'Children of The Shroud' - A Dark Fantasy RP (Interest/Recruitment - CLOSED AND STARTED)

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"...Although there's nothing wrong with any of that, Mister...?"

Whores!? Will went crimson. "I've never in my life! I've only been with one woman and--" he shook himself. Now wasn't the time to get flustered. "My name's Will. William Hunt. I uh... I'm not really in this city by choice."

He supposed the man just thought he was a sailor. He didn't mind that, but he thought he might as well be honest. "I was an officer in the Privateers. First Lieutenant under the Captain, actually. We had a run in with a crew of pirates..." he wasn't sure the man would believe his rank, but it was the truth, even if he was young.

He stopped at that. He didn't really feel like going into it. Although common sense told him it was unavoidable, the mutiny still made him burn with shame. He'd been acting Captain, for the sake of the Gods. "Let's just say Denissa really screwed us over, and leave it at that. What about you?"

*Tk.Tk.Tk.Tk.Tk.Tk*

Skylar could hear them and each minute slowly passed as she waited for the noises to stop. Every time she tried to figure out what was on the map, she fumbled - unable to settle - and gave up, burying her head in her arms. What sort of existence was this, anyway? For the better part of a year she had just been scurrying from one hidey-hole to another. But what could she do? Skylar was at poor as a church mouse - no - poorer. At least a church mouse had somewhere to live, not to mention the fact that it would probably be more worthy of the Gods and their temples than her. The strange man was right about that. From what she had seen of the map, it of somewhere deep within the city, down where the larger vermin made their homes, both murine and human.

Funnily enough, it was probably where she would have been dumped if Sally hadn't got her out of the house. Skylar tried to picture that possibly, tried to imagine who the man with the skull tattoo would have chosen to give the parcel to instead of her. A boy? A girl? Rich? Poor? Such things hardly mattered in the Drowned District. The place ate you up, consumed you and spat you out - just reduced to a bag of skin and bone - regardless of what you were before. In a burst of nostalgia, she attempted to imagine meeting the maid and asking her if staying alive was really worth it if all there was ahead of her was hunger, dirt, lice, and other evil things that plagued the poor. Skylar chuckled. Of course Sally would say yes.

*Skrrreeek*

And with that, the rats were gone. Just chasing after another person with some food, most likely. All they did was eat, sleep, mate and eat some more, anyways. At least Skylar had time to act. She looked out of the broken window, making sure with a careful eye that every rat had scampered off before she made her descent. Even before that, she took a few deep breaths. Nothing like climbing up only to fall on the way back down. No, she didn't want that. So Skylar climbed down slowly with care, but she allowed herself to drop off as she neared ground level. The girl dusted herself and braced herself for what to come: the stench of human and animal filth, more rats, water even dirtier than that of the Drowned District, and complete, utter darkness.

She walked at a steady place, scouting for the nearest sewer entrance, trying to avoid the notice of people. With each step, Skylar was reminded of the steady ground beneath her feet - dirty or not, a pavement was still a pavement. Conversely, she was reminded of the fact there would be no such thing in the sewers. Just muck and mucky water and mucky rats. Still, Skylar's snarky side told her that it wouldn't be a far cry from the state of the Drowned District. In fact, the District was like a giant sewer itself, but for trash like her, rather than the usual sort. Diseased, plagued, crippled, ostracized, malformed... All were thrown into the same pot and left to stew. Well, until the corpses floated up, ready to be served au jus d'ordures.

'There it is.'

Skylar spotted a grate and hurried over it. Then, with all of the strength of a malnourished little girl, she slowly opened it. Her body cried out for her to stop, but she was desperate for somewhere warmth, for food and for a home. Panting, she lowered herself into the sewer. Her senses were accosted. Skylar wandered onward despite the smell, despite the dirt, or the rats and despite common sense telling her to go back. However, before she knew, she had wandered into a pitch-black space. There was no chance of reading the map now. The only ray of hope she had was the faint glow of torches in the distance. She ran towards to the light, her feet plodding over all sorts of vile things in the process.

*Squish*

Suddenly, she stopped and screamed. What was beneath her feet wasn't simply muck. It... It felt slimy and somewhat warm. With every step she had taken up until that point, that awful, vile and digusting sensation was repeated over and over again. Skylar looked down and saw just what she had trodden into: rat guts. Long bits of intestine were scattered on the floor along with their owners right beside them. The scream died down for a second when the girl actually noticed a lanky figure beside the rat corpses as she tried to calm down. In her panic, Skylar had made the mistake of alerting a suspicious sewer stranger to her presence. Well, there was no backing down from that now. Raising her voice just so she could be heard over the sewer currents, she called out to the figure.

"Hello?! Er..." Skylar paused as she though of sometime else to say, "Are you here for The Shroud as well?!"

It was foolish, but it was worth a shot.

"Uhm... The name is Langston, Madame. May I ask your name?"

Langston stood up gingerly.

"Andra... oh!" Langston had suddenly collapsed again. Somehow, his death grip on the torch remained firm. Andra could see from the light that his nose was broken and there was fluid leaking from his feet.

Andra reached into her supply bag and pulled out a bottle of alcohol and some gauze.

Andra never saw the purpose in lying. "This is going to hurt... a lot..."

As she worked, she saw her reflection in a puddle of unidentified liquid near the torch. With her dress not properly done up, she looked absolutely horrible. Combined with her frayed voice, it was no wonder that Langston had made a run for it.

================================================

Langston was back on his feet, clearly in pain, but safe from infection.

"You have the torch, lead the way," said Andra.

She wasn't lying, it hurt a lot- a great deal more than Langston had expected. He gritted his teeth and remained motionless, letting the alcohol seep deep into his open wounds.

She then took out a few clean bandages, wrapping his feet with a tender expertise not commonly found in the Drowned District. Andra tied the last bandage and Langston rose to his feet unintelligibly murmuring both apologies and thanks, but she did not hear him- she was lost in thought, staring deeply into her own reflection.

Langston towered over her as he looked curiously at the reflection, his faint pink eyes meticulously scanning the curves and contours of her pleasantly round face. She seemed nice enough.

She turned quickly, almost bouncing to her feet. Her movements were so sudden. Langston's eyes widened as he hastily looked off into the darkness, hoping she hadn't noticed his staring.

"You have the torch, lead the way"

He paused,

'Lead the way? Are we going to the same place? Perhaps we already talked about this... Shit, do I have a concussion?'

He stole a look at her face. She was staring at him expectantly waiting for an answer. He put his free hand in his pocket searching for the map, answering "Uh... oh, yes. Of course," under his breath.

After a brief pause he looked back towards Andra, "I apologize if we discussed this already Miss, but- erm, where is it that I am leading you?"

