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  #76  
Old Jul 1st, 2021, 02:18 PM
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Lying is an art form...
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Ooh yeah. Kazimir was nailing this.

Red Number One showed up just in time for his big performance. No doubt lured in by his buttery voice from the heavens. She stood by and watched him work his miracle. Mending that sailor’s broken nose with song alone, whereas men of faith would have had to beg for divine scraps to do the same. He felt rather proud of the whole deal. It was a class act from start to finish. But oh did Kazimir’s ego soar when that bloody beautiful minotaur sailor offered to pay him silver for his services. It was like he knew Kazimir needed a wingman to win that fiery lass’s heart. Raising a (slightly bloodied) hand up, Kazimir upped the charm, and with a cocky glance over his shoulder, just to make sure ole Red was good and wooed by his good graces, he said, "Oh naaaaahhh. I dun need to be paid, lad. Consider it a gift from a kind, handsome, single stranger…"

The whoooooole package, he thought smugly, and hers to keep if she played her cards right.

And yet Kazimir was a wee bit perplexed Red didn’t come running to him after that show of generosity and grace. No utterances of awe and wonder whispered to her large, frightfully fanged friend. He started to worry she hadn’t heard him over the rabble of the dock, and after another minute of silence, he finally dropped all pretenses and swirled around to see what in Odin’s third hole stole her attention out from under him.

"WARE TREACHERY! THAT WOMAN IS NOT ME! DO NOT BE TAKEN IN BY FALSEHOOD!" Kazimir raised an eyebrow as Red Number One made a move to draw her blade, her fury just as blinding as the rising sun as she cursed out her twin sister. But the troubling thing was-- from the way she talked-- it sounded a lot like they weren’t sisters at all, but a…

"You're the one who betrayed us! Azar found out and came to warn us! Now you accuse her of treachery?" Woh woh woh! Who was that in the back? A witch from the badlands? Oooh yeah, definitely a witch from the badlands if that fire bursting from her veins was anything to go by. Best to look and not touch. After all, Kazimir didn’t need another round of curses on his fine elven arse. He still itched from the last batch.

"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?"

Kazimir cursed softly but with meaning. "Soddin’--" Not twins?! Figures! It woulda been too good to be true for him to score a pair of redheads on the same day. That’d just be too nice a gift from his god. Can’t let Kazimir have that. Gotta make him work for the luxuries life owed him. Damn bloody shame. He really looked forward to strolling into his favorite dens of sin with a Red on each arm. Ah well. Least he wasn’t in the middle of the crap show that was happening here. He didn’t have all the pieces to what the lasses were fighting about but the fact that the Not that B word. The other, other B word!B word was tossed back and forth as freely as it did more or less confirmed that somebody wasn’t on the up and up with the rest of the group. The question was who.

Red Number One was pretty certain it was Red Number Two, who Kazimir supposed was Not Red at this point. The Badlands Witch waffled on who to believe. Seemed she was caught up in the moment, which Kazimir sympathized with, and let Not Red pull her into action before she counted all the eggs in her basket. A rookie mistake that let Kazimir win many a card game in his day, and he shook his head at her naivete, only to blink when he realized that the two women were suddenly talking about him.

"--and who is this then? If not your accomplice? Why have you brought the guards upon us if not to betray us?" asked the Badlands Witch, and Kazimir stood up straight, trying to look his sauvest as he waited for Real Red’s answer with bated breath.

"The other man... I assumed he was with one of the sailors."

He immediately deflated, Kazimir’s disappointment overshadowed by his heart-wrenching question. "She means platonically, right?"

The minotaur Kazimir healed, who had also been watching the whole scene play out, snorted softly, half-amused, half-insulted. "No."

"FFFFfffffffuuuuuu--" Kazimir cursed the sun, the moon, the stars, and whatever bloody stupid thing hung in the sky as he reared back to kick a crate in his frustration. But just as his boot was about to come swinging, he froze when he saw something far more concerning than his wounded pride. The watch. A terrible chill ran up Kazimir’s spine. His squinting eyes darted between the old man and an armed city guard, both high-tailing it towards the ship. It seemed the lasses stirred more than just trouble on their ship. They went and got the attention of the whole city, too! And that was bad business for Kazimir. He couldn’t afford getting locked up while the Scarlet Blade and the Rat King put an expiration date on his life.

Bailing on this hot mess was the smart thing to do. The right thing to do. And so, he planned to do just that. Kazimir halfway back down the gangplank until he heard that god-awful lie Not Red tried to sell to every onlooker that stopped to watch that circus act. Kazimir closed his eyes. His fists clenched tight. As he tried his best to ignore that tiny little voice in the back of his head that always baited him right before a high risk bet. ’Ignore it.’ He bit the inside of his cheek. ’Just ignore it. Not yer business, Kazimir. Ye have other fires to put out.’

"I thought he meant nothing to you! 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!"

’Sod it,’ Kazimir ran his hand through his hair, ’Let’s gamble.’

"Oi, sailor lads. Iffin’ the watch comes and asks ye what’s goin’ on here, tell ‘em I was caught sleepin’ wit the Reds. Ten silver a pop fer each o’ ya…" Kazimir muttered to the trio, then Kazimir shook his hands out like he was flinging water from his fingertips, and fell straight into the role of that lucky cad who warmed his bed with two goddesses. He stepped up to the party, head dropped low, and pitiful-like, as he searched Zenda’s face like she were a friend betrayed rather than a total stranger. Kazimir careful to keep his distance from Big and Mean as he put himself between Zenda and Azar.

