Stranger Lands

Where in Paladin takes stock of Andaris, and her University

The capital city of the of Rynmere, here is seated the only King in Idalos.
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Kazmir Saelaris
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11th of Ymidin 716
L
abyrinthine. Ancient and wizened the urban sprawl hummed with the thundering breathe of the city. Through narrow corridors and tightly packed roads they wove, each a drop of vital fluid sent unto the great beast to once again give its soul form. Despite the myths truly the jacedon still lived, alive and well, evidence thus could be seen all around. Fluttering banners, bright with pride, batting like leather wings above the backs of a half dozen neatly arranged scales. Noble and proud, they were clad in the glistening irons of dedication their presence carrying the rule of law as the burden of a pilgrim. The narrow arteries of this great beast throbbed with the daily works of a people as they buzzed to and fro through the ancient stone bones. Alive and well indeed. And perhaps, to some, the masterful architecture of a whole mountain tamed could have been beautiful. But to Paladin, it was not.

Though maybe his mood was just soured. It had been only three trials since that long road by Cabel's side had vanished into memory, and not even a full trial since he had stepped into the narrow halls of Andaris. Already the densely packed population had grated on him. That is not to say that Paladin was in anyway unfamiliar with urban life. No, but Andaris was very different than that place he had once called home. Though surely larger and with greater population, the roads he knew were wide and smooth and the forums open and welcoming. Here though? Claustrophobia was king. His queen the stench of industry.

Perhaps that was unfair. Andaris was not as offensive as Paladin imagined. It was the closeness, the proximity of hundred of souls huddled in the lower quarters breath and sweat washing the swordsman's face in disgust. The heat of hundreds of bodies in close proximity causing sweat to form despite the cool overcast of the day. The sea breeze of the coast, blocked by the twisted alleys and narrow corridors, was no relief. Even if an errant flow did catch Paladin's mess of curls it was stale and dusty churned only by the feet of the throng. Worst still, there was a constant though subtle odor of sewage that emanated from the moat he had crossed to enter the city. 'At least the waters are churned often.' Paladin thought. If he was not in so bitter a mood he may have recognized the obvious, though hidden, brilliance of the Andarian plumbing network.

Still, despite his immediate reaction to this fabled land of Rynmere, Paladin was here for the foreseeable future. And though the urging of the unseen forces pushed him across the sea, he had not the coin nor supplies to push his quest into its next stages. A sour mood for such a sour thing. A sour irony that travel, perhaps the greatest liberation, was so restricted by the coin of the realm. And this restriction was steep.

Thirty gold nel for just the booking. Another fifty if he wished his horse to follow. At least five to resupply and another two for lodging until he could do so. Armor to. Paladin, despite these long months traveling as a civilian, still felt naked when not clad in steel. Mail would do, if only another forty or so nel was so easy to come by. 'Repairs...' Paladin groaned as his gloved hand cleared his mess of seething curls of its sweat. Cassiopeia needed attention, another three to five depending on the smith. And Baron needed a farrier.

Silently the Norn cried, drawing the foreign man from his accounting. It swooped in a lazy circle above the horse that Paladin guided through the throng of Rynmerians. The Norn cried once more before a soft fall brought its ghostly talons atop the shoulders of a bellowing child. The boy, unlike Paladin, had not noticed the third and final call of the Norn.

“...scandal! A noble and murder!?”
the boy inhaled deeply.
“Tournament at host of House Warrick, see the lands best knights nobles and warriors collide in mounted duels! Details only in The Rynmere Gazette! Need work? Immune to stage fright? Idalos famous theater troupe looking for performers of great skill for a performance of the ages! Iron Hand looking for information of foul coward, reward subject to discretion! Find this all and more in the newest edition of Rynmere Gazette!”

Tugging at Baron's reigns Paladin cut a wide swatch through the crowd as he made his way towards the tiny salesmen, to the vocal displeasure of the natives. Such dirty scowls and displeased grumbles did little to dissuade Paladin from his goal though. If there was no room to move, perhaps widen the streets? The boy boomed with impressive fortitude, his tiny lungs carrying more power than many men grown twice his age.

“You interested in a copy sire?” the child cut his pitch short as he watched the travel worn swordsmen approach. “Two copper nel and all the meatiest gossip and most important news is yours at your leisure!”

