Part of the What You Leave Behind Arc
Summary: Niix espies an artifact well worth pilfering when an unsavory group quarrels at Frostmaw Tavern. The artifact, which was intended to reach the hands of none other than Kahran himself, may cause Niix further ordeal in the near future...
Lionel | The pipes are played loud and the dancers are out in spades tonight at Frostmaw’s oldest and most populous tavern. Frost Giants arm-wrestle dwarves to unanimously bad occasion for the dwarves, who count their broken limbs as battle scars and laugh it off between tears. A strapping young elven man with silver hair to his shoulders regales merchants’ bodyguards -- all of whom happen to be female -- with tales of high seas adventure. Drargon has too many orders and too few barmaids to spend all his time behind the bar, so the stout old Frost Giant barkeep spirals between tables fetching ale and meat and baked goods for his many patrons. There’s hardly a spare seat to be found, although one is available near a corner by the fireplace. A dark man smokes a pipe nearby, his gold eyes flittering between his drink and the various travelers.
Niix asked herself, for likely the millionth time, what had she been thinking when she decided to explore north. Rynvale was nice and all; if you didn’t mind the sort that generally hung around the docks and shipyards. Cenril was so-so once you figured out the seedy underbelly of the city; and what with the recent events during the elections things were topsy-turvy and in flux. Rumor seemed to indicate the dead mayor’s wife may take up the mantle but that was neither here nor there as far as Niix was concerned. She was looking for a place to defrost. Lucky for her she came across this tavern. Inside she could hear the pipes and stop of dancing feet. That brought a smile to blue tinted lips. Of course she hadn’t dressed for the weather. Numb hands reached out and opened the door letting in a blast of cold air before closing it behind her. Blowing warm breath into cupped hands, the hooded and shivering half elf surveyed the interior. Warmly lit. Her favorite being the large fire blazing in the fire place where there just happened to be a free seat. Immediately she made her way over, drawing down the hood of her duster to let pale blonde hair fall free and dry out. The slight point of her ears peeking from her hair would give away Niix’s mixed heritage and shimmering green eyes seemed to take in everything; including the restless gold eyes of the man smoking not too far from her chosen spot. All that was filed away when she sat, hands held to the fire to bring color back to blue-ish digits. A harried serving girl wanders by asking Niix what she wanted. Her answer, “Anything hot, please.” The barmaid would be back with a mug of something steaming. Handing over the required coin, the mug would then be cradled gratefully before cautiously sipped.
Lionel | One of the dancers, a gnome, trips on a feline’s tail and curses his foul luck. Ale drips from too-full horns as sellswords salute their exploits in good cheer. The pipe players match the mood with a rousing medley fit for frolicking, and several patrons stand up and join the dancers accordingly. The gold-eyed man taps his fingers upon the edge of his table nervously. A moment later, a pudgy fellow in a tight-fitting yellow coat with patches of orange fabric takes a seat across from the gold-eyed man, followed by a green-scaled draconian woman with a lengthy snout and slanted eyes. One of the barmaids approaches the trio and bows respectfully. “What can I do you for?” They glance furtively toward one-another. “I’ll have steamed cider,” the draconian requests, and the pudgy fellow asks for hot tea. She’s off to gather their order. The gold-eyed man leans in and whispers, “do you have the artifact?” The pudgy man bristles and strokes his beard. “It wasn’t easy to come by, mind you. Finding trinkets in the Nameless Desert isn’t my idea of fun.” His peer rolls his golden eyes in annoyance. “Do you have it or not?” They stare at him coldly now, both the gold-eyed man and the draconian woman, and he hesitates only briefly before reaching into his coat pocket and placing a rectangular jade box upon the table. “For Master Kahran,” the draconian woman whispers, but not quite low enough for Niix not to overhear. The barmaid returns with the drinks, and the box is quickly taken by the gold-eyed man. “Many thanks, lass,” he drawls, and she smiles and winks at him and walks away to handle further orders. “That’s that, then,” the pudgy man says. “Do I get my fee, eh? Where’s that at? Be quick about it; I hate this place, I do.” The gold-eyed man exchanges a glance with the draconian woman. “No,” he replies. “You don’t.” Is any of this enough to compel Niix to intrude? Or will she opt to listen further, or head out while the going is good?
Niix kept one ear on the party going on behind her, her back to the room which some may find dangerous. Her ears were sharp enough to pick out any foot tread heading her way. That same good hearing picked up the conversation not far away, not that anything would indicate her interest once the name Kahran came up. That was a name being murmured in Cenril with no small amount of fear threading the conversation. The refusal of payment made her ear twitch to catch more of the coming confrontation. Others might not, but Niix felt a stirring of tension from the pudgy man now sweating. She could just imagine indignant red flushing up his fleshy neck to round cheeks. Niix sipped her own cider and shifted in her seat as though getting closer to the heat. She was quite warm now and curious where this little by-play was going. And that jade box was rather pretty. The thief was subconsciously calculating the street value of such a thing. She could live comfortably for a good long time on what that trinket could get her.
