We All Fall Down

Faerie tales from beyond the veil to the streets of RhyDin

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We All Fall Down

Post by JewellRavenlock » Thu Nov 10, 2016 3:17 pm

“Are you sure?”

Jewell rolled the edge of her whiskey glass along the table, nodding. “Yeah. It’s them.” She shook her head. “I should have seen it sooner.”

He took a deep breath in through his nose. She could see him struggling to remain calm while the patches of scales on his skin expanded at the perceived threat to his lady’s life. “Well… ****.”

She laughed. It felt like a dark humor but still good. “So eloquent, Merai.” The knight grunted, drained the water from his glass, and held it out to Jewell. She obligingly filled it with amber liquid from the bottle on her right and then refilled her own.

He drank deeply before he felt ready to reply. “Mira, the Temple…”

The Temple of the Divine Mother

The words had escaped Lirssa’s mouth and struck terror in Jewell’s heart. All her joy (and relief) at seeing her young friend alive had withered instantly. The initial flood of panic and anxiety had overwhelmed her completely, but Jewell had been given time to process the information on her walk home from the Annex. The cool November air had cleared her head. The knight was not given that luxury. She understood why he was reeling.

“I know.” She ran her hand through her hair, causing her crown to tilt horribly to one side. “It’s bad.”

“It is very bad,” he agreed.

“It could be worse though.” The look her knight levelled at her said he clearly didn’t see how. She understood that too. It did seem a bit of a stretch to say that things could be worse than a death cult, who likely possessed knowledge of true name, coming after her with bloody vengeance in mind. “A lot worse. Cause at least now we know what we’re dealing with, right? No more guessing who is lurking in the shadows. No more hunting down rumors.”

He nodded slowly. “Yes. I suppose that is true.”

She didn’t miss a beat. Jewell was fired up now. “We’re the ones who can go hunt them down.” She stabbed her finger at the table. “No waiting for them to come to us. They made the first strikes, but then they made a mistake. They should have taken me out when they could have. Foolish bastards. They don’t even know what hell I will unleash on them for this. I let them get away once. It will not happen a second time.”

Ishmerai visibly hesitated, “Mira, you are taking this so… calmly.”

Calmly for The Empress was not breaking down and crying hysterically. Calmly was not shutting down completely. Calmly was not having her knight drag her out of some fight club at 2am with a concussion. Calmly was not cutting her arms to pieces to make her head stop spinning.

Calmly was planning death and destruction on a rather wide scale as simply as one would discuss what they wanted to eat for a late night snack.

It probably baffled the knight, but Jewell knew exactly why she had chosen a deadly calm over stumbling into the abyss once more: “These **** killed Theo. They tried to kill Lirssa.”

She leaned forward, her grey eyes as cold as ice. “They tried to kill Sapphire.”

It was as simple as that.
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Post by JewellRavenlock » Fri Nov 11, 2016 4:33 pm

When Janel finished explaining the steps she had taken to Seek out members of the Temple, Jewell stopped her pacing and approached the table, leaning forward against the back of the chair across from the Finder and the knight. “When you say that it feels like there are a lot of them, how many are we talking? Ten? Twenty?”

The other woman looked down at her hands, folded in her lap, then glanced quickly aside at Ishmerai. Finally, her eyes darted up to meet the hard gaze of her employer. “More than that.” She licked her lips and pressed them together briefly. “A hundred. Hundreds. Maybe more.”

Jewell’s fingers curled around the top of the chair, pressing into the wood. “Hundreds?” she asked in disbelief.

“That is not possible,” Ishmerai interjected. “Last year, Jewell--” he stopped, glancing at his lady for permission to proceed.

She nodded her assent. Few knew what had happened in the bowels of the Temple of the Divine Mother last year. Maybe three people total. Two of them were currently in the room. Jewell hadn’t wanted anyone else to know. It wasn’t that she was ashamed of what she had done. Far from it! What she had done that day had been an extremely impressive display of magic and physical ability all while under a ridiculous amount of duress. But the mass killing of an entire group of people wasn’t exactly something a person bragged about if they expected to be received amongst decent people again.

The knight continued, explaining to the Finder, “Jewell killed them all.” Then he looked to his lady. “You said you thought you got them all.”

“It was hard to know for sure,” she admitted. “I told you at the time that I wasn’t sure.”

He nodded, “Right. Still, you killed enough of them to essentially wipe out the cult, and Janel checked for members.”

“And I didn’t Find any when you asked, my lady! I swear it.”

The girl seemed close to tears. Jewell softened her tone momentarily: “We believe you, Janel. Neither Ishmerai nor I have ever considered that you were false with us in this matter.”

Ishmerai impatiently pushed onwards, “Regardless of whether you killed them all or not, you killed enough of them. None of them were left in the city that we could find. How could there be so many now?”

“I don’t know.” This was another blow, but Jewell took it in stride. There was no point in worrying. Yet. “But you sure as hell better find out because I want an answer by this evening on how an evil cult managed to spring up and threaten my friends without any of us knowing about it.”

They stared at her, unmoving. She pushed back off the chair, standing upright and frowning at them. “I said this evening, not next week. Get out there. Now!” The knight was quicker to move, standing and pulling the Finder’s chair out for her before they both left the office.

Once they were gone, Jewell took a seat at the table by herself, her teeth working furiously at the inside of her cheek. “Hundreds. Damn it.”
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Post by JewellRavenlock » Fri Nov 11, 2016 4:55 pm

The tiny scrawl of coordinates and a time left on Alain's last note to Jewell led to one of RhyDin's more coveted side streets: a ten foot wide cobblestone way, lined with cramped and crooked little rowhouses and apartments, a tiki-adorned bodega closed for renovations, and a coffee shop called the Last Drop. Two old human ladies and a minotaur stood on a stoop, smoking pipes of tobacco and gossiping happily. Three of the goblins who were supposed to be painting the bodega were in the middle of a spraypaint fight, while their coworker berated them, blue painters’ tape trailing behind him as he waved his little arms around. A few tables stood out front of the Last Drop, cluttering the narrow sidewalk, and three pixies fluttered out an open kitchen window to start grabbing teacups and saucers twice their size, but only from one table; the other two tables were left untouched.

There was a preciseness to the click of Jewell's high heels on the cobblestone street as she approached the Last Drop, a confidence and command to her posture. It masked the internal struggle to affect the composure she so effortlessly exuded. She was disquieted by the fact that around any corner a member of a hellish cult could be waiting for her. Although it was unlikely that Alain was working with the Temple, she did not entirely rule out the possibility. The timing of his congratulations was just a touch too coincidental. She could be walking into a trap.