Wordlessly Paladin's left hand fell to the tragically thin purse of coins that clung tightly to his wide girdle. As quickly two bits were produced, they were once again snatched up by the greedy child as he shoved the broadsheet to replace them.

“The Gazette thanks you sire!” the boy sneered as he rapidly gathered the stack of papers at his feet and quickly merged into the crowd.

Paladin scoffed as he noted the price printed atop the sheet immediately. “Treacherous lout...” For a few moments the strange tourist stood, his horse nervously shifting side to side as the life blood of Andaris attempted to navigate the sudden obstruction in the road. Paladin paid the commuters no mind, instead busying himself with skimming the contents of the news. Indeed there was a tourney, though no mention of what was played for. Either way, Paladin was never trained in mounted combat. 'No.' Nor could he, in any capacity, act. And though he might sing, he in no way was proficient enough for performance outside of drunken stupor. 'No.' Little other word on open employment was mentioned.

Sighing Paladin could not help but roll his eyes as he skimmed the meat of the Gazette. Rumors, gossip, and other trite foolishness. The conversations of bored housewives and mindless rabble, a truly depressing sight in his eyes. What good could come of rumor and innuendo? Could not such a powerful concept as a printed broadsheet be used to greater affect? What was the sense in wasting words on such... shite? 'There are better uses for this later tonight...' Paladin thought as he wadded the paper into a loose ball and shoved it into the belt purse.

“Your blocking traffic. Move along.” one of the great beast's scales ordered and Paladin complied.

For another break the foreigner wandered the alien landscape this time more considerate as to the space Baron occupied. If he was to spend any more than a few trials in Andaris, he wished to get a lay of her land and a taste of her people. As he had no particular goal in mind, save for noting the locations of the cheapest possible lodgings, he allowed the flow of the crowd to pull him slowly further up and into the heart of the city. This second tier was, in his estimation, a far more welcoming than down below.

Not only was there room to move ones elbows, but the pungent sea laden wind was no longer blocked by the rigid stone alleys. This alone would have been enough to bring a small smile to Paladin's lips. But its was the laughter that truly caused his expression to crack. A triad of children played in one of the commons. A noble young knight protecting his fair maiden from the cruelty of some unnamed blaggard. The two boys, each about ten arcs, quite obviously competing for some hitherto unknown desire of female favor. Their swords would clash in woody tones, the girl would arbitrate like some great war marshal. The tree would joke and giggle and exchange flirtation in that childish way. Paladin wondered if he was ever like that.

For a time the swordsman would lean against his equine companion and watch the children while enjoying the cool breeze on his shoulders. The boys, perhaps of some military tradition, were not completely useless behind a sword. Though they obviously lacked any true combat experience. With well timed but wild swings they would graze each others clothes, never fully connecting with full force. They would charge and retreat, and mimic what, Paladin assumed, was the martial style of the Rynmerians. The girl would voice complaint often, demanding a turn at the 'stick', which the boys seemed happy to ignore as their swings grew in power and precision.

A good parry followed by a bold thrust, like a true fencer the smaller of the two boys saw an opening and took it. The tip of the sword caught the larger boy in the diaphragm, drawing out a windy yelp. The smaller boy dropped his blooded weapon, eyes wide with the horror at what he had done. The older boy, still winded, saw red at his embarrassment in front of the little girl. His blade lashing outward it cut into the smaller mans shoulder and forced him to the ground. The woman called to stop, but the small boy was now on the defense. Gripping his blade once more the small man leapt to his feet. A chop downward bifurcated the older mans skull, spilling sick pink flesh in a rainbow of brilliant crimson. Paladin turned away.

“Stop you two. Dorin's nose is bleeding!”

~Calm.~

Clicking his tongue against the roof of his mouth Paladin left the youthful exhibition of nature, Baron following reluctantly.
Dialogue Color Key
"Paladin." "Norn." ~Pala~
Last edited by Kazmir Saelaris on Tue Jul 19, 2016 6:10 pm, edited 1 time in total. word count: 1660
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There comes a time when a person as poor as Levinia has to make a choice between eating and buying equipment for work. This was the problem she faced at the moment, but fortunately a patient paid her with two hens. She roasted one and kept the other for eggs. The cooked bird would last her over a week and Biscuit kept himself well fed so there was no need for her to buy him food. All these things raced through her head as she gripped the few coins she had and pressed her fist against her chest.

