RP:Not So Crystal Clear
This is a Rogue's Guild RP.
Summary: Callum's summoned to The Office to speak with Eleanor about something unusual that she's been experimenting on.
The Office, Cenril
Although it had been a spell since she had reached out to Malus, Fox did so tonight with purpose. Her blue crow Eun sought him out wherever its master guided it until at last the herbalist was found. A tiny scroll was bound to the bird's leg with delicate floss. The message, inked in a glowing blue, was as follows: I have need of your skills with that which grows. Come to the back door of The Office after dark.
Once the message was read by its intended audience, the crow took flight once more without waiting for a reply, and the scroll itself went up in an ephemeral display of bluish sparks.
Malus had indeed gotten that letter and while he was perfectly fine with dealing with things of a herbal nature with his guild leader, the fact that he had to go to The Office to do it was… less than savory. See, Malus wasn’t much of a woman’s man, unless it had to do with Meri. What went on in The Office just wasn’t his thing--though he wasn’t about to shame the girls there that were just earning a decent living. Thankfully though, he only had to go to the back! This was fine with him. Go in the back, don’t see nekkid ladies with assets he had no interest in--things were going to be okay! He did this thing, having left Inksi with Fleur at their house in Sage, and had his horse Mr. Storm Cloud tied up at the inn nearby. Mal wasn’t going to bother knocking on the backdoor; Fox would show up when it was time, after all. Instead, he bided his time with a book on herbs, his back propped up against the wall of The Office in the alley the backdoor was in.
Eleanor/Fox understood that The Office was not exactly Malus's favorite place, and if she had the choice to invite him anywhere else, she would have. Unfortunately for both of them, there was only one way to get to where they were going - through and down. So just as the sun's dipping past the far horizon, a shadowed figure emerged from the back door of the cabaret, bringing with it the smell of cigarette smoke and cheap booze, but there were worse smells to reek of. Somewhere beneath it all was the scent of magic too, and it crackled around her like the faint aura of electrical currents for those sensitive enough to pick it up. The woman was running hot, as it were, but her demeanor was cool, her steps almost lazy as she stepped off the stoop, one hand on the doorknob as she turned toward her companion. "Guid, yer haur." Her tone implied she never had any doubts he'd show, and there was a bit of a smirk tugging at her lips - not that it was too obvious with the darkness of the alley and the interior light from the open door behind her throwing her into silhouette. But nevertheless the guild leader amused herself with the comment before she jerked her chin toward a shoulder - behind her, toward the club. A rhythmic thumping still sounded - girls likely on stage dancing to its beat - but Fox did not heed its siren call. Instead, she made sure the back door was secured again once Mal was inside, and led him down into the basement.
There was a man at the table in the basement, dark brown mop of curls, powderblue eyes, and he wore a dark blue 3-piece suit that neatly hugged his frame. He might even be handsome if not for the eerie paleness of his skin in the lamplight, skin that seemed stretched tight over the bone. As Fox led Malus down into the room, the man's expression shifted from studious seriousness to an easy smile, and he set down the ream of papers he'd been reorganizing to lean back in his chair and offer a lazy salute. Fox gestured slightly toward the stranger, and to Malus spoke, "Allaw me tae introduce Laird Albery Close. He'll be wi' us fur a while, workin' oan somethin' new - somethin' big." Lowering her voice a degree, she added, "He's guid wi' numbers, see, an' appraisals." Fox lofted her brows. Now that they were in the basement, layers of shadow seemed to peel back to reveal her accompanying smirk too.
"Anyway, that's nae wa Ah brooght ye haur." Leaving Lord Close to resume his work, Fox continued across the room until she ducked behind some crates - behind which she opened a trapdoor. Beyond, perhaps the sewers or catacombs of some kind beckoned, but the smell emanating from the opening was sickly sweet - perhaps a little too sweet. To someone like Malus though - not only for his acuity with living things, but his preternatural senses from his wolf - the smell was organic, originating from some kind of flower growing in the dank tunnel below.
