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Arizeem
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[Starter quest] Old friends, new issues

Sun Jul 30, 2017 1:27 am

18th trial of Ymiden. 717


It was an early evening in Athart, and the sky was still red where the sun had just set. The cold was slowly creeping into the air, but at the market district, the nearby sea still radiated the heat accumulated over the day. It was that nameless transitional time, where the working day had ended for most people of the lower city, but the night life had yet to bring its rest for some and revelry for others. One by one, the tavern tables were being filled, the windows of homes were lighting up. The market district was abuzz as the day-worker crowd took it by storm in search for food, entertainment and other necessities of life.
As the night fell, Arizeem was on the prowl for some meat. Dried meat, to be less dramatic. Ever since he began with the Dominion training, he slept and ate about twice as much as before. Arizeem now half-joked that he’s regressing back into the primal state. Be it as it may, the fix for fatigue was easy enough once he resigned himself to sacrifice a painfully large portion of the usual quality tavern time. However, fixing hunger was a much more involved process, especially when it struck at inopportune times and places. Arizeem was sure that he isn’t the only one having this problem, as he had observed the more experienced soldiers casually eating some nonissued dried rations. Arizeem decided to get some unsanctioned chow of his own, before he starts chewing on his own fingers during the long afternoons. He wanted to buy in bulk, and buying in bulk meant buying in the lower city market district. As his own father put it, Athart had only one real marketplace, with all others being just its cloudy and small mirrors. More often than not, getting a good deal on most commodities involved mingling and dealing with the lesser races. Arizeem, being accustomed to humans, didn’t mind that all that much.
Arizeem walked between the rows of stands, well aware of the gazes following him. Avriel in civilian clothing at this time and place weren’t a very common sight. Arizeem passed by a stand with dried fish. He committed its location to memory and continued walking. As an Athart native, Arizeem preferred his fish fresh straight from the docks, not smoked like fireman’s dick and encased in so much salt that its fins could hold a knife-like edge. So, if at all possible, he would prefer to buy a quantity of dried beef, or, well, at least ‘beef’. Arizeem wasn’t naive when it came to buying red meat in a city street, a long way from any actual farm. In the cities, tanners, butchers and knackers usually made these strange little love triangles. At first glance, their natural cooperation makes perfect sense, but then, why do the knackers get paid almost exclusively for making stray dogs disappear, butchers sell most of their pork and beef in very small pieces, and tanners offer all those affordable wolf hides?
Whatever they had to offer, Arizeem was sure that he has had worse. In this troupe days, good meat was often impossible to get. He had probably chewed his way through the majority of Idalos fauna in those arcs. And, even as his taste buds screamed bloody murder, his stomach was always just fine. Predator privilege. Though, Arizeem imagined that having the human ability to devour pretty much any organic matter they come across would be quite convenient too, not to mention cheaper. Alas, higher maintenance was the necessary price of the superior Avriel form. One could hardly fly or fight with stomach full of hard-to-digest seeds and plants. Arizeem hummed in thought. Maybe the timid human personality had much to do with them being able to simply dig up some root or something whenever hungry, thus easily ensuring their continued existence.
The marketplace was catering predominantly to human customers, and the available sortiment reflected that fact in full. Most food stands offered various plants and their parts, most of which Arizeem couldn’t even name. Leaves and roots, seeds and berries, even whole whole flower heads that looked particularly sickening. Many stands offered baked plant produces, seemingly dozens of variations of the ‘bread’ stuff made from milled grain that looks like stone outside and like sponge inside. It probably also tastes like a sponge, and contains about as much nutrition as a bucket of sand for the Avriel. Arizeem pushed his way through the crowd to the end of the first row of stands and turned right further into the market, to continue his search for some proper dried meat. It’s bound to be here somewhere.
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[Starter quest] Old friends, new issues

Mon Aug 07, 2017 1:02 am

Eriella slid through the city, the same as she did in the wild; unnoticed and unsurveilled. This was the very talent that made her useful to the Cult of Valtharn cell in Athart. This ability to go unremembered by most brought her primarily only the most secondary roles on stage when touring with the troupe, both past and present rosters included. That was the intent though. She was not often required on the stage, and then, it was only for the reading of the most mundane of lines.

Still, she remained a favorite of the sponsors and organizers the troupe dealt with, again, past and present. For all her uncelebrated contributions to the performance itself. She was a dynamo of logistics, negotiation and arrangements. This extended to everything from having rooms in inns already paid up in advance in distant inns, to ensuring that extra sheets of flex board were on hand to create the sounds of thunder for atmosphere in any given scene from one of their plays.

In fact, it was usually her contacts in the cult that had these things arranged for her; freeing her time up for her roaming around seeing to the more lethal tasks she was assigned to complete. Now, it would be unfair to say that she was assigned to actually murder anyone. The cult required more subtlety than that. She would see to it that the target received one element of a compound. The toxic equation being completed with the introduction of a second, or third, element in some location far from where Eriella had done her part of the job.

It was not unusual for her to receive confirmation of such a completed task in a city quite distant from both where she'd done her part, and where she would ever be destined to visit on the troupe's performance circuit. Political upheaval was the coin of the day for the cult. Eriella did not concern herself over the way in which this or that upheaval benefited the cult. She knew only that some seemingly unrelated nod of a head, in a crowd far removed from the scene of the crime, acknowledged the cult's appreciation of another job well done.

The troupe was a great cover for her journeys. It was both arranged well in advance, allowing others to ensure that there was time to guarantee that some gain could be gleaned from it, and it nearly always involved the presence of the influential within the audience.

