2.5, mini-adventure: Pretty women

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Re: 2.5, mini-adventure: Pretty women

Post by Zeiss on Tue Jan 31, 2017 12:57 am

The "rope" seems to be holding well. Looking very displeased, he nevertheless listens to Konrad, then turns his head away when the red mage is finished, avoiding everyone's gaze. This changes when Mihai squats down in front of Songbird. The minstrel glares back at him without flinching, not intimidated in the least, then spits into his captor's face once the speech is over. Zelk sighs.

"This isn't getting us anywhere," she states. "I only need to inform my superiors, and they'll take him off our hands and find a way to deal with him."
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Re: 2.5, mini-adventure: Pretty women

Post by K on Tue Jan 31, 2017 1:02 am

Mihai glances at the spit on his cheek. He wipes it off, then stares at Songbird. A few seconds go by,


"That feel better? Probably not by much, considering what you were planning to do to me. And that was when i'd never done anything to you, let alone now."


He shakes the spit off his hand. His tone becomes weary.


"I wish i'd been able to do at least that much. Been able to spit in your face when you tried to take the most important person in my life away from me. But you wouldn't even let me have that. And not even just because you wanted Fedler; you wanted me there to watch. You wanted to insult before you injured me, and not even let me hate you for it."

He then casually points at Konrad.

"I had a spat with that guy over there not too long ago. Told him to go fuck himself because he wanted me to be as big a fan of torture as he is. When i was snapped out of your little trick back there, i felt myself gag. Was about ready to freak out and snap, when i just bit it all down and decided to focus on what i needed to do to save my friends. I didn't want to lower myself to an animal because of what you did. Now imagine how he's gonna gloat."

He rises to his feet.

"I could do a whole lot worse than punch and kick you. But i've dirtied myself enough. Now if you'll excuse me, i have to go vomit."

He walks away.
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Re: 2.5, mini-adventure: Pretty women

Post by Zeiss on Tue Jan 31, 2017 7:48 pm

Songbird remains defiant throughout Mihai's speech, and his attitude progressively changes from sullen to outright dismissive. He decides to look down at his legs feet instead, thus avoiding the gaze of everyone present in the room, and keeps this position when Mihai leaves the room.

OOC:
I'll wait for the others to post.
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Re: 2.5, mini-adventure: Pretty women

Post by Kolson on Tue Jan 31, 2017 8:34 pm

"Do it Zelk. This is pointless. I don't care why he did this or who he really is. He can rot in some hole somewhere for all I care. Not that it will do him much good."
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Re: 2.5, mini-adventure: Pretty women

Post by Rory on Tue Jan 31, 2017 10:13 pm

For the duration of the berating, Konrad only looks at Mihai with as much frustration as Songbird is defiant. Has he really done this before?

When Mihai goes his own way, he picks up the ball. "Tough act to follow." In a different way. "He has a point though: your unique nature is saving you from much in the way of retaliation. But not by a stretch. But you can relax; we're not going to mess you up if you don't cooperate. That's not why we're here tonight."

No, that's on someone else's tab. But he has to ask the questions no one else seems interested in asking. He's not the only one of his kind, I'm sure. I doubt Snicker is either. If I'm wrong, I'll eat my shirt.

"How long have you been living among us? Among people?"
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Re: 2.5, mini-adventure: Pretty women

Post by Zeiss on Tue Jan 31, 2017 10:57 pm

Zelk's facial features soften, and she nods at Steve to show that she understands, but when Konrad starts speaking again, she glances at Songbird to mentally debate something. After a short moment, she looks back at Steve and gestures with her head to the door leading outside the room, as if she was saying, "You can wait outside if you want."

Mihai's exit perplexes Fedler, and she appears to consider following him out of this room, but she opts to stay instead. As for Breeze, she's onto the third shrimp.

Songbird stares back at Konrad. "I don't have much incentive to answer you, do I now?"


Last edited by Zeiss on Tue Jan 31, 2017 11:38 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: 2.5, mini-adventure: Pretty women

Post by Kolson on Tue Jan 31, 2017 11:36 pm

Steve puts his hand on his heart and nods, his expression sad but appreciative. He leaves the room to wait outside. He'll stay near the door but not so near that he can hear what is said.
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Re: 2.5, mini-adventure: Pretty women

Post by Rory on Tue Jan 31, 2017 11:42 pm

Actually, yes you do. "Don't worry. I think I already know the answer."


"I know the path you've been walking. Trick is, you can only fool some people all of the time, and most will turn on you after the fact."

"They'll end you if they can't bind you, but eventually they'll find a way. I don't know what dying is like, but I've gotten close, several times." He turns his head to the side to grant a generous view of his scar. "It's not fun."

"Avoiding that mess means you start cooperating with people, and the first step is to help people understand you. You can choose to ignore me, but you can't ignore everyone." Certainly not where you're going.
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Re: 2.5, mini-adventure: Pretty women

Post by K on Wed Feb 01, 2017 1:10 am

Mihai passes by the ground floor, looking a bit haggard. He notices Steve near the door to the buffet room, leaning against the wall with his hands in his pockets and his eyes closed. He looks a little green.

Mihai hesitates, but eventually goes up the stairs to join him - "Hey."

Steve opens his eyes and they take moment to focus on Mihai. "Hey."

"Still the same in there?"

"He might start talking. Konrad sounded like he was on to something when I stepped out."

Mihai looks at the door with hard eyes - "Only way the bastard might still say something was if i left. But i don't like leaving them alone with him in there."

"I know what you mean."

Mihai pauses a moment, before picking it back up - "Don't tell anyone i gave that speech, by the way. That was bullshit."

"Hmm, what was?"

Mihai shrugs  - "I just wanted to get his mind off that defiant act. Maybe salvage whatever was left, so Konrad would have a shot. Pushing him that far was a bad move. That's on me."

"You mean beating the shit out of him?"

He chuckles - "That was nothing. If i'd gone all out on him, he'd be a few teeth and a finger right now." - then mutters under his breath - "Motherfucker..."

Steve thinks about that and says in a low whisper. "I wanted you to. I wanted you to keep doing that. It felt good to make him suffer for what he did to us. To Zelk and the girls." His face is a mask of shame when he realizes he said that out loud.

Mihai notices, and deflates... then at length - "Right before he put Sean on stage, the girls were acting strange. Fedler was acting strange. I..." - he trails off slightly - "thought something was wrong. But thought maybe i was being paranoid. Maybe it wasn't that unusual for them to be enjoying themselves." - his expression hardens - "I didn't know... i didn't see it coming."

"Are you sure? We were all having a good time."

"No, this was different. Me and Fedler knew better. For a fact. That's why..." - he trails off, looking angry at himself - "I should have put two and two together."

"That's bullshit. Did you know this kind of magic existed?"

"No, but just before the performance i found out he wasn't human. I'm sorry, Steve. I didn't have time to tell you."

"We already knew he was off and we all kept an eye on him. Except Konrad who prefered to cause mischief because Konrad. And even he didn't trust the guy."

Mihai frowns - "It was blind luck that Konrad had an Orb. If he hadn't..." - he stops himself - "...we shouldn't have put it off for so long. The moment we knew he was strange, we should have asked Breeze for those Orbs." -  then relents and shakes his head - "...nevermind."

"Yeah, that actually is our fault. We should have done it right after we reported to Sonlake. But we were home and tired. In more ways that one. We were going to the beach and dancing at a ball. Why would we find trouble?"

Frowning intensifies - "Yeah..." - he mutters - "...why would we need to keep our guard up every day?" - then looks at Steve - "But that's what it might take from now on."

A look of profound weariness settles onto Steve's face as he slowly nods in agreement.



Mihai stays silent for a moment, then - "You weren't the only one who wanted him beat to a pulp." - he mutters in a low voice.

"I know. Everyone is angry. Even Breeze."

"....yeah."




"Mihai? Why would anyone do this? It's like he hated us from the start."

Mihai stays silent for a moment - "I... don't know." - he admits - "It's like Snicker all over again. Just wanting to fuck with people for it's own sake. I'd understand if it just wanted to get laid but... it wanted us there, broken. After it had gone out of it's way to offend us. Like..." - he trails off - "I've met some fucked up people, but this..." - he sighs.

"I just don't get it. If he wanted friends there was nothing stopping him from getting them. He's clearly talented. Peewee likes him for some reason. I mean, I don't get it."

Mihai shakes his head tiredly - "That's the big question, isn't it. Why." - then regains focus - "But..." - his tone hardens - "I'll settle for knowing he can never do it again."

"We may have to if he never talks. He's crazy though if he thinks he'll get away with this. They aren't just going to throw him in a hole somewhere. They'll pull him apart trying to find out what he is and how he did that magic."

Mihai squints - "I just hope they never find out."

Steve nods. "Me too."


Last edited by K on Thu Feb 02, 2017 2:48 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: 2.5, mini-adventure: Pretty women

Post by Zeiss on Wed Feb 01, 2017 1:21 am

The lack of front teeth doesn't deter Songbird from snarling at Konrad. The polite mask he was previously wearing has now completely fallen.

