The Elf in the Alley

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Joint post by Rosmary and Nim

Kalena's stalker did not leave her waiting long. Moments later, the hooded figure stepped into the alley after her, and she at last got a decent glimpse at his face. Her peripheral observations had been spot on: the man had a long, elven face with light grey eyes and long black hair. Now to see what he wanted…

To Kalena's mild disappointment, the figure's eyes widened and his hands went up when he saw her wielding a blade. "Oh umm, I guess this does look like that," the elf stammered. Kalena said nothing, observing her pursuer carefully for any sign of casting a spell or reaching for a weapon, while also listening for any potential partners of the elf who might be trying to sneak up on her.

"So, this is awkward, although I suppose there really wasn't any way that this wouldn't be awkward," the man continued nervously. "Well, er, I'll try not to waste too much of your time, but, well, you see, you look like someone my wife heard might be in this town, someone she met a long time ago, and, well, we are in a bit of a bind, and if you are that person she thinks you are, we, um, would greatly appreciate your assistance."

Kalena said nothing and maintained her steely gaze, but inside, she was displeased that she had potentially been recognized. The Being had agreed to let her and Lafayette retire to a time and place in their world far enough away from that which they had come from to ideally avoid such an incident, although perhaps the caveat that they be sent to a place and time not too unfamiliar had been too stringent. Hopefully she and Lafayette wouldn't find themselves on the run now from people wanting to avenge the Timber Crag monarchy or other such nonsense.

"Umm, what do you think?" the elf pressed after several more moments of silence.

"I don't know who you think I am, but like any intelligent person, I do not agree to things when I don't know what I am agreeing to," Kalena replied testily. "Your pitch is quite lacking in details."

"Er, of course," the seemingly clueless elf mumbled. "I guess I should introduce myself. My name is Solandriel, my wife is Gerda of Hilfengarde, and, well, you look a lot like one of those warriors Master Maelwin hired a long time ago, before we had to flee his estate…"

Kalena couldn't hide her surprise, for the names brought a pang of recognition and a jumble of thoughts immediately filled her mind. The master the elf was referring to she had known as Maelwin Keyes, an eccentric individual whose allegiances were all over the place; a supporter and trusted operative of Queen Thalia one day, a Rising Star rebel who sought to overthrow Thalia the next. A man she suspected had instigated the war with the Timber Crag and then risked his life to stop it. Even the Avatar of Fernoia had openly wondered about his loyalties.

Kalena and Lafayette lived for months at Maelwin's house whilst orchestrating the successful assassination of Queen Lellian. Gerda was Maelwin's faithful housekeeper, whom they had seen a lot during their stay at the manor. Considering all that had happened since, she hardly remembered the elf and did not recall Gerda being married. There was something familiar about him, however, and she supposed he could have been one of the footmen she saw around from time to time. She was not surprised they were forced to take flight from the Praitine Vale as their master's cover had been effectively blown.

“Maelwin is not a name I ever expected to hear again,” Kalena said very quietly, giving up the pretense that this was a case of mistaken identity on Gerda's part. “Lafayette and I were assured we would be left alone, that all debts and obligations had been fulfilled. If your master is seeking our services once more, then that strikes me as a clear violation of the agreement we made with... his superiors.”

Kalena furtively looked up and down the alley to make sure there was no one eavesdropping on them. Despite her words, she was admittedly curious what Maelwin might be up to in this era. Surely, given how the future had turned out, from the wretched state of Dalen to the rise of the High Church of Sarnia, things had not exactly unfolded the way he and Avara had planned a century ago, and all their arrogant meddling had if anything only made matters worse.

The elf who called himself Solandriel scratched his head. "Well, I couldn't rightly say what sort of agreement you made with Master Maelwin, as I haven't seen him in over a hundred years. We followed him for a bit, Gerda and I, after we had to flee the Vale, tried to help him save the world or something after everything went crazy after what you guys did. I don't think things went according to plan, with his boss apparently getting attacked by some monster, after which Master Maelwin comes up with this insane plan to kidnap some elf woman to draw out the monster and trap it.

Kalena's brow furrowed, not quite knowing what to make of the madcap story, though she couldn't help but wonder if the monster in question was part of the prophecy of Avara's doom learned in the vision from the World Wound on the journey to Maelwin's house all those years ago. At the time, Avara had assured her and Lafayette that this future event was no concern of theirs since they would probably not be around when it happened.

“Did Maelwin's scheme not work?” Kalena asked, curious despite herself.

"Heh, no, not really. We played with fire and got burned," the elf shuddered. "To make a very long story short, we were not able to defeat the spooky metal necromancer thing and his zombie horde that came after us despite the fancy weapons Gerda made that were supposed to even the odds. Thankfully, the creature saw fit to spare us after we surrendered. Then the monster took Maelwin somewhere, and when they got back, Maelwin told us he needed to go to Kobrorus. After the monster departed with his girlfriend, Maelwin advised Gerda to find her own way in the world, then left us to get to Kobrorus with the fey that we had fought alongside with. We never saw any of them ever again. Gerda and I travelled together, fell in love, got married, and eventually learned that Kobrorus apparently sank into the ocean or something. Seriously, you can't get anyone to take you out there for a reasonable price. Those mariners who know of the place say it's haunted, that no ship that has ever entered 'the mists', whatever those are, has ever returned."