"Please, lass…" The tremble in his voice was soft and sweet and every bit as sorrowful as a man who wept for a love lost. Kazimir clutched his chest, palm splayed over his heart as real tears welled in his cold gray eyes. "Do not fault yer sister for what happened. Ye left me a broken man, after ye threw me proposal aside. I know ye said ye weren’t ready. Yer an adventurer. Ye have the whole world to see, but…" He looked away, crestfallen. "I only wanted to be yer world. But yer sister--" Errrr. Arse, what was her name? Azu? Azim? Azaaaa-- "Azar! Azar…" He cupped her hand in his own, gently pulling the confused and bewildered Azar close to his side as the two stood defiant to Zenda. "She comforted me. Picked up the shattered pieces o’ me heart while ye were gone. We cannot help the way we feel any more than ye can help the way waters call to you."

Clasping both hands around Azar's, he turned to face her, eyes so full of love and affection that it was enough to make a grown man sick. "I know yer sister is everythin’ to ya. The only family ya have after that tragic jugglin’ accident that took yer parents' life. I love ye wit all my heart, Azar, I do, but I won’t make ye choose between me and family. Elven. He said, 'the dogs are cooking cabbage,' but like, romantically.Los perros están cocinando repollo…" And as Kazimir leaned in to kiss her cheek, he shifted subtly to the side, and whispered instead into her ear. "An’ that’s how ye lie, luv. Name’s Kaz, by the way, consider me yer new best friend."

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DMing: And the Devil Dances Beneath a Mosaic Sky
Characters: Thunder in the Morning - Harp Strum - Captain Tavosh - Sigrun Storm-Eater - Kazimir

Last edited by Strangemund; Jul 1st, 2021 at 07:04 PM.
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  #77  
Old Jul 2nd, 2021, 03:43 AM
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First there were two Zendas, which made Bato turn a quizzical eye onto the companion that he'd walked the city with all day. But she smelled of copper and sweet sweat, the subtle combination of scents the same as that first day they'd met in brawl in the market square. Then, it turned out it was Azar, wearing Zenda's skin with her witchy magics. Bato huffed his disapproval at the antics, though he couldn't see the use in it.

What followed was a lot of shouting, most of which was useless noise on his ears. His attention was turned to the closing ranks of the guards around them. They moved through the crowd in unison, trying to walk casually towards the Sighing Lady. A low whining growl came up from his guts. Cornered.

Then the elf starting shouting, but his tone was different from the shouting before. There was something in it that reminded Bato of the best pit announcers, the ones who could really get the crowd good and sweaty and worked up. The gnoll's tongue lolled out as he listened, enraptured, briefly forgetting the approaching guard as he took in the show.


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  #78  
Old Jul 5th, 2021, 08:42 PM
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The REAL Zenda
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Trust her? Trust her? Zenda practically had whiplash from the speed at which Azar's whole demeanor had shifted. But it seemed like the Ishadian's guess was right. Whatever the Mharoti woman was planning, it rather relied on them not all getting arrested. But the lie that she crafted to throw the inspector of their collective tracks was almost laughable. It was lucky that Zenda's back was still turned to the approaching guards, as she struggled to keep an incredulous smirk off of her face...

A smirk which rapidly faded when the singing blue man moved up to stand beside Azar, still wearing her Zenda-skin disguise. What was going on? Did he know the serpent witch? Were they working together? Nae'laa had been right to be suspicious of him, but had been misled once again. Zenda shot the genasi a significant look before steeling her features. They were in too deep now, they would need to ride out the coming storm before they would be able to discover what truths lay beneath so many layered deceptions.

The blue man abandoned his Minotaur companion and now stood beside Azar as a lover might. The tale he spun was masterful indeed, so full of emotion and pathos that Zenda herself might have believed it if not for that fact that it was pure codswallop. A glance to Bato showed the gnoll simply grinning like a fool, enjoying the show at her expense. The swordswoman was well and truly caught in these lies and had no recourse but to play along.

Zenda drew in a long, shuddering breath. It was not at all difficult to portray a woman on the edge. Her own shock and dismay at coming face to face with her doppelganger, turning into betrayal by the witch and those that should have been solid companions... it had briefly fueled her own anger, but it was all draining away now... But she had enough for one last push, to join in the act. Three long strides were all it took to bring her within arm's reach of the blue man. At this distance, he was even shorter that he had first appeared, standing next to the tower minotaur. But no matter, she was already drawing back her right arm, it was a simple enough matter to adjust her aim.

There is a certain... art... to delivering a slap on stage and making it still look and sound real, without jarring any teeth loose. Failing that, any skilled duelist knows how to deliver a slap that will rattle their opponent, but sting rather than injure. Zenda bothered with neither of these, not knowing the first and not caring about the second. Instead, she put all of her strength and weight into this slap, pivoting at the hips as her arm, at full extension, rocketed towards the man's jaw. He had clearly been part of Azar's little plot. She didn't know what role he would have played once Nae'laa and Khamyra had been lured off the ship, but she had no doubt she deserved this. The crack that echoed across the pier would certainly add a certain verisimilitude to the proceedings.

"How dare you!" Zenda let loose all of the anger and frustration she had been feeling, channeling it into the character she now found herself portraying. She whirled on Azar. "Is that the little tale he wove for you? The wounded dove, rejected by his lover, sought solace in the arms of another? Ha!" The swordswoman threw back her head in a laugh of derision, and turned back on... the man. She realized she didn't actually know his name, but then again, this was all made up. It didn't really matter, did it? "I know Alphonse! I know the truth! Azar is hardly the first woman you have cheated on me with, is she? What about Angela, Pamela, Sandra and Rita?" Zenda let her tone pitch higher and higher as she listed off names. Four? Four was enough, yes? She turned back to Azar, still staging her voice just a little louder than she would normally carry on such a personal conversation. "My dear, sweet sister." It was really difficult to say those words with a straight face. "This is why. This is why I left him. Do not be taken in by his tales as I was. I should have told you, I should have warned you..." The Ishadian dug her own nails into the palm of her hand as hard as possible, trying to squeeze tears from her own eyes. "It is too late for me... for us." The swordswoman clutched protectively at her own stomach. "But please do not let yourself become a fallen woman as I have."

