“When the rigging is completed, and we are fully docked, I believe we have all earned some relaxation time.” Torr says to everyone gathered on the deck. The ball of fire that is the sun, has seemingly been swallowed up by the sea off in the distance, allowing Huff to join the crew without too much discomfort. As the torches and lanterns begin to light the port of Millast, Torrinda, after been given the OK that they are docked, nods, releasing everyone of their duties.
“That sail o’ yers..” A tall, sea weathered man says when everyone has left, sucking a morsel of food out of what teeth are left in his mouth. He looks up to the patched sails and squints. “Looks like a big’n. Aint gonna be cheap to get a new one.” He grins as he thinks Torrinda a young, foolish, naive Captain. “I’m sure hopin’ ya got deep pockets if’n ye wan’er fix’d.”
Torr surveys the sail again. He very much doubts the man’s claims, but without knowledgeable information of who will fix, or sell one, it is hard to place a number on it. He plays the man’s game, however, wondering what lengths he would go to.
“I hope it is not as expensive as you suggest…”
“Mmhmm.” The man says, scratching the graying stubble on his chin. “A ship like this, an ye needin’ three large sails.”
“Two.” Torr corrects. “Only two have been damaged and need repaired.”
The dock worker grins and shakes his head. “Yer ship would need the three bran new sails. If ye left one.” He points to the unharmed sail. “Ye’d be runnin’ circles in the water. Too heavy.” He turns to Torr, his hands going on his hips.
Dumb fool. He’s actually believin’ me.
Torr nods, still playing along. “I think you may be right my kind sir. We have gone quite some time since we last needed to re-sail this beauty. You know of someone in the shipyard that will give an honest price?”
“I do.” He says without hesitation. Torr then waits for the predictable reply. “But ye gots to pay em up front first.”
Torrinda acts like he is thinking it over. He gives a ‘hmm’ every now and again while he rubs his hand across his forehead to further pull the man into the deception. “Do you know how much it will be? I’m thinking maybe twelve hundred gold? Will that cover it?”
The man looks at Torrinda, then quickly looks away, a look of shock on his face. Twelve hunnerd! That’s three times the amount. Bet I could get more from this horse’s ass.
“I dunno…” He scratches his chin again, trying to hide his grin. “I’m thinkin’ it might be more. Ye got big sails. Seventeen hunnerd be more close. Yeah, I bet seventeen hunnerd.”
Maybe I can bash his head in and just take all his gold. An what’er else the sap got.
Torr grins and nods. “Seventeen you say? It seems reasonable. Money’s no object where I am concerned. Come.” He pats the man on the shoulder. “Mr?”
“Mr. Boggs. Come into my quarters and we will get you that gold…”
* * * * *
Passed the docks and down by the riverfront lies the seediest of the seedy. Shadows around every corner waiting to pounce upon unsuspecting prey. A watering hole, ‘The Last Drop’ is known to house these ruffians, hooligans and riff-raff that call these streets home. Located on ‘Minnow’s Tale Lane’, it is a place where one can easily slip into without raising any suspicion.
A cloaked figure makes its way down the lane and heads for the tavern, the mysterious person having business inside and does not want to be late. It would like to get a seat before the wilder crowd comes in, one that will grant a perfect view of the establishment.
Slipping in through the door, the figure turns right and follows along the wall, passed two sets of tables and finds the spot it had cased out the previous night. When the barmaid walks over to take an order, wine has been selected; red wine. After a sip has been taken, the person leans back in the chair, the back resting against the wall as it leans with the weight. With the ring finger tucked in on it’s right hand, the person knocks on the wood table, casting a spell so it can hear every single conversation as if it was standing right there beside them.
A lot of them are nothing, simple tales of what others ‘saw’ as it pertains to a murder here or a mugging gone wrong there. The cloaked figure sighs and takes another sip of the wine, watching as more and more patrons enter the tavern.
The barmaid asks if the glass of wine would like to be refilled and then walks to the next patron a few tables down. A lewd comment flows over the table, one man grabbing her by the wrist to have her sit upon his lap. The figure watches though as the barmaid plays along, flirting with the table. While their attention is diverted, she sneaks into their coin purses and steals from them as they are too drunk – or stupid – to notice.
“Clever girl.” The cloaked figure says quietly, knowing she has become exceptional at this game, and wonders how long she has been at it. The men are oblivious to it all and will not remember anything is missing when they awake the next morning, only thinking they spent too much of their money in order to have a good time.