When she reached the door of the coffee shop, the glance over her shoulder (which yielded a glimpse of Ishmerai) was ever so natural before she stepped inside. The Empress smiled warmly to the barista before taking a seat at a corner table to the right, her back to the wall. She shrugged out of her jacket, unwound her scarf, and pulled off her gloves. She would want her hands free for this.

A few minutes passed before any strangers appeared on the street: two young women, an elf and an Aurk, dressed in similar long coats and scarves. They smiled at each other as they approached the cafe, sharing a quiet word before they claimed the recently cleaned table. One of two short blue humanoids stepping out of the cafe's kitchen went out to help them, and they took in the street around them as they ordered their drinks, as casually as if sizing up a neighborhood for a future move. The other of the two servers lingered by the barista at the counter, picking idly at one slender gray fingernail.

The Empress had picked up a magazine off a nearby table while she waited for her date, but that didn't mean she wasn't paying attention to the comings and goings inside and out of the cafe. The large window on her left wasn't just to let the early afternoon sun warm her skin, and there were benefits to having the full range of her magic back that had nothing to do with fiddling around with water.

Then Alain stepped out of a door marked 'Office - Employees Only,' his voice audible before his back was visible in the doorway. "There's more where that came from -- more of the Vrasheen blends will have to wait for spring, but believe me, they're worth it." The manager, a middle-aged dwarven woman, shook his hand and said something in French, and Alain smiled as he turned away from her, towards Jewell's table. The server at the counter followed five feet after.

He was older since the last time Jewell had seen him: not by much, but by enough in RhyDin, and now leading a country outside of it, for it to begin to show in his features. Gray hair peppered his beard and his temples, and signs of the lines on his brow lingered after his frowns. Little remained of the boyishness that was one of the few possessions to his name upon his arrival in RhyDin ten years ago. And there was a hitch to his movement, a slight break in the rhythm for every right step, either from a single serious wound or the accumulation of many of them over time. But his expression and bearing were much the same, and he curled a grin and extended a hand to Jewell as he drew near: scarred on the palm, tattooed on the back. "Jewell... it's good to see you again."

She looked up a moment before Alain stepped out of the office, her smile coming unbidden to her lips. A friend was a friend until that friend tried to kill her. She couldn't fail to notice how he differed from the young man she had once hired when he was new to RhyDin, although the years that had left their mark upon him had not touched her the same. At least not outwardly.

She left the magazine open on the table, turned to a two-page article about her Overlord win, and stood. There was a warmth in her grey eyes that could not be glamoured when she took his hand and leaned closer to kiss his cheek. "And you, as handsome as ever!"

He clutched her hand as he kissed her cheek in turn and mocked her, affectionately: "Flirt. But I'd be worried if you weren't," he added as he released her, gesturing for her to sit before following suit.

She laughed sweetly like the coquette she was and would always be. "No worries there, darling. Some things never change." But they did. Just in more subtle ways. Like how she couldn't help fidgeting with her skirt, smoothing it out more than once after sitting back down. And the hint of strain to her smile.

His blue eyes studied her, warm but curious, taking her in and refreshing his memories, while also taking in the signs of her worried mind. "You've been very busy. And alive, that's been a big change, too."

“Very much alive,” she laughed. “I forgot we have not seen each other, have we? It's been far too long."

Alain’s expression stilled for a moment. "Years. There's my family, there's my country..." He smiled slightly as he trailed off. "This city's a little more dangerous than the people around me like. But you," he leaned forward in his chair, folding his hands, "have been making a big name for yourself. Well. Bigger than usual," he grinned, and paused when the server finally closed the distance to their table. "Cappuccino."

"Same." Jewell smiled at the server, glad for the momentary interruption. The events of the past weekend had unnerved her too much. She did not like feeling like she was grasping for composure here. Alain was leaning forward, but Jewell was forcing herself to relax back in her seat as the server departed. "Gives me something to do with my time," she shrugged at his observation. "Being a socialite gets a little boring after a while."

"And brokering alliances and busting heads rarely does," he added, nodding his agreement. "Whatever else you can say about it, at least it keeps you on your toes. Looking over your shoulder too, though," and he smiled a little as he checked the door to the dumpster out in the alley, almost reflexively. The two women out front were holding hands on top of the table, but they rarely looked at each other: instead their gaze covered most of the street. "But, it's safe here. No assassins. No spies." He unfolded his hands, leaning back as his drink arrived, and took his time enjoying his first sip.

Jewell was certainly on her toes these days, and checking over both shoulders constantly as he could probably tell. Her eyes always returned to his, but they scanned the cafe often enough. "No assassins or spies," she repeated with the hint of a smile. "Except you?" she asked with an arch of her brow. Her playful tone took most of the challenge out of that question, and it was softened even further when she turned her attention to her drink as well. She managed to get a bit of the foam on the tip of her nose, and quickly used a napkin to wipe it away.

He snorted, as much at the question as the sight of foam on her nose. Never mind how much he had to suck from his whiskers. "I haven't killed anyone in a few years. Maureen Rae was the last one and, to be fair, she nearly repaid the favor." If that did not signal how comfortable he felt information could be in this place, he didn't know what else would. "Of course, death is what turned my eyes back to RhyDin. Election violence... and a few other political killings besides," he added, setting his cup down on its saucer.

She heard the signal loud and clear. It undid some of the tension curling in her chest and relaxed her shoulders. She did not go as far to admit that it had been a lot more recently that she had bloodied her own hands! Not yet. She wrapped her hands around her cup, leeching the warmth from it. "Things are becoming more tense in the city, and there are more players involved than I originally thought."

"I've been in the dark for a little while," Alain quietly replied, and tickled a finger along the burn-scarred palm of his right hand. Time and therapy had restored much of the sensation, but sometimes the pins and needles flared up.

It felt a little like she was taking a leap of faith, her heart in her throat, but she made herself say it anyway. She had decided before even meeting him that she wanted to. Needed to. "I was so sure that I had left my enemies in Faerie, but as you said before... I have made quite a name for myself here." She licked her lips, getting that bit of cinnamon that had been sprinkled on the cappuccino. "There's a group. I think they've been using Humanity First as a shield for their activities."

He frowned, ring clinking against the spoon in his drink as he settled the edge of his hand there. "Who are they?"

"They call themselves the Temple of the Divine Mother." Just saying it aloud made goosebumps crop up along her bare forearms. "I, uh.. may have pissed them off last year."

"They're new to me." She was taking a leap of faith; the least he could do was to be honest with her. "They used Humanity First, somehow... but you think they're here for revenge?"

