Rook Takes Knight

Rook Takes Knight

Postby CherryStatic » Sun Nov 01, 2015 8:47 pm

"I'm sorry, miss, but I'm afraid that Sir Vess and Captain Montelle aren't receiving visitors at this time of night." The guard, a man with traces of youth lingering around the edges of his vigilant expression, moved an inch to the left so that he more obviously blocked the doorway. "You'll have to return in the morning if you wish to speak with them."

"My, aren't you a darling little thing?" The woman he addressed reached out and gingerly brushed a speck of something or other from his shoulder with delicate, gloved fingers. He stiffened at the brazen contact, which seemed to make her burgundy colored lips twitch into a sardonic smile. Her unsettling eyes, a glittering burnished gold shaded by thickly mascaraed lashes, flicked to his companion, a girl wearing an outfit identical to his own, before returning to him. "Nightfall arrived only a scant three hours ago, and I am to believe that busy men such as they have already retired for the night? I think not, chickadee."

He scowled at her. "I said that they're not receiving visitors. Take that to mean what you will."

"How unfortunate." she said, clearly without any intention of moving from where she stood. The lacy parasol held point-down remained firmly rooted on the wooden plank floor between them, her hands laid across its hilt like the pommel of a sword. Her precisely cut outfit, all velvet and silk and ink colored feathers, made her look out of place in the Floating Dragon, but it was her refined tongue that truly made her stand out, and she seemed fully aware of it. "For you see, I have business with the seer concerning matters of utmost importance, and I would be most displeased if a single guard were to stand in the way of our meeting."

"Two guards." His companion bristled, hand coming to rest on the hilt of her blade. The finely dressed woman spared her a glance.

"Of course. Two guards." she said in a patronizingly honeyed tone. Her gaze returned once more to the large frame of the man who filled the doorway. "I wouldn't want things to take an unfortunate turn."

"Then I suggest you leave." He folded his arms across his chest. "Immediately."

There was a long pause in which she cocked her head, examining him with glittering eyes. They seemed to peer out at him from the end of a long, dark tunnel as black as coal. The countless feathers that were stylishly arranged on her outfit, along the hemline of her flared skirts, layered on her shoulders, and dipping along the swell of her accentuated cleavage, seemed to rustle the slightest bit, but before he could give it any thought, she chuckled richly.

"Very well. I wouldn't wish to seem untoward." She gave the other guard one last smirk before departing, moving down the staircase that fed into the commons of the Floating Dragon. Her voice fluttered back, just loud enough to reach his ears:

"Have a pleasant night, chickadee."
.............................................................................................................................................................
"They can't just have disappeared! It isn't possible!"

Michta Vess calmly observed the captain of the Hidden Hand over the rim of his teacup. He drank in a leisurely fashion, much to the annoyance of the other, who believed that he was intentionally contrary in all things. When he set the cup down with the quietest of clinks upon a dish, he folded his dainty hands in his lap and asked:

"Why?"

Castor Montelle stopped his pacing and whirled on the half-elf with an increduous, open-mouthed expression. "Why? You're asking me why? Maybe it's because of all the time we spent chasing after them. Maybe it's because men and women died for this cause. Maybe" he fumed, raising his voice, "it's because we had them cornered like the rats they are!"

The seer regarded the dramatic delivery with a lidded gaze. "It is an unfortunate turn of events, Captain. Unlikely, even. But entirely possible. Might I remind you that the Bloodletters have escaped from beneath our noses once before?" He turned his head to look at the crystal ball that was perched on its stand in the center of the table he was seated at. "Perhaps they discovered a new manner in which to Manifest, a way in which they could erase their tracks. In terms of magical ability, it is not unheard of."

"Gods above, aren't you even the tiniest bit upset?" the swordsman cried. His androgynous companion deigned not to answer, and he threw his hands up in frustration. "This has all been for nothing, then. That's it. We've been played, strung along like utter fools, and we have nothing to show for it!"

"By all means, Captain, proceed to lose your head over this." The half-elf discreetly rolled his eyes, running his fingertips over the cool, smooth surface of the magical instrument that lay before him. "We managed to track down Crucia and her ilk once before, and we can certainly manage it again in the future should the king desire it."

"You say that as if he doesn't." There was a pause before the man turned back to face him. "Michta, that is what the king wishes isn't it?"

The seer was hesitant to respond. "I received a letter this morning. His majesty wishes us to return to Mixalydia as soon as we are able. We are to withdraw from Myrken at the first opportunity."