"You don't know a thing," he snaps back. "There is no escaping death. Once they figure out how to shut down the Dome, they'll come for you. All of you. This ball? That was just me having a bit of fun before the end. I can't wait to see you try to cooperate with them."

The man in red then falls quiet, and by the stubborn expression on his face, it seems unlikely that he will say anything else. Fedler, Zelk and Breeze look at each other with concern.
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Re: 2.5, mini-adventure: Pretty women

Post by Rory on Wed Feb 01, 2017 2:13 am

"Tsk tsk. Didn't you learn anything just now? Wait. 'The Dome'?" What? Oh...interesting.

"Oh, I get it! You're an Imp! Well I sure hope you've had your fun, because it sounds like we're about to get a lot more like you crawling out in your crusty flesh golems. Or are their teeth a little stronger than yours?"


Deception
You know nothing, Jon Snow.


Diplomacy +AP
Taunting him into giving us more info. Names or something.
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Re: 2.5, mini-adventure: Pretty women

Post by Zeiss on Wed Feb 01, 2017 2:58 am

Konrad's attitude appears to puzzle Songbird, who then shakes his head like someone would to a young child. Despite the taunt, the minstrel nevertheless stays silent.

"Konrad," interrupts Fedler in a surprisingly calm manner. "I don't think he's going to say anything else. Let's just be done with him. Zelk can take care of the rest."

"Yeah!" exclaims Breeze as she brandishes her half-eaten shrimp. "The meanie has been beaten, and punishment awaits!" Num num.
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Re: 2.5, mini-adventure: Pretty women

Post by Rory on Wed Feb 01, 2017 3:11 am

Konrad sighs. "Fine. Zelk, will you go get your people? And tell Steve to come in here and help Fedler watch him. I don't want him to try anything...foolish."
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Re: 2.5, mini-adventure: Pretty women

Post by Zeiss on Wed Feb 01, 2017 3:26 am

"Let's move him to the pantry first," she suggests. "People might start asking questions if we occupy the buffet room for too long. We can get to the pantry through the dining hall from this secret door." She points to a portion of the wall. "The guests won't see us this way."
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Re: 2.5, mini-adventure: Pretty women

Post by Rory on Wed Feb 01, 2017 3:33 am

"Lead the way." He grabs Songbird by the arm to shuffle him to their destination, and makes a gesture with his free hand where he can see, which the others will recognize as the somatic component of the Fire spell. All he needs now is to speak a compatible word to cast.

"Remember: nothing foolish."
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Re: 2.5, mini-adventure: Pretty women

Post by Zeiss on Wed Feb 01, 2017 11:12 pm

Once Songbird is taken away in the pantry and the party is reunited, Fedler shares with the others what happened exactly; how she and Mihai met the "guardian", how the orbs had the power to free people from Songbird's manipulations, and what the minstrel revealed about the Dome after Konrad successfully taunted him. Of course, Fedler makes sure that Songbird doesn't hear her explanations.

Zelk also reveals that she knew about the guardian, but she refuses to say anything about it. "That concerns the guardian and my grandfather only." She doesn't seem particularly angry that Mihai and Fedler broke into her grandfather's office either, and dismisses the hunter's apology. "Don't worry about it Fedler. Just don't say anything to grandpa."

She then leaves the manor through the backdoor to contact her superiors. Half an hour later, she comes back with eight soldiers in tow, all armed with magical weapons. Woven shackles usually reserved for the cursed are put on Songbird's wrists, and he is escorted out of the estate, presumably to be incarcerated in a prison; however, the one in command of this unit stays behind. For the next two hours, this man writes down the testimony of everyone present, and once it is over, he looks over the party members and say, "It would be a lot easier for us to keep this man behind bars if you never spoke to anyone about it." He then takes his leave.

Knowledge politics roll:
You all roll well enough to understand that what they are doing is actually illegal; bypassing the process of trial to send Songbird directly in prison. Revealing that fact to other factions could cost you lots of brownie points with the Free government. Zelk also stares at you to emphasize this point.

It is almost 10:30 PM, and the ball is now over. The guests have just left the manor, all unaware of what happened, and the servants have begun to clean the rooms.

"I'm going to take a shower," declares Fedler. "Then I'll turn in for the night."

"Yes, me too," replies Zelk. She sighs. "I have to go see Aemilia and Peewee first."

"Oh, Peewee can sleep in my room tonight!" says Breeze. "He needs a friend right now."

"Really...? Thank you Breeze."

"No prob!"

The blue-haired girl gives the black mage a thumbs up, which causes Zelk and Fedler to smile. Once Aemilia has left Peewee in the care of Zelk and Breeze, she wishes goodnight to everyone, and goes home (presumably with Konrad).

_____________________

Zelk decides to leave Walkerfree the day after tomorrow at noon, which leaves the party members some time to relax. They are free to explore the city or interact with certain NPCs before they go say goodbye to her and Steve. It seems the Freeron maiden has had the idea of traveling on foot through the Free Feathers until she eventually ends up at Highwind, and she's allowing Steve to carry her luggage.

OOC:
The usual; post any actions you want to take for the next day and a half, and talk with me through chat if you want to do an RP session. Then, it's the final scene of the adventure, where everyone say goodbye and go their own way.
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Re: 2.5, mini-adventure: Pretty women

Post by Zeiss on Wed Feb 08, 2017 3:28 pm

Steve and Zelk:
Zelk enters her room and makes a beeline for the bed, on which she lets herself fall, and then stuffs her head into the pillow. Steve follows and sits beside her, putting his hand on her back to comfort her. "Are you okay?" he asks.

Her voice is muffled, but he manages to understand what she is saying. "I'm just tired... and I wanna punch something."

"More like someone, yes?"

She groans, and turns her head to face him. "Him, yes."

"Mihai thinks Songbird got to the three of you somehow. Made you want to watch his performance more than you would have."

She winces. "He would be right. It felt right at the time, but now... I'm just glad it's over. That little girl is more precious than anyone would expect."

"If they weren't convinced before, fairy power just became the future of warfare. If we are going to stand any chance in the future, the Feathers' needs to recruit fairies. As many as they can."

Zelk's eyes linger on Steve as she considers his reasoning. "You're right," she replies. "My superiors are surely planning to locate Peewee's siblings and offer them the Feathers' citizenship." She pauses, suddenly realizing something. "And maybe build them a village of their own."

"Yes, just like the one the Coins' are piloting. I think the 113th is the testbed for using fairy power as well."

"After what she managed to do during the last mission, and what happened today, there's no way the government is going to ignore the fairies." She sighs. "The other countries are bound to do the same thing."

"Yes. I'm afraid they won't be treated well or they'll be taken advantage of, like Peewee probably was. Assuming some unscrupulous but enterprising mage doesn't get it into their heads to start dissecting them so they can get around the emotional requirements of the love globule." His shoulders are slumped and he looks very tired.

There's a moment of silence before Zelk decides to turn around, and lie down on her back. "If there's someone dumb enough to try that, I'll take care of it." She takes Steve's hand.

He squeezes her hand. "We'll take care of it."

"Don't get all mushy now."

He looks up and grins a little. "It can't be hard all the time. Otherwise you'd get bored."

Zelk smiles back at him. "Keep dreaming." The upper-half of her body rises from the bed, and she adds, "I need a shower. Can you help me take this corset off?"

His grin becomes larger. "I've been wanting to take it off since you walked out in it." He gets up and moves around the bed to help her.

"Oh, I know. It was always easy to tell with you."

"Says the lady who spent half the night eye-humping me." He gets to work on the string. It isn't hard to figure out, he's just not used to doing it, so it's a slow process at first.

"I was just making sure you weren't being sweet with the other girls," she replies in a falsely curt manner. "Some of them probably thought you were the scion of some new well-off family."

He laughs. "Yeah, joke's on them. Even if I was they'd never survive the night."

"Probably." Zelk stays quiet from this point on, until Steve finally manages to take the corset off, which leaves only the robe on her. "Steve? Can I ask you something? About your family."

"Um, sure. But you already know Vel."

"Yes, but you've never talked about your parents." She stops herself from saying too much. "Sorry, I shouldn't have asked this soon."

"It's okay to ask, Zelk, but I'm not going to be very helpful. I never knew them."

"I thought so. You were too young to remember, right?"

"Yes."

"Who were they?"

"No idea."

"Uh?" This answer surprises her. "You... never asked?"

"I...no. Why would I?"

"...I just thought you would be curious. You're always curious about everything else, even when you're not supposed to."

"I just don't, okay?" His jovial manner is gone.

She's taken aback by this reaction, and instinctively turns away from him. "I'm going to take a shower," she informs him in a stiff tone, before standing up and going to the bathroom.

He wants to call out to her and apologize but he just can't do it. He watches in silent dread as she walks away. He leaves to take a walk. That always helps.

Once Steve leaves the room, he can hear the sound of the servants cleaning the buffer service coming from one floor below him. Then there's Breeze, who is holding up with her arms a small plate full of cupcakes, and flying in his direction. "Oh hey Steve!"

"Oh hi Breeze," answers the young mage. "What are you doing with all those cupcakes?"

