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Mercenary on the Winds

Faith in the Spirits Arc 1: To Align the Stars

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Escaflowne? Is it really that meaningful to the knights, or is it just an excuse to put steel to their prejudices? Regardless of which was the case, there was one thing that was certain, the road to completing the Tigers' mission was only getting longer. If the knights came after their group, Syndra would be ready to put them down to keep everyone else safe. It was the only thing to be done right? Syndra just took a sip of her wine, and noticed Sarasin was talking about the Evokers, who had finally arrived. Perhaps they'll shed more light on where it is we're going.

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"Coward, huh? Maybe when it comes to you, yes. You're dangerous, Siorel, and I'm all too aware of how easily I lose to you. You've proven that several times in the less than a day we've known each other." He shook his head, giving her a gentle squeeze before turning his attention back to the group as a whole. It seemed like the Evokers had arrived finally, as Sixteen continued pestering their host. He sighed quietly, shaking his head. They were going to need to do something about her, hopefully sooner rather than later. He did also notice Gean gently trailing her hand over Renais's shoulder and he raised his eyebrow slightly with a grin. It could mean nothing, but given how happily she had released him from his confusion earlier this morning, perhaps there was something more there than it had seemed. That could be good for the two of them. But for now, it wasn't his business. Maybe he would talk to Gean about it later, but there were more important things to focus on for now. Hopefully the Evokers would explain more about the dangers they would be facing here soon.

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Sarasin blinked as the lizard got much, much closer, almost annoyed seeming that he'd trailed off into taking about something cared about a tiny bit more. "I, haah..." The man put a hand to his forehead, his fascination slowly turning into a bit of exasperation, "It is a figure of speech. No, I don't quite worship the pair, nor do I think of them as gods. I do think quite highly of them for a myriad of reasons, some of which I'm sure you've seen firsthand." Sarasin wouldn't have minded if they were actually. They were certainly radiant, but the young girl seemed to have the wrong idea of him, and his thoughts of the pair. 

He sighed, "Cerezia. That's what I was going to say. The city of Cerezia." He hailed Elisa and Tio, "And your lovely employers will explain further, as there is more to the story than I have been able to say."

Edited by Mercenary on the Winds

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"Heh? What's so good about them?" Sixteen glanced past Sarasin towards the Evokers and tilted her head, confused. "They're just magical humans... I was nearly killed by people way stronger than them." Sixteen didn't quite get it, but she backed away all the same when Üllr approached her, looking up at him just as confused. "But... Why would someone say something if they don't mean it...? I don't get it. Human are confusing..." She slipped behind Üllr's legs and stayed squatting, peeking at Sarasin from behind her wolfy friend. "Weird..."

Siorel was quite amused by Sixteen's antics, snickering a little. "You'll just have to get better at handling me, Cinaed." She glanced up at him to find his gaze elsewhere, pouting a little. Hmm... Eheh~ Siorel shrugged and reached for another piece of meat before "Ouch!" She recoiled her hand and flinched... In reality, she hadn't hurt herself at all. She just wanted to get Cinaed to look down, pushing her chest out some for when he did.

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The gold was definitely welcome; admittedly the split would have been significantly more favorable something like only a couple of weeks prior, but that was just how this business went sometimes. More importantly - much more importantly - was the fact that one of Hecatia's holy relics was now unaccounted for, and would likely be (had already been, in truth) the source of numerous aches in the coming days, head-and-otherwise. 

Laniva didn't mind the change in plans much - it was going to be necessary, whether she liked it or not, and in truth she was mostly along for the ride as far as their destinations went anyway. She shrugged slightly, to no one in particular, settling for watching Sixteen create awkwardness for Sarasin.

And a roll from the table; there was no reason to turn down such a generous offering, after all...

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Aside from smirking at Alvira, Natalya had stayed quiet for a moment, mostly because Sixteen was taking the space between her and Sarasin with her extreme curiosity, and he had answered many of the questions before she'd have a chance to speculate. "That tracks with everything I heard the dumbass shout at Versaris, though I hadn't had the chance to have a proper talk with--" She cut herself off as Sarasin announced the Evokers' presence, but again waiting for the small excitable girl to finish before picking things up. "You. About that. I take it that Siorel and Üllr's requests to join are accepted, since our route's been changed?"

Thankfully, Elisa didn't quite have to drag Tio into the hall, she 'd woken up enough to at least get there on pace without too much of a problem. "Don't mind him, he just likes flattering beautiful women. Though I don't think I appreciate anyone being called stronger than us that easily~" The strawberry blonde laughed it off; Sixteen was just an oddball in general from what little she'd seen so far, and quick to make literal judgments, by the sound of things. "Why do you think this big girl looks like she's walking dead?" she answered Tasha, playfully poking at her wife, who had managed to get dressed before they'd come. "I told her about that after the interrogation was over, so we stayed up late to re-chart the route with Sarasin's suggestions, to make sure we'll have enough of everything to get to our destination. I'm doing just fine, but she's bad with mornings even without a late night."

Tasha let out a small relieved huff and smiled, at least one good thing coming from all of this. "Right, well, you heard her, so welcome officially aboard," she said, giving brief glances to Üllr and... Siorel, whatever she was doing at the moment. "We'll just have to deal with the Knights if they become a problem, and hopefully they'll just let us go, or at least not attack us again. Much as something like Escaflowne being stolen and the Saint contemplating mobilization are monumentally important, as a foreign mercenary unit, it's also none of our business." Her gaze went between Versaris, Sarasin and the Evokers, "I hope you understand that much. I'm always open to renegotiating our contract, though."

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Sarasin was ever on cue, noticing their arrival the moment that they got through the door. Renais's conversation had done just enough to get Tio awake, and moving, but not terribly well. Elisa was on point, knowing that she wasn't really going to be anywhere near the top of her game for another hour or two. Unfortunately, Tio didn't have another hour or two. Normally, Sixteen's jab would have bothered Tio, but she couldn't find the care to respond, nor was she sure that Sixteen's words weren't true. Lufiria truly had some powerful individuals. The other jab from Elisa, however did warrant something, "Blame my parents, or something..." Tio shook her head, "Yes, yes... Ullr, and Siorel were accepted, and that made the... change that much easier... to justify. We were up much too late between the interrogation, and the... logistic work, and that was on top of making the trek to Sarasin's manse, three times, once while running and then assisting in combat. I am allowed to be exhausted."

Tio wandered over to a seat, and deflated into the chair. She turned to look at Sarasin, "What have you told them?"

Sarasin pouted at Elisa, "Ah, you wound me, Elisa. It is not as simple as simply flattering beautiful women, unless of course, you believe that I've been flattering the entirety of the Tigers? Nay, I say, it is a honor reserved for few. You, and Tio simply are the epitome of what I mean." He sighed, before gazing over at Tio, who did not look as well as Elisa did. "I've only told them that which I was privy to; the attack at Axios, the reason behind the conflict, partially why the route had been changed, and to where. I left the rest for you and Elisa to say, since you'd have a much clearer picture from your long evening." 

Incident at Axios

Spoiler

The journey to Lord Sarasin’s manor had taken about as long as it normally did–about an hour of walking from Liste. The rosy haired evoker had kept up with him rather effortlessly, but the dark haired one had lagged behind a little. It was quite warm, and that seemed to be bothering her. Though, in a display of both care, and impressive endurance, the rosy haired evoker had run back to her partner, and simply hoisted her before catching back up to him and not even slowing down for a moment. It was quite the display, and it kept them on schedule, as they arrived faster than they would have. 

The feline clouded wiped sweat from his brow, “Lord Sarasin should be inside. I couldn’t send anyone ahead te let him know, so he may be in the middle of something.” The feline tilted his head, at the carried evoker before looking at Elisa. “Is she alright?” 

“Yes… yes, I’m fine. It was just… a little warmer than I had expected.” Tio hopped down from Elisa, looking over herself. She’d imagined that with the sun on its way to setting that the heat would fall. It hadn’t, not until the tail end of their journey, and Tio had forgotten how much of a climb it was to Sarasin’s residence. The heat got to her more than she had expected, and that was likely because of their earlier navigation. Tio hadn’t had much of a break between all of these events, and about forty minutes into the trek, Tio had just started flagging. She’d wanted to spend the walk with Elisa conversing about the possibilities of Alvira’s magic, amongst all of the Tigers various magical quirks. Unfortunately, that didn’t catch on, so it would have to wait until later. 

She felt icky, and more than a bit embarrassed that Elisa had taken her teasing, and literally ran with it. Tio was in reasonably good shape for her figure, and what she did, but Elisa was simply another class entirely. “I’m… going to have to wash my dress, and I will need a bath.” She turned and looked at Elisa with a sheepish smile on her face, “Thank you, Elisa. I’d feel much worse if we were out there longer because I misjudged how tired I was in tandem with the heat. You’re managing okay from having to carry me for the last twenty minutes, right?” 

“She’s fine, I’m just in shape for the both of us~” Elisa hadn’t minded that turn of events at all, though she knew that if Tio was to spend the walk talking instead, she’d be in her arms for longer. Not that that was a bad thing, but it felt like she almost knew Tio’s body better than she herself did. “I could carry you for twice as long and still be fine. I don’t have these muscles just for show~” Though, to be fair, she was more just very, very well toned rather than muscular, but more than enough so to draw her wife’s attention without fail. She went on forward, beckoning Tio to follow. “Either way, we should go in and meet the man of the moment. See what’s going on and all that.”

Tio flushed a bit at Elisa’s bit of teasing. She wasn’t muscular in the traditional sense, but she was very well toned. Incredibly well proportioned, and mostly through her own work. “Yes, let’s.” Tio turned to face the feline who had escorted them, “You can return to the gate, Elisa and I can handle ourselves from here. Thank you so very much for escorting us.” Tio fixed her dress, and hair as best she could, and started leading the way inside. 

Being out of the sun was a wondrous feeling. She sighed a little before looking over at Elisa. “I had wanted to spend that trek talking to you about some of the magic that we’d been seeing from the Tigers. Really, I’d wanted to focus on both Miria and Alvira as the others are a bit easier to handle. Miria’s armor is still otherworldly seeming, and Alvira… Well, I don’t think I need to explain how implausible what she’s doing is.” All the while Tio was leading them both through the neatly maintained manor. Even if she’d only been through the manor a handful of times, Tio had a perfect vision of the manor in her head. Even as extravagant as the place looked on the outside, it was both lavish yet sparse on the inside. Sarasin was less a man of appearance, and more of action. 

Finally, the pair stopped in front of a pair of doors. One was left ajar, and there were voices inside. Though on a close listen, it sounded more like that the voices weren’t speaking about anything pressing that the pair would be interrupting. “I suppose that can wait until tonight, during a bath. For now, we need to figure out what’s gone wrong. Hopefully Sarasin keeps to the conversation at hand… My patience for things is starting to wear a little thin, and that embarrassing episode on our way up here is not helping. I guess I’m asking for you to keep me on task as well, Elisa.” 