Malus would follow Fox, and said nothing along the way, giving her only a nod in acknowledgement to her greeting as he snapped his book shut. Things that needed to be observed were: the smell of magic that radiated from his guild leader, their surroundings as they went down into the basement, and finally that man that sat at the table. A brow is raised as Fox explained why the man’s existence there was a thing, “S’pose I know who to go to now. Hasn’t been often that I’ve needed something of the sort, but you know…” There wasn’t much point in further attempting to fence things off onto the people he manipulated into doing so or buying his herbs. They could only take so much before they’d finally start talking--and if Mal wasn’t the one doing the talking, then it wasn’t good. He’d finally give the lord a half-hearted two-fingered salute and proceeded to follow after the woman.
Long before they got to the tunnel, that earthy organic smell had hit his nose. Raven brows furrowed as he tried to place the scent, but coupled with Fox’s magic, the booze and smoke, the scent of the newly met guy back behind them, and the sewers, it was a wonder he was able to smell anything at all. “What… is it?” He assumed at this point that that was exactly why he was here, to tell her what the thing was, but the look on his face spoke of the discomfort he wasn’t going to voice. Ugh. He really needed to get used to his new abilities.
Fox rolled her shoulders in a casual shrug. "He's thaur if ye need heem." She jerked her chin toward Lord Close, who had dutifully resumed sorting through the papers. A close look (no pun intended) would reveal the papers mentioned things like "Bread for the Birds" and "Charity Auction". The papers themselves seemed official, but whether they were was another thing.
Turning her curious eyes toward Malus once more, she studied his reaction to the sickly-sweet aroma - the flowers, and everything else. His being a wolf … that was new, perhaps. Did Fox know? She hadn't said as much, yet, but she had smelled it on Meri … A moment later she began to move again, carefully concealing whatever expression might have filtered through in that brief spell. "Weel, here's th' hin'..." Descending the ladder down into the tunnel itself, she continued, "Ah've got thes wee side project …" Quick to move out of Malus's way so he could follow after her, she gave a lazy gesture toward the tunnel itself. It was a decent-sized tunnel, enough room for a few people of normal humanoid size and shape to comfortable hang out along with whatever else she had down here.
The ground, walls, and ceiling were mostly smooth and level, carefully carved out of rock, although there was no obvious sign of axe or other tool. Propped up against the walls were several lattices, each supporting some kind of flowering ivy. The flowers themselves were small clusters of bright blue and ultraviolet and gave off a kind of bioluminescence. The aroma was noticeably stronger down in the tunnel, and a bit heady although not much beyond that. But more of note was that wrapped up tightly in the coils of the vines were a series of crude aquamarine-like gems which also gave off a bluish light. It was unclear at points where vine ended and gemstone began.
Fox would give Malus time to examine the flowers - they were probably safe. Maybe? Meanwhile, she went on to add, "Ah huvnae got a nam fur them, sae much yit, but Ah hae bin experimentin' a bit wi' combinin' crystals wi' varioos plants." With a bit of a chuckle in spite of herself, she added, "Afair it hadnae gotten anywhaur, Ah dornt hae much ay a green thumb myself." Beat. "But … something's changed. Th' flowers ... they've ne'er glowed loch thes afair." She moved closer to one bunch of flowers, fingertips toying with a tiny petal. "Th' smell came efter," the spell-rogue added thoughtfully. The spellrogue's gaze shifted along a shoulder toward her companion. "Ah dornt hink it's wrang sae much as ... different. Ah kent th' crystals might glow - they hud wi' previoos plants, but Ah am a wee bit it ay mah element noo."
The declaration that Fox was experimenting with crystals and plants ran a chill down Malus’ spine. She clearly wasn’t mad--anymore than most rogue types were anyway--but it reeked of the same sort of experiments Caiburne the Mad Alchemist loved to lead, albeit with a lot less bloodshed and torture on Fox’s end of things. The man that Malus had gotten his bismuth crystal skull from was long since dead, but Malus couldn’t hide his frown no matter how hard he tried as his line of sight shifted from the Rogue’s Guild leader to her creation. “I’ve… never seen anything like this. My knowledge on crystals isn’t the greatest either, as my witch training hasn’t quite started yet.” Ocean-colored eyes continued to stare at the strange plant, his concern and bewilderment about such a thing enough to distract him from the plant’s smell. “I’ve cross-pollinated plants plenty of times, but nothing like this.”