"I apologize if we discussed this already Miss, but- erm, where is it that I am leading you?"

"Oh, my apologies... I assumed you were going into the sewers for the same reasons as I."

It seemed so natural to Andra that they should both have a map. Why else would anyone be this deep into the sewers and still alive?

Andra gingerly pulled the map out of her bag. "This cavern is marked... and we're over here... I think. If you don't have a map, why are you down here?"

Langston pulled his hand out of his pocket, producing an identical map. He let out a short nervous laugh exclaiming, "No, I- I have a map too. See?" He walked up to her, allowing her map to be completely illuminated by the torch.

He stared at her map, her finger was firmly pressed against it, indicating the wrong location. It seems that travelling together would be mutually beneficial. He lifted her hand delicately, tracing her finger further down the path, adding " And we are actually over here."

Y-Yes... And you are? The older woman jumped when he spoke. Frightened, he decided, but of what? It could be she was just frightened of his approach, after all, she hardly seemed the type used to stalking around the sewers. Or maybe it was something else. He'd learned not to jump to conclusions, it had cost more than one person their life.

The younger kid seemed more in control, but also a bit startled at his approach. She was probably just better at masking it. "She is, a'm 'ere t'show 'er t'way, you got a map too? Hold it up." Blaize smiled when the kid spoke. He was reminded of himself when he was that old, reminded of himself and most kids he knew actually. Full of piss and something to prove, ready to jump head-first into something thinking they knew full well what they were about. What idiots they all were. Maybe the kid was a scout with the Shroud, but he doubted it, probably just a kid hoping to run with a big crew. The woman though...

"Where's yer mum kid?" Blaize asked, "Ain't it past yer bedtime? It's dangerous out here." He reached for his map with his free hand, his other hand still in his pocket, still holding the knife. He held up his map, still folded, "Anyway, I got my map ta the Shroud, might be I'll go wit'cha, if we're goin' the same way. First things first though, who're you two? I ain't givin' my name 'til I have yers."

Ezrah stood at a crossroads of sorts, a place beyond the first torch and the second, a small landing where the sewer split along four distinct paths, two running with sewage, two dry. He stood outside the glow of the nearest torch and closed his eyes, leaning on the senses that thrived in the gloom. The two he'd passed near the first torch, padding along as they'd confronted one another, they weren't moving. A woman and a boy and now... another voice, male. Low tones but not conspiratorial, no sounds of struggle. Searchers in the dark then, looking for the way forward. Ezrah cocked an ear in the opposite direction, heard the sound of footsteps, a loud curse, no change in movement though, another searcher still. Down one of the wet paths, a faint light bobbed to and fro, coming closer, the scuffle of footsteps and yet more voices. Many searchers, all of them slow. Ezrah figured there was a time for patience and a time for haste. If their maps were the same as his, they led through this fulcrum next, that left Ezrah with options. He could wait here for awhile, allow the others to creep along.... But so many souls pressed together so closely, no shadow would hide him from so many eyes and the lights they carried. So perhaps... perhaps it was time to abandon the dark in favor of the light, and seek obscurity in another manner. He needed them ahead of him, moving along the right path, into the pitfalls he could not see.... A fellow searcher falling constantly to the back of the group risked suspicion, but a guide herding them along....

Footsteps, footsteps too close! Ezrah's body stiffened for a moment and then went loose, sinking into the calm they'd learned to associate with combat. Ezrah had learned a thing after years of scrapping in the gutter, a tense body broke quickly. Better to stay limber, poised on the knife edge, ready to lash out in one blinding, twitch reflex. The footsteps grew closer, a figure lingering on the periphery of Ezrah's vision. He didn't turn, merely let the calm sink into his bones even as the spike of adrenaline set his veins afire. He lowered one hand casually to the cudgel at his hip. Closer and closer still... almost... almost....

"Hello?! Er.... Are you here for The Shroud as well?!"

Ezrah hesitated, allowed for a second's pause that might have gotten him killed in any other situation. The figure had spoken, a girl's voice, and yes he could make out a girl's shape as well, small, dressed in little more than a tattered gown. She hadn't attacked, she'd made her presence known, she'd given up any supposed attack of opportunity, and her scant clothing would do little to hide a weapon... and still something in Ezrah's gut told him to crack her skull and roll her body into the sewer water. No, he'd bite back the old instincts for now, the girl's words marked her as one of the searchers, she may well prove as useful as the rest. Ezrah pulled on a mask in his mind, the farce he'd need if this little lie was to work. He spoke, his voice low and steady, filled with a sort of steel, something that demanded attention and even more so, obedience, "You are the first, the others must be gathered. Be still, be silent."

The lad pulled his cloak tight about his shoulders, donning the hood and pulling it impractically low, as though all cultists had no prohibition against leaving themselves half blind. He moved towards the center of the small landing, gripping the torch and snapping it clean from its sconce with one vicious twist. He reached into the satchel beneath the cloak and fished about for a moment. He drew forth an odd colored, small brick, a milky silver tint glistening on the stony, crumbly surface. A small puddle of water pooled at the dip in the landing's center, more than sufficient for Ezrah's purposes. The Marked were not unfamiliar with a bit of Theatre, so many of the old rituals thrived on it, much to the chagrin of many who tried to emulate the Magus' works. One could never be quite sure though, where the theatre ended and the magic began. Best to keep to the old ways.

"Cover your eyes, open them slowly when I finish speaking," the warning to the girl came nearly unbidden to Ezrah's lips, but if fit the role well enough. The other searchers would not be so lucky. Ezrah stood on the landing's edge, the small puddle behind him, the rushing sewer waters in front of him. In his right hand he held the burning brand, and in his left he held the strange brick, the soul candle. Soul candles, so the Crone and the Tomes named them. They were a bugger to make, but of all the old magics, they were perhaps the most visually impressive. Dragon silver, pulled from the sea and mixed as powder with a slow burning adhesive. The candles burned white and twice as bright as sunlight, though they burned far quicker than normal candles. No water would quench them, only adding an evil tint to the light's color and making the flame all the more intense. The dragon silver split the waters, turned them to aether and consumed them. Sailors paid good money for lantern kindling that no storm would snuff, but this little candle, must serve a higher purpose than the pursuit of silver. Ezrah sank into himself, and spoke the words as he learned them, hands outstretched in benediction," Bless the Making and the Unmaking. Bless the fire that dies and the light that lives. Bless the soul of the dragon, may it fill all the world with the light that dies in glory. All is Made and All is Unmade."

