Seeking Evidence - Part 4 (Graded)

3rd of Cylus 720

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Oberan
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Seeking Evidence - Part 4 (Graded)



The 3rd of Cylus 720

Previously


Underground in the belly of the earth, beneath a simple carpenter’s shop, a system of tunnels connected hidden rooms. Some had people in them, others didn’t. One in particular held three. The first was an old man, hunched and crooked, clad in robes. Lantern flames danced in front of his eyes, but they did not register it. Second was a thief. Crouched, one hand clutching a bleeding wound in his gut, the flickering fire reflected off the dagger in his other. His breathing was heavy but quiet. Last was a girl of no more than eighteen years, bound and gagged on the floor. Next to her head, a dagger pierced the carpet, barely and inch away from her skin. Her body rocked with muffled sobs, lanternlight dispersing in her tears.

Recluse smiled triumphantly. “I figured you were bluffing. A hostage is worth nothing if you aren’t prepared to use them. Yet, a dead hostage isn’t worth anything either. Quite the conundrum, is it not?”

“I absolutely hate dealing with your ilk,” Oberan hissed, straightening. Blood was soaking through his shirt and the waist of his trousers. Not life-threatening, from what he could tell, but debilitating all the same.

“Of course you do. The more intelligent the person, the harder they are to fool.”

The Mortalborn didn’t reply, instead he altered his posture and quietly moved towards the door. It felt safer with an exit close by. Producing some bandages, he slowly began to bind the wound. Tightly, hoping to stanch the bleeding. Recluse turned in his direction after a moment.

“That’s very curious. I can’t see you, but you’re here. I know you’re here. I know you’re over there--” he pointed at Oberan’s exact location. “—but I can’t see you. How are you doing this?”

Startled, the thief froze for a moment. He quietly stepped away, continuing to patch himself up. Recluse’s face followed his movements, tracking him with grin.

“Did you know that a room sounds different when there’s someone inside of it? Normal people don’t notice it because to them it doesn’t matter.”

Finishing up, Oberan moved again, closer to the old man this time. There was a large spider on the old Spinner’s shoulder. He hadn’t noticed it before because it’d been sitting in the shadow cast by Recluse’s head. When the Mortalborn moved, the old man turned his face towards him, but the spider didn’t. It couldn’t see him.

“Oh, you’re good. You’re very good. Excellent even,” Recluse commented. “You’re very quiet. No wonder Mandi didn’t notice you. Even I’d have missed you if I’d not been paying attention.” He chuckled. “Still not responding? Rude. I know you’re there. I can hear you breathing.”

Immediately, the thief held his breath, circling around to the other side of the desk. Away from the door, but to a completely different place than he’d been in before. Once there, Recluse turned to face him again.

“It’s no use holding your breath,” he said, “I can hear the fabric of your clothes rubbing against each other as you move. I can hear the piles of the rug rustling as you sneak away. I’m very impressed though. Very impressed.”

Oberan was growing increasingly aware that the old man might become a larger problem than initially thought. Leaving someone who could see –well, not see—through his technique alive might cause trouble in the future. Especially considering his allegiance. If he informed Sintra of this, the Immortal would make it very difficult for Oberan to stroll about undetected.

In ordinary circumstances he’d have incapacitated the Webspinner already. However, siphoning Thrill while wounded would cause the blood flow to increase. He’d lose more blood and it’d rapidly soak through the bandages. He’d leave a trail for sure, which’d make getting out unseen rather difficult.

Also, why hadn’t this Recluse called for aid yet? He’d had ample opportunity. Curiosity, maybe? Or perhaps—

He kicked the bound girl hard in the ribs, causing her to yell and cry and whine into her gag. Eyes darting back to Recluse immediately to gauge his reaction while he moved stealthily through the room. Neither the Webspinner or his spider gave any indication of distress whatsoever. They did not seem to be able to track Oberan with all the noise, however. Well, until Mandi forcefully brought her cries under control, and the old man's face once again turned into his exact direction. Oberan released the breath he'd held in. Futile, huh?

word count: 790
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Re: Seeking Evidence - Part 4

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The old vulture remained in his seat, no evident alarm or concern as to the condition of the girl. The fact was, from his seated position, he could not even see her. If she ended up dead, or just stayed frozen in fear, it clearly was of little import to him.