The avriel member, Arizeem, had been a boon at the start, for a number of reasons. But his benefits had waned significantly after a few circuits. Eriella had been commanded to eliminate him then. It had not taken her long to realize that the belligerent member's alcohol addiction stood directly in the way of her usual method, as it seemed to neutralize the toxicity of many compounds that could be completed in stages, and be difficult for an investigator to isolate. She'd had ample opportunity to kill the feathered fool outright, but was always under constraint to leave no clear indication of foul-play.

Ultimately, it had served well enough to simply let him go his drunken way, and replace him. This was not before Erialla had managed to introduce her one element into his system. She doubted it would still be active, but there had been indications that the alcohol might not so much have "neutralized" the effect as put it in a sort of biological stasis. The cult had been disappointed with her failure regarding Arizeem, and she'd always hoped to "finish him off" some trial.

Of course, all this would have been moot had she not recently been assigned a task in Athart. It was to the cult's benefit to keep the hostilities in the Hotlands going. This was best achieved by regularly alternating between targets on each side of the war. It not only halted progress on both sides, as strategies had to be recalculated for loss of one motivating figure or another; it also kept anger freshly inflamed as both sides took issue with these low tactics and became ever more determined not to sue for a peaceful resolution.

Athart was a natural spot to take down targets on the Nashaki side of the desert war with the Eternal Empire. The avriel had a treaty with Nashaki and were a crucial military presence there. The one drawback to an Athart assignment was the general contempt the winged race had for humans in general. The presence of Arizeem stood out as a possible solution to this problem; as well as a potential patsy for the deed.

Eriella preened herself as best she could and located a little used path out of the market. She moved to that spot and saw that there would be numerous points where Arizeem would be able to easily see her. It would be best for him to come to her; and for it to go as undetected by others as possible. She would do her best to acknowledge recognition when they made eye contact, but to let body language suggest she did not have time to stay and that he would need to follow her if he wanted to resume contact.
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Arizeem
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[Starter quest] Old friends, new issues

Wed Aug 09, 2017 3:01 pm

"


Two rows of stands later, Arizeem found a promising one selling something that looked like dried meat and smelled the part, without being smoked to a crisp or baked with some inedible vegetable matter. The shopkeeper must have seen him staring at his wares, and immediately initiated contact.
“What can I do for you, sir?” The phrase was spoken in Lorien, but sounded like it was memorized and recited without much understanding. As was the case for most lesser races attempting to speak Lorien, there was no proper cadence and he used a reduced voice range, not quite hitting his ‘ee’s and ‘aa’s. This made the speech sound slurred, as if the speaker were a bit tipsy. ‘Getting accent’ was one of the many avriel euphemisms for drinking.
Arizeem had always found that accent funny. He would have coaxed the shopkeeper into speaking more Lorien for his amusement, but he needed a good deal on the dried meat. Necessity came first. “Common is fine.” Arizeem indicated the meat rack with his claw. ”What is that? Dry meat, yes?”
The shopkeeper offered a relieved smile. “Common it is, good sir!” He then followed the direction of Arizeem’s pointing claw. Swiftly, he lifted the meat in question off the rack and placed it on the weighing table for closer inspection. “Indeed! The finest in Athart, I might add!”
Arizeem had a closer look. “Deer?”
The merchant shook his head, sending his well kept beard flopping. “Not quite! It’s the best moose from the northern lands!”
That raised Arizeem’s eyebrow. “I don’t know ‘muus’.” He wasn’t sure whether the merchant was pulling his leg. On one wing, it wouldn’t be the first merchant to get really creative with the provenance of his wares to justify a exorbitant price. On the other, the meat looked like a nice piece of venison. A mystery meat scammer would probably choose much cheaper meat cut to sell. ”Red and lean, looks very deer to me. Deer gets bitter, I had to live on it one whole season. Too much.”
“It’s like… a very big deer.” The merchant caught Arizeem’s doubtful glance, and was probably experienced enough to know the futility of arguing with an avriel. He tore off a little piece from the strip of dried meat and handed it to Arizeem. “But the taste is different. Here, have a sample. See for yourself.”
Arizeem was surprised by the trader’s confidence, but he accepted the sample out of curiosity. As expected, it was very tough. He steeled himself for the expected hit of bitter taste, already preparing himself to give the confident merchant a piece of his mind. The bitterness never came. Arizeem chewed for a while, allowing his eyes to wander. The taste was new, but pleasa- wait! That woman at the edge of the marketplace! Was that Eriella? Arizeem spun to face the woman, yelling out her name. “Mm-mmh!” His mouth was still full, so what came out weren’t words at all. Arizeem spat out the rest of the half-chewed meat onto the ground, finally freeing his mouth. “Hey, Eriella?! You! Hey! Eri! Is that you?!”
The woman seemed to recognize Arizeem too, but then she turned to leave the marketplace. What was going on? Was Eriella in a hurry? Was she still with the troupe? Didn’t she want to meet him? She and the principal were the only humans in the troupe that he could actually stand long-term. The principal was very skilled and even somewhat wise for a human, and Eriella was the unsung hero of the troupe. She made all the wheels turn, being very pragmatic while retaining this air of genuine noble-like aloofness, without the usual bullshit and pretense that hung around most actors like stench around feces. She was his show supporting sister in suffering, and a living representation of the precious few memories that weren’t ruined for him yet. He had a few good conversations with her, back when he still had dreams and ambitions. Of all the troupe members, he would like to meet her the most; maybe buy her a drink or five for keeping him somewhat sane back then. And now, she appeared only to start slipping away yet again. “No, where are you going?! Wait up, Eri!”
Arizeem looked around. If he tries to follow on foot, he might lose sight of her. Arizeem wasn’t going to allow that. Arizeem turned back, meeting the merchant’s shocked face. “Meat’s good, will return”, he screeched at the merchant hastily. “I just...” He grabbed the stand’s wooden frame and clawed his way up the stand, already attracting surprised gazes. He climbed up to get his wings above the cramped street full of stands and people. Once he got enough clearance for the initial wingbeat, he took off, buzzing several stands before gaining more altitude. Luckily, the tent fabric above the stands caught most of the wing downwash that would have otherwise scattered the presented goods. Some people mumbled, other just rolled their eyes. Avriel shenanigans were a regular occurrence, and this one at least seemed to be positive in nature.
Arizeem tried to locate Eriella again, without success. She must have already left! Arizeem turned towards the exit she must have used and flared his wings to bleed off some of the speed generated in the over-excited takeoff. The exit path seemed to be quite narrow. It was probably used just for minor logistic stuff. What was she doing there?
As Arizeem lined up with the exit, he saw her again further down the street. He slowed down some more and retracted his wings just before they would get clipped by the narrow street. Arizeem entered the street with still far too much speed left. He had narrowly avoided a direct collision with Eriella and skidded to a ungraceful halt well past her. He was now standing directly in her way.
“Hey Eri, why all that rushing?”, asked Arizeem with some self-admitted irony, as he was the one sweating. “Only some three arcs, and you forget me? Did the not-grateful actors finally make you crazy?” Arizeem laughed. “What are you doing in this bad small street anyway?” Arizeem clicked his tongue in thought. ”Can’t take you in for visit - no wings - but we can go to Twin Tower tavern! Have a drink, have a rant, you tell me the good and bad. I pay!” Arizeem was genuinely curious what happened with the troupe. It was a mostly bitter, but nevertheless large part of his past. He hoped to stop Eriella, but if she were to start walking, he would go alongside her. He was too curious to just let her leave.
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Wed Aug 16, 2017 5:11 am

