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 Her Star in the Ascendant 
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Joined: Fri Apr 02, 2004 7:44 pm
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Location: Reading, UK
Post Her Star in the Ascendant
(OOC: Contact me if you want to post here please.)

The raven hopped awkwardly across the battlefield, her large wings helped her keep her balance over the more difficult sections. Earlier that day she had circled above the bloody ground, watching as human scavengers searched the dead for anything of value. Some of the humans had even stripped the boots from the dead, they were probably already selling them at the nearest market. Still it was better than some battlefields the bird had been to, in others the crow had watched people shave the hair for the dead to sell to wig-makers. That seemed a little unpleasant even to the bird, at least she only did what came naturally.

She hopped over to a nearby body, perching herself on the chest of the corpse, her head darting this way and that as she looked around. No one looked like they were about to try and chase her off, no one was even looking in her direction. Hunger gnawed at her belly, hunger that would soon be satisfied, there were enough dead on the battlefield to provide a vast feast for several murders of her kind.

Seeks-the-Stars liked that; a murder of ravens, made her kind seem all dangerous and fierce even if nothing could be further from the truth. Ravens tended to be seen as birds of ill omen, all because they congregated on battlefields to see what they could gather. It was no worse really than what others did to the remains of battle, still the other races didn’t seem to think of it that way. Seeks-the-Stars had been chased off from more than a few battlefields in her time by people keeping an eye on the dead. She never understood why the living got so annoyed, it wasn’t like the dead needed their bodies anymore. And wasn’t it better that they should go to help ensure that some other creature was fed rather than all the flesh just rotting away in the ground? Well they didn’t seem to agree with her on that one, a few people had even taken shots at her with arrows when she had tried to get a quick bite.

Still that wasn’t going to be a problem on this field, the armies had moved on several hours back. It had become less of a single front battle and more of a series of skirmishes across the countryside. They had left their dead and dying to whatever fate had in store for them. And for the corpse she was sitting on, fate had the crow in its future.

The bird’s beak darted forward, striking deep into the right eye of the corpse. The eye burst at the strike, leaving her to greedily slurp up the liquid, a first taste. It wouldn’t be enough to satisfy her hunger, but there again the eyes were never about the hunger. Amongst humans there was what they called “an old-wife’s tale” that stated that the eyes of the dead held information on the last thing that the dead person had seen. Seeks-the-Stars knew that the tale was true, or at least that it was for her, she could drink the eyes of the dead and know what they saw last. Usual ability really, though others just seemed to think that the crow’s actions were disgusting. She didn’t care what they thought, she was an information broker, how she got that information didn’t matter. All that did matter was having the details that her clients wanted when they wanted them.

A bright flash of light, her world…no his world…the enemy was on all sides, pushing them backwards…they would have to run soon if they wanted to live…there was the sound of the retreat being called…he turned…Marcus was behind him…Marcus was his friend…Marcus has his knife angled towards his stomach…a chill down his spine…Marcus meant to kill him…”Why?”

A shudder ran through the raven as she shook off the image of the soldier’s death. She knew that he had been expecting to die at the swords of his enemy not the blade of a friend. It was exactly what she had expected to see, it was what her clients wanted to know. The soldier was dead, his wife would be alone and all too willing to sell their plot of land to Seeks-the-Stars clients. And of course by the time that deal went through ‘Marcus’ would also be cooling in the ground. Loose ends weren’t a good thing.

Seeks-the-Stars would have grinned if her beak had been capable of it. War was very good for business and business was very good.

_________________
[center]A raven calls me in the night
Tempting me, enticing flight.
'Follow Sister, come with me.
Fly with me, come be free'
[/center]


Wed Apr 21, 2004 4:06 pm
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Joined: Fri Apr 02, 2004 7:44 pm
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Location: Reading, UK
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It was night by the time she made it to the city, her dark feathers hiding her from any curious gazes from below. The most anyone would have seen if they looked up at the sound of her beating wings was a patch of darkness against the night sky that occasionally covered the stars. Nothing that suspicious, only those with the sharpest eyes would have seen it and they would most likely have dismissed it as nothing more than a night-bird or a bat, possibly a piece of cloth that the winds had caught. But nothing dangerous, nothing suspicious, nothing that they would remember as significant within an hour or so. That was another reason why her clients appreciated her services, none could be as discrete as her without disappearing from view entirely.

The raven knew her way through the air above the city, making best use of the various drafts and the like to take her to her destination with the minimum of effort. There was no need to wear herself out when she was about to meet her client, besides she liked to arrive just that little bit later than expected. It let her make an entrance and she did so like to feel all the eyes in a room upon her. It was true that most of the time she worked in secrecy so Seeks-the-Stars took every chance that she could to make an impression.

Not necessarily a good impression, just an impression.

The tower in the north of the city was part of a larger complex of buildings, a school for the spoiled brattish children of those that could afford its fees. Even as they slept though, all tucked up in their dormitories, the school was being used for another purpose, after all who would suspect business like hers of happening in such a place? Amongst all the 'innocent' children? She knew that some of those children were far from innocent, little bits of information that she picked up could sometimes be so enlightening, throwing back the shroud of what people presumed something to be. Children were innocent...or were they? The shapeshifter could have made a fair few coins blackmailing some families about what their 'dear' little offspring had gotten up to at the boarding school.

But blackmail wasn't her style. She would happily sell information to whoever could meet her price, though that price was never the same twice. But to force another to pay for her silence, that seemed somehow wrong to Seeks-the-Stars. She might sell damning information to someone's enemies but she would never force them to pay her money to keep it quiet. Some might have considered her way of thinking just as wrong, but she stuck to her own code of ethics. It was a bizarre code, but if one thing could be guaranteed about her it was that she would hold herself to her own unwritten rules.

She approached the tower, noting the warm glow of candlelight spilling from within. If any of the city guard saw that they would just imagine that the teachers were having some kind of meeting. Or possibly that some of the older children had snuck out of bed to tell each other stories and feast on sweets. They would never imagine that a shape-shifting information broker was about to complete a transaction there with her clients. It just wasn't the kind of thing that leapt to mind. People always preferred the more obvious option to the more bizarre one, for the most part their lives were mundane and boring and though they might complain they liked them that way. The unusual and the strange were not welcomed in that safe little ordinary world.

With a flurry of feathers she swooped through the open window in the tower and almost managed an graceful landing on the stone floor. In the air she could be as graceful as she liked, but there was something entirely inelegant about a grounded raven. Nothing she could do could change that, it was just something that she was going to have to put up with just like every other raven out in the world. Still it didn't stop her from being jealous of the more graceful birds, Damn swans...only graceful because they can land in water. Her words came out as a caw, not understandable by human ears, still the sound would announce her presence to her waiting customers.

They turned from a discussion that they had apparently been having over the other side of the tower's top room. Each one was clothed head to toe in long black robes with hoods that covered their faces entirely. They had met her this way each and every time, no doubt thinking themselves clever to have hidden their features from the information broker. Of course what they hadn't realised was that Seeks-the-Stars hadn't needed to see their faces to know who they were. She never made any deal without figuring out exactly who it was that she was dealing with. Still she let the men keep their pretense of anonymity, it didn't harm her.

Her willed the change to happen, letting her body remember what it was like to have two legs and two arms, to have human features and human vulnerabilities. Her body responded, altering itself from bird to human woman. Naked human woman. She could feel the eyes of her clients focused entirely upon her, grinning at the lust that they felt. With another thought her shed feathers rose, obscuring her form for a moment and only falling to the ground once more when she was clothed. Loose black trousers covered the pale flesh of her legs and a strip of cloth wound about her breasts and neck. Both were as black as her feathers had once been, not a hint of colour about them. In fact the only colour at all was on her fingers, a silver ring on each, no two matching.

