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  1. #11
    Paladin Quaxo9 is offline Quaxo9's Avatar
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    To his credit, the man looked nervous. The credit was to his intelligence, however little he had, to understand that he had made a grievous error that could very well cost him the life he desperately wanted to save. His tongue darted over his lips despite the humid surroundings. Death had a way of drying out one’s mouth. The man’s eyes remained sheltered behind a rat’s nest of hair, which was fortunate, for they gleamed with an unsettling triumph.

    “Wha..what I meant to say was…take me with you…because you need me. You know very well that the Lionguard will suspect you regardless of the pains you’ve taken to conceal your presence here. They will tear every property you own apart looking for him. And, from the looks of it, he needs a proper bed and a place to rest. I can supply that. The Seraph have not be able to penetrate our organization…the Lionguard would fare no better. We could supply him with the finest medical care…”

    Here, the Norn snorted, looking suitably unimpressed. The fool. Did he not know that one of Anakita’s own daughters was a highly regarded medical practitioner? She herself had no shortage of knowledge, nor places to hide one man. Still, keeping the rest of the family out of whole thing couldn’t hurt – and any of Nairn’s hideaways involved a remoteness not conducive to long-term care. Besides, it wasn’t as though Canach’s reputation could get any worse.

    “As I was saying. They’d never think he’d join our ranks - and they’d never find him if they did. I give you my personal vow that he would be kept safe until he is well. What do you say, Snakecharm?”

    It was a massive gamble. One that Anakita likely wouldn’t take due to the ties the Bandits were making with such enemies as the Nightmare Court and the White Mantle. There was no guarantee that this man was telling the truth, nor were his motives in any way clear.
    Winner of the dubious Vaarsuvius Award for Verbousness!

    I support altruism.

  2. #12
    Anakita Snakecharm




    Anakita looked at the man for a moment, and frowned. She had basically told him outright what he had to say to convince her to spare his life. He would have had to do little more than parrot it back. Somehow he'd managed to screw even that simple task up completely.

    She hadn't asked for his help. She didn't want it or need it. Yes, the Lionguard would immediately suspect that Canach was back in Divinity's Reach - but it wouldn't make the slightest difference, because they had no jurisdiction there. Divinity's Reach was still under the rule of the Krytan queen, and with all the Snakecharm-Baruch clan had done for the Krytan royal family for the past several generations, Queen Jennah wouldn't dare let the Lionguard trespass in the crown's city in pursuit of a criminal who had never threatened Krytan interests. Left with no alternative, the Lionguard would have to seize on the Aetherblade explanation the Ranger had conveniently provided, or else admit their hands were tied.

    "So let me make sure I understand," Anakita said. "I asked you to tell me why you deserved a second chance, and your response is basically, 'I'm a bandit and I'll always be a bandit.' That isn't... quite what I had in mind."

    It made her sad, a little. Some small part of her that wanted to see the best in people had hoped she would be able to let him live. Was his failure a moral one, or the result of stupidity? Did it matter?

    "I thought you said you knew about me. I fight bandits. I'm not going to let you go just to meet you again in some dark alley and have to finish you off then... or worse, to have you cross paths with innocent people who can't defend themselves. So... sorry, wrong answer. You lose."

    She drew her bow and notched the arrow, but she didn't let it fly. Not yet. The man had one moment left to make a decision. One final, very slim chance. The Ranger had very little hope that he would take it. It was more than she'd given most of his fellow bandits in the past, though, so she counted it as a gift to him.
    "Sleep to dream, and we dream to live..." -Great Big Sea

  3. #13
    Paladin Quaxo9 is offline Quaxo9's Avatar
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    “I have a daughter.”

    The words sprang from his lips as if shot from them by Anakita’s bow.

    “She has no mother – I’m all she has in this world. I want to see her again and set her up with someone proper, you know, to take care of her when I’m gone. She deserves better than me and I’d like the chance to make sure that happens.”

    His shoulders sagged low, and his voice sounded truly pleading.

  4. #14
    Anakita Snakecharm




    The Ranger's expression didn't change.

    "You should have led with that," she said. "It's better than the rest of your material."

