Secret Agent Man

“Well if you want our help, start talking, you seem to have more knowledge about this than we do so we can only help if you are transparent about all of it.” Lafayette said, listening intently.

Before Ponce could speak Lafayette stopped him. “We need to go somewhere else.” he said, “If you were listening in. Who knows who else could be.” He made a motion to follow. “We’ve got enough on our plate right now then having to be trying to figure out all the leads for everything all at once, to three mysteries.” he added.

Lafayette led the group back to the home he shared with Kalena and Shel. “We can talk here. Maybe deal with more problems all at once. Faire d'une pierre deux coups” (kill two birds with one stone)

Finally returning after a fair walk Lafayette unlocked the door to the home and pushed it open slowly.

“Lafayette, did you find Kalena?” Jocelyn asked, as she sat down a black leather book.

“Were you reading that to Greda?” He asked.

“No, I was just bored all alone and thought I’d read something. You don’t mind, do you?” she asked.

Lafayette shook his head as the others came in. “Just be careful with it, it’s a first edition signed by the author.” Lafayette told her.

“I’ll be very careful then.” She replied.

Shel turned to Ponce, “You said you work for The Mother, so does that mean you know Sunder? He’s famous among my tribe. Are the tales true?” she asked, “Is he as unstoppable as they say?”

"Who cares about Sunder. I want to know what you know about this whole warehouse deal, and what you think happened to Kalena?" Asher said. He looked around for a place to sit but there wasn't any for him after everyone claimed the few pieces of furniture, so he walked over to where a bottle of brandy sat almost empty. "And the elf, don't forget the elf," he said through slightly parted lips as he tipped back the remaining brandy. “This is good brandy.”

Lafayette looked to Asher then to V. Hoping V would have some input on the situation at hand. Having more knowledge about magics and bounty hunting then he did. But continued to scan the room, knowing the walls had eyes and ears.

V stood aside Lafayette, his elbow resting on his arm as he seemed to ponder the strange man. The air he gave off just rubbed him the wrong way.

Willa glanced around the room, "Lovely place you have here, but is there a draft in here? It's a bit cold." Lafayette could see that Willa was the closest to a darker spot in the room, where tiny bits of smoky darkness flickered out. Shade was hiding, it was better for guests not to know about the shadow demon roaming in the house.

Ponce didn't look, but he knew Shade was there, and in the back of his mind he wondered what the mysterious stranger might have been plotting. His mind was, as always, impenetrable to the sorcerer, but not nearly as imperceivable as the living shadow might hope. Turning his attention to the group, though it would have never appeared to be divided, Ponce cleared his throat before the others, finding his place against a wall that made up the house's front side, standing so that light shone over on side of him.

"I told you a fair bit of what I know, but I suppose it would be best to make sure all of the information is on the table. I work for the Church of the Fair Lady as an agent, and it is my job to ensure the Mother is safe from threats only preventable through counter-subterfuge. Having her personal guard stalk around is a bad look, no one wants to see Sunder in an all-black doublet; so they sent me. With that being said, I shouldn't be revealing my identity at all, but I need you. You all were present at the warehouse last night, and considering your friend," Ponce gestured to Gerda, "I surmise that she must have been responsible for your appearances there. Now we both know that those individuals were assassins who were plotting The Mother’s demise, I just need to figure out who's behind them."

Ponce stopped his monologue to pull from his hip a flask of water, taking a quick swig of it before putting it back.

"Sorry, I've been tailing you lot all day, haven't had a good drink in a while. Are there any questions, or may I continue?"

“What would assassins want with the woman?” Lafayette asked, pointing to Gerda. “And what reason could they have for putting their whole plot to ruin to cover up her going missing?”

“Well that is the thousand platinum question my fiery headed friend.” Ponce said. “What would those criminals want with a humble potion maker, hmm?” he asked rhetorically. “They have access to all the healing salves and tonics they could ever need. Far better than anything a ramshackle laboratory could mix up. So why her?”

“You know more than we do.” Shel said. “We didn’t even know what we were stumbling into. Shoddy intel we got was, it was a simple kidnapping. Not some deep rooted crime syndicate.”

A deep rooted crime syndicate in a high level assassination conspericy aimed at starting a holy war between two very powerful churches, which their respective nations would follow to war. Big mess.” he corrected Shel.

“And here I thought it couldn’t get any more complicated.” Asher said. “So how are we meant to figure this out, find who’s all behind it and stop it before it goes farther?” Asher asked.

“I can’t imagine it’s any of the other groups behind it.” Lafayette cut in. “It’d be too complicated and too risky. So other forces would benefit from such a risky sleight of hand play?”

“La reine de fer?” Jocelyn piped up. “Oh sorry… The Iron Queen. Maybe she’s behind it. Make people move all the pieces on the board waaay over here, so they can’t get to the other side before it's too late.”

Ponce smiled in praise at the idea. "Very astute. The Iron Queen would certainly benefit from a war among the mostly human kingdoms, who would be too occupied fighting each other to come to Zatar's aid against her elven hordes."

Willa chimed in, “Even then, Zatar has always been a more isolated society, I don’t think many would come to their aid, and from my understanding, why risk yourself to distract a few nations that don’t pay much attention to you when you have a whole nation to claim. I think it’s a bit odd on her part, if it is her. Maybe for a bigger unseen goal?”

Jocelyn shook her head. “No I mean… Like Lafayette said, it’s a grifters game.” she pointed out. “Like the shells. They are fancy with one hand, to make you watch it while they do something with the other. The war might be a distraction. It’s not about people coming to Zatar’s aid. It’s…” she paused. “It’s about making it so we can’t help each other.” Jocelyn looked to them to see if she was making sense. “It’s like taking care of puppies. Make them rough house till they get tired then they won’t want to play. Zatar might not be the goal, it might just be a move they know they can win. Tire them out while we tire ourselves out. Then they can just roll us over like a tidal wave.”

“The ruined victory tactic, can’t fight when your forces are worn out from the last war.” Willa leaned against the wall, “So, if she wants to take Aeran, she wants us to tear us apart. How do we ruin her plan?”

“Well while we can’t rule that out yet, there is nothing to point us in that direction yet. That’s not to say it is not possible the Iron Queen has something to do with this, it is unlikely that she is directly involved and wouldn’t outsource and then outsource that and so on. We’d have almost no way of tracking it back unless we find out more motivation.”

Shade slowly slithered away from the corner he was hiding in, finding Willa to be too close. He shifted his position beside Lafayette’s shadow. Willa let out a disgruntled sigh, “Always the mysteries, no clear answers. I’m getting sick of it.”

“So what is the proposition on the actions to take?” Lafayette asked, “They want a war, trying to stop a war rarely goes in the favour of those trying to stop it. It’s a Hydra’s head, cut off one you just get two angrier heads. War still starts but it goes from subjugation to eradication.”

Ponce smiled at Lafayette. "Your take on the situation matches mine, but I've had the luxury of giving all this more thought, and I've come up with a plan.." he said.

“Then make a plan.” Lafayette said, “You have all the info after all.”

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