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The Codex Malum |::Haru::Shiva::|

Haruchai

As you wish.
Joined
Sep 27, 2011
Location
United States (CST)
In the entirety of the Prime Material Plane there are thousands of inhabited worlds. Upon those worlds live trillions of people. Each world is unique in its own way and has its own gods and pantheons. Even if they preside over these worlds by different names, in reality all these deities and powers are the same, and preside over the entire Prime Material. Throughout time there have been great struggles between these powers, and some have perished, some have been locked away, some have thrived, and others now languish. Those that have died no longer have a say and those that worship them either pray to dead gods or have turned to others to answer their prayers. Those who thrive are worshiped even now, basking in the glow of the praise they are given. Those that languish simply do not care, and their power wanes, though they are kept alive by those who still call to them. Lastly are those that have been locked away. Even in these some languish and some have died, though there are some who, though they do not thrive, seek their freedom. Ever vigilant for opportunity they test their prisons...

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On one of many unnamed worlds, insignificant in so many ways, there is still a special place. The city of Axis, which lies on the edge of Azure Bay, contains within its walls a great library. Known as The Athenaeum, this immense library is charged with gathering knowledge form all over the world, and in fact, from other worlds when possible. Most of this knowledge is contained in books, and as such, The Athenaeum has special agents, librarians, that it sends out to procure such things.

Opposite the Librarians are the Guardians. Men and woman of various abilities and skills, mostly martial in nature. As the Librarians seek their prizes they are assigned a Guardian to keep them safe. Of these Guardians, one has begin to make a name for himself. ÆÐelric, though Elric as he was known, strode confidently through the halls. He was a young man, with sun-kissed skin and a tangle of blonde hair atop his head. His eyes were piercing, and blue in color. Though he wore leather armor over his clothing, the extensive scarring on his form could not be completely hidden. It looked as if it had been done by some great clawed beast, and when asked about it Elric always changed the subject, making it clear that it was a subject he'd rather avoid. In all other ways though he was a gregarious young man. He was well built and athletic, though not overly muscular. He carried two blades on his person, both upon his back but with quite the disparity in sizes. The larger of the two seemed far too large for a man of his size to wield with any semblance of skill, yet Elric bore it upon his back without complaint.

So it was on this particular day that Elric found himself summoned to the office of the Head Librarian.

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The Head Librarian was a comely elf of unknown age, though it was readily accepted that she was several centuries old. Her raven hair and bright green eyes stood in contrast to her perfect and alabaster skin. When Elric arrived and knocked upon the door, the feminine voice on the other side bid him to enter. Her name was Norilei, or at least that was what she went by, and she was seated with one shapely leg crossed over the other, a book in her hand as it always was. Her smile was almost disarming.

"Ah, young Elric! Please, have a seat! Would you like some refreshment?" she asked as she stood, greeting him with a warm hug and that smile of hers.

The young man nodded, noting Norilei's steady heartbeat and easy demeanor. So it didn't seem he was in trouble. "I'd love whatever you have to offer, thank you." he replied politely, setting aside his swords so that he could sit. The smaller of the two, Obfula, he sat within easy reach, though the larger of the two, Praevaricatur, he leaned in a nearby corner.

As she poured some firewine for the Guardian she spoke. "We have another that we're waiting for, a Librarian you're going to be assigned to. I wanted the both of you to meet before setting out." she said, giving no hint that there was anything out of the ordinary, save for the fact that she herself was overseeing this assignment.

Elric nodded and smiled, thanking her for the wine before taking a sip. It was quite good, though Byakko spoke to him, nose wrinkling from the taste of the wine.

~How do you drink this swill? Wine! Feh! Give me a good mead or some clean crisp water!~ Byakko groused, pacing back and forth in Elric's mind. It was obvious that Byakko was restless and wanted to get started. Elric took a deep breath, steadying himself and trying to get Byakko to calm a bit. It seemed to work.

"I hope the Librarian arrives soon! Can you at least tell me who I will be watching over?" he asked, taking another drink of the wine.

Norilei turned and sat down gracefully in her chair, her eyes smiled. Her mouth moved and she seemed about to speak when there was a knock at the door...
 

Shiva the Cat

Chekhov's Mom
Joined
Jun 1, 2019
Location
US
In the newer quarter of Axis, just north of the Athenaeum on a hill overlooking the city wall and the Bronze River beyond, warm morning sunshine and a breeze off the bay were floating through the open balcony doors to the top floor of a tall, narrow rooming house and mixed with the scent of warm bread wafting up from the bakery on the ground floor. The balcony led to a large open room lined with bookshelves, tastefully decorated with maps on the pale blue walls and a beautiful compass rose rug covering the dark wood floors. In a little niche in the corner a carved sleigh bed was made so tightly the blankets might as well have been painted onto the thick, firm mattress. And against the wall under an arched window overlooking the street below, a bespectacled woman was seated at a small table, sipping a cup of fragrant spiced tea and poring through a book of shockingly terrible poetry.

In the midst of her studies, the tranquil scene was suddenly interrupted by a burst of wings through the open balcony doors. A red-beaked rook had swooped in and nearly collided with the poor inhabitant's head, narrowly dodging to the left and circling the high-ceilinged room before settling on a small bust of a beautiful elven maiden. The woman let out an annoyed huff and smoothed her hair, then immediately shut the book and removed her glasses, tucking them into a small leather case hanging off of her belt.

"Fay! Congrats! When you visit?" the rook croaked out at the woman, causing her to roll her eyes and rise to her feet to shoo the silly thing off.

"I will write you as soon as I can," she snapped at the bird, knowing it would send the message back to its mistress verbatim. Her voice was low and slightly husky, with just the hint of an accent common to those from the far side of the Midland Sea. "Now be off with you!" She made as if to strike at the rook, but it quickly let out another caw and vanished through the open balcony doors.

Honestly, Mother the woman silently groaned as she shut the doors and locked them against further intrusion. It had been more than ten years since leaving home, yet her parents always found a way to send he mother's annoying little chatterboxes after her, no matter where she might be dwelling. It was almost supernatural the way the rooks always found her, despite the fact that her mother insisted it was nothing more than good breeding and consistent training. Besides, Mrs. Macarrio always meant well, and she was so proud of her little bookworm.

Glancing in the mirror, Phaedra couldn't help but feel a little bit of pride herself. She had never really considered herself pretty, possessing a darker complexion than most of the citizens of Axis, as well as a wholly average and unremarkable figure that was neither taller nor shorter than the other human women in that part of the world, and a generally forgettable face (especially when she wore her glasses). The only feature thought she might consider pretty was her shoulder-length auburn hair that fell in smooth waves around her face, but which did have a tendency to blow about untidily while she was outside. But Phaedra always felt it was her clothing that really made her stand out amongst her neighbors and colleagues. The Librarian uniform of the Athenaeum had always suited her, especially the black coat distinguishing her as a member of the Acquisitions department. And after her last mission (fetching a rare untranslated elvish history all the way from an isolated ruin in the Wild Wood) she had been presented with the owl signet ring she had coveted ever since she'd began her career at the library. It was the ring that marked her as a Senior Librarian, answering directly to the Head herself.

Not bad for a New Port innkeeper's daughter Phaedra thought to herself just as the bells of the Athenaeum began to chime midmorning. In addition to the ring, she'd been granted a rather hefty increase in salary, which had allowed her to upgrade from her previous residence (a waterlogged little flat near the docks) to her lovely current abode. Of course, she wouldn't be spending much time in her lodgings in the future. Senior Librarians of the Acquisitions Department were always sent on the most dangerous and most difficult missions, and were often away from home. Not that she minded much; her friends were few and her family scattered all around the sea, and despite being dangerously close to thirty Phaedra showed no signs of marrying anytime soon. The closest thing she had to a lover was the bartender down at the Book and Flagon she occasionally trysted with in the wine cellar, and refused to acknowledge the rest of the time.

There was one more benefit that came with her promotion to Senior Librarian. Due to the dangerous nature of her future acquisitions, she was to be assigned a Guardian whose sole duty was to make sure she didn't do something foolish like walk off a cliff or get eaten by a dragon. Although she would never think to argue with the time-honored traditions of the Athenaeum, in truth Phaedra thought this last asset rather unnecessary. While she wasn't exactly a fighter, she had come across a weapon during her earlier travels that had always suited her quite well, and as she set about preparing to head out for the day, the librarian went to her beside table and picked up a holstered clockwork pistol. It wasn't loaded; she would never carry it through the library that way, but she did have a small box of ammunition crafted by a local powdermaster in a pouch on her belt at all times.

You're all the Guardian I need she thought to herself as she belted the holster over her shoulder. Then she pulled on her black coat despite the heat outside, and set out for the Athenaeum.

She maneuvered the streets like a native, paying no notice to the merchants or street performers, the guards or the beggars. It certainly wouldn't do for her first meeting with Norilei as a Senior Librarian to start off late, so she kept her pace light and quick, easily dodging around obstacles in her way and cutting through the occasional alley to save a few minutes. When she reached the great library, she ignored what few congratulatory greetings that drifted her way through the halls and doorways (resulting in a few whispers about how stuck up the stuffy bitch was now that she had an owl on her hand) and reached the door of Norilei's office just at the appropriate time.

After a brief knock and a musical "Come In," Phaedra opened the door and strode in with her head held high and all the dignity of a princess. She did bow respectfully to the Head Librarian and offered a cool "Good morning Madam Norilei," to her superior, but when her brown eyes shifted to the other occupant of the room she stiffened noticeably. Great, Blondie she thought skeptically as she looked over the tall man she only new by sight and whispers in the most sheltered library aisles.

Off the top of her head, Phaedra couldn't remember the fellow's name (Edward? Elwyn? Something like that), but she did know that half the women in the library were head over heels with the handsome Guardian, and more than a few claimed to know, or have known him, quite intimately. Those few Guardians Phaedra did know were a bit more respectful in their opinions, and said he was a good fighter, but something in those piercing eyes and the curve of his mouth made the Senior Librarian shiver a little, although she wasn't quite sure why.

"I suppose you must be my Guardian," she remarked, holding out a hand to the man but unable to remove the cool notes from her voice. "I'm Phaedra. Phaedra Macarrio. Nice to meet you."
 