“Yeah, I tells you. It was the Phoenix Rising put into port just a bit ago.”
Finally, a conversation that is interesting. The name of the ship strikes a chord of familiarity in the cloaked figure, remembering the ship well. A hit had been put out on the Captain of said ship and a stroke of luck had put this person in line for the job. However, unforeseen circumstance – in the form of a mystical being dressed in blue – and the company the man kept, the efforts were thwarted. Somehow, some way, that strange woman knew what was going to happen and had confronted the cloaked figure before any action could be taken. That subsequent action dropped the cloaked figure down a few pegs in the social circle it had surrounded itself in.
Now, however, fate has given it a second chance.
“Then Ole Pirate should be comin’ in soon to partake in the merriment!” A laugh ensues. “Aye, and wont Mindy be happy!”
“From what I’ve gathered, Ole Pirate aint on the ship.” The originator of the information states. “I heard it was another fella.”
“Yer pullin’ me leg!”
“No! I swears it!” He says, downing his ale. “Boggs went up to the decks an it weren’t Ole Pirate Some younger fella.”
“Well I’ll be a tick on a dog’s arse!”
Another person!? What does it mean? Did someone else take the Captain out? It was a while ago, but with those two flanking him, the cloaked figure thought the man untouchable. The figure leans the chair back down, digesting the information.
“So be it.” It whispers. The Captain is no longer the target anyway. A certain blue robe wearing menace has the target upon her back now. It has spent time and money – so much money – to find out what it can about the woman. With the help of it’s lackey, they are nearing the final phase of their plan. The chair leans back against the wall as a rat of a man enters the tavern. He looks around alertly – too alertly – and finally finds who he is looking for. As he walks up to the table, he pulls out a chair.
“Do not sit here, fool!” The cloaked figure berates, the man confused and hesitates. “Sit at the table next to me.”
He does so by pushing the chair back into the table and sits at the one adjacent to the mysterious person. He motions to Mindy the barmaid.
“You won’t be staying long.” The cloaked person states.
Looking hurt, his rat face drooping with the comment, declines his drink order when Mindy comes to the table.
“Did you get it?” It asks it’s lackey. “Sypher! Did. You. Get. It?” The last words spoken slow and deliberate.
Always business, never pleasure. Sypher thinks in his head. He nods, confirming that he does. “How many is that now, Royal?”
There is an eerie moment of silence. “Four, and the one you have is five. I still require a blue and a green.”
“What is they for?” Sypher asks, hoping – by continuing to ask – she will finally tell him what she needs them for.
“Are.” Royal corrects.
“What are they for.”
“Ok. What are they for?” He asks again.
Royal chuckles. “Oh Sypher. You keep asking me that every time we meet. And what do I normally tell you?”
Sypher sighs deeply, expecting as much. “The less I know, the better chances of you pulling it off…”
“Precisely. Now, hand it, no. Better yet, put it on the table as you leave.” Royal commands.
“Where will I find you after all of this?” Sypher asks, opening up his leather vest and pulling a string to release the fist sized bag.
“I will find you.” Royal states, as always. “No go, this place is about to get rowdy.”
Sypher, the lackey, does as he is ordered to do. Dropping the pouch on the table, he gets up and exits the tavern, leaving Royal alone once again. With eager fingers, her hand snatches the pouch, clutching it closely to her chest.
“Two more.” She states, undoing the draw string to take a peek inside. The candles and torchlight glimmer off the black object, making a mesmerizing wash of color form over it. She cinches it closed and places it in a deep fold inside her cloak.
“All I can say is thank the heavens we are off the ship.”
Royal pauses, then looks around the tavern for the female voice it just heard.
“Tell me about it, Ivon, I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love everyone on the Phoenix Rising, but that long at sea and whew! Talk about driving a woman crazy.”
Royal looks out the window as Huff and Ivon stroll by, followed by a slower moving woman. It seems as if fate is just giving her all the right cards tonight! She looks over to a group of burly men and nods. The same men who had accosted the barmaid earlier. Her hand is extended, two fingers held out, and slowly swipes the air.
On the table ahead, a mug of ale slides off the table, spilling all over one of their laps.
“Ay!” The man with a now wet crotch yells. He looks over and shoves his friend on the right. “You owe me another one ya clumsy idiot!”