“Can I interest you in something miss?” The merchant beamed at her, his eyes already gauged her as a person that may purchase something. It was obvious that Levinia did not wear the finest of apparel even though her face could rival that of the loveliest noble born woman. Levinia’s violet blue eyes fell upon the merchant’s wares and she wondered if she could add day old bread to her diet or buy more suture thread.

“Ah look, these bloody foreigners.” The merchant suddenly growled and Levinia turned towards the commotion. “They think the streets are all theirs don’t they?” She found herself studying the stranger, obviously not from the city, as he trudged through the crowded streets with his horse. “Are you going to buy something, love?” The merchant's voice brought her out of her thoughts and she turned to him, shaking her head no. The need for bread wasn’t important now and a few more jobs could eventually buy herself fresh bread.

The merchant waved her off and turned to his next customer. Who that was, Levinia did not know as her attention was now drawn and curiosity peaked its wicked head. Slowly she made her way towards the man who was now leading his horse down the crowded city streets. “Perhaps if you stable your horse.” She began as she caught up to him. Levinia was used to going faster as her short legs were always too slow to keep up with the taller people. “You could move easier within the crowds.”

She smiled then shook her head, “Of course you know this, but I know a couple of really decent stables, they’ll take care of your horse properly” The small woman licked her lips as she tried to engage him, curious as to who he was and what he was doing in the city. “Perhaps you need directions? I can help.” Her eyes studied him, unaware of their intensity, but she was always studying something. And she was always overthinking other things. Had she been born a male she would have accomplished great things by now. Levinia was female though and she didn’t always get what she needed because of this. Still, she used her gender at times and at this moment she hoped to be coming across as curious yet harmless.

The young healer placed a tentative hand on the horse feeling it’s hide tremble slightly at her touch. “Lovely animal, by the way.” Levinia continued to smile, her blue eyes sparkling in the sunlight and her white hair almost glowed. Questions swarmed in her mind like the buzzing of angry bees. Where are you from? Where are you doing here? Why Andaris? What is your name? She stifled them for a moment and waited patiently for a chance to ask, for now she needed to get a foot in the door.
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f at ever he would need a guide to some esoteric and forlorn location, Paladin would hire a Rynmerian. Surely their lives spent wandering the mazes of Andaris would develop the greatest powers of navigation. Paladin was lost. Or as lost as one can be with no destination in mind. From the second tier of the great beast he had spotted, what appeared, a broken down and ramshackle inn below. One that would fit his budget nicely. But, when he had found his way back down to the lower city, he had both lost the inn and lost the way back up. How, in the names of all those damned immortals, could the streets move so? And how could the people of Andaris live in such a confusing and backwards place? Surely they would have long gone mad? Now, once again, Paladin trudged through the mire of face, spanning seas of annoyed market goers and salesmen.

“Perhaps if you stable your horse. You could move easier within the crowds.”

'Really? Truly? Could the answer be so simple?' “Aye. And perhaps if your people would build wider roads a companion may follow his rider.” Paladin's mumbled in annoyance.

Glancing over his shoulder at the source of his small vexation, the swordsman stopped froze mid stride, awe threatening to take his senses. “Pal..” 'No. She is not.' “Pardon.” She was fair. Far fairer than most he had ever seen. And, perhaps if her taller and built as a matron warrior, she would be the spitting image of the Lady of White Fire. It was still strange though, unsettling in her resemblance. Turning fully the foreigner studied the small fair creature before him. Etching a vision with barbed eyes, Paladin cut the girl into his mind. A spears gaze piercing her flesh and bearing.

Was she a trick? A lie? Some ghastly wraith sent to torment and manipulate? A gift of the Immortal gods, having learned of his plans far before he could act upon them, sending their assassins in pretty faces? No. She was blood. Flesh. A mortal girl with mortal dreams. Still though, Paladin had a hard time tearing away the hand that crept towards his sword.

“...they’ll take care of your horse properly. Perhaps you need directions? I can help.”

“I.. pardon. You startle.” Paladin came forth again, having only barely heard the girl. Biting his lip in his fading confusion, the swordsman glanced once over his shoulder.

Baron jumped at the sudden attention the unknown person gave him, distracting him from his curiosity of the abrupt stop. But ever the lover, he quickly settled into the thought of affection from any and all that would give it. Leaning to one side he pushed his flank into the small females hand, demanding ever more love. Her touch was nicer than his riders, though very soft. Near enough to tickle.