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Haruchai

As you wish.
Joined
Sep 27, 2011
Location
United States (CST)

Standing from where he sat when he saw Norilei do the same, Elric sat down the wine on the nearby desk and turned to greet what was sure to be the Librarian. He gave a small bow as she entered, and as she addressed the Head Librarian he observed her. She smelled nice, like rosewood and lavender mixed with... old leather. A scent he was used to on many of those in The Athenaeum. Her disposition was neutral toward Norilei, but he noticed her stiffen as she turned toward him. Byakko growled softly, but Elric pushed him back. The body language of the Librarian seemed... defiant? Cold? Almost borderline hostile as she extended a hand to him. He extended his as well, the ring finger of his right hand bearing the ring that pronounced him a Guardian, much as hers spoke of her position.

Each Guardian received a different signet for their ring. Most were animals of one type or another, that spoke of their battle prowess. Those were the most common. Other popular choices were shields or runes, that showed how they protected their Wards. No animals were used twice for the rings, and Elric's was a tiger. It was a very nice ring, gold, and etched. His hand when their skin met, was gentle but calloused. This was a man that was used to hard work, or swinging a sword. He bowed his head in respect to the Librarian.

"Mistress." he said simply, formally.

Norilei, for her part, had retaken her seat and crossed those legs again, looking on with a bemused expression. This was a little odd. She expected this sort of cool attitude from Fay, or Faye, or however she spelled it. But Elric was being rather formal. He had his own little code and she'd long ago learned not to question it too much. So as their hands fell away from one another, Norilei's expression changed to something much more warm and kind as she gestured to the seat beside where Elric had sat.

"Would you like some wine, Fay" she asked, not allowing the newest Acquisition Specialist to get under her skin when such a glorious Guardian was in their presence. Even as she glanced at Elric she could see the easy smile on his face and the way his piercing blue eyes were alight as he waited for whatever news she was going to give.

Once Norilei had poured some wine for Fay, or not as the young lady preferred, she would take her seat and look at the two before her for a moment. They were the best and brightest and their best choice for this acquisition.

"It has come to the attention of the Athenaeum that there may exist a very powerful book. A book thought lost to time. A book that is legendary, and might not even have existed at all. The Codex Malum." Norilei looked between the both of them, expecting some reaction.

Elric looked toward Phaedra then back to Norilei, shaking his head a little, lost in this particular conversation. His skills did not lie in the knowledge of such things, but he had the thought that he was about to get a crash course.

Norilei looked to Phaedra, wanting to see what the girl knew, or thought she knew.
 

Shiva the Cat

Chekhov's Mom
Joined
Jun 1, 2019
Location
US
Phaedra did not shy away from shaking the Guardian's hand, although she was somewhat annoyed that he greeted her so curtly, and without giving his name no less. But a glance at his ring triggered something of a memory. Liliana sulking in the novice's dormitory, saying something or other about a tiger, another librarian teasing "They say that Elric fella fights like a tiger; does he fuck like one, Lil?" as the whole room burst into laughter. Elric. That was the Guardian's name. If his ring didn't give it away, the two swords in the room should have. There weren't many fighters at the library who could handle two weapons at once (which of course had led to more giggling innuendos from the younger librarians).

Well, if nothing else he certainly had the frame of a warrior, even if a pretty one. The calluses she felt against her fingers were not those of a scholar, constantly gripping at pencils and quills, and now that she was seeing him closer Phaedra noticed a few scars here and there, even on his face. His age was hard to tell; so was his race, for that matter. She might have guessed him to be an elf, what with his height and the smooth angles of his features, but his ears weren't pointed, and he didn't have that gentle, slightly magical aura that Norilei and the other elves seemed to radiate. If he was human, the librarian thought he must be around her own age, but while twenty-eight was young to be promoted to Senior Librarian, it wasn't uncommon for Guardians to move up the ranks much quicker. In fact, it was rare for any Guardian to remain in the corps past forty or so; many had a habit of not returning from their journeys, and those that did eventually had enough and chose to retire to a much quieter and more stationary life (with a generous pension of course).

Before Phaedra could continue the study of her Guardian, Norilei quickly got her attention with the offer of wine, which cheered the librarian somewhat, although the use of a nickname she had abhorred since childhood (and yet seemed to follow her everywhere) quickly nullified her joy.

"No thank you, Madam Librarian. I never drink on Athenaeum premeses," she explained, turning her back to Elric and standing at attention before her superior. That wasn't entirely true; she'd been known to pass a long night of study with a flask at her belt, but Phaedra certainly wasn't stupid enough to indulge her vices in front of her boss. Or a strange Guardian, for that matter.

Instead, she listened patiently to the explanation of their upcoming mission. It had been nearly a month since she had returned in her glory from the Wild Wood (which had seemed like quite a challenge at the time), and while she had enjoyed the time off to move into her new lodgings and indulge in plenty of relaxation, there was a little spark of excitement in her chest when she though of the next undertaking. In all of the years she had studied at the library, she had learned of many rare and lost texts and often dreamed of being chosen to track them down, but when The Codex Malum passed Norilei's lips, Phaedra's seemingly-perfect chilled facade suddenly cracked, and she started somewhat.

"The Codex Malum? The Book of the Necelim?" she gasped. Without knowing exactly why, she glanced towards Elric, curious at his reaction to the words. They might have been speaking Elvish for all he seemed to know though, and slightly exasperated, she turned back to Norilei. "But I thought the book was destroyed centuries ago, along with those infernal beasts. It cannot be that a copy was found?" Her mind was beginning to race. The Necelim. A race of near-immortals descended from the demon god Cel. It was nearly a thousand years since the last one had been driven from the lands surrounding the Midland Sea. The priests insisted they had all been slaughtered like the monsters they were, but the wandering storytellers Phaedra had listened to in her youth always said the Necelim were not really gone, just driven beyond the Red Waste, or possibly the Moonwreck, depending on who was doing the telling. The general consensus in those days though was that the Necelim were at best a fairy story, and at worst a long-dead nightmare that could never return.

But the Codex Malum was their holy book, and supposedly told of how to contact the demon god directly. If it truly did exist, and still existed...what did that mean to the Free People of the Midlands? What did it mean if Necelim still walked the earth?

"Madam Norilei..." Phaedra began slowly. "I mean no disrespect, but...where did the Athenaeum come by this knowledge? I know it is not like the Council to discuss these things lightly, but I find it hard to believe that a genuine Codex Malum exists, or could still exist if it ever did at all. Where do they think it is?
 

Haruchai

As you wish.
Joined
Sep 27, 2011
Location
United States (CST)

Those ice blue eyes shifted between the two women as they spoke, and he listened intently. Phaedra seemed to bristle at the nickname, and she also turned down the offer of alcohol. His brow quirked upward at the lie, though she held her face well - her scent and heartbeat gave away the falsehood. It was a little lie and not worth a confrontation or a rebuke, but he wondered why she denied it because it was so minor. Interesting.

As the conversation turned to an acquisition he definitely caught the name of the book. He knew little to nothing about this Codex, and yet his ears perked with he heard the term 'Necelim'. Everyone knew what the Necelim were, and yet they were spoken of in whispers or with amusement; beings that were the epitome of vileness, or simply tales to scare children.

As Phaedra pressed Norilei for more answers Elric's brow furrowed. Of course he was interested in the Codex itself, but his main concern was the safety of his Ward. If the Necelim were truly around, then they were sure to run into them. He would need to be well prepared.

Norilei, for her part, watched the both of them carefully, and nodded as Phaedra gave her accounting on history and the knowledge she had about the Codex. When the expected question came about the book she spread her hands.

"There are ruins far to the north of here, in Dragon Wood. One of our specialists was sent there to see if there might be anything in those ruins. We received word through powerful... magic." She said the word as if it were almost distasteful, though most would consider elves like her magical in nature themselves. Norilei continued but handed them a piece of parchment. "This was what we received, and there is no doubt that something was, or is, in those ruins."

The parchment read;

From the ruins of Lareth, this is Mateus. In my exploration of the ruins I ran across what could only be the Necelim, a
cadre of them beneath the ruins and worshiping an item of great foulness. I was only able to catch a glimpse, but
they seemed to be pages of what I could only assume is the Codex Malum. I must escape this place before I am
discovered and make my way back to The Athenaeum. We must get word to the strongest of us and....

Oh, they have found me, I will need to send this in haste. I hope this finds...

Norilei watched as it was read and she soon spoke. "The message was brief as you can see, but Mateus has not returned, and all efforts to contact him have been to no avail. This was not to be a dangerous mission, the ruins having been explored before, so no Guardian was sent with him." It was easy to detect the regret in her voice.

"Not only are you to explore the ruins of Lareth, but you are to look for Mateus, and bring him, alive or dead, back to us." she informed them, the severity of the mission now having changed again, in just an instant.

Elric frowned but nodded. He needed little time to prepare and could be ready to set out in perhaps thirty minutes. He told Phaedra as much. "I can be ready to go in short order, Mistress. My name is Elric and I am honored to be your Guardian in such an endeavor."

Then Norilei gave them further instruction. "If you do find the Codex, or pages that you believe might be from that foul grimoire, and must make a choice... you are to return with the pages." she said, making the position of The Athenaeum clear.
 

Shiva the Cat

Chekhov's Mom
Joined
Jun 1, 2019
Location
US
It may have been an odd thing for a librarian, but Phaedra was not entirely fond of reading. Oh, of course she loved a good romance or overdramatic adventure tale (a secret she had kept diligently from her colleagues for years), but she would just as soon see those stories performed down at the local play house as actually read a physical copy. All the same though, through the course of her career at the Athenaeum, the woman had discovered a good love for books in their material sense: their bindings, the type of paper used, whether it had been hand illuminated for turned out on a press, even the type of ink used. She might not have read books, but she saw them very clearly, and had learned to understand the stories of them that were not written in the words.

So when Norilei handed her the scrap of parchment, the first thing her eyes fell upon were not the words, but the edges. It was a roughly torn scrap of the type of parchment used to create blank study books in more rustic areas than Axis, but some of the older librarians were still quite fond of it in contrast to the bleached paper that came from the mills to the south. The words had been written in pencil, not ink, leaving the writing clear and painfully familiar to her.

Mateus...heavens no... Phaedra's expression twist in fear and grief as she finally read through the words. When she had first entered the Acquisitions Department, her first assignment had been to spend a year as Mateus' apprentice, and during that time she had grown exceedingly fond of the man, something that could be said for few of her acquaintance. Indeed, her attachment might have been less than professional, although before it could develop into anything as such, the year had ended and she had been reassigned to a different librarian, an obnoxiously cheerful little halfling named Azalia. Of course she still did cross paths with Mateus from time to time, but the higher a librarian's rank, the more often they were away. Thinking back now, it had been more than a year since she had happened to encounter her former teacher in a pleasant teahouse only a few blocks from the library, where they had enjoyed an hour or so of pleasant chat while Phaedra tried not to blush or stumble over her own speech.