It did bother the young woman somewhat, to see the ex-troupe member seemingly so upbeat and outgoing. It would have been much easier to ruin the rest of his life if he was the same drunken loudmouth he'd been when they'd departed. His life was pretty much a shambles then anyway.

It was not that the humans nearby now extended any welcome to him. This was Athart. There was nothing more than cold civility at best between the two races. The two being the avriel, and everything else. The bird-men did not play favorites really, despite the slight differences in diplomacy towards races tied to certain powerful cities.

But Arizeem seemed genuinely happy to see her. At the time they'd left him rotting drunk in a gutter, he'd had nothing but sloppy, spittle-flinging scorn for any of them, herself included. She'd looked at her low-priority task of eliminating him as a mercy killing back then. But now he seemed fit and healthy, for the most part. His voice was, as always, thick with Lorien inflections, but strong and well-enunciated. His eyes were clear, not red and swimming in dizzy disorientation. Nor did he reek of alcohol.

"Zeemie!" she purred, falling back on the nickname she'd used in the troupe. 'Ari' and 'Eri' had been too similar right from the start, so she'd gone for the last syllable of his name instead. Her eyes displaying happy recognition. "I thought that was who you looked like. But, no offense, I honestly thought you'd have drunk yourself to death by now." She paused uncomfortably "Is it...advisable? For you to drink, I mean."

The Twin Tower might be the perfect place for her to find a target. She had a short list of suspected Imperial infiltrators. It was not so much the elimination of one, so much as seeing who then went out of their way to cover and quiet the incident. They would be the one whose death would shake things up, and set hostilities back.

"Sure, Zeem. I'd love to share a drink, if it won't get you in trouble. I know we're not well liked here, even when we're not a slave. You seem to be bringing your life back in order. I don't want to upset things."
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[Starter quest] Old friends, new issues