    But although nothing in her demeanor suggested she was particularly impressed with this story, she did lower her bow again.

    Not that she necessarily believed this rather convenient family relationship was genuine, of course. The daughter might not even exist, and even if there was a child, the mere presence of an offspring didn't always mean the parent actually cared at all. Anakita thought there was a decent chance it might be true, though - unless the man had spontaneously developed tremendously better acting skills in the space of about a minute, he seemed to be speaking from the heart.

    There was enough of a possibility, at least, that Anakita was willing to give him a chance, instead of taking the chance that she was leaving an innocent kid orphaned and alone somewhere in the bustle and crowd of Lion's Arch. If the man proved a liar or a danger, she'd kill him later without guilt. At least she was willing to try, which was more than some would do.

    "There are going to be terms," she said. "This isn't a free pass. But we can discuss that once we're out of here."

    Nairn had bought them some time by rendering the guards unconscious, but their reprieve wouldn't last forever. Eventually someone would wander down here, and when that happened, they needed to be long gone. Besides, Canach required medical attention, and the sooner the better. They needed to go.

    The four other prisoners all began volunteering reasons they should be released too; they were quicker on the uptake than the first man, and offered more compelling justifications on the first try. Anakita didn't argue. This wasn't the time for an impromptu trial. She could sort out the good from the bad later, and if necessary quietly dispose of some remains in the Queensdale cemetery after nightfall.

    Stefan remained silent through the exchange. Never a particularly talkative man anyway, the ravages of the Foefire had rendered him essentially mute in public, although he still conversed willingly with family or friends. Anakita hadn't really expected him to offer an opinion... but she did wish she knew what he thought. Did he agree with her decision, or did he think she should have silenced the prisoners permanently? She glanced at Stefan, and although he still didn't say anything, he rested his hand on the small of her back for a moment - a clear gesture of support. She smiled faintly.

    The addition of several more people was going to make their cart escape rather more difficult, but it couldn't be helped. Maybe they were going to need those forged papers after all; if she waved them fast enough, the guards might not notice that the document contained only Canach's name. The Ranger could only hope it would all work out somehow. After all, this wasn't the first time they'd had to think on their feet and change the plan.

    "What's your name?" she asked the bandit as they loaded up the cart. "And where can we find this daughter of yours?"
    Last edited by Monkey Kitty; 09-16-2013 at 01:17 AM.

  5. #15
    Paladin Quaxo9 is offline Quaxo9's Avatar
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    The bandit moved slowly as though his very bones were weary. He bore no such marks as Canach, clearly whoever had done that had been very discerning in their choice of victims, which offered age or disease as an explanation. It was difficult to tell just how old he was: no true hair colour shone through the grime and his emaciated state made the bones in his hands stand out skeletally from the sleeves of his shirt. Still, he seemed able enough to hop into the back of the cart alongside Canach and the other prisoners. Her offered Anakita a cheap grin in response to her questions.

    “My name is Garroch. Garroch Thibalt. My daughter lives in Divinity’s Reach – where else?” He paused for a moment before adding, “Going my way?” This was followed by a rasping chuckle. Not waiting for a response, he covered himself with a piece of tarp in the bottom of the cart.

    Nairn hovered around the cells, adding scorch marks to some of the locks with gunpowder. The pieces of Aetherblade regalia were positioned around the room at random. The Norn nodded once to her companions, then moved close to Stefan near the rear of the cart. With one hand, she could help move the cart along – the other would be needed to maintain her proximity to the warrior for the stealthing. Too bad there wasn’t room for him to climb on as well – there was a shortage of space with all the prisoners they had taken on.

    She wasn’t certain how she felt about that. Her instinct had been to silence the annoyance, but she had stayed her hand counting – correctly – on the conscience of Anakita to make that unnecessary. The Ranger had an amazing talent for taking the hard path. It was something Nairn wished to learn more about. The compassion that often drove Anakita to the hard path was as yet inscrutable for the Norn, but perhaps the more she learned, the more she would see the choice and the heart involved in each decision made.

    The corridor remained largely silent but for the squeak of the cart wheels and the occasional grunt from those propelling them. As they neared the upper levels, signs of activity finally reached their ears and Nairn took a deep breath before weaving her veil of secrecy over Stefan and herself. It was up to Anakita to get them through the gate.