With a cry of anguish, Zenda hurled herself past KazimirAlphonse and Azar on her way below decks. Perhaps those still on deck would buy her enough time to stash the pistols and mold away in the bowels of the ship before the guards came looking for her.

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Last edited by hafrogman; Jul 5th, 2021 at 08:58 PM.
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  #79  
Old Jul 6th, 2021, 07:12 AM
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Candano DocksSubtlety. It has been the hallmark of Azar’s entire life. In fact, both of her double-lives rely on subtlety; the informer spy perhaps even more so than the demure servant of the exiled sultana. Her very survival has often depended on going unnoticed. So it is, perhaps, no surprise that she takes to the stage of their little drama with all the grace of a blind, legless albatross. Indeed, one of the minotaur stevedores who has stopped to watch the dramatic scene actually winces his brown, bovine eyes at her poor imitation of a guilty lover.

But fortunately for them all, the watchmen were not close enough to catch the overt signs of Azar’s deception. As their heavy booted feet step down the pier toward The Sighing Lady, the investigator and his mailed enforcers catch only a fragment of what the sorceress says.

They do, however, arrive in time to witness a masterful rendition of the groveling philanderer turned in by Kazimir. The younger of the three soldiers lets out a snorting laugh at the poor, crestfallen elf’s perceived plight. His more experienced cohorts keep a wary eye on Bato during the exchange, but even they cracked a smile when Zenda’s strong sword arm connected hard with Kaz’ blue cheek. There was nothing contrived about that blow, and as the Ishadian stormed off, even the old detective began to look uncomfortable at finding himself in the midst of so awkward a moment.

In the brief aftermath of the exchange, the minotaur crewman stepped up toward the watchmen, leaving his fellows to finish corralling the stubborn donkey. His snout was still bloody, but the wound was fully healed by Kazimir’s song. "’Bout damned time you boys showed up," his baritone voice addresses the guard, while his muscular arm gestures at Kazimir. "This one’s been naught but trouble since we made port, sniffin’ around, droppin’ ‘is trousers any time a woman walks by. Jus’ this mornin’ I caught him in the hold with one or th’other o’ those two redheads. I cain’t tell ‘em apart any more’n he can, ‘pparently." As the guardsmen turn to look at Kaz and Azar, the minotaur shoots the elf a knowing wink. "Anyway, we set sail soon. You oughtta haul him off and stow his horny ass in a cell for a day or two."

The soldiers look annoyed at the presumption of this minotaur, but they defer to the detective. The old man pulls on his mustaches in exasperation. "Do we look like bouncers for your floating bordello? Mind your business and your ship. If your captain can’t control his own decks, that’s no concern of ours. We don’t have time for this ridiculousness." he is already turning away from The Sighing Lady before he finishes speaking. His hard eyes scan the wharf and then drift out toward the behemoth vessel from Reth-Saal, at which point his old, creased brow lowers in consternation. He walks back down the pier toward the quay, the soldiers following.

When they are out of earshot, the minotaur with the bloody snout steps closer to Kazimir. "Watchmen," he says with a throaty chuckle. "They all hate being told what to do. And they’ll do just the opposite and think it was their idea." He claps the elf on the shoulder. "My name’s Milkherem, the Unyielding Hoof. And you can keep your silver, friend."

OOC
 

Last edited by 4eyedBadger; Jul 6th, 2021 at 07:12 AM.
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Old Jul 6th, 2021, 07:41 AM
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Myra
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"What…" Khamyra’s feline mouth hangs slightly agape as she stands near Nae’laa. "What…just happened?" she asks, not really expecting an answer.

Instead, she shakes her large head and turns her renewed attention to Nae’laa, while stepping closer to Azar as well. "This isn’t how I wanted to do this," she begins. Then, remembering that Azar had caught her sneaking from their cabin without a word only a few minutes before, the priestess of Bastet puts her onyx-furred paw on the Jinnborn woman’s forearm, while still addressing both women. "I’m sorry. I owed you all at least a goodbye, and I was going to leave without even doing that." She hangs her head and closes her eyes for a second. "The…events of this morning…" she keeps her voice low, seeing who may be listening. "…made me question my place here. If it weren’t for you all, and Batoyangi," Myra’s lips curl in a silent hiss at the memory. "Well, I think my body would’ve been pulled out of the water with the rest of them and carried away on that cart like refuse." She let’s that image hang in the air for a moment.

"I’m going home," she nearly blurts it out. "I’ve arranged passage on the al-Badawi back to Nuria. I’m sorry. Please, tell Zenda I left my portion of the expense money in our quarters." The vertical slits of her feline eyes search her companions for understanding. She looks to Bato, who stands nearby. "Thank you, for what you did. You will always have a friend in Per-Bastet." She lays a hand on the gnoll’s pelt. "’The goddess bless the hunter, and the hunt.’"

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Last edited by 4eyedBadger; Jul 6th, 2021 at 07:46 AM.
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Old Jul 9th, 2021, 03:15 PM
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Love is pain...
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What a woman.

That’s all Kazimir could think as his world exploded into pain.