Sat Aug 19, 2017 12:26 am



So, it was really Eriella! And she recognized him! ‘Zeemie’ still made him laugh. Some avriels would consider such a nickname to be demeaning. Arizeem found it funny, because using it involved going through all the trouble of making the right ‘ee’ just to immediately make it sound silly. It was nice little self-aware joke. But, as Eriella continued to talk, Arizeem’s enthusiasm of seeing a familiar face with arcs of shared history was quickly cut short by her words mentioning death by alcohol and questioning his decision to grab a drink. No offense? Really? These topics made him livid even when mentioned by his closest family and played a large part in him leaving to live on his own. And now, a slave-race female has the gall to judge and patronize him? Old friend or not, who does she think she is?!
Whether it was by luck or by skill, Eriella has managed to push two buttons in a single breath. The memories of the final family argument were still very raw. Arizeem almost choked on the wave of bitter anger. Arizeem’s hand subconsciously started a motion that was drilled into him in the basic training. He caught himself quickly, but the hand was already visibly on the way toward Eriella. So, Arizeem went with the motion and gently patted her shoulder instead of clawing across the throat, as was his initial impulse. His smile never left, staying up even during the momentary enraged state. He spent many arcs as a lone avriel surrounded by humans, and he had to hide his rage so often that it became a quirk that stayed even after it outlived its usefulness. After several seasons, no troupe member trusted Arizeem’s smile anymore. The booze breath was a much more reliable ‘all-clear’ indicator.
This was bad. Back in the troupe, Eriella made him want to snap her neck every other trial. But in all those arcs, he never came this close to actually hurting her. Now that he was somewhat more sober and also more efficient at harming others, he really needs to start reining in his impulses. This slip made Arizeem feel uncomfortable, even ashamed. Provoked or not, he was far too old to have lapses like this. It happened only a few trials ago during the Dominion qualification exercise, and now it happened again. Was the swordsman right about his instability? Was it because he was sober? Strangely, the mark between his shoulder blades itched ever so slightly. Arizeem was lost in his concerned thoughts. He knew that he was supposed to feel very angry at Eriella, but his own disproportionate reaction scared him right out of it. It even took him several heartbeats to notice the stretching awkward silence. He started talking, hoping for a smooth cover-up.
"Eh, that’s the ever-edgy Eri I know! Always with worries for everyone and everything! No change with you at all." With claw of the hand still placed on Eriella’s shoulder, he gingerly lifted a lock of her hair. "Maybe a better look, if that is not a wig." Crap, what did she say after those impertinent drinking comments? Something about trouble with drinking together and life in order. Sure. "But don’t worry about giving me trouble in good life. My life is crapped now more than ever… I live only because my liver last longer than family gold." Arizeem slowly removed his hand and took a step back. His smile fell a bit, as he allowed his facial muscles to relax again. "Well, family still has much gold, just none for me. Let’s walk, I explain."
Arizeem started walking toward the Twin Tower tavern. It wasn’t too far from the market. He knew the rough direction, but he had to figure out how to navigate the narrow side streets. Arizeem picked the most promising course and started walking at a slow pace, so that he and Eriella could talk comfortably. "It went as this. They did nag and nag much like you: stop drinking, start flapping up weight of you own. I tell them no way, not helping making… manufactureeing their stupid not-art… not as actor, not as some feralish slave guard they wanted, not as nothing. Eh, you already know good my mind on this." Arizeem noticed a human couple looking at him, and he paused briefly to scowl at them. "No money for me then, parents say. I say, no reason for me to be there, then. Lot of yelling, I leave. They expect me to return begging soon, but I am in the Dominion now. But they don’t know yet, so keep secret, yes?" Arizeem winked at ther, as if she now were part of some great conspiracy. He was still coming to terms with the fact that he had nearly assaulted her just bits ago.
Finally, the last small street merged into a much larger one, one that Arizeem recognized. One right turn followed by about two dozen steps, and the strange pair stood right in front of the Twin Towers. "I had all time to drink, but no gold. Now it’s the other way. I can drink with you, but not too much. Training with hangover is murder."" Arizeem laughed. "And others seeing me drinking with human... I am still a Marquallan and we do much dealings, business with art and slaver humans. Avriel city knows that we do not grow these drilled artsmen they like on trees. And human city can think what it wants, but they better pour us the drinks."
Arizeem entered the human tavern first, ignoring any weird looks shot his way. It was still somewhat early to be in the tavern, and the real rush had yet to begin. Many tables were still free. Arizeem sat down at the nearest one and half-raised his wing in an attempt to flag down whoever is distributing the good stuff around here. "Now, as you humans ask, what is your poison? Or we just get another cup with my pitcher of white wine? Because I am having white for most sure." Arizeem didn’t wait for the drinks to arrive. He started interrogating Eriella even before the service could appear and take their order. "I told all, it is your turn to talk life already! What brings you to Athart? Just other troupe rotation? Somethings else? How about the principal? I don’t care about the rest. They can all eat snakes."
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Sun Aug 27, 2017 2:00 am

Eriella stifled a sneer of triumph as she followed Arizeem into the tavern 'So the old flapper still has the same buttons to push, excellent!' She thought to herself as she looked around. It had been plain how close her companion had come to violence. Such things were the domain of the mortalborn leader of her faction, and the knowledge of warning signs trickled down by design. You learned or you died.

Of course, Eriella did not get her orders from Valtharn herself, there were numerous layers of go-betweens, but if she could bring about the avriel's death at the same time as creating additional chaos in the ranks of the desert conflict, she'd be all smiles. Right now, the Imperials were enjoying just a slight uptick in the advancement of their military goals, and a never-ending even match with no resolve in sight was what Valtharn wanted.

Eriella had been told of the identity of a rumored imperial spy. She did not concern herself with the amount of confirmation on this individual. He had been marked for death, and she was to be the administrator of this end. That was all she needed to know. Had Arizeem himself not suggested this tavern, she would have had to maneuver him into coming here. She did not imagine that it would have been difficult. Arrogance was a trait that was easily manipulated.

It did not even take moments for the mood of the tavern to sour dramatically. Just the shadow of a wing-bearing humanoid sliding under the door sent the warning to the oppressed crowd of the arrival of one of their oppressors. But they were not about to incite trouble with one of the "master race", not if they wanted to avoid having a ton of stones dropped on their homes from hundreds of feet in the air as retribution for "disobedience".

Eriella stalled until the drinks came, giving remarks about how her companion would surely find such talk boring after a stint in the Dominion. She gave him a look of excitement, letting her eyes flash just a bit up and down his body. This was not truly a stall treatment. She knew perfectly well that she was an attractive woman, and she knew how to entice a man, avriel or not. She'd had lots of practice. After all, what organization that specialized in manipulation did not include the sexual variety in the repertoire?

By the time the drinks arrived, she'd already unfastened a button or two and talked up the changes in his build and fitness due to his tough Dominion training; something that had "clearly packed a bit of muscle under that handsome face."

She took a drink, keeping her eyes level and smokey as she teased the rim of the glass with her tongue. Her expression was shy as she set the glass down before her, it's location serving to bring her the reflection of a certain human a few tables away. She checked the reflection discretely and frequently as she spoke of dates and travels, peppered liberally with unexpected interruptions of military incidents while performing in Nashaki.

The man reacted with little more than a tilt of the head to aid his hearing. He almost broke into a double-take when Eriella spoke of a performance in Yaralon, where she babbled about a big movement of desert-clad mercenaries as if it was of no significance. She had all the confirmation she needed; it was her target.