He chuckled in a gravelly tone, "Wise of you, or lucky perhaps, that you did not actually open that door. Many fools believe that opening a door silently guarantees that it will go undetected. They do not consider the ambient noise from without flowing in to declare that the door has now been opened. I suppose this is due to their already being used to it and foolishly thinking that it is already part of everyone's environment. Still, one has to wonder how you hope to leave as undetected...as....you.....arrived."

The distracted quality of his last few words made it plain that something new had caught the recluse' interest. His milky eyes narrowed in piqued curiosity towards his uninvited guest. His head tilted slightly in various directions, as slight differences in hue subtly colored his opalesque whites. A grin stretched the skin of his cheeks in an almost ghastly manner, "Half a moment then, could we?" His head tilted back the other way a fourth time, "Yes.....yes indeed." he folded his hands before him, resting them on elbows atop the desk. His grin displayed the pleasure he was taking from the effect the pause was having on the intruder.

But it would not do for the stranger to think he was stalling for time, for rescuers to burst in through the door. He even looked that way with a newborn scowl. But it phased back to the grin as he turned his gaze back to Oberan, "So...shall I call you cousin, my friend? You threw me there for a moment, lacking her mark as you do, but oh yes, there is definitely a connection to my kindly aunt Audrae."

His hand raised instinctively, in anticipation of protest, "No, no, I'm sure you don't." he said, the statement brimming with preemptive sarcasm over the certainty that his guest was going to deny knowing anything of any connection to Audrae. "Just indulge me for a moment then, could you?...yes... Let's just say, purely for the purposes of argument, mind you, that you did possess some connection to the Dark Mother, say, a blood tie even; something I can only answer with my Lady's mark. And let's say I were to ask you what HER intentions were, to get mixed up in all this. You would undoubtedly tell me that you have no idea, correct? That she told you nothing of any long term plans, Yes?...No? In all honesty, I would believe you. After all, why should she?"

Now all pretense dropped from both his face and his voice, "So what makes you think that even if Grand Lady Sintra has some plan beyond simply establishing a home base in Etzos, for mutual gain to all concerned, something she has readily admitted to several times already, that she would give information regarding some sinister hidden agenda to such as me? Or her." His hand indicated through the desktop to where Mandi still lay, whether living or dead.

"Blind or not, one would have to be an idiot not to see the logic in such a supposition. So it stands to reason that this is not the question to which you seek answers. If you can tell me what Audrae wants out of all this, I may just be persuaded to drop a hint or two in the direction you want, once I know what direction that is."

He leaned slowly forward, his pearly eyes lighting with eagerness.
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Re: Seeking Evidence - Part 4



Recluse taunted him. Lorded his ability to detect the thief over him with condescension and unbroken calmness. Oberan wasn’t certain what to do about it. While it might be a bluff, the old man’s unconcerned demeanor made him think he had a trick up his sleeve. Something powerful or surprising enough to warrant those apparent feelings of security.

Ironically, right after declaring his dislike for killing, the Mortalborn was considering doing just that. Oh, he could rationalize it well in his head. The old man was one of Sintra’s followers, he could inform Sintra of Oberan’s presence. He could spread word of Oberan’s brand of stealth to all Webspinners, making further infiltrations more difficult. He could call for aid, perhaps managing to capture him. If he killed him, the Webspinners would –though aware someone had snuck into their hideout—not know he’d been here.

In the end, Recluse was right. Leaving unnoticed was mostly out of the question. Unless he could figure out a way to deal with the old Spinner. If he threw a dagger at his head, would the spider warn him of it? Could he accurately hear something flying towards him, and avoid it?

Oberan materialized the dagger behind his back.

From this distance he should be able to hit something, even if it wasn’t what he’d aim for. A sudden dagger wound was in theory plenty to momentarily distract. If Oberan could move in close then…

“So...shall I call you cousin, my friend?”

“Excuse me?” the thief responded, taken aback by the odd question. Recluse followed up with talk of a connection to Audrae. Aunt Audrae?

“I don’t know wha--”

The old man interrupted him. Sarcasm obvious. He hadn’t even tried to be subtle about it. Indulge me, the vulture-like Webspinner said right before launching into a rant about hypotheticals and what-if’s. Oberan listened with half an ear, mostly concerned with finding a way to leave the room without Recluse realizing it immediately. Unfortunately, every idea was dismissed, doomed to fail due to the Webspinner’s supernatural sense of hearing.

