[r.Astro] A quaint ...
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[r.Astro] A quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore

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Posted: Tue Jan 29, 2013 1:25 am
by Requiem

He was dressed like a prince, and nobody would suspect him; or, more important, nobody would find him. 

The thing about necromancers was that they- by nature- had a tendency to deal in shady affairs, to touch on matters to which no other soul would dare, to wrap themselves in swathes of death and finality and love every second of it.

Shady affairs, in turn, attracted the shadiest of people, some of whom could shed a favorable light on even a necromancer: vagabonds with desperate desires, ordinary merchants of questionable honesty, influential high-society of extremely questionable morality. They came from all classes of humanity, of all manner of backgrounds, with all manner of methods to persuade and to bribe, for a necromancer’s services were unique, hard to come by and, consequently, not all that affordable.
However, those foolish and desperate enough to contact and/or raise the dead were usually more than willing to fork out the funds.

And typically, so long as someone was willing to pay and had the necessary means to do so, a necromancer would not hesitate to perform the services that the client sought (and would leave the poor fool to deal with the consequences himself, and then be on their way).

Vitali Kristeva was no exception to any of the above, except for one small additive fact: while he was just as (if not moreso) amoral than his death-meddling kin, he possessed a sharper sense of how particular consequences unfolded and, thus, did not always see fit to play things up to the best interest of the client. Particularly not when they had a noteworthy hunger for power that should not be theirs to wield, a weakness for corruption, a finish primed to tarnish. Such traits were most commonly found in- ironically- those who already weighed heavily with power: kings and queens and the wealthy, governing families of cities and towns through the Northlands, and they weren’t hard to pick out. They were the ones who, in the deepest dark of night, arrived with a sack full of more gold than any mere commoner could dare to imagine, coming forth with their willingness to provide a very generous down payment, should their request be accepted.

In fact, the most recent fool client to approach Vitali had been so eager to have his wish fulfilled, and so confident that the necromancer simply couldn’t turn him down had paid- and handsomely- up front. And Vitali Kristeva- who was nowhere near daft enough to turn down enough currency to easily keep himself luxuriously afloat for approximately a year on the road- accepted the job.

And stole away that very same night, money securely tethered to his side underneath the long coat, without so much as a whisper of his departure or tracks to follow. 
And without fulfilling his end of the bargain.


There had been murmurings of him throughout the tavern all afternoon; not of his name, however, for he gave it to no one, not in a very long time. But even if they had known his name, he would not have registered as familiar, nor did he fit his own image anymore: his ink-black hair, once long and in a perpetual state of tangled or tousled, was now cropped to his neck, and the tattered, threadbare longcoat that had clad his medium stature for almost a decade had been discarded for a rich black blazer lined with glittering gold trim, ornate enough to be dashing but thick enough to be useful. The tailor who had crafted the suit fit for royalty had asked no questions when he had offered double the payment to have the outfit ready within a day, as he was eager to be well on his way before it finally dawned on his client that he had been cheated out of his money.
And, so as to ensure the old man’s secrecy, he’d slipped him a few extra coins before taking off into the night. 

So it was not the necromancer of whom this hostelry was full of curious murmurings, but of the unfamiliar aristocrat in his place.

“Ha’e ye seen that bloke? Th’one who been drinkin’ for hours?” One of the tavern’s regulars leaned across the counter to murmur to the Whistling Willows’ owner-and-barkeep, whisky already strong on his breath. “He been here longer th’n me, now! Hasn’t moved in hours! Maybe his ale finally took ‘im under?”

The barkeep glanced up at the man in question. While he could only see the back of his dark head from that angle, the drunk had a point: it had been a good hour, at the very least, since he’d moved a muscle. And the bar-maids must have refilled his mug five times since he’d pushed through the doors, earlier that afternoon.

“Y’think he’s some kind o’ royalty? Look at them pretty clothes. Not e’en his Lord Township comes a knockin’ on a tavern door in threads like thems!”

“I don’t know. But the clothes really aren’t my first concern.” Heaving a sigh, the barkeep walked around the counter , with every intention to attend to yet another inebriated fool who clearly didn’t have the good sense to know when enough was enough. Pretty clothes or not, no one was going to lounge about in alcohol-induced unconsciousness in his establishment.
“Come on, now. You can’t just sit here and-” No sooner did his hand encircle the rich-looking young man’s upper arm that he turned to stare at the barkeep, very much awake and- judging by the clarity of his unusually bright eyes- very aware.

“Is there a problem?” He asked in a velvet-smooth voice laced with subtle ire, looking pointedly at the hand on his arm as though he desired nothing more than to burn a hole in it.

“Oh- ah, no. No, I guess there isn’t.” Quickly unlatching his fingers, the barkeep took a step back and bowed his head in apology. “My apologies, Mister… uh…”

“Rochefort. Baron Ilium Rochefort.” Emphasis was put on the title of Baron, and Vitali looked and acted very much the part, brushing off his sleeve as though the barkeep’s fingers had sullied the fine material of his blazer. “I am traveling through your town on my way to attend some important business affairs and thought I might take some time to myself before I resume my ventures. Although, it seems as though a man isn’t permitted to enjoy a quiet afternoon in a tavern which- I have been told- is supposed to be quite reputable.”

The barkeep was positively red in the face, at this point, and wrung his hands while his flabbergasted mind raced to better this positively embarrassing (and, possibly, detrimental) situation. Should someone as affluent as a Baron spread word that his establishment was not accommodating, then the Whistling Willows would nary see another wealthy traveler walk through its doors. “Please accept my sincerest apologies, Baron. I beg your forgiveness for this misunderstanding… Here.” Before Vitali could comment, he withdrew a plain cotton handkerchief from his pocket, clean and white and looking just as neat as the day it was made. In the corner, the initials E.H. were stitched with gold thread. “Whether or not you’ve got a room for the night, take this to the hotel across town- the one with the bright green doors. It’s our best accommodations, and the lady who runs it… Well, she’s fancied me for a while, see. Show her the handkerchief and tell her that Rhys sent you, and you’ll get a room on the house. It’s the least I can do…”

“I believe the least you can do would be to waive the fees on the beverages, to top it off.” Pulling off the best aristocratic scowl he could muster, Vitali took the handkerchief and rolled his shoulders back. “Do see that this indignity does not happen again.”

More sputtered apologies followed, then faded into the background when the barkeep returned to his spot behind the counter, and the necromancer returned to what he had been so focused on as to have appeared to be asleep. The broken pocket watch in his hand- one that he had confiscated off of a recently fallen cadaver a few days back- spoke to him faintly, but not yet clearly enough to discern its story. Its previous owner simply hadn’t been dead long enough; perhaps the spirit was still stuck in a post-mortem state of denial, something not uncommon among the newly deceased.

Since he was getting nowhere with it (and probably look more than a little out of sorts, staring at a broken watch for hours), he replaced the trinket in a pocket on the inside of his blazer, contemplating refilling his mug one last time before he would be on his way. But he’d already done so about four too many times, and undoubtedly that had been the reason as to why the barkeep had wandered over in the first place (after all, it wasn’t exactly a common trait to be as impervious to the effects of alcohol as he was).

Figuring it best to stop while he was ahead, the necromancer rose and made to leave the Whistling Willows, holding his posture straight and his chin high as any aristocrat would. Really, with the right clothes and the right attitude, it wasn’t so hard to come across as one of the affluent socialites with whom he’d had many dealings in the past. As long as he was careful, nobody would suspect him as the necromancer Vitali.

At least, he had to count on that, until such a time that he left the Northlands completely. When you double-crossed people in power in this Kingdom, paving a new path was the wisest decision to make. Because if Vitali knew anything about people with more money than they had brains, it was that they did not forget.

Re: [r. Astro] A quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore...

Posted: Mon Feb 04, 2013 11:03 pm
by Astrophysicist


“’ey, lass!”

The exclamation cut through the din of friendly chatter with just enough force to quiet the room, and the black-haired young woman, her back to the speaker, halted in her tracks.

“Yeah, you.” The man, a lanky fellow whose face was more scruff than skin, glared at her drunkenly through the strands of oily yellowish hair that had fallen in his eyes. “Where y’think yer going? C’mere.”

Her face was a perfectly-sculpted mask of pale indifference as she studied him, her dark eyes unreadable in the inn’s dim light.

The middle-aged man’s lips curled back in a smile that resembled a predator’s sharp snarl, his scraggly beard parting to reveal a row of crooked teeth the same shade as his filthy locks. Sporting a tailored overcoat and a well-sewn pair of breeches tucked neatly into a pair of leather riding boots, he was dressed well despite his poor hygiene; the rings on the fingers that clasped his half-empty tankard of mead glinted with polished silver and finely-cut gems, and from the looks of his weighted pockets, he had readily-available gold to spare.

He raised the vessel and beckoned her once more with his opposite hand. Tovyn, a wry smile now twisting her pale lips, sauntered forward with an exaggerated sway. “How can I help you?” she drawled, a thick Westlands accent clinging to her syllables as tightly as the black cloth of her dress to the soft curve of her hips.

She suppressed a shiver of disgust as the man, who seemed genuinely surprised she had responded to his inebriated plea in the first place, looked her over and surfaced with a hungry grin. “Lass, y’think y’could get me another one o’ these?” he asked, swaying on his stool as he lifted his glass.

“Oh,” she breathed, feigning embarrassment as a slender hand flew to cover her heart. “I don’t work here, my lord. Shall I fetch the barkeep?” She willed a flush to her white cheeks.

The man coughed, apparently surprised that she was not an employee. “No, no,” he insisted, downing the remainder of his glass and sliding the mug away. “Don’ go. Please don’ go.” He reached out and placed a hand on her arm.

She looked up, biting back the urge to snatch her arm away and slap him across the unkempt face with a scalding hand. “My lord?” she questioned innocently, batting her lashes as she fought a wave of nausea well-hidden behind her demure act.

“What d’you say you follow me,” he said, “an’ give an ol’ nobleman a hand wiv his…” He faltered, fumbling for words. “I might need help up the stairs, aye. Spare a kindness for an old man. See him safely to his room. Lovely lass like yerself, grant a man yer company for a moment more, on’y a moment more!”

Tovyn would have laughed had she not been sickened by the thought of how many naïve young serving girls had fallen victim to his transparent lies before her, but she blushed a richer shade of crimson and nodded her acquiescence anyway, stepping back to allow him the space to regain his balance as he climbed from the stool. He steadied himself with one hand on the edge of the table and the other gripping her shoulder, his fingernails digging into the flesh above her collarbone as he straightened his posture. She smiled, looking helpless, and threaded her arm through his for support as they strode awkwardly towards the staircase.

Though she was strong for her size, she wasn’t sure she would be able to prevent a terrible stumble should the man lose his footing on the steps. She braced herself with one hand on the railing while the other supported his arm, and together they ascended, one scuffed wooden ledge at a time. As his eyes were on his feet, she grimaced, prepared to relinquish her grasp in favor of sparing herself the injury a tumble down the stairs could bring. It was bad enough that she had to endure the stench of his alcohol-saturated breath and stale, days-old cologne; it was bad enough that she had to tolerate his abysmally crude advances. She wasn’t about to sacrifice her bodily well-being for the sake of a few silver rings, a pocketful of change, and what would probably be completely useless information.

They crested the staircase with success. She followed him as he stumbled to his room and fumbled clumsily with his keys. “Would you like me to try?” she asked, trying not to cringe at the pitch of her voice.

“Would y’be a dear!” he exclaimed, thrusting the keys into her hands.

She made a face while her back was turned, sliding the key into the lock and pushing the door open with more force than was actually necessary. She turned back to him sheepishly and gestured for him to go inside. When he passed her, he brushed against her side, and she tensed. Not yet, she told herself, waiting for him to venture far enough inside that he could not avoid her. When she heard him collide with the bedframe in the darkness, she made her move—like a shadow, she removed the keys from the lock, slipped inside, and closed the door behind her.

“Lass?” the man questioned through the darkness.

