"Forty-eight, forty-nine, fifty gold nils. Here you are." Ilied looked up as he handed off the client's withdrawal. At once he noticed Deimos heading for the bank's main door, looking to intercept a company of three. The bank manager turned on his heels to keep pace with the lead man as they spoke in low tones. Ilied turned to peek as they went into the back offices, noticing some look of astonishment on Deimos's face, then returning his gaze to greet the next customer in line. A deposit request was made, simple, he thought, as he went about counting the bagged nils before him. Again, he peeked back, seeing how the cloaks that trailed the man now stood guard at the vault. He could even see Nathaniel glancing over from his office to see what was amiss. Maya was nowhere to be found, though that was far from unusual.
"Please wait here as I fetch your receipt," he said, and turned with the coin in hand for the back office, walking past the booklets in the front. Ilied passed through the door and went to Nathaniel.
"I don't know anything, and am quite busy, Ilied."
"How do you even know I wanted to ask about that? I need a new booklet for deposit receipts."
"Then go to the chest and recover one."
"I haven't a key. Deimos usually helps me."
"Over there then, in that box, and be on your way." Ilied went to the box at the room's corner, rummaging through the bin while peering up to the vault. "Ilied, stop lingering and go back to the front desk. Whatever de Visci's business is with Deimos is no concern of yours. Stop playing the mouse and get back to work before you find yourself with an overabundance of time to squat and stare."
"All right, all right, Nathaniel. It was just the looks on his face, is all. That goes in the vault when they're done, by the way." Ilied got up and made for the door.
"Rauve de Visci is a man of many strange faces, Ilied, don't let it worry you."
"Not the Councilman's, Deimos's face." Nathaniel looked up from his book and gave Ilied a narrow stare, then turned to the vault as well. "And then there's the pair at the vault door-"
"Go back to the front desk, Ilied," Nathaniel spoke softer this time. "I'll keep watch. I doubt it's anything out of the ordinary." As Ilied made his way back to the front, he heard Nathaniel mumble under his breath, "Dear cousin, what trouble have you put yourself in this time?" Ilied kept pace, though his gut tightened.
Ilied returned to the front, apologizing, though the client made no gesture of alarm. The young teller filled out his note, checking in glances to the door before him while fighting the urge to check the vault again. Ilied tore the note from the booklet, ripping it in the process. Ilied cowered at a sigh, glancing up to see a hard stare and twisted lips.
"I'm very sorry, let me just fill a new one." Now Ilied's hands were shaking, though only light shivers, he minded his pen solely to finish the task without mistake. Very carefully, the he produced the slip which was taken from Ilied's hand, and the client left without another word, save for those muffled curses as he took from the bank.
Ilied combed his hair from his face, though some strands fell back into place, as he greeted the next customer. With fewer words, Ilied fulfilled the request and saw the lobby empty. The bits ticked by without much movement. Ilied peered out to the door again, noticing no shadows in the bright Saun light straying from the door. The marble floors lit up like lights nearly blinding him if he stared too long. Checking the office in a double take, and once more at the door, Ilied returned to Nathaniel's office.
"I said mind the front, Ilied."
"No one is there, I checked."
"That's not what I meant."
"Then what do you mean, Na-"
"Ilied, I understand you have a curiosity about you; however, this is not your business, be it good or bad. Deimos and Rauve de Visci have good history; that is why I have this position now. So I ask you, will you not trust Deimos with the same trust he's given you as manager of this bank, the trust that bears an extension of the authority of both men in that vault, and do as you're bid? Good. Now please, stay at the front. I'm sure Deimos will tell all when they are done."
The door to the vault creaked open as a smirk crept across Nathaniel's face. The loan manager tipped his head to the vault with a show of teeth, raising a brow at Ilied all the while. Ilied's brow narrowed as he looked to the vault. Deimos stepped out and headed for the front.
"Ilied. Ilied. Ilied?"
"In here," he corrected. Deimos turned back to the office and stood in the aisle outside Nathaniel's space.
"Ilied, come with me. Nathaniel, watch the front please."
"Deimos, I'm in the middle of all of these, and I have boxes more to go. You cannot be serious. Mister de Visci will be furious-"
"Nathaniel, please, go. Ilied, with me, now."