"I promise you, Madam Librarian. I will bring Master Mateus back, no matter what," the younger woman answered in a steely voice. When Elric chimed in with an offer to help, she was tempted to roll her eyes and ask him to keep out of the matter, but in front of Norilei it didn't seem like the most appropriate gesture. Instead, she only nodded her head slightly, and turned to where a map of the Midlands was hanging on the wall. It would be hard to reach the Dragon Wood in less than a month at least. While there were plenty of ships that sailed for the north coast from Axis, very few of them stopped at the paltry fishing villages in The Fangs, where the easiest path would be to follow one of the rivers northward all the way to the woods. Going around the coast to the west would be even slower with the Bitterwood in their way. No one went into that forest, not with the strange beasts that supposedly dwelt inside waiting to tear apart and devour any wandering traveler.

She was so engrossed in plotting a route she almost didn't hear Norilei's second instruction. At the mention of the Codex Phaedra whirled around suddenly, her brown eyes wide in disbelief. "Bring it back? But that book has been banned for centuries by order of the Crown. Surely it must be destroyed?" But the look on the Head Librarian's face made it clear she was not to be disobeyed. A small pinch of alarm still picked at the back of Phaedra's mind, but she bowed to her deferentially none the less. "As you command, Madam. I will bring the book back to the Athenaeum."

When she rose again, her expression was entirely businesslike, all trace of questioning gone. "I assume I...that is, we--" she tried to keep the skepticism out of her tone as she glanced at Elric in an attempt to include him. "--should depart as soon as possible. Am I to make the arrangements myself? If so, I would ask to be excused to go to the docks and see if we might arrange passage north at the earliest opportunity."
 

Haruchai

As you wish.
Joined
Sep 27, 2011
Location
United States (CST)

Norilei nodded, both in understanding of Phaedra's concern and for the question. "If it truly is the codex, or even pages of it, then they must be destroyed. Though the Magisters believe that they may not be destroyed by purely mundane means. Thus we need them back here, and all the while we'll be looking for some means to its' destruction." she assured Phaedra.

The conviction in her voice and the change of her scent told Elric that this man, this Mateus, had meant something to her. He had acted as the man's Guardian, just once, but he had seemed a kind and reasonable man. This parchment had likely been sent through means of a Earthword spell, traveling slowly but inexorably through the ground itself all the way back to The Athenaeum. If that was how it had been done, then it would have taken at least some hours, possibly days, to get here. Mateus was most likely deceased, but they had been told to bring him back. Elric wasn't sure if this was a rescue mission, or a retrieval mission, but he admired Phaedra's dedication.

When she addressed him about transport he spoke with confidence. "I can secure transport, Mistress. It is one of my duties after all." It was true, though many Librarians liked to reserve their own means, it was still the duty of a Guardian to make sure such transport was safe, and to keep apprised of all routes. Pirates and bandits often sought to waylay travelers, and though they could usually be dealt with easily, it was sometimes better to avoid such things.

However, if Phaedra wanted to come along she was more than welcome. "If it please you I can meet you at the main entrance in short order. Say, thirty minutes? Then we can both go to the docks and see what is available." he offered. The Athenaeum kept a cadre of ships, but they were not all equal, and they still had to sometimes rely on the Harbor Master to get them a ship. This journey would be relatively routine, but Elric had a feeling that Phaedra demanded a certain amount of... accommodation. She seemed the sort anyway.
 

Shiva the Cat

Chekhov's Mom
Joined
Jun 1, 2019
Location
US
"Thank you, but that's highly unnecessary. I'm quite capable of planning our route. This is not the first journey I have undertaken," Phaedra replied, a little more coldly than she meant to. It is the first journey I've taken with a Guardian though she added silently, avoiding the disapproving gaze of the Head Librarian. Elric clearly meant nothing disrespectful by the offer of course, but she could already tell it was going to be tiresome having a shadow trailing her all the way to the Dragon Wood. She didn't really have anything against him, besides his reputation and the same disdain she felt for all particularly good-looking people, but it was well known that the Senior Librarian had not come to the Athenaeum in order to make friends.

"However," she continued, taking a deep breath and trying to force a smile for her Guardian. It did not do much for her usual pinched and annoyed expression. "If you insist, I don't see why we shouldn't go down to the docks together. If we're going to be traveling companions, I suppose we'll have to get used to one another. To start with, please just call me by my name. I don't care for all this 'Mistress' nonsense. 'Phaedra' will more than suffice...Elric." His own name passed her lips with surprising ease, but her posture was no more relaxed despite her efforts. "Thirty minutes should be plenty of time. I'll meet you at the main doors."

That matter settled, she turned her gaze back to the Head Librarian. "Was there anything else we needed to know, Madam Norilei? There are some items in my office that may be useful for our journey, and I should send off a couple letters before we leave." After all, if her mother didn't get word from her within the next week one of her damned birds would probably show up and ask about the weather while they were halfway into the Necelim's lair. That is, of course, assuming there were any Necelim at all, and that Mateus hadn't been acting under some horrific hallucinogenic influence when he sent the message.

Phaedra could believe the Necelim did exist, once upon a time. She had seen horns mounted on the walls of nobles whose ancestors had slaughtered the filth centuries earlier. And if they did once exist, it seemed reasonable a book relating to them might exist. After all, there were older volumes in the library, some more than two millennia old (and it just then occurred to her that as a Senior Librarian, she could now apply for permission to view such texts--at least she could if she weren't leaving so soon). But the idea that even one of the cursed race could have survived, and was still walking the world--in the Midlands no less!--was preposterous to her. There had to be a more logical explanation.

Well, at least that part of the journey would be interesting. Provided whatever it was wasn't too dangerous.
 

Haruchai

As you wish.
Joined
Sep 27, 2011
Location
United States (CST)

After the first mention of the Necelim Byakko had fallen silent, and Elric realized he wasn't arguing with his other half. He took this opportunity to speak to Phaedra and Norilei in those last minute details they might need. When Phaedra said to quit calling her by any title Elric nodded and said, "Understood, Phaedra." He understood, as may Librarians preferred not to be addressed so formally. He briefly thought of telling her about his true nature, but decided that could wait. Phaedra already seemed high strung, and her scents changed with her mood, more readily than others he had run across. He didn't wish to cause her any more stress.

Norilei shook her head and sat back down in her chair, spreading her hands to signal that they were dismissed and that the conversation was over. Phaedra was going to be a handful, but Elric would find that out on his own.

----------​

So it was that in just a short time Elric and Phaedra met at the main entrance of the building. Elric had grabbed his pack and was now dressed in a leather jerkin, a rather nice baldric that held both his swords, leather greaves, and some heavier and extensive poleyns that covered his knees. Heavy sandals adorned his feet instead of boots, and yet he didn't seem to question whether he should have worn any other footwear.

With a friendly smile and nod to Phaedra they set out on their way to the docks. They were, as expected, quite busy. They were at the end of Spring and heading into Summer, and business was picking up rather nicely. Elric looked over at Phaedra and asked, "Do you have a Captain you normally look for? or should we head straight to the Harbor Master?" He was unsure of her methods and wanted to avoid frustrating her any more than was necessary.
 

Shiva the Cat

Chekhov's Mom
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After she was dismissed from the Head Librarian's office, Phaedra descended the stairs without another word to Elric, making a direct line for her own office two floors down. When she was promoted, she had been offered a larger headquarters on one of the higher levels, but over the years she'd grown fond of her cramped little hole, with its long narrow window looking straight down the main road to the bay. Although the room was a bit dusty due to her absence over the past few weeks, not a single piece of paper on the desk was out of place, and every book in the shelf was painstakingly arranged in the library's numerical system. These books, unlike her personal collection, were professional in nature, and were mostly travelogues, language guides, histories, and books of maps. Reaching for her glasses case, the librarian slipped them on over her eyes and began to browse the spines, selecting those volumes she though might be of most use on her trip. As she did so, a wicked little smile crossed her lips.

May as well grab as many as we need. I'm sure Elric will be happy to carry them if they get heavy she laughed softly, stacking them neatly on a small table by the door. Once collected, she sat down at the beautifully carved desk and set about writing two letters: one to a scholar she regularly corresponded with in Mary's Crossing (a tiny little burg up the Middle River in The Fangs) who might be worth visiting en route to the Dragon Wood, and one to her parents, informing them she was going on a journey and she was under no circumstances to be disturbed. Hopefully the underline would make that point very clear to her meddling mother.

Satisfied that her business was completed, Phaedra grabbed her pile of books and loaded them carefully into a canvas bag, then locked the door behind her and went down to meet her Guardian.

She found him waiting patiently for her, dressed rather outlandishly for her taste, but then again the woman rarely wore anything other than her librarian's uniform. She did realize after a moment of meeting him she was still wearing her spectacles, and quickly removed them with a slight blush on her brown cheeks. Too many years of teasing from her siblings always made her self-conscious of her eyewear, and since she really only needed them for reading, she avoided being seen with them in public. "Well then, shall we be off?" Phaedra remarked quickly, brushing past him and heading down the street towards the docks.

"It would be nice if The Fighter Adam was in port," she sighed, scanning the docks for any sign of the merchant ship. "My younger brother is a mate on that vessel. They usually come in once a month or so, but I think we may be too early for him yet. His captain is a good man, and the passage isn't usually too expensive. Not the most comfortable accommodations of course, but they do stop in The Fangs to pick up grain and things like that for the capitol." Her lips pursed slightly as her eyes came to the end of the line of ships, not seeing the one she had hoped for. "I'm afraid that's going to be the biggest challenge if we can't take the Adam. The nearest port that sees much business on the north coast is Concord, and that's so far east..."

Brushing a strand of wind-blown hair out of her face, the librarian turned to look a little more seriously at her companion. "But you were saying that making arrangements like this is usually your duty. How would you recommend we reach the Dragon Wood?"
 

Haruchai

As you wish.
Joined
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Elric had heard of The Fighter Adam, and knew it was a good ship with a good crew. Yet he'd already been thinking about this, and there were several different routes they could take. He hadn't been aware that Phaedra had any siblings, but the fact her brother worked on that ship would certainly have made things easier. However, when she asked him what his recommendation would be he just smiled and motioned for her to follow.