“Yes. Your city is strange to me.” Paladin mumbled. “I have recently arrived. Temporary, should I have it. I am looking for nightly lodging, as well as a farrier for Baron.” The little creature still studied him. He knew the look, as it was often his own. She had a question, many no doubt. And though she might ask, and he might answer, he would say nothing until he learned of her true motives. And why she had his ladies face.
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"Paladin." "Norn." ~Pala~
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“I.. pardon. You startle.”

The man had a peculiar way of talking, and his tone was a mere mumble, so low that she had to get closer to understand. The sounds around her almost drowned their conversation, but she was used to the noise, she wasn’t used to the man. Yet. As she inched closer, not surprised that he towered over her, everyone towered over her. Everyone over the age of twelve anyway. At the distance she noted the scars on his face, common to someone used to battle and familiar to her. Growing up her father would make it a game between her and her brothers, to try to guess what made that scar. Levinia always lost, being that instead of wondering what made it, she was wondering how much it hurt.

The man’s horse reacted to her touch unexpectedly well. It wasn’t unusual for horses made for battle to be almost as vicious and serious as their riders; but this one pleased her. Her generous mouth pulled into a wide smile showing a mouthful of very white and very straight teeth. A little giggle escaped her as the horse pressed against her hand wanting more of her touch. She found this endearing and was not surprised the poor animal craved attention.

Violet blue orbs studied the man before her. She knew men like him, made for battle and war and although the haunt in his eyes was familiar something was not. Her smile disappeared and was replaced by a pensive pout as she wondered why he was looking at her that way. Her hand instinctively went to hair, believing something was wrong with it. Her other hand still held the coins which in the heat of the day and her own sweat were taking on a copper stench. She quickly pocketed them and ran her hand down the skirt of her well made but modest skirt.

“Is there something wrong with my appearance, sir?” She asked suddenly worried that he believed she was going to offer other services. It happened sometimes, she was too bold and her mother often said good girls were demure not demonstrative. When he actually did admit he could use her help she breathed a sigh of relief.

“Yes. Your city is strange to me.” Paladin mumbled. “I have recently arrived. Temporary, should I have it. I am looking for nightly lodging, as well as a farrier for Baron.”

The smile returned and brightened up her features once again. At least now she was getting somewhere. “Baron? Is that his name?” Her hand went back on the horse, this time she slowly rubbed the soft fur of his nose. “I believe you are nobility, handsome one.” She cooed and lavished attention on him as she would her cat. Animals were never a problem, it was usually humans that were, and the other sentient creatures.

After a few moments of petting the beast of burden her eyes flickered back to its owner. The man wasn’t as handsome as some, but Levinia had never been the type to be wooed by a pretty face. She was glad of this, the pretty ones were obnoxious, to say the least. He was, however, terribly interesting and this was even more dangerous to someone like her. Her eyes traveled his form one more time before responding, “I know of several places, depending on your likes, stranger, and your purse.”

Levinia sucked on her lower lip for a moment before asking her first of many questions, “Why have you come to Andaris? Perhaps….perhaps I can help you find it?” Her mind skipped in realization of what just came out of her lips. She was acting like a whore and quickly corrected herself. “I find you terribly interesting and the only payment I require is knowledge.” She nodded and gave him a hesitant smile afraid that she may have just put her small foot into her big mouth.
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Kazmir Saelaris
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S
omething wrong? In so far as the swordsman could see, yes. Having only see his lady twice, both times when death was afoot, a precedent had been established. When fortune and fate copulated vile annihilation, Pala would manifest to purge in the purity with her white fire. And though Paladin did not fear his second death, he was in no great hurry to join with his Lady. There was still too many works left unfinished. But, despite some trepidation that the contrary may be true, there was no apparent threat. At least in so long this girl was not an assassin. Out of prudence the swordsman's eyes shifted past the fair woman, to each side, and then upon to her again.

She whispered sweet words to the horse. The beast, unlike rider, was quick to make friends. Trusting and loving, he was the very font of naivety. Which was, after all, his prerogative. For what a small mind he had despite his animal brilliance, far too small to contain the dangers and darkness of the world. As Paladin watched the deposed noble he could not help to feel a small envy. Such brilliant simplicity. If food was before him, he ate. If water, he drank. If an open road, he ran. If a lady willing to wash him in sweet words and friendly affection, lean upon her hand and ask of more. Such a Fool animal. None-the-less, a loyal on who Paladin loved.

