By Xullrae Zauvir
Chapter 2 - The Web Begins to Weave (part 4)
When Xull'rae entered just moments later, the Inn, as at almost all hours of the night or day, was moderately busy. Activity of all sorts creating a constant cacophony of noises, some subtle, some anything but. Having gotten wind of their approach, the human was perched upon his private deck, which resided above and between both disparate halves of the Inn's taproom. A studious gaze was given to each as they entered, which were the Xull'rae and the Malaugrym figuring that both may be here to make a few queries, but he was not quite sure. There was always the possibility that neither had gleaned anything along the lines of his thinking whilst confronting the demon-shade.
Idly, Cogliostro sipped from his favored crystalline snifter as he awaited the approach of either figure. He was aware that Horock, Drazoul, and Vesz'aun had wandered off for other parts of the city, each for reasons of their own, and he was also aware that two of the three would soon confront him on a number of matters.
Xull'rae didn't approach as the human had thought, she was not the waiting hand, nor a servant. So she sat her cloaked self at the bar ordering red wine. She figured the human would be annoying when he needed her, so for now she was "resting" as it were, for she never was one to relax.
The trip was mildly useful, learning various tidbits of information, not that Sszordrin was overly concerned with what the demon said to the other two, more so on his own agenda. Though that wasn't exactly a new concept, his form silently shambled within the establishment, the occasional clicking of gnarled staff the only sign of sound made. His deep crimson orbs swept over his surroundings, heading for the human, for there was really no other reason to be here, in a matter of seconds, he was within ear-shot.
Cogliostro did nothing more than pointedly meet the Malaugrym's gaze for a moment, then turned away from the deck's edge, disappearing from view as soft footfalls carried him to his private table. It would seem the female had no questions. Probably caring little about the intricate plots her fellows had gotten embedded within, though he thought her curiosity would get the better of her and that she would at least make certain she had gotten into a position where she could overhear the conversation which was sure to come. It seemed, however, that perhaps the Malaugrym had caught wind of certain information, and would want some points clarified.
As curious as Xull'rae could be, right now she did not care about her companions. She was more interested in herself and what she should do next, putting coins down, she awaited her wine. Her amber colored gaze did look up and upon the deck, seeing the hated Mages' conversing.
A mental note had been conveyed as Cogliostro took to his usual, plush seat at the appointed table, one given to the tender who even now labored to get the drowess' drink. That done, he took a bottle of amber-hued liquid from the table and refilled his snifter to the proper level, awaiting for the Malaugrym to join him. Meanwhile, the message having gotten through, the tender pushed the drow female's coins back to her as the glass of wine was set before her, passing along quietly and swiftly that the proprietor, being the human, wished her company on the deck above.
Szordrin mutters low under his breath, "we must exchange a few words," as he settles down in an adjacent seat, the staff he carried seemed to ebb from existence, fully dispersing in a matter of seconds. Shifting somewhat, and leaning forward, towards the human. "I gathered some.. information, while on our little field trip," he pauses, his voice level but there was something dark about his body language. "What can you tell me of my captures?" He seemed civil enough about it, but there was no mistaking the glint of his eyes, patience wasn't a strong point, not when it came to this subject in particular. He had all but a few of the required stones, and he found a past link, that might just be able to help him further track the remainders down.
For once Xull'rae resisted her greedy nature leaving the coins on the bar top, perhaps as a tip for information. Her swathed form arose and went to meet Cogliostro and company sipping her wine gingerly as she took an empty seat in silence, just as Cogliostro made his reply.
The human's oak-brown gaze was allowed to drift in the direction of the stairs for a moment, to confirm that the drowess had arrived, whilst he listened to the Malaugrym's words, but otherwise he politely acted as if he were paying close attention to said shapeshifter, before he deigned to answer. The snifter was taken to lips once again, traces of a knowing smile touching those thinly formed lips which rested upon his olive countenance. That trace of amusement did not leave as he regarded Sszordrin fully once more. "Are you sure you wish to speak on such matters in the mixed company we now have?" He knew he was being annoying, answering a question with a question.
Xull'rae interrupted the Malaugrym's reply, irritation as usual laced her tone. "I was asked by you according to your staff to come here. So I am. If I'm not supposed to hear something, why bother me?"
If the disguised Malaugrym's cowl wasn't pulled so low, one would notice the irritated expression set across stone-cold features, but that being the case, it was easily hinted in the tone of his voice. "Fine. We will talk about this at another time," he muttered, taking on a more relaxed position in his chair, loosening up a bit, though not overly much, returning to his brooding state. His attention seemed intent on the bald one across from him.