“Sure?” He wasn’t too certain whether he was supposed to respond. The rant felt mostly rhetorical, but perhaps the Recluse expected a reply of some sort. Unfortunately for him though, what he got was only a noncommittal monosyllable.

Nevertheless, the casual exposure of Oberan’s bloodline did shake the Mortalborn a bit. He didn’t think any Immortal’s mark provided a means to identify mages and Immortalspawn, but there probably were some magics that could do just that. In fact, hadn’t Joderall made an offhand remark about being able to tell various types of beings apart? While the thief didn’t recall the exact phrasing, he did remember the mention of Mortalborn.

Identification of his non-Mortal blood was one thing. For someone to also deduce which one had conceived him was another. Rather worrying too. Recluse just kept on piling up reasons for… ah, how would Kas phrase this—tying up loose ends.

“True, true. I had considered that,” the Mortalborn admitted. A careful schemestress like Sintra wouldn’t tell just about anyone about her plans. She likely worked on a need to know basis. “Then again, you can never know for sure.”

“Or perhaps I’m a simple idiot who doesn’t know what he’s doing. I might just be bumbling around, making it up as I go along. Maybe I haven’t thought things through as much as you’re expecting. Have you considered that option?”

What if he sealed the room? Trapped both Spinners into the office with the God Seal. Of course, Oberan’d be stuck too, but he could quickly use the Rupturing Orb to teleport away. The thunderous boom might even cripple Recluse. Actually, what if he used the Orb to deafen the old man, then slink away the same as he’d entered?

Not a bad idea…

“Suppose you are absolutely correct in your assessment, and I tell you. What benefit is there to you? Actually, wouldn’t ‘dropping such hints’ count as treachery towards the Webspinners and Sintra? You’d possibly be undermining whatever she has been planning. And for what? Information I might not even have?”

His sense of smell wasn’t as developed as Recluse’s hearing seemed to be, but it was more than enough to recognize the scent of something fishy.

word count: 746
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Re: Seeking Evidence - Part 4

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There was almost a shade of disappointment on the wizened face behind the desk. "Benefit? Detriment? my boy, this is all to be determined by the success and manipulation of the information exchanged." His look took on the appearance of a parent seeing a child's absurdly constructed lie, and giving them a chance to admit to it before calling them out.

"Surely you are not going to try to convince me that you do not seek to gain more information than you reveal. I will do you the courtesy of admitting as much with no prompting or threats."

Some old adage popped into his mind and he shared it readily. "You know, they say that the fairest deal that can be struck is one where all parties concerned feel that they got the short end. Well, I fully avow that I seek to take twice at least what I give; and would be a fool to think you did not seek the same."

His expression asked if he could he more plain-spoken than that. "Our individual success will be the definition of what benefit or detriment is derived from this game. I assure you, Sintra will have no issue with me giving you a wagonload of shit in exchange for a nugget of Malorite."

Sitting back with a curious demeanor of being in no danger, he sneered, "And seeing that I am hosting this contest, it is only right that I allow you first query. But first, if my assistant is still among the living, would you be so kind as to nudge her to her feet. She still has duties to finish."

As his opposition formulated either a line of questioning, or a plan of attack, The Reclusive Vulture did not sit idly, though it may have appeared so on the surface. Meditation was another mastered skill, and it took him only moments to achieve the level of sensory separation required to begin Synchronizing with the mortalborn before him.

Two details came into immediate play here. Both of which would have served his foe well, had he the knowledge and experience to perceive them. The first was that a mortalborn possesses a nature of power far removed from the Emean/Domain magic that fell easily to an Attuner's Synchronizing ability. An Attuner would have to align his thoughts very delicately to avoid tipping the target off. The second was that The recluse already had the necessary experience with adjusting his invasive technique to avoid tweaking this alternate force.

Had Oberan more knowledge of Attuning, he could have realized that prior children of Audrae would have HAD to have been subjected to The Recluse's tender mercies in the past; else he would not have recognized this singular frequency; and learned how to align with it. Most any other mortalborn target would immediately be aware of a second consciousness aligning with his own. The recluse sought to make his thoughts as one with his opponent, the better to glean the information he sought. This ruse of a "contest" was only to put the fool into the frame of mind of bringing such information to the surface of his thoughts.

