Draven sighed, not happy with being forced to hunt someone. He grabbed his cloak before heading up to the roof, certain that he wasn't the only one second guessing their options.
Once on the roof, he leaned against the wall by the door, partly to ensure that no one who wasn't in their group could eavesdrop, and partly to cut the wind as much as possible.
Serena follows Draven up to the roof. "Are you really going to help them?" she asks.
"Depends." Draven answered. "Do we want to give them a reason to burn down Jin's establishment? Personally, I don't particularly care what we do, but the gold would be nice."
"I was thinking... if we worked with the Destroyers, we might get protection. And they might give us access to more resources. I mean, we're being sent after a strategist. Now imagine if that strategist could help us, give us advice." Serena says.
"And how do we know they aren't just using us to find the Destroyers, and then as soon as we get near them, they arrest everyone, including us?"
William saw Serena and Draven come to the roof, the others obviously not following his suggestion. The ideas and suggestions that Serena were giving were valid he supposed, but they still seemed a bit foolish. He shivered and pulled the blanker tighter around himself, before beckoning them over to actually sit near, so as to limit the need for noise.
"Simply put, we don't know. However, the government is much more powerful than the destroyers, and even the best strategist in the world wouldn't help us escape their wrath." He replied factually.
"I'd say the best course of action would be to just do the job to the letter, divide the money and use the pardons to keep the guard from taking our heads for a little longer." He suggested.
Downstairs, Tom leaned back in his chair and sighed. After a great deal of frantic writing, his research was safe. After putting his things away, he stood up and walked toward the staircase, stopping only to give the serving girl a minuscule jar of light orange liquid from his bag. "For the ink stains," he said, an apologetic smile on his face. "You're probably going to want gloves." He continued on his way, buttoning up his leather coat as he reached the top of the stairs. With a quick "Sorry I'm late," he found himself a seat near the others and set his bag down on his lap. "So, what did I miss?"
Gerik, although reluctant to move a dead body, nevertheless took it upon himself to remove the corpse from the store upon hearing Jin's request. He mumbled, quite incoherently, underneath his breath as he and several other patrons and one employee tossed the corpse outside, although not before grabbing a small, green tablecloth before exiting the store in order to cover up the lifeless man from the view of onlookers. He returned to the tea-house, the man's blood running along the side of his black, leather cuirass, visibly annoyed due to having to deal with such a task while in the middle of his herbal brew.
His high had long since subsided, with Gerik, no longer filled with vigor and glee, wearing a scowl across his face. It had been long a felt the warm sensation of blood, longer since he had claimed the soul of another man, although since his arrival in Atanlia it seemed that the disposal of the dead and beaten had become a common occurrence. It angered him immensely, his stomach growling for the taste of death and mayhem, although visibly he kept his composure. Just for once, he wished, he would be the one dealing the damage as opposed to dealing with the the aftermath.
The Professional sighed, contemplating the dull nature of his current existence, then returned to his herbal drink. He would drown his annoyance in spiked tea, the world around him melting once more as he chugged the drink. All around him smelt of spices and incense, much like the Broken Blessing always did, though the magical brew and the high it produced intensified the sensations these smells tenfold. He returned to his fictional paradise, though knew that, once the brew wore off, he would once again fall back into his dull reality.
He wanted a fight. A good one, too.
Davarious headed upstairs, to follow William, he had listened to their conversation in quiet and had picked up that some of the patrons could be loyal to the destroyers, this would prove problematic. Davarious made his presense known for the discussing of the plan. Truthfully, he may not have been against siding with the destroyers if the pay was good, but he doubted they could rival the offer made to him by the government. Plus, this could get Davarious closer to him... he imagined the possibility of using a status gained over time to execute him and oh how the irony would please him. On the other hand, the destroyers would offer up the oppertunity to simply put a bolt in the poor bastard's eye.
"You know, the destroyers could possibly work as an ally." He paused for a moment. "That said, the government, while corrupt, takes it's allies seriously and if we can get in good relations with the higher ups, it would only prove beneficial." None of them knew why he came here, he simply had claimed earlier when questioned that the pay was good here, in fact; none of them knew who he was really aside from the fact that he liked tea.
"Whatever you decide, do keep in mind that if we take on a high profile bounty like this, it will put us in the limelight." If there was any city more dangerous than Atlania to be well known in, he had never heard of it in his travels, but he always flirted with the thought of becoming more than he was.