It wasn’t very surprising that Tio wanted to go back to that conversation even with the smidge of time they had between having the guard leave them and going to meet Sarasin. She was the type to obsess over things that didn’t make sense at first glance, which made her as good a researcher as she was, but it sometimes left her mind pedaling in place a bit too much. “Yeah, which is why you need to keep your head in what’s happening right now, and not all the magical questions floating in there. Time and place, dear~” Elisa was herself interested in that discussion, but it wasn’t the one they needed to pay attention to now. She’d gladly take over talking for Tio for a moment if she was feeling too exhausted.

With a sprightly step she knocked on the door to announce their intrusion, opening it wide to allow themselves in. “Knock knock~ Someone here is expecting us, I believe?”

At Elisa’s knock, and opening of the door, a man seemingly in his early thirties, clean shaven, and well-dressed with a pair of glasses on his face looked up from a piece of paper that he was holding. His face lit up as he recognized the voice, and saw the two wonderful women who had saved him in his time of need. Two incredibly attractive, and multi talented mages from Glacies. He just about jumped out of his chair. “Elisa, and Tio Candialia! You’re ahead of schedule, but as far as I may be concerned, right on time! Come in, come in! Ah… even with the scorching heat outside, the both of you remain radiant.” The man took a bow, before quickly righting himself. His gaze lingered ever so slightly on the pair before he shook his head,  “Right, right, right! Right.” The warm smile lessened only just so slightly. 

“It’s good to see you both, and that you’re well. I’m sure you’re not entirely here to hear me ramble.” He fixed his violet hair, and glasses. “Come, come, sit down. I’ll have Favio get you both something to drink, and I’ll… explain a couple things since I’m sure that the both of you are already aware that your supplies aren’t here, yet. Though, in the meanwhile… How was your journey here? The both of you look incredibly well, so I imagine that your escorts are top notch. Though, nothing compared to either of you, I’d imagine.” 

Elisa opened the door, and Sarasin was as excited as ever. The man nearly launched himself out of the chair to greet them both. Sarasin’s enjoyment of action didn’t quite match the long torrent of words that he always had whenever the two were about. It extended to others, as they were often assured, but Tio and Elisa were never around for one of his long winded strings of compliments when they were aimed at anyone else. Tio put on her best smile as she waved at him, entirely conscious of the man’s quick gaze. She never minded much, but Sarasin tended to lose his thoughts, and with as long winded as Sarasin was…  “I don’t know about radiant, but yes, yes, we’re here, and as well as we can be.” She leaned against Elisa’s shoulder, “I have Elisa to thank for that, for the most part.” 

Tio quickly took up Sarasin’s offer of a seat, and a drink sounded wonderful about now. Though, anything alcoholic was best kept until evening. “Water would be wonderful, and just water.” That did call back the thoughts of Alvira’s magic, but she’d promised to leave that for later. “I think we could just skip to the matter of the supplies, and save the questions of our journey and such for later? I’m sure that you know that any time we could save on our way to find our envoy is time that could keep them alive. I do promise that you’ll get all of that later tonight. I will have to send a message back to our escort about when we can expect to depart, or what to look for so that they can help when the supplies do arrive.” Tio was hoping that being a bit direct and to the point would keep Sarasin from getting himself going. Because if they gave him a road to travel, Sarasin would talk himself along it until he ran out of breath. Tio wasn’t sure she had the patience for that. 

“I’ll just have water too, thanks.” Elisa sat next to Tio, agreeing that it would be best to get the main matter of things out of the way first. “Our escort may be good at their job, but long travels in the late spring of Hecatia get exhausting, no matter how you cut it.” Still, she was far less bothered by how elaborate Sarasin’s compliments could get. She knew that in the eyes of most people, they would be true, but something about how willing he was to go with it, despite the knowledge the two women were married and could instantly vaporize him if he actually tried to push further than that, made her feel nice inside. Elisa had told herself that she didn’t need validation from anyone besides Tio, but she’d never been particularly good at lying.

She’d have to remember she wasn’t there to get drunk on nice words, though, and simply call attention to what had already been said. “Emphasis on the long and exhausting, that is. As much as I like it, we should save the small talk and regaling to after we’re done with the most important thing.”

Sarasin frowned a bit, though he quickly smiled as Elisa remarked that she, on some level, appreciated the remarks. Elisa was always a tad more receptive than Tio was, but it always seemed like he caught Tio in a less than stellar mood. Today seemed to be no exception; the heat outside was starting to get oppressive, and Tio was a neat sort. “Favio, if you would. Move a little quicker than you normally would.” The pale skinned aged man nodded quietly before gliding across the floor to the door. 

“It is a pleasure to see you two again. I will return in a moment, Lady Evokers.” 

With Favio off, and both Tio and Elisa signaling that they were more interested in the important matters, it was time to get down to business. “Well, I admit that there had been a reason beyond friendly banter as to why I asked about how your trip was.” Sarasin sat down in a chair across from the two of them, crossing his long legs. “Since you arrived even ahead of your, admittedly, hurried schedule. I would assume that you encountered no trouble on your way here using less traveled paths to minimize risk. Which means that you likely haven’t encountered the Altair Knights at all.” 

Sarasin sighed, and leaned back in his seat. “As you know, I normally prefer to do things ahead of schedule, and things this time were no exception. I had sent for your supplies well before this moment, but if my information is correct, the fact that your supplies aren’t here yet was entirely out of my hands.” 

Tio appreciated that Sarasin got the point. While she didn’t mind his compliments, she wasn’t really in the mood for them, and she had more important things to worry about. They were simply in the way, and Sarasin’s ability to lose his proper train of thought meant that he had to stay on task or they would be here forever. “Yes, things were incredibly smooth once we left Eibar. I made the choice to keep ourselves off the main roads since I didn’t want to deal with any Hecatian Knights, or locals that could be an issue.” Tio’s eyes then narrowed, as Sarasin appeared to have justified her pathing. It sounded like the Altair Knights were causing issues with the supplies. 

“Thankfully, no, we haven’t encountered the knights at all. But what do you mean, Sarasin? What information do you have, and why would our supplies be this late, if you sent for them?” There was a suddenly growing feeling of concern within Tio. The Altair Knights were a mixed bag, slanted towards people their current entourage should avoid. Celine Altair was the head captain of the knights, and she, like her mother as she’d been told, was quite progressive on matters of the clouded. However, it was her father who was regent, and he was a fossil stuck in time. Tio felt her annoyance bubble just thinking about him, and his backward thoughts. “What’s going on, Sarasin?” 

Sarasin looked between the two women. A pause as he froze a bit on Tio. He hadn’t quite parsed that the older Evoker wasn’t wearing her mantle. Impressive was a bit of an understatement for her, and Elisa, really. The two of them were quite far beyond most that he– Sarasin coughed, realizing that his thoughts were starting to drift, and that his eyes almost definitely lingered. “Right. Right. I hadn’t quite noticed! Haha… Yes, anyway… where was I?” He put a hand to his forehead, a blush across his face. “Oh, yes! There’s been… rumors that something extraordinary happened at Axios Hall. Given how far it is away from here, I can’t exactly confirm the truth of that, but I have heard that the Knights have been out in force because of it.” Sarasin leaned in, sure to keep his eyes on Tio and Elisa’s, and his voice lowered to a whisper. “You didn’t hear this from me, but apparently… Someone managed to break into Axios Hall, and make off with one of the relics. They’ve been stopping every caravan they can find on the main highways, focusing more specifically on those with clouded. There may be more to that, but I can’t say for certain. Hecatia is still… well behind the times.” 

Sarasin stood up, and started pacing about the room. “I had worried that you may be slowed by the Knights; I’m unaware of the specifics of your entourage, but seeing as they’re a Glacian outfit, I would gather that there are clouded among them. Not that you would have had any issue with that. The both of you could easily remove the knights if they became a nuisance, and given your beauty, I’m sure they would be inclined to believe your words–I know I would. It would be foolish to believe that anyone affiliated with the two of you could be involved!” 

Elisa could easily see that Sarasin was getting lost in her wife’s figure, which wasn’t altogether too surprising, it was what he tended to do if given the chance. Thankfully, he caught himself and got onto the actually important things, being rather much more important than she’d initially expected, especially with the relevance to their entourage. “Even if he had no evidence, Artorius would surely scapegoat the Clouded if he only had the chance to. The province hasn’t gotten far from its roots yet, not with that raisin on the throne, regardless of Celine’s effort to the contrary,” she commented, rolling her eyes. “And with how Liste deals mostly with Clouded, I’m going to guess that your supply connection might have run into problems of the sort.”

The perkier Evoker would largely ignore his bloviating about their looks, at least while there was still an important matter to discuss. She could entertain him later… Oh, how she could mess with him if she wanted to.

Tio felt an exasperated sigh coming on as Sarasin's eyes wandered, reminding Tio that she didn’t have her mantle on. It was a fairly common occurrence, and not just with Sarasin, but Tio much preferred any attention come when she wasn’t working. Before she could gently ask Sarasin to remain on task, he refound his footing, and said words that had Tio tense. “Axios was attacked, and not only attacked, but successfully?” Tio pondered a moment, realizing that the path that she’d planned had been much, much more fortunate than intended. Though, even if that was the case, they now had a large, and growing problem. Sarasin even mentioned that they were specifically targeting clouded caravans, and the Tigers were skewed clouded. Tio deflated in her seat, “Well, this has turned into an awful situation.” Elisa already vocalized the obvious problem; the supply convoy being late almost definitely meant that they were accosted by the Knights. 

Tio ran over things in her head. She and Elisa were more than enough to get the Knights to back off of them, but the problem was that they would likely be accosted repeatedly. Not only that, depending on the questions that were asked, the knights could try to implicate them. Fighting the knights would be simple enough, but it would also place a target on their back. Tio groaned as she flopped back in her seat in frustration. “Great, I’m going to likely have to adjust our path at this rate. Who knows when the convoy will arrive under conditions like this?” 

Sarasin found his compliments falling on mostly deaf ears as Tio took the news about as well as could be expected of her. He sighed a bit, as the doors swung back open, and Favio walked back in with the beverages placing them all down with remarkable grace before vanishing through the doors once more. Sarasin questioned if Favio was a ghost sometimes, the man felt like Favio could go anywhere he wanted and be unnoticed or questioned. He cleared his throat, focusing mostly on Elisa as Tio flopped back in her seat. “I can certainly say that your supplies will be arriving in the morning at the latest. I’m not entirely in the dark on my people. And, yes, I can believe that our philander-in-chief, or as you say, raisin would scapegoat the clouded and monsters for such a grand loss. A breach at Axios… I’m sure that the news has probably reached Saint Veras, and we can be sure that she’ll demand drastic action.”

He took the drink, and took a small drink, savoring the crisp, strawberry taste in the wine. “Ah, Favio knows the time well…” He set the drink down. “I’m sorry to be the one to bring this information to you, but it would be better for you to know now than to be blindsided by it. As for other matters, your people won’t have to worry about the supplies. I’ve already instructed the watchmen to situate things, and wait for an appropriate time to notify… Oh, what’s her name, you shared it in the letter… Ah, yes, Natalya, Commander Natalya. So you’ll not have to worry about that, though, sending a messenger back to notify them of other things as well can be arranged.”