Even before Oberan took his first action, be it mental or physical, the old terror was aware of what it would be.
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Re: Seeking Evidence - Part 4


As expected from one of Sintra’s cultists, the old Webspinner had a rather sly tongue. Speaking honeyed words that sought to push Oberan over the edge, to coax him into playing along. The Mortalborn entertained the thought. Recluse made the deal sound attractive, an exchange of information, a hint for a hint. Oberan had to admit that gaining intelligence right from the source would be a lot more efficient than him bumbling his way through several hideouts. However…

Could the words of a spider be trusted? Would the information given be truthful, or would they be omissions at best. A web of lies craftily spun to restrict the Mortalborn’s reasoning, to trap him in a mire of faulty evidence. Oberan wasn’t planning to tell the spider anything, he’d not uphold his part of the deal. There was very little to tell in the first place, but that in of itself could prove useful to the Webspinners.

Obviously he’d make use of the gracious offer to ask first. Free information was very tempting after all, even if it might not be accurate. Unless it was a trap. The nature of the query would inform the spiders of what Oberan was looking into, and could be used against him. Was it better to disregard the offer entirely and take out the old man immediately?

“Your assistant?” the thief spoke, nudging the girl with a foot. She complained with a grunt, shifting position as best she could with her limbs tied behind her back. He shook his head. “No, I don’t think I will. What kind of fool do you take me for? I put a lot of effort into getting her out of the equation, so I won’t bring her back in. I’m not going to give you even more of an advantage than you already have.”

Seriously, the Recluse’s tone rubbed him the wrong way. Snobbish and sneering, flavored with a distinct sense of superiority. In fact, the old Spinner’s general demeanor ever since discovering Oberan had been too… calm. Free of worry. He acted as if he was in total control of the situation. Which the thief assumed meant a trump card up his sleeve. Something to incapacitate the Mortalborn immediately, perhaps. Or simply a way to call a dozen armed Webspinners into the room. Or a trapped part of the floor.

In short, he had to be careful. Recluse could probably activate it anytime he wanted.

Wait. Then why hadn’t he yet?

It’d be more practical to capture interlopers and torture the information out of them rather than engage them in a game of questions and answers.

Unless, of course, the trump card required some time to prepare. Recluse might just be buying himself some time.

“Right, so here’s my question,” Oberan began, making the dagger vanish into the Vault. A flick of his wrist uncurled the sling wrapped around it. At the tip of one of his fingers, a stone appeared, dropping into the pouch. He was more proficient with it than a dagger, and from this distance he could launch it just as fast.

“Sintra has helped with the siege on Rhakros. She’s cleaned out the underground. With the Cylus upon us she promised to create webbing to combat the cold. Everyone knows she’s not being altruistic. You and she both said she wants to make Etzos her home base. Why Etzos specifically?”

Oberan was quite pleased with himself. The answer may give him an idea of Sintra’s goal and motivations –beyond the obvious—and the question did not reveal a whole lot about his own reasons for asking. Also the words helped conceal the tiny sounds made when loading his sling.

He waited for the man to respond, listening carefully to the reasoning and explanations given. Did it sound like bullshit? Might if be the truth? Unimportant for now, he could dissect the statements later. Once the Recluse was done, Oberan flung his arms forwards in a circular motion, releasing the cord held between thumb and index.

Partway through the motion, the Mortalborn found himself suddenly blinded. He launched the stone regardless, but his heartrate spiked, his eyes frantically flitted to and fro, seeking for any outlines of shapes. Nothing. No light, no patches of dark that weren’t as black. Only an infinite unyielding void. He couldn’t even see his own body.

The stone impacted the far wall, seemingly louder than it should have. Recluse cackled from somewhere in front of him. Behind Oberan, Mandi groaned.

Acting on instinct, the Mortalborn did several things in quick succession. Firstly, he made the sling vanish, sending it into the Vault. Nothing indicated it failing, or requiring more power than usual. Secondly, he apparated a key within a hand, which he used to activate the God Seal on the door. Keep Recluse from running. Good thing he’d positioned himself close to it.

Lastly, he charged the old Webspinner. Oberan had been facing the man before going blind, so he should have a decent grasp on his location. There was a desk between the two of them though. He ran three steps, gaining speed, then leapt forwards. It was meant to send him cleanly over the obstacle, but without a visual his perception of distance was wonky at best. Both legs collided with the wood, sending him tumbling forwards. Through stacks of papers, into the chair which promptly toppled.

