Vacation's Over (Navyri)

The cities and villages of Melrath are as varied and diverse as they come. The capital of Raelia is the the jewel of this western kingdom, playing host to a merchants, artisans, Aesir priests, as well as a cut throat political landscape dominated by the nobles of Raelia. To the south in the depths of the Myrkvior Forest lies Melrath's second largest, and oldest city, Fensalir. Here people have learned to live alongside spirits and the natural world by maintaining their loyalty to traditions laid down the first Melrathi. To the east lies the small fishing village of Noatun, and to the western mountains rests the Mer city of Verimeer, the brewing town of Alivilda and the alpine village Vormund.
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Soren Kvistson
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Vacation's Over (Navyri)

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"You are free to choose,"



Ashan 47, 720

Soren was at a new cafe, having opened just the trial before. He sat in the back corner, paper, ink, and quill on the table before him, entirely untouched. He had a pot of tea and a stacking tray of cookies, finger sandwiches, and small sweets, and a cup half finished.

The entire cafe was packed with people, excited to try the new brunch venue, most of them fairly well off financially. Young couples came for their first dates, older couples came to experience something new. Artists came to spout pretension and intellectuals came to look down on them. Men came to find women and women came to escape men. And yet Soren was the only one sitting alone.

A few people asked to take a chair from his table and he denied them. A couple even asked to join him, but he denied them. This was his ritual, even if his partner had abandoned him. He had been in denial about it for a long while now, assuming she was simply taking care of business or attending to something unsavory as Naer oft want to do. But it had been so long, he was certain she was gone.

So Soren needed to make plans, to figure out what to do next. There were so many things needing done. After all, she was dealing with the other Naer, they were handling the Sigviind situation, seducing the councilor's secretary, working on the theater. He hadn't even told her about Tristan or any of the research center business. He'd have to sell off her belongings. And he would definitely have to figure out what to do with Curio. The bird had been ever loyal to her during her time away, Soren couldn't imagine selling him.

But Soren wasn't about to keep a pet either.

He sighed, sipping at the cold cup of tea. He raised a hand, waving over the waitress. "Bring me coffee. You can take the tea." Soren didn't even eyeball her form as she went to work, clearing away the pot and cup, off to fetch another. Just like his wife, yet another Naer had disappeared from his life. He cursed himself at having become so dependent on her.

It clearly was a mistake. Was he blinded by her beauty? By her familiarity to his wife? Was he simply a sucker for Naer?

It was a weakness. He was getting old. He knew he couldn't be entirely self reliant or old would quickly turn to dead. But Soren was truly unsure of what to do next. He grabbed a quill, dipping it in the ink, leaning over the paper, trying to figure out even the first word to write, as ink dripped upon the paper. A cup of coffee was set upon the table but Soren didn't look up.

He missed her, as much as he didn't want to admit it.

He wrote a single sentence. 'Find out what happened to her.'






"But you are not free from the consequences."
word count: 518
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Re: Vacation's Over (Navyri)

TBD
Melrath was an enemy, but the same could not be said for all its residents.

Navyri walked quickly, glancing over her shoulder every other block until she made it to the little cafe and drew her cloak tighter. It was a large thing, easily made for a mountain of a man and lacking the opulence she usually favored. Brown, it was heavy and moth eaten around the hem, but she wore it for its length - long enough to hide her folded wings, she ignored the stale scent of the hood. It had been a forgotten remnant in the cabin, the place she had tended her wounds, physical and otherwise, before trailing back to Raelia with paranoia on every breath. It was dangerous here and Curio searched for her. She could sense him even now, but she buried their bond into the depths of her mind.

One thing at a time.

She had stopped by the Bellow, slinking through the front doors like a weary traveler, doing her best to remain non-descriptive. When she made her way to the front door, doubt struck her as a young couple was walking out, "Excuse me," the man slowed, the woman a step behind him, half hidden and weary of the stranger, "Do either of you know if..." Navyri rummaged in her pocket and looked at a folded piece of parchment and pretended to squint at nonexistant writing. She made sure to keep her face hidden, "Soren.. Kv...Kviston, owns this establishment?" Navyri waved the paper in a flash and returned it to her cloak. It was blank, but they didn't need to know that, "I've got a message for him from Alivilda, but I'm afraid I'm running a bit late. Boss will have hide if I don't head back soon."