“If you have any more questions for me regarding that, you can ask freely, and I am expecting some more information on what is happening outside when Saiga returns from his message delivering. So I should have more to say, and hopefully be more helpful in providing clarity.” He returned to his seat, “Now then, with all of that out of the way… How exactly are my two favorite mages? How fares your entourage? Anyone intriguing? This Natalya sounds like an interesting person. I know there’s little to worry about, but they’re not giving you any trouble, are they? Ah, it’s been so long… So much to say, and ask, and see…” The serious facade was quickly fading away… 

“Suppose this was a real enemy action, Veras still wouldn’t dare to start another war. I’m sure she remembers how badly Hecatia was humiliated in the Collapse. She’d need some kind of evidence that Lufiria is planning to invade, for real this time,” Elisa mused, nodding to the servant who brought their drinks. If the convoy was going to arrive in time, then their only remaining concerns would be what knock-on effects this incident would have… both for their journey and for the reason they were sent to Lufiria in the first place. Them cutting ties with Glacies, now a mysterious, successful, attack on Axios Hall; the chances of there being some kind of link between them seemed all too likely.

But to continue further on that line of thought would require more information than any of them currently possessed, and with Sarasin getting into his drink, that conversation wouldn’t stay on its rails for too much longer even if the Evokers tried to keep it there. A quick sip from her glass, and Elisa thought it better to go with his flow instead of forcing the matter. Tio was exhausted enough without trying to wrangle him on topic. “The commander has a motherly air to her… Maybe that’s why they keep picking up new people even when they don’t have to. Not that I don’t get it, it’s difficult for Clouded more often than not, and she’s one herself. But if you’re going to meet her later, set your expectations high or you’ll be knocked out cold, if how much you wax poetic about us is any indication,” she replied with a small smirk.

Tio had simply just gone into thinking. What were they to do now? This would certainly slow them down, and if they were to get into any confrontations, it would consume more supplies and they would likely have to stop again before entering Islexia. The problem was that Tio was just spinning gears in her head. She was a little too tired to start thinking about all of this right now. “At least Elisa’s right… if this is actual military action, the threat of actual war is currently low, but that begs the question as to why any of this is happening now? Though… I’m sure that if Hecatia were to declare war… Mura, Karavel and Islexia would jump at the chance, and with Felt at the helm in Kansei…” Tio looked at Elisa, “There’s a good chance they’d fall in too.” That would be a worse case scenario beyond what Iseria was fearing before, and they would also certainly be drawn in. 

Tio took the placed drink, and quickly downed it, the cool beverage bringing back some of the older Evoker’s energy. Though, by that point, Sarasin was already beginning to devolve into his usual antics. Elisa was in top form, though, immediately going right where she knew Sarasin’s heart was. “Hehe… No, the Tigers have been nothing but wonderful. Most of them, anyway. And well… Natalya is quite impressive.” Normally, Tio would have gone the extra length to tease, but her social capital had been expended. “Honestly, I think you’d be quite taken with the group. They’re colorful, and remarkably talented. I’m a little fond of them myself.” 

Sarasin’s eyes lit up as Elisa, and Tio explained that this Natalya was quite his type. “Oooh? Well, well. It seems I will have to be on my best behavior then, make a relatively good impression. As good as one as I can make! If she’s even half the woman that the two of you are, I’d be lucky to meet her, and the rest.” The man waved his hands a little more, “Aha… So even you’re a tad fond of them, Tio? I’m a little hurt that you’ve taken to them so freely, but I’ve had to struggle for a length of time to even garner a bit of your respect! It seems I have much to learn.” He relaxed a tad before looking both Elisa and Tio over, “Goodness… even time away doesn’t diminish how incredible the two of you are. It may have been a tough time for Liste back then, but we gained something, the honor of knowing the two Evokers, and knowing that the tales were underplayed! Truly… meeting such gorgeous, and talented mages… an experience I doubt I’ll ever have again.” 

He blinked, and then cleared his throat, “Aha… yes, um. Got a little excited, and carried about on the swell of these emotions.” 

Tio sighed as Sarasin went off into one of his long winded monologues. In truth, Tio appreciated the compliments, but there was a time and a place, and while this was the place, Tio’s mind was not in the proper time. She just wanted to freshen up, and relax a little. Tio turned away, and covered her mouth so the other two couldn’t quite hear. You got carried away by the swell of something, alright, Sarasin. 

She looked over at Elisa, a look that said, “I need a bath, and to relax.” She did notice that her face was a little warm. Perhaps the compliments were getting to her a little, after all. It was nice to be applauded for their efforts, especially after everything they both had to go through to get to this point. 

Elisa chuckled at Sarasin’s claims of favoritism, and a bit louder from his sudden… apology? for lauding them so much. Tio looked exhausted in a few ways, but she could leave keeping the merchant entertained to her lovely wife, with how much more energy she had left, acknowledging her with a nod. “Last I checked, you didn’t take care of two ships of pirates and a rival mercenary group while we were watching. Mmm… You still have an indoor bath in the mansion, don’t you?” If the strawberry blonde knew him at all, that would make him read too much into the question when it was her asking, and this time it was intentional. “The trip’s been on the sweaty side and all… I’d love to be able to take this suit off for a while again.~” A coy side glance toward Sarasin and a wink to seal the deal. This would be fun~

Sarasin chuckled at Elisa, “Two pirate ships, and a rival mercenary outfit? Well, well, I shouldn’t be surprised–you two and Lady Iseria picked them–but hearing that they’re so capable does my worried heart good.” The man shrugged, “I cannot say that I’d excelled at books or blades, but my usefulness will come in gathering the necessary supplies, and making sure that you’ll not have to worry! I’ll find my way onto that list yet! In fact, I believe I have a tale that migh–” He paused as Elisa asked a question that he well should have expected. “Oh, right. Um, yes. I still have the lovely indoor bath! Uh…” Sarasin’s mind drifted to the fact that it was sweltering outside, and the pair had just arrived. Oh… Sarasin had paused, and then Elisa continued, ‘The trip’s been on the sweaty side and all… I’d love to be able to take this suit off for a while again.~” 

Elisa laid the tracks, and Sarasin’s brain did the rest of the work. It didn’t seem like the pair had brought other clothes along, and if they bathed, well… A flush crept across his face as his mind worked harder, and harder. “Aha… Y-y-yes. The baths are… still…” 

It took everything Tio had left, and then some not to burst out laughing as Sarasin started melting down in front of them. Elisa was taking advantage of Sarasin’s… rather active mind, but it was clear, at least to her, that Elisa was talking about taking the suit off, for her as by the time that Elisa went to freshen up, they two of them would just be relaxing in the quarters. It was a mistake that Tio didn’t feel like correcting. That said, Elisa asked the question that Tio wanted to know the answer to, and with that Tio got to her feet. “I think. To that end, Elisa.” Tio smiled at her, and let a small chuckle escape from her lips, “I think I will go and freshen up for the moment. I apologize for my little interaction, but I am hot, sticky, and exhausted. I promise I will be more interesting after I’ve cleaned myself. We’ll continue things when I return, and thank you, Sarasin.” 

She turned to head to the door, making sure that her back was to Sarasin as she looked at Elisa, mouthing, “Don’t wind him up too hard.” 

“Sounds good to me~” Elisa flashed a grin to her wife as she departed, knowing where to draw the line well enough. “As for you,” she began and turned back around to Sarasin, “I’m gonna keep you company, so you don’t get any unadvisable ideas about my wife. Buuut, something tells me you might have them about me instead, hmm?” The athletic lady made a show of crossing her shapely legs, though she’d take care not to poke too far. “You had a tale to tell or something like that, didn’t you? Don’t get too distracted by a taken woman, now.~” The man was far too entertaining to tease, and observing him stumbling over his words and actions just from looking at them could’ve kept Elisa going all night.

Sarasin was brought back into reality, by Tio rising from her seat, and bidding the two goodbye for the moment. His mind was still well on the high from the imagined thought. “Oh, uh, uh… yes, Tio, we will… see you later. Enjoy the… bath.” Tio stopped, and appeared to have said something to Elisa, before the elder Evoker made her way out the door. It was then that his head caught up to the moment, and realized that Elisa had remained. A fact that made the man gulp again as she made a show of her legs, and seemed to know that he was having… thoughts. “Ah ha… hahaha…” The man quickly took a drink, and fixed his collar, before sitting down across from Elisa. “I, I did, yes. I, um, apologize, just that, uh, the two of you are quite distracting, and well…” He cleared his throat, and shook his head. 

“W-Well, I was asked to assist in a shipping deal involving the knights. Lady Celine herself requested, even if she wasn’t there herself. Unfortunate, but I make do. Anyway, she did happen to send one of her adjutants to finalize our partnership, and on the road, disaster struck!” Sarasin felt his composure starting to return to him, so long as his eyes didn’t leave hers. It was not safe to look at Elisa anywhere below the neck, lest his train of thought derail. “A foolish group of bandits thought to accost the small retinue of knights, normally an easy task for Amaryllis such as themselves, but the adjutant was a little under the weather. They fought valiantly, but the bandits desired blood much like starving, rabid wolves, uncaring of their own lives so long as they can taste sustenance.” 

Sarasin moved his hand in a large sweeping motion, “Myself and the guards arrived perfectly on time, and before I’d realized what had even occurred, I’d stolen the blade from the guard nearest to me, and drove off the last two bandits with bladesmanship that I hadn’t realized I had. The lady knight quite thanked me for my assistance. Perhaps I do have a hidden innate talent for the blade that needed time to mature! My guards and I escorted the lady until we could finalize our deal, and that deal continues to this day.” He sighed, “The lady was also rather fetching. Not particularly my type, but a lovely, intelligent woman as well. Said perhaps it was worth it for me to take up practice… You’re capable with the lance, are you not, Elisa?” His eyes wandered down for a moment, over the younger Evoker’s more toned physique before snapping back up, “Perhaps one day we could spar? Perhaps I have a chance.” 

Sarasin did like to regale them with stories when he could, though this was the first Elisa had heard of him being directly involved with the Knights on the road, and even participating in combat himself. They of course knew he had a deal with them, it was how he managed to do so much despite how small his relative influence was, but that it had come to be the way it was from Celine being personally, if mildly, indebted to the man… well, that felt not quite how it had actually happened. Who knows, maybe he just liked women so much he suddenly gained bravery when truly needed. “Haha, I am, not nearly to the skill I have with magic, of course. But I’m pretty sure that I could run circles around you even if I hold back a little. I wouldn’t mind seeing how good you actually are with a sword though, see how much truth there is to that story of yours.” Still, even if there was more exaggeration than truth to what he said, Sarasin did have a talent for speech, whenever he wasn’t busy being distracted. Perhaps to be expected from a merchant lordling, but always nice to see that he was skilled in what he ought.

Elisa shifted in her seat, taking a deeper swig from her glass. “If we have time before leaving tomorrow, anyway. Things could get busy considering we have more people on board now than when we left Glacies, and that might necessitate some extra planning on the route.”

