EXPANSE: The City V3 (Fantasy Epic) - Main Thread

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ALEISTER CRAWFORD

April 21st, 6267 - Middle Section - Upper District - Academy - Arena - 3:15 PM

"Let's see if this fight can top the last!" The announcer yelled out across the arena for all to hear as preparations for the next bout were already underway. "To my left, Ellen Tasli!" A light shined on the left hand side of the arena as out stepped a woman wearing a simple robe. Whilst the cheers weren't as numerous as last time, you could at least still here them. "And to my right, Amelia Foel!"

"Oh dear, this cannot end well, not one bit." Aleister said quietly to himself. Lorel meanwhile smirked. "I feel sorry for Ellen. She never stood a chance." Malina cocked and eyebrow. "Is she really that powerful?" She then asked, to which Lorel quickly responded with. "One of the most powerful."

A few brief fleeting moments later the announcer could no longer be seen in the arena. "Fight!"

A Brief Moment Later...

"The... The fight is over! Amelia Foel is the victor!" The announcer said as he came back on, astounded by how quickly the fight had come and gone. However, the cheers were not as instantaneous; in fact, the crowd below could be heard mostly talking to themselves.

"That was brutal. In just an instance she won." Malina commented, sounding just as shocked as the announcer.

"She's a lighting and a dark mage. However she tends to use more of her dark magic. Aleister what do you think of that display of dark magic, as a teacher of dark magic." Lorel asked, with Aleister taking a moment first to look at his pocket watch, the minute hand barely moving an inch along its surface.

"I will admit Lorel, whilst Amelia's skill is certainly impressive, that 'fight', if one could call it as such, barely clocked in at a minute. I truly feel sorry for Miss Tasli, her fight was over before it even began; why she was put up against someone who is clearly above her skill level is beyond me. That battle was completely one sided, completely unfair, and dare I say it, completely pointless." Aleister said with a hint of anger.

"And as for Amelia, she clearly showed no regards, or even a hint of honor towards her opponent." He then added, by now his anger had subsided from drinking the tea; he felt more relaxed.

"But enough about that for now. Apologies to you both for my outburst. I just expected the head of the Nobles to be more respectful, and give a decent fight."

MARCUS TARSEN

April 21st, 6267 - Middle Section - Upper District - Academy - Arena - 3:15 PM

Marcus blinked with astonishment. He looked at his pocket watch to double check the duration of the fight, only to confirm that it battle lasted only moments. "You've got to be kidding me." Marcus spoke aloud, with no one else being able to hear him over the commotion. "I guess there's a reason she leads the Upper Crust around here....note to self, give her a wide berth."

SCARLETT WINTER

April 21, 6267 - Middle Section - Upper District - Bar

Scarlett grinned a little. She was beginning to like this girl. An odd taste emerged on her tongue, strangely metallic, like the taste of the blood. She ignored it and watched the girl scrawl something in the little book, her handwriting left much to be desired - not that Scarlett's was any better - but her thoughts returned to the odd taste. This drink had been distilled in a large copper drum back home. The distillation had given it a unique aftertaste. It also identified it as a cheap brand, better brands would use wood or even stone.

"What's with the book?"

So she wasn't reading it.

"Just a note book really, use it to keep my thoughts straight mostly. There's some medical notes in there too, a lot of good information."

Then there was the other man. Though now he was speaking with an older woman.
A sell sword, oh.

"Oh, I didn't realise you were a mercenary." Her tone was down, a sort of disappointment. At least she supposed it explained what she was sensing about him though; should have noticed it earlier. It wasn't that she objected to violence, well she did but she was at least aware of what mitigating circumstances were, and a pay check wasn't one of them. Then again there was a lot going on at the moment, not that she was making excuses.

Telnor Ghests

April 21st, 6267 - Middle Section - Upper District - Academy - Arena - 3:15 PM

Telnor and the other three guards were situated in a circle around their charge, one in front of him, one to either side of him and Telnor behind him.

The mage fights continued to bore Telnor. Sure the displays of magic were impressive but to Telnor they didn't require much skill. It was the elements at each other and hoping that they came out on top. It required none of the skill or strategy that swordsmanship or any type of close range combat required. That required predicting your opponents moves and making the best use of the terrain to get the upper hand. Telnor turned back to his duty and scanned the crowd for any possible threats. Not that they would manage to get close.

SCARLETT WINTER

She folded her arms, tilting her head slightly to acknowledge the sellsword. The name did not seem familiar, or the appearance, but Scarlett had already decided she didn't like the man. She might just stick around to see the girl came to no harm. Might. Scarlett forced a smile to her lips and turned to the girl, as the sellsword struck up conversation with an old crone, it seemed she was neither impressed with the new arrival.

"What is it they say? Their honour can flip like a coin..." Scarlett turned her head back to gaze out across the room, as if watching some distant action.

"I've heard similar. Though usually it's more than one coin. So are you likely to need more medical care anytime soon? Cause I'm at a bit of a lose end."

LOREL ION

3:17 PM

"Honestly, I can't say I am surprised. Amelia never did care much for honor. It was how she could take down a foe most efficiently with the least effort rather than drawing out the fight," Lorel explained from having trained with her in the past. "I will say though, I wonder if there is anyone in this tournament that can stand up to her. I know yesterday there was talk of trying to get her out of the tournament so others stood a chance. However that didn't seem to go anywhere."

"I think it's clear why that is," Malina finished it.