One of the hooded men stepped forward, almost bent in two by a crippling bone disease that had struck him as a younger man. Is it? Is it done?, he asked too eagerly.

His eagerness to talk business annoyed her slightly but she let it pass, they were after all paying her a considerable amount. Yup, all done, your boy Marcus has done the deed and the man's dead, no longer able to bother you unless someone has a necromancer up their sleeves.

Good, good. He rubbed his boney hands together, reminding Seeks-the-Stars all too much of a villainous vizier that she had once seen portrayed in a piece of street theatre. The man reached into his robes and withdrew a pouch, throwing it on the ground at her feet, There's your pay...and a little extra.

Extra? She arched one eyebrow questioningly, these men never gave away money without there being some reason for it. They had not become as rich as they were without hording every penny, grasping it close to their hearts and not letting go unless it was absolutely necessary. What do you want?

He cackled and Seeks-the-Stars rolled her eyes towards the ceiling, could the man be anymore the stereotype of a villain? It really was rather tiresome. Just your services for a little longer. You know that Marcus cannot live, he knows more than he can be trusted with. We need him dealt with, Of course she had known that. She had been a little concerned that her clients would consider that she knew too much to be left alive but she had plans ready for that eventuality. We have arranged a meeting with one who will deal with him, but we do not wish to meet that one in person. So you will go in our place, you will deal with the assassin, we will pay whatever you negotiate when it is done. All that you need to know is in here, he withdrew a small scroll and threw it next to the pouch before turning away.

Meeting over apparently, no choice as to whether she would act as their intermediary with the assassin. Not that she minded overly, assassins were always such interesting people, and they always needed a good information broker.

_________________
[center]A raven calls me in the night
Tempting me, enticing flight.
'Follow Sister, come with me.
Fly with me, come be free'
[/center]


Tue Apr 27, 2004 8:01 am
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Joined: Fri Apr 02, 2004 7:44 pm
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Location: Reading, UK
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Seeks-the-Stars perched on the edge of a roof, her toes curling over the edge of the tiles as if they were still claws capable of grasping them tightly and keeping her balance. It wouldn't have done to fall from so high up, there was after all a good chance that she would have been unable to switch shapes in time to save herself. A human body could not have survived the fall, not unless the person in question was blessed with a great deal of luck. Of course she was no normal human, even in her current forum she was still cursed with the light, weak bones of her birth-form. It meant that she was quicker than most expected, but dangerous if anyone ever meant to do her harm, or she fell from her current height. Her native raven form would undoubtedly have been better for keeping her safe so high up but there was another consideration to be taken into account.

She couldn't hold the scroll in her wing feathers and read it after all.

The scroll detailed where and when to meet up with the assassin that her employers had decided to use, it gave no name but there again it didn't need to. The details of the meeting to come were enough for Seeks-the-Stars, only one that she knew of through her contacts arranged meetings in this way. Ooooo this could be very interesting, and she knew that it could be very dangerous too if she was correct. And she had every faith that she was, an information broker was nothing if their information counted be guaranteed to be accurate and trustworthy.

The assassin that her employers had chosen...well she was good there was no doubt of that, but she was dangerous too. People didn't double-cross her if they cared for their lives, they didn't even think about it if they realised what kind of creature they were dealing with. Seeks-the-Stars shuddered, given the choice she would not have gone willingly within a hundred miles of the assassin. That was common sense for one like her. But this wasn't a matter that she had a choice in, her employers had paid her to negotiate in their names and ensure that the assassin got the job done. Of course she could have turned down the extra money, refused the job, they could have found another to act as their go-between. But the truth was that Seeks-the-Stars could not pass up the chance to meet the assassin, it was just too tempting an opportunity, even if she knew that there was a good chance that she could meet her death during the meeting. Well no one lives forever I suppose, she said to herself, grinning just a little. There again, who'd want to? Would get boring after a time.

She stood up and walked along the narrow edge of the rooftop as if it was the simplest thing imaginable, something that anyone might do whenever the mood took them. Maybe if any had looked up from the street below and seen her they might have thought that she was some run-away from a travelling circus, or just an experienced street-rat who had taken to the unseen paths of the rooftops. A cat curled up next to a smoking chimney for its warmth opened its eyes as she passed, watching her closely as if considering her for its next meal. Though it knew that she looked like a human, still its sense told it that she was a bird and therefore fair prey.

The cat rose up and followed Seeks-the-Stars, its eyes never leaving her back, its claws itching to sink into her flesh. Perhaps it still couldn't understand why nothing that smelt and felt like a bird also managed to look like a human, but unlike humans it trusted its other senses over its eyes. Prey and predator, that was something that it knew, something that it had always known, deep in the very marrow of its bones. It was cat, Seeks-the-Stars, whatever she looked like, was a bird, and the feline knew the natural order of things when it came to the feathered and the furred.

Seeks-the-Stars continued on her route along the roof-top, apparently oblivious to the cat that stalked her footsteps. She was far larger in her human form than the cat, but that was not going to dissuade the creature. To the cat's senses she was just an overly large bird who had someone disguised herself as a human but who would make for a tasty meal all the same. It readied itself, muscles bunching under its sleek fur as it eyed a point mid-way down the shape-shifter's spine. The energy built within its body, waiting, just waiting for the moment to uncurl itself and-

The information broker spun unexpectedly on her heels to face the cat just before it leapt, pulling a face at the animal even as she cried out to scare it away, Scat. The cat halted its pounce, landing awkwardly and scrabbling to get a hold on the roof-tiles and save itself from falling over the edge. It yowled and shot away through the darkness while Seeks-the-Stars began to laugh. There was nothing she liked more than scaring cats, it just felt so good to be able to turn there tables on them. She hummed tunelessly to herself happily as she sauntered on her way, a swagger in her step, there was definitely nothing quite like scaring her birth kind's nature foes out of their furry little skins.

_________________
[center]A raven calls me in the night
Tempting me, enticing flight.
'Follow Sister, come with me.
Fly with me, come be free'
[/center]


Thu May 06, 2004 5:33 pm
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People rarely paid attention to her in her feathered form, she was just another bird, just another nuisance to be ignored. A raven was no concern of theirs, they had their own business to attend to and no reason to give the bird a second glance. The only time people ever did look her way was when she was on a battlefield, taking her fill of flesh and eyes. Yes they seemed to be bothered by her presence then, horrified at what she did to the dead. It all seemed rather silly to her, how they waved their arms and shouted at her, eyes wide at the sight of her feasting. Very silly indeed, she was a raven...well some of the time she was anyway...what did they expect her to do? Besides better to make use of the dead than bury them beneath the earth or lock they decaying bodies away in stone mausoleums. The people of the isle seemed very eager to make sure that there were all sorts of ceremonies and rites performed upon the dead. They were something that she did not understand at all, a sign to her that perhaps they were trying to remove themselves from the cycle of nature even further.

When a raven died, they died. It was as simple as that. Their flesh fell were it would, sometimes providing a meal for a predator's stomach, sometimes decaying where it fell. There was none of the shutting them away in wooden boxes that some humans always seemed keen to do. A raven's offspring didn't mourn or weep for the death of their parent. No they just continued with their lives, it was their way but it was not apparently the way of the so-called civilised peoples of the realms. While people might tear their hair and wail in grief a raven would simply acknowledge the passing of one and know that eventually their own time would come.