Light suddenly emanated from flames in the oil lamps on either side of the straw-packed bed. Tovyn stood with her shoulder against the door, her hands clasped behind her back as she studied the confused—and, she noted with disgust, rather excited—nobleman staring at her like a startled, wide-eyed deer. “My lord,” she addressed, her voice low and pointedly lacking the accent it had worn only moments before. “Might I…inquire something of you?”

Despite her polite phrasing, her tone was decidedly more menacing now, and in the flickering flamelight of the modest inn room her black eyes glimmered with devilment. The man was clearly torn between fear and anticipation, his ale-soaked mind so stricken with the conflict that he did not move from his position seated at the end of the bed. Tovyn locked eyes with the fellow and strutted forward until she stood directly before him.

“What do you know of Pythios Charmant?” she demanded, her face lighting up with a peculiar breed of excitement as she spoke the name.

The man took a moment to register her words, then cringed. “The—the grand duke? That Charmant?” he stammered, looking more puzzled than ever. “Wha’s a maid like you wantin’ t’know about—”

“Not your concern,” Tovyn interjected fiercely, stepping closer as she leaned down to look him in the face. She smiled, perhaps a little too wickedly, and continued. “The Grand Duke Pythios Charmant. Tell me everything you know about him.”

Her tone was so insistent that he obeyed without question, spilling forth a slew of worthless information ranging from the color of the carpets that lined his walkways to the days he ventured into the reigning city to visit the palace. She waved a hand at all of it, pacing the length of the bed, then halted suddenly for one final piece to her bizarre interrogation. “And Baron Ilium Rochefort,” she purred, the impish look in her eyes only intensifying as she went on, “what do you know of him?”

“Last I heard, ’e wasn’t far from ’ere. Been causin’ a real stir. Says he’s from the North, or mebbe it was the South”—he paused in thought, then shook his head as though to clear his head of those thoughts—“but no one’s heard o’ the bastard before last fall.”

The dark-haired young woman stood a little straighter at that. Lost in thought, her eyes grew distant, but it only took a creak of the old bedframe to summon her back to reality. She looked at him curiously, then shook her head. “And to think I haven’t even asked your name!” she exclaimed. “Good night, my lord. May you sleep soundly tonight. I shouldn’t think you’ll have much difficulty.” A sly smile flickered across her face, and suddenly, with an upward flick of her wrists, the two oil lamps on either side of the room burst into raging flame. The glass of their hoods shattered instantly with the surge of blue heat, crashing to the floor in a dramatic cacophony as the room, small as it was, began to heat drastically.

A thin layer of sweat beaded on her brow which she mopped nonchalantly with her sleeve, and it wasn’t long before her drunk nobleman informant had fallen backwards to the lumpy mattress, knocked unconscious at the blow of heat and booze. She eased back the flames, allowing her just enough light by which to conduct her final perusal, and quickly set to work. Nimbly, she stripped him of his visible jewelry—the rings, the pendant around his neck—and drained the coins from his pockets. She slipped off his boots to take a silver dagger he apparently kept in a sheath within the leather at the ankles, then carefully removed his overcoat one arm at a time. She slid the tailored garment over her own petite shoulders, surveyed the room one last time, then departed the stuffy confines like a cat slinking from the scene of its most recently caught meal.

The evening was chilly when she slipped outside, but the stolen coat was more than enough to keep her warm against the mild wind of midnight. The breeze tasted of early spring, its breath holding the promise of warmth in the coming days as it staved off what lingered of the winter. She traveled quickly, stealthily; carrying little but the contents of her pockets, it was easy to make good time down the well-traveled Wealth Road that snaked its way across the countryside to intersect the landscape’s major cities. She went unnoticed to the few she passed; she lurked in the shadows of the shoulder, small enough to be completely ignored by those on horseback or who navigated in carts or carriages.

But she listened—she listened and she knew. She was small and slight and could blend into a crowd whenever she deemed it more convenient to be invisible, and that much had taught her the importance of listening to whispers over shouts. The next several days rewarded her with the murmured names of those she sought, and her search—however impossible it had seen upon embarking on the endeavor—seemed to be coming to a close against all odds. The notion brought a smile to her face.

She saw him the moment she slipped through the double doors of the tavern. Swathed in his disguise of silk and finery and shimmering gold, Vitali Klavidya sat motionless with a mug cradled in his hand, his mop of tousled dark hair concealing a face she knew bore resemblance to her own. Her heart skipped a beat as she retreated to the opposite side of the establishment, seating herself near a group of boisterous young men who hardly acknowledged her approach through their roaring conversation and throaty guffaws. Her eyes hardly left the back of her elder brother’s head as she sat, her stare only broken when a young barmaid asked for her attention.

“Lad, can I get ya a drink?” she asked.

Her gaze returning immediately to the nobly dressed figure, Tovyn nodded once, curtly. She, too, wore a disguise; dressed as a skinny young man—more a boy, really—in stolen clothes that were just slightly too large, her straight black tresses tucked carefully beneath a modest gray cap, she looked every bit the part of a common village citizen with the exception of her expensive silver-trimmed coat. She sipped her ale slowly when the barmaid returned, watching curiously as her subject of fascination was approached by the establishment owner. The loud guests to her right prevented her from hearing their exchange, but she remained where she was, silently finishing her much-desired beverage until Vitali rose to his feet to depart.

She reacted immediately, leaving a coin on the table and slipping outside with another group before Baron Ilium Rochefort could raise his proudful chin.

When at last he pushed through the doors to greet the outside air, she was waiting for him. She picked up her pace from where she stood to the side of the entrance and crossed his path abruptly, knocking into his side with enough momentum to force her to step back and away upon their collision. For a moment, she played the part—a young man lost in his own thoughts, unaware of the goings-on around him—and she coughed the beginning of an apology to hide the high pitch of her unmistakably girlish voice.

To finish, however, she looked up, meeting his gaze directly with a mischievous, knowing expression in her deep brown eyes. A smirk tugged at the corners of her lips. “Baron Klavidya,” she addressed silkily, watching the reaction of a pale face whose chiseled features were in many ways a mirror of her own. “I’ve been looking for you.”

Re: [r. Astro] A quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore...

Posted: Wed Feb 06, 2013 1:37 am
by Requiem
The stranger seemed to slink out of nowhere, depositing him-or-herself directly in his path like an obstacle that remained invisible until you walked directly into it. And while it jarred him a bit, he was naturally inclined to brush it off, especially since he had just left a tavern. The sun was hardly beginning to sink towards the west of mid-afternoon, only barely weighted by the irresistible pull of over-eager night, but it wasn’t uncommon to see a drunk or two bumble and stumble out of a pub, evicted early since they had already reached their peak in inebriation.

At least, that was what Vitali thought for a handful of seconds, perhaps. But the instant he caught a glimpse of those dark eyes, and that sparkle in them that spelled all seven letters of trouble, and the Necromancer wasn’t fooled.

The smile that pulled at the concerns of his mouth deceived his suspicion and came across as almost warm, inviting. Automatically, he caught Tovyn by the arms when she’d all but thrown their weight into him, and made as if to right her when she stumbled. “Whoa, lad- enjoyed the ale a little too much, did we?” He spoke loud enough that his voice reached the ears of bored passerbys, but not so loud as to sound as though he was exaggerating, and draped an arm around the shoulders of the too-skinny ‘young man’. “Come on now, you can’t be wandering the streets like this! What if a carriage were to hit you?”

To the people on the streets, entering and exiting shops and restaurants, it probably looked like nothing more than a charitable nobleman lending his assistance to a foolish young lad who lost count after his first mug of ale. But what they couldn’t depict was the way his fingers dug into Tovyn’s shoulder, or the force with which Vitali “guided” her away from the street, out of earshot and out of sight of the public.

And when he turned a corner of a nondescript building- one that lay in the shadows of a rather grand hotel- no one saw when his hand slid nimbly from Tovyn’s shoulder to shove her against stone-cold siding and encircle her throat.

“If you are going to use a disguise, then at least try to do it right.” He drawled and swept away her hat with the back of his hand as if to emphasize his poinr. The dark locks that spilled over her shoulders came as no surprise to him; if the airy, feminine lilt to her voice hadn’t ruined her image, then the fact that his hand could encircle her slender throat in full betrayed whatever masculine illusion she’d hope to pass off. 

But so caught up was the Necromancer in being unmasked, that the familiarity and resemblance this young woman- child, was more like it- bore went completely over his head. It didn’t register in Vitali’s mind that those dark eyes, those defined cheek bones and smug lips and the challenging quirk of her brow were all features that perceived every time he looked in a mirror.

“Who sent you? Though I suppose it probably doesn’t matter, now. And I can guess.” For she was no potential client- at least, he was willing to bet she wasn’t. “How about this? You go back and tell your employer that you’ve discovered the man he seeks has already fled to the Westlands. Do this, and I won’t bear you any ill will.” When he smiled again, it was anything but warm as his shadowed, piercing eyes bore into her own. “And believe me when I say I will know what you tell them- because everything speaks to me, young lady. So- are we in agreement?”

Re: [r. Astro] A quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore...

Posted: Wed Feb 06, 2013 8:34 pm
by Astrophysicist
The warmth in her target’s smile fooled her no more than the gilded jacket he wore over his shoulders, and she returned his grin with a broadened smirk of her own. She recognized that expression for exactly what it was—a deception, a play, a detail thrown in for the sake of the disguise. Had she the opportunity to glance in a mirror, she would have seen her own features donning precisely the same look of sugar-coated derision. He could fool her no more than she could fool herself; it was a kind of intellectual stalemate between their matched powers of observation and equal determination to advance in whatever form happened to suit them at the time, and she relished in the challenge—as she was sure did he—of impending confrontation.

His voice was so sickeningly chiding that she couldn’t help but wonder who he thought he was fooling, but as he draped his arm around her small bony shoulders and dug his fingertips pointedly into her upper arm, she realized he was no longer concerned about the distracted passersby; they were paying them little heed anyway, and even if they had, it would have been more than appropriate for a nobleman to speak down to a bumbling young man fresh from the tavern if he’d been clumsy enough to wander into a baron’s path.

Tovyn allowed herself to be guided to the space between the grandiose hotel and the nondescript neighboring structure, slipping into the shadows easily as Vitali relinquished his grip and whirled back around to pin her against the wall. She was startled for only a moment, looking up into the black-haired fellow’s eyes with more confusion than terror. Her shoulders ached where he had forced her against the sharp weathered siding, and she did her best to bite back the burn of irritation that threatened to spoil the thrill of her victory in tracking down the man who, now, was acting as her assailant.

Not that she’d expected anything different, of course.

His hands were chilly where they encircled her slender throat, but she found that it was not her personal safety that was a sudden concern—rather, it was his. She swallowed a wave of anger that had her heart racing—a quickened pulse that could easily have been interpreted as a rush of fear beneath his pressing fingers—and looked up fiercely, knowingly, into his eyes. But she smiled, shifting her position as much as his grip would allow, and spoke with words as drawling and silken as his own accusations.

“You can guess?” she purred, curling her lips to blow a strand of raven hair from her eyes after his removal of her hat caused her locks to tumble back to her shoulders. “I would like to hear your thoughts, then, Vitali Klavidya, because my guess is that a thousand years would not afford you enough time to arrive at the answer.” She cleared her throat against his palm. “I would hardly say we are in agreement, however.”

Clenching her jaw, torn between annoyance at his physical aggression and amusement at the seriousness of his expression, she willed the fire to her skin—a light scarlet flush rising to her cheeks—rendering her neck impossibly, scaldingly hot against his fingers in hopes of forcing him to withdraw his hand. She made no move to retreat, however; she held her ground, planting a hand on her hip, and arched her brows challengingly as she stepped forward towards him. “Why bother to question me if your so-mentioned everything will provide you answers that will surely fall as lies from my own lips?” she demanded, her own black, shadowed gaze just as piercing. “Your reputation may precede you, Vitali Klavidya, but your whispering skeletons do not frighten me. You will have to try another tactic if that is your intention.”

Re: [r. Astro] A quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore...