They continued to watch the fights as they progressed through the day until the time reached 8:00 PM which just than the final fight was finishing up. The outside had turned dark and once more was raining. Once more the announcer got into his usual position, "That is it! The first day of the Magic Tournament is complete! Tomorrow the next day will begin and the remaining fourteen will fight! I wish everyone a good night and hope you come tomorrow!"

With that everyone began to stand and leave their seats, Malina was picking up her stuff and also getting ready, "I better leave now. My mother wanted me home before it got too dark."

Lorel nodded, "See you tomorrow than."

Malina nodded back, "Indeed, you see later. You too Aleister and Sebastian," and with that Malina left the booth leaving only Lorel, Aleister and Sebastian remaining.

"First day done, eh? Overall thoughts? I personally thought it was entertaining but it's when there are less people that the fights get more intense."

ALEISTER CRAWFORD

April 21st, 6267 - Middle Section - Upper District - Academy - Arena - 8:00 PM

"That is it! The first day of the Magic Tournament is complete! Tomorrow the next day will begin and the remaining fourteen will fight! I wish everyone a good night and hope you come tomorrow!" The announcer said as he stepped out to his usual spot in the arena, which by now was becoming drenched by the downpour of rain, emulating the weather from this morning.

"I better leave now. My mother wanted me home before it got too dark." Malina said as she arose from her seat at the table, and began to pick up her stuff. "Indeed, you see later. You too Aleister and Sebastian." She then added after Lorel had responded. Both Aleister and Sebastian nodded in return.

"A good evening to you Miss Malina. Hope you have a safe and pleasant journey on these rain slicked streets of darkness as night falls once again." Aleister then said as Malina left the booth and headed down the stairs, leaving only Aleister, Sebastian and Lorel.

"First day done, eh? Overall thoughts? I personally thought it was entertaining but it's when there are less people that the fights get more intense." Lorel then said as he posed a question.

"Apart from that fight with Amelia, I would say today has been a rather promising start to the tournament proceedings, and I certainly look forward to the matches of tomorrow. What did you think of them Sebastian?" Aleister asked as he finished a cup of tea that he started drinking before the last match of the day,

"Me sir? Personally I rather enjoyed what we saw today; it's not very often that you get to see such displays of magic like which we have bared witness too this day."

"Glad you enjoyed it as well Sebastian." Aleister said as he briefly looked at his pocket watch, noticing the time.

"We'd best be leaving soon, as it is getting late."

MARCUS TARSEN

April 21st, 6267 - Middle Section - Upper District - Academy - Arena - 8:00 PM

Marcus let the day's events sink in as the crowd around him started to disperse. He let them fight over the exits to the concourse while he kept his eyes on the prize: the Ion boy. Fortunately, they were still in the booth by the time the spectators thinned out, so Marcus was able to leave rather quickly, and get ready for his next meeting.

LOREL ION

8:02 PM

Lorel picked up his stuff and turned to the two men, "I will be off then, good being with you two."

With that Lorel left the booth, the place was as crowded as when he left having to squeeze in tight just to get past the hordes of people. As he finally got outside he expanded his umbrella once again and began to walk on the stone cobble. The rain was hitting hard and the streets were getting empty despite the tournament having gotten out.

He began to whistle to himself as he walked, the torches that weren't getting wet from the rain illuminated the streets. Suddenly he spotted someone going to the opposite way he was walking on the other side of the street.

Typically he would have ignored any person but she looked unique, with wearing what looked to be a kimono like the people of the district North Lian wear which wasn't far from Upper District so to see a citizen of Lian here wouldn't be a surprise. As he got closer he got a clearer look of her face.

Her eyes stood out immediately being nearly the same as Malina, the striking blood red eyes, and also similar her pale skin. Although unlike Malina her eyes were narrower, a signal of her eastern descent. Lastly her hair was long and red. She was to put it simply, beautiful. Although what seemed strange as she wasn't very tall and looked young, yet her clothing and posture made her seem older.

As he got close she actually looked at him and when they got close she stopped in her tracks, Lorel was going to continue walking but then she spoke, "Your Lorel Ion aren't you?"

Lorel stopped in his tracks and looked at the woman, "I am... Do I know you?"

"You don't know me, but I know of you- I am Yias Han. I am from North Lian."

North Lian? Just as I thought.

Lorel spoke cautiously, "Is there something you need?"

"No, not at this moment. I hadn't expected to meet you here."

Lorel was still confused, "What do you mean?"

"Nothing. Good night Lorel Ion. May your future be bright." She spoke softly as she continued past him and eventually into the distance where he could no longer see her through the rain.

Lorel continued to look in the direction where she had gone.

What was with that? Anyway, I better head home.

With that the white haired boy continue on.

OLEANDER GUBBINS

April 21st, 6267 - Middle Section - Middle Markets - Marvello's

The foul odour from the pipe made Oleander retch, he did manage to keep his composure, mostly. One of the few saving graces that his work had yielded, a strong stomach. Whatever the old woman had stuffed into that pipe was truly beguiling, a foul smell, a green tint to the smoke, yet the woman still puffed away. Perhaps it was something to throw people of guard?

"Look at you." She said, taunting him, "Already badgering me for coin. Hmph."

"Says the woman who spoke to me first" He flung back at her, "I'm just inquiring to what a respectable woman like yourself might need my services for. Personal protection? Protection of goods? Someone you want protecting?"

"What is it they say? Their honour can flip like a coin..." He chuckled and the comment he had caught by eavesdropping.

"That's making one big presumption, first you should ask if I have any honour at all" He said back to the woman.

