• Closed • Abduction

Sabine investigates Robert Ludwin's disappearance with a bit of help. [Vincent, Kura]

Beyond the city of Rharne lies the Stormlands, which is home to a number of farms, forests, fields, Lake Lovalus, and the River Zynyx. This subforum also includes the Stormwastes to the south.

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Sabine
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Timestamp: 20th of Zi'da, 716
Location: Ludwin Farm

”Help! Our son Robert was taken from our farm on the 2nd of Zi’da. He has brown hair, light skin, and a smile that lights up the room. Please find him and bring him home!”

Sabine chewed her lower lip as she reread the request she’d picked up from the Merchants’ Guild. “Taken.” The word disturbed her and was one of the reasons she’d asked Vincent to join her on the day trip. The boy’s parents clearly thought he had been kidnapped, not lost, and she wanted to know why - though she already had her theories. Robert wasn’t the only child listed on the job board, after all; two others were also mentioned as having gone missing from nearby farms, all just a half-day’s ride from Rharne.

If that wasn’t a pattern, she didn’t know what was.

An impatient whinny pulled her from her thoughts.

“Easy, girl.” Sabine stuffed the request into her pocket with one hand and tightened her grip on her horse’s reins with the other. She gave the brown mare a soothing pat before tying its reins to the fence post on the edge of Ludwin Farm and turning to look at the property. A red brick house and large wooden barn sat stoically in its center, surrounded by wheat fields whose golden stalks whispered to each other as they wavered in the breeze. Fluffy white clouds broke up the bright blue sky, and the afternoon sun cast long shadows along the bordering fence.

It was like a painting.

She might even have enjoyed it if not for their mission.

When Vincent finished tying the reins of his own horse, Sabine would meet his eyes and offer him a small smile. “You ready?” If he agreed, she’d begin the short trek towards the farmhouse.

As she approached the front porch, Sabine tugged her leather jacket tighter to her frame and pushed her braids behind her shoulder. She glanced back at Vincent, gave him a tiny nod, and raised her fist to knock.

After a short wait, a tall, pot-bellied man with tired eyes and drooping jowls opened the door and squinted at them from the shadows of his home.

“Mr. Ludwin?” Sabine stuck out her hand. “I’m Sabine Qe’azour, and this is Vincent Gray. We’re here about Robert’s disappearance.”

The man stared at her as if he didn’t quite understand. “My boy’s been gone for eighteen trials,” he said, “and you mercenaries keep comin’ 'round. Why won’t you let us grieve in peace?”

She frowned and shoved her hands into her pockets. “Sir, we just want to help-”

“Help? Help means getting off my family’s farm and leaving us the heck alone.”

Sabine stumbled back as the door slammed shut. Her face grew red with irritation and her eyes narrowed. Without saying a word, she would raise her fist to knock again with increasing insistence if Vincent didn’t step in to stop her.
Last edited by Sabine on Sat Jun 10, 2017 6:40 pm, edited 15 times in total. word count: 523
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The journey out into the Stormlands of Rharne was a mild, and uneventful thing. Most of Vincent's time was spent on horse back, watching the surrounding area, and taking in everything it had to offer. Which, for the most parts were endless fields of wheat, separated here and there by a small patch of trees that the called forests in these parts. Otherwise the rest of his time was spent talking with Sabine about why she'd asked for his help, finding a missing child.

The thought sat heavy on his mind, and in his heart, but he couldn't help feeling it was a lost cause at this point. From what information they had the child had been missing for more than a dozen trials, and there was precious little info to go off of in the way of leads. Vincent couldn't bring himself to tell Sabine, but he felt that if the child wasn't already leagues away in some slavers cage, he was probably dead.

As the two finally came within sight of their destination, a small farm a few hours out from the city proper, Vincent sat a little straighter in his saddle. The horse he rode was borrowed, and though it wasn't Star, he seemed to handle well enough, even under the burden of Vincent and his armor. The same plate that Ethelynda had gifted to him a season prior when he had joined the forces of the Allied Immortals. He hadn't donned the armor since his return to Rharne, and had seen this as a good reason to take it off the rack. Though the day was mild enough, between the sun and the armor, it had become a bit warm with the confines of his helmet, which now rested on the pommel of his saddle.