When the girl set her vision upon his self, Paladin nearly recoiled. She studied him. He did not like to be studied. He was the student, not the subject. The scholar not the scroll. Perhaps it was his own fault though. For so long had Paladin noted the behavior of others, in their benign way, obsessed with their own thoughts and own manner. Dwelling upon the tiny worlds of which they were the sun. Most hardly noticed the noses upon their faces, or let alone fifteen feet ahead. And even those that would claim a focus on the other, their thoughts always returned upon themselves quickly. It was this selfishness without malice, that Paladin would exploit. He'd listen. Absorb. Scratch the stones of other ways to perhaps excavate deeper knowledge. Every one, small or big, noble or pauper, Innocent or Tyrant, had a lesson.

“I know of several places, depending on your likes, stranger, and your purse.”

The girl seemed be withholding to a degree. Trying hard to resist maybe.

“Why have you come to Andaris? Perhaps….perhaps I can help you find it?”

There it was. But what followed Paladin did not anticipate. Almost as soon as she spoke she doubled back again. Was that shame that crossed her eyes? Did she fear her own Reason? Or was she simply nervous to pry at a strangers mind? A feline curiosity was a Fools Reason. But, Paladin did not think this girl was a Fool. An Innocent. And, it seemed, the best sort. Childlike, the most noble of all innocence. No. She was not assassin, unless she was a very very good one.

“I find you terribly interesting and the only payment I require is knowledge.”

Or very Foolish. The declaration of intent set Paladin on guard even as soon as the words fell from her mouth. An assassin with this game would be prone to great risk, and thus useless. No. She was Innocent. Still, Paladin would choose his words with the greatest care. Pala begged of it.

“I have business across the water.” Paladin motioned softly with his hand. “But seem to have found myself woefully underestimating the cost of passage to the South,” he lied. “And, as a seaman's skills are not mine, I have been forced to consider other methods.” The swordsman told half truths and white lies, most of omission. And, should the girl know how to bend truth as he did, she may note how to separate the long stories of half fiction into its individual threads. Rubbing his gloved hands against the day old stubble on his chin, the man turned suddenly.

“Come along.”

Reluctant to be free of the girl which he had taken a shining towards, Baron snorted in disapproval but heeded his riders command.

He needed control. Though he was fairly certain in his assessment, caution was required. So, Paladin would turn inspection from himself towards the detective. “Are you local?” he called back to the girl, though not a few steps away, “Truth be told, a guide would greatly benefit me. Tell me, what are these places you know?”
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"Paladin." "Norn." ~Pala~
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“I have business across the water.” Paladin motioned softly with his hand. “But seem to have found myself woefully underestimating the cost of passage to the South,” he lied. “And, as a seaman's skills are not mine, I have been forced to consider other methods.”

Levinia blinked at him several times, her lips pouting as he pondered on his words. It seemed she always took a moment before responding as it was ingrained into her since childhood. Still, sometimes she spoke through pure nervousness, but this was not a situation where she could be so careless. She gathered herself and her thoughts, “I am sorry to say I am not knowledgeable about those things, sir. I may find you someone who is? ”

She tilted her head to one side letting her snowy white locks drift over her slender shoulder. “I’m a doctor by trade, though I am just beginning; and yes, I have always been bold. It has gotten me into trouble.” Levinia revealed this about herself and retreated slightly from him. If he dared reach out to grab her she was in a position to run away. She, like many born to the city, knew her way so well she would disappear in a blink of an eye. She doubted he’d harm her, however, he did not have that look about him. He had not even offered perfumed words or even an interested smile. This only intrigued her more because it was about this time that a man would try something on her.

As he walked away from her, taking his handsome horse with him, Levinia frowned slightly, her brow furrowing in disappointment. She sighed watching her chance at something different walk away and all her questions with him. When he called back at her however, her spirits were raised and she could not help feel a girlish excitement at it.

“Are you local?” he called back to the girl, though not a few steps away, “Truth be told, a guide would greatly benefit me. Tell me, what are these places you know?”