MARCUS TARSEN

April 21st, 6267 - Middle Section - Upper District - Streets - 8:15 PM

Well, this hasn't gone exactly as planned. Marcus grimaced as he followed a good distance behind Lorel, knowing that, if spotted, there would be little he could do to excuse his odd behavior. I was expecting him to linger around the Arena with Aleister long enough to give me an introduction. Instead he just wanders off on his own and I lose him in the crowd.

With a roll of the eyes, Marcus knew that his plan was already shot. Nothing good was going to come out of a meeting in the middle of the dark streets, and whatever had happened between him and the girl in the kimono had probably set him on edge. "What a predicament..." Marcus voiced his frustrations aloud as they started to boil in his mind. "Another chat with a proxy isn't going to and well, but scaring the boy will probably hurt me more in the long run."

Marcus mumbled to himself for another few blocks as he continued to follow the boy. Finally, it came to a point where Marcus realized that a left turn would take him back to the Lakeside Inn, and a right would keep him on the Ion's trail. He sighed, loudly, knowing that the time to choose was now. His moment shot, a tournament of lackluster affair, and a busy day with only marginal profit, it was clear that his luck had run out for time being. So, with a parting glance of the white-haired boy walking silently down the street, Marcus turned left.

SVETLANA POLZIN

April 21st, 6267 - Middle Section - Middle Markets - Marvello's

Svetlana chewed on the pipe, keeping a beady eye on the ruffian as he did so. Protection. That word was repeated with every sentence. Odd. Sellswords were usually hired to do the opposite. What drove this one into protection? Unless it was that sort of protection. Pay enough gold, and the hunk of muscle won't beat you up too badly. She had seen such thing go on in Hollow Park. Luckily, even the ruffians there knew that her and her father didn't have anything to give and usually kept to themselves. That, and the fact that her mother was sick kept the vultures at bay. No one wanted to beat up people that possibly caught the illness from a relative.

A hot stream of smoke from the pipe rushed through her lungs, bringing her back from thoughts of the past. She grabbed her money pouch and spilled a few coins on the counter. Enough of drinking. Enough of wandering around aimlessly. Enough of this. But there was still the matter of the sellsword. Surely he wouldn't let her go without getting some employment or some of her coin, if his statement about his honour was true. The slouching man was awaiting her response. Svetlana smiled. Protection? She wondered if he would protect a client with... unknown whereabouts. Surely the sellsword would enjoy a challenge, nevertheless, the slouch and the smile suggested someone who wanted easy coin. Svetalana snorted. She wouldn't make it easy for him.

"Perhaps I was only making conversation, dearly." She countered, "Or perhaps I do wish to make use of you..."

ALEISTER CRAWFORD

April 21st, 6267 - Middle Section - Upper District - Academy - Arena - 8:03 PM

"I will be off then, good being with you two." Lorel said as gathered his stuff, before he left the booth, leaving it just Aleister and Sebastian now. Aleister looked at the hands of his pocket watch again, noticing the seconds that ticked away. He had considered simply using magic to teleport out of the Academy, but that seemed unnecessary. After gathering his stuff, and with his coat on, they set off down the stairs, and into the crowded concourse area, which was slow to let people out.

Aleister could overhear the conversations of some people as they made their way through the crowd; it was mostly how they had enjoyed the fights that were displayed, but expressing mixed reactions to Amelia's duel with Ellen Tasli. One or two even expressed concern as to why the head of the Nobles was allowed to compete.

LOREL ION

8:15

He arrived at the gates of the Ion Estate, the rain still pouring down and tapping against the black metal gate. Using a key he had he placed it in the lock and opened the gate, and then locked it behind him. Then he noticed none of the street lights were on.

As opposed to some parts of the Upper District, the Ion estate had street lights which stayed on through the rain. It used the metal: Astonite to place light magic in it and then the metal continues to radiate. Mages had jobs to put new light magic in during the night...

However it seems no one had done it which was odd because someone, usually his parents would do this or even Fredrick, the Ion Butler who also was a mage. Maybe they were all out? It was surely possible but unlikely Fredrick would also be.
He shook his head as if to remove the thought, and continued to the door. Once there he noticed it was open already. Things were getting stranger, inside he stepped on the marble floor and noticed there was still no light on. Inside they used a mixture of Astonite and torches and neither were lit.

Using his own magic he sent a small fire at the torch nearby and it illuminated the entrance. Lighting from outside erupted and made the windows shadows scar the ground and then recede as the light went away.

Still no one could be seen, guards, maids, butlers, his parents... What was going on? Deciding it would be best to go to his room last he decided to head to the kitchen to see if he could find anyone. He opened the door and walked through a hall, the rain reflection could be seen against the walls.

He opened the door and was now in the dining room he had been in earlier, it was hard to see without any lights on. However the first thing he noticed was the smell, it was horrible. Sending another flame and he illuminated the torch and that's when he saw it.

The bodies of the maids, butlers, and cooks all littered on the ground. Slaughtered like cattle and stacked.

For some reason however, the sight of the blood almost... relaxed him and went into a trance like state, however he slapped his forehead and he went back to normal. "What... The... Fuck." He simply stated in horror.

Suddenly from out of the shadows a blade flew out and hit his arm, and Lorel dropped to one knee on the ground writhing in pain. It had gone in deep. Quickly he looked in the direction it came from, a couple of people in dark leather outfits stood there, he hadn't seen them when he entered.

"Gahsu au ron! <Grab the boy!>" one of them spoke in Old Nakam.