The Harbor Master was a man he knew well. They'd known one another for some few years, and had a very good relationship. So Elric had no qualms about heading straight to the man's office. The door was open, as usual, and Elric knowcked on the frame as he entered, which caused the grizzled older sailor to look up.

"Elric! Been a long time my boy! Come in!" he said.

Entering the large office-like room Elric clasped hands with the man. "Good to see you again, Vaan! It's been awhile, but I finally made it back down here." he said, and then he turned to introduce his Ward. "Vaan, this is Phaedra, Phaedra this is Vaan, Harbor Master of Axis." After they had met he turned his attention back to the dark skinned man. "So The Athenaeum has sent us out on a particularly sensitive mission. We're heading to Dragon Wood."

He let that sink in as Vaan raised a brow.

"That's quite a distance, and well off the beaten path. Far north and not so much near water. What do you need from me?" Vaan asked, curious, but having an idea of what Elric might be hinting at.

"I need to know if he's back yet, and if you think he might agree to take us." Elric asked.

Vaan nodded. "He just might. I know he owes you one. Let's take a walk." With that the Harbor Master got up, ushered them out of his office and shut and locked the door behind them after putting up a small sign he'd be back shortly.

Elric smiled over at Phaedra and told her quietly, "If this works out like I think it might, I hope it impresses you." His obvious desire to please her could have been taken a couple different ways, but it seemed he was set on his course.

So, down the end of the docks they went, and took a hard right and up... and up... and up... several flights of stairs, though it all seemed to be a part of the docks themselves, with the same lumber and the same workers as they eventually found their way up to a place of the city that was fairly newly constructed. It was for the newest kinds of ships, and though most of the area was empty Vaan soon gestured out ahead of them.

"Seems she might be ready!" he exclaimed, and Elric followed his lead with a smile and pointed toward what he hoped they might take to bypass all the problems with this journey.

An Airship.

They weren't the most common thing still, but the science behind them was sound and several had made some very long voyages. They were catching on and more and more were being built and allowing further and easier travel.

"I know the vessel is tried and tested, but have no idea of he'll agree to take you, or if he does what his fare would be." Vaan warned. "But I brought you, and you can be sure he noticed. I've done what I can." Vaan shook Elric's hand again, bowed to Phaedra, and headed back down to the docks proper.

Just who the two men were referring to was not yet clear, and there were several airship captains in the city, or at least those who claimed to be. Elric eyed the machine from where they stood.

"At least it looks impressive. This is Captain Johan Berchtold's vessel. The man owes me a couple favors, so I am hoping we can cash them in." Elric told her.

About this time a hatch on the front of the ship opened, a ramp extending down to the platform above which the ship floated. Descending the ramp was an older gentleman. He was quite large, even taller than Elric, and his boots thudded heavily upon the boards.

"I saw Vaan bring you up here, you damn rascal! I suppose you';re looking for me to take you somewhere!?" the man practically bellowed as he closed the distance between them, though the volume of his voice diminished considerably as he took out the plugs he'd been wearing in his ears. His eyes took in the two of them but settled on Phaedra.

"And who might you be, little lady?" he asked.
 

Shiva the Cat

Chekhov's Mom
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Phaedra raised an eyebrow as Elric led her towards what she assumed was the Harbor Master's office. One of the first things she had learned growing up in a port town was that if you booked a ship through the Harbor Master, you paid Harbor Master prices. That was how she always kept her expenses so low (which may or may not have contributed to her rapid promotion at the Athenaeum). Paying a captain directly usually saved everyone a bit of coin, even if certain authorities considered that technically smuggling. Had that idea never occurred to her Guardian, or was he simply too moral to consider it?

Well in any case, she couldn't exactly bring up the idea now. But after a subdued introduction to the Harbor Master and some rather odd conversation between them, the librarian started to have second thoughts. "You don't need to worry about impressing me," she whispered back as they followed the Harbor Master down the docks. "As long as we can get to the Dragon Wood in one piece, as soon as possible, that's all that matters. I'll take a fishing boat if we have to. I've ridden in worse."

But the two men definitely weren't headed towards any of the fishing vessels. No, they were headed towards the strange new tower at the end of the line of docks. When she'd come back from her last journey and seen the new addition to the port, Phaedra at first had assumed it was some sort of lookout tower, or possibly the scaffolding for a new lighthouse. It was only after she'd heard the excited chatter down at the Book and Flagon and seen some of her colleagues bent over schematics at the library that she'd learned about the newest form of travel to come to Axis.

"Oh my heavens..." Phaedra gasped, her eyes widening in wonder and a little fear as she realized a floating mechanical behemoth was tethered to the new tower, like a balloon tied to a signpost. How in the world had she missed that when she first arrived? Perhaps out of habit she hadn't bothered to check. Being such a new form of travel, she had heard throughout the town that airship captains charged ridiculous fares for passengers, and as such only nobles (particularly eccentric and fearless nobles) tended to utilize them. Did Elric truly think the Athenaeum would sign off on such an expense?

Frowning a little, she tugged at his sleeve to get his attention. "Are you insane? We can't afford this. Madam Norilei is going to have our heads if we charge this to the library!" she hissed, but nonetheless continued to ascend the steps up to the vessel. Traveling on the airship might have been out of the question, but the librarian couldn't think of a good reason not to at least look the vessel over. Although she'd seen airships at a distance on a few occasions, they had always been well overhead, sometimes even barely distinguishable from the drifting birds. That was another problem with Elric's plan: while Phaedra would never admit to having a fear of heights, she did have acknowledge a small amount of anxiety at drifting hundreds of feet above ground at the mercy of the wind and some crackpot inventor who thought he could fly.

Speaking of which, when they reached the top of the tower a figure of remarkable imposition considering his apparent age emerged and greeted them far too loudly for her tastes. But when his gaze landed on her, the librarian stood up straight (and tried to avoid noticing the subtle swaying of the tower in the breeze) and looked him straight back in the eye. "Good afternoon. Captain Berchtold, I assume?" she asked, holding out a hand in greeting to him. "I'm Phaedra Macarrio. I take it you're acquainted with my Guardian here?" She inclined her head towards Elric in indication. "The Athenaeum has urgent business in the Dragon Wood, and we need to arrange passage north for the both of us right away. I don't suppose that's something you could help with?"

Am I actually considering this? Well, it didn't hurt to ask, even if a glance over the railing of the tower did cause her stomach to lurch uncomfortably. The captain would probably ask for too much money anyway, and if the trip was going to take longer than a few weeks, well then there was no point at all. She could certainly find a mail ship that could get them to the Fangs in that much time, and the sea was definitely a good deal lower than the clouds, and therefore something she knew a bit more about. But then Phaedra thought of Mateus. If he was still alive (He is still alive! He must be!) there was no time to waste. If the flying deathtrap would get her to him faster, even if she had to drain the Athenaeum's treasury, she would do it.

In the meantime, a small goggled head poked it's way out of the hatch of the airship, followed by a petite, curvaceous body barely covered in short, dirty coveralls. "Oy, Pops! Where the hell is that new compressor we just got? Second air pump down in G is dead as a St. Swiggins Day goose," a clear voice as equally loud as the captain's called out. Suddenly, a gloved hand pushed the goggles up (technically down, considering her inverted position), and a pair of green eyes squinted at the Guardian. A moment later, a high-pitched squeal escaped the girl's thin pink lips, and with the grace of an acrobat she somersaulted down the ramp after the tall bearded man. Past him, in fact, until she had rolled to her feet directly in front of the pair of visitors.

"Elric! So good to see you! Did you come all this way just to see li'l ole me? Hot damn but I missed those pretty blue eyes," she grinned, tilting her face up (and she had to do so at quite an angle; the girl only came to the middle of Elric' chest in height) and leaning absurdly close. It was only after Phaedra, staring aghast at the pair, cleared her throat that the girl seemed to notice the Guardian was not alone in his visit.

"Oh...hi..." she said in a less exuberant tone, not so much embarrassed as confused as she looked the librarian over. The green eyes darted back towards the blond man for an explanation. "Didn't realize you brought a...friend?" Her voice was hopeful, but her expression wasn't too concerned. A stiff buttoned-up librarian was hardly competition, and business was business after all. "Anyways, I'm Robin. You guys looking for a ride?" The smile crept back across her face as she caught Elric's wrist, then slid her gloved hand downward and forced her fingers between his. "I might be able to get you the special friends discount. Since we're special friends and all," Robin winked up at the man, completely happy to ignore Phaedra for the moment.
 

Haruchai

As you wish.
Joined
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Location
United States (CST)

Elric had walked along with Phaedra as the Librarian became more verbose and questioned his method. He couldn't help but smile when she asked him if he was insane. That was sometimes used to describe his kind, but then, she didn't know that, did she?

"The man owes me a favor or two. If I can't get us this ride for free then it won't cost us much." he told her, and stood to the side as she introduced herself to Johan and laid out their case.

Johan, for his part, looked toward Elric. "Cashing in, are you? I don't suppose I blame you, the Dragon Wood is quite a ways." he said, and turned back to Phaedra. He nodded. "I can help you I think. Just have to..."

He was interrupted by a busty blonde, whose eyes lit up as she saw Elric. The Guardian seemed a little embarrassed but didn't shy away as the young lady pressed close, her chest brushing against him as she commented on his eyes. Then she noticed Phaedra and Elric momentarily thought about lying, but it wasn't in his nature, not for something like this, and he shook his head as he smiled at Robin.

"She's my Ward. We're heading to the Dragon Wood for The Athenaeum." he told her, and she certainly seemed agreeable to that as she took his hand, twining her fingers with his.

Johan watched his daughter practically throw herself at Elric and sighed. He knew the Guardian well, and knew he was a good man, and though he would not have objected to his daughter getting involved, he wished she'd be a little more discreet.

"I still have the boxes of new parts on the bridge." he told his daughter, who was also a damn good engineer and mechanic. She didn't have much skill in other areas, but he trusted her implicitly to work on the ship. He then turned his attention back to Elric. "I'll take you there, no charge, but if you expect me to wait, or bring you back, that'll cost you."

Elric looked to Phaedra, as it was up to her to give the final say.
 