As Sabine dismounted, Vincent followed suit. Sliding from his horse and landing, make a little noise but not as much as one would expect from the look of the armor. Again, Vincent had to marvel at the craftsmanship of the armor. It fit him perfectly, moved like a second layer and was tougher than anything he'd ever worn. Again, he reminded himself to thank the grumpy old smith next time they met. As Sabine approached the door, Vincent stayed with the horses, and though he caught all of what the man said to Sabine, he couldn't help but fell a stab of sympathy at the ache in the man's voice. Vincent knew that pain, the pain of losing someone you loved and knowing you'll never see them again. At the sharp crack of the door being slammed in Sabine's face, Vincent was pulled from his thoughts. Looking up he locked gazes with a small pair of green eyes peering out from the barn before he heard a small gasp and their disappearance. Vincent smiled softly, before turning and gently taking Sabine by the wrist as she went to knock on the door again, this time that stubborn fire in her eyes.

"Peace, Sabine." Vincent said calmly and quietly close to her ear, so only she should be able to hear. "They are not the only one's here with whom we can speak." Vincent continued, nodding gently in the direction of the barn, and its slightly opened doors. "Come." Vincent beckoned as he began towards the barn. If Sabine didn't follow after, he would wait at the barn doors a few trills until she did. If she refused to follow at all, Vincent would head in by himself.

"Hello? Is anyone here." Vincent called softly into the barn, though there was no response. "My name is Vincent, Vincent Gray. I promise I mean you know harm, me and my companion are here to help find Robert." Still no response. With that Vincent let out a sigh, and gave a small shrug. He wasn't going to force the issue. As Vincent began to turn back towards the barn entrance a small noise followed by a voice almost as small stopped him.

"You're trying to find Robert?" As Vincent turned, he saw the the voice belonged to a small girl, no more than eight arcs of age. She was dressed in a decently made skirt and blouse and clutched tightly to a small stuff bird. Vincent smiled down at the girl.

"That's the plan." Vincent answered as he turned back towards the girl. Taking two slow steps Vincent brought himself a little close to the girl but kept a comfortable distance. Then knelt, bringing himself closer to the girls eye level. "My names Vincent." He said, introducing himself again. If Sabine had followed him in he would introduce her as well. "What's your name?"

"Margret, but I like Maggie." The girl said, hugging the bird a little tighter to her chest. After a few trills she went on. "Why are you looking for Robert, Lord Vincent. My parents were told it was useless now, it had been too long since he'd gone missing." She said tears, beginning to fill her eyes.

Vincent could help the small smile that touched his lips as the girl called him 'Lord'. Though it swiftly faded, as the tears in the girls eyes begin to well up. "Well, we came because my companion doesn't believe it's too late, and I can because I believe her. That, and because I'm not a Lord, Maggie." Vincent said he voice still soft, "Do you know see this shield here, or my chest." Vincent continued running a gauntlet covered hand over the Taithir shield that was carved into his chest. The small girl nodded, sniffing back her tears as she did. "Do you know what it is?" He asked.

"No." Maggie answered, shaking he head slightly from side to side, sending her shoulder length hair back and forth.

"Do you know of the Immortal Ethelynda?" The small girl nodded, slowly. "This is her symbol, as is this..." Vincent said as he pulled the gauntlet off he right hand. Showing the small girl the Taithir Blessing that marked his right hand. "They are gifts from her to help protect others. Like Robert, and you, and your family." Vincent continued, the girl reaching out to trace a small finger along the lines of the Blessing on his hands. "Do you think you could help us?" Vincent asked gently "We're just trying to figure out a good place to start looking."
Last edited by Vincent D'Ordyn on Sun Jun 11, 2017 11:05 pm, edited 3 times in total. word count: 1088
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A mile and a half north of the vineyard she suspected housed the missing children, Kura stumbled across another farm, one she suspected was the Ludwin farm. "Others here, Kura. Mercenaries." Speck said, and Kura slowed, considering how to act. It wasn't that she had a problem sharing the reward, far from it, but she knew the nature of some mercenaries was more selfish than her own.