"It may put us in the light, but think of what comes with the light,"Clarissa replied as she walked onto the roof,"The possible rewards outweigh the risk in this situation. We reject to do anything about it and that Inquisitor may come back and burn down the Blessing for spite, most likely with us inside. If we do it, and do it well, we're put in the light, and with the light comes possible future contracts, and if you don't want that, then the reward they're offering for this guy is enough to retire on if you're careful."
She sat on one of the cushions Jin had provided and laid back to watch the stars, but also watching the door, prying ears knew no bounds.
A gust of wind blew against Fleur and she corrected her position to counteract the force. She'd been shaking under her cloak for the past ten minutes trying no to drop a large book she carried. "Finally made it to the tea house". The magician hustled inside. Blood, fresh blood was on the floor. The shadows his the body in the alley well, she hadn't noticed. Taking a glance around it seemed her partners had already headed up for the meeting. She was hoping to arrive early so she could warm up, but no such luck from Nod was given. In fact, she was late.
Fleur rushed up to the second story, a real shame it was open air. She would give all her gold for a nice comfy bed next to a roaring fire place. "A magician never arrives late, we arrive exactly as intended" She said aloud to all on the rooftop, her usual cover as she typically ran late due to distractions. "So, I'm going to guess the neighbors stopped by and asked for a cup of sugar". Fleur laughed lightly, a reference to whatever caused blood to be spilled downstairs. "Now continue discussion, I want warmth sooner rather than three days from the next full moon".
Davarious noticed Fleur and turned around to crassly retort "So you intend to be late then?" He shook his head, magi were some of the few people he could actually get around to trusting, they were too weak in physical combat to risk making enemies in large numbers, so they tended to be the more honest type. "Well, I am glad you made it, I shall fill you in on the events up to now."
As he told her of the dead man and the man soon to be dead, it came to his mind that it took the death of another patron to actually get him to talk with others. Heh, guess mom was right, I am a bit of a sociopath. He finished speaking and sat down on the pillow offered by Jin a while ago. "You look cold, grab a blanket and sit down. Don't need to lose another today."
He went on to continue his point directed at Clarissa. "I was one of the first to state my desire to be involved in this overblown execution. I suppose I need something to keep me occupied for the time being. My first idea would be to get inside the Destroyers and once we are in a position in which we can kill him, we decide if we would like to continue our relations with the Destroyers, or kill the man and take the bounty." Win win for us.
Draven shifted a bit befor replying. "If we need an in with the Destroyers, I suppose that would be me. Ive worked with them in the past, and it shouldn't prove too difficult to get back there, if that is to be our plan."
Having said his peace, Draven resumed listening to the others.
"So, we get into a position in which we can either ally ourselves with the Destroyers, or kill the target?" Serena asks. She takes a cloak from her bag and wraps it around her shoulders. "That would be the best course of action."
That would give us time to decide our allegiances... I don't want to commit to a stupid cause.
"But, what about our actual jobs? How will we do what we do if we're doing this? We'll likely have guards keeping an eye on us. I'm still not sure about this... I think they're trying to get us out of the way."
"Well Davarious I at least retrieved the book I was after. So late or not matters not". Fleur dragged a chair over to the group and sat down. She still kept the book tight to her chest, it was a spell book. Something she wanted not to fall into the hands of anyone, even her friends for now. "Well we don't all have to work on this right away. Anyone with a job now can finish up, than join us. But it's just my two cents".
The door swung open and Cadius stepped over the gap, his coat blowing in the wind as he walked in. "What...what the -fuck- happened? I step out for five minutes and there's blood on the floor and a bullethole in the wall? What in the Gods name did I miss?" He quickly stepped across the room to the bar and ordered some exceedingly cheap and foul-tasting liquor, downing it. "Swear, I can't leave you people alone for ten minutes without something going horribly wrong..."
Dirge stepped over to the bar, beside Cadius. He too ordered a drink, asking for an aged whiskey, that was quickly delivered, without charge. He took a gulp of the liquor, it's potency giving a warm, tingly sensation as it made it's way down his gullet.
"What in the Gods name did I miss?"
"Just the Royal Guard barge in and decree that we should catch a wanted man, proceeded by Kieth acting like an idiot and attacking the Inquisitor, then getting his brains blown out."
He finished his drink, the finality of the burning sensation spurring some movement.
"Other than, nothing much"
"Well." He poured out the last of his drink onto the ground. "Here's one for that idiot. What the hell are Royal Guard doing coming down here thinking they can give us orders? And thinking we'd do as they say. Did they even bother to try and offer an incentive, or just threats?" He ordered a refill, taking a slow drink.