"Oh, yeah," the man took the girl's hand, who seemed to visibly relax once she heard the request, " This is Soren's, but I don't think he's in right now. Didn't see him by the bar at least." The duo shrugged and Navyri nodded with a dip of her hood, "Good luck with your letter."

"Thank you so much,"
Navyri turned and reached for the door, but stopped short once they were out of sight. She might have eyes on her, returning to the one place she knew her enemies would be watching would be unwise. But if Soren wasn't in... where could he be? Upstairs? He never missed a day of work...

The Naer was willing to bet he was out on business, probably finding another middle aged man to swindle... She decided to check Greta's. The shapely woman had sung his praise once upon a time; She might have an idea of where the man was. If anything it was worth a shot. Navyri turned and began to make her way up the street, poster's catching her eye. The grand opening of a cafe? Navyri slowed, plucking one of the posters from the side of a building and skimmed it, "Well, well, well..."

A new competitor? The Ox's Bellow was hardly a cafe but business was business.... The date was marked for the trial before, but opening day might have been too obvious. Was it possible he was scoping out a rival that had spawned in her absence? After all, when had she known the man to ever stop working? Navyri crumpled the paper and tossed it in the gutter. Her partner was waiting for her, whether he knew it or not.
***
The Naer had walked past the shop window only once but its establishment was so fresh and novelty, spotting anyone inside was near impossible in its current break.. She decided to go inside... Once again trying to make sure she wasn't being followed, Navyri slipped up the stairs and fell into line for the front counter. People chatted and the smell of sweets and fresh breads felt heavy in the air. Coffee... oh, it smelled so delicious. She had eaten very little outside hardened biscuits and dried, stringy meat rations. Navyri felt her mouth water and she sighed through the pain. Soren, Soren, Soren...

Soren.

She had nearly missed his form, hunched over in the corner and bent over a piece of paper, not unlike when he sat reviewing the books back at the tavern. Time had passed, but he looked the same. Somber, maybe. Navyri pushed her way through the others but he never even spared a glance. Something on the paper had absorbed his attention and when the waitress went to fetch him a coffee, Navyri followed to intercept her by the counter, "I can take that to him... That man?" she glanced over her shoulder, "He's been waiting for me and I can't show up without a gift. I feel terrible."

"Are you sure?"

"It would be such a favor," Navyri half whispered, wanting little more than the woman to give her what she wanted. The coffee was held out to her.

"He had been there awhile. Are you sure?"

"Extremely. He's been awfully patient."

Oh, if only she knew the half of it.

Navyri scanned the room and made her way to his table. She set the coffee down, but he didn't seem to notice. He stared at the words:

'Find out what happened to her.'

Was that...? Had he actually cared for her return? Outside of her protection, Navyri assumed he'd be pleased by her disappearance. Soren had her things, her money, proof of her existence...In many ways, vanishing meant he kept their work and didn't have to share the profits. And yet here he was, pensive. Sad?

"I've missed you too," she reached out, touched his shoulder, "Unless you're planning my demise, in which case... This is hardly the place for punishment, hm?"

Navyri, with a bit of apologetic reluctance, took her rightful seat and tilted her chin to reveal her face and better see his, "You look tired, old friend. Don't you want to hear my story?"

word count: 1021
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Re: Vacation's Over (Navyri)

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"You are free to choose,"



The coffee was set down and yet Soren couldn't tear his focus away from what he'd written to thank the waitress. A bit unlike him but serious times call for serious focus. It wasn't until he heard those beautiful lilting, graveling words of Gravokian and the light touch upon his shoulder that he looked up. First at the coffee, a bit slow to realize what was happening. He looked up to see his companion in a most unconventional outfit, and a small grin grew upon his feet as she sat down across from him.

"I do not believe it is either of us that will be needing punishment."