The resounding smack of her hand against his cheek rang throughout time and space, his children’s children wincing as Kazimir was sent stumbling to the ground, a tooth knocked loose somewhere in his noggin. It was indeed a hard and cruel blow. Full of so much hatred that Kazimir wondered, for a split-second, if the two had in fact dated before. "How dare you!" The Real Red spat at him, cursing him with her every breath, but Kazimir barely heard her over the ringing in his ears. He just stared at her. Awestruck, while she tore him to ribbons with her words, casting him as a liar, a snake, and every bit the villain in the story she weaved. It was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen in his life. And he’d seen more beautiful things than any man in all of Midgard would ever live to see.

Thousands of sunrises, endless springs, bottomless kegs of ale, all of that paled in comparison to the dragon that stood before him. And as he readjusted his jaw back into place, wiping the drool from his lips, he prayed to Loki, begging to him on his hands and knees that she was single, and had a feverish love for elven men.

A perfect handprint glowed red hot on his cheek, and it continued to radiate while the Real Red shamed him worse than his mother in front of a bunch of strangers. Kazimir played along perfectly. He shot Azar a worried look as he picked himself up from the floor. His hand reached out for hers, hesitantly, but he drew it away the moment the Real Red implied she was pregnant. Kazimir gave a bewildered gasp. "Yer with child?!" Kazimir clutched his chest in shock, only then to cup his mouth as he turned wide-eyed to Azar, the guilt on his face saying more than a thousand words ever could. "I sw-swear, luv, I dun know what she’s talkin’ ‘bout! Never even heard o’ half those gurls! Wait, no!" He winced, and stepped towards Azar, head low like a dog freshly scolded. "I me-meant I haven’t met any o’ ‘em, I swear on me mum’s life!"

"Bout damned time you boys showed up."

Ah, perfect timing! The watch was finally here. Kazimir paused his dramatics to watch the ole boys come sniffing their noses at the trouble the lasses stirred up. Kazimir made a point to look away embarrassed, like a man caught with his pant’s down at his lord’s estate, while the minotaur he healed, ooh, he worked his own kind of magic, didn’t he! Lying just as sweetly as he about what Kazimir been up to all morn. It made his crooked heart soar, knowing he was among kindred spirits. But he made sure not to show it while the guards huffed and puffed and took their sour looks elsewhere. Kazimir rubbed the back of his neck, eyeballing them in the corner of his squinting eyes as they disappeared back into the crowds.

When he could no longer see them, Kazimir let loose a rough, scratchy laugh, savoring that honeyed victory of a lie well-told. "Ooh, ye gotta love it when things go to plan, eh?" He waggled his brows at Azar, Kazimir not too humble a man to boast his greatness. He did though grunt in pain when the minotaur sailor slapped him on his back, and felt something concerning crack. Kazimir grimaced, cracking his spine back into place, before he shared a toothy grin to the minotaur he healed, his grin widening as the brilliant bastard introduced himself as Milkherem to Kazimir. Slapping his palm into his, the two shook hands like they'd been friends for ages. "’Keep my silver?’ Hah! Ain’t ye a fella after me own heart! Name’s Kazimir, friend, an’ iffin’ ye won’t take me silver, then ye’ll be drownin’ in ale later. You worked those bloody guards like a fiddle. Beautiful stuff…"

Giving a dreamy sigh, he glanced over his shoulder at Azar, and pointed a blue finger at her. "You, though, luv. You owe me one. Dun know what trouble is goin’ on in yer…" He leaned to the side to look at the other two woman behind her. The Badlands Witch and...was that Bastet herself!? No, no, he didn’t want to know. The less he knew about god business, the better. "...friend group, but yer gonna need to learn to lie better than ‘at to keep yer noses clean. I could teach ye a few tricks, but heh," he grinned devilishly, "it’ll cost ya~!"

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Status: Hiatus Until the 19th
DMing: And the Devil Dances Beneath a Mosaic Sky
Characters: Thunder in the Morning - Harp Strum - Captain Tavosh - Sigrun Storm-Eater - Kazimir

Last edited by Strangemund; Jul 10th, 2021 at 05:34 PM.
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Old Jul 10th, 2021, 10:04 AM
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Things had been going well, Azar felt, up until that odd blue man stuck his nose in. The fact that he was playing along was good, she supposed, although very confusing, but she couldn't think about that right now because he was getting decidedly handsy! Her body went rigid at the indignity of this… this lowborn, charmless oaf handling her like he owned her!

But the Watch was coming, and this had technically all been her idea, and, to be frank, she was so livid she probably couldn't have done anything about it anyway, so she just stood there, eyes wide, helplessly watching. The blue man moved in for a kiss and Azar closed her eyes, but he pulled aside at the last moment and whispered arrogant somethings in her ear.

New best friend, indeed! she thought indignantly.

And then Zenda was moving, and it was the most beautiful dance that Azar had ever seen. Her hand curved round in slow motion, describing a perfect arc which connected solidly with Kaz's face. The resulting crack brought Azar to her senses and she watched the man fall to the floor and then Zenda storming away. She tried to fight it, she really did, but she started laughing. She took a couple of steps back to get a better view as Kaz stumbled up to his feet. Zenda was shouting something about having his child, and it was hilarious. She redoubled her laughter, bending over to get in some breath. Tears were streaming from her eyes, she noticed, but the fire wasn't rising and so they weren't sizzling on her skin the way they usually did, they just fell to the pier like tiny diamonds.

She had to sit down, head between her knees and hands covering her face, so she missed the Watch coming and going again. When she looked back up it was only Khamyra that she saw. The mysterious Jambuka was saying goodbye. Just like that the laughter stopped and Azar got back to her feet.