Levinia let out a breath as the man accepted, although hesitant, her offer. She smoothed down her skirts and played with her hair nervously fingering a white strand as she tried to look him in the eye. “Ah, I will give you that information and I will show you the way, but first we must come to a payment agreement.” Lifting her dark brown eyebrows she gave him a knowing grin. “I am local, born here, raised here and I work here.” She blinked slowly as she pursed her lips slightly, “I may even know these streets as well as a common urchin?”

Lifting her chin slightly she continued with her bargaining, “I am willing to be your guide, kind sir. What are you willing to trade?”
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"I
’m a doctor by trade, though I am just beginning; and yes, I have always been bold. It has gotten me into trouble.”

Ah! That explained much. A doctor. Of course a doctor, who else but a doctor would know so well how to prod and poke and stick and molest so well? And with the questions, the constant questions. 'Does it hurt when...' 'Have you...' 'Are you able to...' cyclical questioning when answers were apparent. It was not to say that, in anyway, Paladin did not hold the intellectual curiosities of the healer class in high regard. Information in itself was reward, but that instead he simply had no patience to be a patient. No tolerance for poking and prodding. Hypocritical? Maybe. Honest though.

Spending a moment to gauge his surroundings once again, Paladin ran his gloved hand through the thin sweat that his dark copper hair wicked from his head. Despite the overcast skies above, the stagnant heat of the cramped lower quarter threatened to baste the man in his own disgust. Though, despite this, he could not bring himself to quite the same ire had had not long ago. Careful not to pace the girl behind him, Paladin listened carefully with a hint of smirk across his thin pink lips. Truth be told, the fair doctor had carried with her a much needed distraction, assassin or not.

“Ah, I will give you that information and I will show you the way, but first we must come to a payment agreement.I am local, born here, raised here and I work here. I may even know these streets as well as a common urchin?”

Paladin stopped slowly, Baron signaling his annoyance with a slap of his white hair tail. Why would the man not choose. Stop or go. The swordsman turned to eye the girl with dispassion, giving a long moment for his eyes to study her from head to foot a few times over. 'Mercenary spirit.' the smirk at his lips formed again, this time invading his right side from his left. “Cheeky thing.” he mumbled as the woman concluded her sales pitch.

“I am willing to be your guide, kind sir. What are you willing to trade?”

“A mercenary, are you? Mercenary, physician, and tour guide. I hope you do understand, if I am to pay I will be sure to get my monies worth?” Hand slipping from Barons tack, Paladin rummaged a moment in the tragically thin purse that hung from his broad belt. Recognizing the coin by heft, he palmed an aurum bit with his left hand. “Are you quite certain you wouldn't rather nel? My wealth, though inadequate for long voyage, may well be the sort to be shared. Or do you truly value this knowledge of an unknown?” With soft steps his head leaned to one side and hung low, Paladin approached the girl with an open palm, in the center of which a single glittering gold nel. More than adequate monies for any touring service. “I warn. Fantasy may be preferable to truth.”

Of course she would take the gold. To leave such a tidy sum for a few questions and a breaks distraction would be madness. But what again if she did not need of the gold? Her garb spoke of peasantry, though her pretty face hinted of some wealth. And, after all, she was a physician. An education that was not small in cost, and perhaps her attire was a simple matter of practicality. And if she did not, Paladin would be honor bound to give as much truth as he could. Despite a modest skill in wordy fabrications, eventually she would find the right questions. Ones which he could not bend into half lies. But then again, if she did take the coin her life would begin to unravel before him just the same. Time. Time and observation was all that was needed and, if only for the amusement, a few games along the way. “So. One coin or ten questions?” if nothing else, Paladin had already gotten his monies worth from the girl. A few moments distraction and a soft brightening of a gloomy mood.
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"Paladin." "Norn." ~Pala~
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“A mercenary, are you? Mercenary, physician, and tour guide. I hope you do understand, if I am to pay I will be sure to get my monies worth?”

Levinia flushed slightly at his words and looked down to hide her hot cheeks from him. His words made him shiver slightly even with the heat of the day when they should have annoyed her. Her intent was to haggle as she haggled with the fish monger. He took her to the limits of her comfort but for some reason she did not mind it. She controlled herself and her emotions as she watched him reach for his purse. A little frown formed on her face which in no way marred her pretty looks. What was he doing?

