By Xullrae Zauvir
Chapter 1 - Meetings and Acquaintances (part 7)
They were led out of the Bazaar, in a southerly direction, turning towards the eastern wall after some ten solid minutes of walking amongst the myriad of winding streets upon the ground level of the cavern. From what they could gather, when the twin towers which comprise the most visible aspect of the Vengeful Weave Inn came to view, they were not overly far from the Darkwoods district, wherein the vaunted Tower of the Masked Mage was hidden.
From this angle, all they could see of the Inn were the aforementioned towers, which were several stories tall and dotted with windows, and the middling sized wall which surrounded the remainder of said establishment, concealing the lower echelons from view. However, they could see more levels of windows dotting the outer wall of the city, which stood some fifty feet or so behind the towers. When they approached the main foyer, which rested between the towers, connecting the actually, the bustle of many customers came to their ears, people of all races coming to and fro.
The foyer was done in some semblance of niceties, though when they came to rest finally within one of the main floor's taverns, the decor was of a much simpler variety. The room was rather sizable, able to hold at least ten score of patrons, though not quite that many were present at the moment. From what could be viewed, the ceiling of this particular area stood some two stories above them, with a large deck being situated on the second floor, open to view, to their left.
Below said deck was what appeared to be a well guarded, and very busy, gambling hall of sorts. After a short pause, wherein the human stopped to speak with a charcoal gray skinned duergar of nondescript manner, the small part was led up a small set of stone stairs, coming to rest upon the sizable deck that had been mentioned. From their roost, all could see that another similarly sized tavern room sat on the far side, though this one was done in far finer decor, the patrons within looking to be of a more distinguished sort as well.
Taking a seat upon one of the large tables set upon said deck, the human then motioned for them to join him, whilst beckoning for a waitress with his free hand.
Drazoul went to where the human was seated and started to speak, "nice place you have here crazy man perhaps you be so kind to give us a tour of the place after?" He then took a seat in a rather comfortable looking plus chair directly across from the human's.
With suspicion in his blue eyes, Horock follows the man and sits down beside the disguised Yuan-ti. After the waitress comes, he asks for a drink, the strongest the house has. He was just too curious to be really too suspicious about what was going on. However, he did not lower his guard, and stayed put, surveying the area around him.
Xull'rae stood near the table not taking a seat, where she came from could not be figured out as it only seemed she came from the opposite direction, she still remained hooded but she retracted the piwafwi to show her crossed arms and short sword sheathed at her side. The rest of her was still hidden enough that a sex couldn't be determined.
"Mm, perhaps, if ye ever prove your worth, you will be given the grand tour...and no harm will come to you here, Saer Horock. You have my assurances." Replied Cogliostro. There was no hint of mockery or insincerity in his tone as he spoke.
Turning to glimpse upon the drowess, he began to speak then though it would be a worthless cause, so he simply took note of her stance, and waved the waitress, a female human that was fair of skin and hair, off to get their drinks. "Now, what exactly is it you wish to know? I will answer to the best of my ability, and within the limits I see fit." There were no others seated upon the raised deck, so they were largely alone, and able to speak unfettered by eavesdropping. "Fret not, nothing we say will be overhead by those below, such are the enchantments bound to the area." He looked upon each of them awaiting their many questions he was sure they each had.
Xull'rae was the first to speak, "Why choose the Masked One you must know his portfolio, and despite a deal made, treachery will have its hand in things even if small."
"Mm, aye, treachery will most assuredly be a part. However, what other drow deity would you have me choose? Lolth is simply out of the question, as we all know what her and her drow are like. I would get no cooperation whatsoever. And the Dark Maiden is too full of joy and happiness for my liking, and further she is not the type of drow I wish to study. And no use even mentioning the remainder of the pantheon, all nutcases and zealots. So, that leaves me with the one who has some semblance of a brain within his skull, and one willing to deal with my kind, your, hm, vaunted lord, Vhaeraun."
Drazoul merely grinned at the human and interrupted, "if I prove my worth then people will have a reason to seek my head, as for questions what the hell is this? Explain what you want from Horock and more so if you did not kill me what do you want from me?"
Xull'rae interrupted right back irritation clear in her tone, "so studying us is the cause of all this...?"
As he sat there and listened to what the others where saying, Horock thought back to the day that he met Cogliostro and waited for Xull'rae to be finished with her questions before he dare to speak. "When I first bumped into you, and you threatened to kill me," he said chuckling, "You told me that I would be 'working for you'. I want to know what this entails, what I am going to get, who I am going to piss off, and so on and so forth." He sat there, arms crossed, waiting for a reply, also, pissed at the idea of an outsider studying' the faith.