No raven that Seeks-the-Stars had ever met feared death, they might fear the pain of a violent death but never death itself. The thought of a death being caused by a slow painful death at a cat's claws might make them shiver and watch out for the feline predators. But death itself? No, of course not, it was the natural progression of events; birth, life, death. Some scholars over the years had suggested a link between ravens and death, those with a more arcane interest suggesting even a mystic link between one and the other. Too often Seeks-the-Stars had seen her kind portrayed in art as the 'pets' of the Grim Reaper. It never ceased to make her laugh, there was no magical link between them, well none that she knew of. They were just unconcerned by death, it happened to all thing eventually...maybe humans and the like just didn't understand that.

They certainly seemed to fail to understand so many things that were obvious to the feathered information broker. Maybe it was to do with the fact that they were trapped within their pale-skinned bodies for their entire lives.

She preened her midnight feathers carefully, once more in her raven form, perched above one of the outermost streets of the city. A funeral procession made its way through the street below in the first pale light of the dawning sun. The coffin bearer moved slowly, carefully, in silent respect for whoever had passed away. Such a waste, she thought sadly to herself, knowing that the body could have fed a good number of her people and similar scavengers. She'd heard some of the mourners below saying similar things, though she also got the impression that the 'waste' they were referring to was the loss of the person's soul, their life, rather than the flesh being wasted.

Souls were odd things, she'd never really heard of them until she had been set free of her master and her single form. Many people spoke of souls, of how they could be redeemed or tainted, how they were precious treasures or held great secrets. But for all that she had heard of them she had yet to see one or hold one in her hands. The raven shapeshifter had asked a priest about souls once, asking where she could get one and what they looked like. The priest had looked at her oddly, muttering something about them being intangible, things that you gave up to the protection of the God. Seeks-the-Stars had to admit that she'd not really understood what he meant. She had however understood 'intangible', that meant that it was worthless to her, the only intangible thing that she was interested in was information and a soul didn't seem like information to her.

The raven spread her wings, feeling the first tug of the wind as she did so, feeling its whispered promise to whirl her away and above everything. It was a promise that the first bird had heard at the very beginning of time itself, a promise that had never been broken. Oh certainly there were some birds incapable of flight but that had been their own fault, the wind itself had never broken its promise in the myths and tales of the birds.

She swooped low, down into the street below, cawing out loudly and startling the funeral procession. A woman screamed behind her, calling out that it was an evil omen, the sign of the death-bird, the carrion eater would bring bad luck to them all. Another called that the bird had surely come to steal the soul of the deceased away, that the body would rise come nightfall. In her mind Seeks-the-Stars laughed, she did so enjoy winding people up at times. And it came so easily to her. Not that it was difficult really, scholars, bards, minstrels, they had all seen to it that the raven was a bird viewed with worry by those who really believed the stories.

For a moment she was tempted to land on the coffin itself, really give the more superstitious among the mourners something to worry about. But no, she changed her mind, she had other places to go and a certain person to see on her employers behalf before nightfall.

_________________
[center]A raven calls me in the night
Tempting me, enticing flight.
'Follow Sister, come with me.
Fly with me, come be free'
[/center]


Fri May 14, 2004 7:19 am
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The raven swept out of the city walls, free and unfettered. It had not always been that way for her though, there had been a time when she had been caged and caught, the skies denied to her. Seeks-the-Stars had been born, or rather hatched, as a normal raven, nothing unusual. She couldn't remember much of her early life in the nest, just vague flashes of memory, vague images and ideas of having to fight for food. Well not fight exactly but rather compete with her siblings, crying out the loudest to ensure that her parents fed her first. They hadn't all survived, she knew that, some of those who had been hatched from the same clutch of eggs had never felt the wings under their wings. They had been her siblings but she felt no pity or remorse, it was the way of nature, the strongest survived, the weak fell by the wayside.

There had come a day...she had been stronger then, bigger, learning to fly under the watchful eyes of her parents. A man had climbed the tree that supported the nest, he had had...a net. She remembered the net, remembered beating her young wings against it, trying to get free, hearing the desperate caws of her parents, knowing that they couldn't do anything. Then there had been the bag and the cage. The bag hadn't been so bad, there had been space enough for all of them that had been taken from the nest. But the cage, the cage had been small and cramped, barely enough room for all of them to stand and no room at all for them to stretch their wings. Most of her siblings had died behind those bars, left there to stare out blankly through the bars, dead eyes watching the passers-by in the market place.

She hadn't thought that she would survive that place, she had thought back then that the humans truly must hate her kind to lock them up that way. Lock them up and wait for them to die while people peered into the cage. Seeks-the-Stars hadn't realised that she had been captured to be sold, what did a young raven like her know of such things back then? A lot less than she knew now that was for sure.

A necromancer, or at least that was what he claimed to be, had bought her int he end, handing over a couple of coppers and taking her away. He had had some power, not enough to make him a player in the games of politics and guilds but enough to ensure that the people of the town both feared and admired him. She had soon learnt that he often used simple tricks to confuse the populace of the town rather than true magic. Apparently he hadn't considered them worthy of what magical talent he did have had his disposal. Still he had known how to make people fear him, he knew how to surround them when they came to visit him with all the trappings that they expected a necromancer to have. Skulls, candles, preserved body parts and of course a raven with wings as black as night.

Life hadn't been too bad as the familiar of the necromancer she supposed, but it hadn't been what she wanted. She had still remembered, even when caged, the feeling of the wing in her feathers, the sight of the world spread out before her. She had remembered it and wanted it back. The accident that had given her the world back had also ended up killing her master and providing her with a second shape that had been most confusing at first.

The human body was a strange thing and it had taken her a long while to get used to it after she had gained her freedom. Fingers and thumbs, hands in general, she'd seen them before of course but hadn't had the faintest idea exactly how they worked or what she was supposed to do with them. Feet and legs that could run had also been rather a surprise to the raven shape-shifter, a way of movement that was a poor cousin to flying. Still human form had its advantages, she had soon learnt that. being able to speak had been a blessing that had opened so many doors of possibility to her.

It had taken her a while to realise that having two forms, two shapes that she coul take was an unusual ability in the world. Most people and animals it seemed were locked into a single form, one that decayed and grew older but never really changed all the much. It hadn't taken her long after realising that to put her skill to use. The world of the humans and their like revolved around two things as far as she had been able to understand, money and information. If you had one you could get the other. She hadn't had any money but it had not taken her too long to realise that she was in a position to get the other, to get information that no other could.

And so she had made a place for herself in the world as an information broker. Not well known in general but there were a few who knew of her and were well prepared to pay her fees to get what they needed.

_________________
[center]A raven calls me in the night
Tempting me, enticing flight.
'Follow Sister, come with me.
Fly with me, come be free'
[/center]


Fri May 21, 2004 7:43 am
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The isle passed below her, no more real than a picture painted on canvas by the most talented of artists. Looking down she could almost believe that it was impossilbe for her to land upon it without smudging the colours and the lines of that 'picture'. Seeks-the-Stars could almost imagine herself flying forever, never touching the ground, never seeking rest, just always looking at that most wonderous of pictures. The creatures that walked upon the isle would never understand what their homes looked like to her. Their idea of the isle upon which they stood was so very different to hers. Perhaps it was because they were too close to it, far too close to the ground to ever appreciate the beauty as she did.