“Are you quite certain you wouldn't rather nel? My wealth, though inadequate for long voyage, may well be the sort to be shared. Or do you truly value this knowledge of an unknown?” With soft steps his head leaned to one side and hung low, Paladin approached the girl with an open palm, in the center of which a single glittering gold nel. More than adequate monies for any touring service. “I warn. Fantasy may be preferable to truth.”

Her eyes studied the gold in the palm of his hand and it was tempting. Levinia licked her lips as the taste of fresh bread and wine were remembered, but she was really not hungry for food. Violet-blue eyes flickered up, gold paled in comparison to the man before her. The knowledge locked there was worth hundreds of gold coins. She was not a noble lady filling her head with fantasy tales of princes and dragon. Levinia read the scars on his face and knew that he had seen things of her nightmares. Perhaps they both could share their own experiences? She allowed the question to hang in the air for several heartbeats as she turned her chin to the left slightly, studying him as a raptor would its prey. Stop it you silly girl, take the gold! She stifled the logical part of her and listened, instead to something else.

“So. One coin or ten questions?”

Levinia reached out to the offered hand but instead of taking the coin she carefully closed his much larger hand. She placed her other hand over the first one until she held him in both of her soft hands. It seemed whatever caution she held for him had vanished and perhaps that was a mistake but she didn’t think so. The small woman then graced him with a smile, “Question one, kind sir. I am called Levinia, what is your name?” She did not seem to need to release her hold, perhaps she was afraid he would disappear if she let him go. Now that he was in ‘her’ possession she wasn’t going to let go so easily.
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Kazmir Saelaris
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B
ait set and trap rigged, the glittering coin was considered. For buyer it would be a profitable transaction regardless. Paladin glanced at the girl from under the cloak of animate brown curls that bounced and swayed before his sight, his playful grin slowly faded. The girls face was red. A fading blush leaving tiny foot prints on her bright cheeks. Why was she blushing? Had he said something? Was she ill? True the day was cool, but not so cold to bring blood to the surface of the skin. No. He had said something, or the girls thoughts went to dark recesses the Son of Pala would prefer avoid.

Bait set and trap rigged, the game was a foot and the hounds bayed for the evening hart. It was in this sport that Paladin, always the hunter, sought quarry in peoples' way. Where were their burrows? Nestled deeply in the the safe cool sands of earthen hearths, where did their values rest and flee when pursued? And no, perhaps, there was no greater understanding. But at the same there was no desire. For it was these small things, like twigs and stones, that build the nests in which we all rest. Nest which the foolish knave philosopher would plunder if only for the sweet taste of golden treasure. Golden treasure which the girl now considered.

Looking from the coin and through the curtain of copper curls and waves, Paladin watched as the hunt skipped through the briers of the fair girls mind. At first his smirk grew yet again, hazarding the sheer edge of an actual smile, but quickly it faded once more. The girl was blushing. Tiny footprints of bloods could still be seen on her cheeks. Why did she blush? It was not so cold, by Paladin's estimation, to raise blood to the surface of the skin. Was she ill or feverish perhaps? Was her sway to coin so great as to provoke such a visceral reaction? If so, he had already won this wager.

As his thoughts drifted over the fair creatures redness, so did his eyes drift to one side. There was a merchant there, as there was all about. They sold and bartered and bought, twisting words and emotion to sate their greed on the want of pretty girls with too much money. Paladin saw one such merchant, a handsome fellow with bright brown eyes, speak to one such girl. His laughed as he held up the work of his trade, a glittering silver stream of pearl laid discs. He said something though Paladin could not hear over the drone of the jacedon blood. And the pretty girl blushed... he flirted?

'Pala preserve.' The swordsman thought, 'Perhaps I was not so considerate of my own words.' Paladin admitted with a small annoyance, both with his own haste and the manner of the world. If every kind word or playful utterance would be taken as flirtation, the swordsman would be drowned in a sea of pretty woman and men. A fate which he felt better to avoid. In preservation of chastity and face, both his and the girls, he thought to let the topic sleep. And then she touched him.

~
Paladin!
~

Why did she touch him! She had not known where he had been! Even he had not known where he had been! He may be diseased, a tyrant, a taker of flesh and soul. An abomination of perverse countenance, twisted in cruel homunculus of of common decency! Why did she touch him! That sickly sweet heat, like suffocating mud force fed into gluttonous gaping maws begging and crying for the perverse lusts of self destruction! Damn the creature! 'I swear it!' Paladins fist clenched over the golden disc, his fingernails pressing tiny white moons into the butt of his hand. Every fiber of his flesh pulled, tightening in preparation for war. His mind screamed in bitter agony, begging for release from the tyranny of this small creatures heat, but still, the man resisted recoil.

