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The Golden Age. Act 2: Converging Paths.

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December 28th, 962. 2:10 PM. Madrigal.

Velvet's estimate proved sound. It took just seventy hours from departing Uvara Forest to reach the great gates of Madrigal. After Aria's departure for Grunan in which she wished the group the best and hoped to meet them again, both Itzal and Ulysses left in the midst of the night- Velvet expressed annoyance at having paid him quite loudly. Titan's capital is home to the largest permanent population of any city on the continent. Within the high walls, the Imperial Palace looms above the city, an empty throne at its apex. At every turn, there seemed to be Knights posted, scrutinizing travelers and keeping watch over building entrances. A sense of paranoia was easy to notice without much effort.

Still, the rest of the city was constantly bustling, with a variety of different tourist attractions, shops, and visitors from all across the continent. As well as its population, Madrigal occupies the greatest area on the continent of any city by a substantial amount, so there was plenty of ground to cover. Resupplying in any of the stores was an available option, as is searching for information- or for the less diligent, there's plenty to sightsee in the capital.

"Well, there's lots to do here, isn't there now? The library or the square could have plenty of people to talk to. But with how much we've traveled, we should be spending the night here at least," Velvet started. "And I want to do some restocking, too. There's a nice inn, the Clementine, that's rather affordable. I'll pay for the first night- consider it a favor for the extra gold I took. If we stay longer than that, we'll discuss it. But I think about eight is a nice, round time to be there to meet and discuss anything interesting that is discovered." She paused for only about a second before resuming, "excellent, no disagreements. I'll be off then, follow if you have anything important to discuss, and good luck if not! Good bye!" She started off to take a left at the first street, before reconsidering and heading right.

It is the tenth day of the Golden Age. The current 7 party members (Kaya, Joviana, Telmara, Aaron, Kolmar, Raz, and Mikhaila) as well as Velvet may post.

--

Spreadsheet, with Madrigal.

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The big city didn't bother the former black market merchant.  Business boomed right alongside legitimate places, with some of his best customers living in the upper crust of society.  Still, it was over three years ago that he last dealt with them - or rather, their lackeys.  He hadn't met his best-paying buyers in person, since it meant that if the guards caught him, he wouldn't be able to divulge their identities.  That also meant that they couldn't identify who he was.  As long as he kept his nose clean, he'd have no problems.

His mentor had been insistent on him using a nickname, partially for safety reasons, and partially because "Kolmar" sounded like the name of a con man.  His days as the Black Hyena were over, and he silently hoped that the underground had forgotten about him.  He hadn't closed any significant sales, or done anything worth writing a story about - being betrayed by another black market dealer was commonplace enough.  Perhaps he'd be able to get his booze, and carry on with the group.

It wasn't long before he stepped into The Hearty Patron.  Usually, it was too crowded for his tastes, so he'd only visited a handful of times before.  He made his way to the bartender, one of the myriad faces he didn't recognize.  Good.

"You guys sell whiskey for the road?"

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So Madrigal it was... With plenty to look through. And people to do it with? Telmara didn't know. She'd had plenty of time to reconcile her feelings on the way there, and she was confident she wasn't about to panic, yet... With so many humans walking about, she'd have to be careful about where she went. A stranger didn't matter to her, not if all they were going to do was fling insults... But, some might've been more prone to attacking something that looks dreadfully close to a beast. That means I have to take someone with me, probably... Gotta avoid having people think I'm here to cause trouble. But who can I even ask... I don't... I don't want to pile everything on Raz... I, I could ask Mika, but we'd both likely just get into trouble... I... I could ask...

Telmara swallowed, audibly, slinking towards the only person she could possibly still speak to, for better or worse. "...K... K-Kaya...?" LIke a frightened little girl, Telmara shrunk against her approach. "I... I mean, I don't... I d-don't know, wh, what you... Were going to be doing here, I... Uhm..." Telmara you sound like a complete idiot right now. Do you realize that? Just speak in complete sentences, you stuttering git. She took a small breath, sighed, and cleared her throat. "Do you w-want to go around the city... W-With me...?"

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Kaya had spent most of the time doing what she would classify as brooding and what others, like Raz, would likely have classified as sulking. This whole mess would have been solved so much more neatly if she had just left but apparently that wasn't an option. Apparently her leaving would have caused everything to disintegrate. At least now they were in Madrigal and she could get away from everyone else. Take some time and relax, gather her thoughts, maybe find a small shop to look around in and get some new equipment or something.

And then that plan was ruined. Of all people, Telmara was the one to talk to her about going around the city together. That was... strange. I thought Raz was supposed to be keeping an eye on her. By her request. Why wouldn't she gravitate towards her? Why me, the person that she can't seem to get along with? She took a deep breath and then did her best to smile at the snake woman. "I... I can't say I had anything planned. I'd been thinking of just wandering around, trying to find a small shop or library to waste some time in. I guess I could do that with you, yeah. Unless you had something specific you wanted to do. We could do that instead."

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Spoiler

 

Continuing Talks; A Heated Argument.

Kaya watched as Velvet walked away to tell the others of the decision that had been made before turning back to Raz. "Right... As... as I was saying. I think that we struggle because... Because she doesn't like how I act. And because I'm... I'm too stubborn to change. But I don't think I should have o change if I'm doing what I think is the best path for the group! And she won't listen... She doesn't trust me. She thinks I'm just going to get people killed. So that's why... Because she doesn't trust me and I'm too stubborn to change so she could trust me." But if I change too much, I'd just be playing a part. I wouldn't really be me. So that's not a good solution either. Maybe I really should let someone else be the leader...

---

Finally with time for themselves, Raz got to hear Kaya's take on her arguments with Telmara. Leaning on her legs, Raz looked silently at the priestess, taking in what she was trying to say. It was a particular subject that got Kaya hesitant to peak, pauses common during her sentences, but it wasn't something Raz was planning to spare the girl on --she was their leader, and for better or worse would have to confront unpleasant feelings often.