Jewell took a very deep breath. In some ways, it felt good to unburden this on someone she thought she could possibly trust. Or at least someone with a rather cunning mind. "I thought I had.. removed them from RhyDin last year. Apparently, that is not the case. They seem to be pro-human, and have been using the Humanity First platform to reestablish themselves in the city."

Behind his eyes, now ticking to and fro in little motions, something clicked. "'Stand Together.' My knights have been stepping up patrols across the city since the election... We've seen a lot of those posters." He set his hands on the edge of the table, tipping them towards her. "Is there anything else you know about them?"

She nodded when he mentioned the posters. Ishmerai had brought one to her just the other day. She had ignored them at first, assuming they were related to Humanity First. "I don't have a lot more on them. Yet. When I first encountered them, I thought they were just some local cult. I think there's something bigger than that here, though. How else could they have reestablished themselves so strongly so quickly?"

"We could just ask them. Hang on." Alain slid something out of his pocket, what appeared to be a small slate-gray tablet, and tapped repeatedly on the screen, entering a very long series of censored characters. When it finished, he swiped through a few more screens -- what looked like apps, a list of documents, and then one document in particular. The first page was a scan of one of the posters, but the next was information: the points of contact for the group, listed at various businesses and houses of worship. He slid it over to her. "Recruiters for this Temple, I assume. We could try to get someone inside."

She handled the tablet carefully, not completely ignorant of technology (not nearly as much as she pretended) but not entirely comfortable with it, either. She scrolled through the list, nodding. When she looked back up at Alain, her smile was eager. This was exactly what she needed. "Let's do it. I don't trust them not to have anti-magic and glamour wards in place, or I would have done it myself." She slid the tablet back over to him. "And I'm afraid they must know all my employees already."

"But they don't know mine," and Alain winked at her eager smile as he took the tablet back. "I have a knight in mind... former assassin, military experience, strong silent type... Just the kind of person a radical faction would love to recruit." He slid the tablet back into his pocket. "Like old times, right?"

"It will be once I get the Scathachians on board." The confident grin seemed just as fitting now as her unease had when they had first sat down. "Your wife won't be coming after me for this, will she?"

"Returning to RhyDin was a conversation we had together," he said as he dipped his head; then he added, "As long as you don't **** me, I think you're safe." He sipped his cappuccino again, mostly hiding the grin behind it.

Jewell sighed. "Well, there goes my plans for the afternoon."

Alain snorted. "I'll keep you appraised, and vice versa? What's the best way to reach you? A quiet way."

"Absolutely," she smiled. "I've got a few gnomes that I work with. Not exactly on the payroll, but they're very reliable."

"Not on the payroll is good," he nodded, and pushed aside his cup, scooted his chair back. "If we're lucky, maybe we can blackmail them out of this city. If not... we know other ways to make ourselves terrifying." He stood from his seat, leaning past the table for a quick embrace, a peck on the cheek. "It was, really, good to see you again, Jewell. Stay alive," releasing her with a smile.

Her grey eyes shined with such a pleasant mix of danger and delight. They certainly knew how to be terrifying. Not for the first time all week, Jewell was really looking forward to it. She landed a kiss on his other cheek before he got away. "Happy hunting, Alain."

There was only a moment to smile in reply; then he swept out the door, touching what appeared to be a revolver holstered under his jacket, checking its presence reflexively as he stepped out into the open. As one, the two women sitting out front moved to flank him, loosening the swords they'd tucked under their coats and tying them at their hips. They marched to the edge of the neighborhood and around the corner, towards the sound of an approaching engine, and Alain swept one last look across the street behind him before he disappeared.

((Adapted from live play with the great Alain and cross-posted here))
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Post by JewellRavenlock » Sat Nov 12, 2016 6:38 pm

“Swear to me.”

“Mira, no.” He shook his head. “I cannot. I will not. Please, you cannot expect me to do this. Do not ask--”

She cut him off, “There is no one else that I can trust to do it, Ishmerai. You know that.” Her tone and manner were decisive. They brooked no argument. This was too important to argue over! This was everything. There would be no deal making with her knight. There would be no compromise.

If the Temple of the Divine Mother had her true name, if the priests of the Temple used her true name, she could single-handedly destroy everything she ever loved.

“Swear it to me now because I wasn’t asking.”
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Post by JewellRavenlock » Sun Nov 13, 2016 9:58 pm

They walked home from the Old Temple challenge together. Although he would prefer to keep his hands free in case of trouble, Jewell had someone wiggled her way in close enough to force Ishmerai to wrap his arm carefully around her shoulders.

“That Overlord skybox is pretty nice, right?”

“It was comfortable.” That was high praise from the knight. “Although, I must say, you looked more comfortable when you were sitting on Mr. Delahada’s lap.”

Jewell ignored the jibe. The knight was correct, though. Salvador doting on her had been just the thing to cure her of the blues. “It was a good series of fights. I’m glad that it was going to be a win-win situation for me either way, though. Aric or Cane, I need to keep Old Temple.”

Old Temple was where it had all started. Even with Alain’s Lodge there, Jewell didn’t want to take any chances by adding a renegade baron into the mix.

“I still do not see how having loyal barons means anything in this fight, Mira.”

“Maybe it doesn’t mean anything,” she admitted with a shrug. “Or maybe it means friendly eyes watching my back in the different districts if and when I need them.”
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Post by JewellRavenlock » Mon Nov 14, 2016 1:24 pm

“Mira.”

“Mmhmm.” The door clicking closed behind Ishmerai prompted her to look up. She set her pen, the one with the glittery blue feathers, down. “What’s going on?”

He crossed the room to take a seat at her desk. “The pixies were selling information like we thought.”

Jewell clicked her teeth together and sat back in her chair. “I see. Directly to the Temple?”

“No.” He shook his head. “They were tracking your movements and selling the information to an intermediate who was selling it to the Temple.”

She nodded slowly. “How many?”

“Five.”

Jewell leaned forward again, retrieving her girly, glittery pen. It was the only way she could get any work done. She looked back down at the papers she had been reviewing. “I needed to get the guys a present anyway. Please send them to Sal and Cane with my fondest regards.”

“Alive?”

The Empress looked up and smiled sweetly. “Of course.”

“Consider it done, my lady.” The knight stood, bowed his head, and moved towards the door.

“Ishmerai?” He turned back to her. “Please make sure Anne hears about this. You know she’s a gossipy little thing.”

“It will be all over the neighborhood by nightfall if she finds out.”