Now to get him fighting with Arizeem, and ensure that they both "tragically" killed each other, even if she had to do it herself.

She started to look in the human's direction and rose abruptly in the middle of some remark by her avriel companion. Taking a stumbling step to feign the onset of tipsiness, she cast a wink back at Arizeem, "Hang on just a bit, sweetie. I need to talk to this cutie-pie over here. Don't drink too much before I get back."
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[Starter quest] Old friends, new issues

Sun Sep 03, 2017 9:35 pm



The mood within the tavern had truly grown sour. Arizeem noticed quite a few annoyed and even downright hateful glances aimed at him. When he looked back at the patrons, most of them were quick to look away. But once Arizeem looked back at Eriella, he could almost feel the stares of the patrons burn away at the back of his head. The avriel was accustomed to stares, having spent many arcs with the troupe, touring one city after another. In this Athart tavern, however, none of the stares were fearful or curious. To these humans, he wasn’t neither a strange monster nor an exotic curiosity. Here, he was an oppressor invading one of their precious few sanctuaries, and the glances were filled by hate barely chained by fear of possible consequences. Arizeem had spent enough of his life in taverns to feel that while this place wasn’t immediately dangerous to him, it certainly wasn’t safe. The humans here sure do chafe at the avriel leash.
The worries were set aside once Eriella started talking, mostly just small-talk sandwiched between thick layers of praise. That was Eri the ever-polite he knew. However, she even complimented his physique for what must have been the first time ever. That was truly new, and Arizeem didn’t think that he really deserved any of those compliments. He had only just started in the Dominion and his feather coloration was well below mediocre, but he was so starved for approval in the last few arcs, that he couldn’t bring himself to dismiss this torrent of praise. It just felt too good, even though it was from a slave-race female. Arizeem looked at her again, with the eyes of a healthy male instead of those of an old friend. A very attractive woman, as far as humans go. She lacked the lithe and inherently graceful physique of avriel women, but had this earthy beauty possessed by some exceptionally comely specimens of the lower races. Arizeem didn’t blame her for blatantly checking him out earlier, his eyes wandered too, especially after she unfastened some of the buttons. There seemed to be some mutual attraction between them. Was he blind to her advances back then, or did she just now notice him as an adult instead of an ever-drunk adolescent piece of shit? Not that it mattered, it was too late anyway. First, she was a friend, or as close to a friend as a human could be. Why risk that comfortable friendship? Second, he quit sleeping with lesser races arcs ago.
Arizeem had some experience with human women. He remembered them with quiet shame. Of course, the arcs spent as travelling with the performer troupe as a sole representative of his species during the most hormone-driven stages of his life, while going from one festive occasion to another, some experimentation was bound to happen. He was curious, and also a curiosity himself. Needless to say, he was the less experienced partner in those encounters. In retrospect, he was probably disappointing more often than not. And he didn’t even want to think about the possibility of unknowingly siring a hybrid. He heard from several independent sources that this specific kind of interbreeding is indeed possible, and that its results are seldom pretty.
Arizeem barely listened to Eriella’s speech, just providing some generic response whenever appropriate. Damn, even her voice sounded seductive, and he wasn’t even drunk yet. She was pretty in her own way and her obvious interest flattered him, but did he really want to jump the bones of his long-time friend, and a lower-race one at that? Nope. Just no. No. He was so lost in thought that he startled when a rather corpulent tavern wench appeared by the table holding an earthenware pitcher along with two clear wine glasses. The avriel’s metallic eyes widened in genuine surprise. „Oh! How you knowed?“
„I was working the next table just when you were sitting down, I couldn’t help but to overhear you, sir, for ‘most sure’.“ The wench offered a smile that didn’t quite reach her small hazel eyes, and set the drinks on the table with a little more force than necessary. „Pitcher of white, right?“ She got a nod out of the surprised avriel. „There. Anything to eat, mayhaps?“
Arizeem, unsure if he is being messed with, glanced at Eriella, then back at the wench. He didn’t dare to order any food that wouldn’t be prepared right in front of his eyes. His tavern experience made him quite wary of various ‘special sauces’ served to unwanted guests. They would probably spit in Eri’s food, too, just for talking with him. However, a clear, still drink like white wine was much harder to mess with. „Food later maybe, fine now.“
The wench nodded energetically with both of her chins. „That’s one gold four silver then, if you please.“
Arizeem reached into one of his pockets and extended his palm, now holding two golden nels, toward the wench. She picked them up warily, as if expecting his claws to close around her hand at any moment, then started picking through her coin pouch in search of change.
„Is fine, fine“, added Arizeem with a placating gesture. Given all that passive aggression, the tip wasn’t warranted, but the avriel wanted to extend it as a peace offering of sorts.
The wench just shook her head. „Oh no, sir, I don’t deserve this.“ She eventually dug out six particularly shiny silver coins, which she stacked on the table with an experienced flick of her fingers. „Enjoy!“, called the wench almost over her shoulder, as she turned away and quickly left the table.
Arizeem’s gaze fell on the six silver nels stacked neatly on the table. It was plain as day that his business wasn’t really welcome here - they hated even his money. He lifted the pitcher to fill glasses for both of them, and slid one toward Eriella with a sour smile on his face.
This unpleasant interaction seemed to cool Eri down too, as she laid off the small talk and began telling her life’s story since the time they parted ways. Arizeem listened with interest and relief. Interest, because the troupe used to be a big part of his life, for and better and worse.
Relief, because she ceased with the temptations. Arizeem thought he is above that now, but she sure knew how to erode his resolve. Now that she gave up, they can have a real conversation between - no, forget the relief part. There was nothing innocent about what she just did with to the wine glass with her tongue. She then set it down and casted a longing glance into it. Was the wineglass thing more than just a crass gesture… did she use it like a symbolic stand-in?