Posted: Thu Feb 07, 2013 12:26 am
by Requiem
He had made a mistake.

Vitali was clever by nature and it wasn’t often that he made the foolish mistake of underestimating anyone, for any reason. Even if the disguise they donned was poor and transparent as the smirk on their face, it was a grave and dangerous error to assume their lax effort. This girl had not bothered to mask her devious excitement in seeing through his own masquerade because her intentions lay elsewhere, vague though they might be.
And in his haste reaction to subdue her as a threat, he’d failed to affirm that she was one, at all. Arrogant, perhaps. Overconfident, but none of that necessarily made someone a threat. 

It did, however, make them intriguing.

“Yes, I can guess. Anyone can guess, my dear, with or without context. Although accuracy remains to be seen.” He shrugged his shoulders, casual and uncaring, save for the tightness around his eyes that suggested he was more unnerved than he cared to admit. “Although… I find myself reconsidering my primary assumptions. I should have known better; he wouldn’t send a little girl in my pursuit. Not even a clever one.”

Her accelerating pulse only served to emphasize his point; Charmant had far more powerful and far more capable grunts for this sort of work, and his men were not so easily intimidated as this slip of a girl who…

The Necromancer’s train of thought was suddenly interrupted when a certain drastic change in temperature flared beneath the palm of his hand. If he didn’t know better, he’d have thought—

No, he wasn’t imagining it. Her skin was growing warmer, growing hotter, hotter than what should be humanly possible. The heat crept into the vulnerable skin of his palm like a flame held too close, and when he snatched his hand away on reflex, the shiny redness of the tender flesh affirmed that she had, in fact, burned him, perhaps in every sense of the word.

“Well, well, well!” Vitali laughed, curling his now stinging palm into a fist and stuffing it into one of the pockets of the coat that was too fine for the likes of him. “That is a very pretty trick– and not one that can be learned, am I right? Because the last time I witnessed such a fascinating and unusual defense reflex, I happened to have been in the line of fire of a very upset Pyromancer– no pun intended.” His dark eyes glinted with questions as they surveyed this strange young woman with a whole new perspective. Did this waiflike creature assert such power over fire and everything hot and dangerous as did a Pyromancer? Or was she something else entirely?

After all, it wasn’t uncommon for him to encounter here and there an otherworldly, other-than-human creature. He’d already run into more than his fair share of those.

Rolling his shoulders back, he took a step away from her and motioned to the side-street with his uninjured hand. “Since I’m no longer convinced you pursue me for the same reasons as select others, I find myself willing to hear you out, if you are willing to talk. Otherwise, you are of no interest to me, and I bid you good day.” Then he paused thoughtfully, and added, “Though – should you choose to crawl back into the sunlight – do dispose of that ridiculous get-up. You aren’t fooling anyone, and the coat alone practically screams ’stolen’.”
With a sweeping, inviting gesture of his hand, Vitali stepped out of the shadows and back onto the cobblestone streets bathed in sunlight, once again resuming the posture and gait of the nobleman that he was not.

Perhaps he was rather playing with fire (again, no pun intended), walking away from someone who had seen past the rich black and gold threads of his coat, who knew his identity and his name. He was taking a gamble; but he was apt to believe that she would follow. Clearly, whatever she wanted with him, she had gone to the trouble of donning a silly disguise for the sake of staging that first encounter. It rather baffled him as to why – for a nobleman was just as likely to lend his assistance to a young woman as he was a young man, and the scene would have unfolded in very much the same way – but he figured she had her reasons.

And he would find out why. Because she would follow. He was certain of it.

Re: [r. Astro] A quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore...

Posted: Thu Feb 07, 2013 1:07 am
by Astrophysicist
While it was true that Tovyn had not expected any sort of favorable reaction from the necromancer she pursued, she was somewhat put off by the fact that he had not, with all his power of insight, grasped the fact that the young woman whose throat he embraced was one of his own blood. She had not intended to introduce herself as his younger sister—in fact, she had not intended much of anything beyond locating him in a vast world of possibility—but having looked in those mirror-black eyes with a matching smirk on her lips, she was genuinely surprised, if not disappointed, that not even a spark of recognition registered in the depths of his expression.

It was against her nature not to have some kind of plan in place, if only in the form of a rudimentary idea. She had accomplished her goal of finding the elusive Vitali, the so-called pale magician whose name spread in shadowy whispers amongst weary travelers and haughty noblemen alike, but her decision to interact with him had been a careless, spur-of-the-moment action fueled by her overeager body before her mind could object. And now here she was, at last facing the man she’d been tracking for weeks, her tongue rattling off its usual sarcastic syllables before she could stop herself in favor of a more civil approach. Cornered in an alley with a pair of hands curled tightly around one’s throat was no way to introduce oneself to a long-lost sibling. She realized quickly it was only rational to bide her time, to keep her identity to herself (he hadn’t asked anyway, she’d noted), and perhaps most importantly, to keep him interested in her cause. Whatever her cause might be.

When he withdrew his hand from her neck, she didn’t bother trying to hide her smirk. Had more distance rested between them, she may have laughed. Flashes of surprise, anger, and physical pain flickered across his gaze like a series of lightning strikes in a summer storm, and when they all culminated in a shocked laugh, she arched her brows and lifted her chin in prideful response. “Not learned, per se. Honed, is perhaps a better word,” she said, her voice thoughtful while her eyes remained deceptively fierce. “But a pretty trick nevertheless. My modesty kneels to blatant truth.”

She cleared her throat and ran her fingers through her straight dark hair, pushing the locks back from her face. Despite the shadowy confines of their well-hidden niche between the buildings, the mild mid-afternoon provided enough light to emphasize the sharply-angled but decidedly elegant features. Her eyes sparkled with the shadowy darkness of determination as her newfound companion spoke, however, and she shook her head. “I shan’t reveal my intentions on orders of a man so clearly afraid of his own name,” she declared. “My interests are my own, in that case. I demand no flighty courtesies, but the information I carry—which may, I should add, be of some use to you—must be earned with gestures other than shoves and threats of strangulation in the shadows of a hotel.”

She ignored his quips regarding her outfit. It was not, contrary to the necromancer’s self-centered assumptions, for his sake that she donned her admittedly sloppy disguise; a slight woman on the road, even one who had the power to burn a foe quite literally, was a danger. If all it took was throwing away her dress, sliding on a pair of breeches, and tucking her hair into a hat to reduce the risks of lengthy travel, then she would put forth the effort. Not everything, she thought, was done for the sake of the spectacle.

She followed him when he returned to the smile of the sunshine in the square, but she made no hide of it. Her locks flowing freely over her shoulders now, her hat forgotten in the gravel where Vitali had thrown it, she maintained an uncomfortably short distance between them as she paced in his wake.

Re: [r. Astro] A quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore...

Posted: Thu Feb 07, 2013 12:26 pm
by Requiem
Vitali did not need to turn around to know the waiflike girl was in his shadow. He could hear the taps and scuffs of her light feet whenever they hit the pavement from a distance. How cute – she followed, but she wasn’t hurrying to catch up with him. The pride that she wore more prominently than the grin on her face kept her from wanting to give him the satisfaction of knowing that, for the time being, he was in control. For reasons undisclosed, she was interested in him, and saw fit not to let him out of her sight, regardless of the risks, and regardless that she didn’t know what he was capable of. At least, not in full.

For all she knew, he could be leading her directly into danger; and no one knew dangerous places like a Necromancer. He knew of forests that could whisper the life out of anyone who dared surround him or herself with its trees, he knew of creatures that could steal your very soul with a smile and a wink, and you wouldn’t even know it.
Mind you, he wasn’t stupid enough to venture into any of these places or become enraptured with any of these creatures himself, and by that fact alone, she was safe. And, maybe she knew it; he’d only known her for a handful of tense and heated (no pun intended) moments, and already he knew better than to assume otherwise.

And, it would make a liar of him to claim that she hadn’t captured his interest, as well. He wanted to know what she wanted with him, how she’d known who he was by his features alone and how she had found him in the first place. Vitali was like a slimy chameleon; when at last you thought you had him, he was suddenly out of your hands and out of sight, and it could very well be the last that you ever saw of him. That she had managed to track him down like a dog on a trail spoke volumes of skills that clearly reached far beyond her years.

But it simply wouldn’t do to discourse in public; you never knew who was listening, and who would carry information to the ears of the very person you are trying to avoid. Reaching inside his coat, he withdrew the handkerchief that the flustered Innkeeper had given him and pondered what he had been told: the hotel with the bright green doors, tell her that Rhys sent him… Well, there was no room more private and secure than hotel room with a door that locked.

And, wouldn’t you know it – that very hotel lay straight ahead, as plain as day. Stopping only to let a horse-drawn carriage cross, Vitali made a beeline for the vibrant green doors of what looked to be a very prestigious hotel, indeed; one that must have spanned eight stories high, with an attendant stationed beside each door and who opened them when he stepped up, allowing him access.

“Good afternoon, Ma’am.” The cunning Necromancer turned on the charm that he so seldom exhibited and offered a shallow bow to the well-kept woman behind the desk. “I wish to rent a room under the name of Baron Ilium Rochefort. Your, ah, associate – Rhys, I believe? – recommended this fine lodging.” Without further explanation, he slid the handkerchief across the polished mahogany desk, where she picked it up with her neat, unblemished hands that clearly didn’t see much housework.
And, luckily, no further explanation was required. Her blue eyes widened when she saw the initials, before turning back to Vitali. “Oh…! Yes, of course, Baron. Here – the key to our finest suite on the sixth floor. It overlooks the gardens and the pond, and there should be more than enough room for you and your sister.”

“My…” The tiniest hint of confusion flashed as a micro-expression on Vitali’s careful face before he realized – without having to glance over his shoulder – that she was referring to the strange young girl, who had undoubtedly followed him inside. Rather a strange assumption to be made, but he rationalized that it had to do with their obvious difference in age, and after all, a Baron would have too much class to take advantage of such a young lady.
Recovering quickly, he went on and took the proffered key. “My sister and I are much obliged, thank you.”

With one more shallow bow, he made his way to the spiral staircase and painstakingly climbed all the way up to the sixth level, where he found the room without any difficulty. Turning the key, he didn’t even bother to take notice of all of the exquisite room’s fineries when he stepped inside, and instead turned his attention once again to Tovyn, who had been on his heels the entire time.

“Why don’t we start off with some simple questions,” he suggested, sinking into a plush armchair like he belonged in it. “Who are you, exactly, and why did you seek me?”

Re: [r. Astro] A quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore...

Posted: Thu Feb 07, 2013 1:05 pm
by Astrophysicist
Tovyn was not a fool. The simple reality that she had managed to track down the evasive Vitali Klavidya was a testament to her skill, her cleverness; the disguised necromancer that lead her down the bright and cheerful streets of the village could pull few tricks that would surprise her. She knew significantly more about him than he would have liked, and his skills in necromancy were not only insufficient to frighten her, they were thoroughly discussed in light of his recent trickery. And while she would not go so far as to say she was immune to his antics, she was more prepared than most for a sudden turn in events in his presence. Besides, as he had just painfully learned, she had fire on her side.

She traipsed after him noisily, allowing her ill-fitting boots to scuff against the loose gravel and kick clouds of dust around their ankles. In her current costume, her tiny frame drowning in swaths of black fabric tailored for men twice her age and thrice her size, she looked quite childish—younger, even, than she already would have under any other circumstance. It was a fact that she exploited to her advantage, and she played this new part as well as Vitali played his. She walked on her toes, putting a slight bounce in her step suggestive of youthful impatience, realizing now that her stolen overcoat actually reinforced her deception thanks to her brother’s flashy nobleman disguise. The obvious explanation was that she had torn or spilled or somehow ruined her own attire, and he, the virtuous elder sibling, had loaned her his own spare attire. Fighting a smug grin, she followed him up the hotel stairs.

She stood a little too close to him—close enough to suggest they were together, but far enough to let everyone else know she was not a plaything he’d found in the street to warm his bed for the night. She smiled sheepishly when the hostess looked her over, casting her eyes shyly downward, and when she suggested that the sixth floor room would give him plenty of room for his sister, she stifled a guffaw with a cough. Well. This was working out far more interestingly than she could have anticipated.