Lorel would be damned if he let them, taking the knife out his arm with a surge of pain he stood back up. The first one came and fast, with lighting like movement. Lorel ducked as they punched forward, Lorel then let out a swirl of fire that sent the man flying and hitting the wall but they weren't out.

Another one came just as the other one got back up, this time they tried to flank him and were successful felt the pain as their first hit his face and he was sent into the ground. Lorel quickly sent out a wave of ice on the floor and trapped the man as Lorel was still on the ground getting back up.

Suddenly the man broke the ice around his feet and stone erupted from around his legs. The assassin was a stone mage, but what else? The man than formed a stone pillar below Lorel but the boy rolled out of the way as the pillar flew upward where Lorel had been. From behind the other assassin from earlier grabbed his arms, "Get him now!" they yelled in English.

Just as the other man's arm became stone, Lorel erupted into a flame and the other man was forced to let go, "That was foolish of you," Lorel spoke aloud to the man as he dogged the stone fist. Lorel than did what he only did in a situation like this, he formed a couple of ice shards and sent them flying at the man.

Like paper the ice shards ripped right through him, the ice from the back of the man, red with his blood. One down, two more to go, which Lorel noticed that the other that yelled in Old Nakam was standing back. What was he planning?

Lorel dogged another rock, "it appeared this man is just one element", thought Lorel. The white haired boy ran in closer to the rock mage and let out a beam of fire that was blocked by a stone wall. However Lorel kept at it and sent another and then another beam until the stone wall gave way and sent the way behind him.

As the man hit the ground Lorel ran up to him and nearly sat on top of him, with one hand Lorel erupted a flame and then placed it over the masked individual and kept it there. The heat was starting to gain momentum and getting to levels that weren't meant to be human. Even Lorel was starting to feel pain.

The man began to scream as the mask melted upon his face. There was almost a smirk on Lorel's face as it went on. Lorel lifted his hand as the man stopped screaming and moving and the smirk went away.

"Seems I will need to take action," spoke the last Assassin who pulled out a blade, "they said to bring you in alive, they didn't mention how they wanted you."

With the same speed as the other assassins, the man with the blade rushed forward and to the sides to get into Lorel's blind side. The mage moved out of the way but felt the blade slice a bit of skin off his cheek creating a slit. He put his hand on his face and made water appear, he could stop a scar from appearing with some water healing, however he wasn't water proficient and could only stop the wound temporarily.

Now he was getting lower on magic and starting to breathe fast and hard. Another attack with the blade, this time going for his arm, Lorel sent an ice attack at the blade and the man simply cut it. However this gave Lorel enough time to move out of his range.

Not long after the man moved in once again, this time going for the legs. Lorel lit a flame over his legs in an attempt to stop him but the blade still struck true even as Lorel tried to move. It made a gash along the back of his leg. Lorel's blood was starting to soak the ground along with the dead bodies of the assassins and other bodies.

Lorel back hit the wall and the blade came straight for him, to the dismay of the man, the blade missed and instead went into the wall. Given this chance Lorel brought a large chunk of ice out and slammed it into the man and froze the man against the wall at his arms and legs.

Now the man was struggling to get out, "I should get some information out of him," thought Lorel.

However his body didn't do that. As if he wasn't in control he went over to the knife that had been in his arm earlier and walked over to the masked man. Bringing his arm back, Lorel stabbed the man in the eye, and then in the other eye. The mask was helpless to stop the blow. All while Lorel Ion smirked.

Then he slapped himself one more, "Why, why did I just do that? WHY?" He spoke aloud.

Turning to face away from the assassins he decided it was time to try and find his parents, who weren't in the pile of bodies. He decided to head to the Library that was there favorite spot. Slowly he made his way while limping form the leg wound and the other various wounds. His vision was starting to blur and he was barely able to conquer up any magic. His clothes were stained red by the blood.

Outside no one knew what was going on. All they could hear is the rain, not the fighting. Would his life ever be normal again? To wake up and go to school? To hang out with Malina and Aleister?

Lorel made his way to the library door and just stood there, his body shaking from the blood loss and the fear of what was on the other side of the door. He closed his eyes and then opened the door and walked in onto the floor tile.
His eyes widened and Lorel fell to the ground of the sight, his parents were here, and there, and over there... Their bodies mutilated and scattered across the floor. Signs of being burned, stabbed, sliced and diced...

Then he finally let it out, a large barf of everything that he had eaten that day. "Why..." he spoke, "why is this happening? This is a dream right..?"

He spoke with his energy fading quickly, suddenly he was hit in the back of the neck, Lorel twisted to see who it was as his eyes closed not seeing anything but a blur. However he did hear one thing, "Noble Foel wishes to have a chat with you," before blacking out completely.

Telnor Ghests

April 21st, 6267 - Middle Section - Upper District - Streets - 8:00 PM

Telnor had decided that enough was enough. This was the most boring job he had done since he started selling his skills. He had spent all day setting around doing nothing but play dice and watch mages fight. Sure it was a lot of easy money but he wasn't in the mood to do nothing at all, all day. It didn't help that all his charge did was complain. Complain about his food, complain that he didn't get enough respect, complain that he didn't hold a higher postion in the Academy, complain that he didn't have his own box. It really got on Telnor's nerves. So he spoke up.

"Okay Mr. Fatty Mage. I'm done. This job sucks. The pay ain't worth it to put up with you all day long, so I am quitting. Good day. Thanks for the pay, I hope you hit your head on the next door you pass through. Ciao," Telnor waved as he walked away from his ex-charge and the remaining guards.

