"Oh your very welcome. I seen my share of monsters and you are not one of them....we all have our masks just some are easier to see then others"Isis said and smirked. "It is nice to meet you Iris...and don't worry I wont let them mess with you if that is what your worried about.....and if they give me any lip about it I am sure they will regret it in a nightmare or something"She joked.
"Mostly just helping me set it up...it can be very flimsy so trying to set it up all by yourself can be difficult... so...you have any siblings or parents around here...or are you just out on your own?"She asked.
"Not around here -- at least, not that I know of, anyway." Iris talked as she worked, beginning to put the frame together. "I have a brother, but... well, aside from visiting me every so often I haven't seen much of him over the last few years. He travels a lot, sometimes on a whim, so I never really know where he is or what he's doing. He's... a bit reckless."
"I'm actually on my way to see my uncle... well, I think he's my uncle, anyway. He says he is at least, though... if I'm honest I really have no idea." She chuckled, realizing how silly that must have sounded. "He's... a bit strange but he's been very kind to me, especially considering I didn't know him from any other stranger when we first met. Every time he stops by master Brothic's forge he leaves me with wonderful little pouches of tea leaves and dried herbs. He mentioned needing my help with something and was generous enough to pay master Brothic to let me travel with mister Kendrelson -- he's the arms merchant you spoke to."
Even with the friendly chatter it wasn't hard to tell that Iris was avoiding mentioning anything about her parents... and the silence itself told a story.
"How about you, ser knight? On your way to friends and family?"
"I don't really know.I was sent on my way at a young age...think it was just and my mom and well...I never really had the job where anyone wanted to be your friend...just a nice place they can warm themselves with....though I refused to do such things...and mostly was a bouncer...server at times....as for anything else.I did meet someone on the way here.He seemed nice."She said as she smirked about what Iris said about her brother maybe they wore related,but she couldn't remember and her uncle sounded nice to."Well that is nice to hear....have someone to care about you and all....so...is the merchant nice to you....?"She asked her"I would hope so.....people can be so cruel when it comes to things they don't understand"She said as she helped with the frame before she moved to the cover.
The young Zofien looked at Isis with unhidden surprise as she explained the kind of work she had done in her life, clearly not expecting the 'knight' before her to have been subject to such a scene. Her expression softened and warmed when the question of the merchant's kindness came up, and although she hesitated at first Iris quietly answered.
"... Can you keep a secret for me, ser knight? Please?"
She turned back to setting up the tent, wanting to appear busy, and dropped her voice almost to a whisper. "To the people here, and those back in Serei, I'm a slave. It... makes them feel safe, I suppose -- lets them look at me as something other than a dangerous monster. I might even make friends with some of them eventually, I hope. But master Brothic... he doesn't actually own me. I work for him as an apprentice of forge craft thanks to my brother making a deal with him, but we have to maintain the illusion that I'm... well..."
"Tamed, I guess."
She looked at Isis, a smile tinged with sadness on her face. "Mister Kendrelson hasn't mistreated me really, but since he only knows me as a slave he... he looks at me differently. He keeps a dagger hidden under his shirt -- I've seen him reach for it a few times when I acted without thinking, took things upon myself like I would in the privacy of master Brothic's forge. I know he doesn't trust me. He's probably afraid I'll attack him and try to escape, since he doesn't know that the person he'll be dropping me off with is my uncle." She glanced over her shoulder, concern etched into her voice. "I'm sure he has someone watching me, even now."
"I just wish I could prove that I'm not what he thinks I am. That I'm not... not a..." There was a brief search for the right word, but the sentiment died on Iris' tongue and she just looked at Isis with sorrow tinging her gaze instead.
Isis put her hand up slightly."It's alright.I can keep a secret and I understand fully....more then your ever know probably"She said with a smile as she looked at Iris. "People have a hard time understanding things they don't understand and they react with fear....some are lucky and can appear human....some say they are the lucky ones,but...like you...and probably your brother and uncle you can't really hide it.....so I understand"She said and patted her on the back. "Well now that it is almost done all we have to do is put up this cover .So....you already made a friend...how about that"She said winking at Iris knowing she wanted to change the subject since it was making her sad,but she did wonder if they wore being watched however she made it clear that she wouldn't let anything happen to Iris while she was around regardless if she was pretending to be a slave. Though she did hope the merchant trusted her with the duty he had given to her rather then come looking for her and causing a mess.
The Zofien girl gave Isis a hopeful smile. "Thank you... truly, thank you. It's wonderful to meet someone as kind as you are."
The last pieces of the tent were pitched and secured in no time at all; Iris dusted off her hands and looked with some satisfaction at their handiwork. "There, should be solid now. Hopefully comfortable, too." She turned to Isis. "If you're ever in Serei, please stop by master Brothic's forge. I'd be glad to make you some tea and help with any smithing you might need. I have a few pieces in mister Kendrelson's wagon that I made too; if you're interested I'm sure I could convince him to sell them at a discount."