The room Vitali had secured for them was fine indeed—a detail that may have been lost on the necromancer, but not on his younger sibling. She, much like the strangely familiar man cozying up to the confines of a velvet-covered armchair, spent much of her time practicing various methods of deception to obtain what she desired. In most cases, that desire was gold—funds to ensure safe and efficient travel and, occasionally, to splurge on something that caught her eye in the marketplace. She clasped her slender hands behind her back and paced the room slowly, studying its furnishings and details as though she were inspecting it for anything she deemed too cheap to accommodate her.

She took her time answering his question, spiraling around the room until she arrived directly in front of him. She shed her overcoat and tossed it to the bed, her face utterly unreadable as she took her place on the edge of the crimson sofa opposite her interrogator. “Did your ghosts not tell you, then?” she quipped, her tone unintentionally sharp. When she continued, it was more relaxed, and she sank backwards into the couch’s soft embrace. “My name is Tovyn,” she said plainly, her expression betraying nothing of the sudden anticipation that welled in her chest. She searched his gaze furiously, wondering if he knew her name—or knew, even, that a sister bearing that named walked the earth at all.

Clearing her throat, she smiled a little. “I have information that might be of use to you, as I’ve said,” she went on. “For your protection, as it were. You are quite the sought-after fellow, and there are whisperings on the road of your deal—broken deal, I should say—with Mister Charmant.”

Re: [r. Astro] A quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore...

Posted: Thu Feb 07, 2013 1:58 pm
by Requiem
It was the mention of the name Charmant that made Vitali the most unsettled that he had been since his perhaps no-so-fateful encounter with her outside the Whistling Willows tavern. A muscle twitched near his eye and tension drew his shoulders straighter. Not that he feared the name – Vitali Kristeva feared nothing, not even Death itself (or himself, would be more accurate). What bothered him was that this particular noble had, apparently, not yet given up.

Charmant wasn’t the first to be cheated out of a fair sum of money by the Necromancer. There had been others, some more deserving of the deceit and some far less deserving (but that was neither here nor there, as Vitali’s conscience worked different than that of a normal person’s). And when he made away with money that he had not earned, he kept a close ear out for what the dead whispered to him. Because when they whispered unsolicited words, it was always of danger, and when those whispers stopped, he could be assured that he as safe – usually because his pursuer had given up, at last.
On average, he would keep a very low profile for a couple of months- two, maybe three at most. The other party would lose interest when they realized he was no longer worth the money that they were spending to track him down, and it was in their best financial interests to let it go and move on.

Except for Charmant. Two seasons had past, and the whispers had yet to cease; an incessant murmuring at the back of his mind that would have driven any other man mad. He had simply learned to tune them in and out at his leisure, not so much listening to the words but listening for them to soften until – hopefully someday soon – they ceased, and he would know he was safe again. 

Perhaps they had been murmuring about this young lady, as well; in his flight, he hadn’t been paying particularly close attention. 

“My ghosts only relay to me what I need to know. I suppose they did not see you as relevant.” He crossed one leg over the other at the knee and linked his fingers in front of him. “Tovyn; a strange name for a strange girl, like yourself. It’s fitting.” But of course, he knew the slight would glance off of her like oil on water, so he didn’t put much behind it. “I would make a liar of myself, Tovyn, to declare I am not interested in what you have to say about the Grand Duke, Pythios Charmant. It has been quite a while since we have last spoken; how is he doing, by the way? Surely he does not miss that pocket change that he lost when I left town. Everyone knows that he has plenty more in his coffers. In fact, taking into consideration that he is one of the richest men in the Northlands, the offer he made me could be considered rather insulting.”

Usually, it was about the money. Even a nobleman knew the value of a gold coin, and noticed the way it began to tip the scale when even a single piece was lost. This was also the reason why they tended to call off the search for the slippery Necromancer, once they realized how much they could be spending on a grudge.
The fact that Charmant had yet to call off his dogs worried him. It suggested that he wasn’t so much interested in the financial loss, but rather, the loss of opportunity. Vitali had seen it, that dark night when the Grand Duke had made the proposition; there was a dangerous sort of eagerness in his eyes, a glint that spelled bad news to the Necromancer. And once the request had been made, it became obvious as to why.

Because what he desired was a feat that sickened the gut of even Vitali Kristeva, who was not easily rendered queasy. It was a feat to which he would never agree, not for any sum of money. But, instead of declining, he felt that the Duke needed to be taught a lesson, and so he made off with a handsome amount of gold. 
All in hopes that it would make the bastard think twice before he ever had the gall to request that service of a Necromancer, ever again.

“My next questions for you, Miss Tovyn, are these:” He leaned forward, searching her face without an inkling of recognition in his dark eyes; her name meant nothing to him. She was still just a stranger. “What exactly is Duke Charmant up to, and what do you desire in return for this information?”

Re: [r. Astro] A quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore...

Posted: Fri Feb 08, 2013 6:11 pm
by Astrophysicist
Tovyn did not like to consider her escapades under the umbrella of cheating. She supposed, in all technicality, that’s what she was doing—taking advantage of those who possessed something she desired—but there was a method to her madness that loaned itself more to art than lowly trickery. Deception was a craft, requiring a skill set that had taken her many long years to master, and using such developed tools to her own whims and wiles was simply a demonstration of drive and efficiency. A carpenter wielded his hammer and nails, a bookbinder his awl, a stonemason his chisel—and Tovyn, a fledgling pyromancer by birth, her cunning and her flames. The difference, however, was nigh, and she wore the pride on her face and in her smile because she had earned it. She, like any craftsman, knew a job well done when all was through.

“Perhaps I am irrelevant, then,” she commented, studying her fingernails in a gesture that suggested she cared less than she actually did. “If your ghosts do not deem me worthy of their whispers, then my secrets will mean little to you. Perhaps your fate had best be left to just that—fate.” She sighed, almost as though she were unconcerned, and straightened a little against the fluffy back of the scarlet sofa. Despite his admission of interest, Vitali did not seem particularly intrigued by her lack of detail, and the young woman realized if she did not maintain his curiosity then he would be quick to dismiss her. And now that he’d been alerted to her presence and the apparent fact that it was he she sought so specifically, she doubted he would make it easy for her to track him down again.

“Charmant is a bastard,” Tovyn began, her gaze wandering back to the necromancer opposite her. “And I do mean that in the literal sense. It’s not a well-known fact, and certainly not one that the Grand Duke has any interest in disclosing, but I have reason to believe he is a man so invested in his con that he’s forgotten himself completely. Indeed, his riches are plentiful, that much you already know. What you may not have been aware of is that those riches are not his to spend.” She paused, allowing that information to sink in, and drew a soft breath before continuing. “When you took off with that small fortune, it triggered…well, an investigation, of sorts. From what I’ve heard, his estate has been scrambling to cover gaping holes in his records, and Charmant himself has had to scramble with excuses to cover his own lying arse, if you’ll forgive the expression.”

Tovyn, who had grown more animated with the progression of her relay, felt a smirk spread across her features. “There is only speculation, from what I’ve picked up, as to who holds the rightful title. His younger brother, perhaps, who is sickly and crippled. Or his uncle, a true Charmant. But it is certainly not Pythios.” She lifted her thin shoulders in a shrug. “You have found yourself mixed up in quite the bizarre web of deceit. Pythios wants you for more than a return of the funds you stole, although regaining them would help to settle the doubts that have arisen surrounding his low reign. I suspect he thinks you know something, or were employed by another who does. He wouldn’t mind your head mounted on his wall, I am sure.”

She sat up straighter and leaned forward. There was still not a sparkle of recognition in the necromancer’s eyes, and she was no longer certain whether or not to be disappointed. She’d had few hopes to begin with; even if he had recognize her by name or appearance, she certainly had not expected anything akin to familial warmth or stuffy welcoming embraces. In fact, that would have alarmed her far more than what had nearly already occurred—a physical confrontation and a complete and total lack of remembrance.

“What I want from you in turn,” she said matter-of-factly, “is a sort of true, an arrangement. I have no wish to dabble in the consciences of the dead, nor do I have any specific need for your preternatural services. Rather, I would like to accompany you on your travels.” A simple enough request, she thought, especially considering she was his sister (even if he had not been made aware of that just yet). “Have we reached an agreement?”

Re: [r. Astro] A quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore...

Posted: Fri Feb 08, 2013 10:01 pm
by Requiem
It was interesting (and slightly ironic), the way the two siblings were so alike, and yet how both of them danced around that fact as though it was too intimately private to discuss. In all honesty, had Tovyn been more forthcoming with her skills in manipulation and trickery, it would most likely have planted a seed of respect for her in her brother’s finicky and enigmatic heart. After all, he was no stranger or amateur to the art of deceit. Some would call it ‘treachery’, but he felt that to be too strong a word, too personal a term to apply to what he did. Too personal on the victim’s part.

And it was never personal when it came to the Necromancer, for that would imply that it was possible for him to get close enough to anyone to be affected by them, and to, in turn, desire to affect them by such means. Perhaps the same went for Tovyn; it would have been a similarity over which the two of them could’ve bonded, sealing the irony.

“Oh- is he, now.” Hearing the word ‘bastard spill from the lips of this very small girl was enough to tear a brief laugh out of the Baron. It was almost refreshing to meet a young woman who was not so delicate as to take care with her words, fearing she might offend someone were the wrong slang or profanity dropped.
Except that she wasn’t using profanity at all, and his short laugh came to a halt when he detected an obvious lack of humor in her eyes, nearly dark as obsidian. “You mean it, don’t you? That he’s actually a bastard.”

Leaning forward in his chair, Vitali fell silent then and listened to what she had to say, not only piqued by curiosity, but putting into perspective his own potential safety. He was well aware of the possibility that she could be lying; for all he knew, Charmant had sent her to lead him astray, to make him an easier catch, because she certainly wasn’t who or what you would expect in terms of a bounty hunter (and for the right sum of money, you could convince someone to do just about anything).
But he was careful to watch her face as she spoke: the stillness of her eyes, the way her mouth moved, putting out feelers for even the faintest of micro-expressions or tells that would betray an ulterior motive. An accomplished liar was often a very capable lie-detector, himself; after all, you had to know all the ways the manufacturing and production of a lie affected your body and its mannerisms in order to know just how to suppress those tells.

Nothing about Tovyn’s story or the way she told it, however, hinted at untruth. And he might have doubted his take on it more, had she not declared what exactly it was she desired out of this agreement.

“Well, now. This is all very enlightening.” He mused once she was finished, leaning back in the plush armchair, tapping his fingers thoughtfully on the arms. “And, given that what you are telling me is all true, it fills quite a few gaps in my knowledge.” Never would it have crossed his mind that Pythios Charmant was not the rightful heir to that fortune upon which he sat, nor the scandal that would arise from running away with some of that money.

Never would it have dawned on him that those whom the Grand Duke wanted dead were of his own blood.

Bringing one hand to his mouth, he tapped his lips with a finger as the gears turned in his sharp mind. “I was rather wondering why the man hadn’t given up his pursuit of me yet. Usually I am worth less to them than they are willing to spend on my arrest. Apparently this isn’t the case with the Grand Duke Charmant… Though, if my suspicions are accurate, he won’t have my head mounted on a wall until he has me perform the feat that he desired in our initial transaction.” The extended silence that followed this prediction suggested that it wasn’t a feat the Necromancer cared to discuss, and if Tovyn knew as much about Vitali as she claimed, then she would know that inquiring about it would simply be a waste of time.

“And… in return, for what you have just told me…” He spoke slowly, as if he doubted himself in interpreting her words correctly. “You wish simply to accompany me in my travels? I daresay, I am not sure what sort of entertainment you expect my presence will provide.” And he wasn’t convinced that he could tolerate having a little girl step on his shadow.

Re: [r. Astro] A quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore...