"You're…" she glanced at Kaz and the minotaurs lingering nearby and stepped closer to Khamyra to speak in a whisper. "But you can't. We…" She trailed off, knowing that nothing she could say now would change anything. They would go on, and their mission would succeed or fail at the whims of the gods, just as before.

"Alright," she said, looking from Khamyra to Batoyangi and Nae'laa, "So be it. Be well, Khamyra. Your wisdom and grace shall not be forgotten."

What else could she say?

She turned away, only to catch the eye of that insufferable Kaz who made an odd gesture with his eyebrows and purred about the plan going well.

"Of course it did," she snarled, "no thanks to you."

But he had already turned away and was talking money with a minotaur crewman, no doubt some kind of bribe. Azar was about to suggest to Nae'laa and Batoyangi that they should all hide themselves away on the ship, when Kaz interrupted once again.

"You, though, luv." he was saying in that insufferable drawl, "You owe me one. Dun know what trouble is goin’ on in yer…friend group, but yer gonna need to learn to lie better than ‘at to keep yer noses clean. I could teach ye a few tricks, but heh, it'll cost ya!"

Azar simply held his gaze as he talked, although she would have liked to fry him on the spot. She had seen this type before, so many times, their mouth running so fast because there is no brain to keep it in check. She was sure that he would have a string of enemies on the lookout for him, simply because he had no idea how to step back, to blend into the shadows rather than always being centre of attention. He was so proud of his ability to 'lie', but what he didn't understand was that deception was an art, and that a true master didn't need to say anything at all, they simply allowed their target to construct the lie in their own head, built with assumption on top of assumption. This oaf could quite possibly think on his feet, but would he be able to handle spending every moment of every day of his life actually living the lie? She snorted, of course he couldn't.

"Oh, I don't know," she purred, glancing with amusement at Nae'laa, "I doubt we could afford you. Perhaps you should try your luck…" She gestured dismissively back towards town and turned her back on the man, glad that she would soon be out of this gods-accursed town, and would never see the blue oaf again.

 

 
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Last edited by Lazer; Jul 10th, 2021 at 10:08 AM.
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Old Jul 12th, 2021, 12:55 AM
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The REAL Zenda
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The evidence of Bram's untimely demise stowed away below decks for now, Zenda slowly returned from the hold. She paused just before passing out onto the deck itself. Nae'laa, Azara, Batoyangi. They were still there and the guards seemed to have left... but where was Khamyra? She'd been the one with her bags already packed. Had she decided to leave after all? Zenda could exactly blame her.

The guards might have been gone, but the blue man was still there. He obviously still had some part to play in Azar's schemes. The swordswoman had been caught off-guard by the doppelganger trick, and her hand had been forced by her own reckless call. The dragon witch might not have wanted to talk to Candano's finest any more than Zenda herself did, but she was clearly up to something.

From the shadows of the stairs down, the swordswoman signaled the sorceress. "Everyone into the cabin. It seems that we have some things to discuss." She paused, and stared at Kazimir for a long moment. "Bring Alphonse with you." Then, without another word, she turned on her heel and made her way back down, away from prying eyes.

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Old Jul 15th, 2021, 01:37 PM
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The show was over it seemed and now the cat announced that she was leaving them. Bato was not sad, not really, and he could never fault another creature for choosing its freedom and going along its own path. But he would miss the feline priestess, it had been nice to have another furred member of the crew. He didn't understand her reasoning, but the big gnoll looked over at Myra and simply nodded. Perhaps they would meet again, or perhaps not.

But now, it was on to business. Zenda (the real Zenda) summoned them into the cabin and included the funny blue elf in the summoning. Bato went over to the elf and laid a large, nigh unmovable hand on his shoulder, friendly, but unambiguous in its intention. The gnoll grinned at him, his large teeth visible alongside his lolling tongue. "Come."


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Old Jul 21st, 2021, 03:48 AM
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Candano docksMyra slips away into the passing crowds further south from the quay. The last Batoyangi sees of her is a swish of her black tail disappearing behind the Burning Sea Saltworks, where shirtless men tend the briny pools in the dying light of the summer sun.

Bato guides Kazimir up the gangplank to the gently bobbing deck of The Sighing Lady. Sartori, the bald, muscular first-mate watches them from the foredeck. He looks hard at Kazimir, but says nothing.

Oof! A body slams hard into Kazimir’s left shoulder, on his blind side as he had been looking toward the bow. Turning quickly, he sees a handsome young sailor with curly brown hair frowning at him. The collision hadn’t been an accident.

"Watch where you step, Alphonse." The sailor’s nostrils flare, but Kaz would swear it was a deliberate display. The linen shirt the man wears covers a well-muscled torso, and hangs open at the chest to reveal the hairless, tanned skin beneath. His voice lowers as he leans in toward Kazimir’s pointed ears. "She’s with me." He cocks his head toward where Zenda has just descended belowdeck. Then, his scowl takes on a note of confusion and he juts him thumb toward Azar in her magical ‘Zenda’ guise. "So is she."

Sartori’s voice booms down from the upper railing. "Bescóa! Get back to work, you fish!"

"Yes, uncl…sir," the lovestruck sailor quickly corrects himself, but does not hide the wince at his slip. He gives Kaz one last look before moving back toward the open cargo hatch.

The minotaur crewmen have returned with the wayward mule, finally. And they seem to almost have a handle on the situation. The mule still fights, but the stamina of the bull-folk has won out and the three of them pull the beast up the gangplank and past Kazimir and Batoyangi toward the stern of the ship. Milkherem smiles at Kaz as they pass. "I told you! The Unyielding Hoof am I! There is no beast more stubborn!"