With another brief glance over her shoulder, Iris added. "If... if it's okay, might I see the item? I probably shouldn't go back to mister Kendrelson with nothing to show for my time away."
"Oh your welcome....besides isn't a knight supposed to be nice and kind and for the people?"She asked with a smirk on her face. If only she knew the true reason she would probably be shocked to death by it. Then again she was a nice person until crossed.
"Hmmm I need better weapons,but....I'll talk to you about that at a later time...now for the item....I can only show it to you....it does not leave this tent...ok"She said after it was all set up and she seemed settled she had got the bag with the item out. Being careful she pulled it from the bag and handed it to Iris. "So..."She said as if it was no big deal,but she played it all that it was an expensive and priceless piece. "How much do you think this baby might catch me....after all I need new equipment..and not crap...good stuff"She said with a smile.
Iris handled the small lantern with undisguised curiosity, eyes fixating on one detail after another. With great care she turned it over in her hands, examining every facet of the jewels and every curve and line of the ebony. "...I didn't actually think I'd see one." Her voice was dropping quickly to an awed whisper. "This craftsmanship is excellent -- the edges come together without even the smallest discernible gaps, there's no rivets or bolts holding it together. How can that be...?" She looked up at Isis, clearly stunned. "The... the piece itself is no doubt valuable -- you hardly have to look further than the sapphires and the rare wood. You could get... well, from the right buyer, as much as a hundred gold coins. Maybe more. But..."
"... this construction, this design. It's subtle, but... I don't think human hands made this." She squinted, looking closely. "There are faint signs of age, though not enough to really weather it. I can't rightly say how old it might be. And..."
She looked up at Isis, worried -- as though debating with herself whether to say what was on her mind. It seemed, finally, that she managed the nerve, though her voice was just barely a whisper. "And... my uncle... he described these to me, in a letter. Asked me to keep an eye out for them. He said it was important... that he was looking for them, the full set."
Isis sighed after Iris had inspected it.She knew who she was by th first time she had smelled her,but she had wanted to keep it a secret that she was traveling with the girls brother,but since she had brought up the old man who was looking for the items she knew she had to blow her cover...at least to this girl. She would feel guilty if she kept leading her own like that and besides maybe they could get what they wanted faster. "I was worried you might bring that up"She said as she handed her hand out for the item. "Truth is...I knew who you wore way before you came to me"She added."I'm looking for the other ones as well.....reason why I came here...rumor is that someone else has one here...from what I heard anyways...and this is more or less a trap to lure them in.....and for the most part your brother is doing fine....quick as ever.Have to admit....his a lot of fun"She said with a smile whispering the whole time. "So....do me a favor and spread the rumor about the item I might have and how much it might cost to the other merchants around.....can you do that for me?"She asked Iris.
Iris, stunned, handed the small lantern back to her new friend, surprise and confusion mingling on her face as she took in Isis' words. "A... trap?" Slowly, realization and an embarrassed smile dawned on her face. "It's just like him to do something like this. I wondered if uncle Vates had asked him to help with this too." She sighed and gave Isis an apologetic look. "He's always been good at... acquiring things. I hope he hasn't given you any trouble."
"You can count on me -- I'll let mister Kendrelson know all about it and spread the word to as many others as I can." She bowed to the knight before smiling and turning to go with one final whisper. "I hope the trap goes well!"
Much of the day had passed and the camp grew dark, mercenaries with lit torches patrolling the grounds like town guards on duty -- though these were less interested in keeping the peace and more with making some quick coin off the skins of any prospective troublemakers. Every so often there would be a rustling, a stirring somewhere in the wagon camp that could just as easily be a hint of ill goings-on as not, but for the most part everything was quiet. The stars came poking out between passing clouds overhead. It seemed like it would be a peaceful night, yet an invisible tension filled the air.
Word had indeed filtered around Haverstone about the precious cargo held by the travelling knight -- since Iris departed her company Isis had many merchants make inquiries about the 'valuable trinket', some even making offers on it that were certainly generous. It all fell quiet as the sun set, everyone attending to their own goods and settling in for the night, replacing the bustle of the day with crickets, campfires, and restless horses.
Kassom hadn't been idle in those hours. Even if he had to be discreet he still managed to move about when opportunities came, listening in... and picking a few coins out of pockets and bags here and there. All the while he kept an eye on the tracker, sussing out where Isis had set up her camp from the lesser signal it gave... and from the greater, who their target was. And what he found out in the process didn't exactly make him happy; Iris was here, of all places, and much too close to the trouble about to unfold. What's more, gold was changing hands and mercs were being hired. That was normal, mostly, but something wasn't. He could feel the invisible tension growing and had to remind himself to stick to the plan.
At dusk, a note was slipped discreetly into Isis' pocket: 'Trouble coming. Keep alert.' Whether she noticed him brushing past her or recognized his worn-out traveling cloak was irrelevant, as he was there and gone as quick as the wind's whisper. This was no time to tip their hand, after all.