"Listen in, Speck. Tell me what you hear." she said, stopping for a moment and lighting her pipe as she waited for the owl to report back.

"The father turned them away. Says mercs can't help. They're going to the barn." Speck said and Kura sighed. Reactions born of pain she could understand, but she would never understand why people would just give up hope like that. "Man says he's a shield-bearer." Speck said and Kura immediately started moving again, though she stayed on the way towards the house. Not many would claim to bear the Shield of Taithir and lie about it, but she'd let him deal with people who still wanted to find Robert Ludwin. Kura would deal with the father.

She reached the door of the house and knocked. A tall man opened the door and scowled at her, with her armor and her bow and her wolf. "Another mercenary? Leave us be!" he snarled and moved to shut the door, though Kura raised a hand to keep it open. "Why should I listen to another one of you glory seekers?" he snarled, still trying to shut the door.

"Three reasons, Mister Ludwin." she said pleasantly. Ludwin stopped trying to shut the door on her for a moment. "First, I specialize in findin' trails that nobody else can. Second, I already have a lead." she said, her tone still pleasant. "Third is that the Ambrose family already contracted me to find their daughter." she said, before smiling widely at Ludwin. "They haven't given up on their child the way you have, you see." she said, causing Ludwin roar in sudden rage and launch himself at her.

Kura had anticipated the rush and let him push her back. "How dare you accuse me of giving up on my son! He's my child, my little boy! I searched for him myself! Ten Trials I searched and looked, and no trace! I won't have some pale Imperial strumpet telling me I gave up on Robert when I had too look after my wife, my daughter, see that they survived!" he shouted, still gripping her shoulders.

"I know you can't find him, Mr. Ludwin. Not and protect your family. But why stop me and the others from lookin'? You're a farmer, we do this sorta thing for a livin'." Kura said, her voice still calm, still quiet.

Ludwin stared at her in shock for a moment, then let out a choked sob. "Because he can't be alive still. I can't keep giving my family false hope." he said, his voice broken.

Kura reached up and patted him on the shoulder. "I won't pretend I know he's alive. But I've saved others who went missin' far longer." she said, her tone gentle. "Let us try, Mr. Ludwin. Even if we can't bring him back alive, don't you want to know that no one elses children will suffer the same fate?"

Ludwin stared at her for a long moment, then let her go and stepped aside. "Where do you want to start looking?" he asked, his voice still hopeless, but calmer.

"His room. If there's a trail for me to be followin', that's where I'll be findin' it." she said, before looking at the barn. "And the two from before are still tryin' to find any way they can to help find your son, so perhaps invite them to tag along?" she asked, her tone calm.
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Her eyes flashed as Vincent caught her wrist before she could knock again. She opened her mouth to tell him off, but he beat her to it. “It’s not my fault the man’s being completely unreasonable,” she grumbled, not bothering to temper her volume. “What kind of father gives up on finding their child?” She glared at the door, as if attempting to burn a hole through the wood.

Vincent, however, had not given up. After a few more quiet words, he dropped her wrist and began to move towards the barn. Sabine released a heavy sigh. Her gaze shifted from the door to the barn and back again before she finally followed after him.

“Fine. We’ll do it your way,” she said, quieter this time, as she passed by him and made her way through the barn doors. She didn’t go far, stopping after a few steps to let Vincent take the lead. He seemed to move and speak cautiously, afraid to scare away whomever he had seen. His caution transferred to her, and she instinctively found herself holding her breath as she scanned the barn for a face or a foot or anything that might give away the location of their informant.

Nothing.

Nothing, at least, until a child’s voice piped up. A girl, perhaps seven or eight arcs old, with shoulder-length brown hair and a simple skirt and blouse. The stuffed bird she held clutched to her chest seemed to be a protection, a source of security. Sabine could understand. In some ways, Vincent was that for her.

Not that she would ever admit it out loud.

She didn’t speak when Vincent knelt before the girl. Instead, she crossed her arms and leaned back against the barn wall, moving only to give the girl a small smile when she was introduced. She was still stinging from her interactions with the man who was, presumably, Maggie’s father, and she didn’t trust herself to be the calm voice that the girl no doubt needed. The feeling was further solidified when Maggie referred to looking for her brother as ‘useless’.