Telnor walked down the street, checking his coin bag. There was easily enough in there for a stay at an inn. Telnor had seen one nearby, Lakeside Inn. Following the road he came to a fork, the left lead to the inn and down the other he spotted a strange white haired boy walking.

"Strange hair colour," Telnor muttered out loud as he turned left towards the inn.

Arriving shortly, he strutted up the desk, rented a room for the night and made his way to the bar of the inn. Claiming a table in the corner, he hung his sword on the side of the chair and ordered a pitcher of beer.

SCARLETT WINTER

April 21st, 6267 - Middle Section - Middle Markets - Marvello's

Scarlett smiled. "Everyone has honour. In the end...you just need to realise it."

She had seen it, first hand, the most vile of people turnaround and discover what many thought lost. Even she had some honour, not much, but enough.

OLEANDER GUBBINS & SVETLANA POLZIN

April 21st, 6267 - Middle Section - Middle Markets - Marvello's

The woman was dancing around the topic, playing keep-away with her taunting words. However, she did seem interested in what he was offering, otherwise she would have left by now instead of continuing this idle chit-chat. He stretched and then slouched back into the chair he was sitting in. He would make her make an offer on his terms.

"Perhaps I was only making conversation, deary." She countered, "Or perhaps I do wish to make use of you..."

"Make use of if you have the means and the work, I don't work for pay of platitudes." He japed.

"Hmph." Svetlana replied, but there was a chuckle behind it. This mercenary was toying with her, just as she was toying with him. Well, there would be no end of it if they simply continued this tête-à-tête. And that would achieve nothing. She leaned in closer and puffed smoke into the sellsword's face.

"Well, then." She smiled, "I'm sorry if I take my time, in my old age." She emptied the pipe and began to get down to the nitty-gritty of things, "First I need to know about your previous employment. From the look of yer, you just climbed out of a dirty hole with sword in hand..."

He would probably understand what the rest of the sentence would be.

Oleander chuckled at the possible implications of her last jibe, a dirty hole for a dirty mind perhaps?

"I've been doing this and that," He shrugged, "Mostly for the mage hunters, but I'm open minded about the whole thing, You can buy my sword, but not my beliefs. And with the things most people in this city believe I'd never have a customer."

She drew back as she heard that name. Svetlana tried not to let her emotions show, hiding them as she retreated. She reached down into one of her many pockets for something in order to calm herself down. Afterwards, she replied, but curtly, "Why would I want to hire a mage child-killer?"

The woman was clearly shaken at the mention of his soon to be previous employers, unlike her though, he kept up his facade. This could prove to be a problem. He would not allow this to set him back. It was a bit of a reach, but the way the had shrank away at the mention of the groups name and the specificness of reply, it had to be something personal.

"By choice of occupation I don't have unbloodied hands. But once you have hired me I won't be a mage child killer, I will be a mage child protector."

This was even more alarming. Her face went from shock to digest, "So you have killed younglings, then?"

"When required I have captured them. It was the hunters themselves who passed judgement."

The stern expression remained on her face. There was always the chance that they were dead. Always. She brushed off the feeling with terror with the notion that certainty was better than mystery. Besides, if this sellsword had worked with them, perhaps he might be able to use that to his advantage. Things were becoming interesting...

"Hmph," She began, "Perhaps you'll be of use to me after all."

"Finally..." He mentally sighed, but showed the same expression to the woman. He would finally be free of the mage hunters and these tiring back and forth negotiations would be over shortly.

"I find it best to start with a name..."

The reply was instantaneous, "Svetlana Polzin."

Polzin? Now that was a remarkable name, one of the larger conglomerates within Trinkets and Gold if he remembered rightly. Now this had gone from a good day to an auspicious day, what fortune he had to bump into this woman. Perhaps working for a bunch of fat merchants wouldn't be too bad if they could give him a fatter paycheck.

He nodded in return, "And the job?"

Now this was the clincher. She wondered if he would take a job involving missing persons. Such things were risky. For one, it could mean that the sellsword would be trapped in a contract until they were found. Which could take forever. However, on the other hand, he could simply siphon her funds until she croaked. Svetlana would have to be careful here; keep the sellsword on a short leash and all that.

Svetlana chose her words carefully, "One different from the usual." Nevertheless, here was too crowded, too many ears. She reached into her money pouch and placed a few kiel on the table, along with an address of a high class inn just south of Lake Foel, "If this gets yer nose itchin', then come over to that address tomorrow, just at the start of the afternoon. I'll be waiting."

And with that, the old woman left.

What an amusing woman. However, before he met her in the inn this afternoon he would have get changed and washed. He couldn't go around looking like a ragamuffin all day, it was bad for business; he had an itching feeling that it almost cost him this job. He wondered for a moment what her face would look like after seeing him smartened up.

He got up from the table and readied himself to leave.

"Have fun finding a man with honour, be warned, most are dead or poor," He retorted to the younger woman and stepped out of the bar.

Kain Whitestroke and Marco Peloski-Middle Section-Upper District-Arena

Marco and Kain decided to remain seated after the last fight for the day due to no desire to walk with the crowd. "I'd much rather wait the same amount of time sitting down," was Kain's justification. The two were engaged in conversation about the fights they had witnessed, as now they could talk in a somewhat quieter environment.