Solandriel took a deep breath, "So yeah, Gerda and I have been making a living as itinerant potion salespeople since then, and all the while we have tried to figure out what happened and where all the fey disappeared to.”

Kalena nodded slowly, digesting the information with bemusement. “It's all a very interesting story, Solandriel, and I'm so glad to hear you and Gerda found love along the way, but I don't see why—”

“Why I'm bothering you? The reason I'm bothering you is because the bad karma from kidnapping the elf chick has caught up with us a century later, but now it's Gerda that's being held against her will by murderous thugs who want her to craft a poison to kill some noble woman. If these villains should succeed in their dastardly deed, we are quite confident they will dispose of us once we've outlived our usefulness to them. I can't lose her, so if you would be willing to be a badass and rescue her, I would be forever in your debt."

Kalena rolled the vernacular term around her mind for a moment and decided it fit her like a glove. Yes, she was certainly a badass—the baddest of badasses. And Solandriel was offering her a chance to break away from her current tedium to do what she did best. She knew a significant part of herself had been lying dormant for the past year. She felt it stirring back to life, thirsting for action.

“Hmm, my services don't come cheap,” Kalena said, playing a little hard to get. “But tell you what though, I have some genuinely fond memories of Gerda's hospitality when Lafayette and I were entertained at Maelwin's as house guests, so for old time's sake I may be able to give you a break on my fee. Especially with both your lives hanging in the balance, as you say. Can you be more specific about these murderous thugs as to who and what they are, and how many?”

The elf's eyes lit up at her semi-confirmation of services to be rendered. "Of course! Of course! Three of them approached us in the marketplace when we were setting up shop early in the morning. Two of them were humans, the other looked like a half-orc. All of them were men. They dragged us to an abandoned warehouse after Gerda refused their initial proposition to craft a poison they wanted, and we passed a female human who was watching the entrance to the warehouse. Then one of the men told us that we needed to craft that poison if living was something we enjoyed. After we agreed to their completely fair proposal, one of the men reported their success to another woman whom we heard but did not catch a glimpse of. Gerda also saw another fellow whom she saw prowling the market before we got approached by the thugs. So, that might make five or six of them.”

It was a manageable number and Kalena immediately began calculating how to best go about this, weighing her options, playing out various scenarios through her cunning tactical mind. “And you say they're intending to kill a local noblewoman? What do you make of them exactly? Are they crude back-alley skull-sappers recruited to the task or professional assassins? I don't believe Osilon has anything in the way of an Assassins' Guild.”

“I guess that most of the thugs had the posture of professional soldiers or mercenaries despite the rather plain apparel they were wearing… and, I didn't hear them swear at all, which I think is unusual for bandits and sellswords.” Solandriel knit his brows thoughtfully, then added, “Oh, and the woman that was originally watching the warehouse accompanied me here on my trip to acquire ingredients we need for the poison, but I managed to shake her about an hour ago."

“Hopefully you made it appear as though you were not deliberately attempting to do so.” Kalena considered taking that woman out first or perhaps capturing her for interrogation. “We only have a short window here, but Gerda ought to be safe until she's able to concoct the poison. I would like to reconnoiter the warehouse, and if there is enough time collect my partner and associate to even up the odds a little, as these thugs sound like they might know their business. But I can handle them myself if need be. Stealth and silent kills are a particular specialty of mine, and possibly I could provide a distraction that would allow you and Gerda to make your escape.”

"This warehouse is in the town of Indrasel, which is about a three and a half hour walk from here," the elf noted, "if that influences your plans at all…"

“Yes, it does. I assumed it was here in Osilon. Why don't we swing by my house now? Hopefully Lafayette will be there, who can help us put together an effective plan and carry it out. He's perhaps the best partner I have ever had, and has a clever mind. If he's not there I can at least retrieve my sword and other weapons.” The former assassin looked at Solandriel, assessing. “You appear to be in decent shape. How are you with a sword?”

"I've never really used one," he confessed. "But I did once best several highwaymen with my trusty dagger, granted that was under the influence of a particularly potent adrenaline potion my wife had crafted."
“I'm not fond of such concoctions as they usually leave you crashing after a short period of time, and being vulnerable isn't something I'm comfortable with or enjoy,” Kalena said as they started walking from the alley. “By your description of their dress and how they're basing themselves beyond the city, it sounds to me like these people are trying to keep their presence unnoticeable. That suggests they might not be locals. What sort of accents do they have?”

The elf didn't immediately respond and appeared to mull over her words as they emerged back into the marketplace. After a moment, he replied, "I confess I can't be entirely certain, as a lot of human accents are pretty similar to me, but I think one of the men had a Verdish accent, while the half-orc had a Havenite accent. Everyone else sounded rather Sarnian or North Karavossian, with the lady who escorted me here having probably the most Karavossian accent, and even then it wasn't terribly thick."

“They could simply be a foreign band of free mercenaries, but something sounds off about them,” Kalena mused, not quite sure what that something was.

Solandriel nodded in agreement. "Also, speaking of foreign people, I don't think the person these assassins are after is local either. We overheard them mentioning that their quarry would be coming into port in the near future, which Gerda thought means that the lady they are after is a foreign dignitary. I guess that doesn't change things much, as either way I'd hate to be involved in her death…"

(OOC - We'd be happy to adjust the descriptions of the assassins if necessary to accommodate the needs of intertwining stories. Just let me know what you want and I'll edit this post as needed.)

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