Her jaw tightened. ‘Useless.’ How could they have given up hope so easily? And to tell that to their daughter? Eighteen trials was a long time, yes, but there was no evidence that the boy was not alive. And even if he wasn’t, wouldn’t it be better for them to know for sure than to guess?

Sabine’s expression softened only when Vincent began to explain why they’d come. She watched as he gestured to the shield on his chest and then pulled off his gauntlet to reveal the mark on his hand.

Ethelynda’s mark.

Ethelynda’s shield.

The Immortal was still on Sabine’s shit list for letting Vincent leave for the war without her, but that didn’t make her feel any less grateful for the armour that Ethelynda had given him. It had, after all, brought him home alive.

Maggie clutched her stuffed duck closer to her and continued to trace the mark on Vincent’s right hand. “Robbie likes adventures,” she said after a moment’s hesitation. “He likes to go to the wheat fields and say he’s a Lightning Knight. Sometimes he lets me come along, but not…”

The girl trailed off as shouts were heard from the farmhouse, followed by a calmer, but unfamiliar, voice. If Vincent glanced back at her, Sabine would shake her head and gesture for him to stay with Maggie - though whether or not he listened remained to be seen. She pushed off the wall and slipped out of the barn. Her right hand tightened over the sheathed dagger at her belt and her movements were slow and careful.

Outside of the farmhouse, Maggie’s father stood gripping a tall, black-haired woman by the shoulders and shouted into her face. But it wasn’t the overreaction that caught Sabine’s eye - it was the large black wolf that stood at the woman’s side. It seemed tame enough, almost like an oversized dog, but what it seemed and what it was could easily be too different things.

Had it not been for the conversation that was being yelled across the yard, she might have returned to the barn. But it was the conversation that made her stay - more talk about the man’s missing son. The woman was trying to convince Robert’s father to let her search for him and, by the looks of it, she was doing a far better job than Sabine. A begrudging admiration had just about bloomed when the woman shifted the conversation topic and glanced towards the barn.

Sabine narrowed her eyes.

“Tag along? Seriously?” Her voice carried across the grass to reach the pair on the porch, and would float back into the barn if Vincent hadn’t already joined her. She stepped forward, though made sure to keep a good distance between herself and the wolf. “There are better ways to ask if you can help us, you know. Maybe start with a name or, like, a polite handshake.”
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Vincent nodded to Sabine as she went to check on the commotion coming from outside the barn. Looking back to the little girl Vincent smiled warmly. "Lets go see what all the fuss is about, hmm?" Vincent asked holding his hand out to Maggie as he stood. After a moments hesitance she took his hand and the walked to the barn doors and followed behind Sabine. Vincent's eyes quickly took in the scene, the father, the woman he held, her bow, and the wolf standing only a few paces off.

Subtly Vincent placed himself between the woman, the wolf, and the little girl who practically clutched to his hand. "Well met." Vincent started, a sincere smile on his face as spoke. "My partner makes a fair point about manners, though seems to have missed the irony of her own statement. My name is Vincent, and you are?" Vincent continue, his free hand resting casually on the hilt of one of his swords.

If Sabine gave him a look, he simply smile at her and nod to the newcomer, as if encouraging her to introduce herself. It was almost humerus to watch someone other than himself ruffle Sabine's feathers in such a manner. Though no matter how casual and welcoming Vincent may seem, anyone who truly knew combat could tell he was ready to move should things get messy.
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Kura looked over as a voice sounded from the direction of the barn and raised an eyebrow at the womans outburst, before smiling at Vincent. "Fair enough, I simply wasn't sure if you were out here when I said it. My name's Kura Mareth, a mercenary like yourselves." she said, walking up to the Vincent and shaking his hand. Phelan followed along quietly behind her. Once introductions were made, she followed Mr. Ludwin into Roberts room. Like Nala's room, it hadn't been touched much. It was too soon, she supposed. Still, she was glad of it, as she stepped aside to let Phelan in. This time, it didn't take long for the wolf to pick up Roberts scent. Once the wolf had it, Kura sent him to scout around the edges of the farm, looking for the most recent scent.