That made Arizeem lose track of her current story. Nashaki, Yaralon, desert natives… given the circumstances, Arizeem was having a hard time keeping his focus. She had fire and soul, and she made more and more overt advances on him. The avriel wasn’t quite sure if he can resist anymore. He wasn’t even sure whether he wanted to resist anymore. Shocked by his own train of thought, he bit the inside of his mouth. The pain brought him back somewhat, but the taste of wine didn’t mix well with that of blood. He needed to make Eriella stop with her attempts, as enticing and flattering as they were, or they will both end up regretting it. He made a point to acknowledge only her story, and not to react to the… other things. It was difficult. Arizeem licked his dry lips, unknowingly staining them with a shadow of his own diluted blood. Upon a lull in conversation, he interjected. „Thank for stories, Eri. Believe or not, I am happy that the principal is fine. Times are bad, in Nashaki most of, but other places too. Bandits and low-way-men every where. But he is smart man.“ He needed to reject her now, before she can get her hopes up, or, rather, before he himself succumbs. His confidence in that area was severely shaken in the latest bits. „I am glad you are fine too. A small too fine - no, sounds all wrong in common - but doing good. Looking good, too, very, and, but-“
Eriella stood up abruptly. Was the tone of his voice all it took to set her off? Be it as it may, it was still rude. At least she should first listen to what he has to say. But there was no yelling. Call of nature, then?
„Hang on just a bit, sweetie. I need to talk to this cutie-pie over here.“ Arizeem followed her gaze, thoroughly confused. It led to a table where another man, quite unremarkable one at that, sat alone. The avriel looked at Eri as if she had just slapped him. The message here was obvious - ‘I don’t consider you a man anymore, and I am going to find somebody more worthy of my time’. „Don't drink too much before I get back.“, she added. After the slap, this was a true knife to the back. It meant, ‘And I still consider you a drunk loser’. Hell truly hath no fury like a woman scorned. Or an alcoholic confronted. He was just viciously mocked for his lack of manhood. Fair enough. But the drinking comment was completely uncalled for. The bitch was really trying to hurt him, and she knew exactly how.
Arizeem wasn’t having it. No human had the right to talk to him in such a way. The avriel wanted to jump at Eriella’s new love interest and tear him apart right in front of her, just to hear her scream in horror. If she so desperately wants a part of that man, he will carve him up for her and make her pick the right cuts to take home. The table creaked as the avriel subconsciously dug his claws a good half inch into the wood. After all the previous confusion, anger was now a welcome, liberating, familiar feeling. It made him feel more like himself. Arizeem fumed silently, watching her leave. She stumbled, already drunk on his gold, the cheap nasty hog.
Wait, drunk? Something doesn’t quite add up. Arizeem squinted at her walking form. She really walked as if she were drunk. Arizeem spent much of his life in taverns, and has seen and felt the process of getting drunk many, many times. Concentration and fine motoric went way before any disruption of balance. The stumble was perfect, but so was the line delivery - she didn’t slur any of her words at all. Her skin wasn’t that red either, and skin redness is pretty much the first thing. This was an act. She, the disciplined and dutiful Eri as he remembered her, was a good actor, but she probably didn’t have much personal experience with heavy drinking.
Just telling him off apparently wasn’t enough for her. This was no uncontrollable angry fit, the two-copper whore was after some serious, cold revenge for spurning her advances! She wanted him to slip, wanted to make him fight by instigating the oldest tavern fight scenario. He has seen this exact situation unfold time and time again. And why did the damn brand on his back suddenly burn so much now?! Literally the worst timing! Did the dumb bitch even know just how dangerous this situation is?! A fight here, in this human tavern, is a death sentence! How did he deserve this?! He just wanted to talk to an old friend, for fuck’s sake! She humiliated him, betrayed him, and tried to drag him into a fight with some schmuck, all because he didn’t want to play along!
Loud bangs and shattering of glass brought Arizeem back to reality. He was surprised to find himself standing over toppled table, glass shards and spilled wine. He must have flipped the table. He became conscious of all the stares aimed at him. He didn’t care at the moment. He tried to let her down nicely - kind of tried, anyway - but she forced his claw. He will do it the hard way. „You bitch!“, screeched Arizeem, catching up to Eriella in a single wingbeat, fighting the urge to slap her face bloody. „You making me angry, making me fight! Why? Why?! How do I deserve?“ Arizeem took a step closer, yelling right into her pretty face. „Fight here is most bad! It will make me killed easy-like, big trouble for all, you realize? Of course you don’t, dumb you!“, answered Arizeem his own question. „Don’t say nothing! Listen! I meet old friend, very glad! Yes?! I take you the old friend to human place, to better accommodate, yes?! To drink and tell stories, no trouble, yes?!“ Every ‘yes’ was punctuated by a claw stab stopped just short of her forehead. „You start acting like a date, yes?! I do no interest and you make worst revenge, yes?!“
The avriel snarled. „Listen more. If I ever want fuck human, whore places are everywhere, most cheap! I wanted old friend talk of stories, not this! If you speak real romancy… never! Not unlessthan you grow wings, understand?! And what for? You hate my drinking! My family gold is not my gold! Never will! And crossed breeds are too most horrible! What you after?!“ Arizeem has screamed himself hoarse at this point. He continued in a strained hiss. „You crazy-evil bitch, such nasty revenge! You did too much acting drama stuff, it damaged your brain! I am doing no lover-boy in your tragedy. And why that guy, not other? You know him? Same crime as me? Didn’t tell you are pretty enough times? Or you want his money? Hm?! Oh don’t even tell, you lie much.“
Arizeem’s rage was now mostly spent. He got to say his piece without actually striking anybody. He was immensely proud of himself, despite all the withering glares shot his way by the entire tavern. He turned his back on Eriella and walked back to his former table. He righted the overturned table, then the chairs. There was nothing he could do about the glassware, so he just hastily kicked the biggest shards under the table. He made eye contact with the tavern wench and demonstratively placed a handful of gold coins onto the righted table. „For glass,“ he rasped. He then approached the man that was to be his opponent. „I must know… You know her? Troupe actor Eriella familiar sounds? Who everman you are, she hates you very much. I am her old troupe friend. Was friend. But who are you? Old love? Does she owe you money?“
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[Starter quest] Old friends, new issues