As the two bicker and argue, Royal continues as she raises her hand, this time her palm upwards, then drops it; a floating glass smashing another patron on the back of the head. Without warning, the man who was hit turns around and slugs the one behind him, thinking he is the culprit.
And just like that, a bar fight explodes into action.
A chair is smashed over the back of one man, balled fists fly, all the while the barkeep wipes down the table, shaking his head through it all.
Downing the last of her red wine, Royal congratulates herself and watches as a man is thrown through the window.
* * * * *
“So where to?” Huff asks, looking down ‘Minnow’s Tale Lane’ to the tavern before them. “Surely there are much, classier, establishments if we come further into this town.”
“Huff…” Ivonelfe stops, Tarnaa as well.
“Yes?” Huff replies, looking at the tavern – or rather hearing the brawl beginning inside.
“Promise you won’t get mad or upset.” Ivon pleads.
“Or vamp out on us.” Tarnaa throws in the playful jab. When Huff turns to look at her, Tarnaa only smiles. “Oh come on! If we cannot laugh at that than…”
“It’s fine.” Huff replies with a chuckle. “What’s up?”
Ivon and Tarnaa look at each other, Tarnaa finally blurting it out. “What is the deal with you and Torrinda?”
“Now hear it out.” Ivon says quickly. “Ever since your… Your…”
“Affliction.” Tarnaa helps.
“Affliction.” Ivon nods at Tarnaa’s word help. “You two have spent an awful lot of time together.”
Before Huff can answer, Tarnaa adds in. “The interrogation, we understand, but it seems you two are inseparable anymore.”
“Funny. I do not see him here now?” Huff jokes.
“You know what we mean.” They both say together.
“Weeeeelll…. I mean, he is soooo adorable and funny as hell! Um, he makes me giggle. Me! Giggle!” Tarnaa and Ivon both roll their eyes. “Oooh! He is smart, hard working, and gets along with everyone from cranky Ole Pirate to poor little cabin boy Jazz. Oh yeah, he doesn’t mind me being a vampire. Let’s see, he shares his blood… Aaannnd! Get ready ladies. He can literally read my mind! Boom!” She claps her hands together to accentuate her sudden dramatics. “Really, what’s not to like?” She smiles and looks to Ivon and Tarnaa. Tarnaa, in sudden thought, urges Huff to continue. “Hey now! Uh uh! No, no, no! Tarnaa, I already called dibs. You cannot have him.”
“As if!” Tarnaa, thinking about when she first spoke to him, way back before all the madness, lies. “I wouldn’t!”
“Well, Huff.” Ivon, thinking rationally, begins to wonder about where this will all lead. “Do you think it is really wise to develop these kinds of feelings with the man? After all, he is the presiding Captain and I would hate to see things become strained between the two of you. We are all friends, family you might say, and I just am looking out for your well being. Should you mix working and personal relationships together?”
The wise sage of the group, Ivon, has Huff thinking about things in a different light. Sure it has been fun, but that was when things were really chaotic and there was not time to actually sit down and think about all these feelings and emotions. Still, as she thinks of Torrinda, she smiles. “Well, I will just give it time to see if it blossoms, or fades. How about that?”
“That’s all that we can ask for.” Ivon says with a playful nudge. “He is lucky to have someone like you on his side.”
A loud crash breaks through their intimate conversation as a body comes out of the tavern through the window. The sound startles all three of them.
“And that is our que to leave ladies!” Huff announces.
Unbeknownst to them, a cloaked figure paces their every move…
* * * * *
Mejoltman walks the streets in the populous side of town, where the gutters are not filled with garbage and drunks. Her sole purpose has been to replenish a few items she is running low on and grab the last few things needed for Torr’s Dreamscape ritual. Try as she might, there doesn’t seem to be any magic shops out here in the open streets. She looks up at a sign, ‘The Sleeping Pony’ and decides to ask the proprietor of the store where one can be located. She opens the door and walks inside.
A woman looks up from the counter and smiles. “A future visitor to the Sleeping Pony?” She asks. “We have many high class rooms for rent. I can show you them if you would like?”
Mejoltman bows. “Thank you, but no. I do not require a room.” She looks out of the door’s window, back out onto the streets. “I am trying to find a magic shop.”
The woman snaps her fingers. “Out!” She says, pointing towards the door.
“Excuse me?” Mejo asks, alarmed at how she could have offended her, and so quickly. “I meant.”
“No.” She says, that smile coming back. “Go out, then you will see.”