And just after midnight, three mercenaries with swords drawn crept up on Isis' tent...
"He oddly grows on you...."Isis said to Iris about the girls brother and smiled back at her softly. "And thanks I hope it goes well as well....wish me luck..."She said as she had took the lantern back....
Isis wasn't a foolish women and she sure wasn't stupid either she had already made her rounds around the site and had picked the perfect place to stash the lantern without anyone seeing her. She wouldn't be stupid enough to keep it in her tent. Even after the note that Kossem had slipped into her pocket she knew she had to be on her toes. She discreetly discarded the note later on when she made it back to her tent and she chose to wear no armor. It would give her more mobility and she could be faster on her feet. She could smell the men coming from a mile away it seemed,but she pretended to be asleep as they drew near. A single dagger rested under the pillow of her makeshift cot as she waited patiently for them to enter. Hopeing to the great deities that this went down without her having to change,but she seriously doubted that would happen...then again Kossom was supposed to be back up so she just would work it out if the time came....which seemed to be closer then she realised a slight smirk of excitement spread upon her face. The tent was quiet and all the lights wore off.She laid quietly in her cot...waiting.
The three prowling mercs ringed her tent, taking up positions and organizing with silent hand signals. They thought they were being quiet and sneaky... and to human ears, they sort of were. Not perfectly -- far from it, in fact -- but they at least gave it a serious effort. But for those with keener senses the three were as obvious as fire in the night; the reek of stale ale and body odor, and creak and groan of poorly-oiled leather armor, the faint metallic clink of coin purses a tad more full than they were used to, these and a dozen other things gave them away to the observant and perceptive. Nor were they quite as subtle as they imagined themselves to be when one, who had circled around behind the tent, pulled out a dirk and began cutting through. The other two took up positions flanking the tent entrance, ready to catch its occupant should she awake and flee.
And from the shadowed underbelly of a nearby caravan wagon green eyes glistened faintly in the dark. Watching. Waiting. This was their moment, and Kassom was ready.
The scoundrel cutting through Isis' tent suddenly abandoned his slow cleave of the weathered canvas and drove his blade downwards, stepping through the gap he'd made and gripping the oversize dagger with clear intent. He thought his prey asleep, helpless and vulnerable. He was due in for a surprise...
Isis could hear everything. From the sound of there footsteps to the sound of the army to the sound of them in front of her tent to the one cutting through it with a dagger. She remained still for the most part letting her ears take in ever sound and every movement they made. She knew that the man who came in through the tent would probably try to rush her and wouldn't take it slow.The last sound of the blade cutting the tent told her that he was slightly impatient with this job and that he wanted to get it over with quickly. It took all she had not to smirk to herself about his mistake then again .It would be all there mistakes to come and try to attack her even more so when they thought her sleeping. She gripped the dagger under the pillow slightly as she waited for him to get closer. With one quick movement she had moved from her cot quickly when the man was close enough dropping to the floor for a quick second to try to avoid the dagger he might lash out at her before she appeared behind him with the dagger at his throat. "Didn't your mother ever teach you not to sneak up on a lady?"She asked him with a whisper.Knowing full well that he might alert the others with a noise if he was stupid enough to make a noise now. Not like it would matter. She knew where the other two wore.
Isis' moves and timing were spot-on -- at the first sign of movement the startled intruder reacted almost reflexively by lashing out with his dirk, but all he managed to hit was dead air as the agile woman evaded him and turned the tables. That same weapon was dropped to the ground as the man found himself with a blade to his throat, struggling only for a second as fear replaced all other perceptions.
There was a shuffling from outside the tent as his companions began to suss out that something wasn't quite right, but that was as far as it got. A brief moment of muted movements, a flutter of fabric being tossed, and some surprised grunting was all that was heard before a muffled thwunk brought it all back to silence. Only ears as sharp as Isis' own would detect the sound of two bodies being dragged into shadows a few feet away and gently placed down.
The whispered words from outside the tent came just before Kassom's entrance, swinging his hooded cloak back over himself as he stepped through. The man in Isis' grip panicked a bit more when he realized his situation but became compliantly still soon enough. Kassom nodded appreciatively. "Nice catch. You do have a knack for this."
Isis stood still for the most part when she had picked up on someone else outside near the two at the entrance at her tent she smirked t herself when she realized it was Kassom and nodded his head to him when he entered and came to approach her as she held the other guy hostage. "Yeah when you deal with drunks all day you kind of get the hang of certain things"She said with a slight laugh. "I do hope you secure them so that I can question this one.....you will give me answers wont you?"She asked him softly with a smile on her face,but he wouldn't really see it unless he moved his head which she wasn't sure he would with her holding the dagger.
(sorry it's so short...)
Credit to the original artists of all displayed artwork. Themes designed by The Maven.