM
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Eyes wide, Azar followed the flaming rodent deeper into the ship. The little creature moved in fits and starts, appearing often like a flame dancing in the breeze, or suddenly spreading to a new piece of kindling. It was hypnotic. She had a strong feeling that she knew to what it was leading her and, as she finally entered their shared cabin, was satisfied to see that she had been right. Nae'laa. Azar didn't even notice that Ember had darted back past her and out the door, she was too busy watching the ash-skinned woman packing her things.

"I… You know?" she asked, not sure how the other woman had obtained her information. She hadn't even had to explain about the disguise! And Khamyra had said that she hadn't spoken about Zenda and Batoyangi, so the only other option was that Nae'laa had independently come to the same conclusion. That was three, then. Three people each figuring out that they were being betrayed. Any doubts she had about the situation were now gone.

"Yes, let's go. We must disappear into the city before it's too late."

She preceded Nae'laa out of the room and quickly started climbing the stairs, grateful to have such an intelligent and capable ally for once. Not for the first time she wondered where her companion had learned to control the flames the way she did.

At the top of the stairs she saw the little weasel-like creature standing at the door, peeking out onto the deck. She stopped, looking back at Nae'laa, her expression quizzical. When there was more time she would need to find out where such a pet could be obtained.

"Okay," she said, trying to project more confidence than she felt. "We must move quickly and confidently. If anyone calls after us just keep walking. If they pursue… we stop them."

She took a quick breath and stepped out into the bright sunlight, but was completely unprepared for the sight which met her.

 

 
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Old Jun 25th, 2021, 04:43 PM
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The REAL Zenda
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Zenda's attention was pulled away from the strange blue singer by movement at the corner of her vision. She turned to find herself face to face with a woman of surpassing beauty. The newcomer had tawny skin, stretched over long, toned limbs. But it was her face that drew Zenda's attention the most. It wasn't a face that she saw often, but she was nonetheless intimately familiar with it.

In the Prophet's compound, one wall was given over to a large and intensely expensive mirror. As a child, Zenda had often practiced her dancing in front of it, watching herself as she spun and leapt in time to the music in her head. It was from that mirror that Zenda recognized the face that graced the figure that had just emerged from the ship's hold. It was her own.

Her swords were in hand before she could even start to understand the sight before her. Her first instinct was to throw herself at her false double, to cut down anyone who had the temerity to steal her self from her. But she could see Khamyra and Nae'laa coming up behind Not Zenda. They clearly did not know they had been duped, and might not realize that Zenda was the real Zenda. Bato had been with her all day... he would know and might come to her defense. But clearly this act of deception was designed to sow mistrust and conflict among the members of the group. Zenda had to hold back and convince them before it came to all out battle.

She danced backwards a step, closer to the gnoll and took up a defensive stance.

"WARE TREACHERY! THAT WOMAN IS NOT ME! DO NOT BE TAKEN IN BY FALSEHOOD!"

OOC
 

 
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Old Jun 27th, 2021, 04:56 AM
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Candano docksIt is late afternoon in Candano and things are going strangely.

The minotaur crewman’s ruined nose stops bleeding as the curious elf concludes his song. The big demi-human slowly pulls his furry hand away from his snout as the pain subsides. The end of his muzzle is slick with blood still, but the cut from the mule’s hoof strike is closed completely now. The minotaur looks down at Kazimir with deep brown eyes. "Thank you, friend. Your words soothe the pain. I know such gifts are not given freely." He reaches into the belt purse and Kazimir can hear the clink of coins from within. Silver, by the tone of them, if his elven ears do not deceive him.

Nearby, something is off as Zenda and Batoyangi walk toward the berth of The Sighing Lady.

Bato sees the man first.

At Zenda’s sudden warning of treachery, the big gnoll’s keen eyes go wide and he Passive Perceptionreflexively scans their surroundings for danger. There, over by the harbormaster’s office.