There was so much life down there, so many secrets hidden from the light of day that could make a small fortune for an information broker such as herself. She had met other broker's such as herself, people who traded in information and gold. Wars could be won and lost due to information and so the lords and ladies of the land were only too eager to meet the prices of the brokers. The shapeshifter never thought of herself as competing with the others who followed the same profession as herself. There was far too much business for any sense of competition. They each had their own niche and their own groups of customers, they were all quite happy to leave each other to their own business.

It made for almost a loose association of information brokers. Not a formal gathering and guild of such people but it had certainly reached the stage where if necessary they could find one another if they had to intrude upon each other's territories. As the alliances of the lands split up the acres of the isle between themselves so did the brokers. But their borders were hidden and they had no need to compete with one another.

Not all the broker's tied themselves down to set territories though. Not all felt comfortable settling down like that, even if the reward for doing so was controlling the flow of information in that area. Seeks-the-Stars was one of those who had not territory to call her own. Instead she travelled the isle, picking up bits of information from one area and piecing it together with something that she had overheard in another. She had always prefered the freedom of such an existance. The price was simply offering some fragment of information to whoever's territory she crossed, a price she was more than willing to pay.

She glided through the sky, knowing that she was soon to cross over one of the broker's invisible lines of territory. The city that she had met her clients in had belonged to an information broker called Samiel, he had controlled it for many a year, inheriting it from his father when he had been a man in the first flushes of youth. She had paid her dues to him, a brief whispered exchange before she had set off to find the battlefield. But his territory ended a mile or so ahead of her, passing into the control of an old beggar prince, Ole 'Arry. Some said he was addled and should have passed his territory on to another. Seeks-the-Stars knew differently and knew that it was better to treat him as the 'prince' he claimed to be than coddle him as an old man far past his prime.

The roads below her seemed to grow more packed, filled with people heading towards a fair-sized market town ahead. There were grander places in Ole 'Arry's territory but it was said that he had never moved from the very town that he had been born in. The raven shapeshifter had no idea if that was true or not but it did make it easier to find the beggar man. He had younger legs and younger eyes to collect the information from the rest of his territory, perfering to sit in the market town and let it come to him, like some great spider in the centre of its web.

Seeks-the-Stars swooped down towards the edge of the town, changing form from raven to bird just as she landed in an alleyway. She hopped from one bare foot to another as the fallen feathers rose and fell, leaving her clothed as she always tended to be. Loose trousers, twisted cloth about her breasts to protect the modesty that she did not have, silver rings upon each finger.

She cocked her head to one side and half-walked, half-leapt out of the alleyway. It was time to pay her respects to the broker master of the territory.

_________________
[center]A raven calls me in the night
Tempting me, enticing flight.
'Follow Sister, come with me.
Fly with me, come be free'
[/center]


Fri May 28, 2004 6:41 am
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The dark-haired woman made her way out of the alleyway where she had landed, pausing only momentarily at the end to choose her direction. She set off down the street, black bird-like eyes watching the world around her. Children played in the street, not caring or perhaps just not noticing Seeks-the-Stars. Women stood in huddled groupings, passing the time of day with friends and gossiping about who had done what and with whom. A few of them looked her way suspiciously, almost as though they thought she was deliberately trying to eavesdrop. Not that anyone needed to strain to hear their words, they were loud enough for any and all to have heard them. Still the raven shape-shifter gave them a smile and continued on her way, filing the overheard gossip away in her memory. Certainly it was only minor stuff, but you just never knew when it might come in handy.

It didn’t take her long to walk into the more central area of the town, family houses giving way to shops, businesses and streets filled with hawkers and tradesmen. She paused and sniffed at the air, grinning broadly at the sights and sounds about her. Commerce, it was a wonderful word. It was most certainly the thing that she had enjoyed most since finding herself no longer a mundane raven. If you had what others wanted, the market was yours, you set your price and wait for the customers to come calling. For some reason she had grasped the ideas of supply and demand fairly quickly after joining the human world. Grasped them, made them her own and had never looked back since. She knew she could get what people wanted - information – and she knew that they would pay to know what she knew.

Seeks-the-Stars paused at some of the stalls that traders had set up here and there. Although the market town was barely a fraction of the size of the city that she had left it still possessed a wealth of items and skills for sale. There were blacksmiths and scribes, grocers and jewellers, seamstresses and alchemists. And people, customers as far as the eye could see, lured to the town by the unspoken promise of what they would find there. There were inns and taverns and hostelries on every street that she passed by, places where travellers to the town could stay while they considered their purchases. And stables for their horses and other mounts. Every taste was catered for, every need seen to in the hope that the people of the town could wring just a few extra coins from their visitors. It was a way of thinking that she approved of greatly.

She moved from street to street, appearing nothing more than another customer drawn to the town. But though her eyes moved over the wares for sale her attention was on the people of the town. Though Ole ‘Arry stayed in the same town she was never totally sure where in the town he would be. Seeks-the-Stars knew that he tended to prefer the areas close to the more populated areas of town, places where he could make easy money from people who felt sorry for the old beggar man.

That at least was a mystery to her. Ole ‘Arry was a wealthy and powerful man from his information brokering and yet he dressed in rags and begged for the chance from the pockets of those who felt pity for him. Why did he behave so? She could appreciate the scavenger nature of the old man it was true but even for the raven woman he took it a little too far. There again she supposed it at least provided the perfect cover for his information deals, no one would ever suspect an apparently addled beggar man to be the centre of information brokerage for the region. She grinned as she thought about it, certainly Ole ‘Arry was more like her than his own human kind, perhaps that was the reason she liked him so much when others of their calling preferred to shun him.

It took time but eventually she spotted him, a white-haired old man sitting cross legged on a ragged mat. A plain wooden bowl was set before him and even from a distance she could see the shine of coins within there. The old man’s skin was weather-beaten and wrinkled, his body clothed in tattered rags but showing not an inch of fat upon his bones. He looked up at the passers-by with dark eyes tinged by amusement. And when he grinned he showed a handful of brilliant white teeth, strangely healthy looking considering that so many were missing from his head.

She hopped and skipped her way over to him, dropping a couple of coins into his begging bowl before crouching down before him. To not have left coins would have been a terrible crime against the co-called beggar prince. Considering she needed access to his territory without worrying about trouble from his underlings, Seeks-the-Stars had no wish to show disrespect to him. He looked at her and grinned, Hello my pretty, pretty, pretty.

The shape-shifter bowed her head low, returning his grin with one of her own, Greetings my prince, truly your kingdom is a beauteous place.

_________________
[center]A raven calls me in the night
Tempting me, enticing flight.
'Follow Sister, come with me.
Fly with me, come be free'
[/center]


Thu Jun 03, 2004 5:24 pm
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The old beggar man looked up at Seeks-the-Stars. He liked her. Not in the way that a man cared for a woman, not that kind of attraction, most certainly not. She was a pretty thing, all pale skin and dark hair, dark eyes too but not the kind that many found comfortable to stare into for too long. Oh there was no doubt that she was a pretty thing, but that was not the reason for him not being attracted to her. There again even if he hadn't known exactly what she was he wouldn't have felt that kind of interest in her, the kind of attraction between a man and a woman. He was far too old for that kind of thing nowdays.

Love and lust was best left for the young, those who had the energy to deal with all the problems that it brought with it.

But Ole 'Arry liked her all the same. Not for her beauty, but rather for her mind and her skills. She was good at what she did, she collected information, any information at all, as eagerly as some of her feathered kind gathered sparkles and spangles. He remembered when he had first come across her, all cocky and sure of herself even though she couldn't have taken human form for more than a couple of weeks or so. Not that he'd known it back then at that first meeting of course, back then she had just seemed like another woman, another soul of the female persuasion who was starting on the later of information brokerage.