She grinned. “As you say.”
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Post by JewellRavenlock » Fri Nov 18, 2016 6:36 pm

Since Alain had proved that her faith in him had not been misplaced, Jewell thought it prudent that she be more open with her ally than she had been when they last met.

“This is everything?” she asked Ishmerai as she flipped through the dossier aimlessly.

“It is.”

“Including my account from last year?”

The knight nodded. “Yes.”

The Empress chewed on the much abused inside of her cheek. She didn’t really want to tell Alain about that, but there was a chance that he could glean something useful from the account of her initial run-in with (and eventual attempted destruction of) the Temple of the Divine Mother.

There was just one part that really made her hesitate.

Jewell turned through the papers more purposefully this time until she came to the section regarding her encounter with the Temple, written in Ishmerai’s steady hand. The copy she had attempted to pen had been mostly illegible. Her hand had been shaking so badly that she finally had to stop and ask for the knight’s assistance.

As she looked over the pages now, the words blurred together. She had to force herself to read them, focus on them, do not make them go away. She had left out exactly what the Temple had done to her after they had released her magic. It was too painful to discuss. No one needed to know those things. Not even Ishmerai. Included though was her first encounter with the Temple, how she had found them to begin with, her return to their sanctuary on that fateful morning in February, and the recounting of how she had gotten away (although completely lacking in the gory details).

Then there was the line she was looking for: In exchange for the unbinding of the greater part of her magic, Jewell signed a contract to divulge her true name to the man known as The Vessel.

“You need to leave it in there, Mira.”

She sighed. “Are you sure? I mean, there’s a chance that they don’t still have it.” Jewell would continue to justify what she had done to her very last breath. Selling her name had been absolutely necessary to get her magic back. There had been no other way. But that didn’t mean she wanted anyone to know about it.

“If you are going to trust your friend, you must trust him with this. He deserves to know if he is putting his people in danger.”

“Fine.” She carelessly shoved the papers back into the accordion folder and handed it off to Ishmerai. “Make sure it goes directly into Alain’s hands. I don’t want anyone else to touch it.”
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Post by JewellRavenlock » Sat Nov 19, 2016 9:27 pm

“Mira, she is just a young lady.”

“That doesn’t mean… She still could--” Jewell forced herself to stop and take a deep breath. Master Tenzin’s words echoed in her head: “Be calm. Be still. Only then can you see what is really there.”

Only it was pretty damn hard to be calm sometimes.

“You saw the message, Merai!” Of course he had seen it. She had dragged the knight in from the street, down the steps, and into the Arena last night to read it after she had left the Annex. “She specifically mentioned the power of names. If she’s involved with them… what if she has it? Mother of Nature, if she has my name…”

Calm flew out the window. Jewell was forced to sit down on the edge of the ottoman, her breathing quick and shallow; her heart roaring in her delicately curved ears; and the room spinning around her.

This was the nightmare scenario (and ensuing panic) she had kept at bay for a month now. The only way she could keep cold and collected in the face of the Temple’s resurrection was to convince herself that they did not possess her true name. If they didn’t have her name, she could handle this mess. If they didn’t have her name, they were just another group of punks who were seeking revenge. And they were seeking it from the wrong woman! She had handled people like them in the past and she would do it again even if they were growing more powerful every day.

As long as they didn’t have her name, she could take care of it.

But if they did have her name? A hellish nightmare was just starting to unfold.

“Mira!”

“What?” she parted her fingers and looked up at him, unable to recall when she had bent over and covered her face in the first place.

“Mother of Nature,” the knight sighed out. “You had me worried. You just stopped responding.”

She let her hands fall into her lap and sat up straight. She tried to project some semblance of control. “Sorry. You were saying?”

“That you are ignoring one glaring fact in all of this: Misery is not human. There is no way the Temple is working with her.”

Jewell was not reassured. “They worked with me, didn’t they?”
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Post by JewellRavenlock » Wed Nov 23, 2016 2:36 pm

The cold wind whipping in off the harbor could not touch the three companions in the enchanted garden on Overlord Isle. The mid-morning sun was warm and pleasant while the air was fragrant with blooming flowers and the neverending feast set before them. Jewell was still taking sips of her mimosa and picking at a bowl of cut up strawberries; her appetite really wasn't terrific these days as worried gnaw away at her, and nothing could compare to Rand's! "I know we were speaking about potential baronies the other night..."

He was still cutting a slice of ham into pieces that could possibly be considered small enough, maybe. Folded over and forked, he brought it to his mouth and nodded while he chewed. After swallowing, he shrugged a little. "We toyed with the idea. I'm happy sitting at home with Val too."

Returning her drink to the table, Val let out delighted laugh, glancing back and forth between the two. "Do not let him fool you, Jewell. I have not seen him so energetic as I have since he has been dueling again." Reaching slightly, she picked up a strawberry and nibbled at it.

"Energetic, huh?" The faerie grinned impishly at that. "Well, as loathe I would be to steal you away from Val, and I really don't want her to be lonely, I am in need of more loyal barons. But," Jewell looked between the two of them seriously, "I would not be offended or upset if you declined. Truly."

"Out with it, Empress Overlady Jewell! Just ask. Is there one in particular?" The fork in his hand cut through the air with a slash and a thrust. "Politics is for court, or... politics. We're friends." The fork stabbed more meat. Yum.

"I doubt I will be...short of the rings, I will be by his side, wherever it is...and besides, I have you and Eden to keep me company." His gallant display with the utensils made her attempt to hide her laughter in another sip of mimosa - she knew there was nothing he liked better than putting on his shiny set of armor.

Rand's statement (not the fork!) seemed to strike her. She blinked and actually had to take a deep breath because she was suddenly overcome with a bit of emotion. It had been a long few weeks! "You're right." She laughed. It was a good way to chase away even the slightest, tiniest hint of tears before they could manifest. "I'm not sure which one to ask you to chase after. There's just," she hesitated a moment. "Have you seen the posters in the city? The ones about ending human oppression?"

"Human oppression?" Rand looked at Jewell and then glanced at Val. "I think so, here and there. Isn't that more of that Humanity First garbage?" He picked up his mimosa and took a long sip as if to cleanse the thought from his palate."

"The group that blew up the restaurant near the house? I thought they were gone...they've been quiet lately. But I did notice some posters...in the Marketplace I think?" She tapped a finger against her lips, thinking.

She wrinkled her nose in distaste. "This group was just using Humanity First as a cover. They're much more devious. And they're spreading, growing stronger. They've got people all over the city." Jewell shook her head. "I don't know what they want or what they're doing, but they're certainly not friendly to me."