Oberan held out his palms to catch himself. One touched the floor sooner than he was expecting, but that was fine. Reacting, he rolled over the appropriate shoulder, and his muscle memory did the rest. It wasn’t as graceful as per usual, as the lack of vision interfered with his balance as well, but he got back to his feet just fine. Too close to the wall, but that too was fine. The Mortalborn pressed his back against it to prevent being attacked from behind, and focused for a moment.

Recluse was nowhere to be heard. He hadn't run or rolled into him, foiling the simple tactic the thief had devised.

He listened, trying to ignore the noises Mandi made. Nothing.

Where was that old spidery bastard?

word count: 1047
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Re: Seeking Evidence - Part 4

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The question seemed pointless, but it was not. Even though he had already addressed the bulk of what was being asked, the old shoulders twitched as the old man snorted. It was all staged anyway. Staged on both sides. The Recluse could only assume that his Synchronicity with the target's mind had caused the entire subject matter to cycle around a second time. He could tell that the thief was only half aware of the question he was spouting.

And his own purpose had already been completed even as the thief babbled on redundantly. His own asking of what Audrae wanted was the real point of this exercise. The alignment of Oberan's memory through this Synchronicity had brought forth Oberan's recall of Audrae's own vague directive seasons ago, prior to the invasion of Rhakros. Nothing more than a diplomatic acknowledgement of his existence, to better lure him into servitude, and then a hazy request that he find some connection to Sintra's sudden change of heart toward Etzos. To join the march of Rhakros and...look around. It was laughable.

Then She'd given her child some temporary powers, through a glove made apparently of her shadow skin. It was undoubtedly just a metaphorical reference, but it was all beside the point of what the Recluse now confirmed. Audrae knew nothing either. Oberan's memory, accessible to the old man through his Synchronized mind sharing, confirmed it. The smile was already beaming when he realized that the intruder had decided to attack. His actions were staged as well.

The mental connection made plain the gestures many others would not have noticed. And the repetition of the question of 'Why Etzos?' was not really anything to which the youngster truly sought an answer. It was a distraction, nothing more. The Recluse ignored it as he whispered to his arachnid companion. "Audrae knows nothing...Go!" The little beast immediately dropped to the floor and disappeared into a crack in the wall. When it reached it's destination, it would not be able to speak this message to anyone, but it's memory of The Recluse saying the words would be accessible.

The time was now at hand to end this charade. And this young thief would now discover a more personal aspect of Synchronicity, as the Recluse dismissed the bulk of the sensory input he gained from his Attunement. His own blindness was now "shared" with this cocky brat. He smiled as he heard all the telltale sounds of a suddenly blinded victim. The alarmed gasp of breath, the random staccato of uncertain footsteps, even the swish of fabric from newly flailing arms.

If only the youngster truly had the wisdom to stay still and make no sound, he would have surely heard the old man reaching the corner of the room behind and to his left. He was already triggering the release mechanism on the hidden door as he heard this possible give-away drowned by the clumsy impact of thief and desk. He had to make a stern effort not to reveal his position through laughter.

He should then have dismissed the Synchronized connection completely. But in his enjoyment of knowing his enemy was so flustered and doomed, he overlooked one potentially catastrophic detail. If the boy ever found his way to any point in the path to the hidden door, that route which the old man had long committed to blind memory, his own surety of the route to take, and the button to push, would suddenly burst into his awareness to the same degree. Shared by Synchronicity.

There was some brief thought as to the eventual state of Mandi's health. But that was not even of secondary importance. He chuckled as he made his blind-sighted way down the long tunnel. There was no hurry now. His message had been sent, the intruder trapped.
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Re: Seeking Evidence - Part 4



The thief held his breath and clenched his teeth, biting through the pain. The twisting during the fall had sent a shock through his stab wound, still echoing in his flesh. Multiple smaller aches had joined in, results of the tumbling, but those hardly compared to the bite of the dagger.

With his back against the wall, Oberan readied himself for an attack that was definitely coming. Blinded and confused, uncertain of the position of the other people in the room, the Mortalborn was an easy target. He didn’t think the Recluse or his assistant could sneak up on him like he could on them –although that wasn’t completely accurate—but he wasn’t as adept at relying solely on his hearing. While it was reasonable to think he could determine the location of an attacker, it was more than likely that he’d be oblivious of the exact angle. Dodging or blocking required precise timing, lest the attacker alter their swing at the last second, and the sudden blindness screwed that up rather thoroughly.

Still, he listened. Mandi groaned from somewhere in front of him. Her robes rustled quietly against the ropes binding her. There was his own breathing and the badump-badump of his heart against his temples. Yet no Recluse.