A thin old man with grey mustaches watches them from beneath the eaves. Not that Batoyangi is not used to being looked at. Gnolls are not that common here in the Seven Cities. And having spent the day in the city with Zenda, he is always becoming accustomed to men watching her. But this man looks at Zenda with something other than appreciation. There is suspicion in the gaze, that then flashes quickly toward the deck of the ship where the…other Zenda just stood a few seconds before. When Zenda draws her blades, the man’s look of alarm is plain to see.

The real Zenda sees her companion’s alert demeanor and follows his gaze to the buildings behind them. By now, the thin old man is looking away. Zenda can see his profile, though. Those drooping mustaches. The creased lines of his face. The slight stoop to his frame. Could this be…?

She had only seen him from a distance in the pre-dawn darkness. But Zenda is certain that this is the investigator who was with the watchmen this morning as they pulled the bodies from the sloshing waters beneath the docks. Most of the bodies, anyway. Bram Rothwell was still down there, weighed down by his heavy breastplate. The scavenging crabs and eels would be deep into their grisly work by now.

The old man lifts his head and looks further down the alley. A city watchman stands at his post further that way. He had been secreted behind or within one of the smaller booths. In his conical helmet, he conspicuously avoids looking in Zenda’s direction. But it is clear that he takes some sort of cue from the old investigator. He begins walking along the quay toward the dock that leads to The Sighing Lady.

Scanning the rest of the nearby streets, Zenda spots another watchman much further back, mixing with the crowd that bustles along the streets. Where had that one been hiding? But he is clearly making his way through the crowd toward the waterfront!
 


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Old Jun 27th, 2021, 11:42 AM
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Nae'laa stopped just inside the top of the stairs, alerted Azar's change in posture. While she appreciated the disguise through Ember's eyes minutes earlier, it was nothing like seeing the doppelgangers standing so close together. For a moment, she couldn't help but admire the near-perfection that the sorceress had achieved. In fact, if she hadn't already known of the ruse, she would have undoubtedly been as confused as Bato seemed to be. If only she had powers to disguise herself in such a way. Surely she would have had to spend much less time worrying about being found.

The awe wore off quickly though, as she realized Ember hadn't alerted her that something was going on. She shot a glance at the animental, though it lacked venom. After all, she'd just sent the creature to escort Zenda to her, so that it hadn't alerted her at the sight of Zenda was no surprise. Still...

Zenda's shout caused her to turn once more to the graceful warrior. Apparently, the disguise was convincing enough to alarm the woman herself. Nae'laa might have been amused, were it not for the betrayal that still stung.

"Treachery?! Falsehood?!" Nae'laa shouted, though the undertone of her voice added a gravely tone that sounded something like the ground did before spewing liquified stone to its surface. The fissures on her ashen skin deepened, growing a bright orange as her anger surfaced. Why had she let herself be taken in by these people? How had she been so naive? Was it the gold? The feeling that fate guided them?

"You're the one who betrayed us! Azar found out and came to warn us!" she said, gesturing to not-Zenda without any thought as to whether it was prudent to blow the woman's disguise. "Now you accuse her of treachery?" she asked, aghast.

She gritted her teeth, her eyes taking on a firey glow. She fought the urge to run, knowing that she could only take one of her companions with her. The thought of leaving the other behind was unbearable, though she couldn't place why they had become so important to her over the past few weeks.

"Let. Us. Pass," she demanded, her voice low and rumbling, leaving little doubt as to whether it was a request or an ultimatum.


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Old Jun 27th, 2021, 01:10 PM
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The REAL Zenda
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"Azar?!" Zenda stared at her double as if her gaze alone could penetrate whatever illusion enveloped the sorceress. Then she turned back to Khamyra and Nae'laa, now understanding them not to be duped by Azar's magics, but perhaps misled in other ways.

"So the serpent witch came to you, wearing my face and accusing me of betrayal? And did it occur to you that whatever it is that I'm supposed to have done, she could have easily done herself while so disguised?" It was hard to keep the derision from her voice. But Nae'lass's tone left her with no desire to provoke a confrontation. Ultimately it mattered little to the Ishadian if the group all took Casmara's coin and then scattered to the wind. Such a minor loss would probably not be felt by the Sultana, Zenda definitely hoped that seeing the mission through would allow a deeper wound to be struck at a later date. But that was not enough to draw steel on the genasi and the tabaxi, both trustworthy enough up until this moment.