Sun Sep 10, 2017 10:21 pm

The avriel was not the only one sensing some particularly pointed intent in the woman's behavior. The human at the table scooted back his chair, directing narrowed eyes at her. He did not rise, assuming it would only constitute the appearance of a challenge.

He softened his expression and held his empty hands up defensively, "I don't know what she's talking about, sir. I don't know this woman. I'm just here minding my own business. And I think it shows real decency for you to come to one of our taverns for her sake." He turned his face back toward her with a scowl, "She ought to be thanking you, not trying to drag you into some bar fight."

Now he rose, slowly; Eriella immediately closing distance in an attempt to force him to have to pass close by Arizeem if he tried to leave. His gaze at her was rife with accusation as he backed up to find a lane between tables that would not bring him too near either of them. A big man behind him was only just scraping his own chair back and the contact caused him to rattle his own table enough to cause several bottles to fall over.

Eriella donned a suspiciously satisfied-looking smirk as this new entry into the confrontation whirled angrily on the man who'd been trying to remove himself from the picture. "Hey, ya clumsy ass! Look whatcha did!" The new man roared, his low voice fitting his big stature. the trio that sat with him immediately moving to form a grinning semi-circle, preventing the first man from finding an escape to the side.

It did not go unnoticed that patrons at several other tables now also moved to take up positions by the exits, letting a number of the human customers leave, and closing the doors behind them. The man who was obviously being targeted looked at the lone avriel and drew a knife. But his advance was clearly to take a shared defensive back-to-back position. "Looks like it's you and me against the world, buddy. I think we're supposed to look like we killed each other. We may not get out of this, but all we really need to do is break a few windows to draw attention, and cut a few of them to give a lie to the stage they're trying to set. You want the bitch, or should I?"
word count: 416
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[Starter quest] Old friends, new issues