"It's for Peewee," she explains. "He's really sad right now, so I thought a cupcake might cheer him up." She examines Steve a little more closely, and then tilts her head. "Do you need a cupcake?"

"Probably, but I'm not really hungry."

"Oh." She stays immobile in the air for a few seconds, except for her wings that keep flapping at an extraordinary speed, sets down the plate on the nearby railing, and takes one cupcake in her arms. "Are you sure? I have plenty, so it's no problem! You can even bring one to Zelk." She offers him the sweet cake.

"I'm not sure she'll want one from me right now."

A momentary expression of defeat appears on the fairy's face, but it is quickly replaced by concern. "Why not? She loves you, right?"

"Yes, very much I think."

"Why not then?"

A look of dread appears on his face. "I'm sorry I've got to go. No time you see. Later Breeze." He shuffles quickly away.

"Wait, Steve!" Breeze watches him walk away, then back at her room where Peewee is waiting for her. After a few seconds of hesitation, she decides to put the cupcake back on the small plate, and pick it up again.

By the time half an hour passes, Steve has walked around the block four times. Only now he notices that one of the magical fireflies present at the ball is now following him from afar. He stops and stares at it, waiting for it to draw closer. "Yes? Can I help you?"

It flies closer to him, and responds by moving rapidly from left to right.

"Oh, okay. Did you want to join me then?"

It repeats the same movement as before.

"Oh, just keep following me then."

Steve has a one-sided conversation with it, and he starts with the creepiness of being followed around by a firefly, at least if you kinda know what's up with it. He follows that up by asking a few questions like "Does it get boring just protecting the house all the time?" (Meh) and "Do you have hobbies? That seems like a good way to pass the time guarding a house." (Yes)  Followed by "I've bet you read all the books in the house by now, right? Any recommendations?" (Yes)

"This yes/no thing sucks," remarks Steve. "We need to come up with a better way for you to communicate. I have some parchment back in my room. Let me get it and we can work something out." He heads back towards the house.

Once Steve is back at the manor's entrance, he can see Gwen standing in front of the door, holding a plate in her hands on which sits a piece of strawberry cake.

"Hello Gwen," he greets her. "Why do you have some of my birthday cake?"

"Helo Mr. Oldturn," replies the ever punctual butler. The firefly goes back inside the building, not waiting for Steve. She doesn't even glance at it. "I thought you might want to eat some while it's still fresh. This walk around the block must have made you hungry."

"I don't think th-" his stomach growls loudly. "Well, maybe that's a good idea."

"I have another plate ready," she adds. "It's on the table on the right once you go through the doors."
"And the person I'll be dining with?"

"If I'm not mistaken, she is still in her bedroom. I've concluded it would be safer for you if you brought her some cake."

He stares at her for a few seconds, but finally nods. "Thank you Gwen."

"No need to mention it." She gives him the cake. " 'The last rainbow'. "

"'The Last Rainbow?' What's that?"

"It's a book, written 23 years ago by Evelyn Darius. I believe you would like it." She looks back at the door. "Excuse me, but I have to help my colleagues clean the kitchen now. Good night." She goes back inside, leaving Steve alone.

"Oh. OOOOOHHHHHH!" He watches "her" go, completely dazzled. "Why is everything always so wonderful?"
He picks up the other piece of cake and heads towards Zelk's room. After carefully rearranging the plates onto his left arm, he carefully opens the door. Once Steve has closed the door behind him, he finds Zelk in bed, her back turned to him. The lamp is still on.

"Zelk, I'm back. I brought the last of the birthday cake."

She doesn't move or respond.

"I'm sorry I got defensive earlier," continues Steve. "I didn't mean to get upset with you or cause problems."
"...You should have just told me you didn't want to talk about it."

He walks over to the bed and puts the plates with the cake down. "May I sit with you so I can explain?"

For a moment, nothing happens, until she sits up in the bed and faces him. It's clear she hasn't been feeling well.

"Zelk, are you okay?" He sits down with her and puts a hand on her forehead in deep concern.

"No, I'm not." Her tone is quite harsh now. "You've been gone for almost an hour now! Without saying anything!"

"I'm sorry! I just went for a walk around the grounds. I didn't mean to worry you."

She crosses her arms, but her facial expression softens, if only a little. "Well, you did."

"Zelk, I don't remember my parents or my village. But no one came to visit me. Ever. Not once." He looks down and says softly, "You know what being cursed means. Do the math, because I did."

Zelk's gaze falls now on Steve, her anger clearly receding. She finally unfolds her arms, and with some hesitation, she slowly approaches Steve to embrace him.

He hugs her back. "By Deremonda I'm an idiot. Doing this to you tonight of all nights."

"Yes, you've always been an idiot," she confirms with a soft voice.

"I know it's wrong but I didn't want Mihai to stop hitting him. For what he did to everyone. For what he did to you." The shame is mingled with anger. It burns fierce.

"I wanted to do worse, but..." She pauses to choose her words carefully so anger doesn't take over. "He'll have it worse this way."

"Good. He wasn't worth it anyway."

She pulls away to get a good look at his face, and then glances over at the cakes. "...I don't want to talk about him anymore."

He nods in agreement. "Yes, I'd much rather eat cake with you." He pulls off his jacket and tosses it in a nearby chair and undoes his tie which soon joins the jacket in exile from the bed. "I like the way they look, but that crap gets oppressive after a while. I'm looking forward to my robes."

She extends her hand and takes one of the plates for herself. "You've never been one for formality."

"True. It's fun to play dress up and pretend for a little while but it's never been real to me."

"Me neither." Incidentally, Zelk is wearing a white shirt and short green shorts that serve as pyjamas. She takes one bite from her cake. "It's still good. I hadn't realized I was still hungry."

"I didn't either. But when Gwen mentioned it, I suddenly found I was. She's a good friend and this was her idea."

"Oh." She swallows her mouthful of cake. "I shouldn't be surprised anymore. That sounds like her."

"Is she a magic butler?"

That makes her raise an eyebrow. "A... magic butler?"

"When I was out for my walk I met a firefly and it followed me around. I asked it questions and all it could do was answer yes or no. When I got back Gwen was at the door and gave me the book recommendation I asked for." He leans closer, "So she's a magic butler right?"

Zelk seemed ready to deny the whole thing, but she appears to relent once she hears Steve's explanation. "I'm not sure what she is." She takes another bite from her cake; being the big eater that she is, half of it already gone. "She calls herself an avatar. Whatever that means."

Steve stops in the middle of picking up his fork. "Wait. Didn't Fedler mention avatar in relation to Songbird? Wouldn't that mean Gwen and Songbird are similar in kind then?"

She chews more slowly now. "I thought about it," she reveals. "I suppose they are, if that's what she told them. I haven't asked her yet."

He forks some delicious cake and eats it, chewing slowly while he thinks. "How long has she been with the family?"

It takes a moment of reflection before she can give an answer. Meanwhile, she finishes the cake. "Around 25 years now. One year or two before I was born. I haven't met her until I came to visit grandpa though, and it still took me years before I learned what she really was." She pauses. "You can never tell anyone. Okay?"

"Okay." He eats more cake.

"Well, that was easy." She uses her fork to slice a piece of Steve's cake for herself. "I thought I might have to bribe you."

He blocks her fork with his. "No, no bribes. We of the Coins are above such things. However, I must ask you to pay the cake tax Miss Freeron."

The young woman stares at her boyfriend, and turns her attention to the cake like she would to a prey. Her head slowly leans in for a kiss. Quite pleased with this turn of events, Steve happily leans in to kiss her. Just as her lips are about to touch his, Zelk has already managed to take the piece of cake she was after, and has now pulled back from him to savor her victory. She looks at him with a smile, very pleased of herself.

"Scoundrel! Thief! Burgler!" Steve says with faux outrage. "This will not stand. You will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law!"

"Oh please. Between the two of us, I've always be the one to wear the pants." Her fork reaches for his plate again. "And you're not the very model of a good citizen yourself."

He moves the cake away. "That sounds more like a challenge than a fact."

"That's because it is." This time, she rises from her position and approaches Steve to sit on his lap. "Now, give me the cake."

Have you ever heard the tale of the scorpion and the frog?"

"Not yet." She begins to snuggle Steve with hugs and kisses, while discreetly reaching for the cake with her free hand.

"A scorpion came to the river and wished to cross but found no bridge and the river was swift. But salvation happened by in the form of a frog. 'Little frog,' he said, 'I see that you also wish to cross the river. Let me climb on your back so that we may both find our way.' To which she said, 'Oh no, I can't do that. You'll sting me and then we'll both die.' 'That makes no sense little frog. If I sting you then I would die too. Surely you see the folly in this?' So after a while of deep thought, the frog accepted this reasoning and allowed the scorpion to climb on her back. They set off and the journey was swift, but halfway through the scorpion stung the frog. 'Why?' She managed to croak out. 'You have killed us both!' To which the scorpion replied, 'Little frog, little frog, I never said I couldn't swim.'

"So... which one am I?"

"You are both, just as I. We allow each other the roles we wish because that's who we are."

This answer makes her grin. "So what, we should switch roles every week or so?"