Cogliostro smiled, calm in fact as he expected them to ramble and bombarded each other, he just hoped no tempers flew in the process. He first responded to the Drowess knowing her to be the object of his study..and one of the more important members of this 'team', "Mm, no, not the cause of it all, though that is the case in part."
He spins now to address the Halfblood, "and I have no want for either of you to be here. You were thrust on me by virtue of Vhaeraun's church, if you do not recall." His expression was as dark as his tone.
Now, he turns to listen to the drow male, and simply allows a polite smile to creep upon his visage before answering, "simple. You will do what I say, when I say, to whom I say. The reward for such duties will be based upon your usefulness during said tasks, and the amount of cooperation you provide me." Cogliostro continued as he saw their affronted expressions except of course the woman's, but he wasn't worried in the least, he just kept on in a tone that did not barter for interruption. "And this compact was agreed upon by your Lord, so take not offense at my studies, lest you raise His ire."
Drazoul grins all the more at the human as he finished speaking and added a comment of his own on the matter. "Then both you and I have something in common human. I was thrust on you by virtue of Horock and you got us both!" the disguised Yuan-ti then grinned at Horock and spoke again, "nothing personal old friend but it is true."
Drinks were then laid upon the table, a tall glass for each, the liquid being a completely clear and colorless one. A simple nod was given to the Halfblood in reply.
Xull'rae snickers, mirth in her tone but so was authority, "fine..fine cooperation you will have from me when and if I see the benefits to do so not when you say and to whom.."
"That is all well and good, Horock snapped, "but what 'kind' of jobs are we going to be given. I do not mind killing people, IF IT HAS A PURPOSE. However, it had better either benefit me, or my God. I will be more then happy to help, if it benefits the masked one. However, do something to hurt the Masked One, and you WILL regret it, human." He meant it and only hoped his voice reflected his intent. He looked at Xull'rae warily, he wonders what she is going to say next.
Again, Cogliostro offers up a forced, polite smile. "You and I have discussed this matter already, drowess. If I find continued disobedience, I will take the matter up personally with your Lord. One way or another, I will get my desired cooperation. And you.." Turning now to face the drow male. "Every task I will set before you has a purpose, even if you have not the wisdom to discern it. As for whom it benefits, well, this entire deal benefits your Church, and that is the only compact I have to fulfill in order to reap the benefits of your labor. As for you personally benefiting, there is no such agreement, though if you serve me well, I will indeed take it upon myself to add in the bonus. Since you have not gotten it through your skull thus far, you have no choice in this matter, lest you wish to leave Vhaeraun's clergy.
"And please, do not deign to threaten me, I've had enough amusement for one day, my sides are beginning to hurt from all the laughter I've held in check."
In vehement retort Xull'rae relied, her voice holding contempt and venom, "and one way or the other I'll do it MY way not yours so get used to it..there are loop holds to everything and what you say and how I do it may be different but the result will be the same or similar!
Cogliostro was undaunted by the Drowesses outburst, but nonetheless smiled as if pleased that she dared to back talk him and endanger herself as well as her position within the church. Mm, yes, I was informed you would be a difficult little sprite, drowess." A slight shrugging is then offered to her. So long as the end result is the same, I care not how ye carry the task about.
Horock however was fuming, and he did little to hide that fact. "Fine. You have my cooperation, as it stands, it would appear you have given me little or no choice. I also agree with her. The things you want me to do will get done, but maybe not the exact way you want them to be done. I however cannot speak for my companion. If he so desires it, he may stay with us and continue to help me." He looked at Drazoul, and he hoped that he would stay. He trusted the Yuan-ti more then he trusted most people. On top of it all, he was a useful companion, and great in any fight.
The Yuan-ti however sighs in reluctance and irritation and talks to the human, "well since Horock has agreed to join up I will to..." He had no wish to leave his companion in the dangerous Underdark and he did owe his life to the hot tempered drow more than once, but he truly was loathe to work with the human as little more than a slave.
A simple nod is offered to them both, as his glass of water is taken to his lips, and imbibed in one, long draught.
Xull'rae frowned at the Yuan-ti but from beyond the hood, and what people couldn't see behind the hood they could hear it in her voice, and it was dripping with disdain. "Well if it stays it better know its place down here and fast..he is not of the church therefore I will kill him if I wish."
"Also," Cogliostro says absently as in afterthought, "keep in mind there is nothing stating that I am to reimburse you for your services. If you do well, I will take it upon myself to pay you...then again, if ye become a thorn in my side, well, I need not say such things aloud." Those words meant for the Halfblood, he then turns to agree with the drowess, "Exactly!"
Despite her greedy nature, Xull'rae's fanaticism came first. "Any benefits to the church is enough for me human." The feeling conveyed was honesty, a rare thing and unusual in a Drow. "So save your money on me..I've been 'paid' for already."