Lionel | The pudgy man’s cheeks are indeed hot pink, and his palms are as wet as if he’d dipped them in oil. “No?” He asks, faintly. He reaches for his tea and holds the handle of the cup between his pinky and his ring finger, sipping daintily in a failed attempt to appear casual. “No.” The gold-eyed man’s monotone seems to produce fresh sweat on the pudgy man’s brow. “Well,” the pudgy man says, “I should not wish to incite violence on such a cheerful evening, my friends, but I -should- warn you that two of my best-paid mercenaries -are- in the crowd even as we speak.” He picks up his cup no sooner than he’d put it down, slurping. His arm shakes as he sets it down for a second time. The gold-eyed man sniffs, smirking. “You don’t seem to understand the situation that you’re in.” He places the jade box down upon the mantle of the fireplace, only a few stray meters from Niix’s location. If she were to rise, she’d have a clear trajectory of it, and patrons are passing to and fro with enough regularity that she may even have ample coverage for that action. The path to the door would only take her 15, perhaps 20 seconds, after that. “Violence,” the gold-eyed man continues, “is precisely what Master Kahran wants. So, be our guest.” He waves his hands in faux-grace. “Come at us, man.” His accent is either Rynvali or somewhere beyond Lithrydelian borders upon the sea, and he smells strongly of tabac and rum. “You’ll die. Your mates will die. Several more will die, too, I presume, but not us.” The draconian woman’s muzzle twists into a reptilian grin as she leans in closer and breathes into the pudgy man’s sweat-drenched face, “your tea grows cold. You should finish it and be on your way.”
Niix had stopped pretending she wasn’t listening and was doing so actively. And then. Oh then, her attention was caught by a green glint as the box was placed with seeming carelessness atop the mantle of the fireplace. Niix liked busy places and this was as busy as any. The draconian woman; the gold-eyed man and the portly rudy fellow all seemed to be caught up in whatever near-war they were planning on starting. Kahran. The name sent chills down her spine. The stories were still fresh in her mind. Whatever was in that box, despite it’s retail value, seemed to be something Kahran wanted. Now, Niix might be a thief, a pick-pocket and a n’er-do-well but she had never gone out of her way to actually hurt anyone who didn’t deserve or afford it and if that box held something Kahran wanted, Niix would make sure he didn’t get it. Taking one last sip of the cider and setting it on the edge of the hearth, Niix rose apparently ready to leave and warm enough. She waited until someone passed by close enough and….stumbled with a called out, “hey, watch where you’re going!” In order to steady herself, Niix’s hand slaps the jade box, presumably meaning to hit the mantle instead when in reality the box would disappear up the duster sleeve and into a hidden pocket with a deft pull from her fingers before she pushed off and made her way towards the door, pulling her hood up to ward against the cold outside. Niix tucks her hands into her armpits to keep the fingers warm until she reached the door when the left would slide out to reach for the handle. Niix is right handed, of course, but that’s where the box would be hiding if someone hadn’t caught on to her little gambit. Niix didn’t have plans to sell this trinket but get rid of it where no one would find it. Call it her own bit of revenge for needless and innocent deaths even if no one knew but her.
Lionel | Defeated by treacherous scam but still valuing his life, the portly man licks his lips and swallows the last of his tea as suggested. “Perhaps you’re right.” Two of the sellswords who have been bashing ale horns among peers rouse from their spot and give their employer a questioning look, but he waves his chubby hand dismissively and bids them follow him out the door posthaste. “Hey, watch where you’re going!” Niix’s words prompt the gold-eyed man and his draconian counterpart to glance up, but they return to shared whispers. Once the nearby men and women have dispersed enough to cause a bit of a clearing, however, the gold-eyed man reaches for the mantle to find naught but dust, and those gold eyes widen fiercely. “That bastard took it,” he growls, and they’re both up on their feet at once. “Bad move, fool,” the draconian calls out… to the portly man, who’s slamming the door shut immediately thereafter. Presumably, Niix has headed out into the crisp night as well, and she’ll watch -- or flee -- as the portly man’s pair of mercs draw their steel in defense. “Hark!” one calls out. “Who goes there?” The portly man bites his lower lip so hard that blood drips. “I am only saying this once,” the gold-eyed man starts, and then his face distorts into a werewolf’s scruffy mane and his body bulges obscenely. His fingers now end in claws, and his teeth are sharp like daggers. “Give it back.” His voice is now booming. The draconian woman draws her spear and taps the mercenaries’ swords testingly. “I-I-I don’t have it,” the portly man protests, “sh-she does, I’m sure of it!” He points to Niix, for no other reason than mere circumstance. “Possibly.” The werewolf chuckles. “Possibly I’ll kill you all.” He leaps upon the portly man, straight over his guards, ripping his throat out and turning his face into a bloody pulp. The draconian swipes past one mercenary, feinting, and then slices the other one across the abdomen. Before his surviving friend can react, she sets off in a chase. Her target is Niix.