"We could do it that way, but taking it is so much more fun." His fingers tug on her hair sharply as he draws her into a fierce and passionate kiss. As Steve might have expected, Zelk is happy to let him take the reins, and from this point on, she follows his lead.

Mihai and Breeze:
Breeze is sitting on the railing with a small bowl of grapes beside her. She's holding one of them in her arms, and is calmly eating it. Mihai walks up and leans on the railing. "What up, Facehugger."

"Oh! Hey Mihai!" exclaims Breeze with the biggest smile she can muster. "Want a grape?"

"Uh? Oh, I guess...." He takes one. "You can really eat all that?"

"Oh, this is desert for me," she explains. "I'll only eat three of them. You can have the rest if you want." Munch munch.

"Well, I don't really get hungry. But thanks." He munches on his grape.

The little teenager continues to eat in silence. She appears content.

"So what's on your mind?" he asks.

"Hmm?" She swallows her mouthful of fruit. "I'm trying to find a way to cheer up Peewee. He's sad right now."

Mihai's brow wrinkles in a pained expression as he glances away. "Yeah..."

"Hm?" She has noticed that. "Is Fedler sad too?"

"No, not anymore."

"Oh? Then why are you sad?"

"Ugh..." He sighs. "Just keeps coming back to me. I would have done a lot worse to Sickbird than smashing his teeth in. And when that kid flew down to help him, for a moment I got even angrier, but... He was so horrified, I just.... I couldn't... That bastard was his first friend. And his last memory of him was him squirming blood quirts on the floor after I punched out his teeth. One minute all is fine and then... that."

Mihai falls silent. Breeze ponders for a moment, and tilts her head. "So... you're sad because Peewee is sad?"

"I guess. And because I did it to him."

"But it was the right thing to do."

Mihai glances at her, and then faces forward again. "Part of me wishes I could have found a better way. The other part wishes I'd done worse." He looks down and sighs. "Yeah, I guess it was the best I could do. I'm just sorry he had to get caught up in it."

"It's not your fault that he's sad," states Breeze matter-of-factly. "It's Songbird's fault. Everything bad that happened is because of him. He's the one who lied to Peewee."

He looks at her. "Did Peewee talk about him?"

"He stopped after Zelk and Aemilia explained what Songbird did." She pauses, and then finishes her first grape.

"Wonder how many times he did it before. With the kid on his shoulder, thinking it was real."

"I think that's what Peewee has been mulling over..." she adds. "But Songbird is in prison now. He won't ever hurt anyone else again. The heroes won again!"

She starts eating another grape.

"Good job with the Orbs, by the way," he tells her.

"Hmm? Oh, the love globules. I didn't think it would have that kind of effect."

"I didn't know what to think. I just hoped. After the effect they'd had on Snicker, I figured it was worth a shot."

"Yeah, the meanies don't stand a chance against fairies!" She seems proud of herself.

"You could be more right than you know..." he muses.

"Yeah!" Stars have now appeared in her eyes. "We could have an army of fairies, fighting bad guys!"

"And throwing yourselves in harm's way, too." Mihai completes for her. "That may well be what Sonny and Tommy and the rest of his people had in mind when they backed you up at Zest's."

"That means the Coins are the good guys then, right?" Her question sounds rhetorical.

"They probably are," he admits. "Just don't take that to mean you can trust them with anything. When too many people depend on you, you may step over one or two of them in order to look after the rest. That's probably the right attitude to take, unless you're the one being stepped on."

"Oh, that's okay. You guys are the one I trust with anything," she replies innocently.

"So are you, Facehugger," he says reassuringly, while lightly tapping her head with his knuckle.

She gives him a big smile and returns her attention back on her grape.

"By the way, Breeze...." he continues."Don't let Steve leave without giving him a love globule, ok? We could likely have avoided a lot of pain if I had only remembered to ask you for those earlier." He asks with a bit of pain at the end of the sentence.

"Oh, I've already given him a globule this morning."

"Oh, good. Guess all that's left is waiting for the bad guys to come then. And hope we can deal with it."

"We will, like we always do!"

"Yeah..." Mihai muses, lost in a heavy thought while looking over the horizon across the balcony. "...like we always do. Hey, by the way... Last night during the ball, how well did Sean sing?"

"Uh? He sounded pretty good to me."

"So that part was real, huh. Wonder if he could do it again." Then shakes his head. "Nevermind, I don't want to find out."

"Did you sense any thoughts other than human and Songbird last night? Maybe from the fireflies, Sean's office, or anyone in the house?"

"Hmm..." She stops eating, and ponders. "No. Except Songbird and Peewee, everybody was human. The fireflies also had no thoughts."

"Hmm..."  He ponders. "Well, was just curious."

She starts to eat again. "Too bad you can't see it yourself."

"See what?"

"Everyone's thoughts," she explains. "Well, I don't see them. It's more like I can feel them."

"Oh. Well, at least I'm taller."

"Hey! I'll let you know I'm very tall for a fairy!"

"You are?"

She nods. "Of course I am! Didn't you see when I stood beside Fluffle and Bubble?"

"Fluffle just kinda felt like he was shy. A bit more than you were, actually."

Her body suddenly becomes stiff. "Oh, he was?" She takes a bite from her grape while pretending to act casually, but she wouldn't be able to deceive a child.

"Yeah, must've been your imposing stature. Or maybe he just wanted to trade love globules with you. Do fairies do that?"

"Uh?" This comment makes her more curious than embarrassed. "Oh no silly, love globules are for humans! Not other fairies. He's not even able to make a globule yet."

"Maybe you can teach him."

"Hmm... maybe?" She pauses. "We won't see each other for a while anyway."

"Pretty sure he'd love you to teach him how to make a love... uh, Globule."

Breeze's cheeks blush instantly. "...Did Konrad talk to you about it?"

"Konrad?"

"Oh?" She realizes her mistake and tries to rectify it. "Oh, you know, we've just been talking about... stuff."

"What, like love globules? And Fluffle?"

The little teenager almost loses her grip on her grape when he says "Fluffle". She coughs, and says, "...Maybe?"

Mihai chuckles. "You know, I was in a situation like that once. Had a friend at the time. Maybe my best friend. Gave me a piece of advice that helped me out a lot." He looks at her. "Never pass up a good thing."
Breeze's eyes widen. She then looks down at her dessert. "Konrad said something like that too and... I've thought about writing to Fluffle."

"What's stopping you?"

"Well... hum... could you write the letter for me?"

Mihai looks at her in mild shock, then says, "Sounds fair. You dictate my letters to Yen after all."

Her expression lightens up. "Really!?"

"Yeah, of course."

She smiles. "Thank you! But you must promise not to tell anyone about what I write to him!"

"Anyway asks, I'll just say flowers and rainbows."

That makes her giggle. "Oh, can we write one today? I have to go see Peewee for now, but I should have some free time later."

"Sure, meet me later.

"It's a promise!" She rapidly finishes eating her grape, grabs another one, and flies up in the air. "Oh, once you've eaten the rest of the grapes, don't forget to clean the plate!"

She then disappears towards her bedroom, while he looks at the plate, realizing he now has to eat all of these.

Mihai and Zelk:
Zelk leaves her room, and immediately sees Mihai standing only a few feet away from her. She is wearing low waisted blue shorts and a white tank top. She looks at him, and then to the plate of fruits.

He notices. "Breeze was eating them. Want some grapes?"

The explanation softens her facial features, and she replies, "Sure, why not?" She walks up to him, scoops three of the grapes with her hand, and fits them all in her mouth. "You're not with Fedler?" There are seven grapes left.

"I think she's with Steve. Won't be seeing each other for a while, since you guys are walking back, and we're gonna take the boat. Thought I'd clear my head in the meantime, I guess."

"I see." She leans on the railing, takes one more grape, and begins to nibble on it. "By the way, you can take the suit back with you."

"You're sure?"

A soft smile emerges on her face. "You'll need one if you're to take Fedler to more balls."

He chuckles. "Yeah, I guess I will. Thanks."

"By the way, uh..." He trails off a bit before saying it. "...back on the boat, you did everything right. I just took too much too personal. That was my screw-up, not yours."

"Don't worry about it. I don't." She takes the bowl of fruits and present it to him. "Beside, we're not working right now."

Mihai takes a grape. "Yeah." He goes quiet for a bit again, before he asks. "What's gonna happen to Peewee?"

"I think he needs some stability in his life right now," she answers. "He'll stay here, and I asked Gwen to look after him."

Mihai sighs, and glances down. "Yeah, I guess that's for the best."

"He's also very young. Younger than Breeze. He needs some sense of normalcy. But I know he'll be fine, living with the servants. You wouldn't know it, but they can be really fun to hand out with."

"Breeze comes from Lofell, she ever tell you that? She must be about a year old by now."

"She is?" She reflects on this information for a few seconds, then nibbles on another grape. "I wonder if the lack of accent is normal..."

Mihai shrugs. "It's normal for me."

"Yes, but you're 27."

"Point." He admits. "She can also read a full page in 8 seconds."

She raises an eyebrow. "...Fairies are more amazing than I thought. Or maybe it's just her?"

