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  1. #21
    Stefan Baruch




    "I promise to take any rumours I hear about your exploits with a grain of salt," Stefan said with a twinkle of amusement in his eye. He knew all too well how tales could get exaggerated, and he certainly wouldn't take anything he heard about Nairn at face value. Not that he couldn't imagine her killing seven men, if she had a compelling reason and no other options - but that didn't make all the gossip true.

    He listened carefully to her suggestions, and nodded periodically. A slow smile spread across his face.

    "Yes, that's perfect," he replied. "Exactly the sort of advice I was hoping for. If anyone can find records about the shamans, you can. I wouldn't even know where to start looking. I'm grateful for your help. I also think your suggestion about the Wildspine Hills is a good one. Anakita has... issues with the human gods, but she has her spiritual side nonetheless. The Norn spirits appeal to her more than the gods of our race - that they try to help, even when they die in the process as Owl did. I think that trip would be healing for her. I'm glad I asked you; I never would have thought of that."

    His words were entirely sincere. Stefan wasn't a stupid man, but he was no scholar. When it came to matters like this, he was glad for a helping hand pointing him in the right direction.

    "I suppose I should go break the news to Anakita that we're taking a trip to your former home," Stefan said. "She'll be excited. Ever since Zhaitan fell, she's been itching for a new adventure. She'll be happy for a journey in the company of a good friend like you."
    "Sleep to dream, and we dream to live..." -Great Big Sea

  2. #22
    Paladin Quaxo9 is offline Quaxo9's Avatar
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    Nairn Tuckamore

    She let out a low breath of relief when Stefan seemed accepting of her suggestions. It wasn’t that she didn’t think that she knew what she was talking about with regards to getting information, it was more that Nairn wasn’t used to giving advice. In fact, she wasn’t used to being asked anything or spoken to at all. Things had been changing in that regard since the day she met Anakita and Saskia, but it was still going to take a great deal of getting used to.

    It seemed like the day was going to be full of surprises. She hadn’t expected Stefan to be so ready to depart on her ‘mission’. Nairn wasn’t sure that she herself was ready, but if she had the help now, there was really no sense in waiting. She would have to ready her heart on the trail. It already beat faster in anticipation.

    It was that willingness to help her find an answer to her question before he even got the information he desired that truly surprised her – that and the fact he again referred to her as a ‘friend’ with the qualifier ‘good’ before it. How did one move from being an acquaintance to being a friend to being a good friend without even making a purposeful effort to do so? It was baffling.

    Nairn stood for the first time in their conversation, fingertips resting on the table before her, almost as though she were afraid of hitting her head on the ceiling. Her eyes searched Stefan’s face once more, thoroughly, before hers stretched into a wan smile.

    “We will leave in the morrrning, then. hhI will meet you hhat the main gate.”

    It may have been presumptuous to indicate the next morning as their start date, but Nairn felt it was keeping in spirit with Stefan’s pacing. Besides, given enough time, she could likely talk herself out of going back to Lornar’s. The smile stuttered slightly before her lips could.

    Thank-hyou.”

    It had been a long time since she had need of expressing gratitude.
    Winner of the dubious Vaarsuvius Award for Verbousness!

    I support altruism.

  3. #23
    Stefan Baruch



    "See you then," Stefan replied. "Thank you for your help, too."

    He went to talk to Anakita, and wasn't at all surprised that she was eager to take on a new mission. Stefan didn't mention the other thing he'd talked to Nairn about - he wanted to make sure it would pan out first - but the expedition to Lornar's Pass required plenty of planning in itself. Sadie would be staying with her older siblings while Anakita and Stefan were gone, but Ursa and Maymar wanted to tag along; surprisingly, Canach, who had been hanging around the house a lot lately, had asked to travel with them too.

    The five of them set out to meet Nairn in the morning as agreed.
    Last edited by Monkey Kitty; 08-28-2014 at 08:11 PM.

  4. #24
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    Nairn Tuckamore

    After Stefan left, Nairn burst into action. She gathered what little direct family history she could find into her portable desk, refilled her inkwell from Old Fiach’s stock and pushed her stool back under the table where she’d found it. The trek to Lornar’s and further afield would take several days’ worth of supplies – especially now that she was travelling with others.

    When travelling alone, Nairn rarely stopped to eat or sleep. Her muscles seemed to propel her onward in an attempt to keep up with her mind – which was always running miles ahead. However, she knew that most others needed to stop to rest, eat or sleep. As they were going on this trip to aid her, Nairn felt as though she should allow them to move at their pace. Besides, it wasn’t as though Anakita, Stefan and their crew were slow by any sense of the word.