"But you never antagonize anyone, Jewell!" He was grinning, unaware of the severity. It was time for some fruit, pineapple bits. "What's this have to do with a Barony? Are they going to try to take them over?"

Reaching over, she rested a hand on his wrist, moss-green eyes watching Jewell's face. Servant's gifts...she could tell this was causing her dear friend more than the usual amount of concern. "Rand...darling...I think, perhaps, what Jewell means is that she wants...trustworthy people ... who can keep an eye out for her?" She loved her fiance, but food tended to bring out the hedonist in him. Food and beautiful women only made it worse.

Her smile was a slow thing and not as sweet as Rand and Val were probably used to. "I maaaay have antagonized them." The levity faded quickly. "They're awful. Terrible. Evil. I don't know what they're planning, but it's going to be bad. So Val has it right." She nodded to her friend, thankful for her gifts of perception. "Since I don't know what they're up to, I want to find out and I want to make sure the people I care about are safe."

"We'll keep you safe." Perhaps an empty statement, given that he had no idea what they might do or how to do it, nor what Jewell was really capable of, but the sentiment was genuine and immediate. His fork clanked against the plate as he set it down and he looked from Val to Jewell. "I'm not a fan of evil, terrible, awful people, whether they're actual people or something else."

"Of course we will do whatever we can." Her free hand moved to rest on Jewell's arm, the gesture meant as both comfort, and reassurance.

From the bright flash of the faerie’s smile, the sentiment was clearly appreciated. Her appetite returned as they fell to plotting together: baronies, cults, and espionage. Oh my!

((So much gratitude and love to Rand and Val for playing this with me!))
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Post by JewellRavenlock » Thu Nov 24, 2016 1:55 pm

“This is bigger than me. So sooo much bigger.” Jewell observed from the front steps of Beyond the Veil as they watched the throng of protesters pass through Little Elfhame. Her people had been instructed to do them no harm: no heckling, no challenging, and no retaliation whatsoever unless absolutely necessary.

“Clearly.”

The Empress frowned at a particularly nasty sign she saw. It was a crude drawing of a faerie with iron spikes driven through both eyes. The handwritten note above it read, “Iron Out All Faeries!” She shifted a little closer to her knight, her fingers curled into a fist at her side. “I think it’s time to contact Haruka and Michiru.”

Haruka and Michiru worked for the Council for Preternatural Activities (CPA). The CPA monitored preternatural activities across the multiverse. From Jewell’s understanding, their main areas of enforcement were worlds and realms predominantly populated by humans. They concerned themselves with things like containing zombie outbreaks and countering the flagrant abuse of preternatural abilities, especially when those abilities were being used against those who could not defend themselves or were unaware of the existence of such abilities.

Jewell had first encountered two agents from the CPA in New York City. This was back before she had even met Ishmerai. Together, they had chased down a group of really nasty mana eaters who were preying on the inhabitants (human and non-human) of the metropolis. Years later, the CPA had been the ones to request that she take out Conventina Ta-Neer. The CPA had no jurisdiction in Faerie, but Conventina had been threatening the peace of that realm, which threatened the peace of countless other worlds and realms. Many faeries and fae were fleeing the coming war the Ta-Neers were creating, and the influx of such creatures in human dominated lands was creating widespread exploitation and abuse.

The CPA’s involvement in ending the potential war in Faerie, by having Jewell kill her aunt, made them responsible for Jewell getting her magic stripped. And Jewell had only gotten involved with the Temple because she had her magic stripped!

Therefore, this entire mess with the Temple was a result of her connection with the Council for Preternatural Activities. They owed her.

Ishmerai, his jaw set in a firm line and his eyes glued on the countless people streaming past them as they shouted insults and threats, nodded slowly. “Yes, Haurka and Michiru. I think that would be wise.”
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Post by JewellRavenlock » Fri Dec 02, 2016 9:28 pm

“What the hell was all that?”

The fact that Ishmerai had so easily picked up on the vulgarities of RhyDin was completely lost on her at the moment. “Keep it down!” The faerie hissed, glancing around.

They were a few blocks away from the Inn, lingering in the shadows in front of a hobby shop and outside the reach of any streetlamp. She knew this part of town rather well as it wasn’t far from The Line. There was no one else around at the moment; the nearest bar was over a block away. It was a safe enough place to talk briefly, but Jewell still used some added glamour to obstruct them before she explained what exactly had just happened. “There were these kids, and this one girl…” She took a deep breath. This had disturbed her more than she wanted to let on. “She stole a bit of my magic.”

“What?” He exclaimed louder than he intended. “Mira, how could you?”

“Me!? I was just sitting there!”

“When you are supposed to be on your guard.”

She folded her arms defensively across her chest. “It’s not like I just let her do it. And I certainly didn’t let her keep it.”

“Yes, but you threw around quite a bit of power to get it back, right?” She looked away. “Mira, I thought you wanted to be subtle. Keep a low profile.”

“Well, I did.” Jewell frowned, nudging a piece of loose concrete with the toe of her shoe. “I just panicked a bit. I didn’t mean to reveal myself so much. I got angry.” The knight looked extremely displeased. Any regret she may have had for acting rashly evaporated, and she found herself rationalizing her actions instead. “It’s really not a big deal, Merai. They totally deserved it! And maybe it’ll teach people to stop messing with me if they have even the smallest inkling of what I can do.”

He did not seem convinced, but he moved the conversation along with only a sigh. “Was she human?”

“Yeah. I think so. Clearly with some talent though.” She remembered the compact mirror. The smell of lavender and sulphur. The girl seemed to know what she was doing.

“How many others were with her?”

Jewell rolled her eyes upward, trying to count. Girl who stole her magic. Guy who had blushed when she smiled at him. He had left before the trouble started. Guy with switchblade. She had committed his face to memory since she had not properly repaid him for his threat. Then there was guy she punched in the face for daring to touch her. She felt like she was forgetting at least one, but those were the ones directly involved. “Four? Maybe five.”

Ishmerai’s green eyes gleamed dangerously in the shadows. “Do you think they were with the Temple?”

That was the question that made her stomach squirm into knots. “I don’t know. I doubt it. No. Probably not.” That was hope speaking there, but hope had no place in this situation. She hesitated but quickly added: “I don’t know. Maybe they were. Bunch of human teens… why else would she try to steal my magic?”

She wanted reassurance from him. She wanted another explanation. Any explanation! She wanted something she could hold on to.

He couldn’t give her that.

“I think Lord DeMeur was right in his suggestion the other night, Mira. This is becoming too dangerous. Random people attacking you in the Inn? You are not safe here.”