"Maybe they all excel at their own areas. I tried to get her interested in observing Joker Poker once, to see if she could read body language. Couldn't. Maybe it's just whatever she really likes. I know she read a lot of books back in Lofell."

"Yes, I noticed that her attention span is very short. She can also be exuberant sometimes. That must be why Steve loves her so much."

Mihai shrugs. "Everybody loves her; she keeps our spirits up. Sometimes I worry about her, though."
She eats one more grape, and offers another to Mihai. "How so?"

"Just wonder how long till she's forced to grow out of it. She's managed to stay bright and cheery so far, but..." He trails off. "...it's an ugly world out there. Especially for a mercenary."

"She might just surprise us all. Despite what happened during the mission, and yesterday, she still has the same cheerful attitude."

Mihai chuckles. "Yeah, she could be tougher than anyone here."

"So, have you given any thought about what I told you? Concerning your contract with the Coins."

He glances at her, then back into space. "From the beginning, I didn't plan on making a career out of this. I have business back home I need to settle too. I was just gonna burn a year doing jobs and getting paid for it, then pack my things and move off. I didn't want to start caring." He trails off slightly. "Then things happened. Now we've got phenomena popping up all over the islands, and someone or thing may be trying to shut down the Dome, and maybe bring death down on all of us. Part of me wants to call it a job and be done with it. The other part... is afraid of what'll happen if I just walk away." He chuckles. "Like I can even do anything about it. Either way, the plan is to end it as soon as possible and settle down."

She smiles. "Get a normal job, buy a house, and make some kids?"

He smiles briefly. "I could settle for that." He glances at her. "How about you?"

"Me?" she inquires with a contemplative look. "You mean with Steve?"

He shrugs. "Yeah."

Zelk considers the possibility in silence for a long moment, using this time to finish the bowl of grapes. "We don't have any plans set in stone. Steve talked about moving in together, but that I'm not sure." She pauses. "Yes, maybe we could settle down. But not anytime soon. There's a lot I want to do before we even talk about it."

"You're going career?"

"Well, that's what I was aiming for." She shakes her head. "If we both keep these jobs, it'll never work between us."

Mihai thinks about it for a while before speaking up. "Well, his contract ends in another nine months too. But either way..." He pauses a bit before continuing. "For the next few weeks, you'll be waking up next to him every morning, right? Why don't you see how that feels; get used to it. Then see what you want the most."

She stares at Mihai with an undecipherable expression before turning her eyes towards the ball room. "...That's actually good advice."

He chuckles lightly. "Gotta get one right every once in a while. Either way, by the time you get back to Highwind, Fedler and me should have found a roof. Why don't you guys stop by? Maybe I'll have learned how to cook by then."

That makes her laugh a little. "That sounds fun. Sure, we'll come. I intended to catch up with Fedler at some point anyway."

He lingers a bit before picking it back up. "I was a bit taken aback when you two hit it off so fast."

"Hmm? Why?"

"Hmm... nothing, really. I guess maybe I'm the one who's slow in that department."

She chuckles. "You do seem more reclusive than most. That hasn't stopped you from getting closer to her though."

He chuckles a bit more softly. "She did most of the work, I think." Then sighs. "There was a time there when I thought..." He trails off as he remembers the boat, and shakes his head. "I had to reach for her, past everything else. Since then, it just got easier."

"You've met only a few months ago, and you already think she's the one?" Her curiosity seems genuine.

"Sounds unlikely, right? I didn't think it could happen either." He pauses a bit to try and collect himself. We met during the Waterglass incident. She was looking for help, and found me in your father's inn. Konrad had gone off to be Konrad, and Steve... was probably sleeping really soundly. I was the only one left awake, and in she came." He puts his thoughts in order. "I don't know how to explain it to you, but right then I knew I had to help her. From there, it all kinda started falling into place."

She grins. "I wish it was that easy for me.
"
"Easy, huh..." He contemplates. "Yeah, I guess before it happened, I never would've believed it could."

"I also noticed you talk a lot more whenever I mention her."

"I do?" He shrugs. "Maybe I do."

What?" she says in a teasing manner. "Did I make you self-conscious now?"

"'You talk a lot, don't you'." He repeats what she told him about a week ago on the boat, in a pretty good approximation of her tone."That made me self-conscious. This is just grape talk."

"Speaking of grapes..." She looks down at the empty bowl. "You ate all of them."

"Pretty sure you ate more."

She hands him the bowl. "Make sure to put it in the sink. Gwen will wash it." She starts to walk down the stairs.

"Sure." He walks down the stairs too, since the kitchen is on the ground floor.

She quickens her pace to escape the bowl, which prompts Mihai to make for the railing and slide down to the bottom of the stairs, after which he hops off the rail and lands expertly on the polished floor, holding up the bowl and looking at it as if contemplating.
 Zelk, who has just reached the bottom of the stairs and is standing 5 feet away from Mihai, discreetly raises an hand. Mihai suddenly loses his grip on the bowl, which falls to the ground and breaks in many pieces. "Oh, what a shame," she says. "Don't worry, I'll tell Gwen it wasn't your fault."

With a big smile, she walks towards the kitchen. Mihai squats down and starts picking up the pieces. Zelk soon comes back with a broom and a dustpan in her hands. "Oh, you should have waited for me."

Mihai shrugs. "Well, I was already here."

She gives him a knowing smile. "Do you want to get a drink?"

"Sure."

"Just take these back to Gwen, and I'll go get the glasses." She hands him the broom and the dustpan. "I'll be back in a minute."

He brings the pieces back to Gwen. "I'm sorry Gwen." He says apologetically. "I dropped the bowl."

"Oh, do not worry about that," replies the butler in her professional tone. "I'll take care of the rest."

"Thank you."

Mihai then leaves the kitchen and joins Zelk for their drinking session.
________________________________________
Mihai and Zelk have een making small talk for the last 20 to 30 minutes. She is lying down on one of the sofas, clearly inebriated. Mihai has been going easier on the drink. He sits on another couch, leaning forward with one elbow on a knee, the other arm holding the glass.

"Can you ask you something?" he says.

"About what?" she responds.

"Looking at Sean, he's clearly your grandfather from your father's side. Only he lives in a gargantuan mansion, while your father tends to an Inn. None of them seem bitter at first glance, but when Konrad talked about it at dinner the other day, the mood started to chill pretty fast. I'm wondering what the story is there."

After giving him a quick glance, Zelk considers Mihai's question in silence. She takes a sip from her glass, and answers. "My father was disavowed by my grandfather, a long time ago. They haven't spoken since."

Mihai glances away and squints. A hint of harshness flashes through his eyes.

"Must have been some disagreement."

"A woman that my father met."

"Your mother?"

She frowns. "Yeah, her."

Mihai takes that in, feeling it a bit close to home. "But you're here now, and both of them seem to adore you. Shouldn't that have brought them closer?"

"It obviously didn't." She realizes she might have sounded a little harsh towards Mihai. "Sorry."

"It's fine, don't worry about it." He sighs. "I'm third born. They dumped me on an aunt, and then abandoned her till the day she died. I've never met them and don't care to. I guess it doesn't line up one to one. But... if she was still alive, and wanted me to reconcile..." He sighs. "...I don't know, it wouldn't be easy. But maybe I'd try. For her sake, if nothing else."

She takes another sip of whiskey. "What happens between my grandfather and my father... it's their concern. Not mine."

Mihai looks at her, just so see her face as she says that, then turns away and sits back on the chair. He stays quiet for a bit, until Zelk speaks up again. "Please don't touch the subject in front of them."

"No, don't worry."

"Thanks."
"Why did you want to join the military, though? Running an inn in Waterglass feel too small?"

She chuckles. "There's not many jobs a black mage can apply for. The army seemed the right choice."

"You seem to have climbed pretty fast, though."

"This was only my second mission in command of my own unit," she reveals. "With everything that's happening around the Archipelago, the army needs every good soldier they can get." She pauses, and then looks at Mihai. "Any idea what job you're gonna aim for when your contract is up?"

Mihai shrugs. "I got started in the life when I was ten. Lieutenant caught me stealing his food, and instead of beating me up, he offered me a job. I was alone by then, so it seemed like a step up." He trails off. "Every skill I have somehow relates to this kind of work. If I plan to settle down I'll have to find something else, but..." He sighs. "I have no idea what that'll be."

Judging by her lips curving up, Zelk seems amused. "You might make a good policeman."

Mihai looks at her, bemused. "Why?"

"You worked for one of the crime syndicates in Lofell, right? That's the kind of experience a policeman would find useful."

He chuckles. "That's right, you probably even know by blood type."

"It's O positive."

"Nice try."

"Damn."

"A."

"Positive or negative?"

"Positive."

"Ah. Well, I tried." She empties her glass in one shot, and serves herself another one. "Come on, you haven't even finished your second drink. You need to catch up."

Mihai downs his glass in one shot as well, not to be outdone. Then stares into nothing, contemplating. "A cop, huh..." He then looks at her. "There was never a time that you wondered about joining? That you might get orders you wouldn't be willing to carry out?"

"Not really, no." She stands up and puts whiskey in his glass. As she goes back towards the sofa, she adds, "So far, I haven't been given orders that go over the line either."