Niix had barely made it outside when the door slammed open and closed behind her. Turning around, Niix stared at the portly man indignantly. She was sure no one had seen her abscond with the jade box so her, “What!?” sounded appropriately indignant. Not that it matter because then all hell let loose and Niix was turning on her heel and running as fast as she could from the fight. The gold-eyed man had just ripped out Portly’s throat. No way was she sticking around. Grunts and the clash of metal on metal told her the fight was fierce. The crunch of snow being compacted under running feet behind her encouraged Niix to pick up her pace until she slipped on a patch of ice. A few choice words flew from her mouth as she fell and slid, sure at any moment her head would be vacating her shoulders. “ I didn’t do anything!” Niix yelled out, hoping that would stop her very untimely death. Bald-faced lie or not, self preservation at this point was foremost in her mind.
Lionel | Up above the crashed-down Niix, a shaven-headed elf carrying an oaken staff tilts inquisitively. His emerald eyes bore down at her, but he extends a smooth hand to help her up. No sooner has he done so than he’s glaring at the draconian, who has stopped three meters short of what might have been a skewering motion. “This woman is now under my protection,” the elf states plainly, “and thus, Frostmaw’s protection.” He lifts his chin to peer past the cursing draconian and toward her werewolf companion, who has thoroughly mawed the portly man into oblivion and is searching his robes to no avail. “Tori, Galen, Tyrol and Saul. Help that fellow find what he is looking for. Afterward, be sure to shackle him. Let me know if he has other plans.” Four Frostmawian soldiers -- two Frost Giant natives and two humans -- march in staid formation to surround the werewolf, who howls defiantly but lowers his claws. He transforms back into his less vicious shape, spinning a lie which the portly man’s surviving bodyguard summarily refutes. The both of them will soon be behind bars. The draconian, however, has no interest in joining them. Leaving her companion to his fate, she sneers; the elf reaches out his free hand and begins to cast a spell of entrapment, but she disappears before it can be cast, leaving only green tendrils of magic in her wake. All of these events may whir past Niix too quickly to fully comprehend; it’s certainly no ordinary night out. “Forgive my manners,” the elf says, oddly calm. He retrieves his hand, blanking out the spell. “I am Esche. I am unsurprised to learn that Kahran has agents within the city, but nevertheless pleased casualties have been brought to a minimum. Are you harmed?”
Niix fully expected to be skewered and when the blow didn’t come, she cracked open tightly closed eyes only to find a bald elf standing over her and offering her a hand. At a loss, Niix accepts the assistance in gaining her feet. Everything happens in a whirl. Niix is alive. Alive and unharmed and still in possession of the jade box. Being placed under protection rubbed her the wrong way and she almost said something, her mouth was certainly open to do so, until she noticed who had come along with the elf. Her jaw snapped closed with a click of teeth that were on the verge of chattering now she was noticing the cold. Niix was not about to confirm or deny either side of the story the werewolf and Portly’s guards were telling. Quite frankly, she would worry about the draconian woman later. Once the elf introduced himself, Niix smiled her thanks. “I’m Niix. I’m fine. Cold, but fine. Thank you for your help.” She peered past him as the fighters were taken away and breathed a sigh. Sliding her hands into opposite sleeves, appearing to want to keep her hands warm but really checking to make sure the jade box was still there, Niix takes a step back, almost slipping again in the process. “I’ll just be on my way then. I need to get back.” Back not nothing much, “Thanks again.” Niix turned, fully intending to go back to Rynvale. Or Cenril. Probably Cenril. There might be someone there who would have use for this artifact she now finds herself in possession of. The problem, if Niix got that far, would be finding someone trust-worthy to hand it off to.
Lionel | Esche bows humbly and wipes snow off of his robes. “Please be careful, Niix. Well-met.” He watches the half-elf depart, tracking her so as to intervene if anything untoward should occur. It’s his nature to defend just about anyone, and he has no reason to suspect a thing of her. The gold-eyed man frowns at him as he’s escorted to the fort by no fewer than four soldiers; the other prisoner is being shuffled away by two more troops whistled in from around the bend. Lionel steps up behind Esche briskly, rubbing his neck where a recent wound has left it aching. “What was that all about?” Esche shakes his head. “Dark forces rising.” Lionel scoffs, walks to the corpses of the portly man and his failed protector, and sighs. “Yeah. What else is new? What about that woman? Think she was involved?” Esche glances wayward to mask a momentary lapse in facade. “No,” he lies. “I do not.”
Niix ignored the cup of tea on the table before her. The wait-staff went about their business in their usual manner, occasionally pausing at Niix's table to ask if she wanted anything else. Obligingly, she would shake her head and sip from the cool tea to show she was quite satisfied. In reality, she was studying the jade box held just under the table, out of sight of prying eyes. No one came to mind she could even trust to hand it off to. It looks like the half-elf is stuck with the artifact. The scene in Frostmaw played through her mind, her own near death at the hands of a scaled draconian. The death of Mr. Portly at the maw of a werewolf. Niix shuddered to think that if it hadn't been for that elf, the bald one with the staff, she'd be a goner right now. And this artifact which she finds herself in possession of would be in the hands of Kahran. Tucking it back safely into the pocket hidden with her sleeve, Niix finishes the tea and leaves enough coins on the table to tip generously and pay for the drink. The teen made her way out of the Inn and into the streets of Cenril.