Things quickly return to normal on the deck of The Sighing Lady. The preparations for a long voyage continue as more crates of provisions are wheeled down the dock on hand carts. Kaz takes one last look around before following Batoyangi below deck to meet with the fiery twin women who got him into all this in the first place.

And that’s when he sees him!

Above, on the rocky outcropping that overlooks the dock, leaning casually against the white-plastered lighthouse that casts a long, slender shadow on the scene of commerce below, is a towering figure clad in leather and steel. His reddish-bronze skin glints in the dusk, as though it is impregnated with gold dust. His jet black hair, long on top but shaven on the sides, is pulled back and tied.

Gus! Kazimir recognizes him immediately. Of course Scarlet would have him watched. Kaz has been looking over his shoulder all day. But for the horned lady of Candano’s underbelly to have sent her most vicious enforcer, well…she clearly wants to send a message. This isn’t like the other times. There will be no smooth-talking his way out of this. Kazimir had better have her money!

Gus, the strange trollkin with Congolese, in Gus’ casethe exotic, Southlands accent, adjusts the heavy, curved blades on his belt and smiles at Kaz. That smile has earned him the nickname “Fun-Gus” from those elements in town who know of his work. Or maybe it is the prodigious amount of mushrooms the hulking cutter eats. But, either way, Kaz knows that Gus is the only one who has fun when he smiles.

 

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Old Jul 24th, 2021, 01:25 PM
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"’No thanks to me?’" Kazimir shared a look with Milkherem like she told him the sky was red and the earth was round. He snorted, and burdened Azar with a wolfish grin that promised he wasn’t letting her off that easy. "Oooh, yer a mean one, aintcha. Castin’ a friend aside so quick. S’no wonder ye found yerself in such a pickle. Tell you what, lass, I’ll do ye another solid an’ offer my services for free. All ye need to do is tell yer beloved sweetheart ole Alphonse ‘thank you’." He batted his squinty eyes at her like a love struck puppy, swooning and crooning in a manner that’d make a full grown man gag. "Ahhh, me beloved Azar, ye can manage that, can’t ye? Or are you so quick to forget about all the nights o’ passionate lovemakin’ we shared beneath the stars?"

Pressing his palm to his head like a wilting noblewoman, Kazimir nearly jumped out of his skin when the Real Red called out from below deck. Kazimir immediately dropped his foolishness, and straightened himself up, shoulders back and head tilted high, just in case she needed another gander on the beauty that was his elven blood. Which was a good thing he did, because she called for ole ‘Alphonse’ to join the crew of lasses down below deck. Ooh, a priest would have been burning red and stammering prayers from the saucy thoughts that sauntered through Kazimir’s dirty mind. "Ooh hoo hoo! Ye dun have to ask me twice, lass! I’ll be down in just a sec! Lemme just pop over to the tavvy and--"

It was then her bigger, furrier, and toothier friend clasped his hand on his shoulder, which firmly told him, without saying nigh a word, that he wasn’t going anywhere.

Kazimir winced at the pearly white fangs that gleaned menacingly down at him. The big beastie urged him to ‘Come,’ all smiles and the like, but ehhh, Kazimir had a sneaking suspicion that his willingness to go down into the grimy depths of their ship was entirely optional. Best he play it safe. Act dumb. Friendly. And try to work his way out of whatever trouble he stumbled his way into. "Heh! Of course, of course, lad. Who am I to keep a gentlelady waitin’?" He muttered coolly, while he quietly screamed on the inside as the big wolf man pushed him forward, giving him enough room to put his own two feet forward, but walked close enough behind him that Kazimir could hear the weight of the beast’s own heavy steps as the gangplank creaked underneath them. ’Bloody bastard must weigh five hundred pounds…’

The ship wasn’t much to look at from atop. Sailor lads moved boxes back and forth. The crew a mix of humans and minotaurs, which was a common sight around the southern waters. The only queerness about the vessel was the ladies who led him aboard. Surely they weren’t merchants. A proper seller needn’t hide their identity like Miss Bad Liar did. Criminals, then? Runaways from some far off continent from the North? If that were true, then they had to pay the ship captain a hefty sum to smuggle them across the waters. Would explain why they didn’t want the ole watch on them, too. Question was what sort of crooks was Kazimir dealing with. He hoped it wasn’t the murderous kind. He was rather fond of living.

The glare Kazimir received from the bald man was met with a smile and a wave from Kazimir. He woulda have blown him a kiss, too, but that was before some arsehole slammed his shoulder into his. Kazimir banged into a crate. Pain shooting up from where his foot collided with a sharp corner. He bit the inside of his cheek to keep himself from hollering out like a wounded dog. His eyes watering as he shot a dirty look to the bastard who wasn’t watching where he was going, only to come face-to-face with a chest chiseled by the gods themselves. ’Baldur’s fat tits, you could grate cheese on those!’

"Watch where you step, Alphonse." Kazimir cocked his head up and squinted hard at the musclehead who sneered at him. A pretty boy, Kazimir thought, full of spit and vinegar his youth afforded him. Hardly worth the energy it would take to dress him down in front of all his friends. After all, Kazimir was too old for wee little school yard bullies. So, he snorted dismissively at him, and turned away, only to freeze when that sodding lughead made a point to say both Reds were with him. Ooh, a stronger man of will than he would have let it go. Just walked on without a word more. But Kazimir was no such man. He was a cad, a devil, and a right bastard.

"Bescóa! Get back to work, you fish!"