"I see." Raz finally lifted her head, but her gaze fell somewhere around Kaya's feet, considering how best she could put it to the priestess. "So you admit you're too stubborn to change." That was more matter-of-fact than a berating comment, it was good to admit one's faults, to accept and embrace them, but not let them fester and grow, meant especially much to a good leader. It was an interesting point of thought, however. Was Kaya unwilling to change because her visions were truly self-sufficient, or did she hold onto something more?

"Do you know what the best path for the group is, or do you think you do?" That was probably too confrontational, but Raz wanted to get through to Kaya while she still had the change, while the priestess was still willing to talk. It also let her puzzle out her next words. "There's nothing wrong with believing in your path, but I think what makes her concern grow is how you seem so ready to make yourself vulnerable, considering your position. You ask her to just trust you regardless, throw it to blind faith." It was just how Raz calculated the situation to be, from observation. Hopefully that wasn't too obtuse for the priestess. "Guided by the dragons or not, if you are blindsided by a force you can't see and killed... well, who knows what'll happen to the future you see in dreams, let alone our group."

---

"I don't know if I know the best path is. I know that I need help. But there comes a point where she's being even more stubborn than I am. When she was refusing to work with people and risking our lives because of that? But then she accuses me of being untrustworthy? How can I lead if she's not willing to follow?" She shook her head, getting frustrated now. "I don't get why she's the one who gets away with being stubborn here. I mean, I made a decision that I believed was best for the group and everyone else was willing to follow. But because of her issues, now it's my fault?"

Irritation was starting to creep into the priestess's voice as she continued, her hands starting to clench into fists. "I wasn't chosen to be the leader because I had visions. No one knew that when I formed this group and we started out. My position doesn't change that. Or it shouldn't. I'm not a fragile flower that's just here to be protected. And she doesn't seem to understand that. Or is unwilling to. But she's just... My visions are visions, but they don't mean I should be caged away from everything. I make the choices that I believe are the best for the group. But it seems like she's unwilling to accept that. And I just... If that means I'm not a suitable leader for this group then so be it. But I stand by the decisions I made today. And if Telmara had killed that man who attacked me, she would have put the entire group at risk. I made a decision that let us only have to fight on one front. While it could have backfired, attacking them from the start would have resulted in the same outcome. But apparently I was the wrong one."

---

Raz sighed, she had expected some sort of retort from the priestess, but the amount of frustration in her words meant very well that the tactic had been too rough. Kaya felt accused and judged on harsher standards. "It's not that you were in the wrong, Kaya." There was a slow pause as Raz collected her words, this wasn't an easy thing to explain at once, while considering Kaya's frustration. "If you don't earn people's trust enough, you can't afford asking them to put their full faith in you with little to go on. It was foolish of Telmara to burst out at the first thing that turned wrong, when that man moved in and attacked us. She was already losing her thoughts to emotion and felt threatened, but that could've made things worse if they decided to turn on us. Still" Raz only wished she paid more attention to the drama rather than filtering it out, but it seemed like everything had turned out sour from that moment on.

"Your cause might be righteous, but a good leader that can inspire confidence and a just cause don't necessarily go hand in hand." Raz sighed, placing a finger on her chin. "Basically... what I'm trying to say is that this is preventable, not easy. This is a pretty young group, so trust is low among everyone." She finally mustered whatever she needed to meet eyes with Kaya. "They're all warming up to you and each other, most faster than Telmara, so, of course, the crossroads becomes what to do with regards to her then." Raz licked her lips, she had started to dry from her speech. Procuring a canteen from her side pouch, she uncorked it and took a quick swig. "If you want to get rid of her, you fear she'll continue disrupting the group or whatnot, that's your decision. Otherwise, you can't try to avoid her, not if you're the leader. You've gotta try to understand her, and get her to trust you." But you won't do too hot if you think changing will drive you away from the right path...

---

"Well then maybe I shouldn't be the leader anymore." Kaya raised her arm with a clenched fist, hesitated and then just slammed it down to her side. "We're brand new together like you said. How in the world am I supposed to have people's trust more than I already have? Do you trust m? Everyone else certainly seemed to trust me enough to work with me. I'm not asking for blind trust. I'm asking that in the moment problems, things that we need to make a decision on, that she trusts me until we're in a safe spot. If someone has a problem with my decisions and they can be discussed in the moment, that's fine. I don't care about that. It's when it's life or death and they fight against that... Ugh."

She stalked off a few paces, resting her forehead against a tree. Taking a deep breath, she turned back around, and tried to start again. "Look, I'm sorry. It's just... frustrating. I am trying my best and I've tried to be nice to her and it's just... She attacked me. She yelled at me for fighting. She tried to kill someone that we were allied with. And I'm the one getting lectured. While she probably got sympathy because she's the one with trust issues. So if I'm the one with the problem then maybe we should just take me out of the equation. Let you all go together. I'll find a way to get the Emblem. And now I'm being as dramatic as she was. But really. If I can't make people trust me then I probably shouldn't be the leader, no? And if I can't be the leader... Well, it would just cause problems. Me being around with whoever was the new leader. It would be better if I left and let them lead. You know?"

---

"I do trust you. Most probably do. I've just noted Telmara as an out--" Raz had a mind to interrupt, but stopped as Kaya took off and hid her face against a tree. Raz continued to listen, a silent huff, by the end of Kaya's outpour Raz took the chance to bury her face between her palms while Kaya continued to brood on her spot. How are you fine with doing that when you just said it's as bad as Telmara's? Good grief, why me...

"I think you should not go." Raz took a deep breath, lifting her head. She had all intention to keep Kaya in the fray. "Like you said... you're overreacting. Things are going to be rough wherever you go, and doing it alone will just slow you down. If... you back down now, you won't be a leader again. Not without facing the same problems. You'll be trying to race against large groups to get the gifts on your own." She hoped that would get through to Kaya. Even with her visions, how much could Kaya change on her own? "You're a great boon to the team, too... think about it." Raz sighed, standing up and making close to the priestess, placing a hand on her shoulder. "You needn't muster it all at once, but if you want to be a leader, you have to get through to people like Telmara sooner or later."  She insisted, "Don't go, please. Is there nothing else you're fine with? If you're not the leader, you'll quit regardless?" This is not how I expected things to go...