Soren sat up straight, speaking in their shared Gravokian, and almost magically, that businessman determination washed back over him. His shoulders were back, straightening and broad, his height showcased, his eyes having their fire returned, and that grin of his, the one that showed that he was both amused and calculating.

Looking across at his partner, "It is lovely to see you again, and of course, it would be my pleasure to hear your story. But let me improve the accommodations a bit. And thank you for the coffee, but I think this story may deserve better." He grabbed the sheet of paper he'd written upon, crumpled it up, and tossed it across the way right into the fireplace, watching it burn away quickly. He then waved the waitress over.

She arrived, a less than sneaky glance at Navyri, having taken her chance at a higher tip. Soren reached into his spending change coin purse, grabbing two golds, far beyond a usual tip. He set them upon the table while looking the waitress in the face, "Bring us the good coffee stashed away." The woman moved to speak and Soren held up a hand to stop her, "If you have to talk to the head of kitchen or owner, fine. I know you have it, it is not a new idea. Go and ask and bring it to us. After that, we do not wish to be disturbed. Do that, and there's twice this for you when we leave."

The woman, her jaw dropped a bit, before she perked up and went to work. She grabbed the offered coins, smiling, "Of course sir. Thank you sir." She nodded, and left quickly, working her way through the crowded floor. Soren's eyes returned to those of his partner, and if she looked close enough, she might see the puzzle lines of his new attunement witchmark. But this moment was not his. It was hers.

He capped the inkwell, cleaned the quill, and set the writing set off to the side. He reached out, plucking a small triangular sandwich, cucumber, chicken salad, and something spicy. He did not bite yet, speaking again in their shared tongue, "Please, start at the beginning." Though in reality, he was asking for her to tell him everything, and then he bit into the sandwich, smiling, finding it delightful.

It wasn't much longer until the coffee pot and two cups and saucers arrived, already filled and set in front of them. The aroma was earthy and strong, many rungs above what they served as their standard. Soren dropped two spoons of sugar into it, a new habit acquired following his sleepless nights, stirring a bit to mix it in. And then he leaned back, waiting, listening, his eyes and focus purely on Navyri.



"But you are not free from the consequences."
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Re: Vacation's Over (Navyri)

TBD

Soren seemed to come to life and his immediate destruction of the parchment made her grin. She leaned forward, holding her face in her hands while he pressed some money with the demand of better. Some things never changed. It was comforting in a way, watching him settle into routine as if she deserved it. Navyri was reminded again of her hunger when his hands began to draw together a snack and she turned her focus upon the delectable. Her voice was soft when she watched her reflection in the dark pool of coffee, "Where to begin?"

Navyri did not speak for a while, gathering her thoughts. She was no storyteller, she didn't know how to start, "It's funny... All the chatting we've done and we've never talked. There is so much..."

So much he didn't know. So much no one else knew.

So many secrets.

The Naer sighed, rubbed her eyes and finally drew her cup towards her. She poured in a drizzle of cream, followed by a sugar cube, "I'll just begin and you may ask questions - I was taken to a research facility called Nieflheim," Navyri glanced up to see if there was any hint of recognition. She had surely never heard of such a place before, but she had also not been a resident of Melrath for the length her partner had, "I was put in chains and isolated, starved...They knew me well enough, whoever took me..."

Navyri reached out to cradle the drink in both hands, the heat warming her cold fingers. She inhaled its scent and took her first sip. It made her whole body ache with relief and she could have cried when it burned her tongue. Bliss, "Or so they thought," Navyri took another drink, deeper this time and hummed in satisfaction. Already she felt her strength returning, her vibrancy, "Perhaps I would have found my way out sooner, but they were careful in not giving me a chance. The first time they did, well... What a mistake. I'm so very friendly, as you know."

She waved her hand with a sardonic smirk, skimming some details in sake of others, "I made friends with the more veteran players. The assassin unleashed me, a Biqaj becomer proposed, we so valiantly dispatched our keepers, there was poison, alchemy, magic and a three-eyed beast of a woman. Of course I was elected leader of our prison break by the Ithecal spy... .I couldn't risk going back. I... I don't know if it's over."