    Throwing her cloak around her shoulders, she shrank into her hood before stepping out into the hustle of the trade centre of the Shiverpeaks. Nairn didn’t nod to the guards at the door, nor did she say farewell to Fiach or thank him for the use of his scrolls. Knowledge had no borders or owners as far as she was concerned, so the thought hadn’t occurred to her.

    Once outside, she cut close to the hills along the north of the glen. The place she sought was just outside Hoelbrak, but close enough to make trade and travel convenient. Nairn had many such niches scattered over the whole of Tyria. Tiny hideaways that could be mistaken for animal habitation, but turning over a rock here or pushing aside a vine there would reveal the more purposeful nature of a person not wanting someone else in their business.

    This place was more like a cache than a domicile. It was too small to stretch out in and it was so shallow that a candle might be visible to passers-by at night, so she rarely stayed there. It was her own private bank, as it were – with extra daggers, quills, a cloak and food stashed away in hidey-holes. It was tempting to wait out the hours there, away from all the people, but there was something else she had to do. Grabbing a few items, she looked about before dashing back into Hoelbrak in the direction of the Great Hall.

    ~~~~~

    The following morning, the Snakecharm/Baruch clan would find Nairn already waiting for them at the gate, a travelling sack over her shoulder. Her form was unmistakable to one who was familiar with it – fortunate for them, as her hood still obscured her face and her cloak draped her trappings. Nairn’s eyes, however, were almost glowing under the fur-edged fabric and her teeth showed through her smile.

    Her gaze flitted between all present – warming regarding Anakita and Stefan, while almost hesitantly passing by Ursa’s face, and settling a little longer on the other two. Nairn wasn’t much for socializing and rarely called on anyone, so she hadn’t much opportunity to meet the Asuran or Sylvari. Very typically of her, Nairn didn’t greet any of them verbally – and likely wouldn’t say much at all until she knew these latter two better.

    Ursa’s presence, on the other hand, concerned her somewhat. The girl already had a reasonable reputation, partly due to her older sister’s battles. Being affiliated with Nairn could certainly damage the other Norn’s credibility and chance of procuring a good name for herself. Of course, Ursa would also be useful because she understood her people and their written language – she could go places Nairn couldn’t and ask questions without raising suspicion.

    It would be an interesting trip. She hoped they all knew what they were getting themselves into.
    Last edited by Quaxo9; 01-18-2013 at 09:20 PM.

  5. #25
    Anakita Snakecharm and Ursa Thaw




    Anakita and Stefan immediately recognized Nairn - she was distinctive looking, even among the Norn. All the members of their group carried small packs, supplies for the journey that wouldn't leave them too encumbered to travel quickly.

    The Ranger had no doubt that Ursa and Maymar would adapt quickly to the being on the move. Canach, she was less sure about. But no, that was unfair. She had seen him in the field before. He was a capable fighter, and had never complained of any hardship. Perhaps because of his aristocratic manner, she had underestimated his toughness. So far, Canach had never given the slightest sign that he was weak.

    When they got close enough for voices to be audible, Anakita hailed Nairn and waved. "Good to see you," the Ranger said. "I hope we'll be able to help with your project."

    Stefan had explained to Anakita what they would be doing - and she had understood how difficult it would be for Nairn. Anakita wasn't going to bring that up in front of the whole group, though. Later, in a more quiet moment, she'd catch Nairn alone and see if the Norn woman wanted to talk.

    "You may have met Ursa before. That's Maymar, and that's Canach." She gestured to each of them as she said their names. "We're ready to set off whenever you are."

    Ursa gave Nairn a polite but slightly wary smile. "Hi," she said, in a tone that was a little gruff but not unfriendly. She'd heard odd rumours about Nairn... but she also knew that Anakita and Stefan liked and respected the odd Norn. Ursa was willing to give her a chance, even if Nairn seemed a little awkward with her. Ursa wondered rather self-consciously if Nairn worried about the younger Norn's ability to pull her own weight in the party. Well, she would just have to prove she could.
    Last edited by Monkey Kitty; 01-19-2013 at 05:27 PM.

  6. #26
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    Reticyn



    The gates always seemed restless as though the Eternal Alchemy was roiling within the confines of their circuitry. He had never cared for gates. Not enough stability. Still, they were a brilliant way to travel thousands of miles without taking more than a single step – and giving up more than a few coins.