Jewell scowled when she thought of Alain’s suggestion. He wanted her to run. "Jewell... please run. Leave town, go into hiding, tell no one where you are. Let your friends bury your true name," he had urged. From the start, Ishmerai had urged her to do the same. He told her to go back to Faerie. Spend some time with her uncle Dylan along the beach. Visit the Dragon Lords again. Maybe even go to court. They had the most fabulous parties and the most pompous, coxcomb beaux for her to toy with there. When she had refused, the knight had offered another suggestion: “What about going home? Your brother may still be alive.” She had laughed in his face. “I am sure you could wheedle Lord Ar’Din into taking you somewhere.” He had been truly desperate to offer that, and although it was tempting, the answer had still been no.

It was the same answer she gave him again now: “No. Absolutely not.”

Until she knew for sure that the Temple had her name, Jewell absolutely refused to give in to fear. She would stand her ground. The Empress was strong. Unmovable. Stubborn beyond belief. Even Alain’s final promise had not moved her: "If you ask, I will drown your name in their blood."

The only person who would be drowning anyone in blood was The Empress.

“I’m not running. These fools think they can intimidate me? Bother me when I’m out with my friends? Force me out of my home? Not a ****ing chance. I’ll show them what it means to mess with a sídhe.”
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Post by JewellRavenlock » Mon Dec 05, 2016 4:44 pm

“I just can’t believe you’re here!” Jewell gushed at the couple sitting across from her at her usual table in I’Yulna, the one hidden beneath the sweeping branches of a willow tree. “I expected a message perhaps, but not to see you both in person. This is such a wonderful surprise.”

The two women were Michiru and Haruka, agents from the Council for Preternatural Activities. Jewell liked to joke that they were the best looking agents the CPA had. Michiru was exquisitely feminine with delicate curves, flawless skin, artistic features, and wavy teal hair. Every movement, even the way she sipped her glass of water, was graceful and refined. Haruka had a more rakish mien and androgynous frame. Her short blonde hair fell carelessly across her forehead, and the men’s dress shirt she wore had several buttons undone at the top.

Neither could help but smile at Jewell’s enthusiastic greeting. Michiru’s smiles were prim and polite things, and her demeanor was more reserved. But Haruka had a mouth made for cocky grins and the sense of humor to match. She wasn’t grinning now though. Beneath their smiles, they both looked grim. The Empress pretended not to notice. She was bolstered by the presence of her trusted friends, hoping that perhaps they were here to stay and help her. She wanted their help. She needed it. She felt too disappointed lately in other people she thought were trustworthy. “When did you arrive? Are you staying long?”

Michiru shook her head sadly, “We can’t stay, but we had to speak with you. Unfortunately, this matter was much too serious to simply send word.”

“You’re in danger, kitten.” Ruka was always more forward and informal, cutting straight to the point. “We were concerned for you.”

Jewell’s brow furrowed, but she kept a frown at bay. “Oh. I’m sure it’s not really all that bad,” she waved their concerns away flippantly even as her excitement began to wither inside.

“It’s bad.” Haruka insisted.

“Ruka,” she forced a laugh, “don’t look so serious! Surely I’ve faced much worse.” The two shared a glance, and the faerie frowned. Annoyance crept into her tone. “Do not act like I haven’t.” Her hand formed an angry little fist on the table. “Who finished the mana-eaters when we faced them? Who took out Conventina?”

“We do not doubt the things you have done, kitten. We well know how fierce you can be.” Haruka leaned forward, reaching for her hand. Jewell yanked it away angrily. She didn’t miss the hurt look that crossed her friend’s face at the gesture, but she didn’t care at the moment. The sense of unease they were provoking made her angry and defensive.

“We even heard what you did to your cousin, Jewell,” Michiru added, attempting to soothe the faerie’s pride. “You are incredibly strong, and you have proved yourself a force to be reckoned with many times. But these people? This Temple that you have asked us about? They are different. They are much bigger than you can imagine. The Council has dealt with them many times and avoids them completely when they can.”

Haruka cut through Michiru’s little introduction onto the subject. “Which begs the question: What the hell were you thinking getting involved with these people on your own? How did that knight,” the blonde sneered, “of yours let this happen? Isn’t that man supposed to be watching over you, making sure you stay out of trouble?”

Ishmerai,” she scowled at Haruka, “didn’t let anything happen to me.” Jewell tilted her chin up, proud, condescending, and furious. No one spoke about her knight like that! “I chose my own path, no thanks to the CPA leaving me high and dry after I took care of Conventina for them. You’re the ones who really landed me in this mess. The Temple helped me get my magic back when you wouldn’t lift a finger to help me!”

Michiru placed her hand gently on Haruka’s arm as she felt her lover bristle at Jewell’s accusations. “Come now, love. You know how our little kitten is. I’m sure her valiant knight does his best to keep her out of trouble, but she is rather headstrong. You wouldn’t like her so much if she wasn’t.” Her partner made a noise that might have been agreement. “Besides,” her gaze was sharp even if her tone was mild and calm, “we both know Jewell did not deserve to have her magic stripped for what she did. It was cruel to keep it from her. But we also know that she doesn’t really blame us. We would have gladly helped her if we could. We wanted to help her.”

Jewell looked away, abashed. She did know her friends were not at fault, but it was still a sore point. The CPA could not force the Faerie Court to unbind her magic, but she still felt abandoned by their lack of effort on her behalf. They wouldn’t dare to appeal to the Faerie Court for her, and they hadn’t even wanted to risk putting her in contact with someone outside their organization who could help her. They feared upsetting the court too much. It was the Faerie Court who had decided that Jewell’s punishment was for her magic be bound, and the CPA told her she just had to accept the consequences of her actions even if those actions had been on their behalf.

Michiru and Haruka had grieved for her, yet their hands had been tied.

But they were here to help her now.

The blonde agent softened her tone at seeing the clear distress of her friend. “We did want to help you, kitten.”

“I know.” Her hand crept across the table to touch Haruka’s. Their fingers twined together a moment, provoking mirrored smiles between them. “I know you would have if you could.”

With emotions soothed over, Michiru continued on. “We just wish you had come to us first about this, Jewell. These people… they are very dangerous.”

“But I didn’t have a choice Michi.” She tried to keep composed, but her heart rate was on the rise. “They were the only ones willing to help me. I needed their help.” It had cost her though. So very dearly.

It was still costing her.

“I’m sure it felt that way, but even a life without your magic would have been better than getting involved with the Temple as you have.” Michiru’s condemnation of her actions was delicate but no less stern than Haruka’s had been.