Shiva the Cat

Chekhov's Mom
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"How about that? No charge, Daddy says," Robin grinned as she playfully elbowed Elric in the ribs (a bit hard at that, but he could take it, she was sure). "Told you I'd get you a discount. Question is, what am I gonna get in return?" She rose up on her toes, trying to bring her face to his level, but paused when she heard a loud "Ahem" from the librarian. The mechanic rolled her eyes and released Elric's hand, then made as if to head back to the ship to continue her work.

"I'm sure we will be able to make our own arrangements for the return journey," Phaedra remarked stiffly, shifting her gaze from the blond girl to the captain. "In the meantime, I would only ask you to wait on departure until tomorrow morning. Or at the very least, this evening. There's a bit of packing that needs to be done yet, but I can be ready by sundown if necessary. I'm not sure about my Guardian though."

While Phaedra had been speaking to the captain, Robin, sure she would avoid both of their gazes, had quickly turn back and jumped just high enough to press her lips to Elric's cheek, leaving a pale pink lipstick mark against his skin. "Come find me once you're settled in. If you don't, I'll have to come find you. We'll have a bit of fun, you and me," she whispered in his ear. Then with a wink and a smile she turned and bounded back up the ramp without so much as a fare-thee-well to Phaedra. It was just as well; when the librarian looked back at her Guardian, she couldn't help but notice the mark on his cheek.

"Ah Elric...did you have any other business you needed to attend to before departing?" she asked, tapping her own cheek slightly to signal the mark to him. Although she tried to keep the disdain out of her voice, her eyes were clearly not pleased at his apparent dalliance with Captain Berchtold's daughter. So the rumors about him are true after all. What a cad...

Well, it wasn't exactly his fault, the girl had thrown herself at him quite shamelessly. At the same time though, he hadn't exactly pushed her away. Why did she find that so annoying? Probably because he wouldn't be able to protect her if he was busy chasing every skirt they passed. And that mechanic, Robin...she was going to be insufferable, Phaedra could just tell. Maybe this was a bad idea after all. Then again...there was Mateus. The librarian let out a defeated sigh. She would have to endure it for him.

She turned her gaze back to Captain Johan. "When should we be prepared to leave?" she asked, trying to keep her voice as level as possible.
 

Haruchai

As you wish.
Joined
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Location
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Startled a bit as Byakko spoke up again, Elric frowned slightly. It was evident that Byakko's focus had switched.

~A lovely female! She desires you! Mate! Mate!~

Elric tamped down the voice and smiled at Robin. Obviously he could think of a few ways to repay her, as she flirted and asked her questions, but speaking so in front of his Ward might make their already tense relationship even more tumultuous. His eyes moved to Robin though and a slight smile turned up the corners of his mouth. The interruption from Phaedra was actually welcome, and Robin let go of his hand. It was a nice reprieve in a way, but Elric's nostrils flared as he took in the scent of Robin. She was ripe to be taken and he could feel and hear Byakko's approving growl. He turned his attention to the conversation between Phaedra and Johan.

To the Captain the negotiations turned from Elric to the Librarian, and though he was doing this as a favor for the Guardian he knew that the Librarian was the one in charge.

"I can be ready to go this evening or in the morning. I'll be moored right here and ready to go, Miss Macarrio." he said, pointedly ignoring the actions of his daughter. She was fiery, like her mother, and she would do as she desired. She'd be more likely to break Elric's heart than the other way around, and his daughter had taken quite a shine to the man a couple of years ago.

The kiss on his cheek did little to quell his base desires, and his eyes sought out Robin's shapely backside as she finally would depart, and he looked to Phaedra as she spoke. Quickly wiping his cheek he shook his head.

"I'm ready to go now. So whenever you're ready." he said. He had thought their thirty minutes earlier had been for preparations, but then, as a Guardian he likely had far less to prepare than the Librarian. He had his weapons, and a goodly number of things he kept packed in the pack on his hip.

Johan bowed. "I am at your disposal." he told Phaedra, and unless asked to stay he would move back onto his ship to make small preparations.

"I'll go with you as you get prepared." Elric said, his assignment to stay with Phaedra and there was no need for her to go by herself.
 

Shiva the Cat

Chekhov's Mom
Joined
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Location
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Phaedra's eyes slipped skeptically from Elric's face to the one item of luggage he carried. Was that truly all he intended to bring with him? Was the man just forgetful, or did he make a habit of tramping through the woods with nothing but his clothes, weapons, and a smile? She sighed a little. It was a good thing she made a habit of over-preparing for every journey (heavy as it might make her worn but trusty haversack), and if they were venturing into the heart of the Dragon Wood it wasn't exactly as if they could plan on encountering an inn every night. On the bright side though, if her Guardian was bringing so few of his own belongings, he could hardly blame her for asking him to share the load of their other necessities.

"I need to go home to gather some of my own things," Phaedra said finally, turning back to the captain. "And then I think we should find a bit of dinner before setting out. Considering your generosity in taking us free of charge, it would ease my conscience if we could at least spare some of your food stores. We'll return at sundown though." she explained, offering the captain a polite little bow. "You have been too kind in offering your services to us, and I hope the debt may be repaid with as little inconvenience to yourself and your crew as possible."

She turned as if to go then, but paused in surprise at Elric's offer to accompany her home. For a moment, she considered suggesting he remain at the ship (If he's going to spend the entire company dallying with that idiot girl, he can at least do some of it out of my sight she thought with more then a little venom), then thought better of it. She was acting like a spoiled child. It was no business of hers who her Guardian spent his free time with, and long after they had disembarked the airship the two of them would still have a long road to travel. Did she really want to spend all that time annoyed with him? While the idea did have its appeal, in the long run they would need to learn to trust one another if they were to bring Mateus home safely, and trust wasn't built on harsh judgments and biting words.

"Sure, that would be all right, I suppose," Phaedra said finally, descending the stairs rather quickly and not slowing her pace until they were safely on the bottom-most dock. "I'm afraid it's a bit of a walk, and mostly uphill from here, but once we get there it shouldn't take long to get what I need. I don't typically keep clothes, or shells, or camping gear in my office at the Athenaeum you know, so a stop at home before leaving is unavoidable for me. I should also leave word with my landlady that I'm going to be away for some time." A small hint of color appeared in her cheeks, and not as a result of her rather quick pace of walking. Why was she always so awful at small talk?

"Do you live in the barracks at the Athenaeum?" she asked, wondering how he had been able to collect his gear so quickly during their brief recess from the meeting with Norilei. "I've heard some Guardians take lodgings elsewhere, but from what I've heard most choose to stay pretty close by. I can't imagine why; it seems awfully noisy. For a library, that is."

Before long they reached the rooming house, although the bakery on the ground floor was shut tight. Going around to the back of the building, Phaedra took one step on the stairs leading up to her rooms then hesitated. With only one or two exceptions (mostly her landlady and visiting relatives), she never allowed anyone into her dwelling. Even her occasional lover down at the Book and Flagon had never so much as taken a step up the staircase, let alone actually entered the door. It seemed strangely intimate to allow someone who had been a stranger to her hours ago into the librarian's sanctum, but then again it would only be for a few minutes, and they would be spending a fair amount of time together moving forward.

"You can come upstairs if you like,"
she said finally, not looking back at her Guardian. "Otherwise there's a tavern down the street where I thought we might get a bite before leaving. You can wait for me there, if you prefer." Without waiting for his answer, she quickly ascended the stairs to the very top floor, where she unlocked and disappeared through the arched door leading into her rooms.

The shining bright light of the morning had been replaced with a soft golden glow of the aging afternoon, giving the entire place a very comfortable feeling that Phaedra was a little sad to be leaving behind. But business was business, and time was not to be spared. Setting her canvas bag of books down beside a cedar trunk at the foot of her bed, she pulled a haversack nearly as long as herself out from beneath it and set about packing: a sleeping roll (Elric would be out of luck if he forgot his own, she had no plans to share hers), canvas and a little rope for a makeshift tent, a set of cooking and eating gear, a well organized medical kit and other assorted toiletries, a few writing implements, and finally the books she had taken from her office. Despite the coming summer, from what she had read of the Dragon Wood it could still be cold at night, and a set of warm-weather clothing seemed appropriate, so into the bag it went.

Lastly, went to another cedar trunk, a smaller one, nestled beneath the small writing desk she kept in the corner of the room. Inside was a large collection of small metal objects, each stamped with a number and a strange symbol on its flattened end. There were too may of the shells to bring them all in her haversack, so she needed to be selective about which ones she loaded into three smaller metal containers, and a small leather box on her belt. She also needed to be delicate about handling the ammunition; most needed a discharge from her pistol to go off, but there were a few particularly temperamental types that would certainly cause a mess if they were to explode in her dwelling.

With the shells packed away safely, Phaedra rose to her feet and took a final look around the room, wondering if there was anything she was forgetting. She had money and her pistol on her person, along with her spectacles. The key to the dwelling was in her hand, dancing slowly between her fingers as her eyes scanned the walls and furnishings thoughtfully wondering when she would return.
 

Haruchai

As you wish.
Joined
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Location
United States (CST)

"I agree." Elric said, which covered a broad base of things that Phaedra had just mentioned; going to gather her things, getting some food, and then meeting the Captain back here at sundown. He gave Johan a nod as they all parted ways, and then they were hurrying down the stairs. The pace for Phaedra was quick it seemed, as if she wished to be on the docks as quickly as possible, though Elric had little trouble keeping up.

Byakko, for his part, growled a bit as they left Robin behind, his own desire to copulate with the young fertile female having been bypassed for now.

At her question about his own living space Elric spoke up. "I live close by the barracks, but not in the barracks themselves. I have a very small and modest home just across the alleyway." he explained. It was something a few of the Guardians did. Elric had tried to live further away, but there was something almost comforting about being close to the Librarians.

The walk to Phaedra's place did not take a terribly long time and he caught her hesitation and reticence in allowing him entry. She was simply being kind, and from what he had seen so far that seemed rather out of character for her. "I'll stay here." he said, and stood guard at the bottom of the stairs, watching as she ascended quickly and then disappeared inside. His keen ears picked up a bit of movement as she went about gathering her various items, and it was several long moments before she would exit and rejoin him. She carried a large pack with her now, and he wondered why she decided to lug such a cumbersome thing around. Surely she could have gotten something like what he had.

He held out a hand to her, asking her silently if she wanted him to carry anything, and would shoulder anything she handed him without complaint and with apparent ease.