Posted: Fri Feb 08, 2013 10:49 pm
by Astrophysicist
Tovyn quirked a slender brow. “Of course I mean it. He’s a bastard and a bastard, as it turns out,” she informed him, the seriousness in her expression giving way to amusement. “Wearing the shoe that fits, I suppose.”

She had never actually met the Grand Duke, which was no surprise; someone with that kind of wealth and power and social status did not often interact with those he deemed beneath him. In the case of Pythios Charmant, that was nearly everyone he laid eyes upon. She was clever enough—and pretty enough to look at, as it turned out—that had she wanted to, she could have concocted some kind of elaborate disguise to win entry into his exclusive world of silk and luxury. Her confidence was not borne of nothing; she was practical enough to know that underestimation of oneself could be just was dangerous as arrogance. She knew her limits, pushing them only to the extent that she could learn something for the next occasion. Overdoing anything in such unpredictable games could very well be deadly, and she had no intention of throwing away her abilities for the sake of immodesty.

That said, she had no problem with flaunting her pride. It was a trait she seemed to share with her older sibling; she detected in his mannerisms, his body language, and his facial expressions that every move was crafted with the knowledge of his capabilities. A sly smile curled her lips, and for a moment she studied him with entirely too much interest. It occurred to her that her knowledge of their blood relation loaned her a strange breed of power over him. She was neither controlling him nor forcing him to do her bidding—not that she could have even if there had been a need—but rather it provided her with the proper tools to decipher his otherwise-inaccessible cryptic nature. It was little wonder people spoke of him in such hushed, nervous tones; she understood now more than ever why those that were offered to seek him out were torn between their terror and their greed for Charmant’s generous reward.

She recognized so much of herself in the necromancer that it was almost frightening, but instead of fear rattling her spine with its cold shivers, it bore a rush of searing excitement. They were different in many ways, of course, as siblings raised apart were wont to be, but the similarities were equally startling despite the time and distance they had spent apart. While Tovyn had little interest in necromancy for her own practice, she was insatiably curious about Vitali’s skillset. Her desire to learn about his dark methodologies, particularly in light of her own innate ability to harness fire, was quite overpowering, and she recognized the opportunity for what it was—a chance that would likely never arise again in her future, regardless of whether or not the teachings came from her dark-haired elder brother. 

“Charmant’s perseverance in capturing you was what aroused my suspicions initially,” she admitted, lifting one shoulder in a half-shrug. “I am no stranger to escaping a slighted soul’s wrath by lying low until they exceed their loss in search efforts.” A mellifluous chuckle bubbled from her pale lips. “There are also murmurs of another necromancer, but that is not something I can confirm. Rumors run rampant as…” She paused, tucking her lower lip behind her top teeth. “Well, as wildfire.”

She laughed again at his doubtful tone, nodding her confirmation. “It is not entertainment I seek,” she said, not untruthfully. Her smirk broadened. “Besides, it has now been publicly established that Baron Ilium Rochefort has a sister. And no one suspects Vitali Klavidya of traveling with company.”

Slowly extending her arm, she held her hand palm-up as though offering him something that was not in her grasp, her fingers curled slightly inward. With hardly more than a nod of warning, a small kernel of orange flame erupted against her cupped skin, and she grinned. “And I may be useful to you.”

Re: [r. Astro] A quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore...

Posted: Sat Feb 09, 2013 12:56 am
by Requiem
This young lady brought up a fair number of points, none of which he could really argue, nor did he feel inclined to. His spur of the moment alias- Baron Ilium Rochefort- had been traveling the Northlands for a few months, now. As to why he suddenly had a sister, well… Were someone to ask, well, he would cross that bridge when he came to it and contrive a plausible and believeable explanation on the spot. Perhaps he’d always had a sister, but had never mentioned her as the information had never been of importance. Or, conversely, perhaps they did not reside together anymore, and he had been traveling so as to meet with her again in this vast village of Bancur, where she was staying.

Regardless of the story he could fabricate, she was right: Charmant’s men were not looking for a well-dressed Baron in the company of a young girl. They were looking for Vitali Kristeva, who was about as far from noble as one could get, whose hair was long and clothing threadbare and dishevelled and so full of patches that the true colour of the original fabric was anyone’s guess. Traveling with her as an accessory would without a doubt add a firm later of padding to his precarious safety.

“In saying all of this, you do realize that while it might be to my advantage to have you travel with me, you could be putting yourself in danger.” He felt like it rather went without saying; she had clearly thought this through enough to have tracked him down in the first place, had weighed the expanse of whatever danger he could be in and had decided that it was still worth it to search for him. But if he voiced he risk aloud now, then at least she couldn’t tell him down the road that he hadn’t warned her. “If you know Charmant, then you must know that – bastard or not – he has no shortage of money or man power at his disposal. That he has yet to lay to rest his search for me suggests he is currently using both of those resources to their fullest. So whether he is looking for Vitali Kristeva or Baron Ilium Rochefort, there is still a large number of men eager to cash in my head for the promised bounty, some more clever than others.”

Uncrossing his legs, Vitali rose from the armchair and wandered over to one of the tall windows that filtered afternoon sunlight onto the plush, burgundy carpet, seemingly on a whim. The rays that danced on his skin made him look even paler than he actually was. “Though, I suppose you’re going to insist that you can take care of yourself just fine, thank you very much. And I am very interested in your pretty tricks…” His grin – one that bore an uncanny resemblance to her own – reflected in the crystalline window pane, and he spared her a glance over his shoulder. “You know, there is a saying: ‘Those who fear not death are invincible’. And you, miss Tovyn, strike me as the type of person of whom that saying was born. If you don’t fear Charmant and what he is capable of, then clearly you do not fear death. And if you do not fear death…”

The Necromancer spread his hands and turned his back to the window and refocused his calculating gaze on her; “…then who am I to say you cannot come with me? If you really believe this is what you want.”

Re: [r. Astro] A quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore...

Posted: Sat Feb 09, 2013 1:27 am
by Astrophysicist
“As it happens, yes, I am quite capable of caring for myself.” She watched as he rose to his feet and strode to the tall windows overlooking the gardens. From her position on the sofa, she could see the reflection of his pale face in the leaded glass windowpane, distorted somewhat by the natural unevenness of the hand-worked panels. For a moment, she could almost believe they were not siblings at all, that the reality as Vitali perceived it was the true interpretation of their situation—that they were unrelated strangers masquerading as family beneath the noses of sneaky nobility and overeager bounty hunters. But his grin shattered the illusion, his face transforming before her eyes into the taller, more angular male version of her own, and she found herself taken aback all over again at the sight.

How he had not seen their resemblance was even more of a mystery to her now.

She extinguished the fire in her hand and threaded her fingers together on her lap, crossing her legs nonchalantly as her stare bore into his back. “If I weren’t,” she continued wryly, not commenting on his startling shift of expression, “I sincerely doubt I would be in your company at present. I don’t have enough fingers to count the times I would have met an untimely end had I not that ability.” She sniffled a little indignantly, a handful of memories flashing before her mind’s eye that she dismissed with a tiny shake of her head. “And I don’t just mean the flames, either, although I won’t deny how…useful they can be.”

Unable to suppress another smirk, her dark eyes were momentarily illuminated by a devious flicker that resembled the dancing tendrils of a well-fed fire. It was strange how bright and dangerous the young woman could look despite the black of her hair and the darkness of her eyes; the energy that surrounded her possessed all the red hot dynamism of raging flames. It was generally unsettling for those astute enough to pick up on the fiery aura; the juxtaposition alone was enough to put even the most world-weary soul on edge, for it wasn’t often such a gift was bestowed upon someone so small, so apparently fragile. And truthfully, she did not look the part—like her necromancer brother, she could come across as exceedingly cold, more akin to those who dealt with the dead than the rare few who commanded something so full of burning life.

When he turned back to face her, his hands spread wide, she arched her brows high and pursed her lips determinedly. “What I believe is of little consequence in this case,” she proclaimed, rather wisely, but the depth of her remark seemed lost on her as her thoughts whirled. She was nearly as satisfied as she was relieved that he had not put up a tremendous fight against her accompanying him; the ease in which they struck their agreement put her somewhat at ease in spite of the impending danger. “But it is true that I fear not Death. Death, as far as I may say, has better reason to fear me.”

She rose to her feet from her position on the couch, striding the distance across the ornamental carpet to extend her hand to the necromancer. “I also offer you my protection,” she stated, goading his pride somewhat as a smile curved her lips. “If I may have yours in return.”

Re: [r. Astro] A quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore...

Posted: Sat Feb 09, 2013 2:16 pm
by Requiem
“You… are a very, very bold girl.” Vitali raised an arched eyebrow at the small and haughty creature who stood before him. “Though I imagine you have reason to be.” She was so deceptively tiny, the kind of impish girl who he imagined had lured many a poor fool into a false sense of security with those large brown eyes, full lips and a stature that permitted the illusion that you could break her in half with your pinky finger.

Except that nothing about her spoke innocent to Vitali, because he was no fool, and everything about her spoke danger.

Smiling secretively, he hesitated and looked at her proffered hand (not convinced she wouldn’t burn him again), but at last decided to take the risk and seal the deal. “All right, Tovyn.” His larger hand encircled her tiny one; he could have wrapped his thumb and index finger around her wrist with room to spare. “I think I could do with such a symbiotic relationship. I’m not clear on what sort of mischief you’ve gotten yourself into, but if we’re both expected to be traveling alone, then I suppose that would defer the danger a tad.” And she couldn’t be nearly in as much trouble as him; after all, he had the Grand Duke Charmant on his heels, and the man appeared to be keen on getting what he wanted. Vitali’s gravest error had been feigning to agree the bargain he’d broken, in the first place.

“I suppose there really is no point in asking how it was you came to know of me.” He added after a moment, releasing her hand to pace the room, finally taking his time to survey and admire the fineries of the suite: the fine china wash basin with gold trim, beneath a gilded full-length mirror. The goose-down pillows and comforter on the queen-sized bed draped in ivory canopy. The mahogany wardrobe and desk that sported not so much as a scuff. “I’ve made a name for myself – for better or for worse – in what I do, and it isn’t the first time I have been sought out.”
It was quite intriguing, though, how if you looked like a wealthy nobleman, people were apt to treat you like one, a knee-jerk reaction without demanding any proof. He could get used to traveling the lands as the Baron Ilium Rocheford. “What interests me, however, is exactly how you recognized me through this disguise. I thought I had taken great care to eliminate any trademark or identifying traits of the Necromancer, Vitali Kristeva.”
Of course, he wouldn’t have considered for but a second that she had been in search of someone who resembled her – a blood relative. Vitali could change his clothes, but he could not change his face.
And he could not change that dangerous grin that they both shared.

And speaking of resemblance… No, that wasn’t the word. Familiarity, perhaps?
The infamous Necromancer watched Tovyn in his peripheral vision before losing interest entirely in a silver tea set that had been laid out on a small but elaborately crafted dining table, situated near one of the tall windows. “Your face is familiar to me.” He said at last, completely out of the blue and caring not a hint for how absurd it must have sounded. Nor did he display even an inkling of humility when he crossed the room in only a few strides and seized her chin with his thumb and forefinger, scrutinizing her pale face – one that he was sure he had seen before, but could not determine where or when. “Have we met before, Tovyn?”

Re: [r. Astro] A quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore...

Posted: Sat Feb 09, 2013 6:13 pm
by Astrophysicist
As her extended hand hung in the air between them, she couldn’t help but wonder if he would take it—but as tempting as it was to scald him once more, she had no reason to conjure the heat to her skin at this point in time. He was being perfectly civil, after all, and it wouldn’t do to further offend the man she had just arranged to travel with for the foreseeable future. She offered him a smile (though she doubted it would provide any breed of comfort), glad when his palm finally met her own. She gave it a firm squeeze despite the fact that her fingers were only just long enough to stretch across the width of his hand, and her heartbeat accelerating with the promise of new adventures and impending danger.