Zenda stepped aside and sheathed her blades, glancing over her shoulder at the approaching guards. "You are free to go. Nobody is stopping you. But Azar's little stunt has drawn unwanted attention." The swordswoman conveniently ignored the fact that it was her own shout and reaction that alerted the entire dock. But the whole incident stuck in her craw a little and she could not resist digging just a little deeper. "Although, before you go... I would love to know just exactly what it is that I am supposed to have done?"

She held up a long single finger to forestall any response from Azar, and snapped at the woman wrapped in her skin. "Not. You."

Then she turned the full intensity of her attention back to Nae'laa. "You. What did she claim? What tale did she spin? What evidence did she offer? Or did she simply sow doubt and mistrust like any cold-blooded wyrm-lover?"



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"I- I..." she stuttered. "She..." Again, Nae'laa tripped over her words.

What had Azar said that convinced her so? All she had said was that enemies were after them. In fact, she hadn't even said that to Nae'laa herself. All she had to go off of was an eavesdropped conversation and a lifetime of paranoia. Was it enough? Probably not. Especially for someone as intelligent as she. In fact, father would have chastised her quite thoroughly for making such assumptions, but somehow knowing that fact made her all the more indignant to the fact that she had made a mistake. The fact that she thought of him in this moment, that she thought to him as 'father' churned in her stomach and threatened to sicken her.

Now was not the time though, her gaze followed Zenda's and she couldn't help but notice the guards approaching.

"I overheard," she started to explain, but as the guards moved closer panic replaced anger, fear cooling her skin once more. "What do we do?" she asked, nodding to the guards, "and who is this then?" she demanded, pointing to the odd, short man amidst them. "If not your accomplice? Why have you brought the guards upon us if not to betray us?"



Zenda softened her tone and stance as her words seemed to get through to Nae'laa on some level. Her inability to answer was response enough, in a way. No crime, no evidence... just lies from a forked tongue. She had considered the wizardess to be too intelligent to fall for such trickery, and it seemed she might have been right. The genasi had just allowed herself to get caught up in Azar's ploy... a moment to think for herself was all she had needed. But it appeared her questions were not finished, although now Zenda felt she could answer them in honesty, rather than defense.

The Ishadian spoke calmly and quietly, moving close to avoid having her voice carry. "I did not bring the guards." She sighed a little, finally acknowledging her earlier error. "I may have yelled a little too loudly. My apologies, I did not expect to be confronted with... this." She gestured at Azar, still clad in her Zenda-suit. "But I believe they were already watching us. The same man who was investigating the docks early this morning..."

To the small, blue man she can only shrug. "The other man... I assumed he was with one of the sailors." She had paid him little mind, except for his voice.

"As for what we do next..." Zenda glanced backwards again, judging the guards' distance and then closed in even closer. She sighed a little and stared at her clone for a moment. "I do not know what your game is, Azar, but I do not believe any of us want to answer too many questions about this morning's... encounter." She thought of the two pistols currently wrapped in oilcloth at the bottom of her pack. Distinctive enough to tie her to a missing dead man. But the scorch marks on the boardwalk were their own kind of evidence as well. Whatever the witch intended, Zenda doubted it was to get herself arrested. Azar was undoubtedly trying to divide the party for her own, unknown reasons, but now was not the time to discuss that. Now was a time for unity. "So I propose a temporary truce. We present a firm, united front. Until we are all safe once more and we can figure out what comes next..."

OOC
 

 
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Old Jun 27th, 2021, 01:57 PM
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Myra
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Myra casts her eyes down at the deck of the ship. She feels very small under Zenda’s withering look, even though the Ishadian is far below her at the gangplank. She remembers Zenda moving like a wind, cutting down their enemies with no thought of the personal risk. Myra had tried to emulate the swordswoman’s boldness herself during the battle, with very different results. The image of Batoyangi standing over her as she regained consciousness, his own fur dripping with saltwater, comes quickly to mind. She has been alone for so long. Since Latija…

She was wrong to discount friendship so quickly. There is pain in all of them. Reason to not trust. But maybe there is reason to trust as well.