---

"I don't... Leading isn't what's important. Finding the Emblem is what's important. I thought if I was the leader then I would have an easier time of it. But given how things are going, maybe it would be easier to be on my own. I'd have my visions to guide me, and I could move quicker and... and... And I wouldn't be risking anyone else. Which apparently is all I'm good at. It's being dramatic, but it's being dramatic with reason." She sighed. "It's not that being not the leader would cause me to quit. It's that transferring power like that would just... It would go easier if I wasn't around. That's all I'm saying. There's a reason that most power is transferred after the leader is dead. It makes things easier."

She shrugged Raz's hand off her shoulder and shook her head. "Telmara would be better off being with a group, wouldn't you agree? It's why you argued with her to keep her here. But that doesn't necessarily apply to me. I don't need the same protection from others. With the changes she's gone through and her attitude, she needs you and Mika and other people around her to try and help, you know? But me... I'll be ok. No one bothers a wandering priestess. They just maybe ask for healing and then let me on my way." She gave a small smile with a half shrug as she trailed off. She didn't really know what else to say at this point. Hopefully Raz would understand.

---

"What... what are you saying?" Raz was astonished, it almost felt like talking to a brick wall. Kaya shrugged off her points quickly, and substituted it with the most positive of outcomes. I can't --you can't. Goodness, you're really stubborn. "The group will fall apart if you're not here. Aaron would much rather follow the prophet of the order than a snake with people issues and the two women that pity her. I'm sure Kolmar would give it a thought too." Raz caught Kaya again with a hand on her shoulder, this time a strong grip not letting go. "What if you find the Emblem in the hands of a group that won't sell it? It won't be easier on your own, that's assuming too much, even of the dragon's power." Raz sighed, "And this isn't some established dukedom with years of government --this is an adventurer's group, not even a month old, by far. Nobody would bat an eye if you stayed but not as a leader." So far, nothing she could do seemed to work, which was bizarre. Kaya's mind just seemed to work so differently --though not a virtue from her position as priestess, Raz would bet. "Please, Kaya, stay. Trust me. We need you." Don't tell me I persuaded you away..  please, please just listen to me...

---

"I'm not the one controlling the group staying together. If you were in control or Aaron was in control, things would still work. Things wouldn't fall apart. You would be a good leader. If the Emblem is controlled by others, I would find a way around it. Steal it at night, join their group temporarily, something." She tried to pull away from Raz, but the taller girl had a firm hand. "You don't need me. That's a lie. You're not going to get anywhere by lying to me. So kindly don't. Look, Telmara and I clearly seem to have some fundamental issue. One that's not going to change without one of us drastically changing ourselves. Or without one of us leaving. Do you disagree?"

---

"I do! I disagree!" Holy shit, how long was Raz going to repeat herself to Kaya, she wondered. Raz had lost much of her composure, trying to get Kaya to see her point. "You're too afraid of change, Kaya. It's not drastic, it won't be. Trust me, I'm not lying. You'll be fine, just... just stick around, just calm down." Raz paused to breathe, she was holding her breath for too long. "I'll tell you... Telmara told me she'll stick around if I can keep watching her. You don't have to do a thing, you don't have to stop following your visions or change drastically, so... trust me, please." Raz was pleading, begging. It was so surreal. She never expected things would get like this, that talking her reasons into Kaya would be such a challenge. "If the leader would listen to your visions, would you stay? Please, think it over. We'll get there, we'll find the Emblem."

---

"I am calm. I mean... I was frustrated. But that doesn't mean I'm not being rational about this. Sure, she says she'll stick around but that doesn't mean that things will get better. Just because she stays around... She still won't trust me. She still won't want to follow my lead. And like I said, it's not about my visions or anything like that. I just... I'm not a good leader. I get that. And so as long as I'm around, so long as I have any sort of control with things like with my visions... Telmara will never be happy in this group. I don't know if I can do that. I don't know if I can keep being one of the factors that's dividing the group. That's not fair to the group." She smiled sadly at Raz and shook her head. "The worst thing a leader can do is continue leading when they're wrong for the group. And I just can't... Can't see things getting better."

---

Raz sighed again. She considered herself a patient person, but even she was having trouble not giving up on Kaya's stubbornness. "So what is it about? You say it's not about being a leader, then you say it's not about your visions. You say you're being rational, but even I'm having trouble trying to get what you're saying." The grip on Kaya's shoulder was yet more firm, "How can you lose hope now? Was reaching out to the people in the group just a fluke? What of Velvet --you said you saw her in a vision, you trusted in fate that your meeting wasn't a coincidence. You think to throw it all away now?"

Raz found herself wishing that something, anything that she could say would bring Kaya to see clearly. In part she blamed her inexperience in this, but in part... she was sure something was not right with Kaya. Pride, maybe? "Don't say it like things are set in stone, we still have to see it in the end. Please, just let me handle Telmara then, you'll be able to follow your visions, and nothing wrong will come to pass, trust me."

---

"It's about doing what's best for the group. I'm not losing hope, I'm just looking at alternate routes to get where I need to go. Velvet... Jovi... I will end up meeting them again at some point in the future. That's known. No matter how I go from here, I will end up on cliffs above an ocean with the two of them. And others. But that..."

She trailed off and then shook her head. "Things are set in stone in a way. Not every single thing, but many. And I can't believe you when you say nothing wrong will come to pass because... Well, I have my reasons. You say you can handle Telmara but do you really believe that you could stop her if she chose to do something like this again? Attack me, attack someone else? I can't..."

She reached up and gently removed Raz's hand from her shoulder. "But fine. I will stay. It's not going to change anything, but I'll stay. I don't see how it's for the best, but I also understand that you're not going to leave me alone until I agree to this, so I'll just be quiet for now."