While the wolf did that, she turned to Roberts father. "Mr. Ludwin, this may seem like an odd question. Did Robert everyplay to the south very often? Or travel there with you?" she asked, her tone intent. When Robert shook his head, Kura's expression tightened. Shortly afterward, Phelan returned and told her that yes, the most recent trail looked to be heading south. "And here I hoped I was wrong." she muttered before turning to Vincent and Sabine. "You two want to work together on this, then? We'll probably get it done faster." she said, grinning slightly.
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Vincent’s words followed her own, though they were not quite the support she had hoped they would be. She couldn’t help but roll her eyes as he slid in a sideways remark about her own manners before introducing himself to the woman at the door.

Ugh.

“Sabine,” she said curtly, lining her own introduction with as much resentment and displeasure as she could muster.

The woman, Kura, went on to share her own name and confirm she was a mercenary – though her words seemed to be directed entirely towards Vincent. It was as if Sabine had said nothing at all or, perhaps, as if she did not even exist. This theory was given more weight when Kura stepped off the porch and greeted Vincent, and only Vincent, with a handshake.

Sabine’s jaw twitched.

She cleared her throat to confirm that she had not turned completely invisible over the past few bits, and would shoot Vincent a look of deep incredulity if he happened to glance her way. Still, she dropped her hand from her dagger when it became apparent that the woman and her wolf offered no further threat aside from the one made to her ego.

“Maggie!” Mr. Ludwin’s sharp voice carried from the porch as he realized his daughter was caught between all three mercenaries. “Maggie, come here this instant.”

The young girl glanced up at Vincent apologetically and would pull her hand from his, if he let her. She would step slowly and wide-eyed around the wolf before sprinting up the porch and into her father’s arms.

“If yer ready, I’ll show you Robert’s room,” Mr. Ludwin said as he balanced his daughter in his arms. Though he spoke only to Kura, he wouldn’t stop Vincent or Sabine from following them both through his darkened home and into Robert’s room.

And follow, she did. After waiting to confirm if Vincent was coming, Sabine would follow closely behind Kura and her oddly submissive wolf. Her irritation with the woman was barely hidden, and Vincent would be sure to notice it if he were paying attention. Kura, too, might sense the surliness that radiated from Sabine in her movements and her breath, though it might be less obvious who the source of her discontent truly was.

As they moved further into the home, however, Sabine’s gaze passed over the human-shaped lump on the farmer’s couch. The blanket shifted, and a thirty-something woman came into view. The woman had dark shadows under her eyes and her hair was in knots.

Robert’s mother, Sabine guessed.

If Vincent had joined them, she would glance at him to see if he would follow Kura and Mr. Ludwin to Robert’s room or if he would remain with her. Whatever he decided, Sabine would break off from the group and step further into the living room as Kura and her wolf continued on.

“Mrs. Ludwin?” Sabine’s face softened as the woman glanced up at her with red-rimmed eyes. “My name’s Sabine Qe’azour. I’m wondering if you could tell me a bit more about your son – about Robert.”

The woman furrowed her brow. “John’s letting you look for him?”

“Yes, your husband’s agreed to let us help,” Sabine said quietly. “Do you mind if I sit?”

Mrs. Ludwin nodded and shifted up on the couch so she was seated facing Sabine.

“Would you tell me a bit about Robert?” Sabine asked. “What does he look like?”

“He’s seven…” Mrs. Ludwin trailed off, as if unused to speaking. She cleared her throat and started again. “He’s seven arcs old,” she said. “He’s a skinny boy, and tall for his age. He has my brown hair and his father’s green eyes. A long nose, and lots of freckles, my Robbie…”

Sabine nodded and rested a reassuring hand on the woman’s leg. Behind her, Kura’s wolf trotted out of Robert’s room and through the front door. “Do you remember what he was wearing when he went missing?”

Mrs. Ludwin’s eyes grew foggy. “Yes…”

“Could you tell me? It might help us find him.”