Oberan did not know what the old man had done to him. Obviously it was magical in nature one way or the other. Perhaps one of the abilities granted by SIntra’s mark. Maybe an illusion crafted through domain magic. Whatever it was, it surely wasn’t the Naerikk ability that made Audrae’s daughters so feared. A stroke of good fortune. It meant he wasn’t completely helpless.

Not that it’d protect him from a ranged attack he couldn’t see coming.

He waited several moments, body tense, senses focused for any hint of danger, any trace of movement. Nothing. Was Recluse still in the room? He had to be; the only door had been sealed. Unless he’d left before Oberan had the chance to stop him—Impossible, the old man would have had to move quickly. Blinded or no, the thief would have heard the swishing of the robes and the pounding of his feet. He’d have felt the displacement of air as he rushed past.

Recluse was still in the room. He had to be. Then again, he surely couldn’t be as accomplished in stealth as Oberan. Being blind AND old, the webspinner couldn’t move around undetected in this silence. Was he using magic to muffle the sounds he made, waiting for Oberan to come close enough to kill with a surprise attack?

The Mortalborn staggered around, figuring he might as well try to elicit a sneak attack. Risky, but it would reveal the Recluse’s position. Hopefully his reflexes would be enough to avoid lethal damage, and if he could break the old Webspinner’s concentration, the blindness would fade.

He collided with the desk again, hitting his knee on the wood. Not hard enough to really hurt, but enough to make him think it did. Oberan stabilized himself with a hand grabbing the corner of the obstacle, and achieved enlightenment.

It was hard to describe in any other way.

Blind as he currently was, he felt as if his eyes had been opened forcefully. Knowledge wormed its way into his brain, telling him things he shouldn’t be able to know. Skeptical, his fingers traced the grain of the wood downward, sliding off the top. Along the side, then the bottom of the surface. Eyebrows lifted in surprise. Something was actually there. A button. He pressed it.

There was no sound, but from the click felt when he’d pressed the mechanism, he knew a door had been opened. Moreover, he knew where that door was located too. Seven large steps to reach the back of the room, then one to the right from his position. As if whispered into his ear, the instructions popped into his mind. Knowledge that wasn’t his, but his muscles seemed to remember anyway. It knew how big the steps needed to be, it knew when he’d reach the back wall.

No hesitation in him movements. Oberan traversed the room blindly as if he’d done it hundreds, nay thousands of times before. The ambiance changed when he stepped through the hidden door. Echoing. An enclosed space with little room on both sides and above. Hewn from stone, the floor smooth and even to prevent a blind man from stumbling. It wasn’t lit, he knew, because why would it be. A press of another hidden button, this one embedded in the wall of the tunnel, and the door closed behind him.

Oberan knew not where this path would lead him, but he knew it was mostly a straight line all the way. Somewhere in front of him, possessing a significant head start, the Recluse walked down the same corridor. No spits, no side tunnels. Just the door he’d entered from, and the one door the tunnel connected to. Trapped like a rat.

Grinning in triumph, the thief ran. Large, swift paces taken with great confidence. No need to muffle his steps; the Recluse would hear them anyway. But it mattered very little, for the old man would not be able to outrun Oberan. He wouldn’t reach the end before the Mortalborn. This hidden passageway would be his undoing.

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Re: Seeking Evidence - Part 4

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The perils of overconfidence.....

Oberan's duplicate realization of the knowledge gained about the layout and trigger of the hidden tunnel did not register immediately in the Recluse's awareness. There was a range limit on the Synchonized link, so the fading away of the intruder's anger and frustration was to be expected. He did not truly know if he'd reached that distance, but it was a reasonable assumption.

But assumptions are never a solid basis for decisions. And the decision that a brief sense of an "echo" of the path he was now taking was all too easily attributed to it. No, there was only the malicious sense of satisfaction as his slippered footsteps echoed the length of the tunnel.

Yet the echo took on a different timing before long; not aligning with his own. The tone heavier and harder as well.....Boot steps, not slippers.

For his own part, Oberan noted a sudden sense of uncertainty passing into his Synchronized mind from without....

Up ahead, the Recluse stopped in his tracks. Alarm manifested as the echo did not die as it should have. In fact, it grew louder. In addition he now perceived an essence of vengefulness coloring the nature of the satisfaction he'd been attributing solely to himself. He also gained a sudden, reversed perception of who was predator and who was prey.