The night air was cold and damp; heavy winds were carrying moisture in from the wetlands surrounding the city. Jin shivered and closed the staircase door behind him. He set down his cushions in the sitting area and then went about lighting the glass lanterns that dotted the rooftop. Opening the case and drawing it close to him so as to shield it from the wind, he would move his finger next to the wick and snap them, and presto!, fire. It was the one magic spell he had picked up on his travels, a mere trifle to the average magician but infinitely useful to a wandering vagabond.
Once the rooftop was sufficiently lit, Jin got comfortable in a seat near the edge of the empty pool and waited. The potted trees and bushes that dotted the edges of the roof swayed and shuddered, trying their damnedest to block the wind but not doing a very good job of it. It wouldn't hurt to buy a few more plants to help fill out their ranks. Maybe some small pine or spruce trees. Conifers wouldn't really fit with the aesthetic he had tried to build, but they would do a better job of breaking the wind.
Presently William appeared, walking quietly as he always did and making sure to shut the door firmly behind him. He came straight to Jin and sat down next to him, tugging the blanket around his shoulders tight against the chill. "They're acting all weird downstairs, like they don't know each other. Have you got any ideas for a plan yet, Jin?"
The old man smiled and replied "Many, but let's wait for the others. For a wise man, the value of the brash and opinionated is in their ability to easily flush out of hiding an idea's folly." He peered at William's eyes intently as he said this, like a school teacher intent on driving a lesson into his pupil's brain. Then he laughed. "I'm sure Gerik and Daniel will have several shining examples for you!"
In no time the others began to trickle up on to the roof and take their places among the seats and cushions. The talk revolved around the Inquisitor's demands and how (or even if) they should be met. Jin noted in passing that the one thing this scene lacked was a nice, roaring fire pit. It was something he'd need to look into.
Despite the cold it was a rather nice night; the sky was clear, showing off a million dazzling stars that grew brighter by the minute. Jin gazed for a long while at the Royal Palace, its stark towers and walls cast in a soft red light by the last of the sun's rays. A myriad of torches and lanterns illuminated little pieces of the vast city that stretched below like a field of children's playing blocks. It reminded him of the veritable floating cities created by the Atpa colonials; a sea of lanterns, one per boat, bobbing up and down for miles in every direction.
This job sounded simple enough, but it didn't sit right with Jin. There was more going on here than the city's government wanted them to know. They'd run into complications pretty quickly, he imagined. Why would The Inquisitors hire small time thieves and thugs to take out this Leximor fellow instead of using their own agents? Better yet, why would they offer complete pardon to their forced bounty hunters? The government didn't just pardon people like them unless they were somehow valuable out of prison or so unimportant that it wasn't worth wasting a jail cell on them. It certainly wasn't the first, and although it could possibly be the second, Jin wasn't convinced. Some of these men and women had committed pretty bloody crimes. The Inquisitor had basically given them an order on pain of death, and no sane person would doubt his capabilities or willingness. The money and pardon were only there to sweeten the deal; more likely than not they would all receive a swift sword to the gut as a reward for their efforts.
But what could they do? What could he do? The job could be a trap as easily as not, but the Guard would not hesitate to act on their threats, and nobody in this gang could stop them. The only choice for now was to comply. Jin shook his head and, after casting one last apprehensive stare at the looming palace, turned his attention to the conversation.
"The job could easily be a trap," he began solemnly, with a glance at Serena, "So you must be careful. I will try to gain some amount of reassurance that we can at least count on the Blessing's status as a respectable establishment for protection. This isn't the first time I have been threatened." He smiled broadly.
"In the meantime, though, you must go through with the job. Even if the Guard are not intending to make true on their offer, they should not be crossed. The Destroyers are a powerful group of course, not to be trifled with, but they are nowhere near as powerful as the government and the Inquisitors. Gaining favor with the Destroyers would not save us." He rose and walked to the edge of the veranda, looking down at the street below. There were only a few people out walking now, sticking close to the buildings with their collars up, stragglers of the great homeward commute that took place every day right before sundown. The wind was probably worse down there than it was up here, being funneled frightfully through the streets like water in a gutter. He could hear it hissing through the gables and archways.
"Tread slowly and lightly. This is going to be a dangerous business."
"Well we don't even know what this guy looks like. I've never heard of him". Fleur rocked back in her chair. "Anyone else, if not I figure we can mine our contacts, find out who this guy is aligned with". She lowered the legs back down to earth. She wasn't even feeling the cold winds anymore, her mind was at work and pushed all non related factors to the process away.