He thinks about that, and drinks another sip. "Hmm..."

For the next minute, they keep drinking in silence, until Zelk makes small talk again.

Steve and Breeze:
Steve wakes up in bed with Zelk; even though she has her back turned to him, he can tell she is still sleeping. He watches her sleep for a few minutes, before sighing in contentment and making his way to the bathroom for a shower, amongst other things. He emerges fifteen minutes later wrapped in a towel and drying his hair. He rarely remembers to bring clothes with him to the bathroom, so he's clearly heading for the dresser to pick out his clothes. The sound of the running appears to have woken up Zelk, as she turns her head towards him when he comes out of the bathroom. She is still lying down on the bed, covered by the blankets, clearly taking her time to relax. Her greeting is simple. "Hey."

His smile is warm. "Hey you." He detours to give her a peck on the lips. "Good morning. You look comfy."

A discreet smile makes its way to her face when he kisses her. "Still can't get used to seeing you here though. It feels like you're going to steal my underwear or something."

"Should I? For old time's sake?"

"I'll give you a pair if you really want one," she jokes. "Then you can explain it to Breeze when she looks in your bag for her stuff."

He laughs. "Pass. She'd never let me live it down. She'd probably frown and grab me by the ear and walk me back here to apologize to Zelky. And I'd never hear the end of it."

"That doesn't so bad." She then examines Steve from head to toe. "You should get dressed. I hope the clothes that Gwen brought here will suit you. She has an eye for body measurements, so there shouldn't be any problem on that front."

"Is there anything she can't do?" He winks and heads over to the dresser to pull out the clothes. As he starts getting dressed he says over his shoulder, "Enjoying the show?"

She grins. "A little." Once she has taken the blankets off, Zelk rises from the bed and walks naked towards the bathroom. Soon, Steve can hear the sound of running water coming from the shower. "Don't wait for me. I'll join you for breakfast soon."

"Okay! See you at breakfast!" says a happy Steve, almost, but not quite, bouncing his way out of the room. His goal: breakfast. Once he leaves the bedroom, he sees Fedler and Breeze talking to each other on the opposite side of the ball room, on the second floor. After they notice him, they wave at him, and walk towards the dining room too. Steve realizes that Breeze is holding a love globule in her arms. "Hey Snowstorm!" says the fairy. "You look a lot happier than yesterday."

Fedler is smiling at both of them.

"I am a lot happier than yesterday," confirms Steve. "Thanks for noticing. I'm sorry I wasn't very good company last night."

"Oh, I'm just glad it's all sorted out." She hands over the love globule to him. "Here, I made it this morning!"

"You're the last one who hasn't received one," points out Fedler.

"Thanks," responds Steve. "Come here Blue. You deserve a hug."

"Uh?" Before she can react, Breeze is now embraced by her large friend. She giggles, and hugs back his neck.

"Thank you for protecting everyone. I love you." He lets her go
.
"I love you too!" says the blue-haired girl. "Here, put the globule in your head, and you'll know how much!"

"Okay!" He slams it into his forehead without delay.

Steve suddenly feels a wave of warmth roll over him, which crystallizes into the strong emotions that Breeze has for him. For a moment, he can see just how much she likes to write poems with him, or to talk about the silliest things they can imagine. Fedler observes the young man with curious eyes, and asks, "How do you feel?"

"Very warm," he answers, wiping away tears with the back of his hand. "I love making poems with you too and all the silly conversations we have. You're my best friend."

Breeze is momentarily stunned by this declaration, but she quickly goes for another hug. Fedler's smile widens.

Steve returns the hug with gusto for as long as Breeze wants to. When they finally finish he says, "I love hugs, but I'm also hungry. Let's go eat!"

"Yeah, good idea!" says Breeze with a nod.

Before they enter the dining room, Fedler puts an hand on Steve's shoulder and asks him, "Hey, did you want to have practice today? I'm willing to make an exception and skip the lesson because of what happened yesterday, but I thought I should ask you."

"Of course! After breakfast then?"

"Sure." She nods and follows Steve into the room. "We'll just have one-hour lessons from now on, unless I need to teach you something completely different."

"Understood. What did you have in mind today?" He heads for his seat.

"We'll keep working on your voice for now, and I'll show you a few techniques."

They all begin to eat, and once breakfast is over, Fedler and Steve leave for the lesson of the day.

Steve and Sean:
Once the lesson is over and Steve parts way with Fedler, he notices that Sean sitting in the lounge, his eyes fixed on the burning fireplace with a glass in that he is whirling with his hand.
The old man turns his head to face Steve. He doesn't seem surprised, and with a gesture of his hand, he invites the young mage to join him. "Please, take a seat."

"Thank you." He enters and sits in the chair next to Sean. "I hope my lesson didn't bother you."

He lets out a short laugh. "That's what this room is made for. In fact, it's a little refreshing to have so many guests in my house."

"Did you use to have a lot more?"

"Oh yeah, of course. But those were potential business partners or distant relatives, which really is the same thing." He takes a sip from his glass, which appears to be full of whiskey. There are three other glasses and a bottle sitting on the table right beside him. "Oh, right, do you drink?"

"I do, but not usually anything more powerful than wine. But I can nurse a drink with the best of them."

"In that case, here you go." He prepares another glass, and hands it to Steve. "Have you and my granddaughter been dating for long now?"

"A week, but we've had an unusually long period of, well, us, us-ing it up. We've liked each other for over ten years now. Worst mistake I ever made was letting her get away."

A wry smile appears on Sean's face. "Really?" He whirls the glass of whiskey, his eyes having now returned to the spectacle of the logs of wood burning a few feet away from him. "Maybe it was the best mistake you could have made."

Steve starts coppying Sean's swirl technique. He doesn't really understand what it does but he figures Sean is doing it for a reason. "How so?"

"Couples that are formed during teenage years rarely last."

"I...never really thought about it that way." He sits and thinks about it some more, sipping the whiskey. It makes him cough. "...it's good." After a few more moments to recover from the liquor, he says, "That might be true but we'll never know because we didn't try. I have a lot of happy memories of her back in school. But I also have regrets. We aren't like other people. Maybe we would have made it."

Sean glances at Steve, a grin still stuck on his face. "There's no point in discussing what could have been. But I have to admit... I'm surprised the two of you have finally managed to make it work. Zelk can be quite... harsh."

"She can. And I can be quite...ridiculous."

"Ah yes, the "Devil of the Citadel". Your reputation precedes you."

He laughs. "Now that you've met me, how do I match up?"

"Well, you haven't pranked any of my staff yet." He smiles. "Not that I mind. I would rather have you focus on my granddaughter. She's usually a lot more aloof."

"She made me promise not to prank anyone here. I've been replacing Mihai and Konrad's socks with gradually smaller ones for a while now though."

He chuckles again. "That sounds more like her." He swallows another sip of alcohol. "We talked during your lesson. You two are planning to travel together back to Highwind?"

"Yes, that's right. We talked about it last night."

"Nervous?"

"A little. It's the first time we've ever spent so much time together, just the two of us. I also owe your son an apology. I pranked him bad to get Zelk's attention again and I'm worried he won't forgive me. They have enough problems already. I don't want to come between them."

"Yes, she alluded to something serious. Might I ask what you did exactly?"

"We were passing through on our first mission when we stopped at his inn. That's where we met Fedler, by the way. But I sat at the bar and started making small talk with him. He found out I was a Citadel mage and inquired about Zelk. I don't know what came over me but I decided to tell him we were engaged. To be married. He was so excited he bought drinks for the whole bar. The regulars and him, they all toasted to our happiness. That was all he wanted for her and I lied to him." Steve looks down at his drink in shame. "I don't regret the series of events that led me here, but I hate that I hurt his feelings in the process. I sent him money under the guise of wedding expenses and kept the ruse going out of guilt."

Sean Freeron listens attentively to Steve's story, and once it's over, he stays silent for a short moment. "Lucky for you, you have Zelk on your side."

"Yeah." He gives Sean a small grin of acknowledgement. "What about you, sir? How are you doing after last night?"

He scoffs. "I didn't realize what happened until Zelk explained it to me after the ball." He lets out a sigh. "These strange phenomenon aren't only happening in Walkerfree, or even the Free Feathers. My contacts tell me that strange incidents are occurring all across the Archipelago."

"Worse than a mind controlling sadist?"

"Maybe." He pauses, and doesn't even swirl his glass anymore. "...There was a caravan in Emerald last week that was traveling from the east to the west coast. They stopped for the night, and some of them set up tents near the forest." He takes a sip of whiskey. "They were attacked by something. It was 8 feet tall, and covered with fur. Two of the merchants were killed, and one of the guards was dragged into the forest, never to be seen again."

Steve sighs. "Poor bastards. What happened to the creature?"

"Last I've heard, mercenaries were hired to hunt it down. The governments are now mobilizing to face this new threat." He turns to face Steve, very serious. "Don't be surprised if the focus of your missions change from the mundane to the supernatural."

"I'm sure they will."

"We better get used to it." He puts the glass back on the table. "Can I ask you something personal? I do not wish to get between you and Zelk, but I am curious about something."