Ezrah closed his eyes tight and brought the candle and torch together, pressing them firmly. A moment of silence, and then, light, a light so intense Ezrah could see the burn of it through closed lids. He heard the telltale hissing and knew what must come next, already the blazing candle grew unbearably hot in his hands. He tossed the torch forward, letting the sewer carry it away. The candle he tossed behind him into the puddle of water at the landing's center. Heat bloomed at his back, and even in the water, the candle burned. The water hissed and let up a mist that caught flame as well. An unearthly green light burned behind the cloaked figure, bright enough to light the sewers for a hundred span or more. Ezrah opened his eyes slowly, letting them adjust gradually to the fully illuminated sewers. He folded his hands together beneath his cloak, ignoring the throbbing pain in the hand that had held the candle. Those burns would be minor enough, and they could be dealt with later. He took in a deep breath and set himself into the voice the Crone had used when a bit of play was in her, a growling, rolling, rumbling basso that she'd used to speak in the Magus' voice. That play would have to serve him well today, "HAIL! You who seek the Shroud, you who heed the Stranger's Call, come forth, move quickly! The darkness of this place is full of teeth, and your road is far from over."

A part of Ezrah struggled to keep a contented smile from his features, after all, the show had gone as planned. Another part of Ezrah hoped he hadn't accidentally set his cloak aflame.

"Where's yer mum kid? Ain't it past yer bedtime? It's dangerous out here."

Selena crossed her arms and frowned. Could he be more condescending? The girl was willing to help them out after all.

"... I ain't givin' my name 'til I have yers."

Relaxing her stance, Selena let her arms drop to her sides and giggled, "What, you don't trust a young woman and a child? 'Kay, I suppose that's fair considering the circumstances. The name's Selena. Selena Lashani, though you may be more familiar with the name 'Sapphire'." Hopefully he wasn't. She didn't want the boy getting any funny ideas.

"Where's yer mum kid? Ain't it past yer bedtime? It's dangerous out here. Anyway, I got my map ta the Shroud, might be I'll go wit'cha, if we're goin' the same way. First things first though, who're you two? I ain't givin' my name 'til I have yers."

Sparrow raised an eyebrow slightly, her arms still held across her chest. 'The hell is this twat?', she shrugged off the insult, glancing to her side as the woman introduced herself.

"What, you don't trust a young woman and a child? 'Kay, I suppose that's fair considering the circumstances. The name's Selena. Selena Lashani, though you may be more familiar with the name 'Sapphire'."

The girl's face remained expressionless as Selena outed herself as a whore. 'Sapphire? Come on, Do they even try any more?'

Without a second look, Sparrow turned to walk further into the tunnel, casually waving her hand in beckoning. "Name's Sparrow, I don't really give a toss about yours, you've gotta map so that's all t'matters."

"What, you don't trust a young woman and a child? 'Kay, I suppose that's fair considering the circumstances. The name's Selena. Selena Lashani, though you may be more familiar with the name 'Sapphire'."

Sapphire, eh? Blaize thought. Yeah, she was a whore. Who the hell names these whores anyway? Could've at least done better than 'Sapphire'.

"Name's Sparrow, I don't really give a toss about yours, you've gotta map so that's all t'matters." The little prat, Sparrow, said before turning further into the tunnels.

Blaize opened up his map, taking his other hand from his dagger. These people weren't threats, not that he could tell. Another quick scan of the map gave him the general layout, and after a moment he located his own position. There, and the Shroud is... He looked off after the kid. They were going the same way after all.

"Well, ain't that a happy coincidence. Looks like we're goin' the same way after all. Lead the way then." He said, putting the map back in his pocket. This would be interesting if these were the kinds of people the Shroud recruited. "I guess I should introduce meself then. Call me Blaize."

"Well, ain't that a happy coincidence. Looks like we're goin' the same way after all. Lead the way then."

Sparrow shook here head slightly, It appeared every man and his dog was getting a map from these Shroud folk.

"I guess I should introduce meself then. Call me Blaize."

Sparrow furrowed her brow. "Blaize?" She glanced back at Selena, a small smirk on her face. "As in, 'why t'blazes would someone call 'emselves that'?" she said in a hushed tone.

As the three of them travelled further into the sewers, Sparrow recited the directions in her mind. Sure she knew which way they needed to go, they were about to make a left at an intersection when a bright light flared from the right, hissing loudly as it travelled down the water way, spewing smoke. Sparrow held out a hand, blocking the light from her face as it continued to wash past them, when they heard a bellowing shout echo down from the direction the light had travelled.

"HAIL! You who seek the Shroud, you who heed the Stranger's Call, come forth, move quickly! The darkness of this place is full of teeth, and your road is far from over."

Sparrow frowned, it appeared she may have to drop her ruse earlier than she thought, but for now, she'd play along.

"There's t'signal, best 'urry, they don't like t'be kept waitin'." She beckoned the two as she hopped over the rat way and headed towards the voice, white light reflecting off the glistening walls of the tunnel. As they turned a bend, Sparrow shadowed her eyes once again as the source of the bright light came into view, silhouetted by two figures.

Holding up her other hand, she began her approach. "Bloody 'ell mate, the 'ole feckin' sewer's lit up."

"As in, 'why t'blazes would someone call 'emselves that'?"

Selena held her fingers to her lips in an attempt to conceal her laughter. It didn't work too well. She always was a giggly drunk. She followed closely behind Sparrow, taking up the center spot in their formation as they continued down the tunnel.

"HAIL! You who seek the Shroud, you who heed the Stranger's Call, come forth, move quickly! The darkness of this place is full of teeth, and your road is far from over."

The hell was that?

"There's t'signal, best 'urry, they don't like t'be kept waitin'."

Selena nodded and quickened her pace behind Sparrow, "Oh, of course. How many others are we expecting, anyway?"

"Bloody 'ell mate, the 'ole feckin' sewer's lit up."

Damn near blinded by the light, Selena held her hand up to block it out as best as she could. For supposed agents of the "Shroud" they certainly weren't as subtle as she'd thought, "Does that bloody thing have an off-switch?" The light was actually making her a bit queasy. Bright lights and booze do not mix well. Weak in the knees, Selena stumbled as she stepped forward, catching herself on the wall. Bent over with a hand on her knee, she let out an exasperated sigh. "I'm... okay..."

The man turned bright red at Kaim's insinuation of him being a whoremonger, his voice trailing off as he changed the subject to introduce himself.

"...My name's Will. William Hunt. I uh... I'm not really in this city by choice."

Y'don't say? I could hardly have guessed that from your general look, and your aversion to the ol' hokery pokery...

He explained his rank and situation to Kaim, who was fairly surprised to find that he was practically a Captain. It was a shame that he now seemed destitute, as under different circumstances Kaim would have liked the opportunity to sail the seas. Will stopped short when he came to the mention of pirates, instead preferring to leave it at "Let's just say Denissa really screwed us over".