“What makes you think I’m involved in any sort of mischief?” she asked innocently, her brown eyes widening with feigned naivety. Her eyes then narrowed and darkened with precisely the sort of impishness with which she claimed to have no involvement, and a peal of musical laughter escaped her smile. He would have been better served to ask what sort of devilment she was notwrapped up with in some way, but the necromancer could rest assured that despite her shenanigans, she was not trailed by anyone that she knew of—and especially not a wealth-flaunting nobleman bastard with a terrifying desire for vengeance. For all intents and purposes, she was free, tied to nothing and no one and, more importantly, wanted for nothing and no one.

She remained in place when he broke their handshake to pace the room. Swiveling on her heel to follow him with her eyes, she clasped her hands behind her back and leaned leisurely against the elaborately papered wall. She watched as he completed the very same inspection she had completed upon entry to the room—admiring the finery, taking note of the well-crafted, well-cared-for furniture—her nose wrinkling with the amusement of a soul who knew perhaps a little too much. Their likeness was astounding. In appearance, yes, but also in performance—the necromancer paused in the same places where she too had lingered, his steps aligning in the same pattern her own feet had taken scarcely a half an hour before.

As if on cue, she chuckled, arching a brow with wicked mirth as he spoke about the care he’d taken in his disguise. “I am more observant than most,” she commented, as though that simple explanation would be enough to satisfy him. “And it was not without trial and error. And time, of course.” She swallowed, downplaying her achievement for the sake of subtlety, and shrugged. “But it was not luck that brought me to you, Vitali Klavidya. That much I feel I must have you know.”

With a small shake of her head, she rocked back to her full height and planted her hands on her hips, seeking his gaze. She traipsed the distance between them and reached out, looping her arm through his and dragging him—which, under any other circumstance, would have been comical, a petite young woman doing her best to force her much stronger, much taller companion across the room—towards the gilded mirror he’d studied only a few moments prior. She halted abruptly before the reflecting glass, reaching up to push her hair from her pale face as she stared directly forward into her own dark eyes. A roguish grin spread across her features, and she glanced up at the necromancer’s expression in the same mirrored image.

“Allow me to expand my introduction,” she said smoothly, wetting her lips with her tongue. “As it turns out, the hostess downstairs was not so wrong in her assumption. My name is Tovyn Klavidya, and I must say it is a pleasure indeed to finally meet my elder necromancer brother.”

Re: [r. Astro] A quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore...

Posted: Sat Feb 09, 2013 9:33 pm
by Requiem
She had his attention the moment she declared that luck had not been her guide in finding him, causing several more questions to spring into his thirsty mind—not to mention wariness. “I see,” he drawled, sounding neither amused nor bored, but some form of indiscernible in-between. “Then you did seek me with a purpose in mind. Although I must say, this is certainly a first; for while I have been sought out to provide services or to be killed, I can’t say anyone has ever wished to find me, simply because they desire to travel in my company—quite the opposite, in fact! Any travel companion that I can remember has been more than happy to get away from me.”

At the back of his mind, he couldn’t help but wonder if she would be yet another to quickly tire of his elusive demeanor and questionable moral framework. She was still only a slip of a girl; he harboured a great deal of doubt at the back of his mind that this ideal of hers, this symbiotic relationship between herself and a powerful necromancer, would endure for long. 
If he had to guess? A week, at most.

It came as no surprise to him that she shook her head out of his grasp not long after he began scrutinizing her face, but having her tiny arm loop through his elbow came as something of a curve ball to his expectations. “Excuse me,” he furrowed his eyebrows and frowned, “But what exactly do you mean to show me?” It was her audacity that had managed to rattle his calm demeanor; no one put their hands on Vitali Kristeva so forecefully.
At least, no one had. Until now. She was stronger than she appeared…

“The mirror; yes, child, I have seen the mirror. It’s quite lovely, but I…” His words trailed off when she resumed in her explanation, and any clever comeback he’d had in mind was completely forgotten.
Because nothing in the world—nothing—could have prepared him for the revelation that she put forth.

Wordlessly, the Necromancer inspected the details of his own face; the mop of dark, hair that contrasted severely with his ashen skin-tone, the high, angular cheek bones, the well-defined eyebrows with austere arches, the straight, chiseled nose that ran strong in the Kristeva bloodline, the full lips and dimples that formed on either side of his mouth when he grinned…

…and when she grinned.

As if to seek further evidence, Vitali turned away from the mirror and grabbed one of her hands. Even those were an altered mirror-image of his own; long fingers with oval-shaped nails, and overly-defined knuckles that suggested a good deal of exposure to and practice with fine-motor tasks that required careful precision, be it picking locks and handling tiny, delicate bones, pinching just enough of a powder solution to observe what alchemical reaction it would have when added to a liquid, or plucking the strings on a lyre.
Ever her hairline, that drew to a tiny point in the very centre—a widow’s peak—matched his, and that of Isidor and Lias, as well.

It was plain as day that everything about this girl screamed Kristeva, and yet the Necromancer found himself curiously disinclined to embrace the truth.

“Oddly enough, Tovyn, I feel just as inclined to believe you as I do to call you a liar.” He said at last, turning his attention back to his own mirrored complexion. Gods, her eyes even bore the same dark, half-moons underneath that suggested she, too, made her travels after dusk! “Which is quite a conundrum, as you can probably imagine, since us Kristevas also have a knack for being very good liars. But,” turning back to her, he spread his hands as if to emphasize that he wasn’t yet convinced. “We live in an age of magic—an age where anything is possible. And I’m afraid resemblance alone is not going to convince me that we do, in fact, share blood.” From what little he knew of his bloodline, he was assured with strong resolve that he was, in fact, the baby of the family.

Re: [r. Astro] A quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore...

Posted: Tue Feb 12, 2013 12:17 am
by Astrophysicist
Tovyn was not one to suffer fools, it was true. She possessed an immense amount of patience when it came to things she deemed worthy of her attention, but her youthful eagerness often overshadowed her finer virtues when she became bored. And though she was quite capable of entertaining herself, she couldn’t deny that she had a tendency to lose interest in certain subjects and activities rather quickly. She liked fast paces and danger; to stagnate in a slow-changing world of safety and security and certainty was simply not an option. 

Chaos—to some degree, at least—seemed to follow her wherever she chose to go. It wasn’t that she was prone to accidents; it wasn’t that she was clumsy; it wasn’t that she was unlucky or unintelligent—it was simply that she thrived on tension, and she sought out situations that provided her the rush of adrenaline she so craved. It came with the territory, she supposed; her personality, though housed in a petite body that was deceptively calm and innocent, was as fiery as the flames she could conjure to her palm. Though she did not yet know the extent of it, her attraction to risk and experimentation was a trait that seemed to run as strong in the Klavidya bloodline as their straight dark hair and sharp cheekbones.

She allowed him to take her hand as he wordlessly reacted to her revelation, and her expression changed from its usual smug grin to a more neutral expression of curiosity. Even his skin upon her fingers felt familiar; it was cool (as Tovyn’s was when she was not playing with her fire) and smooth, as pale as the moon and just as strangely alien. She watched as he turned over her palm, studying the motion of his own deft hand as he continued his examination. Her eyes strayed upward, seeking his gaze as though awaiting a verdict.

When he expressed his dubiety aloud, Tovyn was admittedly—if foolishly—somewhat surprised. She quirked a brow but betrayed nothing else of her mild shock—for how could he possibly deny what stood directly before him—and instead shrugged her shoulders. He had already agreed to allow her to accompany him on his travels; if he backed out of their agreement, the one they had sealed just moments ago with a firm handshake, she would make certain he regretted that decision. And unless he managed to escape her, it was highly unlikely the necromancer could actually stop her from following him anyway. She doubted, too, that he would kill her for such a petty cause that he, in part, had originally initiated.

“What motive, I implore you,” she began, genuinely curious rather than argumentative, “would drive me to such an impersonation?” Another shrug lifted and dropped her slight shoulders. She moved to the windows that overlooked the back gardens of the hotel, leaving Vitali at the mirror, and surveyed the grounds below through the heavily leaded glass. “Nothing in what I have revealed to you is affected in any way by my relation to you. It may even put me at greater risk. But think of me what you will,” she said, turning back to him. “I don’t think you would be quick to trust me even if you did believe that we were blood relatives. It seems that bit of information is irrelevant. It’s certainly not a ploy to get into your good graces.” A characteristic smirk lit up her features, sharpened by the swath of sunlight that filtered through the window where she stood. "So what do you hear of Lias and Isidor? Are they well?"

Re: [r. Astro] A quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore...

Posted: Wed Feb 13, 2013 1:47 am
by Requiem
What, indeed, were her motives in playing up such a charade?

That was always questions that Vitali asked himself before being foolish enough to jump to conclusions that further affected any decisions he would make in the future, near and far. 
On one hand, she was correct in rationalizing that nothing she had told him prior to this claim of hers was in any way related to or affected by whether or not they truly were kin by blood. The only variable that came to mind was that, had she brought it up within moments of encountering him, she might have run the risk of coming across as less credible—perhaps a little on the crazy side. And then he simply would have walked away from her, and further discourse between them would not have taken place.
That she had held onto this little revelation until just now, where it would be decidedly more difficult for him to take off without another word, suggested she truly wanted him to consider her words. And that her request to remain in his company for a while longer was sincere.

But that didn’t stop him from being wary, and it certainly didn’t deter him in being the difficult individual that he was.

“Very cute—but dropping the names of my family members does not impress me.” He might have taken more care in confirming that a certain Lias and a certain Isidor also happened to be part of his bloodline under any other circumstances, but he saw little point in this case; she wasn’t testing him or phishing for information. What she knew, she knew to be fact, and was only regurgitating the facts to try and convince him of the truth of her words. It was only partially working. “For all I know, you could have researched my heritage and found the names hidden in books to try and give your word credence. Or uncovered it all from word of mouth; my brothers are famous, in their own rights.”

Like a cat with its eye on prey (or was it more like the prey keeping an eye on the predator?) he turned to watch her as she wandered to the window, trying to read something—anything—in her movements. Nervousness. Overconfidence. Anger...
But she was just careful as he was, just as enigmatic, and looked completely at ease. If her claims of blood kinship to him and his were not words of truth, then he would have to credit the girl for being quite the convincing actress, and very thorough in the way she wove her lies.

“But to answer your question, about the only motives that come to mind regarding the possibility that you are simply posing as some sibling of which I have never heard are as follows.” Moving away from the mirror, he returned to pacing the luxurious room, fingers pressed to his lips as he considered his words carefully. “To be honest, I’m still not convinced you weren’t sent by Charmant to pursue me. But you wouldn’t be a typical bounty hunter; you barely clear five feet in height and can’t weigh more than a hundred pounds, if that. So he wouldn’t send you after me to take me down. He would send you to take me in; gain my trust, lead me on, lead me right back to him. It isn’t anything that someone hasn’t already tried to on me in the past, but I’ve never let it happen before, and I’m not about to.

“So my question to you, miss Tovyn Kristeva, is this.” He spun on his heel to face her and met her dark eyes, looking expectant as if he were just waiting for her to slip up and reveal something leading to her true intentions. “Why should I assume otherwise? How can I know your—uncanny, admittedly—resemblance to myself and my brothers is not a mask of magic, worn only to meet some secret and potentially insidious goal?"

Re: [r. Astro] A quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore...

Posted: Fri Feb 15, 2013 12:36 am
by Astrophysicist
Sliding her two eldest brothers’ names into their conversation had been a far-fetched attempt at gaining a slice, however small, of his trust. Tovyn knew very well it was a weak ploy, so when he chuckled unconvinced in response to her familial allusion, she was not surprised. He was right to be suspicious, particularly in a position like the one he occupied now; there were few limits to a scorned, wealthy nobleman’s power when there were damning secrets on the line. Charmant had reason for his paranoia, and it wasn’t solely based on the fact that it was Vitali who had cheated him. 

“I don’t blame you for your wariness,” she said casually, once again shifting her gaze to study the elaborate gardens on the hotel grounds outside their sixth story window. “I am precisely the sort a man like Pythios Charmant would want to hire for his benefit.” A shrug lifted her shoulders, and she dropped them theatrically beneath the weight of her heavy stolen coat. “And had he asked me, I almost certainly would have taken the job. Especially if the reward was as high as the considerable sum you ran off with, dear brother.”