Navyri ran her thumb along the rim of her cup and let her attention roam around the room, "Raelia isn't safe for me," Her blue eyes snapped to Soren's face, to the strange catch of his own gaze. She paused, watching him with steady calculation as she blew away a waft of steam, "Perhaps not for you either. Not... anymore."
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Re: Vacation's Over (Navyri)

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"You are free to choose,"



It was true, they did not talk so much. Perhaps that was something that would need to change, moving forward with the partnership. Secrets did not make good bedfellows, and while him and Navyri were not bedfellows, they were something much more. But that would be something to approach a bit later, he watched as she composed herself, not something she really had to do prior to whatever she was about to tell him. She had always been composed, overly so.

It must've been a lot to handle.

But clearly she'd handled it. And she offered him the right to ask questions. Normally he would never interrupt a good story with questions, but he would hold them until she took a break in the story. And he listened intently. At the mention of Nieflheim, he cocked an eyebrow. It was not a name he'd heard. Which was strange, because he was fairly certain he had at least heard of every named place in the region. There would have to be research into the name, the place. Careful, cautious research.

At her mention of her captives knowing her, he let only the slightest of smirk grow. He would've snorted but that would've been rude. He doubted anyone truly knew her. Naer were not exactly forthcoming about anything. He saw her expression as she took that first sip of coffee. That look right there, that hunger following desperation, that moment when the world is no longer full of darkness, that look confirmed everything she was telling him. While he did not doubt her, trusted her to be truthful with him, this only strengthened his belief in her. At her mention of being friendly, his smirk grew into a genuine smile.

His partner truly was more than capable. Yes, this partnership with her was the best decision he could've made. Her story took on a highlight reel feel to it, followed by what looked like genuine fear of the place. Of returning to it. As she finished, drifting into comments about them both, him knowing that she saw his eyes for what they were, "Safe makes people lazy and fat."

He then began his questions, not writing down one bit. He wouldn't need to, everything would be between them and them alone. He asked them slowly, giving her time to answer between each of them before moving on.

"Do you know where this Nieflheim might be? What was the weather like when you escaped?
How far was the travel and in what direction?
What did you glean about those working there?
What do you know about those who aided you?
Did they escape as well?"


But those were merely surface questions, seeking a few details. Then came what he felt was the most important question, "Do you wish for vengeance, escape, or something more?" He did not patronize her with asking if she was ready or needed more time. If she had, she would not have approached him. With that question came the implied loyalty he had for her, stating that whatever she wished to do, he would help to make it happen.

He sipped at his coffee, "I've much to tell you as well. I have not been sitting idly by. The theater is ready to open soon, much thanks to your preparations prior to your absence. I've acquired a valuable... lead. A nobleman from Rynmere, brother to Hart. I have preparations for a new, much more powerful avenue for money, but more importantly, influence. And I've acquired a new power, a magic, from a ghost that happened to be haunting a whiskey bottle I picked up in my travels."

He took a long slow blink, shaking his head to get rid of some of the sleep, "It is great to have you returned. The late nights haven't exactly been as fun as they used to be. However, I do have one particularly notable proposal for you, in regards to both our business and the apparent lack of safety of the waters we swim. I think it is time to stop hiding in the shadows, as that is clearly where my enemies, and yours, live. We step into the light, together, become a force that all know and respect and fear. And with that cover, we do what we must when others are looking at our public selves. I propose we create a new company, one that purchases properties, improves them, and gains us more wealth and influence in this country. We let our names be known to all. It is time for the game of masks and daggers."

He grabbed the writing set, scrawling a name across the top of it, passing the paper to her.

S & N Consortium


"But you are not free from the consequences."
word count: 812
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TBD


At the end of her recap, his words surprised her.

Navyri laughed in sudden delight, "Oh, is that what happens?"

She reached out for a finger sandwich while he began his questioning. Navyri chewed slowly, "Those are not so easy to answer. Things were strange there. When I first arrived, I thought..." she took a bite, looked at the filling in quiet judgement and swallowed. It was time to tell him a little more, "I thought maybe it was the Miasma. I've been there... twice. You'd like that story, I'm sure."