Horock nodded in agreement but he did not feel entirely the way Xull'rae did. "I would say that I would also be happy, as long as the faith gets most of the proceeds from this endeavor. However, if I can get something form it as well, that would be GREAT." In truth, he really did want some of the booty that would be gotten. but, he also wanted the faith to benefit the most. He knew that the Masked One would see to it that he did not get cheated, so great was his faith.
Drazoul stared at the drowess for a moment and debated on something, finally he said, "I will follow your protocol drowess I have no quarrel with you."
"See that you do disguised one because I have no conscience when it comes to eliminating those that I think have no value or purpose.." Xull'rae replied slowly in serious and quiet tone.
Cogliostro simply sat in silence whilst they conversed, taking in all that was said, and reading between the lines as well.
Xull'rae interrupted the mages thoughts by turning the conversation back to him. "So what is the other part you mentioned as to why you made a pact with the The Shadow..other than studying us?"
"Hm, other parts, actually...and I'm not at liberty to say at the moment. When the time is right, more information will be revealed." He smiled, which made Xull'rae sigh in annoyance.
Horock scoffed, "hmmm. Okay human. Keep your secrets. Do you have a job for us? I am getting very bored of just hanging out in this dismal city. I am ready to serve the Masked One." He said this to hopefully help placate the human, and to make sure that he fully understood what was going on.
Cogliostro chuckled, "Mm, serving the Mask One has not much with the tasks I would have you do, so if boredom overtakes you, talk to your church hierarchy, I will summon you when you are needed, however the stables are in need of cleaning, if you are truly bored.
"Fine..." Xull'rae said slowly hiding irritation. "So why show up at the Bazaar? And don't tell me all of us there was a coincidence cause I'm not stupid nor gulible..don't be snide either.."
"Who's being snide?" Cogliostro feigns mild shock, "and no, twas not a coincidence, to be sure." Again the bald man smiled mysteriously.
"So, in other words, you don't have anything ready for us yet? You are the worst planner of this kind of stuff that I have seen in my entire life, and trust me, I have seen the worst type of expedition leaders, military leaders, and every other type of leader that there is. I just hope you have something for us to do soon, and don't be a fool. I am NOT dumb like you probably think I am. So, please, if you want us to do something, just tell us, right now!!"
The mysterious and now amused smile never left the bald human's face as he looked at the drow male. "Yes, your family was known for its poor leadership ability, so I can see how you would be familiar with it. That aside, why ever would you think that I have a task for you at this time? I've not even come to know much about the lot of you yet, so how would I wisely employ you in any undertakings? Get not the wrong impressions of why we are speaking this day. You are only at my disposal when I see the need, and when your church has no need of you. And not once during our conversation today have I stated anything to the point of my needing you currently."
"So answer my Question then.." Xull'rae said softly still reigning in the urge to snap.
"Curiosity for the most part. Cogliostro shrugged. "And, to gauge what I could about you all...a little at a time, I will learn all I need to about the lot of ye. And of course, the lot of you have been tested repeatedly today."
Xull'rae replied in contempt unable to hold it back any longer, "sorry but you'll never figure me out..just what slips out and what I let you see..and I don't slip very often.."
Cogliostro simply keeps that smile going and nods to the drowess, the smile a most knowing one this time.
"Besides I'm a woman, you're a ma..well a male and well you have never, since the dawn of time figured us of the other sex out yet," Xull'rae continued now haughty and confident.
"Tested?! Why and How?!" Horock shouted angrily. He was very irritated about being "tested". He didn't like not knowing when he was being tested either.
Cogliostro winked at the Drowesses words, "Mm, quite true, that I cannot argue." At Horock's outburst, he raised an eyebrow, as if the man should know, "Why... should be self-obvious, Saer Horock...and how should it come to ye upon reflection of the days events.
Horock chuckles to himself at the Drowesses words, trying to calm himself down in the process.
Cogliostro continues, "Now, since it seems to upset you so much, Saer Horock, I shall tell you that most tests had been passed, though by a narrow margin in most cases."
Xull'rae having enough of the "discussion" starts going down the stairs..intending on leaving. "Well, I will be going..since I'm not 'needed' I have prayer to catch up on."
"Mm, take your imbeciles with you, please. The third will be arriving soon.." He now sounded irritated himself as all this bantering was finally getting to him, however he felt no need to explain what he meant by that to the drowess.
"not mine Rivven they are yours..my duties to the recruit are done for the day.." She kept on going not looking back, pleased to hear some irk come out of him if nothing else.
"No, no, they are yours...only mine by virtue of them being yours!" Now he sounded pleading but for those looking at him the irritating and knowing smile was still present.