Kaim was content to not press further, after all a lot of people weren't comfortable with telling as much as he had already, and the fact he had introduced himself so readily only reaffirmed Kaim's thought's that the man really didn't know how things usually were down here.

"What about you?"

He answered somewhat hesitantly, not normally one for introductions. No one usually cared what your name was in the District, only how much money you had in your pocket and how much pain they had to put you through before you gave it up. Still...

"Name's Kaim. I've been Drowned since birth..."

"HAIL! You who seek the Shroud, you who heed the Stranger's Call, come forth, move quickly! The darkness of this place is full of teeth, and your road is far from over."

Just then he saw a burst of brilliant light from down the sewer, as the entirety of its foul waters lit up like they were made of sunlight.

"...what in the world?"

Andra and Langston plodded through the sludge, each questioning their map-reading skills. It was apparent that they were rapidly becoming lost.

There was no way around it, the torch simply didn't give out enough ligh-

"HAIL! You who seek the Shroud, you who heed the Stranger's Call, come forth, move quickly! The darkness of this place is full of teeth, and your road is far from over."

And then the waters in the tunnel to the right flamed into a brilliant glow.

Without words, Andra and Langston immediately turned and followed the glowing water. As they progressed, the waters got brighter and brighter and the stench got less and less powerful, as if something was burning it.

It was like walking towards heaven.

...though it would be a hell of a miracle if the people on the streets above didn't notice heavenly light flowing from their sewer gratings.

"...what in the world?"

The bright light looked... familiar, but Will couldn't place it. Tugging his tricorne hat forward to shade his eyes a little, he began moving towards its source. The voice had mentioned the Shroud. "Come on," he called back to Kaim. "I think we're about to get some answers."

That light certainly wasn't magical, though.

Blaize was about to say something very cross to the kid, but thought better of it. He wasn't worth it, and anyway, getting to the Shroud was more important. They kept low, and kept moving. Blaize didn't know what else was in the sewers, and he didn't want to know. The mission was simple, get in, find the Shroud, and figure out what to do next when he got there.

The group was momentarily halted at an intersection, briefly going over the directions in his mind, Blaize knew they were getting close. Just then, a bright light lit up the dark tunnels damn near blinding the man, followed quickly by a booming echo that seemed to shake the tunnels slightly.

"HAIL! You who seek the Shroud, you who heed the Stranger's Call, come forth, move quickly! The darkness of this place is full of teeth, and your road is far from over."

"Don't need to bloody tell me." Blaize muttered. He'd had enough of teeth for one night. Just once, he'd like to have an evening that didn't involve almost getting killed or hunted.

They kept moving. Whatever the light was, whatever the echo was, it didn't matter. They were going to get to the Shroud one way or another. After turning a corner, the group stopped briefly. A bright light shot down the tunnel, coming from some source ahead.

Blaize turned his head a blinked several times, adjusting to the new light. "Bloody 'ell mate, the 'ole feckin' sewer's lit up." Following Sparrow's line of sight, Blaize saw what the kid was referring to. They weren't alone, someone was ahead, near the light. Or rather, someones, He corrected himself.

He stepped into the light with Sparrow and Selena, keeping his hands out of his pockets. If this were the Shroud, then it wouldn't do to seem suspicious, if it weren't, well, he could take care of himself well enough.

"Bit odd fer a group callin' 'emselves 'Shroud' to light up the bloody sewers." He began.

The little girl obeyed the lanky figure's command. The sudden burst of light tore through her eyelids, however. Where were was darkness, there was now light. She understood that much. However, Skylar didn't comprehend what the man was saying. Making and Unmaking? Was The Shroud some sort of cult. Nevertheless, it was too late to head back. She was in it just to for the food, not out of belief of some fiendish being. Skylar had once thought highly of the Gods. Gilliajlia, goddess of beauty and brides, had been especially admired by Skylar. That was back went she dreamed of marrying and being taken away by a prince just like in the fairy tales. It was a shame reality differed so much from those stories.

That miraculous future had been stolen from her by cruel Maeverniss, bound in these claws of hers. From the very start, Skylar had been trapped in a body unsuitable for her desires, unsuitable for her parent's desires, and unsuitable for society's demands. Regardless, the stranger had stopped his ramblings, and Skylar was permitted to open her eyes. Slowly, her eyelids rose. What she saw was brighter than ordinary fire. In fact, the supernatural flame even burned in the presence of water! Surely she wouldn't be able to see such a thing if her life had taken the standard course. That in itself was a small blessing. However, she suppressed a shriek as the numerous rat bodies were now visible in their true glory. The same supernatural light was reflected in their dead eyes.

Skylar wouldn't scream like before, she had to prove to the man - or whatever he was - that she was strong, that she had strength, despite of the frail cage of flesh she was trapped in. Skylar diverted her attention from the mess of flesh on the floor, from the sounds coming from all around her and from her fear by looking at the map. Even if she couldn't figure out where she in was in the maze of excrement-filled water, slimy walls, and sinister rats. Perhaps it was good fortune that she had come across the fireball-conjurer? No, it couldn't be. The rich bought their own good luck and left only the bad for the poor to scrounge, if they even bothered to. Maeverniss was probably showing Skylar how fickle she could be.

Capriciousness was a quality the two shared, that much could be seen as Skylar moved in closer to the man, well, more to him than the approaching figures. It would probably be safer to stay her distance, but she hadn't gotten this far by obeying the strict tenants of safety, after all. Compared to before, her voice was quieter, "Umm... Who exactly are you, mister?"

In his curiosity, Will had drifted on ahead of Kaim, and he turned the corner to see the bright white light blazing away in the puddle, illuminating the rats and the stonework. He remembered.

"Of course..." it'd been a young man's voice shouting out before. "Tell me, how is it that someone in the Drowned District has come to possess Dragon Silver?"

His heart was sinking a little. If this man truly was representative of the 'Shroud', then they were likely little more than conjurers of cheap tricks. Still, it was worth seeing through a little further.

"Get back! Go on, back it." Maggy threw some rocks at the rats and stepped up at them, making her self look big just like any other animal in her situation would.

Looking at it coldly, fighting off over sized rodents was a lot like fending off other urchins who were trying to move in on your spot to sleep for the night. Except that the rats were better at team work. They hissed and they growled, backing away when things looked like they were going to get too rough... but they wandered far, always staying close to the shadows and glancing back and forth between each other as they squeaked and clicked in their own little way.

'I bet they're planning something together. I bet this is all just a trap of theirs.' That would be just like rats to be smarter than people gave them credit for. Maybe they even had some strange rat nation under the streets. Stranger things had happened.