---

Raz let Kaya retreat her hand, the insistence on her words had started to strike sour even with all she mustered to keep a straight face. Goodness, she's so set on these ways. How... how rotten. I'm glad I have a much different destiny to worry about. Letting her go, Raz took a step to her side, giving way for Kaya to pass. "Alright then, I'll ask you one more thing, Kaya: Do you still want to lead?" It wouldn't surprise her, after all that. It was disappointing, for sure, she expected much different of Kaya, but she was too far in to step back now.

---

"I... Yeah. I'll stay as leader for now. Unless a majority of the group wants me out. I'd let someone take over if that was the case. But otherwise... I'll stay. I'll figure out something somehow." She didn't know if this was the bst option but it seemed like the other options weren't any better, so she would stick with this one. She'd started out as leader because she thought she knew best. Maybe that wasn't true anymore, but her thoughts about how things would play out with another leader still did. If she wasn't leaving, it was best to stay in the position as leader.

---

"...Very well." Raz exhaled a deep breath, it was over, at least. If you weasel out of leading now... I don't even know what my next move is going to be, goodness... Drained, and hoping to all the dragons that things would sort itself out in the next few days, Raz started walking to the group. "Let's go, then. We've gotta pack for Madrigal, and let the others aware of our destination."

 

 

And they had finally reached Madrigal, thankfully. Raz tried to do her best so that the team would keep together until their destination, but as far as the future stood, things seemed much less certain. My goodness... I am really letting this get to me. While Raz kept her issues private, the conversation with Kaya had drained her more than she'd like. While she'd like to think most in the group hadn't noticed, she knew she needed to put her mind off the group for a bit for a moment. To recharge herself. I know they're going to need me... but I need a break, just a moment for myself. Giving a nod to Velvet, Raz departed then to escape her battle of wits with stubborn priestesses to engage a battle of probability and bluffs --she only had so much on her person, but surely that'd be enough to engage her mind in some mild entertainment.

Raz visits the House in Noir.

Edited by Xinnidy

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Hearty Patron

Kolmar was correct in his assumption the bar would be quiet, given it was rather early in the afternoon. Still, there were about half a dozen people scattered throughout the pub, a tall and muscular bald man with a gray beard behind the bar. "Of course, by the bottle. We'd be a real shoddy bar if we didn't have that around! What sort are you looking for, how much? Whatever, we've likely got it." He pointed to the large shelf of alcohol behind the counter. "Peregrine's, West Ford's, Old Thatcher's, and that's just some of the wine."

House in Noir

Raz's excursion was a bit less fruitful, a pair of tall well-dressed men standing in front of the door, both looking rather cross. "... New restrictions, ridiculous. We need a real monarch and not this self-righteous bitch of a Commander making orders for the city," one of them with lighter brown hair was muttering quietly, before the other darker haired man acknowledged Raz.

"Apologizes, madame, but due to a very recent proclamation the House of Noir is only allowed certain hours and betting restrictions. Commander Thalia made a ruling, among several other laws passed, for the House of Noir only two days ago due to controversies involving a robbery that took place five days ago in this area, which we are required to inform you about." He nervously eyed a pair of guards who were about thirty feet from the entrance. "If you have questions, we can answer you, and if you'd like to revisit our esteemed parlor, it will be open this evening at five-thirty. Or if you seek other nearby entertainment, our sister building House of Rouge nearby is not part of the area under investigation and provides high-quality musical performances."

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Joviana was quiet during the trip to Madrigal, pondering over the group's next course of action. She was relieved that they wouldn't be going to Fordright anytime soon, wanting to forget about her dark past in that city, but she felt uneasy about going to a crowded place, especially the capital of the continent. On the bright side, there were many things to explore in Madrigal, a city she had last set foot in around eight years ago. Lots of entertainment, a huge library, and even a place for exotic artifacts. Upon arrival, Joviana wasted no time in making her way to the House in Rouge, an opera house that she had seen but never visited. After years of living as a hermit, the bustling streets and colourful places were refreshing to her. "Might as well see the House in Rouge. The library and the vendor can wait." she mumbled to her self as she entered.

 

Joviana visits the House in Rouge.

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But of course things wouldn't go as smoothly as she hoped. In her search for some entertainment to put her mind off of things, Raz was met with unfortunate news at the House in Noir's door. "Is that so? Only starting at five thirty now?" That was... unfortunate was a way to put it. She much preferred the casual atmosphere the house had in the morning, along with the less experienced customers that visited then. "Well, that's a high shame, especially in such short notice... but I guess I can't do much about it." Shrugging, Raz figured she'd just find another way of entertainment, as much as it was an inconvenience, there's little she could do about it. It's too early to have some drinks... I don't think I have any proper dress to wear to the House in Rouge, or here later today. I know I don't like being in the fancy atmosphere in this getup. Perhaps a visit to a tailor was due, after all. "Well, I'll think about it. Might I ask what are the restrictions on betting now? It'd be nice to know before coming back later."

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Kaya seemed apprehensive, Telmara had expected that much. She could deal with that much. A denial would've been the sign to quit and stop trying, but for whatever reason, Kaya agreed! And Telmara had just the place in mind for the both of them. "Y-Yes! The library, I... I'd really like to visit th-that, as well... So, er, w-we can go. Together... Y-Yeah." Is this okay? You were yelling and arguing just the other day. What if you get into another one of those? And in a library of all places. That would just be stupid... So... Listen to what Raz said. And what you told yourself. Be as patient and trusting as you can manage... Besides, you're with Kaya. Even if she's too trusting, she's good company... And this is a town. Not a battlefield.

Telmara took a breath, and, with great hesitation, slowly outstretched her claw towards Kaya, opening it palm up and not saying a word. She did look away though, with a mildly crimson color on her face.

Edited by Nanami Touko

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"The library? That sounds like as good a place as any. Perhaps they'll have information on the Gifts... I'll have to see if I can find anything. Though I may also want to visit a clothing store at some point. Without my jacket it can get a bit chilly at points... The problem will be finding something that won't get burnt up when I use my spell..."

She trailed off, distracted by the offered hand. Does she want to hold hands? Why? That's a little strange, isn't it? I mean... Maybe it's just a comfort thing? Yeah I guess that's probably it. And if I refuse, I'll just embarrass her so... Taking the other woman's hand in her own, she smiled. "Well then, shall we?"