    The magnitude of this single step was certainly potent. Rata Sum was a balmy, humid place. It was bright and alive with the sound of machinery, golems and experiments gone wrong. Holbrak was cold, dry enough to make his ears shrink and relatively silent. The snow had a habit of muffling things, which was a fortunate effect in a land populated by large, loud-mouthed entities.

    Reticyn nodded to the operator as he padded away from the swirling purple light, then held up his hand. And waited. Soon enough, an enormous scaly head protruded through the gate several heads above his. The lizard gave a few cursory sniffs before fully entering Hoelbrak, much to the operator’s impatience.

    Laying a hand on his pet’s knotted leg, he turned to their companion for the moment.

    “Well, I certainly hope your intel is correct, or we’ll have been flash frozen for nothing.” He paused, taking in the scenery. “Though, the architecture is interesting...for a primitive race.”

  7. #27
    Leepni




    The cold air stung Leepni's face and the sun reflecting on snow momentarily blinded her. She blinked hard to clear the moisture from her watering eyes before it froze.

    Leepni was short even for an Asura, but she had worked hard to become strong. A simple wooden shield hung on her back, and she had a small sword that suited her size in a scabbard on her belt. She wore chain mail armour in tones of yellow, red, and brown - the yellow matching her yellow eyes, and contrasting with her dark skin. At the moment, her black hair was concealed beneath her helmet. You never knew when you might need to fight. Leepni was a Warrior, and she took her job very seriously.

    If she didn't take it seriously, who would? Some people laughed at her, and didn't believe an Asura could be successful in physical combat against larger foes. Even some among her own race chuckled because she was small, and because they saw her profession as emphasizing brawn over brains. That wasn't true, of course. Not that strength wasn't important, but a tactical mind was equally so. Combat could be an art. Leepni wanted to prove that... and she knew just the right person to teach her. Assuming he was willing, of course.

    "They're here," Leepni said confidently, and hoped she was as right as she sounded. "I got word this morning that they're leaving from Hoelbrak. They'll be... oh, look! There they are."

    She had recognized them, as she knew she would. Suddenly, Leepni felt shy. What if her role model laughed at her too? Even as she pointed out her hero standing nearby, her feet felt rooted to the ground.

  8. #28
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    Reticyn Locke



    “Well, that’s convenient.”

    Reticyn started walking toward the group Leepni had indicated. Two Humans, two Norn, one Sylvari and an Asuran. “Very interesting.” he muttered under his breath. Inter-species groups were relatively uncommon, despite the fame Zojja’s team had won. Perhaps if the team had managed to stay together, the fallout would have ignited some sort of change – if nothing, a fad.

    The entourage would see an Asuran with possibly the largest ears known to Metrica Province. His forward motion created a breeze that made them billow upwards and hover there as though they were pointed like that all the time. Still, his stride lacked nothing in self-assurance and the gigantic marsh drake beside him offered some sort of validity to that.

    As he approached, Reticyn attempted to recall where, if at all, he might have seen the Asuran Necromancer. Was she with Dynamics? He shook his head. He’d know soon enough. Sizing up the rest of the group, he took in their travelling clothes and packs.

    “We are glad we caught you before you left. I am Reticyn Locke and this is Spike.”

    He clasped his hands behind his back and smiled disarmingly. They would of course know who he was – what remained to be seen was how wide his comrade’s fame had spread. Looking to his left, he smiled a toothy grin at the Asuran warrior, as though he were proud to be standing with her in the middle of Hoelbrak. Her discomfort had completely escaped him.

  9. #29
    Anakita Snakecharm, Stefan Baruch and Leepni




    "Ah yes," Anakita said when Reticyn introduced himself. She hadn't the faintest idea who he was, but he obviously assumed she would, and she didn't want to wound his pride. Maybe he really was a household name in his own land; Anakita didn't spend a lot of time in Rata Sum, so she wouldn't know anyway. "It's nice to meet you."

    Anakita introduced herself and the rest of the group - and Maymar resolved the mystery of which college she was from by mentioning Synergetics, knowing it would be important to the other two Asura - then everyone looked expectantly at Leepni. It took an awkwardly long pause for the diminutive Warrior to realize she was the only person who hadn't yet been introduced by name.