Elisa took his challenge in stride, even turning it back upon him in an instant. He had little belief that he would ever be able to hold his own against Elisa, even if she was fighting out of her main expertise. She, and Tio, were so incredibly skilled in their domains that even fighting outside of that, Sarasin felt like a mouse approaching a lion. Elisa, on physique alone, could probably break his bones without too much effort on her part. “P-perhaps there will be time to do so, yes.” Then Elisa mentioned that the group had widened since leaving Glacies. 

“Hmm… I’ve not exactly been kept abreast–" Sarasin paused a moment before chuckling, "informed of your plans and situation, so I can’t say how necessary it would be, but perhaps it’s worth it to keep the name Cerezia in mind?” The man stood up, walked over to a bookcase, and returned with a small scroll. He unfurled it, and placed it on the table; it appeared to be a map of the province. “I’m sure that Tio has chosen a path that would roughly avoid most large villages and such, but if things do become a little hectic, Cerezia would be a good place for more supplies.” He let the scroll close up, and looked at Elisa, “I’m sure you two have already kept that thought in mind, but there is not much more that I can do aside from gawk, and sometimes squawk ideas.” 

Sarasin wondered where Saiga and Sara were. Saiga would be out until the morning, but Sara should have been back with other information. On that note, he hoped that the supplies would be arriving sooner rather than later; he had been dipping into his personal supplies to help the villagers, but that would slowly come to an end. The fact of the matter was that Liste needed their supplies. Haah… what a mess, what a mess. Hopefully nothing comes of this growing pit of mine. A shame it's rarely wrong…

Tio nodded after gathering some food on a plate. "Elisa, if you would correct me if I misspeak, I'll try not to but I cannot... promise anything." She cleared her throat, "Everything that Sarasin has said, regarding the matter with the Hecatian Knights is accurate. The change in path was being considered before we... learned of Ullr and Siorel, but their joining means that Cerezia is... the best next step." Tio looked at Natalya, "We are... aware that your contract is specifically... for our mission. However, there is a very good chance that we may be roped into this no matter how we look at it. Last evening, you all captured the foolish architect of last night's festivities, and we interrogated him."

To Live or Die on a Moonlit Night 

Spoiler

Even exhausted, Tio was doing everything she could to not visibly simmer about everything that had happened this evening. If it had just been their supplies, it would have been something easily smoothed over. Then they learned about the attack on Axios, and the theft of the Escaflowne. Not particularly a group issue, though, Tio and Elisa likely would have become involved had they not been in the midst of their own mission. They still might have given the severity of the theft. The issue that their group would almost definitely run afoul of knights trying to make their mark, and target their perceived enemy put them at grave risk for delays. Then, there was whatever the hell this was. 

This contingent of knights had not only accosted civilians, but their supplies as well, and had attacked the Tigers with full intention of continuing on to Liste if they didn’t get the confession that they wanted. It didn’t seem like the Tigers had taken any serious injuries, but there were a couple knocks to her understanding. Which finally brought her to the man being escorted by two actual Altair Knights, with Ullr and Sixteen following behind. She still wasn’t terribly sure about allowing the girl along, but Tio figured it would just be more effort to ask her to wait for Ullr to come back. The interrogation likely wouldn’t last all that long. Tio was hoping that the captain could fill in a couple blanks about the theft, and perhaps explain his reasoning behind his actions. Tio already knew what her course of action would be; Celine would be notified by Sarasin, and Celine would deal with the man. If he caused them more issues… Well, Tio always wanted to leave that as a last resort. 

The shopkeeper offered the group a backroom where they could speak with the captain, which Tio quickly accepted. The moment the knights brought their former leader through the door, Tio turned, “Thank you Sir, but I will only need Sir Ferid, as well as my wife, Ullr, and the girl for now. If you would go and help with the caravan, that would be appreciated.” Tio then turned her eyes on Maraval, “Now then… You. I’ve got a couple questions for you, and I think it’s in your best interest to assist us.”

Noah hesitated a moment, but didn’t feel comfortable objecting. Maraval may have been a fool, and a terrible person and leader, but he didn’t feel comfortable leaving him entirely undefended. “Of… of course, Lady Evoker. All I ask is that the Cap– I mean, Maraval, lives so that Commander Celine can deal with him formally. His actions are a Hecatian matter, and should be handled as such, I believe. Though… if he doesn’t walk out of here… he chose his path, and so he has to walk it to the end.” 

He turned and nodded at Ferid, before disappearing out the door. 

Maraval’s bravado, and malicious intent slowly faded as another woman, who he assumed to be the other Evoker, joined them on their way to find a place to be questioned. The ice about his arms was still holding strong, and everything he knew about ice told him that the ice around his arms shouldn’t be anywhere near as strong as it was. His prospects were waning, and when they arrived in the room where he would be questioned, he realized that the room was a little too spacious for what he had in mind. It was slowly beginning to dawn on him that whatever plans he thought he had were starting to evaporate. His arms were bound still, at least two of the people inside the room were likely capable of deleting him from existence, and another was a Sylph Knight. That only left him with the mutt, and the girl whose eyes had turned him to stone, which meant that she could very well do so again. None of them seemed like good targets.

Maraval kept his eyes down as he listened to Noah speak. Those really were his only two options. Regardless of his beliefs, he had turned his back on his duties as a knight, and had attacked the escort of two envoys of Glacies. Disgrace, and discharge would be the only positive outcome, as it was the only one in which he lived, and even that was questionable. He was currently at their mercy, and would continue being so. “...Fine. Ask away.” Playing dumb now would only get him killed, and that… perhaps was a last resort. “What do you want to hear from me?” He looked at Ullr, and couldn’t stop himself from scowling. 

Being treated to a meeting of sorts, with the knight that treated him like trash partially encased in ice was an alright deal to Üllr, who followed along to the room in general alert –he knew nothing of these parts, just that fate seemed to be going his way for once.

Üllr stared at Maraval’s face, unsurprised at the man’s scowl at this point. It was almost tiring to see the man hate his existence out of principle so, nearly taking the joy away of giving his group of bigots a beating. “An apology would be nice, but I’m not expecting that.” He couldn’t help interjecting. “They’ll probably ask you about that thief situation you said. I’d like to know if you had any more reason to suspect me than being who I am.” Hopefully he wasn’t overstepping with this much. 

It was the boy who spoke up. He half expected the boy to watch the proceedings with nothing more than a smug look on his face. The girl behind him was just watching. The bile in his throat began to rise as the boy asked for an apology but he tempered himself. As steady as he remained outwardly, inward, he was trembling. Shivering at the thought of being returned back to that hell. The stone prison was perhaps the scariest thing he’d ever dealt with in his life, and he’d dealt with Artorius’s children. Celine was the least frightening of the three of them. If she could do that to him again… No, no… I can’t let that happen to me again.

Maraval scoffed before turning away, “I see no reason to apologize to one such as you. My methods may have been extreme, but I was acting in accordance with the power given to me by Lord Artorius, Scion of the first of the Four Constellation Families, and regent of the Altair Province.” He looked between Ullr, Ferid, and the Evokers, before resting back on Ullr, “You were uncooperative with our search, and no one could confirm your previous whereabouts. All anyone, including yourself, would say was that you were heading to Liste. As for the thief situation… I think our Sylph Knight could do that more justice than I would.” He glowered at Ferid, “I’m surprised that one of you false knights is out this far, perhaps you’re actually doing the right thing for once? Damned Sylph and Amaryllis acting on your own accord against the regent’s command.”

The tall knight had simply gone along with whatever the Evokers felt was correct to do and would’ve been content to just keep whatever was said in mind, but of course Maraval had to involve him in this business. He scoffed quietly, still not giving the captain the honor of eye contact, much less courtesy. “A knight serves his people, not the whims of whoever happens to be in command. Blindly following what you’re told makes you no better than a sheep tasked to be the shepherd.” While Ferid did know rather well what was up with the ‘thief situation’, having said as much earlier when appeasing Tio, he would not suffer things being derailed. “This is your interrogation. You don’t seem to care whether random people know everything in detail either way, so is there a sudden problem holding your lips shut, or did you use your mission as an excuse?”

“Sir Ferid has a point, and one that I hope you’ll acknowledge.” Tio had reformed the crystals into her staff, but the threat was still readily apparent; her hair still bright green. “I’ll speak with Ferid later. You’re the one who abandoned your duty as a knight, and treated your own people as enemy combatants. I happen to know more about this situation than I’ve said, but I’m going to hear it from you, and your explanation for everything that came of it.” Tio leaned in a little closer to Maraval, “And if you thought you were going to get out of here without apologizing, you’re insane.”

Tio stood up to her full height, and crossed her arms in front of her, “I would like to know the exact situation of what happened at Axios, everything you know about it. Why are the knights targeting monster and clouded convoys far more than others? I’d like not to think that it’s completely out of virulent prejudice, but maybe that’s me having a higher opinion of knights not from Sylph or Amaryllis than I should.”

Sixteen watched this knight talk and act like he was still above them. She hated that! What was his deal? Was it because they were monsters? It must’ve been just because of that. That’s why they had Üllr on display, after all… Her pupils thinned into slits as her eyes narrowed, slinking out from behind the wolf man. She crawled towards Maravel on all fours, smiling wide at him. “Hi! I’m Sixteen~ You’re being reaaaaally bad right now…” She sat squat in front of him, still smiling, her pupils slitted completely like a lizard’s.

“Del taught me how to use my magic. Who to use it on. How to use it… For scenarios like this. You like to talk a lot… So maybe instead of listening to all this drivel, the nice knight here holds your mouth open, we grab your tongue… And I turn it to stone?” She tilted her head, watching his eyes. “Then we can snap it off and you can stop spewing all this filth… How’s that sound?”

Maraval clenched his hands. As best he could while they were still frozen, that is. “I serve the people who matter.” He spat, before stiffening as Tio began speaking. Her sheer presence was almost oppressive. He noticed it earlier but the traitorous knights, including Noah, were terrified of her, as if they’d seen something. He grit his teeth. He had to keep his airs about him. It didn’t matter if she, and the other woman were actually the Evokers of Glacies. It couldn’t matter. “I’ll tell you… but you’ll have to drag that apology out of me.” 

Maraval sucked in a breath, and then… the girl moved. She plopped right down in front of him after slithering over from behind the wolf boy. She introduced herself with an almost unnerving childlike intonation. Maraval felt his blood run cold, and then colder still as she began talking, and her intonation along with the horrific act she explained made Maraval push himself backwards. He felt his face twist, the fears that he pushed down sensing an opening and rushed to the surface. “...Get this abomination away from me. Please. Get her back.” Maraval cursed his body, his mind giving himself away. If he could have just reached out. The girl was small; it wouldn’t have been difficult to just crush her. “Keep her back!” He looked at Ullr, and then Tio, “I’ll talk! I said I would talk! Just…” He pushed further away. “I, I, I’m s-sorry, boy… just, just get her back!” 

“Heheh~ See?” Sixteen brought a clawed hand up and gently patted him on the head, still smiling, pleased with herself. “If you’re good, I don’t have to hurt you. Thank you for apologizing~” Without another word, she slinked back to behind Üllr, bu9t not before she dexterously whipped the tip of her tail against his cheek, the faintest cut appearing. “Hmhmhm~ Was I of help, Miss Evoker lady?”