No that wasn't right...Seeks-the-Stars had never appeared like just another woman. She'd always had that spark, a light from within her soul that marked her as not quite human. People always knew that there was something strange about her when they met her, they'd always be a little puzzled or unnerved by her. It was like some part of their mind sensed that she was not all that she seemed and tried to communicate it to the rest of the brain, who refused to listen of course. Most people never listened to that part of their mind, they were all too concerned with caring about the little problems of their lives. Ole 'Arry had never cared for such things and so he listened to that part of his mind, though some called him mad or addled for doing so.

He grinned at the shape-changer and motioned her to sit on the edge of his mat. Though most people overlooked it he considered it a great gift and one that he tookcare to protect. Rags of all colours and fabrics had been gathered to weave the mat together. It had been a 'gift' - he hated the word 'fee' - for passing on a little information to a widow woman on where her husband's body had fallen after bandits had come upon him. He had refused to accept any money from the widow, but the mat had been most welcome, giving him just a little comfort from the hard street that he spent his days upon.

So my pretty, what brings you to the prince's domain? What bauble of information draws such a beautiful creature to the squalor of these wretched lands?

Oh my prince is too humble, he knows all too well that his lands are vast and bountiful, stretching green and fertile beyond the boundaries of this market town. The raven woman grinned all the wider as she spoke, gesturing with her hands towards the outside world. He had never cared for the countryside or its glories, little of interest happened there, though he always ensured that what little there was came to his ears.

The faint light of madness seemed to leave his eyes, a quiet seriousness coming over the beggar. Your tongue still sings a pretty song. Do you mean to visit my territory in exchange for pleasing words alone, pretty, pretty, pretty?

She cocked her head to one side, that gesture that always seemed to him so bird-like that he could not believe that any mistook her for anything but a bespelled bird. Of course not, my prince, I would be a poor guest in so wonderful a realm if I used flattery to pay for my passage through these lands that owe secret and unknowing allegience to you. I'll tell you the reason for my visit and that I should think will settle any debt between us, oh prince.

My pretty, does she think me mad as the others do? What do I care for her purpose here unless it rubs against one of my own ventures?

Perhaps knowledge of the purpose would be a poor gift to offer you for my visit here. But knowledge of who it is I have been sent to meet, who even know walks the roads and paths of your territory? That is another matter indeed. I know that if our positions were exchanged I would be grateful to know that this one was nearby.

'Grateful'? Ole 'Arry frowned, what did the shapeshifter know? Who was she meeting?


Mon Jun 14, 2004 7:05 am
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Her grin grew just a little wider as she caught sight of the slight look of worry that crossed Ole ‘Arry’s face. She’d got him, hook, line and sinker, he was her’s, he’d quite happily grant her access to his territory just to know what she had hinted about. Sometimes she wondered if perhaps the beggar prince wasn’t another soul like her, a raven who had been caught in some kind of magical accident. He certainly had the curiosity of one of her kind, something that seemed rarer in humans than birds. Humans had a streak of curiosity that was for sure, but they seemed to cautious, so careful compared to one like her. It was like they were always held back by the fear of what might happen rather than risking it all.

Pity really.

But Ole ‘Arry wasn’t a shapechanger like her. No he was just a man, a human man of flesh and bone. Seeks-the-Stars very much doubted that there was another like her in the whole of the isle. It wasn’t like mages tended to make mistakes of the magnitude that had created her often. They were usually even more careful than the rest of their races, it was probably something to do with meddling with the powers of magic. That kind of stuff was dangerous after all, as Seeks-the-Stars’s necromancer master had found out to his detriment and her benefit.

Go on then my pretty, don’t keep an old man waiting, I don’t have as many days left to me as one as young as you does. Why I might collapse dead from old age any moment now. She smirked and made no attempt to hide it. The beggar was as hale and hearty as men half his age, indeed she had met several far younger than him who could not lay claim to the same energy and vitality as he did. But the old man liked to play up the “old” side of things, using it as deftly as a warrior would use a blade. He made sure that people underestimated him and once they were looking down on him he had them exactly where he wanted them and would pull their strings to make them dance like a puppet to fulfill his plans.

Ole ‘Arry was no fool. Whatever others might say of him, he was no fool and those who thought he was often learned the truth at a great cost to themselves. The beggar had not got to possess his current territory simply by sitting on the ground and waiting for fortune to favour him. Oh no, he was a wily one, cleaver and manipulative, things that his detractors forgot all too easily. Other information brokers might scoff at him and call for him to retire and pass his territory onto another, thinking him too old to do business. But the truth was that Ole ‘Arry would probably outlive all those who called for him to retire. He would probably prove at the last to have been manipulating them all in ways that they would never fully understand. It was just the sort of thing that Seeks-the-Stars could imagine of the beggar prince.

Somehow I don’t think that death is about to claim you, my prince. But if you are so eager then I shall tell you. She leaned in closer to the beggar, her words were for him alone, she wasn’t about to give away information to any other for free. A little kitty-cat prowls your territory, my prince, a little kitty-cat with claws that scratch and teeth that bite. A little kitty-cat that can walk on two legs or four and worships none save the scythe wielder.

She leaned back just a fraction to see the reaction upon his face, The kin-slayer?

Seeks-the-Stars nodded, The very one.

Ole ‘Arry licked his dry lips nervously, peering this way and that as if he feared to see the one that they spoke of appear suddenly. The dark-eyed woman had seen little that the beggar was really afraid. After all he had a network of connections and people who owed him favours, people who ensured that none ever got close enough to harm him. But the kin-slayer, she was another matter, no amount of bodyguards or favours could protect someone from her if she had been paid to kill them.

The fear passed from his face as suddenly as it had appeared but still his voice was a whisper. My thanks for the information my pretty. Perhaps if your business truly does concern her you could find out a little something about the little kitty-cat? Rumour has it that she has taken an apprentice to herself. I would pay handsomely if someone, she looked pointedly at Seeks-the-Stars. If someone were able to confirm that. There’s a many a soul who’s pay me for that information, both of us could turn a profit.

So quick to spot a chance to improve his business, truly my prince is wise. I would be honoured to aid you in this…for the right price.

_________________
[center]A raven calls me in the night
Tempting me, enticing flight.
'Follow Sister, come with me.
Fly with me, come be free'
[/center]


Thu Jun 17, 2004 5:21 pm
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They had haggled over her price for no more than a minute or two. Ole 'Arry and herself had gone through the process more than a few times before. Enough to know what the price of such information would be and how much the other would pay for it. The negotiations were mainly for show, a matter of common courtesy and pride between the two information brokers. In some ways the bartering was no different to the rituals of courtly life, something that had to happen to save face between the two but whose outcome was already set in stone.

Finally Seeks-the-Stars bade farewell to the beggar prince and set out through the town, her coin purse a little heavier for the meeting. Half of the free for the information up-front and half when she came back with the evidence of her eyes. Perhaps another would have thought to take the money and run. leaving Ole 'Arry out of pocket and no wiser on the matter of the assassin's possible apprentice. After all he was 'just' an old man, he couldn't possibly take his revenge on those that cheated him.

Could he?

The raven shape-shifter knew much better than that, she knew that no one cheated Ole 'Arry, not if they wished to live for much longer. Though the old beggar might seem harmless and unable to defend himself Seeks-the-Stars knew well enough how many people worked for him and what they might do to those who sought to cheat their employer. Those that took Ole 'Arry's money and didn't make good on their promises didn't have a long life expectancy. Seeks-the-Stars had heard of more than one who had tried to cheat him and whose body had been found as a warning to others. It tended to ensure that all but the greenest of brokers ever tried it on with the beggar prince.