A madness filled Kazimir’s eyes as he stared down the sullen sailor. A wily grin stretched from pointed ear to pointed ear as he assured sweet Bescóa, "Oooh! Dun worry, friend. I’ll be right gentle with the girls. Me soft nimble hands won’t leave nigh a mark on them, just fer you. Just be sure ta knock before ye come stompin’ down! Me an’ the ladies have big plans fer tonight~!" Wiggling his blue-stained fingers at him, Kazimir waggled his brows with all the crudeness the lad could suffer without swinging a punch at him before Kazimir turned his back on him. That taunt will cost him later, he was sure of it, but that was the price of a good laugh. A broken nose, and a few bruised ribs. Ah, it was worth it every time.

Passing by the Unyielding Hoof and his sweaty comrades, Kazimir saluted the friendly bastard as he boasted his victory over the stubborn mule. Even though Kazimir was fairly certain he was going to be hanged and quartered a few minutes from now, he still met the minotaur’s smile with one of his own. "Aye! And no truer friend an elf can call on, either! Ye best remember we are to have drinks later! An’ ye better come wit a fierce thirst an’ fiercer stories, or else ye will learn quick why they call me The Pickled Spirit!" They don’t call him that. They don’t call him that at all. But it was better to shout that than what the people of Candano really called him. Like Scarlet, for example, said he was a no-good, knife-earred, mother--

Kazimir froze. His eyes locked on the lighthouse that towered over the busy docks. Or rather a figure that loomed in its shadow. Fun-Gus. Scarlet’s meanest, cruelest, and nastiest enforcer in all of Candano. Kazimir’s blood ran cold at the slimy grin the Trollkin gave him when he noticed Kazimir staring. The playful way his brutish fingers ran along the edge of his sheathed dagger had Kazimir shiver in the burning hot sun. He ducked his head, away from the bloody monster that turned full grown men into butchered meat, and towards the encroaching darkness that awaited him below deck.

That decided it then. Kazimir couldn’t stay in Candano any longer. He needed out of the city, and he needed a way out now.

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Old Jul 24th, 2021, 04:44 PM
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Azar had barely set foot on the gangplank when the braggart started on again, desperately trying to get a rise from her! He was going on and on like some kind of overgrown child, but Azar pointedly ignored him as she strode purposefully up to the ship.

That was when Zenda shouted her orders, making Azar stop short, bristling with indignation. She had to fight an urge to turn around right then and there and go to browse in the market, an impulse that she recognised as a petty attempt to prove her 'freedom'. The worst part was that Zenda wanted 'Alphonse' to come along, which would mean they wouldn't be free to discuss their mission as she had hoped, never mind that they would have to listen to his insufferable boasting! Azar glanced back to see that he was fairly skipping up onto the deck, followed close behind by Batoyangi.

With a sigh, Azar resigned herself to the fact that he would be around for at least a few minutes more, so she waited, because she'd be damned if she'd walk in front of him and give him a chance to ogle her rear, even if that rear was actually Zenda's.

She couldn't help a small grin when one of the sailors muscled in on Kazimir, but it was quickly wiped away when the sailor in question claimed ownership of both Zenda and herself! She actually felt almost grateful that the 'elf' didn't back down, but quickly quashed it, knowing that he was no better than the sailor. She stepped to the side as Kazimir was distracted by one of the minotaurs, her eyes never straying from the sailor, Bescoa. A smile spread across her face as she watched him walking towards the cargo hatch.

Calling upon the fire within, she twisted it quickly and sent a miniscule portion forth, heating the air in front of the man so that a small cloud of smoke appeared, stinging the man's eyes. With any luck it would catch him at just the right moment…

What was Kazimir looking at now? She followed his gaze to see a tall and menacing figure by the lighthouse who seemed to be having quite the intimate moment with the rascal. Very interesting indeed.

She looked back at the other oaf to see him rubbing his right eye, but having easily navigated the piles of rope near the hatch. Such a shame, she would have to keep looking out for other opportunities.

She followed the others belowdecks, letting her eyes adjust as she went. Without a word she checked the room to make sure they had no unexpected guests before she reached up and removed her hat, letting the Zenda disguise drop away like a silken veil. She felt naked now. When had been the last time that she had let anybody that she wasn't about to kill see her like this? Her eyes glowed a smoldering red and the gold-tinged scales on her back and shoulders glimmered in the dim light. Back in the Mharoti Empire if she had been seen in public in her true form they would mob her. 'Aberration', they would call her, 'deviant', or more likely 'monster'. She would not be suffered to live.

So why had she chosen to reveal herself now? Some instinct had driven her to do it, to drop all pretense and just be honest. It was a strange idea, but these were strange times.

"Okay, let's talk," she said to Zenda before looking Kazimir up and down, "I suggest we start by deciding whether we should kill this one."

 

 
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Old Jul 24th, 2021, 07:05 PM
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As she stepped back into the cabin, it took every ounce of determination Zenda had to turn her back on Azar. The muscles between her shoulder blades clenched, the swordswoman was ready for anything. A

Would Zenda be offered a treacherous knife in the back? Or would Azar break and beg for her life? Perhaps she would deflect, make counter accusations? Or would she simply layer on yet another coat of lies and deception? But for all the possibilities that raced through the Ishadian's mind, the words that came out of the the witch's mouth caught her totally off-guard.

Zenda lost her composure for a brief moment, responding in shock. "Kill him? I should think you would want to kiss him. The oh so conveniently placed savior who just happened to be lingering on deck at the exact moment you tried to lead our companions astray..." As her own words tumbled out, the deeper meaning dawned upon her and she trailed off. "Oh. So that's it!" The dancer sneered at the former slave with thinly-veiled contempt. "Now that you have been caught with your hand in the cookie jar, you want to quietly eliminate your co-conspirator? Worse, you expect me to do your dirty work for you?" Zenda let out a short, sharp bark of derisive laughter. "Not a chance!" Turning suddenly on her heel, the swordswoman stalked over to her pack and quickly extracted a sheaf of documents. Reading directly from the papers, Zenda turned directly towards Kazimir and intoned in an official voice as she could manage.