    Leepni couldn't speak, like her mouth was full of cotton. He'll laugh at you! He'll laugh at you! That was what all her friends back Soren Draa had said, and at the time she'd insisted it wasn't true... but now the words were echoing over and over in her head. She'd shuddered when she realized the best place to meet the traveling company was Hoelbrak, because the Norn had laughed at her last time. Why would this be any different? Suddenly, Leepni regretted deciding to meet her hero. Maybe it would have been better to keep him on his pedestal. He'll laugh at you...

    It was Stefan who broke the silence. "I see you're a fellow Warrior?" he asked Leepni. His voice was toneless, every syllable marked and marred by the Foefire, but Leepni had been prepared for that. She knew she had to look for the emotion in his eyes, not in the way he shaped his words. Leepni saw no mockery there, so she let down her guard enough to nod.

    "Always nice to meet a comrade-in-arms," he went on, seeming to sense her hesitation and trying to draw her out. "Sword and shield are your preferred weapons?"

    Once again, Leepni searched his face for a hint that he was humouring her, or that he would chuckle about this with Anakita. Leepni had been mocked so many times; she couldn't take it from Stefan Baruch of all people. He still looked sincere, though. "Yes," Leepni said shyly. "Like yours. I was hoping that maybe... you'd be willing to teach me some of what you know."

    "Of course," Stefan replied, as though a human fighter teaching a young Asura about swordplay was the most normal thing in the world.

    Leepni actually managed a smile. She removed her helmet, letting her two ribboned knots of black hair uncompress - a sign that for the first time in the conversation, she didn't feel like she was on the battlefield.

    Anakita asked Reticyn, "So, what brings you to Hoelbrak? You said you were glad you caught us... did you need something?" She didn't mean to be rude by being so direct, but if they needed help, time might be of the essence and she didn't want to beat around the bush.
    Last edited by Monkey Kitty; 01-27-2013 at 01:24 PM.

  10. #30
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    Reticyn Locke



    He had been concerned for a moment there when Leepni didn’t step up to introduce herself. It was a bad time to be having second thoughts – they often came too late to be of any use to anyone. Also a little too late, Reticyn realized why Leepni might be having those thoughts of a secondary nature. She was afraid of further mockery. He couldn’t fault her for that.

    That same antipathy towards mockery had been instilled in him from a young age. For some reason his parents did not see fit to stick with naming conventions and not only refused to give him the classic double consonant in his first name, but gave him a second name as well! Oh how they other children teased him for that – but of course, they had divided their time between making fun of his name and of his ears. He was rather past all that now; his name now carried a weight to it and he thought his voluminous ears made him look regal.

    Luckily it was the Warrior they had come seeking who ‘broke the ice’, so to speak. Reticyn was loathe to do the speaking for Leepni, concerned that it might make her seem a puppet. She wasn’t a part of his crewe, but still, he didn’t want to see her viewed unfavourably. They had reputations of race and college to uphold, after all.

    Pleased that Stefan appeared accepting of his comrade, Reticyn’s voice had a definite upward lift to it when he responded to Anakita.

    “Why, I believe the reason has already been explained! My comrade here desires to study under this mentor and I have decided to accompany her while my crewe finishes running diagnostics in my lab. We were glad to have caught you before you left so that Leepni may start her apprenticeship right away!”

    He smiled again, clearly inviting the two of them along on whatever mission it was the group was undertaking.

    ~~~~~~~~~~

    Nairn Tuckamore



    The primary emotion on her face was astute curiosity. Certainly Nairn was familiar with the Asura and had spent some time in Rata Sum and assorted provinces collecting information. Most of what she had found was useless to anyone but the writer of the book and the Asura were highly aggressive about their privacy. Altogether, not the best place for a Norn thief.

    The one Asura was clearly a Warrior, but she was also the tiniest of the race Nairn had ever seen. Strangely enough, this fact gave Nairn a feeling of connection to her. No doubt the Asura was teased about her profession coupled with her diminutive height. Nairn was often looked at askance for being a thief – her people were not exactly known for subtlety and silence.

    When it became clear that the two arrivals wished to accompany them, she was not entirely certain about how she should react. The Asura had asked to be mentored by Stefan and Stefan had accepted – it would seem foolish to send Leepni away when she was already here. Perhaps they would not cause too much trouble – or even better – would cause enough of a distraction to allow Nairn to gain access to what she needed.

    At the end of her thoughts, she realized there hadn’t really been any question at all. Nairn nodded her assent to Anakita to allow the Asura to accompany them and shifted restlessly on her feet. This party was getting a little large for her tastes, but fortunately the newcomers wouldn’t take up much space in camp.

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