 

To the library!

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Suspicions

"A shame indeed. Hopefully the investigation shall vindicate us as in the right and we can resume normal hours soon," the dark-haired man agreed. "As for rules, there is currently a fifteen hundred gold betting limit per evening per customer, as per the Commander's demands. Similar rules are in place at nearby establishments. It's considered a precaution, but to limit the spending of those who are wealth seek to indulge themselves too is a far reach. But to ignore the words of the Commander would end poorly for us, so we abide."

House in Rouge

A blonde woman waved to Joviana as soon as she entered, smiling widely. "Welcome to the House of Rogue! Our music soothes the mind to allow for a time of relaxation and enjoyment for our listeners. We have two shows on our different floors today. On the first floor we have a free entry showcasing some newer artists displaying their craft, while on the second floor we have the renowned Higana conducting a brand new piece of her own, entry only five hundred gold! Do either of those sound interesting to you, ma'am?"

[first show- gives +1 res for the next battle. second show- gives +1 spd/lck/res for the next battle.]

Commotion in the Square

The National Library was located just near King Tirigus Square. A six-floored building, it has literature from all across the continent, ranging from tales recounting historic occasions across Titan, the personal writings of King Mattias detailing his hardships when under suspicion, to books written even in the past few years, including excerpts from Magus Noctus's "Examining the Secrets of Magic."

Reaching the library, on the other hand, proved difficult at the moment. A vast crowd of people in the square seemed focused on gathering around a single man in orange armor atop a horse. In his hand he held a long silver axe, and he gestured to those around him. "... It is a shame to learn that a lack of full leadership plagues the nation and continent of Titan at this time. But nonetheless, we of Dione come optimistic to develop a relationship with your county. In six days time, our great Emperor will arrive here in your capital of Madrigal to speak with this Commander that leads in place of a monarch. We hope to make the best of these talks for all involved after sailing so long to reach here. For as far as Titan is from the other continents, spoken of only quietly to us as the Land Blessed by the Dragons, we of Dione are a compassionate union of nations!"

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It felt strange to Aaron to find himself in his home city again so soon. They may have found a Gift as a party, but the skeptic in him told him that this still wasn't enough to convince others of his worth as King. Perhaps if they gathered more, it would be enough, but that meant he was far away from his goal.

Searching for inspiration, Aaron found himself breaking off from the rest of the group, making his way to the Hero's Shrine. How have others before me secured their place in history? The question extended beyond previous kings and queens - most of them had started from a similar position as he himself. It was only a matter of time.

Aaron goes to the Hero's Shrine.

Edited by SB.

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Madrigal... such a large city, far grander than any back home... but it wasn't of much concern to Mikhaila. While she had never been to Madrigal proper, she had heard tales of this place from many she had met through her years. And why not talk of such a grand place, after all? With a mostly free day to look forward to, the exorcist decided to simply take in the sights... for now. With any luck, she might catch wind of a household in need of her expertise, surely a place as large as this would have a few spirits floating about.

Mikhaila explores Madrigal and looks for clues about paranormal activity.

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The hair on the back of Telmara's neck slowly stood, so to speak, as Kaya took her hand. There was another grand moment of pure hesitation, before she slowly started to move, keeping deadly silent. The only tell that she was alright was the slightly tight grip Kaya was now experiencing, Telmara taking great care to not press a claw too hard, lest she hurt the woman. Another quick breath, and she was able to speak. "Y-Yeah... Gift, info. A-And maybe I could... Find out more o-on myself, and magic. A good, p-place to start." Telmara spoke away from Kaya; she had a truly silly smile on her face that she didn't want asked about. And maybe I can catch up on everything I've missed since I've been gone. Surely the history books are capable enough...

----------

Nothing was ever easy. There was a crowd around a man speaking of some sort of meeting. Telmara didn't quite care. "Let's just, er... Go around them. I only w-want to deal with one Dragon related person..." So far, Telmara hadn't been stopped, though there were some hefty looks of disgust. Hopefully this armored mess wouldn't change the pace of that. Leading Kaya along, she tried her best to walk around the group, towards the library.

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Joviana smiled back at the lady who greeted her, and replied, "I'll pay for the second show. It sounds very interesting." With that, she shelled out five-hundred gold coins from her pocket, which she had just received a few days ago.

I guess that's a lot to spend, but I got a lot of gold from the treasure that Velvet found anyway, and this is something I've wanted to do for a long time.

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"Fifteen hundred? That's..." Raz collected herself from a brief shock, deciding not to finish the sentence. Now, assuming average luck you won't even cover two days of expenses... what a shame. "Wow, yeah, I hope the investigations go well, really. Thanks for the information." A brief bow in respect, "I'll be coming back later, then." Raz departed from the house then, wondering her next stop. It seemed entertainment was going to be postponed, so she would bear dealing with the group a bit longer... Hmm, I could buy a dress quickly and then go after the group. It was decided: Mild procrastination!

To King Tirigus Square, in search of a clothes store!

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Forever in Memory

Aaron entered the modest stone building near the southwestern corner of the city. On the inside, however, it was far more extravagant. Mounted on the walls at every turn were paintings, stone tablets, or works of writing depicting acts of valor. Many small sculptures were placed in alcoves as well. Some of the acts more easily recognized to Aaron included a painting of Tyrius's use of the Balmung to slay hordes near the Dark Portal, what was likely his favorite in a sculpture of King Peregrine holding the Lionheart, the lancer Baldur defending Cirinne III from an assassination attempt, and most recent of all, the unmistakeable duel between Black Queen Ursula and Sierra Tairn.

"Do you like them?" an astonishingly old man in light brown robes asked the visitor. Despite his appearance and slow speech, he seemed to have no trouble moving. "It is our duty at the Heroes' Shrine to keep history and remember the great deeds that have let our society be how it is today. The most recent tablet was finished only weeks ago. We do our best to maintain everything so that those with reverence for history can understand what happened- especially important when an Age draws to an end. I am Albano, current curator of the Shrine- I remember much of these events myself. One hundred and nineteen years ago was when I first was born to Dominus, just before the dawn of the Heroic Age, and I may yet be fortunate enough to witness another begin."