She walked into a darkened alleyway and within a moment flew out again, her human form shed. Clad in the black feathers of the form that she had been born in, Seeks-the-Stars made for the domain of the clouds. She had free passage in Ole 'Arry's territory now and no one would question her presence. Well none of the beggar's men would anyway and those were the ones she was more concerned about. Soldiers and law-makers might try and stop her or use her for their own ends, but they were easily dodged. Ole 'Arry's men were another matter altogether, but now they were of no concern. The message would get out to all of them to leave her alone because she was on their master's business.

The city where the meeting with the assassin would take place was a good day's flight to the north. By the time she got there Ole 'Arry's message would already be there. She had no idea how the human would get his message there before she managed to fly there, but it was always that way. The best she could guess was the the beggar had some wizard indebted to him, one that could somehow transport the message to all that needed to know in the same time that it took Seeks-the-Stars to fly there. Maybe one day she would get the old man to tell her his secret.

But that was another matter and for another day. She had a more important thing to think about, her meeting with the assassin. Seeks-the-Stars, like others in her profession, had heard much of the assassin she was about to meet. None of it exactly inspired the shapeshifter. The assassin was deadly and cruel, one who seemed to delight in the deed just a little too much. Rumour said that the assassin was responsible for the rarity of her race, a fact that worried Seeks-the-Stars more than a little. If the assassin was willing to kill her own kith and kin what would she do to the broker?

But on the other hand, what business might that same assassin provide her with if she played her cards right?

There were great risks to be taken but the rewards for the gamble were vast. It was always that way when her life was on the line.

_________________
[center]A raven calls me in the night
Tempting me, enticing flight.
'Follow Sister, come with me.
Fly with me, come be free'
[/center]


Mon Jun 21, 2004 8:31 am
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Another day, another city. Smaller still than the one that she had met her employers in but larger than the market town where Ole ‘Arry sat like some withered, weather-beaten spider in the centre of his web. Its outer walls were wooden, though darkened with age and layers of preservative, etched here and there by the workings of the weather. The city was never one that would be described as beautiful by poets or bards, it was a crude, rough place. And the people who populated it seemed to be of a similar make.

Coarse, harsh people, who lived through hardship but came through it not unchanged but certainly unbroken by it. Proud people, strong people in their own way. But they would never be the citizens of some noble city that was known the length and breadth of the isle. Some would have grown angry at such a thought and struggled to prove the nay-sayers wrong. But instead the people if the city before Seeks-the-Stars had embraced their rough city, their crude city. It was theirs' for better or worse and they revelled in the dank coarseness of their city, clinging to it and defending it as if it were the rarest of jewels. They were proud of their home, no matter how others looked upon it as an ill place, a place where the ‘better’ class of people avoided if they could at all help it. It was a place of rat-like beggars and warrens of twisting, darkened alleyways where all manner of deals could be brokered in secret.

All in all it was Seeks-the-Stars kind of place.

Secrets and information were bred in the city that she came to. It was a place where the darkest of deals were birthed before going out to do their wickedness upon the isle. People muttered in the shadowy corners of rough taverns and dives, whispering of one thing or another. Deals were struck and rivalries made, news was exchanged and pieced together like a vast puzzle. Away from the common sight, men and women met and spoke of things that would never be seen or heard in the light of Intop. A broker like herself could do well in such a city…if they could survive long enough.

Some such cities were a haven of murderers and cut-purses, dens of murderous thieves gathered together to put a few meagre coins in their pockets. Coins that were more often than not stained with the blood of their previous owners, not that the fact seemed to bother their new owners. There were always quick blades and blackened consciences ready to take advantage of the unwary and the foolish. The raven shape-shifter knew that well enough, she knew that there was always the risk when entering such a city that there would be no leaving. But a little care and a watchful eye could always improve the chances of success and continued life. Those were lessons that she had learnt quite quickly after taking human form for the first time. There again it was not so different to the unwritten rules of nature, there the unwary and the weak fell to the jaws of predators, only the careful and the strong survived.

Seeks-the-Stars had no intention of falling to the dulled knives of the opportunistic thieves of the city. She planned to meet with the assassin and her possible apprentice and then get out with her skin and feathers intact. It wasn’t really that much to ask for, indeed it almost seemed easy. And in any of the noble cities it would have been. But she found herself in no noble city and her safety was by no means a certain thing. She would have to keep her eyes peeled and be on her guard. The shape-shifter wasn’t a creature of war or combat, the only interactions she liked with such things was to possess the information of them and to feast upon the bodies of those that fell.

She made her way through the city streets, traversing them like a native of the place. Her memory of the maze-like streets was an impeccable thing, each alley and building etched into her mind from the handful of visits she had made to the place. Seeks-the-Stars had realised that it was better to appear as a native of any given place, a supposed citizen was given less trouble that a perceived visitor. Blending in was a skill she had worked at and it certainly came in handy at times.

Ahead of her the narrows streets gave way to an open square paved with stone that had been covered with mud and filth. In the centre of the square stood a terrible construct, a scaffold of some years, though built sturdily enough to have withstood the tests of time and task. The grisly remains of its last victim still swung lazily, catching the raven-woman’s eyes as she walked from the closeness of the street into the open space of the square. The scent of death called to her, stronger here than in any other place in the city, though it was true that it pervaded everywhere within the walls to some extent. She shook its call off, unfortunately there was no time to take raven form and feast on the dead. The matter of the assassin had to be dealt with and placed above all with more importance than anything else.

_________________
[center]A raven calls me in the night
Tempting me, enticing flight.
'Follow Sister, come with me.
Fly with me, come be free'
[/center]


Tue Jun 22, 2004 4:53 pm
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She set her sights upon the gallows and headed that way, showing no sign of fear or doubt. Confidence, that was the key to blending in such places. Appear confident, appear as though sure of your place in the world and no one would question. It was a never-ending surprise to Seeks-the-Stars that few people understood that. Someone who wasn't meant to be in a certain place and knew it would often act worried, furtive, almost afraid. Their own behaviour would give them away as clearly as if they cried out loudly that they were not supposed to be present. It sad how often it happened really when it was so very easy to appear as those your presence was the most natural thing in the world.

Most guards were too nervous about the possibility of losing their jobs to question her if she walked into place, exuding an air of confidence. They were too worried that they would be dismissed if they stopped someone of position from entering. It was sad in a way she guessed, too worried about offending blue-bloods or their like the guards would not question people like her. Still she wasn't about to complain, the shapeshifter had got herself into more than a few places that should have barred her presence simply by playing the part of someone who appeared so confident that they might have owned the place.

More than a few times Seeks-the-Stars had found herself laughing at the ridiculous lengths that others would go to in order to gain entry to one place or another. They would devise all manner of plots and plans involving rope, ladders, potions, knocking guards out or taking note of their patrol routes. So much trouble and effort to enter somewhere that more than likely would have proved no such trouble if they had just learned to carry themselves with confidence.

Besides she always had another alternative up her sleeve if mere confidence couldn't get her into some place. Taking to the wing and flying into the building in her birth form was always just as easy. Though she supposed that such an alternative was denied to the humans and other races. It was good to be what she was. Though her old master might not have survived the ritual that he had devised to extend his life unnaturally, the accident had certainly proved to be well worth it for his then-familiar.