There was a tightness constricting her lungs. She had never seen Haruka and Michiru this adamant. This concerned. Not without reason. She licked her lips, her mouth suddenly dry. “Just what have I gotten myself into?”
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Post by JewellRavenlock » Wed Dec 07, 2016 7:40 pm

Jewell groaned, setting the file she had just finished reading aside and pushing back from the table. She was beginning to understand why her friends had seemed so sad at their parting this afternoon. Michiru had hugged her tightly, unwilling to let her go. Haruka had brushed the hair from her face tenderly. Then she had kissed her goodbye.

Her friends didn’t expect to see her alive again.

After reading all evening, she understood why. She looked across the table at her valiant knight. “Maybe you should just go to sleep, Merai. I’ll finish going through these.”

“I do not think I could even if I wanted to.” He admitted, draining his glass of water before standing and heading towards the kitchen for a refill. “Can you?”

“No,” she admitted. She wasn’t sure if she’d ever be able to sleep again. A shudder ran over her as she thought back to some of the files she had read earlier. No, sleep would not come easy, so she went back to work, hunching over the table and picking up the next file from the folder her friends had gifted her. It contained all the information they had been able to gather regarding the Temple of the Divine Mother. It even included highly classified stuff that wasn’t ever supposed to leave CPA headquarters. Yet here it was, spread out across the dining room table of The Empress in Little Elfhame.

It made her sick to her stomach.

“Did you read this one?” she looked over at Ishmerai when he came back, accepting a fresh glass of water from him while holding up the file she had just started with her other hand. The picture clipped to the front was of a pile of rubble.

“Is that when they leveled the whole city with a mana bomb?” She nodded. “Yeah. That was pretty grim.”

Grim was an understatement. The Temple of the Divine Mother had decided that the city had been so overrun by non-humans that it was a lost cause. They didn’t even bother to evacuate the humans living there! They just turned the entire city into rubble.

And that wasn’t even the worst. Each file contained a different atrocity. Enslaving an army of demons to fight their foes. Starting a civil war between different groups of non-humans so they wiped each other out. Inciting a conflict after arming the one side with technologically advanced weapons while all the other side had was bows, arrows, and swords. Releasing a plague which killed everyone but the homo sapiens. Using an ancient spell which removed everyone’s magic, making non-humans ripe for the slaughter.

Jewell had downed a glass of whiskey after reading about that last one. Then she kept reading. On and on and on. These people had attacked world after world. Countless realms. They had carved a path across the multiverse.

And now they were in RhyDin.

She made it through several more files before she slammed the one she was reading down on the table and shoved the entire pile aside roughly. Collapsing forward, she buried her face in her arms on the table, forcing herself to breathe in slowly through her nose to stop the rise of bile in her throat. “I think I’m gonna be sick,” she muttered.

Ishmerai frowned, reaching over to grab the file she had just been reading. It described how the Temple had summoned a mass of fire elementals, bound them to their will, and then used them to kill any non-humans on Planet X19. “Enslaving non-humans to accomplish their goals.” He sounded disgusted. And scared.

She raised her head, and their eyes met. It was all coming together now. The contract for her name. Unbinding her magic. Testing to see what she could do.

“Mira…”

For the first time, Jewell seriously considered Ishmerai and Alain’s request to run. “What the **** do I do now?”
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Post by JewellRavenlock » Sun Dec 11, 2016 3:01 pm

There was a certain swagger to her steps when Jewell was in Dockside. She managed it even in gold high heels on the cobblestone streets. Ishmerai was at her side until they approached the head of the dock where she was supposed to meet Alain. With a slight tilt of her head, the knight peeled off, finding some place to lean and look menacing. The Empress continued down the wooden planks, winking at the sailor who whistled at her as she easily navigated the stacks of boxes and coils of rope on her way to Lord DeMeur.

The Moon's Livery had been the pride of the Barony's shipyards for years, but Alain had a soft spot for the Red Jack: a smaller, sleeker, two-masted sailing vessel that could take to the air, ride the leylines when the wind was lacking, and put two broadsides into an enemy vessel and slip away in the night before they knew what hit them. It had also been involved in a number of smuggling operations, undocumented military missions, and other ill-advised adventures throughout its eight-year service. As Alain's nation swelled to nearly a hundred thousand souls, as the centralization of political power required ever greater oversight, he faced pressure to make a show of pivoting away from his troubled past and more recent reckless impulses, if he would not renounce them outright. Mothballing the Red Jack was a significant symbolic step, or at least a red herring while he refocused on his lapsed RhyDinian holdings...

The Lord Sovereign stood at the very end of the dock, past the night crew going up and down the gangplanks, busy at work disarming the vessel, dispelling its enchantments, and breaking down its (numerous) hidden compartments. He was in a long wool coat with an upturned collar, huddled into it as he puffed on a cigarillo and watched the dismantling progress. He did not turn as Jewell approached, lost in his own thoughts about this piece of nostalgia and other, more pressing concerns.

She paused partway down the dock, admiring the vessel. She had been a pirate's wife once, and she had never lost her love for the feel of a ship beneath her feet. Earlier in the year, she'd had a little taste of that life again with Issy. Unfortunately, with everything going on, she'd have to content herself with the sea breeze. She turned into it, continuing to the end of the dock as it whipped at her long jacket and tugged relentlessly at her hair, making it a bit wild. "Permission to approach," she called out to Alain without actually slowing her pace. Her tone was affectedly cheerful despite the terribly bad news contained in the large file folder she had tucked under her arm.

"Always," he called back, recognizing her voice before he turned to see her. There was a knight between the two of them all the same, a man in his late twenties with a cocksure grin and a battered bastard sword on his back; he took all of a second to size her up, dip his head in greeting, and secret a wink to her as he stepped out of the way.

Jewell paused for that momentary size up. Actually it was more of a pose paired with an impish, challenging look in her eyes which was more delightfully wicked than threatening. She turned her head to watch the knight walk away, shaking her head. "If only I was younger." As if that would really stop her.

"Call the house, Knight-Captain. I'll need a car back soon." There was another bow from the knight now behind Jewell, and he marched away down the boards of the dock, leaving at least twenty feet between the two old friends and the next-nearest eavesdropper. "How are you holding up?" Alain said, pitching his cigarillo into the briny water and stepping a few feet closer. It was late enough in the day, or cold enough at night, or both, that his limp was obvious the first three steps.

The devilish grin faded as she turned back to her friend, his limp just a reminder that they really weren't so young anymore. She shifted the thick folder out from under her arm, holding it out to Alain. "I’ve been better."