  6. #16
    Anakita Snakecharm



    As they approached the area from which the sounds of activity were coming, Anakita paused for a moment. She loosened her braid, allowing strands of hair to fall haphazardly across her face, and wiped some water from a nearby barrel across her forehead to simulate perspiration. The Ranger tugged on her scarf till it was uneven, and unbuckled one gauntlet so it hung awkwardly. Her breathing became more rapid, as if from exertion. Then she stepped confidently into the Lionguards' field of vision.

    "Aetherblades!" she said breathlessly. "Down in the cells! I barely made it up here alive. I think they came to spring the prisoners."

    Some of the Lionguard soldiers began lifting weapons from the rack, but their squad leader, a slender Sylvari woman, gave Anakita a skeptical look. "And what exactly were you doing down there in the first place?"

    Anakita slipped off her loosened gauntlet and reached into her pocket. When her hand reemerged, it was full of wrapped candy. "I was feeling bad for the people who couldn't go to the festival. You know, you Lionguard who are are on duty - and the prisoners. They probably told you, my family used to be close with Canach." She shoved the sweets into the bewildered Lionguard's gloved hand, then pointed to the cart. "I'm all out of fireworks. Sorry. But yeah, the Aetherblades... we can talk later. They're going to get away."

  7. #17
    Paladin Quaxo9 is offline Quaxo9's Avatar
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    Nairn was impressed with Anakita’s act. The Ranger could be a smooth operator when it suited her. The prisoners were managing to maintain a reasonable level of quiet, which was fortunate as the Lionguard were getting a little too close for comfort. The one squad leader in particular was nosing around, pushing against Anakita’s story, looking for loopholes. The woman was attempting to determine first, if she were trustworthy, second, if the story itself was plausible.

    She and Stefan remained cloaked to the rear of the cart, and from that vantage point, had a perfect view of the show. The officer was beginning to circle, trying to see past Anakita’s hair. The candy bit certainly threw her off – the elements of truth in the Ranger’s words – yes, she finally took the bait. She ordered the other officers down to the cells and waved Anakita onward, with a backward glance.

    Now would be the tricky part – to make the cart look light enough to be empty crates of fireworks and not six people. She and Stefan balanced the cart and used their bodies to give it a smooth, constant push. Through the gates and around the corner…that’s all they had to do. Something told her it was going to take much longer to leave than it had to get in.

  8. #18
    Anakita Snakecharm



    The trip to the gates of Claw Island was excruciating. It wasn't far in terms of distance, but keeping the pretense up was beginning to wear on Anakita. Although her acting had improved over the course of two hundred and fifty or so years of practice, her people skills were not and would never been an area in which she would place much confidence, and having to interact with strangers - especially while trying to convince them to believe something that wasn't true - was somehow more exhausting than drawing her bow all day.

    As they passed through the gates, Anakita shuddered again... and kept her eyes firmly glued to Canach, to remind herself that they were here for the living, not the dead.

    Eventually they made it to the docks, and then no one around them cared anymore. They were one more group with a cart, among a dozen others. No one on the ship so much as asked their business or glanced into the bed of the cart. People were too busy with their own lives and duties to worry about anyone else's.

    Once they were in Lion's Arch, they could blend into the crowd and drop the charade. Anakita wasn't just going to release a bunch of criminals, though. When she took Canach back to Divinity's Reach for healing, she shepherded the others along too. Their newfound freedom would be supervised.

    "Let's find your daughter, Garroch," Anakita said, fully expecting to find an ambush waiting instead. Her mood had noticeably improved, though, now that Claw Island was far behind them.
    Last edited by Monkey Kitty; 10-11-2013 at 10:02 PM.

  9. #19
    Paladin Quaxo9 is offline Quaxo9's Avatar
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    The bandit had managed not to make life any more difficult for his saviors than it already was - at least for the time being. He was hoping this little meeting between these folks and his "daughter" would go as planned. The Snakecharm had acquired a few helping hands for this part of the trip, which was fine with him. The more, the merrier - or rather, the more to tell the tale. The Norn woman had been replaced by an Asura male, which he found hilarious. You couldn't get much more divergent than that. Garroch had managed to withhold his mirth for the most part, only wearing his customary grin.