As she got closer to the gallows she rummaged in the pouch that hung from her waist. Withdrawing the scroll that her employers had given to her a few days before she snuck a look at the instructions once more,. It would not do to come so far just to fail at the last hurdle because she confused the instructions for contacting the assassin. The assassin was certainly precise about how she should be contacted, it all seemed rather a lot of bother to Seeks-the-Stars. There again perhaps the assassin sought to make it difficult to contact her simply to keep her clientele select.

Now there was an idea that Seeks-the-Stars had never understood. A 'select' group of clientele. She would happily take money from whoever offered it to her unless it was at cross-purposes with a current client. Money was in the end just that, money. It didn't matter who it came from it would still pay for exactly the same things in any realm of the isle in her experience. Didn't matter if she offered to pay in Isonian, Dardenite or Foretian coin, people were always willing to get their hands on it.

Seeks-the-Stars certainly was.

Hence the fact that she had been glad to take up the task on behalf of her employers. As well as paying for her own services handsomely the meeting might also lead to the possibility of further trade with the assassin. Though of course if it all went wrong Seeks-the-Stars was well aware that the upcoming meeting might mean the end of her life.

_________________
[center]A raven calls me in the night
Tempting me, enticing flight.
'Follow Sister, come with me.
Fly with me, come be free'
[/center]


Mon Jun 28, 2004 9:03 am
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All around the gallows were gathered a number of old women, their skin wrinkled by time and life. They wore black like raggedy widows, old bonnets covering their heads from what sun was able to make it down to them. Their clothes were treated as though they were the richest of royal finery rather than patched and worn old things. Long fingered hands poked out of baggy sleeves, grasping knitting that looked as though it would never be finished. They cackled like witches from a child's fairy tale, gossiping and muttering to one another.

Gallows-widows.

The gallows-widows were not really such a strange sight in the world, there always seemed to be a few old women who found some entertainment in public death. Where ever a gallows was erected in a city it was almost guaranteed that they would gather, scuttling out of their homes at first light to watch the executions of criminals. Even Seeks-the-Stars, raven though she was, found them to be an odd group of souls, especially so for humans.

One of the women caught sight of Seeks-the-Stars drawing closer to them and elbowed her neighbour sharply to gain her attention. One by one the raven shapeshifter felt the eyes of the gallows widows turn towards her, regarding her, sizing her up, deciding silently just exactly what she was. The scrutiny was uncomfortable and reminded her all too much of when a fellow of her old master had brought his familiar, a black old cat, with him when he had come a-visiting. She remembered how the cat had looked at her through the bars of her cage...it was a hungry gaze, one that was guessing whether or not the subject would taste good.

Seeks-the-Stars paused allowing them to look at her, sizing her up further. She bowed low to the old women, Greetings my fine ladies and how does this fine day find you? Flattery, yes that was the key, she'd known such women to respond well to flattery before. Better that she treat them as though they were the most noble of queens rather suffer the hungry look in their eyes anymore. The words had the required effect, the look disappearing from their eyes as they cooed to one another about what a polite young girl had come to visit them. Carefully the broker breathed out a sigh of relief as the gallows-widows motioned her nearer to them.

Come closer my dearie, come closer, we don't bite, one said, laughing unpleasantly at her own supposed joke. Such a polite little girl, so very polite, yes, this day finds us most well, most well indeed. Though we must admit that we are sorely lacking in entertainment. That one, she gestured towards the remains that swung from the noose upon the gallows, Was the last to entertain us and he has been long dead. Heaven forbid that this city grow too law-abiding. She cackled outloud, her fellows joining in as if she had just told the most amusing of jokes. Seeks-the-Stars laughed along, hiding any trace of nervousness.

Though I cannot unfortunately offer you ladies the entertainment you crave and most certainly deserve perhaps I might be able to interest you in a business proposition?

The laughter stopped and the one who had spoken to her before stepped a little closer, looking the shapeshifter over again. Business? What business would you have that could possibly be of interest to us?

Seeks-the-Stars took a breath to calm herself and then began. It is known to me that you and those who enjoy your 'entertainment' can get a message to a certain soul known in less polite society as the Blood-Dancer. I wish to get a message to that soul if you would help me.

The woman seemed to think on what the information broker had said, chewing her tongue thoughtfully. And if we could? What would we get?

Why ladies, most kind and gracious ladies, I am sure that we could come to some kind of agreement between us, Seeks-the-Stars beamed. She had them now.

_________________
[center]A raven calls me in the night
Tempting me, enticing flight.
'Follow Sister, come with me.
Fly with me, come be free'
[/center]


Thu Jul 01, 2004 8:55 am
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Seeks-the-Stars sat and spoke with the gallows-widows, flattering them from time to time, accepting their 'hospitality'. Odd creatures they were, but in some ways almost kindred souls to her own. They liked a good death as much as the shapeshifter did. Though of course for her a good death was all about her feathered side being interested in an easy meal. For the widows the deaths dangling on the end of a rope were all about entertainment, something to while away the hours watching. They had no interest in eating the dead, just in watching them die...that at least was a strange concept to the woman who had been born as a lowly raven.

Eventually the widows agreed to take care of her message, promising her that it would get to the one that needed it. Their wording worried her a little, but Seeks-the-Stars knew that they would make sure that the assassin got her request. Though the widows might not have any fear of the information broker, the one that they worked for was more than capable of inciting terror in them. Death was no where near as 'entertaining' when it was their own.

She had watched, a little nervously, as one of the gallows-widows cooed and coaxed a small grey cat out from under the gallows structure itself. Though she knew that she had nothing to fear from the feline creature still Seeks-the-Stars couldn't help but feel a little nervous as it turned its jade-green eyes towards her. There was something in that gaze...something that seemed altogether too intelligent, too calculating. She dismissed the idea, trying to convince herself that it was nothing more than her own bird nature stirring up her emotions without good reason.

Oh certainly if Seeks-the-Stars had not been in her human form then she might have had some reason to fear the grey cat. But she did not wear her feathers as she spoke with the women of the gallows and so the cat presented no danger to her at all.

...Or so she kept trying to tell herself.

One of the women wrote something on a scrap of dirty and crinkled parchment, attaching it to the collar that the cat wore. She stroked the pale grey fur of the cat, scratching it behind its ears. The cat purred, the sound rumbling deep in its chest, but there was something...something was wrong. Though the woman fussed with the cat and paid attention it to, the cat's eyes were firmly fixed upon Seeks-the-Stars sending a shiver of fear down her spine. The look worried her no end no matter how much she told herself silently to ignore it. The cat probably could just sense what lay underneath her skin, smelling the bird within the woman's flesh. Cats had always been able to, no matter how carefully she tried to make herself seem nothing more than human.

But there again...

She ran through all she knew about the assassin in her mind. 'They' always said that the Blood Dancer was fond of cats and that that was why the gallows widows used them to contact her. And always grey cats, never black, never white, always grey. Little was really known of the assassin, little that could be attributed to the truth. Oh there were plenty of rumours and whispred gossip but little of it was believed to be true. Seeks-the-Stars bit her lip...maybe some of the rumours weren't so false, maybe they were closer to the truth than any had previously realised. If she could prove or disprove any of them, well it would make her reputation unassailable, none would be able to touch her. Of course if she failed altogether and the assassin took her life then it would all be for nothing.

Such a grand game. High stakes, death and glory mingled more surely than in many battles.

Seeks-the-Stars grinned broadly at the thought. The cat finally sauntered away with its letter, sparing her one last glance. The raven shapeshifter bowed with a flourish towards the cat, banishing her fears. She had rolled her dice in the grand game, there was no space for fear or terror. All that could be done was to wait and see how fortune favoured her.