"You...can't be serious." The swordsman was stunned. "Does he have any idea--"

"It is not our place to question the king's commands." Michta cut him off with a surprising display of emotion. There was a beat of silence before he sat back in his chair, looking once more at the crystal ball. "We are pawns, Castor Montelle. Do not ever forget that."

Castor opened his mouth to respond when there was a tap at the window. The two of them turned to see a crow sitting on the windowsill beyond the glass, eyeing them curiously, its head twitching this way and that. Castor frowned at it briefly in annoyance before returning to the conversation at hand.

"I swore to my men that the brothers and sisters they lost to Alcara would be avenged." He moved closer to Michta, leaning down so that they were face-to-face. The half-elf unconsciously noticed how attractive the other was, just as he always did when the man invaded his personal space. "What should I tell them now, elfling? That they would do well to forget about their fallen comrades and move on with their lives because a king who is just barely out of his swaddling clothes demands it?"

"I am his majesty's personal advisor, Captain." The seer's visible eye, the one not hidden behind the hair that fell neatly across half of his face, narrowed slightly. "I would be very careful how you speak about the leader of our country if you have any desire to maintain the friendship we share."

"Friendship?" the other spat, straightening. "For all of your knowledge, you seem to be confused when it comes to that word. Our friendship so far has been centered around my willingness to do whatever you tell me, whenever you tell me, all because you are a good and faithful lapdog to--"

He was interrupted by the sound of glass shattering, sudden and jarring, and both seer and swordsman spun to face the window. What they saw baffled them equally.

Countless dark birds--crows, Michta thought to himself--streamed through the broken window, circling the room as ever more entered. They were a whirlwind of fluttering wings and piercings caws, forming walls of inky feathers on all sides. Taken by surprise as they were, the two men were momentarily paralyzed by uncertainty before Castor's hand found its way to the rapier at his hip. He ripped it free of its hilt, holding it before him, looking for a place to strike and coming up empty.

"What the hell did you do, elfling?!" he roared over the noise. Michta pulled a long-suffering expression despite the circumstances.

"Yes, very good, Captain!" he called, annoyed. "Assume that the more magically talented of us is responsible for a flock of angry birds invading our sleeping quarters!" He was distracted as an errant crow broke formation long enough to knock into his teacup, sending it careening to the floor where it shattered, its contents seeping into the floorboards.

Alright. Now it was personal.

Magic flared along the lengths of his slender arms, erupting into pale green ribbons of light that danced across his fingers. He wove a design in the air before him, directing the magical energy he had gathered at the wall of birds that continually wound about them. The sigil lingered in the air, hanging as though in a stasis as his fingers traced articulate symbols into a pattern that spanned several feet. His finger came to a halt after connecting the symbols within a large circle.

"Venatae." he intoned. The sigil dissolved in a flash as an invisible wall of pressure moved outward from the two with such force that it hammered the air with a deafening report, shattering what was left of the glass in the window and rattling the door on its hinges. The many birds were caught up in the brute force of the spell, breaking formation as they were violently slammed against the walls of the room, their wings snapping on impact, feathers trailing through the air like an afterimage as they lazily floated to the ground.

Michta sagged, the energy fleeing his body as the aftermath of the spell hit him. Castor grabbed his arm the instant before he fell to the floor, supporting what little weight he had, and the two of them watched as the dark corpses of the birds fell to the ground with dull thumps. Here and there, a bird clung to life, limbs twitching weakly.

"Nicely done." the swordsman commented, eyes darting to and fro about the room, revisiting the window every few seconds in case more birds decided to appear. The half-elf was unable to reply through his ragged breathing.

"Indeed, that was quite impressive." agreed a disembodied voice within the room. Castor stilled, and the weakened man in his arms raised his head warily.

The scores of dead crows scattered around the room seemed to collapse on themselves, their bodies dissolving and leaving nothing but feathers behind. The feathers kicked up into the air as if a strong wind had gusted through the room, dragging them about in a lazy circle that picked up speed until they were little more than a dark, spinning whirl beside the window. A shape, a form, became increasingly visible behind the storm of glossy feathers, which fed into it, becoming a part of it, giving it shape. It ended as quickly as it had begun, and an exquisitely dressed woman stood before them, a lacy parasol resting on one shoulder.

"My apologies for the teacup, little peacock." She smiled down at Michta, who managed to get his feet beneath him with Castor's help. "It was an antique, was it not? Part of a collection that is no longer available, if I'm not mistaken. Such a shame."