"Shitshitshiiit..."

Maggy squinted in the poor light, trying to make out the scratchings of a map she was left with. She was definitely lost, stupid rats throwing her off her path. She was feeling cold all over and not from the night wind. The thought of getting lost down here forever, of screaming and screaming but no matter how loud she was no one could hear. She'd been alone for years now but this was different. She'd been scared of tight spaces since she was little and got her leg stuck under her dad's cart when she was trying to move it early in the morning. She'd gotten up before everyone and anted to show how she could help with the business, all she ended up doing was tipping over on top of herself. It had hurt like crazy and no matter how loud she called her little voice couldn't wake her parents, stupid heavy sleepers that they'd been.

'Stop that Maggy, stop thaaat. She smacked the thoughts out of her head, trying to control her breathing. She could do this. She wasn't a little girl anymore. She could take care of herself. 'I don't need anyone, I don't need anyone.'

She carried on for a while, feeling along the walls as she went. The rats had backed off at least... did that mean anything? A pathetic piece of moonlight had managed to sneak its way in through a grate in the ceiling. 'Oh thank the gods I'm closer to the surface than I thought.' It was only an expression of course as the gods had shown their apathy all too clearly in the past. Still, the light was enough to see the map by.

"Now if I turned left... then right... passed the other part..." Maggy traced out the path she'd taken as best she could, repeating it out loud in hushed tones. Yes, yes that was it. Soon enough Maggy was back on track and ready to go again.

She could do this... she could do this...

As the potential recruits converged on each-other ever faster, so did their tails make contact. Five hooded figures stood in an alley, while one kept to the rooftops, directly above the gathering even now. Two stood guard at either end of the alley, while the other three took position around a grate, listening.

"They didn't seriously all just fall for a little Dragon Silver, did they?" asked the one in grey, burying her face in the palm of his hand.

"The old Sea Dog is not so easily fooled?" replied the mischievous tones of one in khaki green.

"I swear none of us were this thick at our invitations..." chipped in the third, in the burgundy robes.

"Oh I don't know..." the grey replied. "I was the one who invited you, remember?"

"How could I forget." he retorted sardonically, before muttering something that sounded a lot like "rat fucker."

"How do they read?" Grey asked, his question directed at the green one.

"The Fire Child burns so bright." she tittered. "Brighter than the false flame of the Unmaker, to my eyes. I followed him here. So angry, always angry. The brightest flames burn out the quickest, that's true that is!"

"My bet? The trickster dies first." said the burgundy. "As soon as they all cotton on he's false, they'll bash his head in and have a soup of what they find inside."

"That won't happen." the grey said sternly. "We're here to test them. Mylaviss doesn't need their souls, not yet."

"Well, they'll be heading for Kriggur's Den soon enough. That should show us what they're made of."

"She's always hungry. Always! I can feel it." the green one muttered, rocking back and forth a little and chewing on her lip to keep from giggling.

The light managed to break through Giles eyelids, making him blink. Dark to sudden light to darkness once more. A fun little pattern, annoying too. If Giles had to guess, it was a flare or something, judging by scent and brightness. Something like that, not like someone just threw a very good torch down the hallway extremely quickly. He picked himself up to his feet, looking around.

"... That way." He muttered quietly to himself, clutching his cards close to his beating heart. He had to admit, this was something. Could be something dangerous. Nothing ventured, nothing gained though, right? He strolled through the sewers, making a poor attempt at being quiet. He saw the confused group converging, seems he was last in line. He drew a card, he remembered how to throw them in a way that kinda sorta hurt. Enough to give him a second or two to start running.

"Tell me, how is it that someone in the Drowned District has come to possess Dragon Silver?"

"THAT'S it." Giles said, nodding sagely as he approached. His brain took a second, and he flinched realizing they were all strangers. He quickly took a step back and raised a card defensively, before relaxing.

"Err... MY NAME'S GILES! Good evening, you people here for the map stuff too?" Giles asked, in his panicked too-quick-for-mind speech.

Langston released her hand, satisfied with his explanation. He had been mapping out smalls sections of the catacombs for years and, in comparison, this was a sinch, reading maps was pretty much second nature to him. Andra drew her hand back, saying nothing. He looked to her, his faint smile met with a look of skepticism.

'She doesn't believe me? But, I must be right...'

Her silence unnerved him, making him question his abilities.

'But, what if I'm not?'

His confidence shot, he decided to scan his map again, finding more questions than answers. Was this the same map he read moments before- was it even a map? It no longer meant anything. It was just random markings on a worn piece of parchment.

'This seemed so easy before- No it was easy. What happened? Come on Langston, you're only good at two things and this happens to be one of them.'

He grimaced, pressing his fingers against his throbbing temple. Andra still hadn't spoken. The silence he had recently yearned for began to crush him.

'Think, think. Think!'

He just couldn't make sense of it. Letting out an exacerbated sigh Langston conceded to his doubts, mumbling,

"Or... perhaps I am wrong- sorry, I must not have been thinking..."

They began walking, with no real sense where they had been or they were going. A sudden blinding flash tore through the darkness,

'GODS, did I fall again?!'

Blinded, Langston put his hands out in front of him, expecting to find the ground

"HAIL! You who seek the Shroud, you who heed the Stranger's Call, come forth, move quickly! The darkness of this place is full of teeth, and your road is far from over."

The Shroud? Langston knew it had something to do with the divines, but he didn't know what. His parents were both devout followers of Juiniss , but they decided to keep religion from their son, telling him that their faith wasn't meant for some people... people like him. They said it was for his protection, but he knew better. In some ways they feared him or, at least feared the judgment of the gods for bringing him into the world. His parents weren't the type to hide away their accomplishments, just their sins.

Langston blinked, his vision finally returning. The tunnel was alight with a soft green light. Andra turned, plodding off toward its source and Langston followed hesitantly, afraid of being left alone in the sewer's depths

'So we are heeding the call... I suppose.'

As they turned the last corner to enter the cross roads they heard a second voice,

"Of course..."
"Tell me, how is it that someone in the Drowned District has come to possess Dragon Silver?"

Dragon Silver? Well at least he knew what it was now, but why the accusatory tone? Had someone said it was anything but?

Langston edged his way to the back of the crowd, he didn't want to draw attention to himself until he had an understanding of the situation, and even then he hoped to remain out of the limelight.

Sparrow tilted her head slightly as she heard a scraping noise behind her.

"I'm... okay..."

Turning slightly, she saw the Lashani woman doubled over, her hand on the tunnel wall. 'The bloody hell are you doing coming into a place like this while drunk? You stupid woman.' She began to turn back, but then paused for a second, she furrowed her brow and turned back towards her, holding out a grimy palm she helped the woman back to her feet, her face expressionless. "Reckless." She muttered to herself as she turned back towards the source of the light.

