Old January 20, 2018, 10:16 PM   #1 (permalink)
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[Aelyria Prime] Materna's Lost Little Ones [Part Primus]

Timestamp: Late Cryxatum, Era XXV

Disseminating written information had grown harder in the past eras but rumors still spread like wildfire across roads, travelers’ taverns, and the trade caravans that had the heart to make journeys across provinces in the Empire. It was thus and in this manner that the first stories of missing children began to make their rounds. It emanated from the countryside of Prime Province first, that farmers awoke to find their young ones’ beds slept in, but empty and shopkeepers without their young assistants. Some chalked it up to youthful exuberance and that the children had merely run away from parents that were far too strict. Others assumed that the innumerable bandits roaming the hillsides were to blame and put the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the derelict governments that refused to keep their people safe.

But then the rumors spread, and continued to do so, with disappearances recorded in Medonia, Vesta, Centripax, and Northumbria. Children were being taken in the night without a trace and leaving no word and not a single one had ever been seen again or returned. It had been nearly two months now since the very first mysterious story had circulated and still no one seemed closer to approaching a solution.

It was a few enterprising souls with quite a few ales down their throats that came to the deduction of the strangest piece of the story—all the children that had been taken were of varying races, but every single one had red hair. Some were tinged more auburn and others with shades of strawberry blonde, but comparing all three dozen stories made it evident that while the young ones were from different walks of life from peasant to noble, short to tall, merely babes in arms to nearly teenagers, every single one had heads that had been touched by fire, and now they were gone.

A particularly concerned circle of parents from the more affluent rings of society established funds for a formal call of sorts to go out to any would-be heroes or adventurers that might be interested in the task of finding and returning the children—or, if that failed, to ensure appropriate consequences for the perpetrators of the crime. They sent word that they and their representatives could be met in any one of three locations: Port Alyxandrya, Aelyria Prime, or Primus Gaudeo, so that contracts could be agreed to and signed and all pertinent information passed along to those who wished to pursue this task. The reward would be substantial, they promised of one gold coin per head, either live child or dead criminal, returned.
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Old January 21, 2018, 12:47 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Redheads getting kidnapped?

The rumors were strange. Probably the work of a pervert. Or a coven of pervs. Either way, Ollie was not down with that. So he mostly ignored the rumors and went his merry way.

It wasn't a few months later when people started talking about some rich folks throwing money around -- desperately -- to find their children. Well! With great power came great responsibility -- or something like that. Ollie remembered his drunk uncle saying all kinds of memorable, quotable things. Too bad the guy was a drunk.

"Alcoholics, am I right?", he tipsily (and rhetorically) asked no one in particular as he downed another shot of cheap swill. A few shots later and he stumbled out of the Crown Inn to get freshened up. Something told him that these rich folk were going to be one of those tight-ass types.

Fortunately for Oliver, he was one to ace job interviews. As long as there weren't any drug tests involved.

Unfortunately for them, he was likely the least qualified candidate out of the bunch. But that wouldn't be for lack of trying!

--

Ollie came dressed in his finest. Meaning he looked like a baby prostitute. Which wasn't (totally) outside his job description. Sure, he sometimes traded his body for money. But who didn't in these uncertain times? A minstrel's gotta eat. And sometimes the cougars at the bar were less interested in his pop song references than what was inside his skinny breeches.

Shall he compare himself to a summer brightening? Unnecessary but sure. He was pale but his complexion suggested that he was tan at some point. He managed a bath and even combed his cornbread colored hair for the interview(s). Oliver even wore his best suit -- which was sleek, faded black thing that he found on a corpse. Oh, calm down. He washed it once or twice since. With all these disasters happening left and right, people weren't exactly missing their belongings. His green eyes scanned the address provided by these wealthy patrons / parents of kidnapped children.

First thing's first: find the most important person there, charm the feth out of them, and (eventually) find the missing redheads. Ollie didn't get why everyone was in a rush, though. It wasn't like the kids' souls were in any danger.

"Oliver", he introduced himself with a flourish. His strapped lute-harp bounced idly behind him. "Bard. Singer/Songwriter. Private detective. Purveyor of secrets. At your service."
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Old January 22, 2018, 04:47 AM   #3 (permalink)
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The tales of missing children weren't terribly uncommon. Children went missing in such a large Empire. They ran off, they died, they were kidnapped. It was disgusting, but it was a truth. Maintaining law and order had never been an easy task. The common folk loved to blame those brave enough to raise their swords to monsters and outlaws, and those who financed them. It was easy.