"The most bullshit one was probably Amelia's by far." Kain said disdainfully, "What reason did she have for competing anyway? She probably is already aware that she's the strongest." Marco nodded, "True," He began, "but I can see two reasons for someone like her wanting to compete. To show the populace how powerful she is which is sure to diminish any thoughts of resistance especially to people who might have very good reasons to rebel against this regime. Another is simply that she wants to make sure that she is more powerful than others and make sure there is no one that could possibly be a threat."

Kain smirked, "You thought deep about this. Is it because it's something you would do?" Marco turned his head slightly, leaned back in the chair and muttered, "Perhaps. Come on, the crowd's thinning out." The two stood up and began to walk through the still thick crowd. Glancing around, Marco noticed Aleister Crawford wading through the crowd and redirected his path towards him, ignoring Kain's questions to why they were changing directions.

"Mr. Crawford!" Marco called after getting sufficiently close to him, "Don't believe we've met but I've heard about you, a teacher up at the academy correct? I'm Marco Peloski." He said, holding out his hand for a handshake, "See you a lot whenever I'm required up here but never have gotten a chance for small talk until now, nice to meet you by the way."

ALEISTER CRAWFORD

April 21st, 6267 - Middle Section - Upper District - Academy - Arena (Concourse) - 8:05 PM

"Mr. Crawford!" A voice called out. Aleister immediately froze in place, with his right hand resting on his sword, he pushed it out slightly with his thumb. He then turned in the direction that the voice came from. In his presence was a pair of gentlemen; one of whom was older man who looked to be in his early 60's and was missing an ear, whilst the other was one who was much younger than the first, and who looked as though he was roughly Aleister's age.

"Don't believe we've met but I've heard about you, a teacher up at the Academy correct? I'm Marco Peloski." Marco said as he stepped up to offer a handshake. Aleister considered at first to refuse, but realised that would be rather rude of him. He let his sword fall back into its scabbard, and then returned the handshake.

"See you a lot whenever I'm required up here but never have gotten a chance for small talk until now, nice to meet you by the way."

"And it is a pleasure to meet you as well Mr. Peloski." Aleister said with a friendly smile.

"Hmph, that name rings a bell, though I am uncertain where I have heard it before. Indeed I am teacher up at the Academy, have been teaching here for a few years, though not as long as some of the more senior teachers of course; in case you are unaware I teach Shadow Magic, or as some people like to call it, Dark Magic. Pray, what manner of business did you have here today? Especially in a place like the Arena."

SCARLETT WINTER

"Usually the latter." Scarlett smiled, turning her head to watch Oleander leave. Though the poor where nothing to mock. Scarlett held a great respect for the lowest class. Their charity had helped her for too many years to count.

"So..." She remarked aloud. Scanning the old woman with some curiosity, before facing the young mage. "Let's see how good a healer you are then?" She paused to cast a glance at the bar. "Ever seen the damage a magic knife can do?"

Kain Whitestroke and Marco Peloski-Middle Section-Upper District-Academy-Arena

"Oh I'm here for partially business and partially pleasure. I've never actually gotten a chance to watch an arena fight before and I've always looking for young talent." Marco glanced toward Aleister's sword. "What, did you honestly believe you would be attacked in the middle of a crowded arena?" Marco asked jokingly though Kain rolled his eyes, "You act the same way sir please don't deny it." Kain snidely responded. "True." Marco responded.

"So what did you think of the day's matches, I haven't got a mage's opinion of the fights." Marco asked.

ALEISTER CRAWFORD

April 21st, 6267 - Middle Section - Upper District - Academy - Arena (Concourse) - 8:06 PM

"So what did you think of the day's matches? I haven't got a Mage's opinion of the fights."

"I actually rather enjoyed most of them, it was certainly good to see the kind of talent that the Academy can put on offer. Though I must admit, the 'fight' if one can call it that involving Lady Foel was certainly the sour note in today's proceedings. For what reason she decided to participate I do not know; but if I was to hazard a guess, it was either to show off the might of head Nobel..." Aleister said, stopping a moment to catch his breath and look around before speaking again in a more hush tone.

"...or, and this is between you and me, to massage her ego. Apologies for my behavior just now with the sword. When someone unknown to you happens to call out your name unexpectedly; I couldn't help but be a little cautious, but I'm sure gentlemen like yourselves understands where I am coming from."

"A magic knife you say? I could give it a look, the more you can tell me about how you get the injury the better."

She'd seen various types of magic and more blades than she could count. Still magic presented the odd mechanical problem.

"I know a bit about both, though I'm curious as to the combination, isn't enchantment still in it's infancy?"

April 21st, 6267 - Middle Section - Middle Markets

The rain continued to pour from the sky, hitting everything in its path. Unfortunately for Nat, she happened to be in the way and with no shelter that allowed her the view she needed of her possible targets to follow when they left. Much to her chagrin, Oleander left first,and not the mage. Looks like she wouldn't be getting another sure kill today.

Let's see where you go, Mr. Mercenary. You claim you're working with the rest of us, but you don't do anything to hinder the mage that walked in? What is your game?

Along the rooftops of a few buildings, she followed him, using her years of experience at avoiding detection so that she could observe and continue to remain unseeable. But the roofs she could use soon ran out, which forced her to drop to the ground and hide in the crowds, where she would have been already had he been anything but what he was so far.

SCARLETT WINTER

"It is, which is why the knife is both...unreliable and highly prized, as to how I got the injurys, well..." Scarlett remained quiet for a while. It was obvious the conversation was dredging up memories best left undisturbed. "Let's just say, it involved getting captured, a small cell, chains, and sombody really, really annoyed with me."