Tue Sep 26, 2017 11:50 pm



When Arizeem questioned the targeted man at the table, he expected to gain some insight into what was actually going on. The human provided very little information, but that was to be expected. He seemed to be amiable enough, if a little wary. Well, he was probably just as confused by the whole crazy situation as Arizeem himself. The avriel felt a wave of relief wash over him - he didn’t have to fight after all. All that was left to do was to give Eriella, that crazy vengeful bitch of a woman, a farewell earful, then fly home and wash down the sour taste with some more wine.
The man at the table slowly stood up and moved to leave, as if Arizeem were some rabid beast that would be enraged by any kind of sudden movement. The avriel opened his mouth to tell the fearful-looking human that he has no beef with him, but then he noticed the fierce positional battle between the man and Eriella. The words remained stuck. Something was very wrong, and getting worse by the heartbeat. The breath intended to carry out his calming words has long since left him, but his jaw still hanged slightly ajar, as he helplessly watched the tables turn, quite literally. He saw the man being surrounded by a trio of bruisers. He saw the patrons evacuating the tavern and blocking the exits. He also saw the knife being pulled, but it was Eriella’s dangerous, knowing smirk that finally caused his increasing wariness to blossom into pure, throat-tightening dread. He recognized the wolfish smile of a successful manipulator - he was wearing it himself once, when he condemned a sailor to great suffering and possibly even death just for spitting into his drink. This was no tavern brawl, this was a murder in making! And this time, he was the victim.
Eriella must have known about all this in advance! She prepared! But how? When?! Arizeem felt utterly outplayed, the bitter taste of defeat fresh on his tongue. What good is his improvisation, when he has absolutely no idea about who these people are, and why are they doing this? Arizeem’s feathers bristled in primal fear, his mind flooded by overpowering stream of fight-or-flight impulses. The realization that he is probably going to die in the next few moments hit him like butcher’s mallet, making his mind slow and hazy. The remaining rational part of his mind briefly considered begging for his life and promising Eriella to give her all that she wanted today and so much more, but there was no trace of mercy in that vengeful smile of hers.
Then, the man with the knife started talking, shedding some much needed light onto the situation. It sounded complicated - suspiciously like ramblings of a person maddened with fear. That would make two of them. Or, just maybe, the man had figured it out. The avriel, having no other options, latched onto the hope that the man knows what he’s doing. Outwardly, Arizeem didn’t even acknowledge the man’s plan and kept his body language openly hostile against him, as if he wasn’t convinced at all. The avriel had one final act to sell.
Eriella, the apparent mastermind behind this murder attempt, was still close. Arizeem had no idea what her overall plan was, but he felt like she was the common denominator of all that was going on, the mechanism operating the jaws of this trap. Arizeem agreed that getting rid of her was probably their best bet, but he didn’t like his unexpected friend’s idea of rushing her head-on with a knife. It would trigger all her allies, whoever they were, into immediate and lethal action, killing them both. Moreover, she was fit and nimble, and would probably end with up only with a few superficial cuts.
Arizeem took a different angle of approach. Eriella seemed to enjoy her upcoming victory greatly. She probably wanted to see him clueless and humiliated before death, to fully sate whatever vendetta she had against him. To buy a bit more time, to get a bit closer, he had to make it irresistibly sweet for her. And if this didn’t work, there was always the… knife option. „N-no more closer with that b-blade, you! I warn!“, shouted Arizeem at his unexpected friend, moving as if to defend himself and Eriella from the attack. „S-stop talking madness and go away f-from me and Eri!“ He unfolded his wing threateningly, assuming a protective posture over Eriella, whose smirk probably grew even wider by now. The avriel didn’t dare to check her facial expression, careful to make himself appear fully focused on the knife-wielding man. „T-they want you, not me, not Eri! I just a-asked thing! And she i-is a big dumb bitch, but not killer!“ He didn't even have to overplay his panic. As shameful as it felt, the stuttering was real.
Then, without warning, the extended wing that was used to ‘protect’ Eriella snapped shut, pinning her torso and arms firmly between Arizeem’s wingbones and shoulder - a simple but effective grappling hold hold he picked up in basic just a few trials ago. Eriella started struggling, but she wasn’t able to prevent the avriel from quickly placing his hand across her face, as if to pinch her nose bridge between his thumb and index finger. Eriella managed to get a solid bite on Arizeem’s pressing palm, but her teeth were soon parted by an uncontrollable howl of agony. She immediately ceased all attempts to break free. Her eyes started to weep blood from under her eyelids, which were twitching and clenching in desperate attempts to get Arizeem’s claws out of her eyes. It was of no use - the claws of the two strongest fingers were already firmly lodged between her eyeballs and their respective eye sockets, as if they were implements of a very crude lobotomy. This was a straightforward way to produce some instant pain compliance and a looming death threat, as any disorganized movement would cause the claws to cut into the eyeballs proper. Even the skull itself offered only reduced protection in such a thin area, should one choose to take that lobotomy analogy one step further. Needless to say, it was both the instructors’ and recruits’ favourite unarmed technique.
Arizeem took a deep breath to steady himself and finally offered an affirmative nod to the knife-wielding companion. The fact that this ugly technique actually worked still felt completely unreal, as did the fact that the claws were now in the eyes of a woman that was his best human friend just a few moments ago. However, he knew that this wasn’t a dream. No nightmare would actually hurt this much. He felt blood drip down his hand, coming both from Eriella’s eyes and from the deep bite on his own palm. „A-all this is you-caused!“, accused Arizeem his hostage, feeling some weird urge to rationalize the torment he was putting her through. „All this push-move-dance! Must be! Some-how!“ She, of course, wasn’t able to reply.
The avriel raised his head and voice to address the wider audience. „This is kill-job! She must did pay you to do this! Or promised pay! See, one bad move, she dies bad too!“ The avriel took a first small step toward the door, yanking Eriella along with him. The motion elicited another muffled cry of pain from the woman. Arizeem continued one small step after another, trying to keep the momentum, threatening anyone that would come too close for comfort with the claws of his free hand. „You hear?! Corpses can’t pay money promises, yes?!“ He hesitated briefly. „Or… or if you already have the pays, just keep them for nothing, why not?! Much less trouble! Let us just out!“ His gaze turned back to his fellow victim. „Knife-guy! Keep close-like and get the door or some-thing, we go come out!“
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[Starter quest] Old friends, new issues

Sun Oct 01, 2017 1:22 am

The human with the knife was just about to make a stern effort to convince the avriel that he was wrong about Eriella, but his eyes popped as wide as anyone's when the bird-man locked the woman suddenly in a grapple and put her eyeballs to the claw. Still, he did not offer a compliment on the move, as he had seen that his winged companion had shown feelings toward her originally. He knew the pain it must have been causing him inside, slave-race or no.

The man got a look as if he'd come to a decision, "Look, buddy, you need to get out of here. One of us needs to anyway, and it was never going to be me. They're obviously onto me. Think about it, a fight in a bar, a woman as the central figure, but not one of these goons is acting like it's a jealousy thing. They're not fightin' over the woman. Why would so many plain citizens get mixed up in this sort of confrontation. One reason. These folks are all Cult of Valtharn. I'll do you the courtesy of honesty here..."

He was cut off as Eriella started screaming in earnest. It had nothing to do with the pain, as Arizeem had not aggravated the hold he had on her. If anything, it would only be her thrashing around that would cause further injury. But she thrashed nonetheless. Blood streamed down her face as she shrieked.

The man raised his voice to a shout to be heard, "SHE'S TRYING TO KEEP YOU FROM KNOWING! I'M ON YOUR ENEMY'S SIDE IN THE WAR, I ADMIT IT. BUT AT LEAST I'M ON A SIDE. I WANT MY SIDE TO WIN, YOU WANT YOURS, BUT HER CULT DOESN'T EVER WANT IT TO END!"

"SHUT HIM UP!" Eriella screamed, lurching free to completely sacrifice one eyeball as the crowd of men rushed the three before they could reach the door.

The man with the knife did not hesitate to turn and plant it to the hilt in her chest, and tear it sideways before Arizeem's shocked face. Then he simply rammed into the avriel, sending him staggering through the door. "THEY'RE TRAINED TO ENDURE PAIN! GO!"

It was possible that the avriel would instinctively block his forced departure one way or another. But either way, his last view of the man was as he was swarmed under by the crowd, knives plunging again and again. His last view of Eriella would be her staring in one-eyed disbelief at the knife in her chest as she sagged to the floor.
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