Looming Darkness

Mikhaila's city exploration lead her down many streets to see different buildings, though every once in a while she heard some strange noises. It appeared to be a rather fruitless search in the hunt for anything unusual, until a woman's voice spoke from behind her. "What are you looking for, purifier? Madrigal is a city of light. There are no lurking specters for you here..." Her words, though quiet, had a slight echo to them as she stared at Mikhaila with deep green eyes. Long white hair, pale skin, and shadowy tattoos gave the exorcist a clear impression of her skills. "You're always on the hunt for darkness, but it's your greatest ally. The mask strengthens you, but I know you'd get rid of an instant despite its power. Has that never struck you as foolish?"

Performance Preparations

"Right you are, ma'am! I'm sure it'll be a delight. Here's your ticket, and it's up the stairs on the right here. " Sure enough, almost directly up the stairs she found herself in a gigantic array of seats in a semi-circle. A small woman, presumably Higana, paced back and forth on the stage as many other people were preparing instruments or music, pointing to people at varying intervals.

"Isn't it so exciting?" A younger red-haired girl spoke up next to Joviana, arriving just behind her. "This is my third show to see her, it'll be a blast! You're lucky there were tickets, they sell out a lot, so I bought mine six weeks ago. The fifth row has the best non-reserved seats for hearing everything. Even though they use magic to amplify the sound while blocking the other rooms from hearing it, it's better to hear it up close!"

Books, Clothes, and Stories

Raz was given a brief nod from the two men before she made her way to the square. She, too, was confronted with the same commotion that Kaya and Telmara had dealt with. Despite the demihuman's appearance, the horse-riding man seemed to pay no notice to her- it was a large enough crowd that even with her abnormalities, she was difficult to single out. Several different people in the crowd seemed to be addressing him at once, some angry. "Our negotiations are meant to be diplomatic ones. It would be ridiculous of us to try and claim land here when our Empire is thousands of miles away and only mere hundreds of us have arrived on your continent. The Emperor's vision is one with only the grandest of intentions for all the nations that we could involve in this great alliance! To reject the plan without even meeting him lacks great foresight. I, General Gawain, have felt nothing but pride working alongside him in this noblest of goals, and I implore you all to consider what prosperity it could bring."

The library's doors itself were unobstructed when Telmara dragged Kaya along through the crowd. Even through its windows, bookshelves from floor to ceiling were visible everywhere. Whether or not the dragon priestess's interests were in the books or a more immediate area were the only thing that could prevent their entry. For Raz, someone as nimble as her had no trouble darting through the crowd to find at least two stores- MadrigalMart seemed to have a few options for clothing among a myriad of others, while Silver Lining was a more dedicated shop to outfits.

Edited by Reinfleche

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"Got myself quite the group," Kolmar said slowly, his eyes wandering up and down the labels.  Peregrine's wasn't particularly remarkable - it was a safe choice.  He mulled over saving money on Old Thatcher's, versus splurging a bit on West Ford's.  Old Thatcher's alcohol was barely fit for cooking, let alone drinking.  West Ford was overpriced in Kolmar's opinion - even the supposed complexity didn't warrant that much money.

"Two bottles of Martin's whiskey, a bottle of Peregrine's merlot, and a bottle of Sunset Ridge's chardonnay," he finally decided.  Martin's whiskey was famous for being relatively cheap, and the supposed quality drop wasn't drastic enough to make it bad for cooking.  Sunset Ridge's debut happened about a year back, and Kolmar had been pleasantly surprised at the stark contrast in quality between their reds and whites.  While their cabernet was on par with swamp water, their chardonnay was meticulously balanced, at least to Kolmar's palate.  Luckily, few agreed with him, which meant that the bottles sold for far less than Kolmar was willing to shell out.

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Kaya had found walking hand in hand with the demihuman surprisingly pleasant. She wasn't exactly sure why, but it was nice. The appearance of the crowd and the strange man caused her to hesitate for a bit, but Telmara seemed determined to get through to the library and while Kaya would have been interested in talking to the man a bit, she didn't want to make Telmara uncomfortable. So she followed the demihuman into the library, but making a mental note to try and see if she could talk to the man later. Once safely inside, she smiled. "Right then. Shall we see what we can find here?" She glanced around for an information desk where hopefully she could be pointed in the right direction.

 

December 17th, 962. 11PM

The sun was long set when Kaya heard an odd caw at her window- tired or not, it was hard to miss. Vespen was not known for ravens, and yet one was at her window- a white one at that, illuminated by moonlight. Also unusual was it entering the room and landing on her shoulder, before transforming in a brief burst of light.

A white haired woman stood looking at her, staring with bright green eyes. Her skin was eerily pale, like a specter, and across it was a lattice of violet tattoos, pulsing bright and dark. "Kaya Bereen." She spoke in nearly a whisper, her voice echoing slightly. "I've wanted to meet you for a long time. You have power... like mine. I know you, but I wonder- do you know who I am?" She paced around the room, seeming not terribly concerned with the fact she was intruding, her barefoot steps quiet. "No need to have fear, Prophet of the Dragons, for I've no wish to harm you. That is your title, is it not? I am Shylah, one of the three Magi, though some call me the Dark Prophet."

 

Kaya had been close to sleep when the caw had startled her awake. Though she had said goodbye to the others of the Order that afternoon, she had been unafraid as she spent the evening in the city, trying to spread the news that she was looking for a group of adventurers. That lack of fear remained now as she sat up in her bed as the white raven flew into her room. However, when the raven transformed into a human, she gasped, confusion and a small amount of fear showing on her face. This wasn't something she had been prepared for. And yet...

"Like you? How am I-- Yes. I am called the Prophet of the Dragons. I would not have known who you were if you had not told me but now that you say your name, yes I know it. I am curious though. How do you know who I am? Your name is well known throughout the land. So far as the leaders of the Order have told me, my name has not been made public."