Kain Whitestroke and Marco Peloski-Middle Section-Upper District-Academy-Arena

"I was thinking of similar lines my self." Marco responded after Aleister's comment about Amelia. "Though it definitely could help deter any rebellion if it's shown that she could wipe the floor with the mages here. Though if we want to continue this line of questioning we should probably talk about it later outside the Academy. I don't fancy being arrested."

Marco decided to bring the conversation back to the Arena, "I noticed you sitting up with Lorel; how's he doing? In fact, how's the family doing? I haven't seen them in quite a few years, though we're thinking of stopping by before the hour grows too late." It's been a while since Marco had the chance to actually engage in small-talk, so he was taking advantage of it while he could.

ALEISTER CRAWFORD

April 21st, 6267 - Middle Section - Upper District - Academy - Arena (Concourse) - 8:07 PM

"I was thinking of similar lines my self." Marco said in response to Aleister's not so flattering comment regarding Amelia. "Though it definitely could help deter... this line of questioning we should probably talk about it later outside the Academy. I don't fancy being arrested." Aleister raised a smirk in response to this.

"Agreed. Wouldn't want to ruffle any feathers, especially given our proximity to the primary seat of power here in the Middle Section."

"I noticed you sitting up with Lorel... I haven't seen them in quite a few years, though we're thinking of stopping by before the hour grows too late." Marco then asked, bringing the topic of conversation back to the arena.

"As far as I could gather, Lorel is doing rather well, though he did admit that the lessons have been a little slow for his liking, due to it being stuff that he has already learned a while back, but either way he has been enjoying himself. As for the family, both Hongi and Kina are faring well also, haven't been to the estate in a little while myself, so I wouldn't know the specifics; though supposedly they were making plans for something important when I was last there, shall have to ask Lorel when it would be okay to come round for a visit."

Maybe she should press later, might have more luck not in public.
"I could get us a room, somewhere more private. It would make consultation easier." It would also give her more room to think, she'd had enough of surprise strangers for now. She had a lot of questions most of which she wasn't letting out in the open.

Kain Whitestroke and Marco Peloski-Middle Section-Upper District-Academy-Arena

"Oh yes, thanks for telling me before we visited, good to know," Marco said, "Good to know he's doing well though, it's getting late and I think we have to start heading to out hotel. It was nice to meet you though." Marco spoke in conclusion and turned to Kain, "Come Kain, we have to go." Waving goodbye to Aleister, the two left the Arena and talked as they walked out of the Academy and to the carriage.

"I never expected you to make small talk sir." Kain commented. Marco chuckled and said, "If you honestly think that I made it this far by randomly murdering people then you have got a lot to learn Kain. Come on, I'm itching to get to bed." The two climbed into their carriage and headed off to their hotel. Both were quiet on the way but were definitely thinking about what might happen next.

OLEANDER GUBBINS

April 21st, 6267 - Middle Section - Middle Markets

The rain splashed against Oleanders face as he left Marvello's, still damp, still wet, still cold, but he no longer cared about that. Tomorrow he would meet the woman in Volsta at a fancy inn and be done with the Mage Hunters. He wondered if Mordecai might come after him, they had already paid his fee and he had already done their work. They couldn't say he was a diligent employee, even in the rain he chuckled at that thought.

Although, that woman was a merchant, why was she parading around with a brooch carrying the symbol of the Steel Hearts? It wasn't nice to ostracize an entire district from business, nor profitable. Leaving only the middle and the south as customers, the hag wouldn't be able to sell to the creme de la creme of the city. Perhaps he had misjudged how fat her purse might actually be. Oleander tried to shrug the niggling feel off, hindsight was a terrible downer, tonight should be a night of celebration not brooding. However, he would need to up early to arrive in Volsta by noon, an early night was in order.

Oleander arrived at his apartments approximately 40 minutes later. He bolted the door, tore of his sodden clothes and had a bath before falling asleep on his bed.

SCARLETT WINTER

Scarlett looked at the girl, she hoped this mage wasn't about to pull anything stupid. Mages where hard to kill but not invincible. And the Red Stain had trained her relentlessly to kill Mages. Should the need arise. Scarlett offered a friendly smile.

"Sure, I guess. Lead on."

KRON HEART

April 22st, 6267 - Middle Section - He'val - Steel Hearts Headquarters - 9:30 AM

"So it has happened?" Kron spoke from across the stone table.

Yama Steel, his best friend sits on the other side of the table, "We should proceed with that assumption."

"Damn... I wish we had more time, we could have gotten them out of there."

"They knew yesterday was the day they would attack, they knew they would be overwhelmed. It's pointless to debate "what ifs?" and instead just move on," Yama insisted.

Kron, "Still... If we had just..."

Yama slammed his hand on the table, "Stop. With their death we know that Upper District is most likely going to begin moving out and begin assimilating other districts in just a few short months."

One of the Steel Hearts generals stood up, "With that we should begin to put on an offensive. Not every district they will try and take over supports us, but neither do they support Upper District. If we can begin to rally various faction forces, we may be able to slow the overall conquest."

Yama replied, "I sense a bit of uneasiness in your voice, please explain."

"This offensive is just a delay to the end, we don't have the same quality of troops as Upper District. Before long we should expect various fronts to fall and Upper District to surround the districts that are still fighting. We need a contingency."

Kron leaned forward and narrowed his brows, "Are you suggesting we get the North to try and support us?"