Üllr was surprised the others were standing up for his sake like that –he’d given up on the apology pretty quickly, but Tio and Sixteen had somehow coaxed that out of this bigot’s mouth, he couldn’t help a slight smile. “...Got it. Come here, Sixteen.” He approached her, a light hand on her shoulder. “Thanks.” He muttered the word to her.

“Don’t keep the lady waiting.” Having gotten more than he could imagine out of the meeting, Üllr was fairly satisfied, leaving Tio to continue her interrogation. 

Tio blinked as Sixteen–that apparently was her real name–proved herself to be much, much more effective in this interrogation than she could have expected. She had been so shy not too long ago, and then was able to horrify their captive into complete compliance. Tio herself tensed at hearing the graphic threat, but quickly regained composure, “Yes, you were… quite helpful, dear.” I think I can’t really put off asking questions too much longer after that… 

She turned her attention back to the now cowering Maraval, her crystalline staff shimmering. “I believe that’s our side of that bargain. Your turn.”

Maraval felt the gliding of something across his skin as the girl returned to Ullr’s side. He hadn’t seen the tail, and felt for his cheek. A spattering of his blood was on his hand. His breathing was rough, and he was doing everything he could not to shiver. “Axios… was assaulted. I, hah, don’t know all the details. It was a small force, and they were strong enough to overwhelm the garrison. The Escaflowne.” He looked at Tio and Elisa, “I’m sure you all know what that is.” Maraval took a deep breath. His lungs hurt. His face hurt. 

“The Relic of Galari… the Hero-Queen of Hecatia. It is the symbol of Hecatia. For it to be stolen… It is a blemish of the highest order on Hecatia, and the Altair Knights. More information started to bleed in recently… The force that authored the attack was mostly clouded.” Maraval turned away from the group, “I did not lie when I said Lord Artorius gave us authority, and I would not lie about the truth. The attackers were mostly clouded, which is what sparked the search and seizure policy. The boy was… accosted for his unwillingness to assist in our investigation, and because no one could confirm his origin, nor destination. If more information has come out about the incident, I don’t have it. Well… that’s not entirely true. There is an unconfirmed report as of the moment. I’m not… sure it warrants mentioning.”

“Ah…” And there it was, Üllr remembered the knight saying something about clouded being involved. Did it justify how much scrutiny he dealt with? Not really. "I told you what I could. I was on my way to Liste because I heard more people like me were here. More clouded." Üllr shrugged, "I had nothing with me, just caught the carriage when I heard where it was going." It's not his fault Maraval and the others still held him to grasp at straws of potential involvement. Not by his account.

Üllr had a feeling the report Maraval mentioned might as well be worth digging, but this whole national treasure thing wasn't something he wanted any skin on. He looked at Tio, expecting her to press on it.

"Eheheh~" Sixteen smiled as she was patted and praised for her efforts. This knight was all trash, spouting more excuses and piles of crap. "You had him accosted by multiple guards in Liste, though! On display. Talked up a big game about knowing his accomplices were here and they had to give themselves up... Sounds to me like he wasn't under suspicion, you'd already gone and decided he was bad." Sixteen smiled wide. "I hope they keep you alive after all this, mister. I really want you to reflect on the wrongs you've done for a long time~"

“I would appreciate it if you didn’t believe that I, or anyone else in this room was born yesterday. I’ve already been informed about how you handled Ullr, as well as your demands, and decorum in handling them. Admittedly, I don’t care if they were given to you by Artorius, or Saint Veras herself. As a knight of the realm your first duty, above all else, is to your people.” Tio tapped her staff on the ground, the instrument shimmering. Tio glanced at Sixteen. She appeared to be a slow burn sort. So quiet and meek to begin, but the moment she was given an opening she revealed her ferocity. “That will be up to Lord Sarasin, and I’m fairly certain that he will be overjoyed to hand this man over to Celine. As much as his actions endangered the Tigers, and in essence attacked another ally on shaky premises, this is a Hecatian matter, and will be dealt with as such. Unless of course you give us any reason to defend ourselves further.” The staff flashed, “I wouldn’t advise that.” 

Tio started pacing about the room, and her staff followed behind her, “Back to the matter at hand… So you’re saying that Axios was assaulted by a small force, and they were successfully able to overwhelm the garrison–known for their strength in the face of countless attempts of thievery, and no one has a proper grasp of who they were? If it wasn’t for your actions, and having friends in the know, I’d be calling you a liar. Axios is easily one of the best defended locations in the entire alliance.” Tio then stopped and faced Maraval, “If there’s any more potential information, I would like to know. Even if it’s a long shot.” 

Tio then looked at Ferid. The man had been quiet since the interrogation formally started, and as a knight of Sylph, he probably had a decent amount of information on things. “Sir Ferid, I would also like you to share whatever information you can with us on this.” Tio gestured to Elisa, “My wife and I, given our duties, would likely have been called to assist in the investigation at some point. Things are just a bit ahead of schedule, I suppose.” 

Maraval flinched as Sixteen spoke again, tearing a hole in his curtain of deniability. Not that it mattered; it seemed like the buxom evoker was already kept well informed of things that happened prior to combat. He tensed his hands, which appeared more like he was straining himself as his hands remained encased in ice. His head shot up as Tio revealed that he would be handed over to Sarasin, who would almost definitely hand him over to Celine. It was so incredibly unlucky. He almost envied the men and women the mercenaries felled on the field of battle. If he had simply died, he’d be spared the suffering and anguish of being looked down upon by the damned Amaryllis. 

“...There was a rumor. An unconfirmed-as-of-yet report that suggested that there was a Pegasus rider with the force that attacked. We all know how rare Pegasi are, and we all most certainly know where Pegasus riders generally originate.” Maraval shrugged, “But like I said, no one has been able to confirm it or not, and the news hasn’t reached us if they have confirmed it.”

Maraval cocked his head towards Ferid. “Perhaps you would know more? Since you’re a knight of Sylph; information travels with your ilk faster.” 

Things continued to escalate, Üllr was failing to grasp at some of the gravity –apparently the place was very well guarded. Maraval brought up a familiar point from his questioning, which let Üllr grasp the situation again. "Right. You said that when we were on the way here." And then the comment about where pegasi originated, too… "Hm." Üllr wasn't knowledgeable enough to help further insight, but at least it sounded like something to keep in mind in the future. 

"It's still a rumor." Ferid would have to be careful not to divulge too much, but also confirm whatever he could of what he was asked. Maybe that would give Maraval some perspective on what he was allowed to say. "Nobody outside of the Knights is supposed to know it was Escaflowne, but that much was said already. We don't know exactly who conducted the attack. Many of them were Clouded, like said, but devoid of insignia."

Finally, he bothered to look at the disgraced captain, pulling himself away from the wall he'd been leaning on. "Rumor or not, my orders are to be on increased alert for pegasi, and apprehending one if found. That, and most of what you've already coughed up to people who didn't need to know the details, is the gist of the message I'm delivering. And the faster we can get this over with, the sooner I can leave in the morning to continue." He turned to Tio, "That's all. Anything else that you might want to know is irrelevant to this matter and will not be answered."

Tio clicked her tongue. Ferid essentially confirmed that there may be something to the rumor, which was incredibly troubling. “It’s not exactly a confirmation but… if a pegasus rider was involved… I hate to think of the worst outcome, but…” Ferid was certainly much more a man of procedure than their captive was. Asking any further questions to him, without an implicit threat, would be pointless and Tio was starting to feel a little woozy on her end. Best to limit any displays until she could finally rest like she was supposed to have been doing tonight.

Tio looked at Elisa, “Well, we considered the chances, but they seem to be rising moment by moment. Though, this does leave a very glaring issue. Let’s say that it was a pegasus rider, and from there we assume that they’re from Lufiria. Lufiria has had zero interest in engaging the alliance, as shown by their refusal to pursue the Alliance twenty-six years ago when they had the upper hand, and by never offensively retaliating against Islexia’s repeated prodding.” Tio shook her head. “What exactly would be so important about not only throwing all of that to the wind, but actively engaging in military action against Hecatia? Islexia would have at least made some sense… and it doesn’t sound like either of our knights here have any idea, or are willing to say.” Tio gave a glance to Ferid. It could just be who the man was; he seemed like an aloof sort, duty bound, and a member of Sylph, one of the more decorated orders of the Altair Knights. It could just have been an adherence to orders, but it felt like he had more to say, and wasn’t going to. 

Tio sighed and then turned back to Maraval, stifling the urge to yawn. “Alright… what exactly are we to do with you? I’ll be honest, I expected more belligerence from you, but I suppose I’ll have to thank Alvira for the restraints on your hands, and Sixteen for the restraint on your tongue. Sixteen seems to have her thoughts on the matter, but, Ullr,” Tio turned to the wolf clouded, “I’d like to hear your thoughts on it; I’ve already voiced mine.” 

Maraval’s eyes narrowed slightly. The bastard Sylph knight confirmed his rumor, and then continued to sear him for his loose tongue. “So… we are searching for a pegasus rider… well, all I can say is that Lord Artorius wants the blade found, and… that Lady Veras is also getting involved. I can’t say that I know for certain, but I’ve heard that the Saint is rather furious, and may be calling on knights from the other provinces to assist in the search.” Maraval couldn’t help a bit of a smile. “If it… really is what you’re saying, Miss Evoker, I don’t see how this doesn’t reflect back on Glacies. You are allies with the damned psychopaths, aren’t you?” 

Maraval glanced at Sixteen, and then stiffened. “...What?” He looked at Ullr, the daggers from earlier returning. “You’re… going to give him a say in what becomes of me? Him?” Maraval shuddered, and then began laughing. “Leave me at the mercy of these damned beasts will you? The only reason the two of them haven’t killed me is because you’re standing there.” He looked at Sixteen for the first time, fear not present on his face. “This… thing would have turned me into a plaything, cut out my tongue, and laughed. Before doing the same to others. I don’t think you get it. We turn our backs for a single moment, and things like her, and him will run us through. What happened at Axios is just proof, and you’d leave me at the mercy of something like him?! You’re just as dense as the rest of them! Floozy may not have even been enough to describe how utterly deluded you are, you all are!” 

The words exploded forth out of Maraval’s being, his attempts to hold it all in finally expended. How dare this woman even hold value in the opinions of these beasts over his life, They were the ones at fault for all that was occurring, not him. Then, Maraval’s brain finally caught up. 

Sixteen frowned, disappointed. "I'm violent with you because you think this way. You insult us and attack us and vilify us at every opportunity… What should we do? Just take it? No. We fight back like anyone would. Like you are…" So simple minded… It doesn't take a genius to get what he's really trying to say behind the spin he put on it.

Elisa felt a little bad leaving the matter to Tio with how exhausted she already was, but she was also ticked off enough to see it through to a decent ending even if she were to pass out immediately after. Still, with all of the added details, the conclusion seemed all but spelled out, which just meant more work for the two of them. Something about Escaflowne had to be especially important if Lufiria was willing to risk everything like this for it, assuming that the obvious conclusion was the correct one. The Saint hadn’t reacted to much very strongly before either…

But, of course, the central annoyance of the evening broke her out of her thoughts with his bleating. Were it just another racist episode of his, Elisa could’ve let it slide as the deranged rambling of a man with no prospects left in his career, but no, oh no, he just had to go and call everyone delusional for wanting a semblance of justice to end a problem they didn’t create. “Tio? Sixteen? I think I can take over for a moment,” she said with a smile to her wife, stepping up to Maraval.