"Hm," and he gave her a grim smile as he took the folder, looking down at the contents by the lantern-light swinging at the end of the dock. "Same. But, for every winter, there's a... spring..." He trailed off, frowning as he flipped through the pages rapidly now. This was too familiar. "Christ. ****ing Christ in Heaven, this is the same playbook as the bastards who ran me through. But the Temple did it. They pulled it off," he said with a disbelieving frown, looking up from the collected reports at Jewell. "That was a very bloody day, Jewell... and this promises to be worse."

There had been a little hope inside her that said maybe she was overreacting. Maybe Ishmerai was overreacting. But Alain's response just confirmed her initial reaction: They were in really deep ****. She'd never had the urge to smoke, but mother of nature she wanted something in her hand right now. Something to do other than shove them in her pockets, which is what she ended up doing. "I know. It's bad. Like.. ****ing really really bad." From her toes back to her heels she rocked. "We have figure out how this is gonna go down. There are so many options." So many ways they could use me went unsaid.

"Tell me you will go where they cannot reach you -- tell me it will be enough," he said, clapping the folder shut and taking two brisk steps forward, looking her in the eye, pleading with her with his worried frown. "Will it? Or do they speak your name to the darkness, and you come?"

Her eyes fell to her the toes golden high heels. "If they call me, I will come." It was a shameful, whispered admission. Her grey eyes darted up at him. Beneath the bold and beautiful Empress, she was scared. Terrified. Sick with fear. "And I will destroy everything."

Alain could feel pins and needles start in his neck as a chill ran down his spine, but he fought through the dread with the same brash defiance that had carried him, limping and broken but alive, through so many years in this bloody city. He grabbed her by the shoulder, ducked his head to be at eye level with her. "Then I'm calling our inside man. With the operations they run?" audibly flapping the folder he clutched. "They must keep names under very tight control. They'll have one namekeeper, or three, a triumvirate for a ritual. We find them, we tear your name out of their mouths, and we feed them their own tongues before any of this madness can start. Okay?"

She took a deep breath in through her nose, nodding. There was even a hint of a grin. Making enemies eat their own tongues was certainly a thought to cheer her. "Yeah. That'll be good. Let's do that." When she exhaled again, it took some of the weight off her chest. "What do you need from me?" Taking action, having something to do, was important. It kept her calm and focused. It kept her from freaking out about the evil cult that had her name and could turn her into a puppet that tore people in two with her manicured nails.

He looked at her a beat longer, nodded, and dropped his hand to pace back to the end of the dock. "Anything about reverse-scrying, how named beings find their summoners -- maybe we can get that knowledge preemptively. Is knowledge or intent enough to build a thread? And prepare for worst-case scenarios. Is there any way you could give your knight, or anyone else you trust, something to bind you or slow you down? I need help with all the arcane questions I can't answer, or even think to ask… and I'll focus on turning the screws." A crate thudded heavily on the end of the gangplank, a small piece of naval artillery bouncing in the straw inside, and Alain looked at it thoughtfully. "Any weapons you can stockpile, any vehicles or means of teleportation you can put on standby, couldn't hurt; I'll do the same."

Her mind raced to keep up, but the heavy thud from the crate startled her. She turned halfway around to face the threat. Quite suddenly, there was a glimmer of energy around her right hand and a knife in the left. When she saw what it was, she returned the weapon to her jacket smoothly and the energy dissipated. She didn't look at all abashed at being startled, just picked up the conversation. "I've got someone who can do the scrying. The rest... I'm gonna need to work on it." She ran her hand through her hair, "Might need to make a trip into Faerie for some of this, honestly." She really did not want to do that but whatever it took. "We'll be ready for them. Whatever they're going to do. We have to be."

"We're going to be moving a lot of men and materiel, and things could get bloody." He looked down at the black water off the dock, frowning. "Do we have to worry about this governor?"

She chewed at the inside of her cheek. "Katt? I hope not." And without missing a beat, she laid it out as plain as she saw it, "If we do? We make her a not-problem immediately. We don't have time for some figurehead getting in the way."

"Make the governor a 'not-problem'?" It was bold as hell. It got Alain to laugh incredulously. "Mother of God, Jewell, I've missed having you around. We'll probably be moving too fast for her to gum up the works, it's the aftermath that concerns me there." Another thought occurred to him, and he frowned at the water... then smiled back at Jewell. "I need to finish up here. We'll get through this thing. It'll be bloody... but their blood, not ours."

She shrugged but she couldn't hide her grin. She had meant every word of it! "Gotta do what we gotta do. And if she is a problem after? Well, we'll handle it then." She glanced back to the men working on the ship and past them to Ishmerai. "I should get going anyway. Can't have people whispering about what we've been doing down by the docks at night, can we?" She winked at him at that.

"Turning tricks and corrupting pure-hearted knights of God. It'll be all over the papers come morning,” and he waved at her with the folder as he began stepping up the gangplank for a final look at the deck of the Red Jack. Something to bury his darker thoughts.

((Thanks to the awesome Alain for playing this out with me.))
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Post by JewellRavenlock » Mon Dec 12, 2016 1:12 pm

“And what can the great lady of Little Elfhame need of me today, hmm?” Guiscard asked her with a friendly smile as he set her cup of tea down before her.

It had been a few years since she had first made the acquaintance of the bookshop keeper, and they had become fast friends in that time. The faerie treated him like an old beau. There was a bit of a pep to the elf’s step that hadn’t been there when Jewell first came to the neighborhood. His long white hair was more neatly kept, his vest was trimmed in real gold that matched his hazel eyes, and his pantry was well stocked. All thanks to The Empress. Unfortunately, the cleaning woman she sent over to assist him once a month could not keep the books from overflowing the store below into his apartment. They were slowly taking over.

She wasn’t one to complain. Jewell thought it made the space more homey and comfortable than her luxurious penthouse space. She wrapped her hands around the offered tea cup, leaching the warmth away and careful to keep it far from the stack of rolled parchment at her elbow. “Can I not just visit an old friend?”

He laughed as he slowly eased into the seat across from her. “You can. You can. But I don’t believe you are here for that. Not today.”

“No.” She smiled sweetly. He knew her too well. She often dashed across the street for a late night chat when she needed advice or a sounding ear that wasn’t Ishmerai. “Unfortunately not, as pleasant as that would be. I need your help, friend.” He nodded for her to continue. “I need to know everything you know about true names: how they work, why they work, how to divine who has them.” She took a deep breath. “And I want to know how a person can control themselves if someone else uses their name.”

He suddenly looked very grave. “What have you gotten yourself involved in now, my lady?”
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