The light was bright, so bright she couldn't get a good view of any of the newcomers, she heard something about Dragon Silver?

The name rang a bell, but she couldn't put a finger on what it was. An explosive maybe? Either way, Sparrow was always reluctant to attribute strange going ons to magic or something of the divine, since in her own experience, that never seemed to be the case.

The girl lifted her hood, and leaned against the tunnel wall, her arms across her chest. Turning her head slightly, she managed to block the painful glare from her eyes.

William seemed eager to investigate the source of the all the commotion, as his curiosity was strong enough for him to abandon Kaim by the wayside, as he was still in awe of the intensity of the light, never having seen anything quite like it.

Wait...

Kaim himself pressed forwards, following Will's footsteps and the general direction of where he thought the proclamation had come from. As he converged on the person responsible for the flare, something that the sailor said caught his attention.

"Tell me, how is it that someone in the Drowned District has come to possess Dragon Silver?"

Dragon Silver? Whilst Kaim wasn't aware of what in the devil they were talking about, he picked up on the sailors tone of voice. He didn't sound very amused, seeming to regard the conjuror's flame as something more mundane than what it had been made out to be by the stranger's showmanship. The man's appearance too, was of questionable integrity, as whilst the stranger that had gifted him with the map had been subtle in his manner, this one was overall much more in keeping with a common vagrant. His wiry frame beneath the cloak suggesting malnourishment typical to those in the Drowned District, as well as his clothing being more congruent with scavenged items, much like Kaim's own.

Will's apprehension had given Kaim more reason to doubt the cloaked man's credibility than he had before. After all, the sailor seemed to still have his wits about him, at least when it came to things outside the District that is. This only troubled Kaim further, as Will's familiarity with the light gave him all the reason he needed to remain sceptical.

"You there! In the cloak! If you really do represent this 'Shroud', why bother giving us maps, if you were planning on lighting up the whole damn sewer?"

Well the blood was in the water now, no choice but to let the sharks come. Ezrah suppressed a slight grin even as he felt bile rise in his throat. When he'd said the darkness was full of teeth, he'd nearly forgotten he was summoning their owners. He watched in silence as more searchers came squinting and muttering towards the light. Some were full of words and wit and questions, others silence, one full of over loud blabbering. Ezrah kept his back to the burning puddle, obscuring form and face against the contrast of the unearthly light and searching for similarities among those who'd been fool enough to heed their mysterious benefactor's call. All of them were young, as far as he could tell, and the roiling in his stomach grew all the more intense. One targeted children for a myriad of reasons and none of them were particularly pleasant. Still... the nagging sensation, the tickling at the nape of Ezrah's neck that told of possibility and profit, urged him to play this sham out. Some of these youths were small, others less so. If things got violent, he'd have a rough time of it, best to avoid that.

Most of the banter could be ignored, it was important to remember the role and the mindset. Ezrah must be above these proceedings but respectful of them, servant, but the servant of an infinitely superior master. There would be a time to exalt himself and a time to show proper deference. Some of these questions held darker undertones, hints of accusation and frustration, they would need dealing with, snuffing out before such thoughts spread. All good cults had patterns, Ezrah had learned them on the Crone's knee. He knew how much his life was bound up in them, perhaps he could bind up a few others. He bit back another spasmodic grin. This was the most damn fool thing he'd done since the Crone found her Unmaking. A pity she had no grave, surely she'd be turning in it.

"Umm... Who exactly are you, mister?" The girl who'd stumbled across him first spoke first, her voice timid, manner drawn in, wary, behavior appropriate for a gutter child though the fabric of her rags was fine once, too fine for one gutter born. The light of truth shines bright upon the humble..., "I am nothing, no one. You were called, you were summoned. Now you're gathered, guided."

One part true, one part bullshit, one part cryptic, that was the formula sure enough. The Marked knew that well enough, better than fawning sycophants of the Citadel of the Faith.

"Tell me, how is it that someone in the Drowned District has come to possess Dragon Silver?" Ahhh, so one knew of this particular trick, another apothecary or alchemist? No... no... he wore a sailor's rags, even if he didn't wear their speech. And that question was an imperative, a command. Gutter born didn't give orders, not unless they were draped in threats and not if a good knifing was an option. And yet gutter born or no, this one was in the sewers with the rest. To the knowing, a taste of mystery and the knowledge that they know nothing," How does a man come to possess anything? How does a tool come to possess its function? A fool, his questions? How do the highborn find themselves in the filth beneath filth? All answers are the same."

There, a risk, but not a bad one. There were commissioned men of low birth, but they were rare and rarer. It'd either be enough to shake him, or it could be dismissed as a thing of double meaning. Ezrah was no stranger to twisty, thorny rhetoric, Saandoval be praised....

"You there! In the cloak! If you really do represent this 'Shroud', why bother giving us maps, if you were planning on lighting up the whole damn sewer?" Ahh, and here was greater danger still, the doubter, the nonbeliever. Couldn't blame him really, who wouldn't be keyed up with all this madness at hand? Still, couldn't let such thinking take root, had to tease that monster with the sight of something else, distract it, confuse it, and lead it to the tiger pit. To the nonbeliever nothing save a choice and its futility," Perhaps he has more faith in you than I.... I question not his wisdom, only his timetable. You linger over long."

Ezrah extended one hand towards the four paths behind him, gesturing towards the one the map in his mind had picked out earlier," There lies the way forward, take it or leave."

Sparrow furrowed her brow behind the shade of her hood.

'This one likes the sound of his own voice.'

As the boy began answering questions from the other people gathering, Sparrow glanced at each of them in turn, her eyes now adjusted to the bright light, somewhat.

'A sailor, a street magician, and seamstress walk into a bar...'

The first two she identified by their attire, nothing subtle about them. The third she recognised as the burned woman from a small shop near where she lived. Midwife too, she had heard, didn't ask for anything in return. Sparrow tilted her head curiously, even the philanthropists sometimes wanted to escape, it seemed.

The others she didn't recognise, a blonde girl, a rather tall boy with white hair, which she found odd, and what looked to be a another street urchin. A rather tall one, strangely enough.

"There lies the way forward, take it or leave."

Sparrow didn't buy it, but she couldn't put her finger on why, still, caution didn't need a reason. Pulling herself away from the wall, she walked toward the cloaked boy and his bright play thing, muttering something to him as she passed. "Bit strange that t'guide tells his guests t'go ahead of him dontcha think." It wasn't a question.

She headed into the tunnel, the pain in her ankle all but faded. Might as well maintain her own ruse while she was at it. She pulled down her hood as she entered the darkness once more.