"Good idea Fleur." Serena said. "We should ask around in the Destroyer-friendly areas, as the Inquisitor said. And I think we should start with beggars. Maybe even disguise ourselves as beggars to keep an eye out."
She sat on the floor to rest her legs. "If we do that, we might be a step closer to finding this man. Then we just need to get in close."
"Did they even bother to try and offer an incentive, or just threats?"
"Both, one hundred thousand gold pieces to track down their man, Ragnar Leximor..."
Dirge gave a large sigh.
"They gave barely any other info, just that he was previously associated with the Destroyers"
Tom sat hunched over his bag as he listened to the others. Having little to say regarding the job, he mainly kept his mouth shut, but when Fleur and Serena began talking about the target, something clicked in his mind. "Hang on. Didn't that Inquisitor guy have some wanted posters?" He immediately opened his bag and started rifling through it. "Yeah, yeah, he pulled out a stack of posters, threw 'em all over the place. Let's see..."
He searched through every last corner of his bag before realizing, "That's right, I didn't take one." Grinning sheepishly, he set his bag to one side and stood up, telling the others, "I'll be right back," before walking toward the stairs. As he started down the steps, he called back to the others. "Don't touch my notes."
Cadius spewed his drink all over the wall. "A hundred thousand gold!?" He turned to face Dirge, his jaw open. "Son of a whore...that'd almost make me willing to listen them." He shook his head." That was an understatement. A hundred thousand gold. That was an unimaginably titanic sum. "You ever heard of this Leximor guy?"
William blinked once or twice at Tom as he left, watching him open the door and step down the stairs hurriedly, leaving the door open (They always left the goddamn door open). He turned back to Serena and Fleur and looked a bit puzzles at how solid they were with this new resolution. Happy though he was that they had made the beginnings of a plan (And were decided on helping the government rather than betraying them)
"I do hate to be negative here, but talking to our contacts on what they know of this fellow seems a bit obvious doesn't it? I mean, I don't have any, that's all on you guys, but that should really be standard procedure by now. Are there any other ideas we can stick to this plan?" He said in a tone that was both accidentally rude and worried. The sun had fully set over Atanlia and the stars were coming out, the air growing colder and the wind more bitter. He began to yawn and covered his mouth, before recovering and looking to the others.
Daniel, at first went to help move the corpse that was slowly staining Jin's wooden floors, but when Jin asked Gerik to do it instead, Daniel moved upstairs to where William and a few others were meeting, finding a spot on the roof that wasn't taken; he didn't bother finding his own cushion, and stretched back, laying down and looking at the stars that had begun to sparkle in the night.
There was a plan of sorts, one to just talk to the Destroyers about this guy that the government was looking for. William had his objections to it, saying it wasn't subtle enough. Daniel could agree in a sense with what he was saying; the issue was just asking had the potential to get people talking; once people are talking it was easy for the contact to hear and promptly fly the coop.
Daniel had another way, "There's more than one way to crack an egg, I say we do more than ask, and demand; you guys can ask the questions and Me and Gerik make sure that they don't go spilling their figurative guts about the questions."
Daniel was quite proud of his simple but effective idea.
As Tom reached the bottom of the stairs, he stopped and quickly scanned the tea-shop. Upon seeing the posters stacked on the bar, he moved straight toward them at a brisk pace, not even noticing Dirge and Cadius talking as he passed them by. Once he had taken a poster from the stack, he immediately turned on his heel and started back toward the stairs, studying the sheet as closely as he could.
The sound of teeth grinding echoed throughout the homely teahouse with Gerik, fueled by adrenaline and unwarranted rage, releasing guttural, animalist growls from underneath his breath. His pupils dilated and beads of cool sweat poured down his brow, rolling down the sides of his, leaving wet streaks across his face. The world around him had turned from a magnificent, multicolored paradise of ecstasy and delight and sunk into a bitter hell of uncontainable indignation and fire, painted shades of red and black. The walls grew horrid, warped faces, which cackled at Gerik, watching him mull over his situation with abhorrent, reptilian eyes.
The Professional was quite accustom to dealing with the vivid, vile hallucinations that occurred when his intoxication turned on him, all too aware that the images in front of him were little more than manifestations of his own sour mood, although he found himself nevertheless unnerved, which only served to worsen his attitude. He rose from his seat, salivating, bright red with anger and scorn, and began tromping upstairs to confront his boss, Jin, desperately hoping that his employer had something more worth his ability in store for Gerik. The stairs creaked underneath the weight of his thick, leather boots, clicks and clacks emanating from his steps.