“Question one, kind sir. I am called Levinia, what is your name?”

Feeling her eyes upon him, Paladin's blank expression turned quickly. A warm smile spread across his lips, though the tension would not leave his fist. Slowly, but firmly, the swordsman removed himself from the prison the girl constructed and tucked his right hand behind his lower back. “Please.” he begged. “Levinia. Do not do that again. You are fair and lovely, but my faith has asked a vow...” Paladin paused as he built the walls of his lie, “A Promise to Chastity from its adherents. I do not wish to be... tested.” Giving the girl a playful wink, Paladin hoped the softness of his voice and the carefulness of these words would preserve the young woman's from a greater embarrassment. And he from the sickness that rose in his guts.

Turning quickly Paladin grasped at the reigns of his horse as his left hand rested on the hips of his sword. Careful to maintain a warmness of manner, Paladin gave a false chuckle “And that knowledge is free. A special offer for limited times only. I am called Paladin.” Turning his eyes over the cityscape , if only to avoid contact with his newly hired tour guide, Paladin wandered the avenues of his memory. “The first, might a traveler find long term lodging? Cheap and spartan, if it should be an option.” Leading Baron into a leisurely walk, he motioned of Levina to follow.
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"Paladin." "Norn." ~Pala~
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Levinia
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Levinia couldn’t help the smile on her face wider as the man pulled his hands away. She did not feel annoyed by this, only amused. Here was a man and by his worn features, youthful yet seasoned, was well traveled and not innocent yet repelled by the touch of a young woman.

Very interesting…

“Please.” he begged. “Levinia. Do not do that again. You are fair and lovely, but my faith has asked a vow...” Paladin paused as he built the walls of his lie, “A Promise to Chastity from its adherents. I do not wish to be... tested.”


Her smile faded a bit as she lifted an eyebrow at him, but still she was too entertained by his presence to become too cross. Oh, so he wanted to let her down easy, was that what this was? She tilted her head to the side and stifled the urge to place her arms in a defensive position. Instead she responded steadily the smile still warming her face, “You mistake me, sir!” Levinia countered and kept her tone playful. It wasn’t everyday she met a man that told her she was lovely, yet wanted nothing to do with her.

“For you are looking upon a maiden that has made a vow herself,” Her voice was steady as were her eyes, “To be pure for my husband on the day of our wedding. But I apologize if that is what you believe I did.” She left it there, thinking best not to test the man with her smart tongue although she wanted too. Still, he was correct, perhaps she held his hand a bit too long, more than a couple of heartbeats at least. Her eyes followed his movements, his hands moving towards his sword but in a relaxed position. She was not afraid of him.

“And that knowledge is free. A special offer for limited times only. I am called Paladin.” Turning his eyes over the cityscape , if only to avoid contact with his newly hired tour guide, Paladin wandered the avenues of his memory. “The first, might a traveler find long term lodging? Cheap and spartan, if it should be an option.” Leading Baron into a leisurely walk, he motioned of Levina to follow.

“Paladin?” Levinia did NOT move forward when he beckoned her, instead she stood her ground. She wasn’t finished with him, nor was she some animal to be waved at and ordered around. “That is a profession, not a name. Surely your parents did not name you Paladin. But alright, if you wish to be called Paladin, then that is what I shall call you.” She nodded, “Paladin.”

Standing still, she called out before he got too far, “Ye Olde Inn, is the place you seek, Paladin!” Levinia couldn’t help the smile on her face, “And of course I shall take you there, but I must say, Paladin, you are going the wrong direction.” She grinned and motioned behind her with a thumb. “Unless you want to lead the way, but I assure you, you will not find it over there.”

The petite woman commanded a large presence. True, she wasn’t a rich lady or noble born but that did not mean she did not deserve a little respect. “Now, if you would kindly ask, as a person asks another person then, I would follow you to the ends of the earth, Paladin.” Levinia graced him with another generous smile and gave him a small little curtsey, “Shall we?” With that she turned her body slightly towards the direction they were to be going and waited for HIM to follow her. .
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