Blaize blinked a few more times, looking into the light. His eyes had mostly adjusted, enough to make out the general form of the people ahead. They were a motley sort, different, varied. He didn't think they were with the Shroud, one of them seemed to have the air of mystery and quiet danger that marked the first man he'd met. That and the fact that they, like him, were wandering around in the sewers tipped him off that they probably weren't the people he was supposed to find.

This new collection only made him more curious about the nature of the Shroud. Who were they? Blaize had thought they were a guild of thieves, or just some underground gang he'd never heard of, that or they were new in town looking to cut out a part of the market for themselves, but more and more he was uncertain. What self-respecting gang hired kids for their jobs? Why the offer of food and a better chance for themselves? Most gangs would have given threats if someone didn't sign up with them, maybe offered a piece of some vague, future job they were planning. Why the man with the skull tattoo? Why the strange contact? It didn't add up, not yet, and that made Blaize tense. Whoever or whatever the Shroud was, they were trouble, but they were the kind of trouble he had no choice but to mix up with.

He followed the kid past the group, further into the tunnels, taking a moment to check his own map once more as they passed the man with the light. She muttered something he didn't quite hear, and didn't quite care to hear. As they made their way through the other group, Blaize took a moment to size them up quickly, not saying much of anything until they were once more leaving the light for the darkness. "We're getting close." He said to Sparrow.

"There lies the way forward, take it or leave."

This just seemed strange. "Why bother trying to guide us when we all have our own maps? But I suppose if we're all grouping up, someone has to be at the back. Alone. With nobody to watch after him." He have a wry chuckle. "I suppose I'll do that."

He waited for everyone else to move on ahead, and contented himself to watch the Dragon Silver while he waited. He wasn't sure about any of this, but he seemed to be the oldest. He wanted to be able to keep an eye on this show off guide. The man was dubious, and could try something at any time. He and these people, many of them children, were all in the same boat. Best watch after them. And it was true, who knew what could happen? He'd rather not leave someone else to get picked off. Like that hooded little boy, or Kaim. Or that somewhat drunken looking woman. He blinked when he noticed her. She was more an adult, and certainly the most beautiful woman he'd seen in his time in the Drowned District. That wasn't that high a bar, but she was something.

She somewhat spoiled the effect with her drunken tottering. Will shook himself and went back to watching the Dragon Silver while everyone else marshaled themselves.

"T-thank you..." Selena muttered as the small girl helped her to her feet. Still covering her eyes, she staggered over towards the light, gradually acclimating to its nauseating intensity. She found herself among a large gathering of others who'd lost their way... or so it seemed. She waited and listened to those gathered, challenging and questioning the man at the center of it all.

Staring intently at the figure, it took her a moment to find the details on the face of an otherwise featureless silhouette. Was it... was it Ezrah?! Yes, it had to be! One of Risa's regulars! He'd helped her when she first came to the Drowned District. He had tried to cure her of her infertility. Though it never amounted to anything she still appreciated his effort.

Was he a part of this too? Was he an acolyte of this "shroud"?

"There lies the way forward, take it or leave."

Selena didn't move as the others started down the tunnel, including the little girl. Once most of the others had cleared out, Selena stepped forward, "E-Ezrah? Ezrah, is that you?"

Looking over the map again Maggy couldn't help but think that she'd chosen a much more complicated route than she needed to. Her eyes had adapted to the light by now and she was finding it easier to trace her steps with the map as she went. Unfortunately it had also lead to her noticing the wealth of other ways she could have gotten to her destination, tunnels that were tall and wide with plenty of walking room and headed there in more or less a straight line. She wondered if there were others going to this stupid group meeting too, no doubt they'd chosen the better way too. Most of the paths seemed to converge on that larger passage as well, she bet they'd all found each other and been able to walk along having nice little chats about their favorite fucking scriptures.

Maggy could only grumble to herself in the dark and be thankful that no one could see her shimmying through these cramped conditions. It was one of the few times that being so poorly fed had come in handy. Still, she had no one to blame but herself for this situation. Why couldn't Pa have shown her how to read a map properly?

The drowned district was still awake and lively at this time of night and echoes of various antics were leaking in through the grates and floating through the dank sewer air. Maggy heard more than her fair share of muffled muggings and brawls as she made her slow progress, the cries of victims and the roars of attackers bouncing down the tunnels. Not that that was all, the drowned folk weren't all about violence, snippets of conversation made themselves known as well. At least she assumed it was conversation, most of it was unintelligible.

The only time when real words made an appearance was when Maggy got stuck in a particularly narrow downwards slope of her tunnel path, these passages must have been out of use for years to have gotten so bad.

"Don't lie to me! You worthless pig, why don't you go back to your wine soaked whore?!?!" Maggy gave a little pause, caught by surprise as she glanced around trying to work out where the outburst was coming from.

A muffled response came in reply but she couldn't really make out the male half of the argument. It was mostly drowned out by a female voice ranting and raving about how he never helped out and kept sticking it to some drunken prozzy. "I can smell her fucking stink on you!" was followed up by some beautiful gems like "Course you'd have to pay someone not to laugh at it!" along with classics some of the classics "I should have listened to my mother." It was enough to make Maggy grateful that she'd never had any experience in the world of sex.

They couldn't keep their volume up for too long though and Maggy's world fell back into its dark quiet again with nothing but dripping water and the scuttling of the smaller rats to fend of the silence. She had managed to knock some loose stones free and was about to squeeze through the enlarged gap when an ungodly moan rushed through the passage from on high. It was followed by grunts and cries and moan after moan after yes after yes after yes, yes, GOD YES!

Even one of the rats stopped its scuttling. Maggy's eyes darted from side to side and she hesitated to move on out of sheer awkwardness. "Guess they made up." She said to a nearby rat with a shrug and she slipped through into a much more open area of sewer. That was an improvement at least. It was only as Maggy headed deeper down into the darkness that a vague shapes began to form like darker blobs amongst the black. The sounds were different as well and on the edge of her hearing something moved in the darkness.

Every instinct she had screamed out to turn back and go back to the light and the open air. But still part of her held on stubbornly, saying she'd come so far, who knew what was att he end of this. She could beat this challenge, accomplish something for once in her damn life.

What am I doing here?

Their voices seemed to ring out in unison, questions mingling and blending in the stagnant air. Talking was pointless, Langston wanted the truth and he knew exactly where to find it. He watched the stranger's hands intently, one firmly gripping a splintered torch and the other resting freely at his side, the palm obscured by shadow. Langston could wait, if he was anything it was patient- eventually the busted torch would become uncomfortable and the man would have to readjust his hold, or he would foolishly raise his arms to gesture theatrically- then the answers would be revealed, cradled in the center of the stranger's hand.