"Okay..." Horock glares and growls at the human. "Fine, play your little games. Just know that I am not a dog to be called on whenever you so please." He looks at Xull'rae's cloaked form, wondering if she is truly going to leave him here. He wouldn't have cared, it was just that he didn't know his way around the city as of yet, and he wanted to be sure that he could get back to the relative safety of the tower. After all, there was a price on his head, and he didn't want to lose it. So he quickly followed her.
"Oh, but you are" That broad smile is offered to Horock as he called after the all but running male. "You became said dog the day you gave part of your free will up in order to serve Vhaeraun. Such is the price of faith."
"No sorry I refuse to baby sit them as of now.." Xull'rae sounded regal and bored. She looked at Horock behind her. Her eyes were cold yet beautiful they almost glowed like burnished gold. "He should know his way to the temple...if not he will learn.."
"So long as they leave my establishment, I care not if you slack in your duties as their caretaker, drowess." Came Cogliostro's distant but well heard reply. In which Xull'rae whirled on Horock and was so close to him he could feel her warm breath on his skin and see her face clearly even though the hood was up, she was angry but was still so beautiful it made his breath catch it his throat and he tried to pay attention to her words.
"Rule of thumb twit thieves care for themselves first..others second..I'm not slacking in anything.. do you understand? The Shadow Sorcerer said to teach you..lessons end for the day. Got it?"
Tired of all of this shit, Horock stalks away from her more from dizziness than an anger, though he was upset at being treated so lowly, he didn't turn to look at her or shout. Fine, I will find the way back to the temple. If this is another one of your "tests" human, I would like to tell you that I am very pissed off right now, I pity whomever gets in my way." As he moves further toward the exit, he keeps an eye on his back. He knows that going out into the streets he will be in danger, but it was a risk he was willing to take if it would help prove himself to his teacher.
"He also said that the young cleric is fully under your command and care...so, if anything happens to your imbecile, it is your pretty little ass on the line, not mine." Cogliostro reminded her, he too coming down the stairs, Drazoul in tow. A slight shrug is offered to her and then shakes his head at the angry Horock. "Tsk tsk, one really should know how to contain their anger...a sign of weakness, that." It seemed to fall on deaf ears as no retort was given.
"Not really," Xull'rae replied to the human in a matter of fact tone, "if he can't find a place of sanctuary on his own after being shown it..he is a terrible thief and Vhaeraun has no need of such.. he has to learn and in the Underdark..even here he has to learn without being led..if he can't then let him die."
Smiling politely to the drowess, Cogliostro answers, "like I said, what you do with him and for him is your own business. The matter has nothing to do with myself. Now, go make such proclamations to those who care, like the Shadow Sorcerer." Still wearing a mocking smile, he makes a small shooing motion in her direction.
Drazoul having heard all of this, finally speaks up, " I have no intention of going with them to pray I suppose I shall stay, Horock if you need my dagger just say." He made no attempts to defend his friend.
"Hm, if ye are to stay, pull out your coin purse, for it will not be a free ride." Cogliostro responded and then continued, "lodging, drinks, food, and women are available. Men too, seeing as that would seem more your style." Glancing at the leaving Horock with a chuckle.
Xull'rae hearing the comment, smiles beyond the hood but couldn't resist jabbing at the human with her own personal wit. "Go hump a tableleg you gay ass windbag!" She spoke it in high Drow as she slipped around the corner and disappeared.
"Hm, mayhaps I will at that, drowess" Cogliostro answered back in that same language, seeming quite fluent in that as well, though tinged with a human accent, of course.
Before walking out the Inn Horock shouts in response to Drazoul in a friendly manner, "If you so desire Draz, I would of course welcome your company!"
The disguised Yuan-ti nods at Horock, then glares at the human for making such a comment but before he loses his cool he decides to play it out. "how much?" Stopping at the door suddenly Horock turns around. "Well, if you want, stay here. I am going to have to make it back to the tower. However, I think I would be remiss if I did not say that men seem more to YOUR liking, human, then that of the rest of the people here." Motioning Draz to follow if so desired, he spoke in High Drow as well. "Come Draz. You and I can have some fun wandering the city and bothering people." Smiling, he stepped out the door and into the darkness.
Drazoul grinned at his friends invitation. "Never could turn down a day of good mischievous!" He then grinned at the human, "tell me the prices later!" said, as he was rushing out into the streets beyond.
"Well, in my defense, I did state the drowess has a cute ass..." Cogliostro muttered to himself, again, that mocking smile is offered up to no one now. "And yes, that would be such a wise thing to do whilst hiding out, bother as many as you can, draw attention, that's it...by the gods, this group is doomed.." He sighed shaking his head and went to the bar to drown himself in liquor, though he couldn't get drunk..but he could partake of the newest gossip being passed around.
They would all be back soon enough.
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