Words have never been effective tools of the quiet Tabaxi priestess. Her hand slowly moves to a pocket of the pack she still wears. She removes the flute. As a child, when things went wrong, she would sit in the bow of Latija’s barge and play until things were right again…at least in some small way.

Myra raises the instrument to her lips and plays. Her songs are never quite the same each time. She plays with her heart, allowing the notes to course through her like the Great River Nuria courses through the parched land, spreading life and hope.

Maybe this will help to heal the hurt that blankets the docks like a drought.

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Old Jun 27th, 2021, 03:30 PM
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Below her disguise Azar's eyes flared bright red as that duplicitous Ishadian had the bravado to accuse her of treachery! She could feel the fires flaring within, stoking up like they had never before, but she struggled to keep them under her control because there was nothing in this world that she feared more than losing herself in them.

So she could only watch in apoplectic fury as Zenda almost managed to convince Nae'laa that it was she, Azar, who was bringing the watch upon them! But, although Nae'laa wavered, in the end she held firm, and Azar was eminently grateful for that. More so, she had even managed to get Zenda to concede some ground, to admit that it had been her own shouting which had alerted their enemies, and then to propose a truce. What game was she playing? Was she just using the Watch as a tool? A way to wrangle power within their little group?

Suddenly music washed over the scene and Azar turned to see Khamyra playing a flute, the music an unfamiliar register to the sorceress' ears, but somehow soothing.

The fires were waning slightly so Azar took the opportunity to act. She stepped forward, keeping her hands beside her body in an attempt to look unthreatening, then stopped at the bottom of the gangplank. Beyond Batoyangi and Zenda she could see several members of the Watch now, seemingly just wandering closer at random. Things would be coming to a head soon, one way or another.

Slowly, she reached her left hand up and grasped the medallion that hung around her neck, activating the magic within it. Her perception leapt out, directed by her thoughts at Zenda, and suddenly she could hear the swordswoman's thoughts.

The guards are coming. If they find the pistols, they'll know we killed Bram. Azar's fire magic is a dead give away, too. Whatever she's plotting, I don't think it's related.

That couldn't be right, could it? She… she hadn't informed the guards? That made no sense, but surely she couldn't have been aware that Azar could read her mind?!

This changed everything.

She smiled, trying to make it look friendly, and then turned back to the ship.

"It's okay!" she called, "I will settle this with my sister. It's going to be alright."

She hoped that the words would be enough to reassure Nae'laa and Khamyra but she didn't have enough time to wait and see, they only had seconds to salve the wounds. She reached for the sack tied at her belt as she sauntered casually towards Zenda and Batoyangi. She could see them tensing, so she slowly pulled the sack in front of her so that they could see it wriggling.

"My friend," she said to Bato, offering the sack to him, "I bought you a gift."

She let the gnoll take the chicken and then moved closer to Zenda. Her heart was hammering in her ears as she knew that the Ishadian could very easily slice her to ribbons at this range, but the risk had to be taken if they were to get out of this alive. She reached out tentatively and pulled the woman into an embrace.

"I… I am sorry," she whispered into one delicate ear. "I jumped to a wrong conclusion about you and almost brought down a disaster. But we can fix it, if you will trust me just for a moment."

She leaned back, looking Zenda directly in the eye to make sure she had understood but the woman was too hard to read. She had to assume that she would play along. She willed the spell to open out so that she could 'hear' the thoughts of anyone nearby, aware that watchmen could be sneaking up under the pier. Or, at least, that's what she would have done.

"I thought he meant nothing to you!" she called out, pouring regret into her voice. "If I had but known you still had feelings for him I would never have taken him to my bed! We are as one, you and I, and no man should come between us!"

 

 
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