The magnitude of his error burst suddenly upon the Recluse's realization, and he instantly dispelled the Synchronicity with his victim. But not before the flash scenario of what had just been realized flashed back to let Oberan know the level of fear suddenly spiking in the heart up ahead, regarding "the folder".

The Recluse was not such a fool as to shout threats or pleas back the way he had come. He burst into an all-out run. With the link dispelled, Oberan was denied the opportunity to relish the hopeless awareness his target felt in regards to the impossibility of outrunning the furious younger man behind him. As well, he did not gain the delight of knowing the desperation that the inevitability of capture, and the betraying of secrets to his matron's enemies, stirred in the laboring heart of the old man.

If the Recluse could have willed himself to have a lethal heart attack right then, he would have done so gladly. He had been elated with triumph to have obtained confirmation that Audrae knew nothing; such knowledge was of great importance to the Web Mistress. But now he might be broken to spill secrets that would offset all that had been gained.

But then a new tact occurred to him. To the best of his knowledge, the tunnel was absolutely void of light. He pulled a little-used dagger from his leg sheath and stopped running to crouch upon the ground. He turned his back to the approaching enemy, hoping he would not suffer much pain when the lumbering pursuer tripped over him.

Then, his blind sense would avail him greatly to stab the intruder to death, as they both writhed on the ground. And if that failed, he would cut his own throat. With no corroboration, the folder could still be dismissed as false propaganda. Though many instructions within were quoted from Sintra about the artifact, none were in her actual hand.

Here though, is to be stated a seldom-relevant aspect affecting those who have gotten used to living in the sightless dark. They have long since passed the point of experiencing that initial influx of stimulus, from all senses not of the eyes, that are granted to those suddenly stripped of eyesight. After the onset of trauma over the loss of eyesight, the newly blinded will find their other senses automatically picking up the slack to a large degree.

The Recluse did not consider that Oberan's other senses would already be coming into increased play as he approached in the stark blackness of the underground tunnel.
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Re: Seeking Evidence - Part 4



Oberan ran.

Not a full out sprint, yet not a leisurely jog either. His pace was quick but not draining, breaths deep and controlled, though not labored. The odd sixth sense may have given him confidence in moving around blindly, he was not foolish enough to charge forth unthinkingly.

Recluse would pay for his smugness and debilitating magic. Oberan’d get back at him for the wound that still smarted, stabbing him anew with every step he took. But there was no need to rush. The hidden passage was long, and the Recluse had no chance to outrun a being that remained in his prime, always.

He was getting closer, the sense said. The old man knew he was coming now; there was an echo of panic that was distinctly not the Mortalborn’s. A brief flash regarding a certain object, something the Recluse considered too important to lose. A boon most appreciated, a deal honored after all. The promised hint had been dropped, and what a juicy piece it seemed to be.

Oberan would thank the good man with swift mercy. Preferences were pushed aside. They had their time and place, but would only hinder the tying up of loose ends. Recluse was not to report to Sintra or his comrades. The Webspinners and their Queen were not to know of the Mortalborn’s presence. To that end, he’d make the Recluse and his assistant disappear. Living things could not be stored in the Vault, but such things could be easily remedied.

As sudden as it had come, the sixth sense, the familiarity with the surroundings vanished. Oberan’s body forgot what had been second nature only seconds ago. He still didn’t see a thing though. The dark in the tunnel was absolute.

Not that it mattered, he was close enough to his quarry to smell him.

That, and he had a handy dandy gadget to combat the darkness. In his palm the Daylight Stone appeared, casting its light with pleasure. The tunnel looked exactly as Oberan had pictured it in his mind. Narrow and rough, only wide enough for two people to walk shoulder to shoulder. Tall enough to fit the Ellune, albeit just barely. There were no decorative elements, no effort put into aesthetics for obvious reasons.

And not too far up ahead the Recluse laid prone. On hands and knees, body curled into a tight ball. A crafty trap placed to trip an incoming thief. Simple but effective, meant to be hidden in the darkness, and thus invisible. Illuminated by the Daylight Stone it was nothing more than a pathetic attempt however.

Yet, Oberan played along as if he hadn’t noticed a thing. Running footfalls approaching the Recluse rapidly, growing louder and louder, until they stopped. The thief soared upwards for a moment as he readied his foot, gaining height to empower the strike. His heel dug into Recluse’s back when he dropped back down, the axe kick stomping down hard with vengeful glee.

