"No, I don't think I could find another quite as fun as yourself. Certainly not here."
He handed her the crystal goblet of the iced wine, before offering up his own goblet in a half toast, without the accompanying words. He took a sip, the smile never fading. Setting his glass down, he leaned back in his chair, not smug, more… curious. But the look cracked, just for a moment, it slipped.
And then he was back to business, “I do hope our friend Lenny is right as rain. I apologize for… the surprise. I have a bad habit of needing to… test people. Especially the fun ones. But it will not happen again. It’s… an old relic.”
His eyes tired, before his eyes soften, and his face back to a more neutral air, “Are those the sea charms? What do you think of them? I’ve not yet had the pleasure, but the staff are quite excited about them.” The politeness was still there, but the words were lacking as compared to others before.
Navyri had to admit he was a charming man. Dangerously so. He played this game well, when she herself was barely learning the rules. As the Naer slid into her seat and set her dinner down, his analysis did not go unnoticed. She hummed a soft tune under her breath, fingers drumming as she decided her course of action, the weight of his gaze upon her. Then she withdrew her silverware, untied the ribbon and draped the napkin upon her lap, “Fun...” He said this twice, once as what she had assumed a compliment, and again in regards to testing her. “I do like games. I don’t mind them.” Especially ones she could win. She lifted her spoon, her own bright eye peering back at her. Then she turned it in her hand and watched the distorted shadow of the man.
Setting down the utensil (she had no use for it, after all, although she did wish she had a pocket or two for all her souvenirs. What was one more?), Navyri’s expression pouted to one of confusion, head tilting as if trying to recall what he spoke of as she stared dumbfounded at her companion, troubled at such loss of memory, “But I’m afraid I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
After all, what sensible thief admitted anything the first go around? Then mischief played in the corners of her mouth and she started to smile but tried to hide it by popping one of the charms into her mouth and dropping her attention to the meal. Navyri, of course, remembered what relic he spoke of. How could she forget? It seemed a theme - challenging men claimed any important items of interest, which she could probably name a dozen better places for, and decided were no doubt safest upon her persons. First her wings, now a map.
Nav took a drink of her wine - oh, yeees. That was nice - and savored the taste. Scalvoris had excellent alcohol and she admired the glass, “Since I’m so worldly and generous,” the dark haired woman seemed amused by that, edging the plate towards him, “I’ll share… Then you can tell me what you think.”
It was her turn to watch him, to see if he would accept the offer or decline it. Would he like them? Find them beneath his taste? After a beat, she leaned into her open palm, “Your question… The one I didn’t finish. What was the answer?”
The man perked up, first, a bit at her offer of sharing. He smiled, and nodded in his acceptance, “Well, I never say no to food, nor something new.” He reached forward, his left hand plucking a roll of rice, Scalvoran tuna, and some unknown vegetables, wrapped in seaweed. As he did, his eyes playful, clearly enjoying this new approach to food. His hand was a bit rough, clearly no stranger to hard work, with some scarring, but nothing that stood out much. Hands one might find on a shipwright or blacksmith perhaps.
He smirked as she asked her question, eyeballing the sauces, unsure which to go with. He went for the green one, and dipped it generously into it. He brought it up to his eyes, studying it with the wonder one might see in a child. With a shrug and a pump of the eyebrows, he plopped it into his mouth. The first look was that of waiting. Then his eyes grew wide. His face stretched a bit in surprise, his lips tightening as he chewed.
Once he swallowed, “Whew, I wasn’t expecting
that. But quite delightful. Was that raw fish? Reminds me of my time bel--” He caught himself, “Below.” He realized he’d made a mistake, but continued onward, “What object might be missed most by our host?”
He grinned again, a return to the playful tug of a predator, “That one was mean of me. The map would be a fair answer, but ultimately wrong. Close, but wrong. You did see the answer. The painting, of Martiya, is the object that would be most missed. The reason for it is quite simple. He knows of my desire for it, that I would pay well beyond what anyone else would pay for it, and refuses to sell. I suspect he thinks it holds some power over me, or perhaps he’s waiting for a deal where money is not what matters. To him, that painting is leverage.”