The Naer had no interest in recapping that adventure, maybe some other time if he asked nicely and they shared a bottle, "They were experimenting on us. Maybe trying to reverse or capture our unique qualities... I think the whole thing was run by mages. I tried to find a pattern. Nieflheim captured other magic users, blessed, stand out sort of characters. Do you remember the rat - the one from the alley - you let eat in the closet? He was there. Disappeared. Mortalborn."

"For a long time, there was no outside, no way to sense how much time had passed. Freedom was cold. I wasn't sure where I was, I just moved and tried not to die." It was her bonded familiar that gave her a sense of direction. Navyri tapped her temple, finished the next bite, "I couldn't sense Curio in Neiflheim. What was real when something so constant was suddenly no more?"

Seeing her avian companion was a top priority. She ate a bit more and finished her cup. She mentioned Praetorum, Amaris and then pursed her lips with a flash of distaste, their ends unknown, "Don't let Victor Amielle into our business, should he have been so fortunate," she pushed aside her saucer and laced her fingers, "He was with us - a prisoner - frantic and running into the arms of the enemy while we rioted. And when next I saw him, he was dressed, well-fed and armed, while the rest of us had to fight for scraps and rags? Ha! He gave some nonsense about his family but if was money that protected him, influence, why was I sealed away? He isn't even a portion of my worth! I do not want him near me." Anger flashed in her bright eyes. He had tried to take Ferret's work, and while his intentions were unknown, he had audacity that displeased her, "I do not trust him."

Navyri's jaw was clenched and she rapped her nails along the table to soothe herself. Soren's news was a nice distraction. She wanted a smoke and eyed his pockets, "Noblemen, magic, and ghosts, oh my. It seems we are both in need of some rest," In many ways the Naer wasn't surprised. The theater was ready and thanks to her preparation - and what did that entail? Had Brent Forrester actually followed though without her? She had unintentionally crushed his hope, vanishing like that. He would either get over it or they would never speak again. Not much would change in that regard. What did risk change was everything else.

Soren proposed quite an offer. Walk into the light, together?

"I love games," It was true. She loved the thrill of besting an opponent, in watching their face when they realized there was nothing more they could do before she took the spoils. Perhaps this was her chance, to command Melrath? To seize the forces that had tried to break her, or to break them first? "But it is retribution I seek."

The words were rich, still wet from the quill, tempting, dangerous, damning? He seemed to favor them, but she wasn't sure what to feel. Anything positive was masked by paranoia.

"They know our business already - with that little title you gave me. What does it matter if we stand side by side, if my name is on the front of the building or on the lease? It means nothing here where I am seen as little more than scum of the earth! I tire of Melrath's disrespect!" Navyri crossed her arms. She was exhausted, irritated and only slightly swayed by the pleasant airs of cafe. He had offered her nearly everything he had but it felt she was compromising. Why did all this promise of success have to be here, in a place she'd rather see burn?

"Your tavern is nice, but is that my reward while you get your legends? I have nothing tangible but the wrath in my mouth. I don't want to rebuild Melrath, I want to destroy it! I haven't seen the Naer who so desperately hunt you; in my absence you are perfectly well, whereas I have been tortured for staying," Maybe it was all some ruse he put together to draw her in, like a spider with a web! "I warned you I could not take on a city by myself but have you tried to stop it from abusing me? Have you offered protection by citizenship? Did you even notice when I was stolen? Now you want to chase shadows with light, knowing what I am, as if that isn't an insulting play on words...." she exhaled, a fading scoff at the irony of it all. Mortal men were frustrating. She was frustrating, a disappointment to herself and her kind. After all these years, for advancement, she still needed someone else. Such was the curse of a thief.