With a sigh, he crossed his arms over his chest, the frown still remaining as Malus finally returned his attention to Fox, “And you’re not gonna like hearing it, most likely, but in order for me to figure out what the hell you did to make it do -this-... you’re going to have to tell me the steps you took to do it in the first place.” He definitely had a feeling she wasn’t going to like being told that, but he had no other choice. She was just going to have to trust him. “It’s entirely possible though, that whatever it was you did, just wasn’t the right combination. Different crystals could be used with different plants, I imagine, until a proper fusion is found.” A beat. “Much like plants do, I’ve been told each type of crystal has its own specific magical property, so…”
Fox nodded slowly. The spellrogue chewed on the inside of her cheek, considering just how much she could tell Malus. Once, there'd been a conversation about trust, and how it went both ways. "Aye," she started carefully. "So … Ah didne e'en ken if it coods be done, but Ah had tae try." The guild leader pursed her lips, switching her weight from one leg to the other. "Ah imbued each crystal wi' a specific bit ay magic. Ye cannae ken--" She paused and sighed, releasing the petal in order to cross her arms, almost defensively. "Ah believe some call these ... blue topaz." A beat later, she added, "Thes is th' first time Ah've tried these rocks. Afair … th' crystals took whit Ah gave it, but th' plants ..." She trailed off, churning over how best to word it. "Recoiled?" A nebulous frown pulled at her full lips, and her diadem shifted with the wrinkle of her brow. "Now … weel."
She cast her seaglass eyes toward the flowers again. The problem - to her - is that she just didn't know much about plants. The woman had only chosen the flowering ivy because of space. There were no obvious sources of sunlight, artificial or real, in the tunnel, nor were there any pots full of soil or mulch, so it was any wonder how the plants had managed to survive at all this far underground. "Ah need tae ken if they're radge," she told Malus at last, slicing a finger across her neck for emphasis before curling her hand around her bicep again. "They huvnae killed me yit, but ... " Fox rolled her shoulders in a dismissive shrug. "An' Ah need tae ken everythin' th' plants can dae noo, if th' pollen can be harvested, which properties diz th' plant itself hae ... can Ah coont oan ye tae help wi' thes? Ah will pay ye, if that's whit it takes." The woman tried to study Malus in the dim light, but as ever, she found him difficult to read. "Ah also need ye nae tae speak ay anythin' yoo've seen haur tonecht ... ye can teel 'er, but nae anither sool."
Fox wasn't really ready to share Lord Albery Close with just anyone yet, nor her plans for "Bread for the Birds non-profit organization." The flowers - well, she may dance around concepts like good and evil, but she doesn't want to move forward too quickly and risk hurting the wrong people in the process. She knew she had to be careful, had to be smart. That's why she had gone to Malus now, rather than recklessly introduce whatever the plants were to the public. Shaking her head, she added gently - or as gently as her husky voice allowed, "At leest nae until we ken more. Can Ah coont oan ye, Mal?" Fox knew it might be a difficult buy-in; she was skirting around answers, picking and choosing what info she could share with him that would still give him plausible deniability, but neither had she lied about anything she did tell him. She hoped it would be enough.
Callum was probably a lot more perceptive than Eleanor wanted--that was one of the many skills he brought to the Rogue’s Guild after all. He took her obvious hesitation in stride; she’d say what she thought necessary… Maybe the rest would come eventually. He listened to all she had to say, occasionally looking from her, to the plant, then back again. He opened his mouth for a moment, as if to protest against not being able to tell anyone else but Meri about it, but he eventually closed it. Sigh. Thankfully, Lanara and Talyara were completely willing to help Callum with things he needed to know regarding witchcraft. Well… “It will take a little time to figure it out, but I’m sure it can be done. I’ll need samples. I won’t take the whole plant, obviously. If it’s capable of harming people, I don’t need it doing so to other people I associate with.”
He paused, studying her, “This does explain why you smell a little… odd. I could smell it when we were up top, aside from the beer and smoke.” Another sigh. “There were… complications at one point a few months back and I’ve also got lycanthropy, like Meri and our kid. So, it’s probably best that you -did- come to me instead of anyone else. Because as far as I know, werewolves can resist a whole hell of a lot.” Moving on after that little explanation, he took a step closer to the plant, but just to eye it a little more closely, “Before I can fully start on this, however, I need to get info from a couple friends. They’re going to teach me the aspects of witchcraft that -doesn’t- have to do with botany, so I’ll make crystals be the first thing on the list. They have to assist me with a rather unfortunate problem of my own, but it’s to be dealt with immediately, so you won’t have to wait long. All that to say, yes, I will try to figure this out for you. Next time I’m in Cenril, which will be soon, I’ll bring my tools with me, get what I need, and find a place to experiment with it on my own.” Where the hell was he going to do this at, though? He wasn’t going to bring it back home and risk Fleur getting all wolfy and trying to eat it. Maybe the apartment in Meri’s art studio? Hm. Or maybe she had the key still to the tattoo parlour in Rynvale. He’d… figure it out. Hopefully.