That smile vanished in an instant as she grabbed the man’s right arm, just past where the ice ended, twisting it with enough force to make his whole upper body follow. “Listen here, you little shit. You did this to yourself. You are who doesn’t give a damn about anyone besides your own sorry ass. You are the only person here who ordered people to die today for no reason! And you have the balls to tell us we’re the delusional ones? Maybe we should see if you’ve still got them in a few moments? I gotta say, your lack of restraint is sure making me want to drop mine…”

Yep, this conversation went off places Üllr couldn’t quite understand. Somehow the pegasus rider meant they had to be concerned about this Lufiria place, which apparently didn’t make sense because they didn’t try to be on bad terms with Hecatia? That was the gist of it. Üllr struggled to relate, but it seemed more an issue for the mage women to solve, from how invested they seemed.

…Ah, it wouldn’t stop there thanks to Maraval. Again. He seemed to protest Üllr having any say at all (which, to be fair, also caught Üllr off-guard for different reasons). Üllr clicked his tongue, more tired than annoyed at this point. With Elisa taking point, though, he was less concerned about being too harsh.

“Honestly, I just wanted you to go away. You lost. You killed your people for nothing, like she said.” Üllr followed Elisa’s words, those were good words. Not that he hadn’t seen people die for less, though. “But if you want to talk like that, what are you going to do next? Keep hunting people like me for being involved or whatever, instead of that stupid pegasus rider? Answer me.”

Tio’s hand twitched as Maraval launched a volley of angry, but frightened insults at everyone in the room. She hadn’t needed to react; Elisa was on him immediately, nearly wrenching the man’s arm out of its socket. Sixteen chided him for his incredibly myopic view of things, and Ullr, right as he was to do, demanded to know what he was going to do. Tio on the other hand, pulled her arms behind her back and grasped her dominant one tightly. “I. Think that Ullr, and Elisa have said everything I’d say… without threat of obliterating you personally. There is only one beast in this room, and the entirety of Liste, and I’m looking at him. I’d almost ask you to apologize, but I’m far too tired to drag it out of you. Instead, answer Ullr’s question. I expect it won’t matter much–Celine will not take kindly to such an abuse of your authority, and I’m sure that if you were sent with a letter from Elisa and I, you’d never find work in such a profession ever again.” 

Tio’s eyes then narrowed at Maraval, “That said, I’m not stupid enough to not know what people of your ilk would do. If given the chance, I think you would try to harm other Hecatian monsters and clouded. If you couldn’t do it as a knight, you’d do it as a mercenary, and if not as a mercenary, you’d do it as a bandit.” 

A mild panic set in on Maraval’s face as he realized that he’d just exploded. The reaction was rather muted compared to what he had expected, and it appeared that the strawberry blonde woman was finally going to speak up. She strode her way over, and she was fairly small. What exactly was she going to do to him up clos– “Hrrkk!” Maraval screamed in a manner unbefitting his fairly deep and even voice as Elisa hoisted his arm to the point that he felt like his arm was close to leaving the socket. The block of ice was also bending his arm causing pain like he’d never imagined running through him. 

“Ahhhhh!” He looked at Ullr, and then Tio with pleading eyes. Who on Amaranth were these people? “My arm! My arm! R-Release me! Please, Galari above, release me!” Maraval’s voice was filled with fear to the point that it sounded like the man was drowning. The trembling and sputtering was a far cry from the vitriol that he’d spat barely moments before. After another several seconds of unconscionable pain, the facade that Maraval had tried to hold completely shattered with another cry of pain. “Please… release me, I, I, I swear… I, I,” He looked at Ullr, tears forming at the corners of his eyes, “I, w-w-will not pursue anyone after this. Ahhh! Please, please, just release me, I’ll never… hhhh, I’ll never do this again! Boy… please, you are… the only one who… will, please!”

Though she would’ve kept holding for until Üllr said something, Elisa wasn’t feeling it anymore after that bout of pained pleading. “Hmph. That’s right…” She pushed it just a little bit more before letting go, taking a step back, scowling at Maraval. “Just so you know, I don’t take any pleasure in hurting a man who couldn’t resist if he wanted to, but you’ll be lucky if you can swing anything with that arm for a few weeks, probably longer. Law exists to protect people from things like what you did today, not enable them. I hope your Regent can remember that someday, if he’d ever learned it in the first place.”

A short glance to Ferid, and she’d turn back to Tio, now looking a bit tired herself. “Do we still have anything we want from this bozo, or can I just go get Sarasin to deal with him? We shouldn’t keep Sir Ferid for any longer than we have to.”

"Hm." Üllr couldn't understand the meaning of Maraval's last words. Something about himself being the only one that would. Would what? Pursue? Üllr shook his head, the man was a sore sight as it was. "Ok. Do what needs to be done. No more to talk about with him." In all honesty, this felt a bit sad. Being reminded how little people would need to justify harassing him, and how easily they would own it without a shred of guilt. Üllr sighed, giving one last look at Maraval. "Hmph."

Maraval crashed to the floor, writhing after Elisa released him. The wolf boy’s words were short and simple, and even against Maraval’s inelegant blubbering, he heard every single one. He couldn’t lay eyes on anyone, and any movement set his arm on fire. He wasn’t sure if he could feel the ice anymore. “P-p-p-please… ahhh… d-d-don’t send me back.” His voice was trembling, words came between gasps of air, and pain. “I, I d-d-don’t fear, Celine… she’s… she’s too soft. She’ll just force me out in, in, disgrace…B-b-b-but… Artorius… his other children… they, they won’t just kill me… they’ll, they’ll… They… they make people disappear, in ways that you… you can’t understand.” 

Maraval looked at Ferid, his eyes wide in terror, “You… kill me. Don’t let them… send me…”

“Oh for the love of the stars, shut up.” Tio replied, punctuated with a shake of her head. “Did you give Ullr any right to decide his own future when you nonsensically targeted him? Or the Tigers the benefit of the doubt when you shirked your duties as a knight to satisfy your grudge? Why is it that only now you are acting out of fear? You supposedly serve this Artorius, but now you’re telling us that you fear what he will do to you? Even if all of that was the truth, I don’t think you can explain to me, or anyone here, why, exactly, we’re supposed to care. You betrayed your oath, which, I hope, was made to Hecatia and its people.” 

Tio pointed at Ullr, “Like it or not, he is a citizen of Hecatia, and all within your borders you are sworn to protect. Celine Altair understands this, as does the Amaryllis, and Sylph. You had every opportunity to explain yourself, both to her, and to Tigers when you began his farce. As it stands, I think I’m all the more keen on leaving you in Sarasin’s care, until you can be shipped off to see the Knight Commander. I am beyond exhausted dealing with you, and people like you.” Tio stood up straight, and turned away from Maraval, “Our kindness is not something you’ll be getting to exploit–hmm?” 

A group of footsteps approached the room before the door swung open, and the older man from Sarasin’s manor walked in flanked by two guards. Two long knives at his hip, the head of an axe visible on his back. Tio blinked, “...You’re Sarasin’s aide, aren’t you? …Favio, was it?” 

The older man bowed, “Yes, though, aide isn’t quite correct. I would more so say that I am his guard, or shadow, so to speak.” Favio glanced at the man writhing in the middle of the room, and then clicked his tongue, “...Why am I not surprised? I heard from the guards that you’d captured and were speaking to our ringleader, but I didn’t think that our ringleader would be the worst of the damned knights I recommended be turned away.”

Favio shook his head, “Judging by his blubbering and the looks on your faces, I’d guess that things are about done here. I didn’t quite hear everything through the door, but I did hear Sarasin’s name. Are you turning him over to us?”

Maraval looked up as Favio walked in, and his eyes widened further. “...Y-you. Galari above, not you…” Years of training returned in an instant. All of the training that Maraval hung on through, largely floated on by his family’s wealth and proximity to Artorius. Yet, one of the many knight instructors tried constantly to turn him away, citing his lack of skill, and adherence to the code of the knights. Favio Dunbine. 

The two guards along with Favio walked, and flanked the man. “...Why is it you? I, I thought that I’d seen the last of you.” 

“As did I, but unfortunately, the world hadn’t seen fit to remove that armor of superiority from you, and expose you as the troglodyte you are, and always have been. Though, you and I might finally both get what we want out of this relationship.” Favio turned to Tio, “He is your prisoner, so I will default to whatever you choose to do. Frankly, I’d rather not have his stench up in Sarasin’s manor, but if he is to be taken alive, I was ordered by Sarasin to assist in whatever manner was necessary.” 

“Yes, well. If Sarasin wouldn’t mind keeping him, and then shipping him off to see Celine, I think everyone here is in agreement that killing him, or releasing him would be the best case scenario for him. Whatever happens past returning him for trial is none of my, or anyone here’s concern.” 

Favio glanced around the room; a lot of new faces, a wolf clouded, a girl with a long golden tail, and, "Huh. Given what it sounded like I didn't expect to see someone from Sylph about. Glad to see that there are some knights that still take the duty seriously." Favio looked the man over; it was a little strange to continue wearing full armor after the fighting was over and done with. After a moment he nodded at the two guards who'd gone to surround the mewling captain. 

"If none of you have any further objections, I think we'll take our blubbering friend to see Sarasin, and keep him until it's time to turn him over." He looked Maraval over and grinned, "Get him up, and avoid the arm. He might pass out from the pain, and none of you need to carry his sorry ass." 

The two guards pulled the man to his feet. Maraval continued to breath heavily, but he did not struggle. He, along with the guards, marched out into the night. Favio turned and bowed to the group, "My apologies for being so long. I suggest that all of you try to turn in as best you can." He looked at the Evokers, "We should probably be back on our way to the Manse. You both look exhausted." Finally, on his way out he whispered to Ferid, "I question whether you are who your armor says you are. But a knight is made by what they do. A knight of Sylph knows to remove their helmet before those of high ranking, and the Evokers classify. A mistake Sylph would not make. You should be more careful."

With that Favio disappeared.

Tio groaned, and gently fell back against Elisa, “...Is it over? Unbelievable.” She stood back up, and turned to the group, now left alone. “Favio’s kindness makes things easier on us… Ullr, Sixteen, the two of you should head to the inn, and get to sleep. We’ll still have to move in the morning.” Favio had said something to Ferid before disappearing out the door, but Tio simply did not care. She wanted to go back to the manse, even knowing that she still wouldn’t be able to bathe and relax; the attack would cut into their supplies which meant that there were new logistics to deal with, and to say nothing of the new faces which would almost definitely become a part of the group. 

Tio put a hand to her head, “I’m sorry to have kept you so long Sir Ferid, but this is a Hecatian matter, and you are the highest acclaimed knight. I wish you well regarding your message.” Tio looked at Elisa, “Elisa, dear, I expect… that you’ll have to carry me again. We still have to get back to the manse, and I’m far more exhausted than the first go…” She curtsied to the three. “Please make sure that everyone is alright, and thank you both for your assistance, both here, and in combat.” With that, Tio gestured to Elisa, and the two left out into the night. 