Soren had physically done nothing wrong; she had not asked for any of those things she now fumed about. The blame, her anger, it was misplaced and she knew it. Her grumbling was simply from hurt feelings and tension - a never ending reminder that no matter what corner of Idalos she fled to, no matter how much coin she amassed or how far her name traveled, there would never be a place for her. Soren must have thought her dead or long gone, and yet his happiness to see her felt like a twisting knife, the glimpse of belonging that would never come for free as it did for everyone else. She had to barter for it. Navyri let her hands drop to the table and she looked at her palms, as if they truly held the future. Her next words were considered, "When I was away, did you believe I had betrayed you?"
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Re: Vacation's Over (Navyri)

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"You are free to choose,"



Soren listened to her frustrations and concerns. He listened to her barbed words, to the sound of desperation and desire for revenge dripping from her voice. He listened to the insults to his person, to their partnership she flung at him. And he did it all with a passive face, devoid of emotion. It was taking everything he had to keep his calm from this, but he knew she needed him to not lose it. She was not herself. From what little he knew of her in their time together, this was aberrant behavior.

And he would forgive her for it, for the sacrifices she'd made while partnered with him.

He knew he could dispute point by point, create a debate where one of them might win, one might lose. But that wasn't the scenario he wanted. Once she was done speaking, he took one deep breath, and answered only her final question. "Early on, I briefly thought you might've betrayed me, yes. And I suspect that you might find that to be a reasonable thought. So, and for this I apologize, I went into your room, nearly blinded by Curio standing guard. His presence alone was enough to squash any thought of betrayal. Then I saw the broken window. I knew not if you had been captured, been killed, if you were running for your life or chasing after the women who want me dead. I knew nothing, other than the two simple facts that you were gone and you had not betrayed me."

Soren stood up, placing the promised coins for the waitress upon the wooden surface. He looked down at her, but not down on her.

"I will help you get whatever it is you want. I've given everything we've agreed upon. Yes, I could've done more. Yes, I should've done more. So I present you one offer then. This is the only offer that matters now, everything else is immaterial. Follow me to a man I know. I will purchase two things from him, and give them to you, and explain to you why. It is all terribly public and open, and you can take whatever precautions you want, for it is clear you think I may have betrayed you. If you choose this option, I will prove to you, this one time only, that I have never betrayed you. But if you'd rather not, return to the tavern. All of your profits during the time you've been gone are in a chest in the safe behind my potted plant in my office. In the floorboards beneath my desk are enough coins to equal half of all assets, the tavern, the theater, and all liquid assets. Take them both, leave. There will be no hard feelings from my end. It has been a pleasure, for me at least."

He grabbed his jacket, pulling it on, first looking through the crowd to the door, then back to Navyri, "I realize that we are missing a lot of trust in this partnership. That is untenable. You have to decide if you even wish to trust me. I already trust you."

Soren then walked out, keeping his face passive and still, but inside his heart was beating a thousand times a minute, trying to escape his chest. His throat was tight, and his hands were gripped into fists so tight his knuckles were bone white.

He walked down the street, staying on the well patrolled roads, his mouth tasting of ash, until he came across a small wooden stand. Soren smiled at the elderly man there, as fake a smile as he could muster. "Two truths, Loraj." The man was an herbalist, of sorts. He made oddities, some that worked, others that were questionable. Soren passed the coin, and the man produced two small vials.

Soren stepped back, standing in the middle of the street, looking around to see if Navyri had decided to follow or not. If she did, he would give her one of the vials. "You can do whatever you wish with that. It's a truth serum." He held up his own, "This is the same." He then uncorked it and tipped his head back, draining the entire liquid. "You have one hour to ask me anything. One time offer."

And if she chose not to follow, he would drink them both, and mosey on about his business, and look for a bar that was not his, to get a drink.
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"But you are not free from the consequences."
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TBD


Navyri's essence was haughty when Soren stood.

She felt his movements carefully, the sound of the coins pressed upon the table resonating when he spoke in their shared tongue. So composed, he made a new offer and reached for his jacket. Follow him or don't. He would give her anything but she had to choose if she even wished to trust him.

How stupid!

But he trusted her.

Navyri pointedly looked away, burning a hole into the opposite wall. Of course he trusted her! She had done nothing wrong, she had given no lie that threatened to bring him harm. She knew where he slept and where he kept his coin and not once was his throat slit or his money missing. Then again... The same could be applied to him, if those were the criteria. She glanced over as he reached the door, turned over his words.