"Like I won't figure out what's going on anyway mage so you might as well blabber away. Xull'rae said, her own hood hiding a smile. She continued with the intention of hitting a nerve, "unless you are scared what I may do with the information being told." She sipped her wine again sitting back, her tone conversational now.
The amused smile blossomed on Cogliostro's face somewhat at it all. The Malaugrym's irritant, and the drowess' usual "eloquent" mannerisms, this bunch was never boring.
After taking another painstaking drink of the brandy, the glass was set down, and his gaze fell upon Szordrin's disguised form once more, though his first words were intended for the drowess. "Yes, you were summoned. I thought it would perhaps be prudent that I have a witness present, as I wouldn't want to spend overly much time in this city's fine prisons were something to go, hm, amiss." He smiled at her, knowing it would be in her best interest to protect him.
"Now, as for your query, Saer Xarann, what would lead you to believe I even know of what you speak? We have only become acquainted a short while ago, not much time for us to get to know one another well or to know much about one another. Though I am curious and interested to hear of this, capture, as you put it." He was of course pushing buttons in the most subtle of manners, testing the waters, so to speak. Though he knew it was quite a bit more than the Malaugrym would like him to, he did not know just how touchy the Shadowed One would be on the whole subject.
Xull'rae snorted in Cogliostro's direction giving him a dry and snide reply, "so I'm supposed to say you did it right?" She finishes the rest of her wine letting the two continue. It was obvious to any who looked at her, despite her being cloaked, that she was very bored.
"Mm, exactly," That amused simile of a smile turned a slight shade of sour while Cogliostro responded to the drowess.
Szordrin didn't see much danger in spilling information, not that his mind was in the right state anyway, not when this particular subject was brought up. The pushing of buttons didn't help the situation any as fingers clenched to form a fist, his eyes mere slits now, unblinking as they stared the human down. "You're testing my patience, human. I know you know more then what you'd like to let on, I want answers, and I want them now." True, he was testy, unlike his usual calm demeanor, though who wouldn't be, stored away in a timeless space for centuries.
Xull'rae started snickering, but otherwise remained silent, finding this situation most amusing. Enjoying the fact that Szordrin was angry knowing he was not in a position to threaten or make demands. Despite his vaunted power, he too must report to a greater and more influential power and that alone caused her to love the moment even it was the human who had more power. He was tolerable, the drow mage was not.
"My, my.." commented Cogliostro as he arched a single, salt-n-pepper brow in mock surprise, his smile turned more polite of manner than anything. He had gleaned that which he wished to know, the Malaugrym had a weakness, if only that a certain subject angers him. Anger in most forms was more weakness than strength, though granted the reverse was true on occasion. The smile was allowed to fade finally, more of a relaxed expression settled upon his visage now. Seemingly the Malaugrym had yet to upset him in return, which would perhaps fare better, as they could still have some semblance of a meaningful conversation at this point. "Very well, I indeed have answers, though I do not see the wisdom in willingly handing over all my cards, especially with nothing in return. I hold much information on many subjects. People pay me well to keep those secrets. Also, the information that I hold on this particular subject would perhaps place a number of other souls at danger. Not that you care, but I do have vested interests in certain parties, and I would not want you going off and slaying them, or worse." He left if open for the other mage to respond, he had the floor now.
It was Xull'rae who spoke up first. "I smell a business deal and plot thickening, though you both have to work on the second of the two if either of you want to excel down here." Her tone was amused but it held a serious note to it as well.
"Bah. Witnesses observe, not speak," replied Cogliostro.
"Hey, I'm also a business partner so I have other rights too! Xull'rae said with mock hurt in her tone, if they could only see the wicked smile on her face, then they would know she was having fun with this situation in dealing with these scrapping outsiders, who had no clue on the depth of Drow plotting.
Szordrin gritted his teeth. He was close to lashing out orally, but kept calm as possible. He knew it in his best interest not to fly off the handle, especially when this one known as Cogliostro could be a key witness to his past follies. "What exactly do you want?" He held his threats, but it was sorely obvious his cooperation wasn't willing.
Cogliostro allowed the business partner comment to slide for now, as he did not wish to change the entire conversation to nothing more than a squabble between himself and the female. Offering her a fake smile, he turned his attention back to the Malaugrym. More to the point, what exactly doYOU want to get out of this? Mere revenge? Or something more? As your answer would determine how much information I would impart, I cannot name a price until I am aware of just what it is you wish to do with it. If what I give out would cost the lives of certain persons, then the price will perhaps be steeper than even you are willing to pay.