With the rogue captain being taken to the manse, that left the three to continue on with their evenings, or what remained of it. 

Tio spared a glance at Sixteen and Ullr before continuing, "The information that we learned... was nothing new compared to what," Tio stifled a yawn, "Apologies. It was the same mostly, but there was one bit of information that is... as of now unconfirmed, but would be... an issue were it to be true. We know at the attackers at Axios were mostly clouded, which could mean they were from anywhere, including from within Hecatia. However... The commander mentioned a rumor that there was a Pegasus rider amongst the attackers, possibly even the leader of the operation." 

Sarasin flinched at the news, "A rider? Oh Galari above... If that's true then..."

"Nothing... nothing is confirmed yet, but if that is the case... then we can almost immediately narrow the culprits... to Lufiria."

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Tanya’s eyes widened at the info she’d just heard. A Pegasus rider… she really didn’t want to think about the implications of all this, and what that may mean for the rest of the family. Damn, if only she had a way to get a hold of them quicker… she’d be able to figure something out. Maybe Max would be able to get her some information if he managed to get his meathead face pried out of his books for once.

“Do we know if they had any special affiliation? Like, is it just someone who got their hands on a mount they shouldn’t have, or… is this a military rider?” Tanya really hoped it wasn’t the latter; and, if it was, she hoped that at the very least it wasn’t somebody she knew. If nothing else, the suspect being a rider meant it wasn’t any of the family, but even still…

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A Pegasus... So Lufiria's involved then. Will this lead to another Collapse? Is my mom's family involved in this? Though I suppose they wouldn't be Clouded, but with dragons it can be hard to tell. Maybe what they were calling Clouded were just dragons. Sari said my family had a bad reputation. Are they trying to sabotage Lufiria in this maybe? Ugh there's just so much I don't know... Cin's spiral of thoughts were interrupted by an exclamation of pain from Siorel, quickly pulling him back to the present. "Siorel are you ok??" He looked down at the lizard, expecting to see her having cut herself or maybe burned herself, but was instead presented with a much more... Interesting view. He instantly felt his cheeks grow warm, but he couldn't look away in case she needed help. "A-ah, Siorel, uhm. Are. Do you need, uhm, help?"

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"Hmmm? No~ I'm just fine. Made you look, though. Hmhmhm... Don't be a coward, Cinaed~" With her fun filled teasing finished, she looked over at the Evokers with a thought in her mind. "So, one, thank you for agreeing to let me come along~ I would have anyway, even without pay or a place to stay, considering how wrapped up in this guy I am, now," she said with a small point to the man she was sitting on, "and twooooo... I'm kind of on board with miss Natalya here. As far as I understand it from what I was told, our job is to escort you two lovely ladies to Lufiria. Anything else is probably gonna require extra payment and some assistance. Today was self defense! We were here, they got pissed off because we existed, we fought and won, that's fine, but if we're gonna go out of our ways to assist in this issue... You know. Grease the wheels, some?" She wasn't arguing this for her sake. Siorel had been going across the country without a single piece of gold in her pockets, walking and talking and making friends... She was arguing for the Tigers, since she was apart of things now. Gotta make sure Cinaed is taken care of~

Versaris had a few things to comment on, sighing quietly. "You'll all be reimbursed should we have to force ourselves into the way of the issues plaguing Hecatia and Islexia. That much I promise you all... As for this rider, there is no doubt in my mind that they are from Lufiria. Pegasi are stubborn and temperamental beasts. It takes years to develop a bond with one enough to ride it. You couldn't simply come across one and learn how to ride it well enough to fly, let alone pull off a theft of this magnitude. So unless this is one of the rare, few pegasi that live outside of Lufiria, and would make the job of finding the rider much easier... Our culprit comes from our destination. Troubling." There were too many skilled riders in Lufiria to really narrow down one location. The military academy, the knights academy, plenty of nobility, the royal family... They could have come from any of these sources, all of them problematic in some way.

"Well! Unless you'd like to pull out of your contract now, Natalya-- which I would not hold against you nor penalize you for, given the change in circumstances... I think it would be best that we eat and make to leave. The longer we take crossing Hecatia, the worse off we'll be. Things will move whether or not we do. If you wish to discuss the finer details of this job while we're on the road, Natalya, please feel free. I've plenty of free time for now." I need to talk to Jeremiah even sooner now. This is getting above my pay grade...

Alvira had quietly scootched closer and hugged onto Tasha's arm as things were discussed, her opinions not changing. If they could avoid murder, that would be for the best. If not... Better they move sooner to avoid as much bloodshed as possible.

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Gean's nagging feeling had now grown into a slight headache. First Lufiria closes their borders, now a sacred relic gets stolen from Axion Hall, with the leader of the thieves being what seemed to be an Lufirian pegasus rider. Gean tried to keep her emotions from showing, especially since there still wasn't enough details to pin deeds to face. Lufirian pegasus riders weren't rare by any standards but it was worrisome nonetheless, if not for the mission for Gean personally. 

Gean took another bite of her food, hoping this was all some sick joke they'd laugh about when all of this was over.

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"As Ing--Versaris, Versaris, I remember--said if it does come to blows over this relic you all will be paid accordingly, as for assistance... I thought we made our intentions clear this past evening. If not, then you have my word that Elisa and I will formally take part, as well as Versaris." Tio rested her head on the table. "As for the rider... Again, we don't have any confirmation on whether what the commander said is true or not, but if I were to hazard a guess... I'd believe that the rider was well above an average pegasus rider to lead a successful assault on Axios and escape with a relic. So as Versaris says, we can immediately rule out it being someone who simply acquired a pegasus; they're notoriously difficult to ride, which narrows things almost exclusively to Lufiria." 

Versaris did make an excellent point; the sooner the group got on the move from here, the less likely anything negative could occur. There were one or two remaining things to do, but Elisa said that she would handle the 2nd of those. "Sarasiiin... This messenger. Elisa and I didn't miss them, did we?"

Sarasin was deep in thought, finger to his forehead. It took him a moment before responding, "No, Saiga hasn't arrived just--" There was a knock on the open door to the hall, and Sarasin looked up. A younger attendant stood in the doorway. "Lord Sarasin, Saiga has just landed, and will be in shortly." 

Favio sighed, "Ever the one to show up exactly on time." 

Sarasin jumped a little as Favio was suddenly behind him again. He remembered him walking in with Tio and Elisa, but when exactly had he walked behind him? "Yes! Well, my man has arrived, and hopefully with good news. Perhaps even information that disproves our worse scenario!"

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Well, he just flew in from over in the east, and boy, were his arms tired.

Burying the joke deep in his mind, in strode Saiga, the trusted courier - the man who brings smiles for miles! At least, that’s how he sold himself, although the current situation meant he needed to keep his usual joviality at bay - there’s a time and place for that sort of thing, and this was definitely neither.

What the Tigers would see as he strode in, head held high, was a towering, muscular Clouded with a long, thick tail, coated in dark green scales, wearing simple riding pants and still forgoing a shirt - he had to keep some comfort in tact, after all. He wanted to greet all these ladies with a smile, as he’d always been taught, but… well, again, time and place.

”Well, uh, I caught a little bit of what you just said, and… yeah, I hope your worst case scenario wasn’t that it really is a Pegasus Knight.” Saiga began, voice lacking the mirth he usually held. “They’re a really skilled mage, both in thunder and wind magic. And they were trying to go southeast, but thankfully that route got intercepted before they could cross into Islexia. But that just sent ‘em east, and the trail’s gone cold.”

A pause, to let the information sink in, and then Saiga continued. “Even the knights haven’t been able to catch ‘em. They might have an accomplice - or a few - in Hecatia.” He knew that wasn’t what Sarasin or his guests would want to hear, but he wasn’t one to lie, even if it meant no smiles for miles.

Edited by MRDRHAWK

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"Did you just say--!?" Versaris shot out of his seat, slamming a hand against the table. Any mage could be proficient in wind and thunder, but for them to also be an incredibly skilled pegasus rider narrowed things down extremely... "No, noooo, no no no, why would she... That doesn't make a lick of sense... No, I... Tio, Elisa, we have to--" He looked around the room at all the Tigers present, shaking his head. "No... If we're all involved in this, we should all know. The... I don't know her personally, but I know of her. The only skilled pegasus riding mage that I am aware of in any capacity... To that specific extent, is... Princess Lucille Shiva." He sighed and sat back down, biting at his lip. "But that doesn't make any sense! She wouldn't... There's no way that the royal family would make such a serious move on... Ugh, ughhhh...!" A hand met his head, this was all too much. "Perhaps I'm overthinking things; there are several mages that ride pegasi in Lufiria, just... The idea of them being that skilled a rider-- skilled enough to avoid entire Hecatian patrols and the Islexians --and also specializing in both wind and thunder magic. It's too many coincidences. Too many..."

Edited by Mel the DM

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There was a loud a clang of a plate hitting the floor, food sprawling out in front the very clearly she'll shocked Clouded. "Wha-" was the only sound Gean could manage to utter from her lips, her mind both running a light speeds and shutting down at the sound of the person she wanted to see the most for the last ten years. The person who's pained face and voice haunted most of Gean's nightmares, and if it wasn't for the feeling of the ground she collapsed to indicating that the Clouded girl had lost her strength, she'd think this was but another nightmare too, hoping that she'd wake up from this and laugh. 

"Ah, um, apologies. I-" Gean tried to raise herself, but needed the table just to keep herself up. Oh, so that's what that feeling was.

Edited by Bluemask 96

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"Gean!?" Alvira's eyes widened at the sudden sound of plates and the woman crashing to the ground, letting go of Tasha to help her pick up the food and collect herself. "R-Renais, check to see if she hurt herself." Was it something that the courier or... Sari. Not Ingverd, Sari... had said? She didn't really get the hubbub about this princess or the royal family doing things like this... It was probably dangerous because of the strenuous relationship between the countries, but surely this wouldn't be enough to start another war or anything like that? An issue, of course, but weren't Hecatia and Lufiria... Doing okay? Islexia was the one with the bone to pick, wasn't it? "You alright, Gean...?"

Edited by Mel the DM

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Gean putting her hand on Renais shoulder caused the pinkette to turn her head and pout to herself ever so slightly, no matter how many times she tells Gean to tell her before she touches her she does it anyway. Oh well, at least it wasn't anywhere she didn't want her touching. The conversation continued on, and Ing seemed to bring up a certain name. "Princess Lucille Shiva?" She read about her in a book before, it was quite staggering hearing that name now. That being said, it also sounded like quite a nice name to Renais. Almost like- "?!" Her thoughts broke when Gean suddenly dropped, and Alvira called out to her. "G-Gean!" Her annoyance swiftly turned into concern as she dropped by her friend's side to look her over. "Gean, are you alright?! What happened?"