“That’s a good look on you, cousin.” The thief sneered, smashing his knee onto the man not a moment later, putting most of his weight on it to pin him down. “Pathetically curled up like a spider playing dead when startled. Unfortunately for you, I’ve always had the habit of striking them a second time, just to make sure they’re actually dead.”

He grabbed the old man’s wrists, in order to incapacitate fully, and noticed the dagger. One touch of the Mortalborn’s fingers and the weapon vanished from the Webspinner’s grip. He struggled, of course, but it was futile. The more he resisted, the weaker he seemed to become, and the stronger the grip of his attacker. Arms were bent behind the back, twisted painfully in petty vengeance, then tied together deftly with a length of rope. Only then his strength returned.

“Well then, cus, I believe I caught wind of something rather important to you. Some kind of folder. I’d greatly appreciate you telling me all about it, and where to find it.” Oberan flashed the Spinner a smile, which he realized a little too late the blind man obviously couldn’t see. “Otherwise I fear our pleasant chat will quickly turn… less so. Especially for you.”

word count: 717
Just because I shouldn't doesn't mean I won't.


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Re: Seeking Evidence - Part 4

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It had been a long time since the Recluse had needed to recall the unique tone and rhythm of footsteps approaching him with unfearing eagerness, but he came quickly to that assessment with little analysis. The situation left few other explanations for the distinctly different sound of the intruder's boot steps from what he was used to hearing.

As a result, the initial kick was largely blocked by an arm with its elbow tightly clenched. Oberan would have dual pleasures in seeing the surprise on his enemy's face at how well he appeared to be seeing; he had always made sure there would be no torches at any point in the tunnel. He had seen no indication that the thief had carried one with him into the room back the way they'd come. The second kick enforced the acceptance of the thief's frustratingly effective eyesight, making any further dwelling on the subject pointless.

But Oberan would enjoy seeing the starkly puzzled rage over the sudden banishing of the blade he'd now been ready to take his own life with. His options were disappearing quickly. But there was one last option that broke instinctively upon his mind as the various pains from his enemy's handling began assailing his old, worn body. Had he been listening to what the thief was now taunting him with, he might have reconsidered his next action. Victory or defeat would hinge both upon the ability to endure pain, and ability to think clearly through it.

The Recluse reactivated the Synchronized Link, sneering back through gritted teeth as all his pain surged through Oberan's body as well. "Yes, yes...torture me if you dare, you insufferable bastard son of a whore! I ca-..AAAAAAA..." his cry of pain was echoed by Oberan as the near breaking of an arm bone shot agony unexpectedly up the younger man's nervous system. The scream turned into an unholy cackle, "I have been trained for this, young thief. Have you? GO ON then, give me your worst! Let us see if you can endure greater savagery than I myself can."

Again, the detrimental aspect of the link turned against the old man as his intent to gouge one of his two useless, but still present, eyeballs out was immediately transferred to Oberan's awareness. The young man was able to stop this act, but was unable to prevent the squirming foe from wrenching his own grasped arm to a point that he could sink his teeth into it. Once again, twin voices shrieked in pain, though one was muted by the bleeding flesh jammed within its mouth.

Sickly satisfied laughter formed from the trailing shriek as the Recluse taunted his antagonist; crooning sarcasm replacing twisted bravado, "Ohhhhh, don't worry young man, I'm not going to take any action against you. I can assail your senses quite well from here." he slammed his elbow into the stone floor, but there was just the slightest hint of hesitance in the movement.

But the tide turned far more significantly as a single word, spoken several moments earlier, found just a flash of latent recognition in his mind. The Recluse had just been formulating a witty response to Oberan's comment about things turning...less pleasant, when the connected reference to the folder betrayed him. The comment about 'where to find it' automatically conjured an flash image of a desk drawer with a false bottom, a wood paneled office, somehow familiar, but not readily so.

The Recluse realized he no longer needed to be put under pain to give information. He swiftly cancelled the link and began to thrash wildly. He could, in theory, keep activating and cancelling the link as the situation called for, but he would soon go into overstepping.

'Overstepping.....' the thought brought a spark of grim hope.

Suddenly every mages' dread of severe overstepping became a horrific possibility of salvation. If he could destroy his own mind through the backlash of sensory overload, he might just prevent himself from betraying his Matron Immortal.

That, if he did not give up damning tidbits of information in the interims between activation and cancellation.
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