Eleanor's gratitude showed plainly even in the half-light of the tunnel, and with an exhale, she nodded. "Reit." And then, almost apologetically, she added, "Ah hud tae, uh, re-up." Beat. "Efter," she jerked her chin toward the plants and their symbiotic crystals. It was a vague explanation if ever there was one, but her magical codependence was probably not a conversation for today. Whatever she'd meant to add after that was lost to her though, and she frowned, her shoulders sagging. "Ah didne ken yer bairn, tay. That's gotta be--" difficult. But Fox - Eleanor … she stopped herself, shook her head, and squared her shoulders. "Ah'm sorry." Another beat. " Ay coorse, tak' whit ye need, atween time an' tools." She studied Callum a moment, and added, "If ye need a place tae experiment ... Ah ... main hae someain who's keen tae repay a favur." She offered up a crooked grin, at odds with her previously sober outburst. "Jist lit me ken an' Ah'll make it happen."
Callum only nodded to the roundabout condolences when it came to dealing with Fleur. His kid hadn’t even been the problem really. It was that -he- was the sole person of that family that was still human. Welp, that had been dealt with obviously… even if it wasn’t exactly in the way that Callum had wanted. “That’s probably the best course of action then. You talk to this person, see if I can use… wherever as a place to deal with this. It’ll cut out a lot of time-wasting when it comes to finding a place. I can at least take it home and examine it. I’ll lock the samples up in the basement for now.” You know, like one usually does with sketchy herbs. “Let me know if you happen to have symptoms from being around this thing. While the Healer’s Guild doesn’t know it, you and everyone else in our guild happens to have their own personal liaison to the Healer’s.” He meant him, of course, and he’d point that out if Eleanor wasn’t picking up what he was putting down in regards to it. “There’s almost always overlapping of symptoms with other things, so it might help to figure out what’s up with your little friend here too,” he said with a nod in the plant’s direction. Callum paused, eyed Eleanor for a few moments, and eventually added, “And I suppose if there ends up being an emergency, our house is in Southern Sage, just a little east of Arkhen’s Temple. If you find the watering hole when going east though, you’ve gone too far.” He wasn’t entirely sure if Meri would be okay with him giving up the location of their lovely home, but it was -his- house as well, and it really wouldn’t do to have their guildleader just up and die when he’s supposed to be helping her.
Eleanor angled her chin down for a deeper nod. "Och aye, Ah'll let ye ken." Beat. "Shoods hae an idea in th' next day ur tois ... an' Ah'll ken whaur tae fin' ye." She understood Callum, or at least she hoped she did, extrapolating as she could from the pretense they bantered with. Speaking more plainly, the woman added, "Sae far ... naethin' Ah cannae handle, but, Ah will lit ye ken if 'at changes." The Fox felt as though she were putting a lot of faith into Malus - but so far, it hadn't been misplaced. That trust they spoke of years before was definitely starting to develop some real foundations; insofar as El allowed herself to forge such alliances. That had never necessarily come easy to the thief, but that's just the nature of her business. In the meantime, she studied him another moment longer, and nodded once again. "Reit, sae, Ah will lit ye gie back tae yer nicht, uh…" The blonde lifted a hand, scratching at her neck a bit in the half-light. "Ah will be in tooch." There wasn't much else she could offer him apart from a wan if not rueful smile, and she moved toward the ladder. One hand on the rungs, she turned back to him as an afterthought, leaving him with the following parting words, each stumbling out of her mouth without much care to their timbre, "If either ay yoo-- if ye need anythin' else ... Anythin'. Ye come fin' me, okay?" Another tight-lipped smile and she ascended the ladder back into the harsh glow of the basement lights, before disappearing behind a few crates and through the guild's back entrance.