He leaned back, sipping at his wine, “Ah, that is wonderful. But he is wrong. Can you tell me why?”
“I knew the map was too obvious,” Navyri took another drink of her wine, pleased at her instincts. The painting of course had been an option she didn’t consider. It was clear to have had an impact on the man beside her but she didn’t think of its connection to Elivarn. Now, it felt obvious, the relation between the two men coming to light.
So was it a friendly rivalry? An attempt at maintaining the upper hand on a worthy adversary? Navyri looked at the men and women at the party, the way they laughed and mingled. If the Warden found these events dull, was it a means to keep his enemies close? Or to fit in by making himself common, as natural as the furniture?
“A man doesn’t need to buy something to take it. The idea of anything really being out of reach isn’t true, is it?”
They had taken the map, had they not? If infiltrating Elivarn’s home was so easy, what had been stopping the Warden? “When you asked me earlier I would have said his sense of security. Safety. People put a lot of stock in locked doors… But,” Nav idly picked up another sea charm, “You take that away from them, they don’t tend to forget it.”
Navyri took a bite and wiped her hands on her napkin. Why was an old relic so easily obtained but not a painting? He surely had artists at his disposal, who could make another Martiya, or at the very least, a respectable copy. If it was the original he desired, why not do a little forgery switch? “I’m thinking you either have what you want, or want something else more.”
She shrugged, picking up her butter knife and barely cutting away a bit of the green sauce he had tried. Navyri was no doubt more cautious in her culinary approach, but when it touched her tongue, she was given only a few trills before the heat came. It was like a crackling in her mouth, little bursts of flame coating her lips. Shocked at the feeling. Surprised at his casual reaction. The Warden, she realized, was either a perfect deceiver or a man immune to pain. Likely both.
A fan of spicy foods herself, Navyri laughed at her mistake - she must look somewhat ridiculous - and reached for her glass. Thank the immortals it was iced, “Wow,” she said. There wasn’t much more to say. She took a nice full drink, shaking her head with another chuckle, “Truly… an experience.”
And then a new mannerism revealed itself. He ran a hand over his crown, slicking back the hair that was already slicked back a bit, his eyes looking tired, "I know what it is I want. And now, I suspect to know where it is. It is not the painting, but the woman in it. She's a daughter of mine, of sorts. And on the day the Pirate Lords disappeared, so did Martiya. I do not wish to bring her back or anything so ridiculous, but simply to know if she still lives. That map you carry is likely the courses charted by witness of the Pirate Lords after their disappearance. So I can have her found now."
But his eyes showed a deep, coursing sadness within them. One older than this mere island. And part of the look seemed reminiscent of a caged animal, a beast that could destroy you in an instant if set free. But before conversation could continue further, people began to spread out on the dance floor, and the music picked up in tempo.
And the Warden's demeanor changed drastically, "I do believe that's our cue." He stood up, and offered his hand to the woman, his grin playful. "I've been looking forward to seeing you dance." He led her out to the center of the floor, for there was nowhere else more deserving of her presence. As the brass took an upswing in the music, the Warden cocked an eyebrow at Navyri, "Do you know The Mistress Mingle? It has quite a bit of kicking and spinning, and I suspect it is right up your alley."
The Warden was a master at dancing, was island renown for it. Many women often declined for fear of embarrassing themselves, with their inability to keep up. So few took the risk, even fewer had ever made the dance look smooth and beautiful. But he saw something special in Navyri this time, and so, he pulled her into the starting pose. All eyes were on them, not just because Navyri was ravishing, nor that the Warden was with a woman, but because there was a palpable air being given off. Another woman was taking on the challenge of being his dance partner.
And with a grin, the music kicked in.