"It sounded as if you had a place in mind to eat. A favorite place perhaps? with a favorite meal before we head out?" he asked, curious as to if she did have a place, or wanted him to possible choose. There were plenty of places in the city that had excellent food, and Elric was quite voracious in his appetites. All of them.
 

Shiva the Cat

Chekhov's Mom
Joined
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Location
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Satisfied she had gathered all she would need on their journey, Phaedra finally turned her back on her home and stepped back out the doorway, locking it firmly behind her. After a brief stop on the second floor to explain to the landlady that she would be away for a few weeks at least, possibly longer, and turning over the key, she rejoined Elric at the bottom of the steps. She was somewhat surprised, but happy obliged at his offer to take her haversack for her, and she gladly handed it over.

"Careful. There's some fragile items in there. I'm afraid you'll find yourself in quite a bit of pain if they should break," she remarked, adjusting her coat more comfortably and stepping past him out into the main street. "As for the tavern, I wouldn't call it a favorite--" That would always be the dear old Rook and Vine, an ocean away in New Port. "But it's passable. The food is decent and the price isn't too bad, and the owner brews a very pleasant blackcurrant wine if you're fond of such things." A hint of a grim smile tugged at the corner of Phaedra's lips. She was going to need a healthy glass of that before she got back on board the flying coffin they would need to sail north.

The tavern she led him to was, of course, the Book and Flagon, only two blocks from her home and close in sight of the Athenaeum. Once inside, Phaedra pointedly avoided the bar itself, where a handsome lad slightly younger than herself was watching keenly at their entrance. Poor Joshua. For a moment she thought it might be polite to step aside and let him know as well that she was going to be away, but with Elric nearby it wasn't something she wanted to explain to him. Besides, the bartender would get over her absence sooner or later. He did have a wife he could fuck once in a while, after all.

Spotting a rather quiet table in the corner, the librarian quickly sat down facing the large front windows of the establishment, trusting her Guardian to keep an eye on the rest of the bar itself. "Do you ever come here?" she asked, raising her hand to flag down a passing waitress. "I know it's popular with some of the Novices and Scholars at the library, since it's so close. I don't think I've ever seen a Guardian here though. At least, not a Guardian that I've ever recognized." When the serving girl arrived, Phaedra asked for her cup of wine as well as a bowl of seafood stew.

"Excellent choice Miss Phaedra! And you sir?" the waitress asked, looking towards Elric patiently. "The stew is particularly good today, but we've got some lovely fresh fish as well. The boats are always so busy this time of year! But there's some new young veggies just in from the garden as well if you'd prefer that, and one or two chickens left that should fry up nicely, and of course you'll need some of the Misses's good bread..."

While the waitress was chattering, Phaedra couldn't help but roll her eyes slightly and gaze out the window. The streets were getting more crowded now, with scholars and librarians wrapping up at the nearby Athenaeum, and the tradespeople finishing up their business and heading home for the day. One figure in particular caught her eye though: it was a hunched over person in a dark purple cloak, the color of a bruise. The hood was pulled up over their face, and they were leaning heavily on a splintering ironwood staff. For one brief moment they stopped in front of the tavern, and while she wasn't sure the librarian could have sworn the figure had turned to look directly at her. She couldn't see a face beneath the hood, and yet she somehow seemed to feel a pair of eyes on her, boring into her with startling animosity.

Then an ice wagon passed between the figure and the tavern, breaking the spell and obscuring the cloaked person from view. After the wagon had passed, the figure was gone entirely. Phaedra frowned for a moment, then shook her head. Probably nothing more than a beggar or vagabond, but all the same she did not like the feeling the person had given her. Instead of lingering on thoughts of the stranger, she turned back towards Elric and waited for him to take his order, then decided to again try to get more than a single sentence out of so-far reticent man.

"So then...how long have you been a Guardian?" she asked, trying to sound more lighthearted than she felt. "I know I've seen you around before, but I can't recall the first time. What made you want to follow Librarians around and keep them from getting killed?"
 

Haruchai

As you wish.
Joined
Sep 27, 2011
Location
United States (CST)

As he took the bag with Phaedra's warning Elric gave a nod. He knew how to care for the fragile things that some Librarians liked to lug around with them. Phaedra seemed more well balanced than some of them, as a few he'd worked with brought quite the extensive catalog of items. The bag was hefty, to be sure, but nothing he couldn't handle, and he kept from jostling it too much.

"Oh that sounds great!" he said, as Phaedra described the place, and he let her lead the way. Sure enough it was quite nice, and a bit nicer than most places he would frequent. At least in how it looked - he had yet to speak on the fare that they offered. He shook his head as she asked if he'd ever been there. "No, but it sounds really good, and it's a bit cleaner than I am used to." he said with a chuckle. He had to agree with what she said about the Guardians. "I don't know of any Guardians that might come here, but they might. I think we might prefer a little more rough and tumble." he admitted.

Finding a place to sit Elric sat the large haversack to the side, as well as his swords. They simply weren't conducive to sitting down. At least not comfortably. They were almost immediately approached by a lovely young lady and Phaedra ordered. Then she turned to Elric. This was where things got a little embarrassing. Listening to what they had to offer, each dish sounded better than the last and Byakko made his wishes known as a pang of hunger shot through Elric, making his stomach hurt, but also give a large growl. His tanned skin didn't show that he blushed as much as it could have, but his cheeks grew hot.

"I'll take a bowl of the stew, one of your larger fresh fish, broiled, fry up one of those chickens and some of that veg, a loaf of bread, some butter and a fork and knife please. Oh! A pitcher of your finest beer as well." he said cheerfully, and the waitresses eyes widened but she jotted everything down and hurried to the back. This was when Elric noticed Phaedra's expression, and he could immediately tell something was wrong.

He had, of course, seen the hunched figure in the horribly colored cloak, but had evidently not received the same sort of feeling from it. Though he could tell something was wrong, he did not inquire, trusting his Ward to inform him if they had noticed something he had not. So he chalked up her demeanor as a bit of nervousness over her next question.

"About ten years or so. I just have a very protective streak, and this was a way to allow me to play that part and get paid for it as well." he explained. It might have sounded odd, but it was the truth. Even in this short time he'd been with Phaedra he already took his job very seriously, and was prepared to lay down his life for her if need be. You had to have that sort of attitude to be a Guardian.

About this time the door to the establishment opened, and a familiar figure strolled in. A young Librarian named Miriam. She was one of the newer Librarians, recently graduated from Scribe. She had a very happy-go-lucky sort of attitude, and loved to change the colored streak in her hair to a different hue every week or so. Her eyes were wide and bright and she at first headed toward the bar, but then she spotted Phaedra and Elric, and immediately changed course, waving to them enthusiastically. She practically bounced over.

"Hey! I heard that you had just got an assignment! SO exciting! And your very own Guardian too!" she practically squealed before she took the only other empty seat at the table. She leaned toward Phaedra, her voice dropping in volume as she asked the full-fledged Special Acquisitions Librarian, "You heard Mateus is missing, right? Are you going to try and find him?" she asked, concern evident in her expression as she looked at Phaedra from behind her spectacles.
 

Shiva the Cat

Chekhov's Mom
Joined
Jun 1, 2019
Location
US
Phaedra couldn't help but smile just a little when she realized the key to unlocking her Guardian's tongue. Mother always said the way to a man's heart was through his stomach... although for the sake of their finances she hoped Elric would be able to keep himself from falling too deeply in love with the cook. She had considered offering to pay for his meal as a friendly gesture, but not if he was going to order everything on the menu. There would be other dinners she could buy after all, hopefully when his appetite wasn't quite so voracious.

"I'd think you would try to find mercenary work, or join the army. The Athenaeum might pay well, but the Queen pays better, or so I hear," she remarked just as the serving girl returned with their drinks. And, strangely enough, a single oyster on a half shell.

"Compliments of the bartender," the waitress whispered to the librarian, causing Phaedra to groan slightly. She pushed it across the table to Elric, then took a long swig of her wine.

"All yours, if you want it. I don't fancy shellfish at the moment." An odd thing to say for someone who had ordered seafood stew, but the brown-skinned woman seemed disinclined to acknowledge the oyster further, and took another drink of wine.

It was at that moment that Miriam, of all people, decided to stroll into the bar, eliciting yet another groan another drink from Phaedra. "We should have just gone to the docks," she muttered, then forced an obviously fake smile at her colleague as she approached. "Hello there Miriam. All done with work for the day?" She gave no indication of caring what the answer to that question might be. Instead, she gestured at her Guardian seated across from her. "I take it you know Elric?"

She very pointedly avoided answering the question about their mission. It wasn't just that certain levels of discrepancy were expected among the Senior Librarians and their business. Miriam was also known among most circles at the Athenaeum as "Miriam the Mouth," and surely it would be bad enough to have her telling anyone who would listen that "Phrigid Phaedra" was seen drinking at the Book and Flagon with the playboy of the Guardians. Suddenly, their departure for the Dragon Wood couldn't come quickly enough, and Phaedra found herself hoping the journey would last long enough for all of the gossip to die down.

Luckily at that point, the serving girl returned with their food. "Oh, is there another one joining you?" she asked as she set the plates down on the table, but before Miriam could answer, Phaedra quickly raised her hand.

"No no, she was just saying hello. I think we're all set for now, thank you," the Senior Librarian insisted, reaching into the purse on her belt and fetching a coin, which she pressed urgently into the waitress' hand. With an apologetic look, she tilted her head at Miriam. "Do forgive us, but we need to eat rather quickly and then be on our way. Give my best to Azalia and the others, won't you?" she asked, cooly taking another sip of her wine as her eyes drove rather harshly into the younger librarian's skull.
 

Haruchai

As you wish.
Joined
Sep 27, 2011
Location
United States (CST)

Elric gave a shrug. "The Crown does pay well, but it's terribly boring. Or so I hear." he explained. He didn't know what he had done, but he'd noticed that little soupcon of a smile from Phaedra, and in truth he felt he wanted to please her. She was quite nice when she smiled, which he was finding to be not often.

The oyster came and he looked to the bar where he saw a young man looking their way, eyes on Phaedra. "Seems you have an admirer... Librarian." he teased, but took the oyster and slurped it down. It wasn't his favorite, but Byakko seemed to enjoy it quite well.

Miriam had sat down with them now, and he could almost feel Phaedra stiffen in her seat. An interesting reaction really, and he looked between the two. There was some prickliness from Phaedra, but that was to be expected, and as the waitress asked if there was another with them even Elric waved her off. "No, just touching base with an old friend." he said, even as Miriam smiled at Phaedra.