She grinned, turning back to the necromancer. It was difficult from her expression and delivery to tell whether or not she was serious about condemning her own blood sibling, and to be honest, she did not even know herself. She liked to believe she had true enough intentions to deny such a promising employment opportunity, but if push had come to shove—and assuming she had never actually met the elusive Vitali Klavidya—she had a sneaking suspicion she would have signed her name wherever the grand duke’s finger pointed on the parchment. Of course, as devious as the young woman could be, one of her greatest strengths—or perhaps one of her greatest faults—she was unquestionably loyal. And having grown up without the companionship of her family, her commitment to her own blood was as fierce as the bond she shared with her flames.

“I happen to know the reward makes your bounty seem a pitiful sum,” she drawled, continuing. “Perhaps I would be better served turning you in.” A sudden laugh betrayed her joke, and she surfaced from her fit of wicked giggles with a small shake of her head back and forth. “Trust who you will, Vitali Klavidya. But if it’s any consolation, Charmant has never struck me as a man who would wait to infiltrate when he could simply hire an assassin for your head, or a bounty hunter for your capture. The man operates under the strategy of brawn over brains. Which, if you ask me, is part of the reason he’s in his current predicament, your coincidental meddling aside.”

The black-haired pyromancer slunk over to the plush armchair her brother had occupied previously, sinking into the depths of its velvet embrace with an exaggerated sigh. “My fire is my only claim. If I had the ability to craft myself a mask of magic, this”—she sat up a little straighter, turning her eyes upwards to him and tracing a finger around the slender oval of her face—“is not exactly what I would choose to win your favor. Why wouldn’t I simply have disguised myself as one of our older brothers, for example? Someone you would have recognized outright?” She smirked. “Besides, I should think you would be able to detect my deception if my ends were truly a set of secret, insidious goals. Isn’t that true?”

Re: [r. Astro] A quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore...

Posted: Fri Feb 15, 2013 9:32 pm
by Requiem
Perhaps it wasn’t her intent, but the very way that the cunning young lady spoke lent credence to her words and weight to the story she weaved, from the threads of truth or lies or perhaps a bit of both. It very nearly drew a laugh from the Necromancer himself, accompanying her musical fit of hysterical giggles, for her words mirror almost exactly what Vitali would have said, were their roles reversed. He was of the tricky sort, moreso even than his necromancer kin who operated under a vastly different moral framework.
For if someone—anyone, family or otherwise—were to ask him if they could trust him, his response was always the same: “You most certainly can, should you wish—although I would not recommend it.”

Vitali had no qualms about using deceit and betrayal in his favor, so long as the end justified the means. In fact, though young and considerably unpracticed as he was (compared to other necromancers of his calibre), he had already secured something of a record for luring fools naïve enough to call him a friend to a most undesirable fate. Even manslaughter (though not without good reason!) had underscored his name in blood, and should the circumstances that inspired such a extreme act ever surface again, he wouldn’t think twice to do it again.
And he couldn’t help but wonder what coloured this sly little creature’s past. She didn’t have the look of someone who has achieved quite the same infamy as he had, and he didn’t smell a trail of death, like that of which he left in his wake.

“Well.” He chuckled, folding his arms as he watched her luxuriously sink into the soft velvet armchair—with quite the same expression that he must’ve worn, embraced by its cushioning. “I do appreciate your honesty. I am certain that I have said the very same thing, at some point in my past. But, you are correct; outright, I do not detect a true ulterior motive on your part. Unfortunately, that is precisely what worries me about you, my supposed little sister. For something tells me it is simply a matter of time before you discover the motive and purpose that spurred you to seek me out. I am sure it is not simply a matter of you feeling lonely in your travels.”

The Necromancer paused suddenly, stopping even his own breath as the sound of heavy footsteps and voices ricocheted off the decorative walls of the corridor beyond this luxurious bedroom. It was, of course, nobody concerned with either of them; a pair of garish noblemen, on their way to another suite, already drunk off wine judging by the slurs of their words. But even after the footsteps passed, Vitali did not relax his shoulders, shadowed gaze lingering on the door for a half minute longer. Although he wouldn’t admit it, and would promptly change the subject were it broached, it was becoming apparent in his mannerisms alone that he was slightly unhinged—whether it be Charmant’s enduring pursuit, or the arrival of this girl claiming blood relation to him, or a combination of the two would probably remain unclear, but it was not a state of mind typical to someone such as himself.

“But speaking of my brothers,” and he pointedly avoided referring to Lias and Isidor as brothers shared between the two of them as he turned back to her, once again scrutinizing her face, like he was never quite certain of what he was seeing. “Perhaps one of them can put to rest this argument between the two of us. This is my proposal.”

Taking a seat across from her on a loveseat that matched her armchair, separated only by a tiny, round accent table carved if mahogany, he peered over an arrangement of dried flowers and smiled with new resolve. “You want to accompany me in my travels? Then we are going to pay a visit to Isidor; after all, there is no one more suited to weighing the purity of compounds than an alchemist. And blood is, itself, a compound subject to qualitative study.” Put plainly, he wanted solid proof of their blood relation before he would acknowledge this girl as his sister.

Re: [r. Astro] A quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore...

Posted: Sat Feb 16, 2013 1:20 am
by Astrophysicist
The necromancer was right to wonder what hues decorated his younger sister’s past. Tovyn’s history, though known only to her, was swathed in a spectrum of color whose tints ranged from blinding and bright to black as the bitterest of nights. Her youth did not exempt her from her fair share of tragedy’s sting, but neither did it deny her a decent helping of shining moments. The pyromancer was quick to learn from her missteps and misfortunes, after all, and she had no intention of letting life get the better of her. She was where she was at that moment—practically drowning in the plush luxury of her scarlet armchair—because she knew how to survive, knew how to ensure her safe passage. It was a testament to her cleverness that could go without saying, and Vitali, it seemed, had picked up on that very trait with the narrowed eyes of suspicion.

She twisted her mouth thoughtfully, gnawing at the inside of her lower lip. She was content simply to watch him, just as she had done from a distance at the tavern, but she did so now without any sort of discretion. Her dark eyes, which somehow managed to appear shadowed regardless of the surrounding light, bored into him, sparkling with a distinct expression that contradicted the one on her pale face. She could feel the death upon him, but it was not accompanied by any sense of doom; it was simply an aura, an energy, a spiritual scent that clung to his skin like a macabre perfume. It reeked of finality and cold mystery—and it was strangely comforting.

It was also, she noted, bizarrely intimate, as though he were inadvertently letting her in on a secret most could not detect. Despite their similarities in manner and appearance, this was where they differed—while each emitted traces of their particular specialties, the flavors were not remotely the same. The tricky fury of fire burned beneath her smooth white skin, and where Vitali smelled of ice and certitude, Tovyn smelled of musk and smoke and unpredictability. That wasn’t to say she couldn’t be trusted—to a large extent, she could be—but she was quite selective in the battles she chose. A fire could be contained just as death could be reasonable, after all—and a fire could be extinguished just as Death could be brought to Life.

Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the bumbling drunkards outside their latched door, their footfalls loud and heavy on the old floorboards in the corridor. Her eyes strayed to her older brother, watching curiously as he reacted to the sudden thunderous noise. She arched her brows. “You should be jumpy,” she said matter-of-factly, not exactly a comforting piece of advice but reaffirming the fact all the same. “Although maybe they are out to get you. Just as I am.”

She giggled girlishly, rocking forward to propel herself out of the confines of the chair. She strode to the wall that presumably bordered on the men’s room next door, pressing her ear to the elaborately-patterned wallpaper to listen to the muffled voices on the other side.

It wasn’t long before her expression shifted, and she cast a sidelong glance at the necromancer, this time with no hint of a smirk. “I think you should listen to this,” she whispered sharply, beckoning him with a wave of her hand. “They might be talking about Charmant.”

Re: [r. Astro] A quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore...

Posted: Sat Feb 16, 2013 12:34 pm
by Requiem
It was never easy to tell when colour left the necromancer’s already colourless face, but the shadows cast upon Vitali’s chiseled features seemed to darken as the rest of him inexplicably dipped further into the spectrum of white, beyond that of even pallor. Her childish giggles and teasing did not deter him from heeding her advice, but placing an ear to the wall was not the method of eavesdropping that the Necromancer preferred.

With haste that was almost comical, Tovyn’s strange elder brother ran his fingertips along the wall, dipped down to the molding as he knelt to touch it, and didn’t stop there. He brushed his slender fingertips along picture frames, paintings, a wall hanging and, finally, the fireplace mantle. Giving no indication as to what he was looking for, Vitali’s body finally stilled when his hand found a handful of ash- warm ash, speckled still with tiny embers that bit into the tender flesh of his palm. A fire that must have just recently died before they’d made themselves comfortable in the room, but what interested Vitali was whether the deceased energy had witnessed anything from the room next to them, in the event that the drunkards had perhaps rented that room the night before.

Either he was well practiced in ignoring the unyielding sting of pain, or the Necromancer had completely left himself, still and stiff as a statue as he crouched with a handful of burnt wood particles and live embers, eyes open and staring but not looking, not seeing. Considering how he had flinched from the fire beneath Tovyn’s skin, however, the latter possibility was more likely the case.
A moment must have thrice cycled before he so much as took a breath. Vitali truly resembled stone coming to life, one movement at a time, one limb at a time. First he sighed, expelling the air that his lungs has contained for far too long to be healthy. His eyes blinked slowly, dark lashes fluttering before his shoulders relaxed, and he dropped the now-extinguished cinders, some of which still clung to his blackened fingers.

He did not resume his carriage as the animated creature that he had been ten minutes ago until his body righted itself, standing from that crouching position that caused his knees to ache. “They were here last night,” he said at last, though whether he was speaking to Tovyn or voicing his thoughts aloud to better process the information he’d received was vague. “This fire has burned since last night, been tended and finally died not an hour ago. It was alive when these men arrived on their horses… They come from Charmant’s estate.” 

Vitali turned to her now, and the thoughts and new pieces of information practically played in his dark eyes as his mind rushed to sort it all. “It appears he is falling out of favor. The money and time he is investing in bringing a “criminal” to justice is not sitting well with those who manage his finances. One of those men was his treasurer: needless to say, the man is no longer, as Charmant fired him on the spot for questioning the priority of certain monetary investments. All gossip, unfortunately, but truth tends to spill from the lips of those inebriated moreso than those with their wits about them.”

And all of this, relayed by a dying fire that had witnessed it all, without even realizing it. Of course, Tovyn would likely be the first to agree that there was more life, more sentience to flames that what people suspected.

Dusting off his hands, the Necromancer turned his back to the wall, unconsciously favouring his twice-burned right hand. “These men are of no danger to me. But if their gossip rings true, then it does not bode well… It appears I have underestimated the length of time for which this bastard can hold a grudge.”

Re: [r. Astro] A quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore...

Posted: Sat Feb 16, 2013 11:40 pm
by Astrophysicist
“I know when the fire died.” The words departed her lips before she could think to silence them, and her tone emerged very much like that of a defiant younger sister. She cleared her throat softly, closing her eyes for a moment as she strained to hear the slurred speech of the drunkards next door.

When silence greeted her rather than a vocal response to her haughty outburst, she pulled herself from the wall to turn and look at her older brother. He remained crouched at the hearth, his cupped hands cradling a pile of ash that still glowed with living embers. She bit her lip, debating for a moment if she should call them forth, to startle the pale necromancer and snap him out of his apparent trance, but she thought better of it—and not just because it would have severely burned the man’s bare palms. Something about his stillness, his statue-like stance, gave her curious pause. While she did not understand exactly what he was doing, she had the sense to recognize that it was her own ignorance that loaned her such confusion; for a man with craft and power like Vitali Klavidya, it would be foolish to interrupt him to ask questions when clearly something profound was occurring beyond her immediate comprehension.