The General sighed, "Am I read that easily? The North, specifically Dean of the North, Jastis Vo'ana, is sympathetic to our cause."

"But is the good Dean willing to lend us forces? That will lead to deaths in their own territory and the possibility of this conflict expanding to the other sections."

"It wouldn't matter in the long run, if we fall the conquest will seep into the North and even the South. The next City war would be upon us, rather start it now and go on the offensive then let them gain even more strength and force us on the defensive."
Kron lowered his head, "The death count is going to sky rocket isn't it?"

"This is the only way to ensure that all of the deaths now will prevent even more deaths in the future. Kron, you're one of the founders of this cause, you can't back out now."

Kron took offense to that, "Backing out? I wouldn't dare, however things are just getting more difficult. Can we really do this?"
The General voice became more solemn, "I joined this cause when I was just a lad, it's been twenty years since then and I have risen through the ranks and become a General. I joined because I believed in this cause, that we can bring down the Nobles and win this. To gain an era of peace in the Middle Section."
"That is what we all wish."

The General walked over to Kron, "Then what is it? Why are you walking back from this? The fight is at your feet and you're shaking and it's going to cause everyone else to begin doubting themselves."

There was a bit of silence, "Yama, you have been silent," Kron spoke as if to end the conversation there.

The General walked back and Yama stood up as the General sat down, "I agree with the General, this all-out war is bound to happen, we mind as well try and gain the advantage before too long. You have to admit it Kron, this is better than the alternative of a much longer drawn out conflict."

Kron stood up as well, "Alright General, we will go with it. At the soonest we will send an envoy to the North. Hopefully we get a response soon."

LOREL ION

April 22st, 6267 - Middle Section - Upper District - Foel Manor - 10:00 AM

Lorel's eyes shot opened and he began to turn his head and looked around the dark room, he noticed the room was dark and just simple wood with no much of a design. He tried to move his hands and found them bounded, he wanted to use some magic but then he heard a door open from behind him.

He turned his head and saw the person who was covered in shadows until they stepped into the light of the sole light hanging from the ceiling with illuminated himself, the table in the center, and the person in front of himself. As soon as they stepped into the light he recognized them.

Amelia Foel who sat there smirking, Lorel didn't say anything and just watched her sit and stare at him with eyes full of rage. "Lorel Ion, it's good to see you. It's time we had a heart to heart chat."

MARCUS TARSEN

April 22st, 6267 - Middle Section - Upper District - Lakeside Inn - 10:00 AM

Marcus allowed himself to wake later in the morning then he did yesterday. With only the Ion contract being a discussion to worry about, Marcus felt like his mission in the Upper District had gotten a bit easier. So, after a pleasant breakfast under remarkably better weather, Marcus set out for the Ion Estate

Outside Ion Estate - 10:30 AM

The slowing of traffic outside the gates of the estate caught Marcus by surprise. It was only when he rounded the bend that he could see the cause of the commotion. Three guards stood at the entrance, blocking anyone from getting near. However from Marcus' vantage-point, he could see past them, and saw many more were inside. Around him, the trader could hear several rumors spreading amongst the crowd:

"I hear that they were conducting some magic ritual and it went horribly wrong."

"Well, I heard that the Mage Hunters got to them, one of the maids snuck them in during the night and the brutes slaughtered everyone they could find!"

"I tells ya, it's that damn Foel family! The damn Nobles have been fighting a secret war for years, under our very noses, and the Ions finally lost!"

Regardless of what caused it, the general consensus was that the Ion family was no more. Marcus felt a pang of sympathetic guilt as he remembered watching the white-haired boy walk off into the darkness. I wonder, if I had stopped him... Marcus shook his head and moved about the crowd for a better view, only for a tug on his shoulder to pull him away from the sight.

The man turned to see a rather stout figure looking up at him. It was Gerald Franksurt, anothe r member of Trinkets and Gold and the self-appointed "Baron of Upper Affairs". The short man was in a flashy white coat that had gold embroidery all over the fabric, matching his white suit underneath. "I thought I might find you here." The Baron spoke with a gruff voice unfitting his statue. Marcus remembered several times he had to bite his tongue in Gerald's presence just to keep from laughing. "Come with me."

Marcus simply nodded and the two walked off to a nearby cafe, finding themselves surprisingly alone on a balcony with a good view of the nearby crime scene. "A grisly affair, I hear." Gerald nodded at the Ion estate as he sipped a cup of tea. "Whoever it was, struck in the night. From what I gather, before the bells even sounded the next day."

Closing his eyes to mask him rolling them, Marcus looked back at the tiny man. "Baron Gerald..." Marcus decided to forgo the usual jab at Gerald's pseudo-nobility, his mind elsewhere. "...was there a reason you wanted us to come here? I'm very busy trying to renew the contracts we have with the Elites in the Upper District, and I'm afraid-"

"Oh, you don't have to worry about that any more." Gerald gently placed his cup back onto the plate he held in his other hand. "Trinkets and Gold has recently found several new, lucrative contracts that can make us even more money than all the current contracts we have here, combined. You'll get your commission for the deals you've already negotiated, but you're free to let the other ones lapse. Most of these rich morons will come back to us on hands and knees anyway."

"Sounds like this could have been sent by a simple messenger. Why did you come in person?"

"Because that's actually not what I'm here to talk to you about." The Baron set his plate and cup on the table and took a deep breath, several actually. There came a point where Marcus thought he had fallen asleep, until Gerald looked back at him with a stare of serious intent. "Tell me, Marcus, what do you know about war?"

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