Parlay

"Do you want me to threaten you?" Horo asked, smiling a sad, weary smile. "I don't like threats, and I like even worse harming someone who doesn't deserve to be harmed. So I'm trying diplomacy here. If I'm any judge of character—and I think I am—you're a decent lad, just trying to do what he thinks is right. Someone of noble convictions. The kind this cold, mean world needs. Maybe even a hero who bards sing about in their tales. So the last thing I'd want to do is snuff you out where you stand, and it would be the last thing she would want me to do either." He spoke casually as if he could do just as he said, and at the same time very tiredly, too tired seemingly for subterfuge, his heart worn on his sleeve. "Orla, that's her name. She preferred to see the good in most people, even the kind of people who were dangerous to her. It's how she ended up locked in that thing. Or at least I think she's in there."
Lightning cracked in the distance, its flash reflecting in Horo's blood-shot, chartreuse eyes, as tension filled the air between the two men. He slowly eased a strange, rectangular object from the pocket of his robes and held it up to Severos. "Relax. This is not a weapon. It's just a little something I cobbled together to help me find her. Long before you were likely born. To make a long story short, when I finally got a reading, it suggested she was on the move, and being transported by that ghoul. I've been following it on foot all the way from the Dalen Alps. It was a bloody long walk. Along the way I saw more of those same undead fiends carrying other stuff. You see, their master is relocating to this area. He's a bad one... extremely powerful, and probably insane. We're contemporaries of a sort, he and I, but we've never really met face to face. Considering the things they say about him I didn't think that a good idea. I didn't want to end up like Orla, or worse. When I learned he was responsible for her disappearance I researched him thoroughly. Found out everything I could. But I figure he's someone's else's problem now. My problem has become you, and like I said, because I'm fairly sure you're a good person, I can't deal with you so simply as you dealt with the ghoul. That was rather well done, by the way." Horo glanced at where the remains of the undead creature had sunk into the ground. The young man had serious magical skill, no doubt. The swift destruction of the thrall was like something he'd have expected of one of Dalen's elite battle mages of old.
"Okay, look," Horo said. "You don't trust me, and I get that. If you're unwilling to hand the pendant over, what do you intend to do with it? You picked it up for a reason. You sensed an inkling of what's inside maybe? You fear it might be evil? That couldn't be farther from the truth, but don't take my word for it. Confirm this for yourself. However you want to do it is fine with me, so long as you don't take too long. I don't know how much more I can honestly go on. I've been burning myself up and..."
Horo trailed off as he saw the black chest and noticed something funny about it. He knelt down to have a better look. "Hmm... that's strange. This has some very thick lead lining. I used to be a shop owner in Dalen and sold articles like this from time to time. Antiques mostly. There must be a crack or a seam somewhere, or my device wouldn't have been able to get a read on the pendant's magical essence. It would've been too shielded." He frowned for a moment at this peculiarity, but then brushed it aside and stood back up. He had only a working grasp of such things, just enough to improvise and deal with what he had to when he had to, and was far from an expert on magic. "So as I was saying, if you're of a mind to investigate the pendant to determine what it is, to probe its mysteries, do so. I won't stand in your way unless I think you're going to damage it. Maybe when you're done and understand I'm sincere, you can help me get her out. My dearest friend. If there is anything left of her to get out. I have to think there is. Her kind are very different than... ours. Humans, I mean. They're magical by nature, not as corporeal as humans she once told me. Not that I completely understood what she meant by that, or what she was even talking about half the time. Our world views couldn't have been any more different." Catching himself rambling again he smiled, and looked back at Severos in hopeful desperation.

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