He woke up slowly, and Tovyn released a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding at the first sign of his returning animation. Biting back a flurry of inquiries that were sure to annoy him in this moment of high tension, she tucked her lower lip behind her teeth and waited for him to fully surface, watching expressionlessly as the light in his eyes returned, the stiffness of his shoulders released. She winced when he tossed the embers back to their place in the unlit fireplace, noticing how a few of the hot particles clung to his delicate skin. Surely the act had been painful, but if the necromancer experienced any sort of physical anguish, he did not show it. Instead, he began to speak, spouting a narrative that had—apparently—been told to him by the remnants of scooped soot.

She did not quite know what to say; on one hand, she was relieved to hear that the men had not discussed the possibility of assassination during their stay the previous night, but on the other, it was all data she could have gathered herself from the very same source. Furrowing her brow, taken somewhat aback at his method and the fact that he seemed rather pleased with himself for the spectacle he’d put on, she pressed her ear back to the wall stubbornly and once again tuned in to the cacophony of gruff voices.

“Affinity for pretty tricks must run in the family,” Tovyn said hotly. “Impressive for someone so unfamiliar with fire. But I daresay, if I wanted the story from the previous day and night, I would have asked the embers myself.” She lifted the shoulder free from the wall in a half-shrug. “I wouldn’t be so sure they’re not a danger. The way they’re talking now—someone seems to have seen you. Or, more likely, someone who looks like you as per Charmant’s description. They’ve not mentioned your false title.” She paused, straining to listen as the man with the lowest voice began prattling on once again. “The important bit seems to be that they’re going to stick around, which means it’d be best if we did not.”

She made her way back to the armchair, folding her legs beneath her as she sat. “Obviously they’re not in any state to harm you now,” she said. “Shall I give them a fright?”

Without waiting for Vitali’s approval, she closed her eyes, sitting perfectly still in a manner not unlike the necromancer’s earlier performance. She clenched her fists slowly, one finger at a time, and then released her hands suddenly, palms up. The voices on the opposite side of the wall were quickly replaced with girlish screams, then gruff shouts which turned to rowdy arguing riddled with bellowed curses.

“Thought their hearts might’ve stopped,” she muttered, somewhat disappointed. “Nothing like a good explosion in the fireplace to frighten a slobbering fat nobleman to death.”

Re: [r. Astro] A quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore...

Posted: Sun Feb 17, 2013 11:23 pm
by Requiem
A languid grin tugged at the corners of Vitali’s mouth, one that he found he couldn’t suppress. This girl, with her fiery countenance and double-edged personality, was as aggravating as she was amusing. Just like any little sister, perhaps.
Perhaps, but he was wiser than to take the word of this cunning young lady as truth, and the truth remained to be seen.

“Well, yes. I suppose if you want to consider tapping into the psyches and hearing the voices of the various dead a ‘pretty trick’, they may very well run in the family. Of course, that is all relative to whether or not we are, in fact, related at all.”
Taking a seat on the sofa once again, he crossed his legs and absently examined the burns on his palm and the undersides of his fingers, as though her words of caution regarding the men in the adjacent room were of no consequence whatsoever. And, vaguely, he wondered if she could tell that he was simply putting on a front, and if so, whether or not she would call him on it. “But you never offered to consult your dear embers on my behalf. So don’t be bitter that I beat you to it, darling.

“And, might I add, when Charmant laid eyes on me, it was in the dark of night, in the dirty crevice between two buildings where the moonlight hardly reached.” He pointed out, pressing on a sore spot along his palm and wincing to discover it was more sensitive than it looked. “My drastic change of attire and identity is merely part of my own protocol, for whenever I find myself on the run and in hiding from someone with enough money to put up a decent pursuit. In the past, I have also gone by Annad, a farmer’s son, Rusei, a blind beggar, and Eskal the merchant of antiques—none of whom have ever worn the same guise. To date, I’d have to say that Baron Ilium Rochefort is one of my favourite identities.” 

While he would never let on, the more he discussed with this sly girl the dangers surrounding him that came of his own choices, the more nervous he felt. It wasn’t as though he hadn’t long since understood the gravity of the consequences that had chased him since the night he’d run with Charmant’s money, but hearing the very concerns he kept neatly tucked at the rarely accessed recesses of his mind reflected back at him in a female-pitched voice only served to augment the severity of the situation. 
Particularly because she was right; and with those men but a wall away, he could very well be at risk where he sat.

“A fright?” Vitali repeated, catching on perhaps a little too slowly, for he was not well acquainted with pyromancers, their abilities, and their tricks. The next thing the Necromancer knew, shouts and shrieks startled him from his comfortable position on the sofa (an attest to just how on edge he was, for Vitali Kristeva was not one to startle easily).
Pressing his lips together in a thin line, he was on his feet faster than Tovyn could blink, seizing her by the shoulders none too gently. “A thing about hiding; it helps to stay discreet.” The last word passed through clenched teeth in a hiss, and his eyes (dark like shadows) bored into hers (dark like coals). “If you wish to travel with me, to pose as my little sister—as true or deceitful as it may turn out to be—then you will not do anything so reckless again. Drunk or not, we cannot gauge the intelligence or perseverance of those men, and there is a very distinct line between playing with people and tempting the cruel hand of fate.”

Before she could think to burn him through her skin again, he released her shoulders and stalked over to the window, watching the people on the streets below as if assessing how each and every one of them might prove to be a danger or an obstacle in and of themselves. “We will take advantage of the sleeping quarters and spend the night here, and depart at the first light of dawn. I prefer to make a habit of traveling at night, but if Charmant is still on my trail, perhaps it would be wise to break that predictable pattern.”

Joined: 6 years ago
Posts: 842
Topic starter  
by Astrophysicist
Her only response to his uncertainty regarding their potential genetic relation was a disinterested shrug, her small shoulders rising and falling comically beneath the weight of her nobleman’s overcoat. She supposed his believing her did not truly matter in the end; while she would have liked his acknowledgment, liked his companionship as a brother and not as a perpetually suspicious travel partner, the important thing was that he had agreed to allow her to tag along—and whether he could convince himself of their siblingship or not, Tovyn had gotten her way, and she was one major step closer to achieving her ends.

The thought made her smile broaden from the tricky smirk that curled her lips at the muffled, drunken screams coming from the next room over. She laced her fingers together and placed them in her lap, crossing one leg over the opposite knee in yet another exaggerated expression of her ambivalence toward Vitali’s thoughts. She looked him over, intrigued that he had startled so easily at her little display, and arched a slender brow. She had only a moment to mull over his reaction, however, for in the next blink he was standing before her, his face darkened with irritation, his posture rigid. She squirmed against the strong hands he’d planted on her shoulders, furrowing her brow right back at him as she looked up from her seated position, fire dancing behind her black eyes as she glowered into his.

Before she could bite her tongue, it had already formed the words of her retort. “I shall do whatever I please,” she snapped, her voice far more menacing than her pale, youthful face let on. “And unless you have decreed yourself Vitali Klavidya, Pyromancer, or even Baron Rochefort, then I should think you have very little to worry about behind a locked door and a flashy disguise. It seems you checked your confidence with the hostess downstairs. Would you like me to fetch it back for you?”

When he relinquished his grip, she folded her arms across her chest and watched as he strode haughtily to the window. Breathing slowly and deeply, she pondered her strange rollercoaster of a brother—a necromancer who seemed simultaneously overconfident and insecure at once—as her flare of anger subsided to a heap of smoldering, thoughtful ashes. From the sound of the men in the next room, they had already forgotten about the fire’s unexpected uproar, and now they were guffawing through the walls like the bumbling drunk bastards they were. Tovyn didn’t know whether to roll her eyes or breathe a sigh of relief, but ultimately it was Vitali’s safety that was at stake in this case; she, on the other hand, could be as guilty or as innocent as she chose in the moment.

“A smart plan,” she commented, rising from the armchair to make her way casually to the bed. She ran her hand over the stark white embroidered duvet, admiring the elaborate hand-stitched pattern with her fingertips. “I, too, prefer nighttime travel. But I also find it difficult to turn down sleeping quarters as exquisite as these.” With a half-smile that upturned one corner of her light lips, she summoned her scalding heat to her skin, leaving trails of warm brown scorch marks on the threads in her touch’s wake. The sun was setting quickly, and when she glanced to her elder brother, the golden glow of the evening twilight loaned him an almost-human hue to his deathly pale skin tone. She laughed before she could stop herself, lowering herself to sit on the edge of the bed.

“I suppose, given your interest in being discreet”—the word left her mouth in a hiss not unlike the way he had spoken it minutes before—“you will want me to dress a little more…appropriately.” Tovyn straightened her posture. “Unfortunately these are my only clothes, and I do not know what Baron Rochefort demands his little sister wear when she is to be presented in public on a travel outing.”

Re: [r. Astro] A quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore...

Posted: Tue Mar 19, 2013 11:56 pm
by Requiem
It would be a blatant lie, were Vitali to claim that he was not one for losing his temper. Although his spirits were not quite so searing and fiery as his hypothetical little sister’s, he was certainly no stranger to anger or frustration, or intolerance of people’s foolish and thoughtless antics. This very social intolerance fed into his solitary nature, and his penchant for keeping the dead for company, instead of someone with a pulse. 
However, prior to encountering this insufferable little girl, his ire had always expressed itself in far more subdued a fashion, such that many could not decipher whether or not he was angry at all. It was almost as though, within hours, Tovyn had managed to bring out of side to him to which he himself had not been privy.

The faintest hint of colour tinted the necromancer’s pale face, and he stared down the impudent young lady with an eerie darkness behind his eyes that warned against pushing him too far.
“Is that so.” He murmured, tapping his fingers on his forearm before turning away from her. “If that is the attitude that you wish to undertake, child, then you can do as you please on your own time, and far from me. I choose to tolerate you, but I do not choose to tolerate your impertinence. Should you wish to keep it up, then you will find yourself traveling alone. It would do you well to mind what you say.”

Vitali left the ultimatum hanging in the air to let her mull over as he paced the room again, mentally unraveling his next plan of action from here on out, and choosing to ignore her childish jab at what she assumed was his lack of confidence. If anything, the necromancer was guilty over overconfidence, on occasion, and any perceived ‘insecurities’ on his part were usually short lived. He was far too quick with his mind and stealthy on his toes to be a noteworthy disappointment to himself.

“But yes. You are correct in that assumption—should you prove to be more adult than child, and a tolerable travel companion, it is imperative that you dress the part.” He agreed, finding it rather eerie how in the very moment she had voiced her suggestion, he had just been mulling over how to make her disguise jive with his own to lend credence to his alias, and to their story. 
The necromancer turned once again and scrutinized her attire, wrinkling his nose at her ill attempt to—well, frankly, he had no idea what she had been aiming to achieve by dressing in a coat that would have looked big, even on his broader frame. “Should anyone ask, we had to leave our last lodging in a hurry, in the middle of the night, due to the threat of bandits. I lent you some of my clothes because they were warmer and far easier to don, in order to speed up our exit.”

Yes, that was the perfect cover. Vitali expected, after all, that Baron Ilium Rochefort was a considerate and honourable man who would put the well-being of his dear little sister before his own needs. Not only would commoners and noblemen alike eat up the tale like it was made of sweets, but it shed a favorable light on his alias, and people would be less likely to question the credibility of a highly regarded man of noble standing, than one who was not held in anyone’s favor.

“Well, then, let us hurry while there is still daylight.” On his way to the door, Vitali hauled Tovyn to her feet by grabbing the cuff of jacket’s sleeve, careful not to come into contact with her skin. Suffering a burn twice in one day was more than enough. “We will find you something more suitable to wear, sate our hunger with something quick, and return to this room. It won’t do to have us linger in public for too long, lest our appearances become a little too engrained in the minds of villagers.” After a pause, he added, “And do mind the items in this room. If you find yourself s bored as to desire satisfying your pyromancer tendencies, then for the love of all that is good, find something to burn that will go unnoticed.”


Joined: 6 years ago
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Topic starter