The waitress was watching and adverted her attention quickly. What was he buying? What would he give her? No - she wasn't going.

Navyri dug her heels into the floor and reached for her cup only to be reminded that it was empty. Her coin was waiting and he allowed her to leave without consequence. It would be more than enough for a proper sail to anywhere she wished. Scalvoris had treated her well. Rharne was fun. Etzos suited her grit. Desnind was nice this time of arc and not a single responsibility to be met. It was simple. Straightforward. Solitary.

"Damn it," The Naer stomped towards the door and down the front steps. She scanned the crowd and found the bald man making his way up the busy streets, ignoring the faint whispers of gossip as the cafe shrunk behind her. Navyri walked like a thief, keeping close to moving carts and clustered groups. She hugged shadows and seemed to move like water among the flow of bodies. In habit, her hands reached for a man's backpack which had clasp undone but she changed her mind when she noticed her target talking to a man. It must have been the friend he had spoken of. So, it was genuine?

Navyri was there when he looked for her and she held out a hand.

Truth serum?

She blinked. A potion was not what she had expected. Soren took his dose and then threw the ball in her court and suddenly the only question on her lips felt like such a waste.. Why? Why was doing all this to prove his loyalty to to a Naerikk woman?

Why?

In her hands, the bottle was light and reflective enough to warp her own features, twisting and stretching them to dramatics beneath the scratchy cowl. Was he serious? She wouldn't have offered the same if roles had been reversed; her pride wouldn't have allowed it. It was bold . Navyri rolled the container in her hand, the outline of guilt lingering. Outright asking if he had betrayed her would be too straightforward. For a moment, the woman felt stressed at the enormity of possibilities and then remembered - she could walk no matter what he said and no matter what she asked.This wasn't a test meant for her.

"What bridge in your life was the most satisfying to burn?"
word count: 550
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Soren Kvistson
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Re: Vacation's Over (Navyri)

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"You are free to choose,"



Soren felt the truth serum take hold, as he saw her there next to him, taking the offered potion. There was no smile upon his face, there was no teasing smirk, no fun or games in his eyes like when he was normally speaking. His face was perfectly serious, truly showing the weight of the situation at hand. He offered himself up to her, for her to test his trustworthiness. But at the same time, he was testing her as well. And if she failed, he'd cash her out regardless of what she wanted. If there was one thing that business had taught him, it was that sometimes investments failed and needed to be cut off cleanly. This truly was the deciding point in their relationship.

He didn't need the potion to tell her the truth. But he could feel it tugging on his tongue. In Gravokian, "The most satisfying was not merely a bridge burned, but everything. When I was a much younger man, when I had long hair, I married a Naer woman. This woman had been in my life since I was a boy. I grew up on a traveling merchant caravan, one you can meet once they come back this way. And every so often, this Naer woman would show up. She taught me things, showed me things, brought me gifts, and expected favors in return. This went on until I was a young man. I was in love with this mysterious woman in my life, a woman no one else knew about. When she was gone, I chased girls as any might at that age, but when she was around, she was my entire world."

He sighed, "Even after our marriage began, she came and went as she pleased. I never knew what she was doing, where she was going, who she was with. Anything. And then she came back, and announced herself to my family as my wife. She traveled with us for a few years, treating me better than she ever had, living on my every word and desire."

"Then one day, she asked for some of my savings, for she needed to travel again. I offered to come with her, and was refused. Repeatedly. And chasing a Naer... well... you know. So I paid her, if only with the hope she would come back. And she did. And every time she came back, she stayed, asked for more money, and left. That became our relationship. She taught me how to be better at business, how to read people, and soon my trade route, my merchant relationships grew more and more successful. And back then, I was spending my money recklessly, enjoying as much of the world in her absence as I could."