Once again the Malaugrym was forced to reign in his temper. Oh the human would pay dearly for this treatment,' later when it could be unexpected. He replied as evenly as he could, "I simply wish the information, more people to.. question, I want to find out the source of my imprisonment." Of course he left out the part about killing every last connection, but he didn't find it overly relevant and wasn't about to bring it up, "that is all I ask." This politeness alone was killing him, the needs of his race were long forgotten, a minor goal, he was here now, more for himself.
Xull'rae burst out with an incredulous voice, "oh gods he could be lying or he could change his mind. He's definitely not of the honest sort, it doesn't really matter what he wants. You have the power in this situation..are you going to use it?" It was a lecture as much as a challenge given to the human.
"Mm, of course he could lie, Saer Zauviir. In fact, I'm counting on that much. However, I can still assuage the good Saer Xarann to a degree, by leaving out particular names I suppose." Though Cogliostro spoke to the female, his studious gaze never left the Malaugrym. "Now, I can give you a simple name, of the one who machined your imprisonment, or, you could offer up more, and I could tell you the entire story. In so far as I know it, that is. I've no want of your soul, tainted as it is, Saer Xarann. So tempt me with another offer, name what you will give, and I will tell you one story or the other based on its worth to me." In truth he was glad Xull'rae was here to unintentionally give him tips. He was not drow but he needed to think like one to deal with this shadow creature.
The presence of the Drowess, was starting to irk him more and more, the human was inferior to them both. Why was she siding with a white worm. What did the human offer to buy her loyalty? He was slacking in his studies on these dark elves and need to start investigating more. "I want to know everything," he mutters. "You name what you want, an item of power, wealth, a specific task completed." He was struggling to keep his calm, dropping so low as to bargain with a human almost made him sick, yet he couldn't simply start blasting, that'd ruin his goals, and that of his race, he was here as an ambassador after all.
Humans are so simple minded at times no wonder they had short life spans, they learn things quickly but never could harness what they learned to a full degree. Sad, Thought Xull'rae, before she was interrupted by the sound of Cogliostro's voice. His question ringing in her mind like a bell for her to come to attention.
"So, drowess, what is your opinion on the matter? I digress in that your people are more acquainted with selling people out than my own."
Xull'rae recovered instantly, letting out a soft chuckle as she debated the answer to the human's question. "well lets see, hmm, Her hooded head turns and her gaze actually locks on the drow mage, looking him over as he were on the market, to be brought. "He's basically stated he'd give you anything, which was foolish cause," she stops as a snicker broke out, "well gee he's wanting to get back at his captors, but you can capture him in a way. What I mean is you could make him serve you. Make him a slave. Of course he is more valuable than that so servitude is the better word. If he doesn't like it, then break his fingers. His one power is his magic so at any time you COULD render him useless."
Cogliostro couldn't help but smile in irony and satisfaction. Xull'rae could be so much fun and it pleased him that he could almost tell what she had been thinking and not even with the use of psionics either. "Mm, I see we think alike at times, female. Very well, servitude it will be." He turned back to the Malaugrym now, "for all pertinent information to be handed over, you will be my indentured servant for one years time. That will include, but not be limited to, that which you've already offered. If I want a task carried out, you will do so. If I want an item created, you will do so. If I have need of your wealth, you will hand it over. And though I cannot expect you to be a loyal slave...er, excuse me, servant, I will expect you to carry out your assigned tasks promptly and efficiently. You will furthermore allow me to place you under a Geas, so that you cannot out and out betray me, or those in my employ. Do we have a deal?"
He realized that he was asking more than most sane folk would be willing to pay but then again, he knew the Malaugrym was not exactly sane. Still, his last question was an honest one, as he did not know the exact limit of how badly the Malaugrym wanted this information. He decided to add in to be hopeful, "If it will help, I do not abuse my, hrm, hired help. Ask anyone working here at the Inn."
It was true, the Malaugrym has lost a decent amount of sanity, but that did not make him a fool, In fact, he found something amusing, cause he started to chuckle, granted under his breath, but still audible, yet it grew a bit louder. "You can't be serious.. I promote slavery, not play along with it. I'd rather snuff the life out of this hole in the ground before handing all my resources over to you." His lips twist into a slim smile, thinking on a more serious note that he did indeed need this information. "This will be the deal, you may put me under this Geas if you wish, I will work for you, as an employee, not a slave, I will go out and perform specific tasks, and that is it. If you are in dire need of an item, you may purchase it at a.. hmm, discounted price."