“See?” Mejo, looking confused, stares at the woman who just makes a ‘shooing’ motion. Perplexed, Mejo turns and exits the inn, frustrated by the sudden turn. When she opens the door, a slight draft flows through the entrance, but unnerved by the woman inside, Mejo walks through to shut the door.
“Well! See if I ever come back to,” She looks up to the ‘Sleeping Pony’ sign to find it no longer says Sleeping Pony, but has changed to ‘The Leaky Cauldron’. “Sleeping… Pony…” She puts her hands on her hips and looks down at the street near her feet. That same jutting rock in the same place as before. “What in the…” She takes a step towards the door, wondering what is going on. “Am I losing my mind?” She puts her hand on the knob and opens it slowly.
The same woman greets her, however, she is no longer wearing the white blouse and vest, but is now dressed in a dark purple robe.
“Wait. What?” Mejo says to herself, the sound of the door closing making her take in the area as it is no longer a reception area for the in. Now it is a full fledged magic shop. On her left is an alchemy lab, the bubbling potions and concoctions being boiled and mixed precisely in various sizes and different shaped beakers.
On her right are several necklaces upon soft pillowy shelves, crystal balls with a multitude of different holders, staffs with the most beautiful headpieces and wands, oh so many wands, each with tiny jewels placed upon them. Mejo shakes her head, a grin on her face that nearly takes in her ears.
“I thought you, of all people, would appreciate what I got going on here.” The owner says leaning forward on the counter, rings of power on display inside the magically illuminated glass.
“Simply marvelous! But how?” Mejo looks back to the door. “It was an inn…”
“Did you feel that rush of wind when you left the Sleeping Pony?” The woman grins as Mejo nods and turns back to face her. “Extra dimensional doorway.”
It makes perfect sense to Mejoltman. The rush of air should have told her, but she was caught up on being ‘kicked out’ of the inn that she paid it little notice. Mejo bows again out of respect for this woman’s aura of mystery.
“I use the doorway.” She pauses slightly. “Some. Well, let’s just say there are people, like you and me, and there are other people who look upon what we are, and what we do, with a misunderstanding. So, to ward off the people that are like that, I use the inn as a front. If it deem the person is a candidate to see the other side of my business, I show them the way.”
The bubbling echoes off to her left, and all Mejo can do is look around the place. “It is extraordinary.”
“Thanks! My name is Penelope.” She turns her head to the side and points to the crescent moon tattoo by her eye, small stars in a triangle cluster beside that. “But you can call me Star.” She smiles and extends her arms out wide. “What can I do for you tonight?”
* * * * *
“I have dis?” The man brings over another frilly garment, a smile on his face. “You’d be beautiful in it, yes?”
Huff sighs as she looks at the article of clothing folded over his arm. It is a fine piece of clothing, and it does look beautiful, but it is not what she wants. She smiles at the man, but shakes her head. “I’m thinking… A little more edgy?” She looks to Tarnaa and Ivon, all three giving a shrug. “More darker tones, maybe something made of leather?”
The man thinks about it and nods eagerly. He walks into the back room, leaving the three women alone.
“You wanting something that better fits who you’ve become?” Ivon guesses. “Something dark and sinister?”
“No.” Huff confirms. “Just…” She sighs, feeling it hard to explain.
“You want something that makes you look like a badass, but still has the functionality of what you need. Sound fair?” Tarnaa says, catching on to what Huff is wanting.
“And it would be to catch a certain eye, wouldn’t it?” Ivon chuckles softly. “A certain someone?” She bats her eyelashes, jokingly referring to their conversation near the tavern. Huff, blushes slightly – if a vampire can – and looks away.
“That will just be an added bonus, I guess.” Huff says under her breath.
“Ah, ladies!” The owner comes back in, carrying various tunics and other leather wearables. “Dis be good, no?”
Looking over to the man, glad for yet another interruption, Huff grabs a few of them and holds them up. “I mean. Maybe if they were taken in a little? You know, tailored to better fit my female body?”
“No, no, no!” The man states, shaking his head. “Zahlee does not do, uh…” He scratches his head. “Da cut, cut to Zahlee’s works. You buy as you see, or you no buy.”
Tarnaa and Ivon, hearing the man’s tone, take it as a sign it is time to find a new place to shop. They begin to make for the exit, Ivon grabbing her twine tied box she had her items put into. Tarnaa, mostly along just to be off the ship, hobbles over towards the exit as well.