'Where were you when we needed you?'

It was their common complaint, as though it was a simple matter to predict exactly where a deranged person or beast might strike. Ten thousand fighting men couldn't protect every home in a province, no matter how earnest their efforts might be. Stupidity, dramatics, and the lack of the will to help themselves had always been the hallmarks of the commoners in these parts of the Empire. It wasn't so in Sherian. They never had the option of it with the Horde always presenting a threat.

What had eventually caught Gye'ron's attention amidst the repeated whispers in taverns was the pattern. All of the children had hair kissed by fire - a thing he was intimately familiar with in an altogether different way. Where there were patterns, there was often something far more nefarious at work. If the source of that pattern was the work of an agent of the Aeternians or the misguided worshippers of the Planetars, it was his duty to intercede on behalf of Aetheria. It was his self-appointed duty. It was the only oath left to follow for a man who had lived a life defined by oaths to causes greater than himself.

Some small part of him, of course, was attracted by the reward. Sustaining himself via his business wasn't going as well as he had once hoped it might. His fortunes amassed as one of the highest ranking officers in the Legions were largely dwindled. His pride didn't allow him to speak the truth too loudly within his own mind, but the reality was he needed the contract and he needed to succeed. If he ever were to give such a thought the full light of day, it would turn his stomach. The task was beneath the status he had once held. Nevertheless, he found him much closer to the farm boy he had been so many eras past than he was to the most senior officer in all of Carmelyn and the Military Governor of Archadoon.

He arrived not in the finery expected of a business deal, but in the finery of battle. He was dressed in elven steel mesh armour, with a crimson cloak - the same colour as those worn by officers of the Legions. At his left hip a broadsword with a wolf shaped pommel was sheathed, matched by a dagger at his right hip with a similarly shaped pommel made of silver. Slung over his back was a kite shield, with a gold emblazoned phoenix, though it had seen many battles and was now well worn. Hung from his neck, shown prominently for all to see, was a golden pendant with the regale of the Prince of Aetheria, Aslan-Immanuel. In the front of his belt a thick, iron wand was tucked, covered in arcane runes.

"Serale," he offered curtly to those who presumably had the contracts and the information, "I'm here to help deliver justice, and return the children, if it's possible." His priorities were clear enough. He didn't expect all of the children to be alive. They were either the victims of slavers who had clients of particular tastes, or the victims of the needs of a particular type of ritual magic. It was all he could imagine. Either way, they couldn't be saved but he was sure they could be avenged.

"I am Kestor Imperatis Gye'ron Val Oriden, retired, and Lord of Towersvale. I was an Inquisitor of the Church, once upon a time," though he thought it wise to leave it unsaid that it was the Church of the Sacred Three. There were no more qualifications he felt the need to give. There was every possibility that his name was known. In Northumbria or Vesta it would have certainly been from his time as the commander of the Legions in the provinces before they were split. He had developed a reputation for harsh justice then. Tortured bandits, rapists branded and turned into eunuchs, thieves sentenced to a life in the salt mines, ring leaders quartered and left at crossroads. It was all his handiwork. If men couldn't respect the law, then he had been committed to making them fear its enforcement.

He wasn't a hero, not like the ones one read about in fairy tales. He was the monster Kings kept to do the hard things. He was the shadow cast by the light.

If the wealthy elite wanted someone to make the perpetrators pay in blood, he was their man.
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Old January 26, 2018, 05:53 PM   #4 (permalink)
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OOC: Thread now closed.

The posters and rumors had all pointed would-be adventurers to a small storefront that, from all appearances, seemed to be in the business of selling and cobbling shoes. The sign swinging over the door declared the proprietor’s name and that he was in at the moment and the door had been left slightly ajar for the curiosity of the passerby. It was only the pasting in the corner of the same poster that had been passed around among the crowds in taverns and along the streets before, advertising to any would-be hero that there were rewards to be paid for the return of children or their dead captors—and interested parties ought to inquire within.

The shop itself was a modest little thing, full of the scent of leather and glue and the soft warmth of a residual fire somewhere in the back. The cobbler was occupied in a workspace somewhere behind the back counter and barely lifted an eyebrow when either Oliver or Gye’ron entered the store. Instead, he swung a hand blacked in tar and still holding a wide silver needle somewhere off to their right and then settled back into his work.