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Nyx didn’t have much reaction to the news of the rider, but she did have one to Gean’s. Rushing the small distance over to her pseudo-daughter’s side, she wrapped her arm around Gean’s shoulder in an attempt to keep her steady, ready to help raise or lower her if need be. No time for Nyx to be grouchy over something now; she had priorities, dammit.

”Oi, Gean. Yer okay.” Nyx told her in a low voice, trying to keep her as calm as she could. “S’all good. We can straighten this shit out wit’out crackin’ too many skulls, if ye wanna. We’re good fer it.” It was probably a pipe dream to hope for that, but maybe it’d help keep Gean’s legs under her. That’d be nice, for Nyx to actually help her feel better.


Saiga let out a puff of breath, taking in a couple people’s reactions to the news. He hated having to deliver bad tidings like this, especially to a big group; alas, he really needed a new saddle bag for Ishii, and Sarasin’s coin helped provide that. At the very least, maybe he could leave them happy, but it was hard to think of how.

”Yeah, sorry about that. I admit, I don’t really know all the details, but that’s all I’ve got. If it is the princess… well, at least she’s still flying?” Saiga tried, hoping maybe the glimmer of hope would quell the tide of unease that was washing over the group. “Heck, depending on who’s going after her, maybe they can talk her out of whatever she’s up to, and you guys won’t have to worry!” At that, he put his fists upon his hips and let out a laugh that seemed hearty, but to his own ears was much more hollow than usual.

Yeah, he was probably getting yelled at for this.

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"See, there he goes again," Elisa just said to Sarasin with a smirk, though the matter at hand had her stop the poking rather quickly. Things rapidly became clearer as the messenger arrived with enough information to spur Versaris, and not only that, it seemed some others were also well aware of who that was. "He's right, especially now that we've all but confirmed the identity of the thief. If the Lufirian royal family is directly responsible, Hecatia will treat this as a declaration of war, and it'll only be a matter of convincing the rest of the Alliance to join them on the offensive. I'd suggest considering deeply whether you want to be even tangentially involved in something potentially worse than the Islexian Collapse."

Natalya at first didn't even consider terminating their contract outright, but it took mere minutes for things to get much worse, as Versaris and Elisa very clearly put it. Still, they'd already fought a group of Altair Knights investigating the issue, and with their being a Glacian, mostly Clouded group, if they just ran away now, it would be all too easy to peg them as one of the supposed collaborators. "No, we'll stay on the mission. All that means is that we have no choice but to get you to Lufiria, if it has even a small chance to defuse things before escalating, right? Besides, turning tail now without a chance to explain ourselves to some of the more amiable Knights would just have us end up on a wanted list for the rest of our lives, even if Iseria tried to use her leverage. All I'm going to say is she better give one hell of a hazard bonus." Gean's sudden weakness made the tiger want to go help, but Alvira, Renais and Nyx were already on it, and she had her commander duty to see to for the moment.

Elisa nodded at Tasha, accepting her take on the matter while not issuing any corrections to Tio, instead bringing up something that may have flown past some of those present... but not without a glare at the sheer inappropriateness of what he'd just done. "Saiga, right? A Sylph Knight by the name of Sir Ferid was present last night when things happened, and said he'd leave as early as possible this morning eastward on messenger duty. You didn't happen to run into him?" The man's sheer size was a little intimidating, even knowing she was likely stronger than he was, but this was no time to have those kinds of holdups.

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Gean seemed handled, do Versaris focused on the glaring issue. "No, this is a ridiculous line of reasoning. I'm honestly regretting suggesting it-- The royal family let alone their DAUGHTER, would never do something so foolish as to incite open war over an ancient relic of all things! There's just no way... Not after what happened ten years ago, they wouldn't dare to put her in harms way." Versaris began to bite at a fingernail, getting anxious and irate just putting this together.

"Elisa, Tio, Natalya, follow me, and please correct me if I say anything that doesn't sound like it makes sense. Let us suppose that this rider is princess Lucille, and then let us suppose that she is related to the theft. I was trained, personally, by the man who is the closest friend to the royal family. While I've never met their daughter in person, I've heard plenty. She could not have been responsible for this. There's no fathomable reason, unless I'm missing crucial information, and something as crucial as this wouldn't slip by our ears for so long."

His foot began to tap against the floor, the only outcome to this something he didn't like, because it didn't shed light on any of the players involved. "The only thing that makes sense with current information is that she's being framed and set up to take the fall for the people that actually did this so they can instigate a war. Her running is only making it easier for them... Fuck! Fuck... So someone in Hecatia or Islexia or maybe even Lufiria is starting this fire and we have no idea who. Fuck... I'm sorry for losing my patience; I simply understand how serious an issue this is. We do not want to live through another war on the scale of the collapse. Ugh..."

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“Yep, that’s my name!” Saiga beamed at first, but the grin gave way to a grimace as he wracked his brain, trying to think of if he ran into anyone particular on the way. “I… don’t think so? If I did, I probably wouldn’t have known who he was. Sorry about that.” It was entirely possible that he had, but it just wasn’t coming to him. “If he was going by land, though, I definitely wouldn’t have seen him, since I came through the skies.”

Wait, that sounded awkward.

”Uh, what I mean by that is, I’m a wyvern rider too - a lot of us messengers are.” Saiga hastily explained, so people didn’t get the wrong idea. He hoped that he was at least making some sense, after all - it wasn’t a good look for a messenger to leave his clients confused. “So unless you know for sure that this Ferid fella was a flier too, it’s probably pretty unlikely that I saw him. Is he some kinda big-shot with the knights? I’ve never really heard of the Sylph Knights before, since I’m from Kansei, so…”

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Sarasin clicked his tongue as Saiga's report immediately upended his attempt at hope, but it was the words of Versaris that had a genuine look of surprise on his face. "...You're saying that there's a possibility that this rider is royalty from Lufiria?" Sarasin had genuinely thought that it couldn't get much worse than the culprit really being from Lufiria. Yet, somehow, this seemed so much worse. "My, oh my... This is not quite the information I had hoped for, nor the decorum." Saiga's attempts at raising people's spirits was... horribly aimed. Sarasin gave a glance to Favio. "Favio. It appears there will be a change in plans."

Favio rose an eyebrow. There was that gravel in Sarasin's voice now. While Favio appeared calm, his hairs were on end; a Lufirian Royal this far outside of Lufiria and orchestrating an attack on Axios. Were it all true, a second Islexian Collapse on a much grander scale would be certain if this Lucille was to be caught and found out. "What do you have in mind?"

Sarasin turned to Saiga first, "Saiga! Ignoring the rest of that. Be sure to gather your things, you will be accompanying the Evokers as a messenger. You are to follow their orders as if they were I or Favio. Favio, I would like you to head to the coffers, and procure some more gold as well. I can see this threat is a tad larger than anticipated, and so, Liste will have to return a larger favor."

Favio shook his head, and then grinned, "At once, Lord Sarasin." Favio turned to the stairs and disappeared at them. 

"I trust this is all fine with you all? I cannot provide more than this, but I will assist in the ways that I am able. Despite my mercantry and the wealth that could come my way in the midst of turmoil, I would much rather all this possibly be defused before war ever becomes a reality. I remember enough of what happened to Hecatia twenty-six years ago with the Collapse." 

Tio was silent. Not from sleep, even if she'd come close to nodding off again, but the moment Saiga arrived, Tio's worse fears were realized, and then they were amplified. Lucille Shiva, the first name didn't mean much to Tio, but the last name was a huge, huge issue. The last name of the Royal Family of Lufiria, even as far back as the Axios Record with Emperor Kise and Liseanne Shiva. Versaris's concerned line of logic also made a ton of sense; Lufiria had been amiable with the alliance ever since the Islexian Collapse, and hadn't bothered to try to provoke anything. Any skirmishes had come because of Islexia's hatred. Karavel had some issues with them in the southern seas, but they were encroaching on Lufirian controlled waters, and refused to back off. 

"Let's say," Tio's voice was firm, almost completely lacking the exhaustion from earlier, "That all of that is right, Versaris. You seem to have a much better understanding of who this woman is, and what she's capable of. If she's capable of evading Hecatian wvyerns almost singlehandedly it sounds like, she has to be intelligent. Which is why something is very off to me about what you suggest. How, and why exactly was she in a position to be setup like this? There are far too many conflicting pieces for us to say one way or the other that she was setup, or not. It is just as possible that there is information that you are unaware of. Unfortunately, speculation does us absolutely no good..." 

It sounded like Commander Natalya wasn't about to turn away from this mission. Perhaps they'd even cross paths with this thief, and things would have to be determined on the fly. "The... reality of the matter is that we need to get a move on, and hope that we don't become too terribly embroiled in all of this. If we do, then we hope that we come across this princess before anyone else does. She is probably the only person alive right now who has enough of the answers to this riddle, and Hecatia will almost certainly want her dead if they catch her." She looked at Sarasin with a smile, "Any further help will be appreciated. We'll just have to resupply extra in Cerezia, so nothing changes." 

Tio shook her head. A letter back to Iseria was paramount now. Even if it amounted to nothing, she needed to be keep knowledgeable of all that was going on, if she wasn't already. "Versaris, we'll have to speak more later... When I'm not struggling to stay lucid. I'll need you to tell me what you know, as much as you can." What is happening in Lufiria...

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A princess of Lufiria is the prime suspect of the stolen relic? That seemed... even for what she knew of Lufiria, extremely far-fetched to Miria. But, she has been read up on her history, and wars have been started for stupider things. Miria was thinking about speaking up, then suddenly Gean was on the ground, several people already helping her. Miria took that moment and instead reached for some water on the table, and lowered herself to Gean.

It was so odd to Miria, that Gean collapsed so quick at such news. At that moment, Miria knew there was something Gean knew, or something about the situation was bothering her. As of right now, Miria didn’t really care, her sister was in need of help.

The girl took the glass of water she grabbed and motioned it to Gean’s face. "Drink some water real quick, and just breathe, okay?" And Gean’s hands would be met by a slap should she try to grab at the glass. Miria was in her caring mode.

Edited by Silver Gallade

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Well fortunately for Gean it seems she no longer needed to rely on her own legs to keep herself up, the other Tigers were already on the scene.  Gean took a drink of the water Miria brought before speaking up again. "Thank you everyone. I, think I need to lay down. Uh, Mr Sarasin, you wouldn't happen to have a room I can borrow? Oh and Tio and Sari, can I see you guy's later? I may have some info that might help us, or at least make some sense of things, even if it's for the worse. I'd like if Tasha was there too." Gean wasn't gonna leave Tasha out of this one, if she was gonna share this news, all who needed to know would know. Many things didn't make sense, especially to Gean right now, but that could be dealt with when Gean was a little less shaky. 

Auntie and General Rosaria would never let her travel alone like this, there's got to be- wait that's why those two were on the ship! If Chris knew who I was- Oh we're in deep trouble.

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"... Why would she have been here to be set up in the first place?" Sari quieted down quickly, his mind working through everything. There were only a few reasons that would explain why royalty would be so far away from Lufiria, none of them seeming to apply currently. If it had been an official visit, it would be known to many. So why was she here? "Yeah, that's not a problem. I'll tell you everything I can... and it seems Gean will as well." He wasn't going to out her secret, but she would probably have to herself at this rate.

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