“I’ll be there in a second ladies.” Huff announces. “I’d. I’d like to pay Zahlee for his services.” She smiles, motioning them to wait outside. They both hesitate as they look up at her, wondering why she is going to pay him for something she is not going to buy.
“Huff?” Ivon asks, her tone telling Huff she should rethink what she thinks is going to happen.
“I’ll only be a minute.” Huff says sweetly. “I’m just going to see if Zahlee here can point us in the right direction.” She ends the conversation, motioning them to leave via her ‘brushing’ of her hand.
“She had better not do what I think she is going to do.” Tarnaa says when they are outside.
“I seriously doubt our Huff would sink that low.” She snickers, then laughs out loud. “See what I did just then? Sink that low… Because of who she is?” She continues to laugh, Tarnaa rolling her eyes and turns away so Ivon cannot see her smirking.
Her eyes looking elsewhere, Tarnaa spots an open tavern, both it’s doors wide open. Inside she can make out a group of men hopping and shouting. When one of them moves, she can also see a woman, her elbow on the table, her hand clasped around another man’s hand. A grin on her face, the woman says something – her lips moving but Tarnaa too far away to hear – before the man’s arm is slammed down to the table. This causes a roar of laughter, the woman holding her arms up in the air, celebrating her victory while the man holds his wounded elbow. Money is exchanged as bets had been made, the woman grabbing many wads of cash from the losing patrons.
“Well, hello little one.” Ivon greets a little girl, wearing only a white dress, barefoot, at the corner of the next street opposite of Tarnaa’s tavern. “Where are your parents? It’s awful late for you to be out here.”
“Who are you talking to?” Tarnaa turns to see Ivon looking the opposite direction.
“The little girl.” Ivon says, turning back around to face Tarnaa.
“What little girl?”
“That one.” Ivon answers, pointing to where she met her. She turns to look upon the little cherub, but finds there is no one there anymore. No sign or child anywhere. “I wonder where she went?”
* * * * *
“Mr. Zahlee. You will not help me out, not at all?” Huff asks, the man’s arms are folded over his chest as he emphatically shakes his head.
“No. No. Zahlee does not do. You buy from Zahlee, Zahlee no give you competitor store!”
Huff, feeling there is no other way, begins to urge the vampirism up to the surface…
Then she gets another idea.
It’s more of a feeling, an impulse. She squints her eyes trying to fathom what she feels in her gut. “Mr. Zahlee…”
“Zahlee done wit you!” He turns to leave, but is grabbed by the shoulder.
“Mr. Zahlee, look at me.”
The man slowly turns around to look into Huff’s penetrating gaze. He can see the multi-faceted sparkles in her iris, his shoulders relaxing. “Yes?”
“Zahlee, I need you to make me what I desire.”
Zahlee doesn’t blink, just stares into her eyes. “Z… Zahlee no…”
“Zahlee, you WILL make me new clothing. Exactly what I want.” Huff demands, opening her eyes wider.
The man’s shoulders slump as he continues to stare, unconsciously nodding. “Zahlee will. Zahlee make you de bestest garments…”
“Good Zahlee. I will expect them tomorrow. I will leave you with drawings and measurements. You WILL do this.”
“Measurements…” He mumbles. “Drawings… Zahlee do… Tomorrow…”
Huff, unable to contain it, grins and puts her hands together, interlocks all her fingers except both pointers, and brings her hands up to her face, the extended digits tapping her grinning lips.
Suddenly Zahlee shivers and blinks several times. He looks back at Huff and cocks his head. Then a look of realization sets in. “Ah!”
“Zahlee?” Huff asks, not knowing the meaning behind the emotion. She looks at him confused.
“Yes. Yes!” He claps. “Zahlee make what you want! Not problem!” He grins and claps his hands excitedly, making Huff smile that it apparently worked.
The door opens and Huff walks out, Ivon and Tarnaa looking over, expecting to see blood down her chin. When they see Zahlee, all smiles and waves, they know otherwise.
“Tomorrow!” Zahlee says excitedly. “You can pick dem up tomorrow!” He waves again before he goes back inside.
“What did you do?” Tarnaa asks skeptically. “Threaten him?”
“We are not going to find bite marks when we come back tomorrow, are we?” Ivon asks, fearing that will be the case.
“Really ladies?” Huff scoffs. “What do you think I am? A monster?” She laughs and carries them both in her wake.