“He was wearing… he was wearing his favourite blue shirt. It was a cotton long-sleeve, so he wouldn’t get cold. And he had… he had on brown trousers. Dark brown, like the bark of an elm. And boots. Work boots that he sometimes wears when he follows his father around the farm, you know.” She hesitated. “Followed…”

“Follows,” Sabine corrected. Her voice was firm, but not unkind. “Is there anything else you can tell me about your son? Things he liked to do? See? Eat? Did he know the area well?”

“He knew the area well,” Mrs. Ludwin said slowly. “He’s quite the explorer, my Robbie…”

A small frown settled on Sabine's lips as the woman seemed to grow weary from the questions. She hesitated, opened her mouth to press, and then released a breath instead. “Thank you, Mrs. Ludwin,” she said.

I promise I’ll find your son.

“Thank you, dear…”

The wolf returned and, with it, so did Sabine. She gave Robert’s mother one last glance before following the wolf back to Kura – and perhaps to Vincent, if he had chosen to stay. Rather than respond to Kura’s question, however, she crossed her arms and shifted her eyes to her friend. If he was willing to work with the mercenary, then she wouldn’t fight him. She couldn't bring herself to be selfish, not with a kid's life on the line.

But that didn’t mean she had to like it.
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One of Vincent's eyebrows rose as the woman walked up and introduced herself. Kura, was the name she gave, and shortly after she turned and followed the patriarch of the family back into the farmhouse, after he had called Maggie back to him.

Sabine followed closely behind the woman back into the house, stopping only once to glance over her shoulder at Vincent. When she did, he waved her on. "I'll see to the horses, and our gear." Vincent called out to her. Then in a slightly quieter voice added, "Try to play nice. Remember why we are here, lets not let pride keep us from finding these children." His tone was simply a reminder to Sabine, not at all chiding or demeaning.

After she had entered the house Vincent walked over to where they had their horses tied and began checking their saddle straps, starting with Sabine's mount. After he was sure they were secure he slipped an apple out of one of the pockets on her saddle and fed it to the horse while rubbing under her jaw. "Good girl." Vincent whispered to the horse, before moving on to his own.

While he was in the middle of checking his own mounts saddle straps he stopped as the wolf walked out the front door, stopped long enough to sniff at the ground for a trill, and then took off towards the south. Vincent followed the beast with a curious eye as it ran off. After a few bits, the wolf returned and again Vincent watched as the animal drew closer. Something about the animal was unsettling to him, other than the fact that it was a normally wild beast that seemed to behave better than most trained hounds he met. The way it's eyes seemed to appraise him, the same way he watched it almost as both were trying to get the measure of the other. "You are a curious one." Vincent stated as the wolf passed him and headed back into the farmhouse.

A few trill after Vincent followed the beast into the house and back into, what he assumed was the missing boys room. There he found the strange woman, Kura, talking once more with the boy's father. Patiently Vincent wait for her to finish, again talking time to study the way the wolf seemed to be focused on the words that passed between Kura and the farmer. Soon after, Sabine walked up behind him and settled into an all to familiar stance behind him. Looking over his shoulder, he gave her a small smile, before turning back to Kura as she began to speak again.

"An alliance of sorts?" Vincent said, before turning to give his companion a questioning glance. "It may not be a horrible idea. Bine?"
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Kura nodded as Vincent suggested the alliance, then glanced at his partner. "I know you don't like me much. That's up to you, but we'll get this done faster as a group than we will on our own." she said, before her look turned curious. "Are you Blessed too? Or is it just me and Vincent?" she asked, grinning slightly. Once they decided if they were working together, Kura left the house. "Speck, go scout ahead." she said, looking up the owl. Speck took off and circled the farmhouse once to gain altitude before she headed south.

Looking over at the other two, Kura grinned as Phelan started south. "Shall we, then?" she said, laughing before she started south after the wolf. As they followed Phelan, Kura looked at her companions, who were probably mounted. "Seems like we got off on the wrong foot, let's try again. My name's Kura Mareth. I'm a mercenary, specializing in tracking things that ordinary trackers might slip up on." she said, before jerking her thumb at Phelan. "That's Phelan, and the owl ahead of is Speck. Phelan is a spirit wolf, part of my Velduris Blessing, from Karem." she said, before glancing at Vincent and grinning. "Phelan would like you to know that he finds you as curious as you find him." she said, before looking back south as her expression turned serious.