"Him? No, but I've heard of him. All the girls have, I think." she said with a giggle. But she shook her head. "No, no. Work for the day is just getting started really. I have to go back soon." she said, almost looking sad. Then as she was practically dismissed by Phaedra she stood and nodded. "I'll tell Azalia you said hi..." Miriam said, and turned to go, though she quickly whirled around, arm outstretched toward Phaedra... "... before I cut out her heart and eat it!" Miriam shrieked.

It all happened very fast, but luckily Byakko had been paying attention, and as Miriam had stood and turned, so had Elric. The short gladius-like sword across the small of his back drawn and moving, sparks of steel on steel as it met the wicked curved dagger in Miriam's hand just before that steel would have been driven into Phaedra's temple. But it was Miriam herself that was the most shocking. As they looked her eyes changed, the pupils becoming rectangular, like a goat's. In a flash her visage changed, though in many ways it seemed to take several moments as their surroundings slowed.

Those eyes changed, ears elongated, and horns sprouted from her head. In another moment they were face to face with a Necel. It was a female, with sallow skin, and jet black horns. She leapt back, and Elric followed, grabbing Obfula from the corner, his gladius in his off-hand now as he interposed himself between the Necel and Phaedra. About this time the waitress came from the back, carrying a large platter. The Necel hissed and made a dash for her, and Elric cursed, hoping to intercept. He was fast, so fast, and the Necel whirled to meet his blade with her own as the room erupted into chaos as Elric and the Necel did their best to kill one another...

Their movements were wickedly fast, Elric staying on the defensive for now, with so many people around. Shouting out, hoping that Phaedra heard him, he cried, "Get to the ship! Go! Now!"
 

Shiva the Cat

Chekhov's Mom
Joined
Jun 1, 2019
Location
US
One might not have expected a librarian, even a senior librarian, to have particularly good reflexes. But this wasn't Phaedra's first tavern fight, and when she saw the flash of the dagger she instantly rolled to the side and off of her chair, almost feeling the brush of the the blade's edge against her skin as she hit the floor on her hands and knees. When she looked up, she saw that Elric had successfully blocked the dagger with his own sword and was easily holding Miriam off.

Except she wasn't Miriam anymore. Like a figure freshly sculpted in clay, she seemed to grow taller and leaner, and two sweeping spiraled horns sprouted from her forhead. It cannot be... Phaedra's heart began to pound as she reached for the pistol in her holster. They aren't supposed to exist, they were never supposed to exist...

Before she could unholster the gun the Necel suddenly fell back and set her sights on the waitress. Phaedra's hand dropped and she let out a frustrated huff through clenched teeth as she got to her feet. No clear shot, and besides she had stupidly left the pistol unloaded from this morning. But Elric was already steps ahead of her, and was holding the Necel back with surprising ease. For a moment, the librarian watched him as if bewitched. He moved with more grace than she would have expected, almost like he was dancing with his two blades. Yet his motions were quick as lightning, and the fact that the Necel was keeping up with him was all the more terrifying.

It was her Guardian's shout that finally brought Phaedra back to herself. While she was reluctant to leave him behind, she understood their roles, and was sadly aware that she probably wasn't going to be much help in this particular fight. So she only nodded in assertion to him, grabbed her haversack, and made for the door. Before leaving though, she careened around the end of the bar and caught Joshua by the arm. "Get the city guard, then tell Madam Norilei at the Athenaeum what you saw," she whispered to the bartender, then before he could say anything in response she disappeared out the door.

The road from the tavern to the docks was long and slightly winding, but it was all downhill and familiar to her. When the sounds of the tavern had died down, she ducked into an alley long enough to load all three chambers of her pistol with shells. She could hear shouting in the direction she'd come from, the sounds of the city guard racing to the Book and Flagon. How long did Elric intend to stay behind? He wasn't going to actually try and kill the damned thing, was he?

After a few minutes and no sign of her Guardian, Phaedra decided to keep moving, albeit less quickly and more stealthily as she made her way to the docks. The sun had nearly set completely behind the mountains when she finally came to the tower where the airship still floated leisurely, caring nothing for the dangers and possibly reincarnated otherworldly horrors that might be dwelling in the city below. Feeling the weight of the haversack and an itch to squeeze the trigger of the pistol, the librarian cautiously ascended the stairs, looking downward frequently to ensure she hadn't been followed. She was so preoccupied with looking down she didn't notice she had nearly collided with another body when she reached the top of the platform.

"Ow! What the hell, bitch?" a familiar voice snarled. Phaedra instinctively pointed the gun in the direction of the speaker, not immediately recognizing the face of Robin, who had instantly put her hands up. "Whoa, sorry. No need to shove that in my face, honey. That's a sweet piece though, where'd you get it?"

Phaedra let out a sigh of relief and lowered the gun. "Thank heavens...you're Robin, right?"

"Yeah, that's right..."
the mechanic tilted her head confusedly, trying to place the woman across from her. "Oh! You're Elric's current gig, right? I didn't catch your name." Suddenly fresh joy entered Robin's face, and she ran to the stairwell to look down for any sign of the blond man. "Say, where is that sweet beast of a man? Pops was just wondering when y'all were going to show. I think he's itching to get on the road, so to speak."

"We...ran into trouble at dinner. We were attacked,"
Phaedra said slowly, her own gaze following Robin's in hope that Elric would appear before long.

"Attacked? And you left him there?" Robin's head snapped up and a fire was raging in her eyes. "Of all the fucking cowardly...you library types really are all the same, aren't you? Gryphon's nuts..." She quickly stomped across the platform and grabbed an exceedingly large and heavy-looking hammer from a pile of tools where she had been working previously. With another vicious glare at Phaedra, Robin rested the hammer over her shoulder and began to descend the stairs.

"Wait, where are you going?" the librarian cried in alarm.

"To save his ass, duh!" Robin called back up the stairs.
 

Haruchai

As you wish.
Joined
Sep 27, 2011
Location
United States (CST)

The Necel was fast, and though he was able to keep up Elric was close to his limit. Were it not for the innocents in the way this would be much different. His gladius sword whistled through the air, but the Necel managed to parry, turning toward the bartender as Phaedra made her way out of the bar. The Necel leaped, but Elric was right behind, blade flashing as he managed to throw the demon off course and send it crashing into the racks of bottle behind the bar, shattering them and sending glass across the floor. The people in the tavern were now fleeing, and this gave Elric more freedom.

----------
Through Elric's eyes the tiger watched. Byakko was always on alert, he and Elric working as a team, and as the Necel revealed itself the tiger growled soft and low.

The zoespiritum, which was what Elric was, and the Necelim, were mortal enemies. The Great Conflict had driven them back, but at great cost. Seeing that there would be a steep price to be paid to rid the land of the Necelim, the greatest warriors of the goodly races; men, elves, dwarves... They made a pact with Nature itself, with the Land. They would be able to call upon the power of their world, of the natural order, focusing it through themselves to combat the evil that threatened all.

Thus were the zoespiritum born.

A fusing of Nature and those that were proven worthy, the zoespiritum were everything that made the good races able to stand against the evil. But even better. Larger, faster, stronger, with a deep sense of justice and an unwavering sense of right and wrong.

As the Necel picked itself up from the floor Elric too began to change, just as the shape of Miriam had. Though it took only a moment, that scant moment in time seemed to stretch out for those who might be watching. Elric roared, throwing his face to the sky as he gained height and weight and mass. Once could see why he wore what he had chosen as it gave him room to grow and change as he gained over two feet in height, now towering at over eight feet tall. Muscles strained and grew, pulling from bone but growing ligaments and tendons anew as over a hundred pounds of muscle packed onto this larger frame. Snapping and popping accompanied the change in his limbs, his legs snapping backward, becoming digitigrade. Lastly came the fur, orange and black and white as Byakko revealed himself in his full form.

The only thing that did not change on Elric were his eyes, those piercing blue eyes.


The zoespiritum roared, a true roar this time, that reverberated through the tavern and beyond, paralyzing those black of heart with fear. Telling evil to beware.

Byakko outstretched his right hand to the side, and Praevaricatur shuddering for a moment in the corner before streaking to that outstretched hand. The blade was huge, and for those who had thought that Elric could not wield it - they were wrong. The man could, but it was not for him. Almost as tall as Elric himself, the immense greatsword felt right at home in the hand of Byakko. The edge of the blade was what lent it that name, and it was unsharpened and dull.

The keen senses of Elric were as that blade compared to Byakko, and the zoespiritum focused on his mortal enemy. Now on her feet the Necel hissed at the much larger form she now faced. "It will avail you nau.." was all she managed before Byakko was upon her, left hand clenched around her neck, able to encircle it in his powerful grip as he slammed her through the wall behind them, mortar and brick crumbling as he carried them from the tavern and to the street, slamming her to the ground as she struggled in his grasp.

He could hear her heartbeat, the wily shapeshifting demon having placed that vital organ in her thigh, affording her the benefit of living even should one crush her chest. Praevaricatur flipped easily in his hand and then drove downward, through that thigh and into the cobblestones beneath, pinning her there as she screamed in pain. He tightened his grip, cutting off that scream to a choked whimper as razor sharp claws slowly slipped from those sheathes at the tips of his fingers, drawing pinpricks of blood on her neck where he held her. He bent low, voice low and dangerous.

"Tell me what you are doing here, foul thing. Are you alone? Tell me the truth of it or I will make you an example to your kind. Lie and I will know." he hissed at her, the vile stench of her kind grating on his senses. He loosened his grip on her neck just enough to allow her to speak.

Eyes watering as she choked, the Necel smiled wickedly. "There are legions of us zoespiritum." she hissed as she accentuated his kind with contempt.

Byakko knew better, her heat, no matter how twisted, betraying her. "You lie, beast!" he said, twisting the heavy blade of his sword, horrible grating sounds of steel on rock heard beneath her as the steel of the blade ground against those stones of the road... but more importantly that steel pressed into her heart.

Those eyes of hers, those goat's eyes, widened as she tried to scream in pain, but once more Byakko tightened that grip, veins now popping out on her skin. Demons they may be, but while on this plane they were bound by the rules of it. They needed sustenance and they needed to breathe. They were unable to exist without those laws here, no matter what form they took. That sallow skin was turning color now as blood was unable to escape through Byakko's grip of steel and it began to pool in her head; behind her eyes and filling her skull.