Over in that corner sat another man, this one far smaller and a bit more fussy than this current roommate. He sniffled once and then glanced up over the rims of his half-glasses at the pair of adventurers. A small stack of papers was still held in between his hands as he gestured with a jut of his chin for each to walk a bit closer. “Oliver,” he said first, putting one of the papers down and picking up a quill instead. He scribbled the man’s name into one of the blanks and asked before looking up. “Any family name?” The short human wrote a few more things down before turning the page in Oliver’s direction.

“And Gye’ron Val Oriden?” he said next, this time glancing once in the old soldier’s direction. He took out another page from his stack and scribbled down that name too. Another quick sweep from underneath his desk counter brought out a second quill and ink fountain, and he pushed both of the pair toward the guests—one to Oliver and the other to Gye’ron. “Fill in next of kin and locations where your reward money may be sent in case of your unseemly demise. The rest of this merely outlines liability and obligation of the League of Reunification for the Children. Should it look fine to you, sign, and then I can give you the information about the missing ones as we so know.”

The papers were extensive, with text filling in from the top to the bottom. Both of the men’s names occupied the first line while the rest did exactly as the scribe had described—it mentioned the League as an association of concerned parties that renamed nameless but swore to honor their promises of reimbursement for returned children or murdered bandits. The League was not responsible in the case of a would-be adventurer’s harm, injury, or otherwise demise, but it did state the necessity of forthrightness from both parties that any information provided by League or adventurer would be true under the eye of Ioannes and that no harm or falsehood would prove to be injurious to the children in question.
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Old February 4, 2018, 03:52 PM   #5 (permalink)
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"Unseemly demise?"

Ollie's mind lingered on that fact a little longer than he'd like. But he signed the official-looking documents nonetheless. Why fear something that seemed so far fetched? So crazy sauce? So unseemly? In his head, Oliver was the hero of this story -- just like every other story afterward.

And heroes never died.

Oh, wait. Did they? There were those pesky tragedies and parables that he always seemed to fall asleep mid-telling. He inwardly shrugged away those pesky red flags. Everything seemed legit.

Ollie didn't even bother reading the large stack of words and simply scrolled down to click 'I have read the terms and conditions' button so that he could continue. He applied his full name -- including his adoptive parent's surname -- and wrote jotted down his favorite whore house as the address of his next of kin. Given the time and money he spent there? They deserved whatever sum he was owed if he died valiantly on this selfless expedition.

It had nothing to do with his thrill seeking or deep seated desire for gold at all!

The other guy looked like the dying-to-save-children type though. So Ollie made a mental note to stay on his good side. In case he needed a meat shield.
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Old February 6, 2018, 10:07 PM   #6 (permalink)
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OOC: Endeavoring to post once a week to keep the plot moving. Missing three consecutive rounds of posting will lead to permanent exit from the thread. Gye’ron has missed one round.

Oliver’s repeated question drew a stare over the silver rims from the small little man behind the desk. He paused mid-task. “Yes,” he replied, drawing unnecessarily long over the word to make its space in the conversation at least double. He looked about to say something else, but then suddenly thought better of it and shook his head, turning his gaze back down to the contracts scattered around the desk in front of him. He waited politely until Oliver had finished with his and then double checked each blank and line to make sure the proper information was included.

“Thank you for that. We will be keeping this safely for you.” And as if to prove his point, the smaller man carefully spread the paper between two others and slid all three into the drawer on the desk’s right side. He then returned to the center of its tabletop and folded his hands neatly across it.

A slight interruption was made for the man to clear his throat and then he began with an ever so slightly bored tone. “Your first address is included on this paper.” Another gesture was made to a scrap of exactly that sitting folded in front of him. One slow push moved it from the clerk’s side to Oliver’s instead. The address was written in neat capital letters in a single line indicating a location somewhere in the Mercantile District of the capital city. “The family expects that a kidnapping attempt this darkening. Their daughter is four. They are expecting you.”

Then the bespectacled man leaned back ever so slightly in his chair and regarded Oliver completely again, operating very plainly under the assumption that their business here was handled in a most thorough manner.
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Old February 11, 2018, 09:23 PM   #7 (permalink)
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There was an unusual formality to the affairs. Something about people who required contracts for that type of work rubbed him the wrong way. It was the implicit lack of trust. Legal agreements were only necessary for dishonest people. Why else did the law exist? Such papers would not be necessary in a just society. Of course, one would have to be utterly delusional to believe that the Aelyrian Empire was anything approximating a just society. It was infected, virtually from top to bottom.