"I was hoping that Robert had gone any other direction than south. I've already tracked one of the missing children, one whose been gone near thirty trials now, and her trail stopped south of the Ludwin farm. It's possible that we're dealing with someone who preys on children, rather than an isolated incident. That's part of the reason I wanted to team up. I'm not sure I'll be able to handle whatever we have to deal with entirely on my own." she said, her tone cold as she ran her fingers along her bow. She was glad it was still in near-perfect condition. She had a feeling she'd need it before the day was done.
word count: 366
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Sabine
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Posts: 461
Joined: Sun Apr 24, 2016 2:27 am
Race: Mixed Race
Profession: Investigator/Priestess
Renown: 116
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“I’m blessed with the good sense not to get involved with Immortals,” Sabine muttered petulantly. Her lips tightened, but she didn’t fight the decision to partner with the raven-haired mercenary. Kura was right, much as Sabine hated to admit it. She and Vincent had no leads to go on, aside from the handful of details given by Robbie’s mother, and Kura somehow seemed to know exactly what she was doing.

Which was, arguably, a little suspicious.

A nod of agreement was the only concession her new allies would get from Sabine before the group left the Ludwin’s home. As she followed them out, her eyes narrowed at Kura’s back.

Perhaps more than a little suspicious…

Mr. Ludwin closed the door firmly behind them as they returned to the front porch, and Sabine heard the quiet clank of a lock clicking into place. But before she could share any of the snide comments that were clambering over one another for attention, Kura called out to an owl – Speck? – who immediately took off towards the south.

Oh, perfect. The arrogant wolf woman could also talk to birds. That would make her easier to deal with. Sabine rolled her eyes and stalked towards her horse, leaving an air of irritation behind her. She untied the reins and ran a hand lightly over the brown mare’s muzzle before checking the girth on her saddle to ensure it was snug. The horse snorted, as if it could sense her discontent.

“It’s okay,” she murmured, as much to herself as the animal. “It’ll be okay.” She grasped the reins and a tuft of the horse’s mane with her left hand and, with her right, grabbed her saddle’s cantle as her foot dug deeper into the stirrup. If Vincent moved to help her, she would wave him away and use all her determination to thrust herself up and into the saddle.

A light nudge sent the horse into a slow walk. The animal wheeled around and the pair began to follow behind Kura. Sabine glanced over at Vincent to see if she could read his mood from his face and then refocused her attention on the mercenary before her.

Kura Mareth.

Sabine took note of the name – in case I have to report her to the Lightning Knights for kid-snatching – before staring at the woman’s wolf in surprise.

The woman’s… spirit wolf?

Her eyebrows raised. She had never seen a spirit animal, though they made occasional appearances in legends she'd heard told by bards and storytellers. She pursed her lips and eyed the wolf’s movements. What, exactly, made Phelan a spirit wolf? He seemed so real. Sure, it might be unusually tame, but every loping movement looked exactly how she expected.

And Velduris? Karem? Both were words she’d never heard, though her limited knowledge of Blessings helped her assign Immortal status to Karem. Her eyes would shift to Vincent to see if he knew any more than she did.

When Kura went on to describe the tracking work she’d done before meeting them at the Ludwin’s farm, Sabine’s suspicion began to fade, much to her chagrin. The mercenary wasn’t a cold-blooded kidnapper. She was just a tracker - and a good one, from the sounds of it.

“Someone who preys on children…” Sabine’s silence broke and her expression darkened. “I thought - we thought it might be something like that.” It had been her fear when she took the job, and she found herself feeling almost glad that Kura had had similar thoughts about partnering up to deal with the threat.

She could only hope that the children were still alive.

Sabine nudged her horse into a trot and moved alongside Kura. She scowled down at the woman without malice. “Get on,” she said, dropping a hand for the woman to grab and mount the horse. “We’re losing time with you walking.” If Kura agreed, Sabine would wait for her to mount before nodding at Vincent and breaking into a canter. If Kura refused, Sabine would growl in frustration and break away from the group on her own – heading south, in the same direction she’d seen Speck fly.
word count: 721
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