Feebly a hand tapped his arm as she raced toward unconsciousness, and Byakko let her breathe, though did not relinquish that hold. "Speak. Bitch." he intoned, through allowing her continued existence and ready to end her unless she spoke quickly.

"Only one... Advance scout... Gain access Athenaeum.... Gather info." she gasped and Byakko knew she was telling the truth. So she was alone, but sent ahead. That meant her kind would be checking on her. They'd grow suspicious at her disappearance but it could not be helped. With a sudden wrench he twisted the blade and sliced it downward, crushing and bisecting her heart. She immediately relaxed in his grip, and letting go of the sword he grabbed her horns with both hands and twisted, snapping her neck before he twisted further and pulled, ripping her head from her shoulders, black ichor pouring out of her neck to spread in a foul pool on the street. She was dead.

Standing from where he crouched Byakko breathed deep, the air already smelling cleaner after her demise. Pulling Praevaricatur from the ground the enchanted metal of the blade shed the blood of the Necel onto the ground as it was pulled free, and Byakko gave a satisfied chuff. Turning he could see a couple of people from the tavern still lingered about and he pointed to the body. "The Athenaeum must immolate that body and the head until there is nothing but ash. Do you hear me?" Only after at least one person nodded in the affirmative did Byakko leave the body. He gathered what few things he had, and sheathed all his blades.

His Ward had done as told, so that was good. Now on high alert Byakko could feel Elric sleeping, and so, despite his appearance now, he moved swiftly to catch up with Phaedra, keeping to the rooftops, able to leap effortlessly from one to another, and despite his great size he was a blur and hardly disturbed the roof tiles as he moved. But something caught his attention.

A small female form with a large hammer, hurrying along the streets and back into the city proper. Robin. Knowing intimately the relationship between Elric and Robin, he moved to intercept, dropping off a rooftop and into her path, though a small distance ahead. Though she had not seen him before, Elric had divulged his secret to the young woman. Elric and Byakko had been very close friends with a man that she had once been engaged to. Another Guardian by the name of Grahn. He was not a zoespiritum, but he held their ideals and was passionate. They had become fast friends, and it had been a horrible blow to Elric and Byakko to learn of his passing. He had died saving his Ward and yet that had been a small consolation to Robin. Elric had checked in on her after that, and their own relationship had blossomed. There was love between them, but only as friends and sometimes lovers. They sought comfort, and solace in one another's arms. But neither of them forgot Grahn. Robin didn't need Elric to replace him, but she needed someone, and she had few friends.

Byakko spoke to her, his voice a deep but surprisingly dulcet tone, as opposed to the harshness he'd spoken with before. "Robin."
 

Shiva the Cat

Chekhov's Mom
Joined
Jun 1, 2019
Location
US
Seeing Robin strolling so casually down the steps filled Phaedra with a boiling mix of indignance, annoyance, and a little shame. Who the hell was she to wander off so casually, with nothing more than a particularly heavy stick to defend her? Impressive as the hammer was (and the petite blonde's ability to wield it despite having more curves than muscle on her body), it would be next to useless against enemies like the Necelim. And yet, the mechanic had shown more courage than she had, turning and running for safety at the first sign of danger, while Robin thought nothing of going back to help Elric.

As she watched the blond girl descend, Phaedra found herself wondering about the nature of the relationship between the two. Earlier on the docks, Elric had looked at Robin with something a good deal less than passion, but certainly warmer than indifference or even casual friendship. Robin of course had hid nothing of her feelings, if they were real. But it was hard, to reconcile a silly girl whispering in the ear of a known playboy and parting with a kiss, with the determined woman below. Perhaps Phaedra been wrong to prejudge the two of them. If there was a more serious bond between the pair that was something to be respected, although there would certainly be complications considering the librarian's own relationship to her Guardian. Still, if Elric did have loved ones (or at the very least, a loved one), it was pure selfishness to let him bare all the risks on his own. She might not have liked Robin very much, but she would never want her to suffer because Elric had died protecting his charge.

So, after setting her haversack down near Robin's tools, Phaedra quickly darted down after her, catching up with the mechanic near the harbor gates. Between her dark coloring, black cloak, and her course in the shadows she had moved almost completely unnoticed, until she yet again crashed into the blond woman's back.

"Mother of Ceto, what is wrong with you?" Robin hissed when she realized who had tailed her. "You shoulda stayed back at the ship. Fancy book girls like you don't belong in fights."

"I'm sorry, were you not just complimenting my weapon five minutes ago?"
Phaedra shot back, holding up the pistol. "I can handle myself, thank you very much."

"Look honey, a gun don't mean shit if the shooter can't even see well enough to avoid bumping into people."

"Fu--"


At that point Robin's hand suddenly covered Phaedra's mouth, silencing her before she could get the rest of the curse out. With her free hand, she gestured to a rooftop across the street, where a huge, muscular figure was silhouetted against the twilit sky. "Stay in the shadows and cover me," Robin whispered, stepping into the middle of the alley. To her surprise, the librarian nodded in agreement, vanishing into the darkness and leaving no further trace of her presence than the barely-audible clicks of the firing mechanism winding back.

To her surprise, a low voice had called out her name. It was familiar, but not in the way she had expected. She'd never heard that voice speaking directly to her before, but she could remember a night, not long before Grahn (her heart clenched even at the memory of his name) had died, when he'd slipped out of their room at an isolated inn to speak to someone who'd come looking for her. He had thought her asleep, but ever the curious one, Robin had followed after him, and seen him speaking with the huge bipedal tiger. At the time she had been astounded, but in the years since then, both Grahn and Elric had explained the beast's identity to her, although she had never formally met him.

From her hiding spot beneath the eaves of an empty warehouse, Phaedra had narrowed her eyes slightly as she took in the shape, then gasped as she realized what it was. She had heard stories of beast men, those creatures that walked and spoke like men, but with all the ferocity and bloodthirstiness of the most dangerous animals of the wild. Unlike the Necelim, there seemed to be a general consensus that such creatures did truly exist, but if they had ever lived in the Midlands they were long gone, and did not return to that part of the world.

But it was more than just the shock of seeing a beast man. Despite Robin's jibes about her eyesight and the fact that the librarian did require spectacles to read, her farsightedness was actually quite strong, and even in the dim light of the streets she could recognize the armor on the tiger's body, and the swords he carried.

"I take it you must be Byakko then," Robin's voice cut through the silence of the street. "I've heard a lot about you. Nice to finally meet you. I'd introduce myself, but I guess you already know who I am."

"Byakko?"
Phaedra whispered, but did not move from her spot. There was some comfort in seeing Robin's relaxed posture as she spoke to the beast, but that in itself raised even more questions. Who was this girl to speak to him so casually?

"Do you mind coming down from there so we can talk better? It's probably not going to be great if the city guard catches you," Robin explained. "Elric and what's-her-tits arranged with Pops to get out of the city tonight, so I'm guessing you're going to have to come too." She hesitated a moment, and her expression softened a bit from casual interest to a gentle concern. "Elric is...he's all right, right? I mean, he's with you, isn't he?"

What in the world is going on? Sensing she would not get any answers by remaining in the shadows, Phaedra suddenly stepped forward, gun lowered now, and moved beside Robin. "Ah...I would also like to know where my Guardian is," she added softly, earning herself a rather sharp look from the mechanic. The librarian ignored it though and moved even closer to the building where the tiger was perched. "Did I hear correctly? Your name is Byakko?" the woman asked. "I'm Phaedra. Can I ask how you got here? I've never seen one of your kind before. How do you know Elric?"
 

Haruchai

As you wish.
Joined
Sep 27, 2011
Location
United States (CST)

Byakko could smell and hear Phaedra as well as Robin, and there was no other option than to come clean to both of the women. He had nothing to hide, but he and Elric knew that the more people knew about them the more difficult their job might be. Most assignments were easily accomplished, for if Elric could not succeed, Byakko usually did so with ease. But now Robin had confirmation, and so would Phaedra.

As Robin confronted him he looked down at her slight form. With Elric she came up to mid chest, but with Byakko she only reached his waist. Byakko was always reminded of how small and weak human were, and the strong protective instinct in him took over. Phaedra soon stepped out to confront him as well, and the huge zoespiritum shook his head and gestured back to the shadows.

"Let us get out of the light. Too many prying eyes, though I have revealed myself already." Not only had the people at the tavern seen him, but he had given them instructions. Byakko addressed that first as he slipped easily into the shadows. One might think his size would prohibit such a thing, and for some zoespiritum it might, but he was a great cat, and stalking as well as hunting were as natural to him as breathing.

"I am zoespiritum... Elric is zoespiritum. We are one and the same. Elric now sleeps, but within me. He needed me to vanquish that Necel, and I did so. It has been slain, though the body and the head need to be reduced to ash. I left instruction with those at the tavern to do so. To tell The Athenaeum to utterly destroy it. If this is not done it might yet live."

The piercing blue eyes looked from woman to woman, and if they noticed there would be no doubt they were the same as Elric's. The human could be seen within them in many ways. He smiled softly, though they might not recognize the gesture, as it bared his teeth a bit. He knelt, though even in this position he was taller than they were, though he bowed his head. "Mistress." he intoned, addressing Phaedra and hoping to drive his point home. Unfortunately, bringing forth Byakko was easy, but shifting back to human form required a certain refractory period. It was a strain on Elric, though not on Byakko. Byakko was, in many ways, his more natural form. The tiger ring that Elric wore allowed him to go indefinitely without changing if need be, suppressing that much more powerful form so that Elric did not literally burn himself out. But now that Byakko had been unleashed, the human needed to rest before he could regain control.

Byakko stood and touched Robin's chin briefly, almost affectionately, his claws sheathed and the pads of his hands very soft. She was the only lover he had taken on a regular basis, and so, unlike Elric, there was a stronger attachment there. They had had other lovers, to be sure, but most were trysts, whereas Robin was... she was a dear and close friend. Those blue eyes were warm, but he dropped his hand and gestured back toward the docks.

"We need to get back to the ship to try and circumvent suspicion. You two should go together, and I will follow. Once Elric has rested he will come back, and I will go. That Necel was the only one here, but there are sure to be others at some point, and we need to be gone and draw them away from this place. Send word to Norilei about them so that The Athenaeum can prepare." Byakko wanted to get his Ward, and his sometimes lover, out of danger. But the more they were seen around him, in this form, the more attention they would attract.
 
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