But those were thoughts were of no use then. Or, perhaps, ever. It wasn't Gye'ron's lot to be a moral paragon or to rescue the soul of the Empire. He just tried to stem the tide while others more righteous than him took up the banner.

He indicated his next of kin on the paper: Keldon Elsdragon. As to the place the reward could be sent if Gye'ron met his end on this seemingly benign quest? Not to his already obscenely rich uncle. No, the reward money would be given to a local orphanage, if he was unable to claim it.

The former inquisitors brow knit when the man provided an address. "Do you mind explaining how it is that they've come to expect a kidnapping this darkening? Why this one? From who? What is the source of that information?"

It had been such a small and harmless statement, yet there were a great man questions that sprung from it. These people - The League of Reunification for the Children - knew a great deal more than was let on in the rumours. The wealthy were rarely as poorly informed as they may have one believe.
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Old February 16, 2018, 07:54 PM   #8 (permalink)
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OOC: Oliver has now missed one round of posting.

The clerk took Gye’ron’s completed form with the same official businesslike manner as he had taken Oliver’s. A quick survey made sure that the lines were all properly filled, and there was even a slight raise of the man’s eyebrow at the name listed as nearest kin, but he said nothing. After all, questioning the would-be hired help wasn’t why he was paid.

Satisfied, the man carefully filed away the former soldier’s form and then resumed their conversation. Both hands folded gently in front of him on the desk and he looked Gye’ron up and down before answering his questions. “I am a middle-man hired to help along the process, much like you. Therefore, I can only tell you what they have told me.” He glanced back down at the paper he had originally handed Oliver, name and address included. “The family has the patterned trait, obviously, and the father has also had some recent strange dealings. They claimed that they were from the lands formerly known as Arakmat and had come across some rare Xetan goods that they wished to sell in the markets here in Aelyria Prime.”

The clerk coughed lightly to clear his throat and then continued. “The patriarch is a merchant of some repute and found the entire situation suspicious. The supposed merchants produced a piece of what they called Xetan work, but the item was magical in nature.” He sniffed. That should have been fact enough for anyone who had survived the Alliance’s most recent string of attacks. “The Aelyrian reported them to the authorities and he then received a written threat warning that this darkening, his greatest treasure would be lost like so many of his fellows.”

He glanced back at Gye’ron once more. “They are expecting you,” he repeated again, his tone only ever so slightly peppered with impatience.
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Old March 5, 2018, 03:22 PM   #9 (permalink)
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"They're expecting us!", repeated Ollie to the brute who seemed super suspicious about the clerk's sources all of a sudden. It's all part of the plot, bro. Hadn't this guy ever been on an adventure before?

In the back of his head, however, Ollie's crusty and rusty wheels were turning. A rich merchant? From Arkamat? With a daughter who was about to get kidnapped? Well, this bard wasn't above double (or triple) dipping. That's why he kept an eye on this hero type with him. Thank the gods he looked capable to take an arrow or two to the knee, as needed. Ollie was a master, nay a grandmaster, in the art of jumping behind heroes. They were so brave and courageous!

Besides their heroic deaths made for good lyrics. In fact, he was already halfway through the particular tune he'd sing for a few coppers following Gye'ron's death.

"We went to Prime
and signed our names
to save some kiddie nappings!

But Gye'ron was
hes-it-tating
he had a few misgivings!

(something something)

Gye'ron died!


Okay, fine. It was a work in progress. Either way, Ollie encouraged the knight to hurry along since they had to prep for this sting operation. If the kidnappers were coming, they could spring a trap for them. Relayed this bit to his new (albeit temporary) partner.
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Old March 20, 2018, 06:45 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Whatever discussion was to be had between the two would-be adventurers was both of no consequence nor interest to the man sitting behind the desk. He tilted his spectacles ever so slightly to grant him a clear, unadulterated view of the pair and then leaned back slightly in his chair. One level look was sent in Gye’ron’s direction, and then the same swept back to Oliver.

“Our business is concluded here,” he finally said aloud with a tone that allowed very little in the way of debate. He then began to shuffle about his papers across the tabletop in a clear effort to clear the space and call it a day.
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