"Okay."

"She is working for the army, while you work for a mercenary company... I imagine you won't see each other very often. Have you given this any thought?"

"It's something we'll need to discuss more before our leave is over, but yes, we've talked about it. I told her I love her and want to try to make it work. She's thinking about it right now."

The way Sean raises his eyebrow is very familiar to Steve. "For what it's worth, which isn't much, you have my blessing."

"It's more than you give credit for, sir. She adores you. I'm glad we got to meet."

He smiles. "Me too. Now finish this whiskey, and go be with your friends."

Steve smiles back. He takes a real swallow and starts hacking uproariously. "...might take a while, sir."

"No need to force yourself then." He pats him on the back.

"No, I want to. We'll probably do this again and I need the practice."

He laughs. "Take your time then."

Konrad and Aemilia:
Konrad and Aemilia go out to eat at a restaurant, and upon her request, are seated at a private table. Once they get their food, he asks her about her contacts. "Who are these contacts of yours? How do they help you?"

My contacts?" This takes her by surprise, and she then realizes who he is referring to. "Oh, they're just my business partners or acquaintances I met through them. And sometimes, one asks a favor of the other."

"Interesting. Does that include information gathering, or news from their locales?"

That catches her attention. "That doesn't sound like the usual small talk we make. Any particular reason behind these questions?"

"Serious business. Personal. I'm just looking for someone. If that's not what they do, that's fine."

She takes a sip of wine from her glass while staring at Konrad, and then says, "I could ask, but depending on who you are looking for, they might want something in return."

"Of course, but I should think they'd provide the information for free. I am looking for Gomer Anderton."

"Hmm, never heard of him." She picks up her fork, and whirls her pasta around it. "Why should they provide information about this man for free?"

"Because he's a pirate," he answers without missing a beat.

"A pirate?" She pauses. "Hmm. Even so, I doubt they would give you that man's location without any sort of compensation. Do you still want me to ask?"

"Yes. Location is unreliable, though. If they keep tabs on him, I need to know his routine stops, or the waters he frequently navigates."

"And if he ever visits the Free Feathers, you would like to be informed. Right?"

"Ideally, if my job doesn't send me his way, yes. For compensation, how much gold are we talking?"

She chuckles. "My contacts don't need gold. What they want are favors. But I understand if you would rather avoid that, so if you agree to owe me a favor, I'll take care of it."

"Hmm..." He takes a few bites of his lunch. "That's not a currency I'm familiar with. Isn't there any way we could split it down the middle?"

She grins. "Well, since you have been so generous with me, I might agree to 'waive' that fee. But just this once."

He flashes a grin of equal measure back. Coy to her hint, if indeed a hint it be, but just as grateful. "Once is all I ask."

"Now eat before this gets cold," she adds with a cheery tone.

On command, he continues to eat his flambe-cooked beef, dabbing it in his mashed potatoes between bites of sweet corn, periodically chasing it with his mimosa.

Konrad and Fedler:
Konrad is going to visit Fedler and ask her about Yen's experience at the Citadel. Fedler is surprised by this, and asks why these questions.

"I'm going to write her a letter," he explains. "What school of magic is she studying?"

"...She is still trying to get her power under control, so she hasn't chosen a school yet." Fedler squints. "Why are you writing to her?"

He raises an eyebrow. "You don't like that I'm showing concern for your niece's growth and well being?

"I'm just surprised you're showing concern at all." She pauses. "I don't mind you writing to her, but I want to read every letter you plan to send her."

"Of course. It's only fair. So, how's she doing?"

Fedler puts her hands on her hips, stares at Konrad, and after some consideration, she sighs and lets her body relax. "She's starting to get a handle on her own magic. Her movements are restricted though, and she cannot leave the Citadel." She remembers that Konrad is from Myr, and proceeds to explain what she means. "For one year, the cursed are restricted to one wing of the Citadel."

"I thought that wouldn't be necessary with the use of magic bracelets."

She shrugs. "I don't make the policies.  However, she has just started to make friends with the other children." Her eyes gauge Konrad. "Why the sudden interest?"

"Why? You're part of my team, Fedler. Your family are my friends. Besides, Yen's a good kid. I just want her to know that whatever she chooses to do, everyone in the adjunct is behind her 100%."

Fedler appears to be scrutinizing Konrad once he's given his answer, but after a short sigh, she says, "Well... thanks." She pushes a flock of red hair behind her ear. "What were you planning to write her?"

"Just a 'hello' from me. She hasn't heard anything from me since we left Waterglass. I figured I should send something now while I remember, since she thinks I'm cool."

"In that case, make sure to show me the letter before we leave tomorrow. Me and Mihai are taking a boat that will take us to Highwind. You're staying here?"

"Hang on. What's this about splitting up?"

"Oh." She realizes her mistake. "Zelk and Steve are leaving tomorrow after lunch. They're taking the long route back to Highwind." She grins. "I'm guessing they want to have some time alone."

Konrad's face flattens. Obviously she and Mihai have the same idea. "Everyone wants some time to be alone these days. I guess Breeze and I can take a different way back, if we're committed to this foolishness."

"I just heard from Breeze she's planning a trip of her own."

"What?? Where to?" He sighs and immediately says. "Not all the way back to Zest's Gate?"

"Uh?" This takes her by surprise. "No, I don't think so. She said she just wanted to travel around the Free Feathers a little." She shakes her head. "I'll try to talk some sense into her after dinner. If she can get lost in Zest, it might be best to have her follow someone else."

"My thoughts as well. Whatever we end up doing, I'll be traveling with her."

"Oh? I thought you were planning to spend some time with Aemilia."

"We're, hum...we're just really good friends, actually. Besides, I made a promise, didn't I?"

"Glad to hear it." She nods. "She might be disappointed not to get the chance to travel on her own, so could you let her choose where to go instead? It might do her some good."

"I guess. Yeah, we'll do what she wants. We've been in a lot of hurried situations; I have to remind myself we're on leave right now."

"It doesn't have to be for the whole three weeks," she clarifies. "Just let her... wander around for a few days. I would be glad to do it, but Mihai and me need to look for an apartment. We won't have much time left for her."

Apartment?? Wow, moving right along, are we? "You're moving in together? I didn't realize you two had gotten that serious. I'd have figured you were the "anywhere we lay our heads" kinda pair. Even then, I can't say I've ever worked with two people committed to a relationship."

She blushes a little. "We're going a little fast, I know. I didn't expect it either."

He shrugs. "It's not new to me. If that's what your heart's telling you to do, go for it."

She stares at him for a few seconds, and then chuckles. "In true Myrzen fashion, right?"

"See, it's not so bad, is it?"

She's the one to shrug this time. "I've never had anything against the Myrzen's way of doing things."

"Now I'm looking forward to visiting Myr even more than I was before. Maybe you'll be able to keep up more than I thought."

Her lips curve into a grin. "You might be surprised." She turns sideways, ready to walk away. "Was there anything else?"

His eyes move down her form slowly. He blinks to bring his gaze back up in an instant and answers, "I'll be back with my letter."

Fedler doesn't seem to have noticed Konrad's gaze. "I'll probably be in my room. Just knock on the door when it's finished."

He leaves.
________________________________________
Konrad meets Fedler again to let her read the letter he has written for Yen.

Dear Yen,

Salutations. I hope you're doing great. Your aunt is. She's been a valuable member of our team as a healer and a ranged fighter. Indispensable. I have been taking care of everyone under my leadership of the 113th Adjunct, the hippest, baddest adjunct there is. I can't talk about what we've been up to, but so far there hasn't been anything we couldn't handle. We went to a ball recently. Have you been to one, while Fedler was still a bard? The dance was too relaxed and formal for my liking, but I got to try some fancy appetizers I've never heard of. Free Feathers culture still has a few surprises for me. I imagine it's hard having to be away from your family. I hope you'll make friends when you're finally allowed to go wherever the other students are allowed to go. And if they don't think you're cool enough for them, that's their loss. You won't have to put up with them for long, they can't keep you in the Citadel forever. It's only until you can learn to control your power. And think about the kinds of things you'll be able to do when you leave! Have you decided what kind of magic to practice yet? You could learn to heal people like your aunt, if you want to. Or do 101 useful things with Yellow magic.  Or, with Black magic, you can take an active role in protecting lives, like me and Steve. I just want you to know that the members of the 113th Adjunct are behind you one hundred percent.

Best regards,

Konrad Granger

PS: Learn two different schools if you can. For you, I would recommend Black and White.


The redheaded hunter leans on the railing of the second floor, and starts to read the letter Konrad brought her. She almost immediately stops, raises an eyebrow, and asks, "Your leadership?"

"Yes? What about it?"

"Leaders usually don't cause strife within their own group," she remarks nonchalantly.

"It was a stressful day for everyone. I was possessed and tormented by a demon. That's water under the bridge, isn't it?"

"As long as you don't expect me to follow your orders, sure." She returns her attention on the letter. A passage soon after that makes her wince, but she refrains from commenting, and keeps reading until she reaches the end. "Seems fine to me," she finally declares before handing him the piece of paper. He takes the letter. After some hesitation, instead of leaving, he says, "I should be."