Langston strained his vision, trying to distinguish shadow from ink. The cloaked figure's voice rose in response to the accusations, his sharp words cutting through the still air.

"How does a man come to possess anything? How does a tool come to possess its function? A fool, his questions? How do the highborn find themselves in the filth beneath filth? All answers are the same."

Langtson's face turned bright red, it was as if this man had seen straight through him. He pulled his hood over down over his face, hoping that no one had seen his shame.

'Does he know how I ended up in this sorry state? Of my cowardice? Of Sandra?'

Langston took a deep breath attempting to regain his composure. He leveled his gaze, looking back to the man's hand- his palm
was exposed.

'It's bare... a fraud, a charlatan, but what does it matter?'

Langston wondered why he had cared in the first place. So the man was lying, what of it? Langston wasn't about to call him out on it and have his words twisted against him, or worse. No, he wouldn't challenge him, or anyone for that matter. As always, Langston was resigned to inaction.

'Coward'

Bodies began to brush up against Langston as the other travelers moved past him and into the tunnel. Langston shuffled along with them, afraid to be picked out of the crowd- content to allow everyone to be led to salvation or slaughter... well maybe not everyone.

A familiar voice rasped at Langston's side,

"Do you think all of these Shroud fellows are that odd."

He had forgotten about Andra. He looked over to her, a radiant smile creased her scarred round face, she didn't seem to have any idea that his could be a trap and, if she did, she hid it well.

Without thinking, Langston dove his free hand deep down into his pocket. Pulling out a piece of crumpled parchment, he handed it to Andra whispering, "His hand was bare"

Langston began walking ahead as she straightened the paper. He wanted her to understand their situation. She had already helped him a great deal and he hoped to return the favor.

"Tell me, how is it that someone in the Drowned District has come to possess Dragon Silver?"

So not only was the bright light a mere single-material parlor trick, it was a parlor trick from someone who was able to afford it.

Clearly, the Shroud were not the poor and forgotten that they seemed to make out that they were.

"You there! In the cloak! If you really do represent this 'Shroud', why bother giving us maps, if you were planning on lighting up the whole damn sewer?"

This was bothering Andra as well. What kind of "Shroud" were they if they seemed to be OK with allowing everyone near a sewer grating exactly where they were?

She listened to the gibberish that poured from the man's lips in response to these questions, and began to swallow her doubts. Why bother with them? The Shroud had given them food and invited them to something different. Something bigger. Something better. For those surrounding her, death surely would be that option. Andra didn't want to die, but if all went badly, she still had a loaded gun and was easily mistaken for something ghastly in the dark.

As she filed into the tunnel behind the cloaked man, she sidled up to Langston, who had turned so pale that he could be mistaken for having no blood at all. She suddenly felt bad, imagining the stress and wounds on his feet must be getting to him, plus his nose... She smiled, almost grimacing with the effort and sharp pain, hoping it would make him feel better.

I imagine personalities like that are out of his league. "Do you think all of these Shroud fellows are that odd...?"

Langston fixed his eyes on her as if she had grown another head. "His hand was bare"

He pulled a parchment out of what seemed like nowhere and gave it to her. Baffled, she surreptitiously unrolled it, avoiding the attention of those around her.

A skull.

The skull on the hand of the man who gave her the parcel.

Gilliajlia preserve us all.

She rolled the parchment back up and tucked it into her dress. She could see that Langston was staring straight ahead, and she could almost hear his brain crackling. She almost turned to look back at the man who had lit up the water, but a sudden stab of terror made her keep looking ahead. She took another step, feeling the pistol's familiar weight knocking against the back of her ankle.

You may be using that pistol sooner than you had hoped, Andra. Keep alert.

"I am nothing, no one. You were called, you were summoned. Now you're gathered, guided."

Well, that wasn't a particularly informative answer and Skylar pressed the man for the more details. But not before looking around at the gathered persons. They were certainly a strange bunch, but she couldn't really comment on that. After all, because of her freakishness, she had been hidden from the world. Nevertheless, she was no longer hiding. This 'Shroud' had baited with the little mouse with bread and cheese and a map. The same had happened for others, by the looks of things. Here they were, questioning the self-proclaimed guide and mentioning something called Dragon Silver. Skylar had vaguely heard of such a material, but she could put one and one together. Her sense of wonder shrank as the trick was revealed.

In fact, many little tidbits of information had been mentioned. The one had talked about the Dragon Silver in the first place had raised a good point, why would a guide be needed if they were given maps? Even little children could understand an array of symbols drawn in such a fashion to represent an area of the world. Her father, while distant, had been keen on testing Skylar and would often pose problems to her. That was before her little brother had been born. It was probably just preparation for taking over the family business, since she was the only heir back then. Nevertheless, it was enjoyable. Skylar had to admit she missed that those little father-daughter bonding sessions. But that had taken place in another time and almost in another world.

Her copy of the map was slightly damp and creased, but still legible. Skylar made her choice and chose to stay with 'Erzah', the sailor and the drunken woman, rather than charge ahead. The girl pulled her copy of the map out and began to study it intently, if the man's words didn't matter. She would stay and see if the other two would get any more information of the self-proclaimed guide as she didn't have the strength to intimidate or anything to seduce the man with, though she doubted that was going to work. In the Drowned District, men usually made it clear when they wanted a women. Of course, Skylar had escaped such a fate. It was a small blessing. Wait. Sailors? Maps? Well, well, there was an opportunity there...

Of course she didn't plan on standing and doing nothing!

She turned to the sailor and tapped her map, "Greetings, Mister. I assume you have experience with cartography? Yes? Then I am sure you know the correct way forward. I think we can disregard what that gentleman is saying as it is possibly a little trap constructed to throw people off. After all, you know what these mystic types are like."

"Greetings, Mister. I assume you have experience with cartography? Yes? Then I am sure you know the correct way forward. I think we can disregard what that gentleman is saying as it is possibly a little trap constructed to throw people off. After all, you know what these mystic types are like."

Standing to look over the girl's shoulder, he reached to point at places on the map she held. "Unfortunately, the tunnel he's taking us to is the only way. The other three all lead to other places under or within the Drowned District. This tunnel seems to be the first step to going... somewhere different. Now, the map's been reliable so far, although that could be as far as it needs to to lure us into some sort of trap. Maybe those tunnels will get us where we need to go."

Straightening up, he said, "but then, the majority of those brought here are going with this man. A lot of them are young. Like yourself, even and I'd like to be able to keep an eye on them. Besides, for the moment, we outnumber our friend here. If he even is a Shroud member. I'm afraid I'm going to see this through. What about you?"

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