    "Certainly, certainly." He replied with a sniff of the air. "I have been longing to see her for so long now - I wonder if she'll even recognize me."

    The man indicated the path they were to take with a flick of his wrist and a brisk, if lilting, pace. It wasn't the poorest part of the city, but it certainly wasn't the most affluent. A simple tavern gathered weeds along its stone walls on the edge of a village square. Sounds of a hammer on metal echoed from behind it. "Ah, she's working. Let's go around back, shall we?" he said, and without waiting for an answer, marched in behind the tavern to lean-to shack.

    Reticyn was fully aware that this whole display was likely a trap and scuttled into the shack right behind Garroch - to stand gaping in the entrance. Recovering, he spoke conversationally to Spike, but loud enough for the humans to hear. "Well, that is something you don't see every day."

    "Surprised?" Came a sharp retort, echoing back on the speaker due to the fact her head was inside a golem.

    "Quite." Reticyn smiled, clearly amused.

    "Why? Because I'm short and ... cute?" The words that had come dripping with venom tapered off into an embarrassing awkwardness. The engineer had finally removed her head and turned to see her guests. She was on the small side, to be certain, but definitely not underage and requiring parental care, as Garroch had implied. She rubbed her hands on a rag and squinted at the Asura, trying to figure out what he was doing in her shack to begin with.

    "I never thought human engineers could manage to find the wherewithall to tamper with golem technology. Oh, and I was surprised to find that the bandit wasn't lying." Reticyn was taking the potential sleight quite well, despite his obvious condescension. Considering his species, his response was quite mild. The petite redhead didn't think it so and coloured quickly, hopping down and gesturing with her wrench.

    "What do you mean "wherewithall"? Here's the with," She shook the wrench, "The where and all are up to you, you..." she trailed off as she became aware of the bandit the Asura had casually mentioned. "YOU!" She swung the tool at Garroch's head, which he ducked with a giggle as he moved out of her arm's reach. She seemed prepared to chase him. "You've got some nerve showing up here! And who the hell are you anyway?" The obviously impassioned girl turned her gaze on Anakita, intent on ignoring the Asura and his lizard, which was currently messing on her open toolbox.

  10. #20
    Anakita Snakecharm

    Anakita raised an eyebrow and exchanged a glance with Stefan when the sounds of the anvil indicated to Garroch that his daughter was working. While the occasional person in Tyria was not above exploiting child labour, being a fully-fledged blacksmith was not a task that one could reasonably delegate to a youngster. She held her tongue, though, and waited to see what they would find inside the smithy. Like Reticyn, she was fully prepared to find herself in a trap.

    She was somewhat relieved to discover that the blacksmith woman - who was very much not a dependent child - didn't seem to be in on it. Although she was disappointed that Garroch had lied to her, she was far from surprised.

    "I'm Anakita Snakecharm," the woman replied. "This is my husband, Stefan Baruch, and our friend Reticyn."

    To make what she would consider proper introductions, Anakita should really name Azh and Spike - but she had found that most people who didn't share the Ranger profession didn't care what the animals were called, they just cared that the animals weren't currently eating them.

    The Ranger ducked her head as if thanking the woman for the un-offered hospitality, and added, "I made the unwise decision to save your father's life. He... is actually your father, I suppose? But he conveyed quite a misleading impression about you. Obviously I made a mistake in sparing him."

    In spite of her words, Anakita made no gesture that suggested she had imminent plans to remedy that 'mistake.' She didn't entirely blame Garroch for lying; faced with an arrow or the noose or prison, many people would have done worse. A smarter man would have realized that Anakita genuinely wanted to help, even if he didn't understand the reason... but no one would ever accuse Garroch of possessing an excess of intelligence. Maybe he'd done what he thought he had to to survive, even if using his daughter as an excuse was a rather low trick.

    "Well, Garroch?" Anakita asked. "Care to explain yourself?"
    Last edited by Monkey Kitty; 01-02-2014 at 07:10 PM.

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