The fear was gone now as she pushed herself out of her bed. Although it provided little in height advantage compared to sitting, it made her more comfortable to be talking to the other woman standing up as opposed to relaxed in her bed. As she moved out from underneath the sheets, the full extent of her tattoos were revealed as they gleamed slightly in the moonlight shining through the window. Though they did not pulse like Shylah's, there was a sense of power in them that could sometimes intimidate those not expecting it.

 

Shylah smiled, walking back close to the woman. "Intriguing. No, you are not exactly spoke on everywhere, but the Magi have their ways. And of course I couldn't help but be curious about someone else said to have visions. So I've known about you for quite a long time." She examined the girl for a few moments in silence, circling around. "What sort of power do they have? For they certainly are magic. I can sense it." She brought a hand to the tattoo on Kaya's neck, the purple tattoo pulsing especially bright. "No... I can feel it. Of course, your staves are enough to tell me you are capable of magic," she gestured towards them, "but this is different. And mystic visions, as well. The Emblem- you seek it, don't you?"

She brought her hands towards her own head, the light around her seeming to dimmen as she focused. "I see. A campaign to the wilderness, riddled with peril." Her voice echoed even more than before. "A hidden treasure, but not the one you seek, at least for now. And what seems to be a terrible misfortune." As she lowered her hands, all returned to normal- or at least, as normal as she was before. "That is what I see. But do not rely on it. Your visions can't be controlled, but seem to be correct every time. For me, the many twisting paths of time wind out within my mind, and that is but one of them. Were I to look again, maybe I'd see a tale of love, or triumph. Details are always of different clarity to me. That said, this first one was rather grim, so don't be surprised if you end up... a bit disappointed for the time being. That is my prophecy."

 

"The Magi know much it seems. I suspect some might even say too much. I know how knowledge and power can scare people. I can't imagine it's any better for you three. Still, good to know that you know my name through those means and not more, shall we say, public ways. My task is going to be hard enough I suspect without drawing significant attention to it." She held still as the woman circled around her, suspecting what she was interested in.

Her suspicions were confirmed when Shylah started asking about the tattoos. "Yes they have power. As for what they do, well how about a demonstration?" As the woman touched the tattoo on her back, she took a step forward and was surrounded by a flash of golden light. When it settled, she was almost completely covered in what appeared to be a pale gold second skin. Upon closer inspection, one would notice that it was made up entirely of small overlapping scales. "While it is not enough to prevent all attacks, it is able to deflect a decent amount of the force of a blow. I'd demonstrate the other ability they grant me but I'm afraid it is rather too violent for polite company." A grin danced on her lips at that comment as she released the shield and the glow faded. "The tattoos serve as a conduit for my power. The Order claims that they should react when I am having a dream as well though I do not have confirmation for that. And yes. I seek the Emblem."

She was about to say more to that effect when Shylah stepped back and started to give her own prophecy. By the end, Kaya had subconsciously rested her hand on the tattoo of the Emblem that was visible above the simple shirt she wore for sleep. "So it is not the Emblem out there. Unfortunate. Perhaps to be expected though given how long it has been missing. Still, I will find it some day. That much I know. My visions have yet to lie, and I have seen myself reaching out to take the Emblem that sat in front of me." Her purple eyes gazed steadily into the curious green eyes of the woman in front of her. "I will find it. I must or else a darkness will overtake this world. This I know."

 

Shylah observed quietly, letting Kaya say what she wished to before speaking up again, staring back. When she mentioned of darkness was when Shylah began. "You fear the darkness... Many people do. It is powerful, and associated with evil because the worst kind of people use it for such. The Broken Age's portal, Black Queen Ursula's reign, even Cirinne V's death have tainted dark magic in the eyes of the world."

She shrugged. "But it is not so simple. Without darkness, there can be no light, or animism- there must be a balance in the world. At its core, with all those who use it for wrong or good brushed aside, the essence of darkness is in beginnings. After all, the world was born in darkness. The Elder Dragons forged it in the Lunar Age, and from it all other things were created. Even what we call 'neutral' magic is, in truth, closer to darkness than it is light or animism. Animism is born from passion, and light from thoughts, but darkness is our true nature."

The Dark Prophet looked over Kaya once again. "I suppose these sort of things don't matter. Those interested in magic usually just know what they like. You don't seem to have much affinity for dark magic at all... at least not right now."

 

"I don't fear the darkness. I simply understand the importance of the Emblem. And I understand the importance of balance. True, the world was built from darkness. But light and anima were created to balance it out. It would be a harsh day if one of the three were allowed to overtake the other two."

She crossed her arms and stared back at the Dark Prophet. "True, I have no talent for dark magic. The few gifts I have are focused on light magic. Perhaps, in a way, I am truly your opposite. You have your strengths that contrast my weaknesses. Gifted in dark magic, the ability to consistently view the future. But I have my own strengths with my skill in light magic and the assurance that my visions are true. Perhaps we balance each other out. Though it makes me wonder what is to happen in this age that the two of us are both needed."

 

"I wouldn't say opposite. After all, your own strength comes from the darkness, too." Shylah tilted her head, as if looking for more in Kaya's expression. "Or did you not know? Prophecy, though a rare gift, is a form of dark magic. You could push yourself more than you even know. Delve into darkness, Kaya, and you could awaken your inner power."

Kaya took a step back, again instinctively reaching for the Fire Emblem tattoo though she caught herself this time and lowered her hand before she finished the movement. "I was never informed of that, no. I find it--" she paused, searching for the right word. Not really finding it, she continued anyways, "--strange I suppose that no one mentioned that. Assuming they knew I suppose. After all, they trained me with light magic, but neglected any other training."

She turned away and paced around the room for a few seconds before shaking her head and turning back to Shylah. "I suppose the easiest explanation is one you gave already. Dark magic tends to attract negative attention. It scares people. So why would they teach me something that scares them? I think the only time I saw dark magic used within the order was to give certain tattoos. Other than that, I cannot think of anyone who used dark magic. Still, that will be something I will have to endeavor to fix going forward. My powers will be needed on this journey and it would be unwise of me to neglect them simply because I had no way of training them before now."