The tip of the rapier in the swordsman's hand was pointed at her generous chest in a heartbeat. "You have exactly five seconds to tell me why I shouldn't run you through on the spot, you witch." he hissed, positioning his feet so that he could make good on the threat. As drained as Michta was from that single display of force, he doubted the half-elf would be able to call upon his magic to that extent in the next few minutes.

"I'm afraid that five seconds would put you at a severe disadvantage, my child. Put that toy of yours away." She flicked a hand dismissively at the blade, which shuddered violently momentarily and flew from Castor's hand and into the nearest wall hard enough to drive it several inches into the wood. Her golden eyes watched him in amusement as he processed what had happened. "Now that the two of you are quite finished, perhaps we can begin to act like civilized people."

Michta watched in silence as she delicately closed the parasol and came to stand before the table. She reached out and touched velvet-gloved fingers to the crystal ball, smiling to herself. He straightened, smoothing his robes out asked simply:

"What are you?"

"Nothing so vile that you need address me with that tone, child, I assure you." She regarded him, her hand still on the crystal ball. "If you really must define me in the limited sense that words provide, you might say that I am just another piece in this ever shifting puzzle."

"How vague." he replied drily. "If you aren't going to answer me, then save your breath."

She chuckled. "Sweet thing, talking is one of the most wondrous and fanciful distractions in the world. When you have lived as long as I have, a concept as novel and ingenuous as speech, the ability to be 'vague', as you so aptly put it, is the most pleasurable thing there is. I could speak with others until the end of time."

"I would rather you didn't." the half-elf deadpanned, watching her every movement. He felt as though he stood on a tightrope above a pit. One wrong step, and he would be sent plummeting to his death. "Tell us, then, what you want from us. I assume that you are unrelated to our current predicament."

"Unrelated to what you are referring to, perhaps, but at the center of the situation you find yourself in." She smiled coyly. "Though you are, and will remain for a while longer, unaware of what that situation might be. But fret not; every person in this town will know of the danger that is come to Myrken in due time. Patience is a virtue."

"So is brevity." said Castor, who had been attempting to pull his weapon free of the wall as they spoke, and had eventually surrendered it to the wood. "If you aren't going to make any sense, then leave. We have a full plate and I don't care for your theatrics, witch."

"Humans. Such a fire that burns within them." She plucked the crystal ball from its perch and turned it over in her hands. "Regrettably one of the only qualities they posses that I find endearing, and hardly one that merits patience. If you speak out of turn even once more in my presence, child, I will end your life."

Castor glared, but did not speak, believing her. Michta watched as she examined the crystal ball, his skin crawling. "I would ask that you not handle my instrument. It is essential to the workings of my magic."

"That is hardly my concern, now is it, peacock?" She appraised him with lofted eyebrows. "Whether or not you are aware of it, you owe me greatly for past favors. And now I am making good on that debt. I will be borrowing this until I no longer have need of it, and that is all there is to say on the matter. I expect we will see more of each other some day." She smiled at the two of them. "Ta."

She turned towards the window, her business apparently concluded, and opened her parasol anew. Castor saw his chance to act and sprang at her back, tearing a knife from its sheath on his belt. He cocked his arm back to gut her in the kidney and was only a few feet away when she looked over her shoulder at him, eyes glinting in delight.

Castor lifted off the ground as though a fist had caught him in the middle, the breath leaving his lungs in a rush, and Michta winced as he heard ribs crack. The swordsman was held aloft for a second as the woman reached out with one hand, still facing the window, and ran her fingers lovingly along the length of his jaw.

"Honestly, you have some of the worst manners I've ever had the misfortune of witnessing." She patted his cheek affectionately. "Perhaps a time-out will give you a chance to reflect on your behavior."

And with that, the captain of the Hidden Hand was unceremoniously thrown by magic into the table hard enough to splinter it with a resounding crunch.

The woman dissolved into a whirl of crows that surged out the window into the night, leaving Michta to desperately clamber through what was left of the table to reach his friend, his ally, who lay broken on what had been a pristine tablecloth only minutes before and was now covered in feathers and chips of wood. Castor's face was already paling, and his eyes turned towards Michta in desperation before he began to cough up blood.

"I'm here, it's alright, I'm here, I'm going to help you." Michta's composure was shot through entirely, and his fingers trembled as he assessed the damage. The guards outside their door had barged through at some point and were doing what they could to help their captain, to stop the bleeding, to see where the man's bones were shattered. They pulled him away so that he could only watch from afar as they did their best to save Castor.

And Michta feared with every ounce of his being that their best wouldn't be enough.
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