"Under the authority granted me by Her Most Gracious Excellency, Casmara Moshiri Azrabahir, The Scaled-Heart Sultana of the Glorious Empire of Mharot, Voice of the Morza, Defender of the Golden City of Harkesh, Bearer of the Breath, and Humble Daughter of Great Azuran, I place you under arrest. You may consider yourself in the custody and under the protection of the Scaled Throne (in exile). You are a material witness..." at this she turned slightly, as if addressing all of her companions, but her eyes pointedly locked with Azar's. "...and I will take it very, very personally if something should happen to my witness."

Returning the official documents the Sultana entrusted her with to their place in her pack, Zenda turned back to the group. "With that... small matter settled..." She was apparently done with Kazimir for now as she spared him only a single side-long glance along with her gibe. "Let us turn back to more pressing issues. It is clear that we cannot trust each other. I do not know where your loyalties lie, what your intentions are, or what role your patsy here was to play once you lured the others off the ship..." She held up a single hand before Azar could reply. "Spare me your protestations. I won't believe them in any case. You two can explain yourself to your mistress when our mission is complete." She paused and sighed, relenting somewhat. "Be that as it may, with matters the way they are, we are stuck working together for the time being." Zenda shrugged slightly. "I suppose it is no secret that I harbor no love for your kind. Perhaps that makes me just as difficult for you to trust in turn. I cannot help you, except to give you my word here and now that I am fully committed to completing our shared purpose."

Finally pulling her eyes away from the witch's glowing orbs, Zenda looked to Batoyangi and Nae'lla. "We have already lost one companion to mistrust and uncertainty. We will need every resource available to us if we are to succeed. If this morning proved anything, it is that we are effective when united. I do not ask you to blindly follow us to the ends of the earth, but I ask you to reaffirm your commitment to the task laid before us."

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Old Jul 25th, 2021, 04:12 AM
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Azar simply rolled her eyes when Zenda accused her of conspiring with Kazimir, but when she pulled out their documents and started to declare the elf a witness she couldn't stop herself from laughing quietly to herself. A (she guessed) Ishadian terrorist acting as unofficial agent for a deposed head of state was invoking the legal authority of the great Mharoti Empire! She would have loved to see the face of the first magistrate to be presented with this.

Nevertheless, if this was what it would take for Zenda to regain a little trust she would have to go along with it.

"So be it," she said inclining her head slightly. "I have already apologised to you privately, but let me elaborate in front of your witness." She stood squarely in front of the swordswoman, wrists crossed in front of her chest and bowed. "Zenda of Ishadia, I am sorry that I believed you betrayed us. I reacted on instinct, but those instincts need to be reappraised given our current situation. I will not make the same mistake again."

She then turned to Nae'laa who had been watching the proceedings quietly.

"Nae'laa of the Ashen Skin; I apologise to you also for misleading you in my folly. I now trust that Zenda has not betrayed us and would urge you to trust her as well."

Turning further she found herself facing Kazimir. She took a breath, saw the look in his eyes and shuddered.

"Kazimir of… the Pointed-ears," she said uncertainly, "I… will come back to you."

She moved on quickly to Batoyangi and bowed in front of him.

"Batoyangi, the Great Constrictor, I believed that you were either deceived by Zenda or were conspiring with her. For this you too have my apology."

She hesitated for a few moments, still in her official bow. She felt that there was something more that she should say but couldn't formulate the words. Something deep down was telling her that she had wronged him in some worse way, but what could it be? Then her eyes caught the wriggling form of the sack she had given him, the one with the live chicken.

"I… also apologise for trying to buy your loyalty. We two, of all people, should know better than that. I…" she trailed off, not knowing how to complete the thought, but she looked up, her ruby eyes finding his small black ones. "I will try to do better."

She stood straight once again and reluctantly turned back towards Kazimir who was waiting expectantly. She didn't bow this time, instead her voice was quiet and resigned.

"Kazimir, I am sorry that you are here with us." She looked him in the eye to show that there was genuine remorse and that this wasn't just some jibe. "In time, I am sure you will come to regret it too. Soon enough, I think you will wish you could have stayed in this obscure little town and dealt with your friend at the lighthouse. What we will face is sure to be far worse."

She glanced back at Zenda and then looked him in the eye once again.

"But if having you here is what it takes for Zenda to begin to trust me… I'm sorry, but you're stuck with us."

 

 
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Old Jul 29th, 2021, 11:49 PM
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"All this talk of betrayal. Bato fears no blade in the back," Batoyangi finally said from his place by the door. He'd positioned himself not directly in front of the wooden portal that lead back to the deck, but near enough to make the point clear. Out there meant through me. The entertaining elven fellow seemed to get the point, as he gone stone-still just before they'd ducked down below deck and had stayed uncharacteristically quiet throughout the conversation so far. Bato could smell the fear off him like a stink. It made sense for him to be afraid of them, but it was strange as he hadn't showed such terror before.

The gnoll had a grin on his face and flicked his head, gibbering slightly in acknowledgement of Azar's apology. He was not offended by the witch's betrayal. He knew betrayal well, had felt its sting and been its agent many a time. Betrayal was always there, lurking beneath the surface, waiting to rear up and bite you. All you could do was be ready to kill and survive it, just like anything else.

He turned his beady eyes towards the elf-man who stank of fear. "So are we keeping him?"


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