 

"Perhaps they did not know, or perhaps they felt it was worth hiding- I do not know. Much of the intricacies of darkness are lost upon the world. As is true of all magic, but even more for dark." She spread her arms apart, enveloping them in darkness briefly, hovering the violet energy in front of Kaya. "Of course, that is why the Magi descend so far into magic, to learn the truths of it. I have told you some of mine. Whether you seek to use it more is your own decision."

She waved her hands again, letting the energy fade away. "I really must be going soon. By tomorrow I must be in Rathuum- a difficult task, even for me. But, we'll meet again- I'm certain of it." She motioned behind her hair for a second, handing a white feather to Kaya. "When we do meet, give me this. And... if you find yourself unfulfilled after this trip after I expect... visit Calimdour. I know not whether you'll find what you truly seek, but I would hazard to say it will eventually be of interest to you. Good luck... oh, and happy birthday." Her part said, she smiled, then transformed into a raven once again, departing as quickly as she had entered.

 

Kaya was left alone in her room once again, holding a plain white feather that she half expected to disappear at any second. Sitting back down on her bed, she tucked the feather into the pile of clothes she had left before staring out the window after the strange woman. "Calimdour, huh? Couldn't have given me any more information beyond that? Ah well. Still, that whole visit certainly made for an interesting birthday. Now for whatever tomorrow brings."

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Joviana turned to the girl who had just spoken to her, and replied,"Yeah, I've been wanting to watch these shows for a while now! I'm a traveler, and I just arrived here today, so I guess I'm very lucky to have got a ticket! Its nice that they use magic to amplify the sound and block other rooms from hearing it. Does her troupe have a magician, or is that the work of the owners of this place?"

"Oh, pardon me for not introducing myself. My name is Jocelyn. Its a pleasure to make your acquaintance."

Edited by Magnificence Incarnate

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Not a SINGLE person had bothered her. Tail trailing openly behind her, scales fully presented. Telmara had expected some sort of comment, even more than just disgusted jeers, but none came. This man speaking, he must've provided much more of a distraction than she first thought possible. How interesting... Were he not talking about the dragons, I wouldn't mind listening. Too bad...

Getting to the library undaunted, Telmara was quite pleased with the sight of all the books lining the walls. First is magic, then history, then recent findings on magic, then demihumans, then more magic, then-- "E-Eh?" She was jostled from her thinking by Kaya's question, slowly and apprehensively letting go of her hand. "Uhm... Y-Yeah. What, do you want to look for first? I c-can... Help you search... In fact, uh..." Telmara slithered over to the information desk while Kaya looked about, poking her head over the counter. "H-Hello...?" She didn't know if anyone was around, but maybe they were just in the back or something. Kaya probably wants to look for history stuff... Stuff related to the emblem and the gifts.

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For the Road

"Ah, the traveling type. Well, you certainly don't look like anyone I'd no, so not a surprise there. One of the exploring types, perhaps?" the barkeeper thought aloud, retrieving the four bottles for Kolmar. "That's ninety gold total. If you are in a group, you're certainly not the first. Saw a few odd fellows last night, mostly complaining. Only one of them seemed at all pleased. Had an unusual-looking hat and coat, but seemed to make off well."

Literary Mind

A small young woman was sat in a chair that Telmara walked up to, eyes closed until she spoke up. "Wha-! Oh, uhm, hello. Sorry, everyone went out to hear the man on the horse, so I was resting a bit." She gave Telmara a look over briefly, taking a few moments before pointing at her tail and asking, "you'll be careful with that, right? If it damages any of the shelves you'll have to be held accountable. But if you are, then I can direct you to anywhere you might need to see here."

Sing-Song

"No, both halls here have the magic barrier up at all times. It's so that the two halls don't interfere with each other. I heard that they got the person who made the sound spell here to make one for the Council's meeting room, too, so that people wouldn't be able to find out secrets! The spell has probably existed for a long time, since this is a really old business. It's nice to meet you, Jocelyn, my name is Layla." She took the mage by the arm, heading to the row she talked about. "Well, let's not just stand around! It'll start soon, so we want to be seated for it, right?"

Edited by Reinfleche

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Kaya followed after Telmara and was still behind her when the librarian mentioned that Telmara better not damage any of the books. Wincing, she quickly stepped up, placing a gentle hand on Telmara's back, and said, "I don't think that will be a problem, don't worry. I'm sure we'll be fine. Now, I'm not sure what my friend is looking for exactly, but I was hoping that you might have some books on the history of the Gifts? Specifically the Fire Emblem, but I'd take any of the Gifts to be honest." Hopefully Telmara wouldn't get too upset about the comments and she would be able to just ask about what she was looking for and they would be able to start looking at books.

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"Of course I will." Telmera wasn't as short as she could've been with the worker, considering having her tail pointed out was the worst of what she got. And there was what Kaya wanted to see. It made sense. "I'd, uhm... Magic, and, history. Recent history. If there are sections for both of those..." She paused to think for a moment. "And... I'm going to watch my tail, b-but I'm not responsible if anyone trips over it. They should be able to walk around here with their eyes open." She felt that was fair. It'd be like blaming someone for sitting down with their legs out and tripping over them! She just had... A goof five to six feet extra outstretched leg. Totally the same...

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"King Peregrine..." Aaron mumbled, granting the statue a short bow. It was only afterwards that he realised that he wasn't alone. "Very much so, yes." he nodded. How could anyone not, at the very least, find these pieces of history interesting. Kings and heroes both had stories to tell, and the overlap between them was often fairly large.  

"Greetings, Albano. I am Aaron, perhaps you'll see me in here, one day." While he may have taken the comment in jest, the Lionheart's wielder was deadly serious. His eyes eventually fell upon the painting of one Sierra Tairn, a very much recent figure. "It's strange, isn't it, how this whole situation came about. I wonder how things would be if she took the throne." Aaron had heard rumours of the hero's eccentric nature before, so perhaps it wasn't that odd. It was just a sign, leading him down the path to greatness.

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