Ilied and Nathaniel exchanged glances, sweet and sour - though both curious, before complying with Deimos's wishes.
"Just wait, Ilied." Ilied was let into the vault as Deimos pulled the door shut behind them.
It took Ilied a moment to adjust to the light. A few candles burned at a desk within the cold, stone chamber. Regardless of the season, the vault was always cool.
"Please have a seat, Ilied, Deimos." The voice was something new to him. It was calm, and flavored with a light rasp, smooth, but warm, and somehow wise, even fatherly. "Deimos tells me good things about you."
"Though I know very little about you, Mister de Visci." Despite the quick thoughtlessness of Ilied's words, Rauve replied with a soft chuckle. Ilied could make out his smirk in the candle light now. Rauve's voice suited him perfectly, Ilied though, though he could not place the cause of Deimos's earlier grimace.
"Ilied, this is Rauve de Visci, owner of this establishment, among others. He has a favor to ask of you."
"Now, Deimos, allow me, I insist. You see, Ilied Loraeva," – Rauve tilted his head towards the flame, his eyes igniting – "There's a small task I am in need of assistance of, one I'm afraid Deimos would be unfit to handle, given his responsibilities here and our extended history. I'm in need of a fresh set of eyes - a mind yet untouched by Ne'haer's petty squabbles - and have reason to believe you could be an ideal candidate." Ilied sat up on the edge of the chair with much attention, staring Rauve de Visci square in the eyes. Ilied felt his throat slowly tightening. "I've been to a couple of interviews all ready, you see, and am growing quite distraught with my lack of success. I trust that you, Ilied, would be more than up to any task I might ask. As I mentioned before, Deimos speaks highly of your work here at my bank, and I have good cause to believe you would not disappoint us."
Ilied nodded in agreement. "Good. I have a few questions for you, if you don't mind. Good, good. See, that's the spirit I like to see. Deimos has good eyes for it. Now then, are you able to keep a secret, Ilied? If I were to trust you with something very important, something bigger than all of this," he said, gesturing to the vault, though somehow Ilied felt his reach extended well beyond, throughout Ne'haer, "Would you keep it safe?"
"Yes, sir," his voice cracked through the tension.
"And if I asked you to deliver an important message for me, one that might contradict that secret, would you deliver it?" Ilied gripped hold of the chair's arms, though he dare not sit back. He affirmed. "Very good, Ilied. Lastly, would you do all of this, as I ask it, knowing someone might die as a result?"
The coolness of the vault sunk into his skin. Through his hands on the chair, his thin shoes on the floor, his bare skin to the air, he felt it. Yet, Rauve's eyes still fixated on him, burning with something unspoken, as intensely as Faldrun's own suns.
Deimos switched glances between the two, their gazes unbroken.
"You don't have to if you don't want to, Ilied." Rauve raised a hand, effectively silencing Deimos, his concentration unbroken.
Rauve lowered his hands, cuffing them in earnest. "Ilied," he addressed once more, the warmth radiating from his eyes taking all of Ilied's focus, "I ask this of you, not because I wish you or any other harm, but because sometimes it is the right thing to do, sometimes people are unfit for the world we live in and seek to destroy it." The warmth spread over Ilied slowly. "I ask this of you because I believe in you, Ilied, as much as I believe in Deimos, Nathaniel, and many others who I trust. Could you do this, Ilied, could you deliver that message?" The coolness of the vault melted away, and now Ilied felt if it was instead a fire within him that burned. The glamour of Rauve's eyes became but a reflection after the inspiration
of his words.
"I will do all that is needed of me, sir, even if it might mean the loss of those souls beyond redemption." Ilied nearly stood up from his seat at the thought, his hands now gripping the chair in anticipation rather than security.
"Very good, Ilied." Rauve grinned. He stole a glance at Deimos, hardly going noticed by the boy. "I knew well I could trust Deimos," he said nodding, "And now yourself. I do believe I've found exactly
what I've been looking for. Now then, let us be off. We have much to discuss, and others may be waiting for us. Deimos, I trust all is well kept here. I apologize for any disruption I may have caused. I can still expect a report as normal?"