The statement initially puzzles her. "Should be what?"

"The adjunct's fearless leader. That should be me. But everyone has thin skin. So now I'm just a spokesman and we follow majority rule like we're playing our own tiny game of politics."

Fedler stays silent for a moment. She only stares at Konrad with an undecipherable expression before she tells him, "If you really want to become the leader, you'll have to earn it. Admitting your mistakes was a good start. But it's still just a start." She puts one hand on her waist. "You need our trust for that to happen."

He grunts his assent. "That's true. I'm working on that, presently." I need to prove that I cannot only follow orders, but also lead. And to lead, I need my friends to trust me. "S'cuse me. I have something for the Breeze Weekly." He leaves.

"See you later." She watches him walk away, and then returns in her bedroom.


Last edited by Zeiss on Sun Aug 20, 2017 8:30 pm; edited 3 times in total
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Re: 2.5, mini-adventure: Pretty women

Post by Kolson on Thu Feb 09, 2017 4:13 am

Correspondence time!

Letter for Yen:
Steve will tell her about the party and Zelk's grandpa minus the attack. He'll also let her know that Fedler is teaching Steve how to sing and play the guitar and how Fedler's being very brave but that she misses Yen a lot. He'll also speak about Breeze and how she's saved the party from many bad people but without details. Finally, he'll tell Yen about how Mihai is doing, and how he's doing everything he can to make sure Fedler is happy and that he'll do it for her too.

He'll also include poems about the Freeron garden (plus a pressed flower) and the beach (he'll include a seashell he found).

Letter for Vel:
Steve will tell Vel about his relationship with Zelk and how he hopes they have a future together. He tries not to get ahead of himself, acknowledging the difficulties of such a thing and about how she's thinking about it but it's obvious he's excited and happy about the prospect. He also talks about the ball and about Zelk's grandpa.

He ends by asking about how her and Yen are doing.

Letter to Bubble, Fluffle, and all the fairies of Zest's Gate:
Steve will tell them about the ball and about how awesome beaches are with your friends. He'll also tell them how the party is doing and about poor Peewee who's first friend ended up being a big meanie. He'll give them Peewee's address so they can write to him.

Finally he'll ask Bubble how everyone is doing. By being so specific he's trying to head off an individual response from every fairy so he doesn't have to do 300 letters every time he writes to them, lol.

To the monks and the children in their care:
This will be more of a care package and Steve will totally recruit Breeze to help put it together. He'll buy a supply of things that he saw at the monastery that they probably use up quickly like incense, paper, and writing utensils. He'll also include a supply of hacky sacks so the monks have something they can play with the kids that also works on their balance and manual dexterity. Finally, he'll include whatever Breeze wants to add to the package.

The letter within the package will thank them all for their hospitality and Steve will sign it "The Guy With the Hat" and Breeze whatever she wishes. Perhaps "Blue Master" or the like.

Letter to Fahran Vale of Littlepen:
Steve will write a nice letter about how his life is going without getting too specific about the job. He'll end the letter asking how Fahran is doing.

The next three letters will be written and mailed while Steve and Zelk are taking the slow way back to Highwind after Steve apologizes to Lomner Freeron.

Letter to Sean:
This letter is about the trip and letting Sean know how the apology went. He'll also tell him how his son is doing, just in case the old man isn't keeping tabs on his son from afar.

Letter to Gwen:
Much like the letter to Sean really, letting her know how the trip is going and how the apology went. He'll include two thing with this letter. A book as a gift, which he'll have Zelk help him pick out. The second will be a letter to Peewee, to be given to him when she feels he's ready to receive letters from the folks that stopped Songbird. I'll include the details of that in the next spoiler.

Letter to Peewee:
A letter saying that Steve is sorry Peewee's first friend ended up being a bust and that if he would like, Steve would like to be his friend. He'll site Breeze as a reference of his friendship credentials, and write a poem about what Steve believes true friendship to be.


Last edited by Kolson on Thu Feb 09, 2017 7:16 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: 2.5, mini-adventure: Pretty women

Post by K on Thu Feb 09, 2017 6:59 pm

Letter to Yen:
Yen,

Steve has a girlfriend named Zelk. They grew up together in the Citadel, where he would prank her and she would get mad at him for it. She invited us to a ball at her grandfather's huge manor, so we went. The gate had lion faces sculpted in it. Lions are huge cats that used to be around before the Flood. Probably too big to catch, though.

Steve's new grandfather in law started asking a lot of questions. Fedler was trying hard not to laugh, so i thought i'd finish the job by tickling her ribs, but she outsmarted me.

Then we went to the beach. Fedler doesn't like cold water, but i told her not to think too much about it, so she jumped in. She tried to splash some water on me, but i dove under and retaliated by tickling her ribs again. It made her laugh this time, so i called it a win. Then she taught us how to dance, and i managed not to look at my feet. The twist was tricky, but i managed.

Now Steve has asked Fedler to teach him how to sing. She said yes. Then we raided the pantry, but don't tell anyone or i could get in trouble. The chocolate was pretty good, though. I wanna raid it again before we get out of here, but we'll see how that goes. Wish us luck.

Breeze ate some grapes after lunch, and then i went to her room and wrote down the stories she told me. It's with the package as usual; i hope you like it.

We're gonna take the boat back to Highwind tomorrow, and maybe catch some puppets. Fedler has been wanting to watch puppets for over a week now, but we haven't been able to catch a break yet. But we will.

By the way, Zelk told me that there isn't much job opportunity for a black mage other than the military. Makes sense, considering what they specialize in. Making elements splash around may look cool and all, but doesn't give you a lot of options to make a living when you're a full-fledged caster. Maybe keep that in mind when choosing a specialty, when you get around to it. If in doubt, everyone is always happy to see a white mage, so maybe give that some thought.

I'm going to mail this now, before we get on the boat. Walkerfree is closer to the Citadel, so you should be reading this about the time Fedler and me step back into Highwind. She seems happy. And i hope you're happy. Even if things look tough now, only nine more months till you can get a visit. We'll be there to see you before you know it.

Mihai
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Re: 2.5, mini-adventure: Pretty women

Post by Zeiss on Thu Feb 09, 2017 11:28 pm

12:41 PM, 18th of August
Walkerfree, Free Feathers


All the members of the 113th Adjunct, alongside Zelk, Sean and Gwen, are now standing in the middle of the ball room, ready to say their farewells; Zelk and Steve are planning to walk back to Highwind and visit the villages they pass through, while Fedler and Mihai are taking a boat that will depart this afternoon. Breeze has planned something special though; to travel across the Free Feathers alone, like a true adventurer! Fedler quickly put a stop to it, and suggested that Konrad follows her instead, just in case. The little teenager pouted, then relented after the redheaded hunter explained the dangers of letting a fairy go on a trip alone, and she finally got excited when she started to imagine all the adventures she and Konrad might go through.

"It's going to be awesome!" she exclaimed.

She is now sitting on Konrad's shoulder, muttering to herself where they could go first, while Fedler and Gwen look at Zelk hugging her grandfather.

"Take care of yourself," he tells her.

"I will," replies the black mage. "Thank you for inviting us."

"Don't mention it; in fact, I'm the one indebted to you for riding us of that so-called minstrel."

The Freeron pair pull away from each other, and the old man now focuses his attention on the five party members.

"Please forgive my mistake," he says with an apologetic tone. "If I could have avoided yesterday's situation, I would have."
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Re: 2.5, mini-adventure: Pretty women

Post by K on Thu Feb 09, 2017 11:34 pm

"We all would, but none of us saw it coming." - Mihai adds.
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Re: 2.5, mini-adventure: Pretty women

Post by Rory on Thu Feb 09, 2017 11:45 pm

"All is forgiven, Master Freeron," Konrad replies in his usual affable mannerisms. "We had the upper hand, and we made quiet work of the louse. Let's turn our attention toward new horizons, yes?"
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Re: 2.5, mini-adventure: Pretty women

Post by Kolson on Fri Feb 10, 2017 12:01 am

"Pssh, don't worry about it. It worked out in the end and the party was a success otherwise." Steve matches action to words and waves the apology off.
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Re: 2.5, mini-adventure: Pretty women

Post by Zeiss on Fri Feb 10, 2017 12:25 am

Fedler points to the other party members. "Like they said."

The old magnate smiles, and slightly bows. "Thank you. I am relieve to hear you say this."

"Yeah, don't worry about it," adds Breeze. "We'll always be there to save the day!"

"That is reassuring to hear," replies Sean with a laugh. "I wish good fortune on your travels; to all of you."

"Thank you," says Fedler.

"Thanks grandfather," adds Zelk. "I'll write to you."

He nods at her. Meanwhile, Gwen opens the doors leading to the lobby, and waits for everyone to say their final farewells before escorting the guests out of the manor.

OOC:
You will get to talk to each other outside the manor before we end this mini-adventure.
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Re: 2.5, mini-adventure: Pretty women

Post by K on Fri Feb 10, 2017 12:33 am

Mihai nods - "Thank you, sir."
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Re: 2.5, mini-adventure: Pretty women

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