"Finally, she returned one last time, scared, wild eyed, injured. Exactly how I had found her the very first time we met, when I was just a young boy. I got her wounds treated, got protections for her. But eventually, I snapped. I needed to know more than the absolutely nothing she told me. I demanded to know what had happened. I demanded to know what she'd been doing with my money, I know the value of a nel, I had paid far more than simple travel expenses. And she was injured, so she couldn't run. And for many nights, she refused to answer."

His lips were a tight line, "She told me the truth. And it was so... inconsequential. A lie not even worth telling, now being forced to concede to a disappointing truth. All those years, all those nels, all that time spent worrying, jealous, angry. All for coin. She told me she invested in young children like myself for when they became adults, molding and controlling them for her own use and pleasure. For money. I had expected something so much more elaborate. I thought maybe she was on the run from Augiery, fleeing Audrae, having to constantly hide, fight off killers of her kind. No. It was always just for coin and nothing more. I'd never been so disappointed in my life. I hadn't even realized that I'd been under her control for all those years, that I, the most savvy of businessmen, at least in my own small circles, was so easily manipulated."

He looked Navyri in the eyes, "I never felt more satisfaction than when I wrapped my fingers around her throat and choked the life out of her. I wish she had betrayed me. I wish she was a monster. I wish that she deserved to die. But she was just a disappointing waste of my time. Nels don't mean anything. They are simply a tool."


"But you are not free from the consequences."
word count: 804
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Navyri
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Re: Vacation's Over (Navyri)

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Nels were simply a tool.

This was true.

The rest, Navyri also believed. There were always doubts and ways to argue - maybe he swapped the potions for poison, maybe he spoke before it could fully take control of him, maybe his years drinking liquor had equated him a resistance to other, less aggressive drinks. She knew, standing there before the tavern owner, she would always find ways to doubt, but trust - faith - it was something that required conscious effort. In a way, the confession was refreshing to hear. Navyri had caught glimpses of Soren in his past life - shown most vibrantly when the first spoke of Sigviind and then with Hart, there had been a darkness to his expression. A need to destroy. A vengeance.

They were both killers. It made sense to her.

Murder was more understandable, more logical than grace, "Children are parasitic," Did Soren have living family? Did he have kids? Navyri opened her bottle and poured the serum into her mouth, letting it sit on her tongue. It was more herbal than she would have expected and Navyri mulled over his story, swishing the thick concoction. Had his wife not used Gift of Shadows? How was she injured? What could make her scared unless other victims had played through her rouse? Navyri swallowed, smacking her lips as she decided it was not a pleasant taste, just part of this new game, "That doesn't tend to change with age. Wh-"

Navyri stopped short. Her tongue tingled and she pressed it to the roof of her mouth. She twisted it, rolled it, stuck it out, pinched it between her thumb and forefinger. Hmm, did this magic only force perceived truths of the speaker or genuine fact? If she truly believed her cloak red, would it matter that it was brown? Could she lie in other languages? Would it only take effect if she chose to speak?

"I,"

I want-

She tried again, "I want to trust you."

She blinked and tried to speak quickly , 'I don't know why I said that,'. Instead: "I do know why I said that - Fuck. Okay. I don't like that."

Navyri touched her lips, the traitors. This was new to her, an interesting way to learn just how much she tended to lie in normal conversation, "I don't know if I can... how to... rely... on someone else... anymore." Delroth's breath, she sounded simple headed. She didn't know if this constituted as trust; it was hard to speak freely when her entire life she had trained herself to manipulate language, "I've never married but I killed..."

Her eyes widened, she took a step back. Don't say it.

"I killed..."

This felt like a mistake. Everything felt twisty. Her thoughts conflicted with the syllables that tried to form on her mouth. She felt breathless continually stopping and starting her speech, like a child learned to talk. Her mouth didn't feel like it belonged to her and Soren had spoken so eloquently and for a full story! She could do this, she just had to direct this at him. Submitting a truth serum was perhaps a bit ambitious, but an experience better done with a with something to gain than just something to lose. She sucked a deep breath and finally pocketed the vial. Arms crossed, she clenched her jaw and ground her father's name from her throat. Change the subject, pick something superficial, "Why did you decide to be a tavern owner? You like legends... Why would you settle?"
word count: 596
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