Gerik noticed, upon reaching roof, that a meeting was taking place and his boss was already engrossed in conversation with his fellow thieves, though, lacking manners as he did, opted to get his boss's attention as soon as possible. The small brute approached him from behind, placing a gloved hand on the older man's shoulder. He looked down at Jin, his eyes filled with ire, and spoke.
"I don't know what you're talking about," he started, nonchalantly intruding into the conversation taking place, "nor do I care. I do, however, have the irking suspicion that someone needs to be bludgeoned half to death twice and, if that's the case, don't hesitate to tell me. You know me, Jin, I'm the best one for that job."
"Well our resident 'herbal tea' drinker decides to join us. You've been tending to the demon garden within your head"? Fleur had a dull look aimed at Gerik. She didn't like when he was drinking the drugs. It made him, unpredictable.... impossible to read. And that put her on edge, as fascinated with the unpredictables of the world were to her. Something like that which can be controlled, shouldn't be left to grow likes vines on a building.
Davarious ignored Gerik like he usually does. He dislikes talking to people out so far out of touch with reality. He would have considered getting rid of Gerik if he was not so damned useful to him. It was not that he was difficult to predict, in fact he was rather easy to predict as far as the assassin was concerned. He gets mad, he kills things occasionally. He could never get over the irony of Gerik calling himself a "professional" as he goes and drinks herbal tea while planning a mission.
"Careful Fleur, he could still bash your head in." If there was one thing he learned on the roads, getting on the nerves of someone who is not aware of their actions is a good way to get stabbed.
He diverted his attention from the bursting in of the thug and proceeded to question Draven. "How soon could you get us in and under what pretense and position? I need to know." Sneaking in another organization to slaughter some rat again, gods, this almost got me killed last time. If this is what I have to go through to get to him, I had better decide to kill him.
"You ever heard of this Leximor guy?"
"Never in my life, and if it wasn't for the fat reward waiting for me, and the fact the Royal Guard are up my arse, I'd plan to keep it that way"
He strode past Cadius, going up the stairs to join the others, he paused and waited for him
He reached the roof and took a seat by the rest of the group.
"How soon could you get us in and under what pretense and position? I need to know."
"Yes Draven, do enlighten us to your plan for the Destroyers. They aren't the most talkative folk."
Draven continued leaning against the door, nodding to each member as they came through. He listened to the others as they tossed ideas around, mostly involving one form of intimidation or another, until Davarious and Dirge both questioned him.
"How soon could you get us in and under what pretense and position? I need to know."
"Yes Draven, do enlighten us to your plan for the Destroyers. They aren't the most talkative folk."
"Well, how soon depends on if you are ready or not." He responded. "As for pretense, most likely potential recruits. It wouldn't give you much power, but at least you'd be in the door without a fight."
Draven hesitated a bit before continuing. "Well, maybe not without a fight... I may have made some of their members less than happy when I left. Mercenaries tend not to like other mercenaries leaving the group, but the leaders of the Destroyers understood my reasons for going, and didn't seem overly surprised when I finally did."
"Regardless, they would be unlikely to believe that I was bringing potential recruits if there were more than two or three people with me, so don't expect everyone to be involved in this."
Only two or three...a fight...
Davarious was aware that in a physical fight he would almost always lose, and he was not sure how the Destroyers would react to him pointing a gun in their faces. Maybe the alternative for him would allow him to get close, get the kill.
"If that is the case, I will work with the guards outside, do other odds and ends, get in with that crowd. If myself and a few others can corner him, it will make him desperate, desperation is good. He will need allies, that is where you come in, you will protect him until the opportunity arises to kill him alone without others bearing witness, then the two groups rendezvous and we share the money. Do not think of double crossing us as we will be in with the guards, I will not hesitate to kill you if you betray me. With that in mind, I suggest Gerik goes to be with the Destroyers as he wont fit in with the guards and could win a fight."
His eyes had a bit of a twinkle, the planning, the stalking and the kill. He almost sighed seeing what he had become over the years, apathetic to sociopath, who would have guessed aside from everyone he grew up with? Davarious looked around and said loud enough for the room to hear. "I need a few of you to come with me, we are working with the guards directly and that means I need you to have a mostly clean record. I will take a maximum of four others with me as beyond that the guards could become suspicious as to our motives. The other option is to go with Draven and join the Destroyers. Make a decision."