"All is well, Mister de Visci, and yes, certainly. I'd appreciate the return of our Ilied, though, when you're done. He has some potential, let alone the likes of him are rare to come by."
"I couldn't agree more, Deimos. Let us be off then, Ilied."
The three took from the vault, the candles going out with the door sealing behind them, the small procession leading back out to the lobby. Deimos relieved Nathaniel, though they did not seem to move at once. Ilied peered back as they exited the bank, looking passed the escorts. He was unable to make out much more than Deimos and Nathaniel standing at the front desk, presumably talking, arguing.
Their walk was silent from the economic district to the seat of governance in the city. Though Rauve de Visci was known, he seemed to get as well as any citizen, even with an armed escort in tow. The people of Ne'haer glanced and mumbled rumors, perhaps, though the looks the biqaj gave suggested nothing more than imagination and mistrust. They must look like trouble, Ilied thought, marching about the city. Closer to the truth yet, Ilied looked like he was in trouble, under the custody of the city guard and official. His inner fire faded as the suffocating heat and humidity took over. Ilied did not care to look up and about so boldly now, and lowered his gaze to the feet in front of him, only glancing up to see where Rauve de Visci lead them.
As they came to the district of governance, Ilied's attention was drawn to a small crowd across the way. To Ilied, it seemed there were more guards than needed at post. Several recorders, journalists as some titled themselves, seemed to be posted as well, though in great contrast to the guards. Drawing closer, Ilied heard them in one-sided discussion with the sentient walls of the keep. It was a small walled in fortress with nothing around it. The walls were too high for the likes of Ilied to climb and dangerously barbed. A wide courtyard lay through the main gate, and as Ilied peered back, he thought to see a smaller gate and a bridge leading to the main complex. The walls rose high about towering columns. There were few windows, and even those were small, thin, and placed high with the adornments of thick, latticed bars. From the nearest corner tower, Ilied heard a cry.
"Save me, Thetros! Save me! Spare me from my torment, that I too may spill blood in your name! Death to the impure! Death to the broken! Death to those inferior beings of this world! I beg of you, Thetros, please, save me! Save me!" The wailing would go on, by not just one, but many shrill voices that called out from the stone dungeons. While some reporters took to note these words, and some even answered back in question, others sought to entice the guard for their own opinions. Save for one, they were all silent. Rauve lead them closer to the dungeon.
"Captain," he called out. The journalists took immediate notice and swarmed the councilman. The escort stepped forward and cleared his way and that of Ilied's.
"Tell us, boy, what do you know? Why does Rauve de Visci seek your counsel? Do you a follower of Thetros as well? Does he mean to treat with the council? Is it true, what they say about Rauve de Visci's bargain? Does the council truly oppose the cult, or it this another ploy, another show for the non-humans of Ne'haer? Was Rigo hired by the council? What do you know? Tell us, tell us, tell us!"
Ilied's eyes widened as the din of their presumptions and questions overtook him. The crowd had enveloped them as they approached the gate, and soon the guard at the front took them to the inner courtyard. Rauve de Visci received the captain's report there.
"I am to discuss matters further with the other councilmen, Captain. We shall send orders with great swiftness as needed. As always, we thank you for your support in such dire times."
"Aye, the thanks is ours. We serve humbly for the well-being of our own. Has anything changed at the Hall?"
"None that I am aware of, yet. Have your men said anything to these birds?"
"Not so much as a crumb. We have done our best to draw the attention of some here, away from the exterior facility. I'm not sure if they're dumb or desperate, though it has alleviated some stress from the front of this issue. The news has provoked the prisoners, however, and we're on alert for a riot. There has been some violence in the towers, though we've quelled most of it. Prisoners have been isolated as needed to account for anything that gets out of hand. We will not risk the lives of guards for the rubbish held here, or else we risk the well-being of all in Ne'haer."
"A shrewd decision, Captain. I will update the council at once. We shall see what is agreed upon regarding riots should they arise. I implore you, as you were; keep the peace all you can."
"Aye, Councilman. We are, as we always have..."