A rather amused smile crept upon his own visage, though a close-lipped one. "Oh, I am quite serious, though I see that you are not so much the fool. And it shows me that you do not truly need the information. So, for what you have offered up, I will give you the name, nothing more. I will impart the Geas upon you, and you will carry out what tasks I need done...and you will be given a monthly stipend, much as any other in my employ. AND I will most assuredly hold you to that discounted price, should I ever desire one of your shadow items. The Geas and the employment will be contractual for one years time. If you ever wish the remainder of the information, you will take up my first offer." The smile had faded now, his countenance holding a more businesslike tone. Though he'd not show outward anger, he too had his pride, and would only tolerate so many threats from the creature of shadow.
"You should give him discounted info human. He is not in the position to downgrade your deal," Xull'rae cut off as the human again seemed to go along her line of thought, but she saw pride was an issue, though for her it would just be a game to pass time. Not that pride could never factor in, it was a quirk she had.
"Oh, considering the amount of information I hold, fret not, the name in question is indeed a downgrade. However, it should still bring a hefty price from our companion here," replied Cogliostro to Xull'rae.
"He's not my companion I don't claim him, companions are people you rely on." Came Xull'rae's response to the human's own.
"Mm, yes, I suppose so at that, though I never truly rely on anyone save myself," Cogliostro agreed.
Xull'rae snorted and snickered, "thats pure rothe shit baldy! You humans are too soft to not rely on someone. You rely on your staff to make sure your inn is ran, they are your friends not just your employees otherwise your crew would be different. Composed of slaves and all of the UnderDark breed. Nice try pulling that one off. Say what you want but the more you say the more the lie it will become, you don't beat them you hardly yell, now in my case I am the one the relies on myself and my God and no one else."
Cogliostro looked at her and shook his head, what she said was partially true but not all of it. "Not 'pure' rothe shit, as you put it. All slavers are not of an abusive sort. I do have a number of indentured servants among those who are actually hired. You see, one thing you drow rarely employ is the fact that a well treated slave is more efficient and more willing to serve you loyally. True, some of your most valued slaves live relatively opulent lives, but the rank and file do not. I on the other hand treat all equally."
While Xull'rae agreed with some of his points, the human still had much to learn on the ways of the UnderDark. "A well treated slave means it's a lazy slave and shows a softness that is a weakness among my kind. It's not about understanding, it's about being careful and surviving.
Cogliostro shrugged, not wanting to argue over a matter in which he believe should not exist but had to keep ruse up that he condoned slavery. "Mm, well, I've personally not had any lazy slaves to deal with, though I'm sure that's true enough, that, that could become a case in some instances, and its by no means about understanding, its about manipulation. If they believe you care, they will care more in return. It does not mean I have to truly care. We are both correct, in different ways, and when applied to differing societies."
Xull'rae refusing to let this shake again shook her head, "fear works better than pretending to care either way it's a lie and it still comes out the same, the slave is what he is drow commoners are slaves in a way though treated better BECAUSE they are drow."
Cogliostro resisted the urge to sigh as he replied, "fear has its applications, but I find that too many will still resist, and hence I do not bother to employ it. No matter the case, I stand on my own policies of treating them well so they will do likewise back unto me. It is not an argument to say you are in the wrong, by any means."
Xull'rae shrugged, not really caring about the matter. It wasn't her fault he couldn't or wouldn't accept how drow did things. "I've never seem much use for slaves, that's why I don't have any. Vesz'aun is an exception because that's his choice, he likes it most times when I control him. I have..servants because Lloth priestesses are supposed to have them." Her cloaked shoulders shrug.
"Hm, not to interrupt, but Saer Xarann seems to have taken his leave whilst we were distracting each other." A momentary glance was given to where the Malaugrym sat but moments ago, his silence cueing the need to do so, "and Saer Auvryath does not do it by conscious choice, though it may seem like it. Call it a sickness."
Xull'rae didn't want to think about the Bladesinger so she acted like the human hadn't mentioned him, "I suppose I will get slaves when I'm older, matrons usually have them." She shrugged again, barely taking notice of the mage's leave, not liking his company anyway.
"Aye, perhaps you will at that. Though it is only a choice, not a matter set in stone, so you have no need to do so." Cogliostro said.
Xull'rae shrugged again and arose, preparing to go back to the bar and after a drink she'd go upstairs for some rest. "The 'witness' is parting company for now I'll be close by though, should you truly need me." She left the deck then, leaving the human to his own company.
"I doubt that such a time will ever come, but one never knows." A simple salute was given to her with his snifter in hand, as she arose. For a moment, he contemplated discussing a few more matters with her, but for now he left it go. There would be time aplenty for that in future. "Enjoy."
Xull'rae kept moving offering nothing in the ways of a reply.
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