Ilied looked to the Captain, receiving a cold stare in return. He was beneath the Captain in all manners, and it showed. Brushed off as nothing more than a page, Ilied followed Rauve out from the courtyard. "Be silent, Ilied," he commanded, and Ilied complied. The swarm enveloped them again with their prodding and questions until they were out the other side. They crossed the way through the crowd, Rauve de Visci still commanding a stoic presence.
They now entered the Council of Minäih Judgement Hall, which seemed as busy as the neighboring dungeon. Clerks of the Hall answered questions, it seemed, though as Ilied heard them they were all the same. They were spoken with tired words that held a tension of irritation about them. Still, the reporters pressed for more: more questions, more answers, more than they seemed welcome to, even though the matter was one of apparent public concern.
Ilied thought to himself now, his following becoming something second nature, of what he had gotten himself into. To decline whatever Rauve de Visci proposed to him now would spell trouble, great trouble. If not just the loss of his job, or condemnation all together, Ilied feared he might find himself on trial for a lie he told, to be bound in the dungeon among the would-be murderers who howled from the dungeon's towers, or worse: dead. His mind was a storm, trying to place the meaning of Rauve's words and actions, and those of the guards, and journalists, and prisoners, and those yet of the locals who watched them, those he knew and did not know, himself among them, a mixture of knowledge, of all things, a name among them: Thetros. He knew a name, and had deduced nothing more than the identity of this person to be that of an Immortal. Perhaps death was not the worst he could fear for.
In the chaos of his thoughts, Ilied seemed to sleep the walk through the corridors of the Council Hall as Rauve lead them through to a room. The walls were the same plainness of the building's entire design, though something about it felt heavier, of all qualities. Ilied noticed as he stepped through there was no longer an echo to their steps, and to some extent, sound itself seemed to not travel very far at all. Yet, he could hear quite clearly, as Rauve directed him to take a seat in the room's interior chamber, a small meeting room, seeming to be sound proofed from even the likes of Audrae. The room was dimly lit by the light of strange stones; they glowed a blueish-white. The entire stone room seemed illuminated, save for the furniture and their clothing. Most remarkably, the color and shape of their skin as plainly as if it were sunlight, if not clearer. The light seemed to expose truth, to some degree.
"Please have a seat. We should be getting along shortly."
"Councilman de Visci, a word from the Commander."
"Thank you," Rauve said, accepting a sealed parchment from a guard. The latter took his look. Rauve de Visci took a seat and read in silence. The councilmen sat erect, another stone in the room. Ilied watched his eyes make their way over the parchment over and over. There was something to make sense of on the page, he was sure of it, though he could not tell of what nature. Ilied found himself entranced by the way Rauve read the note; whatever was on the page, he seemed unmoved by it. "It would seem things have grown more complicated, Ilied. Thetros has called out to others who support him, it would seem. They are gathered now at the Halls of Lost Repentance. Interesting…" Rauve rested his cheek against a shielded hand, the other still holding the letter as he read it over again.
Ilied kept looking, but soon found himself frustrated and bored watching Rauve reread the notice. He chewed the inside of his cheek, bit his lips, looked around the room, and fidgeted from bit to bit. He did not understand why he was here now, or why Rauve had asked him the questions he did back at the bank but a break ago.
"I know you have much to ask, Ilied," Rauve de Visci broke in, "And I owe you many answers as well." He refolded the letter and set it down. "I ask you take this time to organize your thoughts and remain confident in your decision. I truly trust you are the one I need for this task, but require you to trust yourself as well."
"It's not that I don't trust myself."
"You distrust me then," Rauve presumed. Ilied did not have the chance to gather his thoughts as he meant to. "Consider this an exercise in trust, if nothing more, Ilied. For starters, trust that I will provide the answers you seek in due time. In the spirit of efficiency and as to not cause confusion or strife, we must wait for now, however. I expected my peers to be here by now. I'm quite surprised we got here first." His hands slid up his face, rubbing the corners of his eyes, before returning to his cheeks. "They should be bringing people as well, one Thalin Glaurid, one Antony Fransse, and two more like you. The council has divided itself in case anything were to go awry… Alas, I don't think it will come to that." Rauve gave Ilied the same strong stare he did in the vault and, with a nod, returned to his meditations.
Ilied followed Rauve's lead, looking into his own thoughts.