_________________
[center]A raven calls me in the night
Tempting me, enticing flight.
'Follow Sister, come with me.
Fly with me, come be free'
[/center]


Mon Jul 05, 2004 10:42 am
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Stablehand
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Joined: Fri Apr 02, 2004 7:44 pm
Posts: 28
Location: Reading, UK
Post 
The day passed slowly in the city, traders going about their lawful business while in the seedy underbelly less wholesome and less permitted activities took place. Painted women sold their wares to those who wished for such attentions. Other souls hugged what shadows there were, making deals that were likely to bring harm to someone. All manner of crime and sin was committed within the city, it was almost a daily ritual for them. Finding an innocent and law-abiding soul within the boundaries of the city would have taken a miracle indeed. Little remained pure and unsullied once it came within the shadow of the city.

The citizens plotted or committed acts that the law would have frowned upon but what did those people care for law or order? What did they care for the rights of others or the property that did not belong to them? Why would they care whether priests or nobles had passed laws that forbid everything that was second-nature to them? They lived their lives outside of such things.

Or so they believed right up until the noose tightened about their necks.

For though it was a mean and crude city still there was a touch of law about it. There were a few luckless individuals charged with keeping the ‘peace’ of the cancer-cored city. They were appointed mainly to ensure that those few nobles that called the city home were kept safe. In truth those so-called law-keepers were as much for sale as any other within the city. They sold their skills to those who could pay, or rather bribe them the most. Thugs for hire, but thugs with the protection and power of the wealthy and well-to-do behind them.

They too were about the city as the hours wound onwards to the night. With weapons already uncovered they made their way towards a certain house on information given to them anonymously. The door provided little deterrent to them and it was not long before the man of the house was dragged out, kicking and screaming for all that he was worth. His silence was brought with a swift crack of a length of wood across his skull. He hung limply in the law-keepers arms as they dragged him away, his neighbours watching, no doubt as guilty as he was.

The captive would not be long for the world. Justice, such as it was, in the city was violent and quick, much akin to the less savoury activities that took place. Oh there would be a judge and a jury appointed, appearances had to be maintained after all. Even if the law could be brought, even if the rules that applied to one level of society didn’t apply to another, even if any sense of true justice was nothing more than a joke, still it had to appear otherwise. To an outsider it had to appear as though there was justice, it had to seem as though the law was pure and untouchable. Although the truth was that the law of the city was as corrupt and filthy as the people themselves it could not be presented that way.

The captive’s wife rushed out of the house, screaming wordlessly at the law-keepers, tears streaming down her face. Her hair was dishevelled and her state of dress made it quite clear that she had not been clothed when the men had broken in. A train of silent, serious children followed in her wake, like ducklings following their mother across a body of water. They watched wide-eyed and curious, not realising that they had probably just glimpsed the last they ever would of their father. Or at least of the man that they had been brought up to call their father.

A little way up the street a raven watched the scene from her perch. She cawed softly as the wife screamed out one last time as her husband was bundled into a wagon and driven away. The wife would soon become a widow and the children would lose their father. The family as a whole would be one person down to earn their bread and butter but it could not be helped.

The gallows-widows would have their entertainment soon enough and Seeks-the-Stars would have settled her debt to them.

_________________
[center]A raven calls me in the night
Tempting me, enticing flight.
'Follow Sister, come with me.
Fly with me, come be free'
[/center]


Thu Jul 08, 2004 6:44 pm
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Joined: Fri Apr 02, 2004 7:44 pm
Posts: 28
Location: Reading, UK
Post 
Seeks-the-Stars sat hunched over her 'drink'. The barmaid had called it a local specialty, some kind of brew that was made just outside the city walls. To the shapeshifter's mind that made it cheap, potent and more than likely capable of rotting her stomach just by being in the same room as it. Still she really had no intention of actually drinking it, Seeks-the-Stars had sense enough in her head to know that it would not be a wise course of action. She'd travelled to enough places in her time to know that there was usually some kind of local drink to be had and that nine times out of ten it really wasn't worth the risk to her health to actually try and drink it.

Of course she hadn't known that back when she had first found herself in human form. Back then the notion of alcohol had been quite foreign to her, something of which she had ha dno knowledge. Oh certainly when she had been with her master she had watched him talking sips of something of an evening that had some very odd effects on him. But the raven that she had been back then had not at all understood exactly what it was or why he drank it. To her back then it had just been strange coloured water. And the strange effect that it had upon her old necromancer master? Well he was human and humans did strange things. It all had all seemed very simple and straight forward.

When Seeks-the-Stars had tasted her first sip of alcohol in human form she had been hard pressed to swallow it. The liquid had been like a fire upon her tongue, burning away at her mouth and on the whole turning out to be one of the most foul things she had ever tasted. And for a raven shapeshifter who had been known to feast upon the dead that was saying something.

But she had, for reasons even she didn't understand, continued to drink it back then. It had warmed her belly and tend tingles of sensation out along her nerves. Her head had by turns felt both light as a feather and heavy as lead and before she had known what was happening she had barely been able to figure out up from down. Looking back on that time she supposed everything could have turned out alright. If only she'd drunk a little less she might have crawled away from that tavern, found herself somewhere to sleep for the night and woke up feeling like death warmed up the next morning. it wouldn't have been the greatest of things to happen, but it would have been better than what did happen.

Seeks-the-Stars looked into the mug before her, catching her reflection in the liquid within. Yes even a hangover back then would have been much better than what did happen.

Well what do we have here?, a voice interrupted her thoughts. The shapeshifter looked up to see a woman standing by her table in the tavern. She was a beautiful woman even with the strange swirls of tattooed dots that covered her face, hands and arms. There was something achingly familiar about the woman, about the way she moved, something that set the hairs on the information broker's spine on edge. At first glance Seeks-the-Star dismissed her as just another one of the women that haunted the bars and sought out company of any kind for a coin or two. The last think the shapeshifter needed was someone like that to trouble her, especially while she was waiting for the assassin to show up at the arranged meeting place.

The raven shifter shook her head and looked away, Nothing of interest to you I think. I'm just waiting on a...it seemed wrong to describe the assassin, the creature known as the Kin-Slayer, as a friend but what else could she describe her as? A friend, I'm waiting for a friend.

Oh I wouldn't call us that just yet, perhaps in time though, the tattooed woman purred, sliding onto the chair that waited on the other side of the table. She looked up, meeting Seeks-the-Stars' eyes and in that moment the broker knew that her wait was up.

Esharee Galenfirth was sitting across from her.

_________________
[center]A raven calls me in the night
Tempting me, enticing flight.
'Follow Sister, come with me.
Fly with me, come be free'
[/center]


Tue Jul 20, 2004 10:50 am
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Joined: Sun Sep 29, 2002 12:54 pm
Posts: 76
Location: Reading
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The assassin looked at the woman across the table from her, taking in the details, searching for weapons with her eyes. She could see nothing obvious and it wasn't as though the dark-eyed woman could hide much in the way of blades in her outfit. But Esharee wasn't one to take things on face-value, she knew well enough to what lengths a soul might go to kill another. There were all manner of poisons and potions beyond the more usual steel blades that could end a life. Not to mention wires and garrotes that could easily be hidden about a person without leaving any obvious trace of their presence. And the tattooed assassin had snuck weaponry to a victim wearing a great deal less than the information broker before her. Of course with Esharee being completely unarmed was an impossibility without certain measures being taken.

Esharee lounged back in the seat, managing as always to make the ungainly movement seem graceful. Her movements were always fluid and perfect, appearing as though each one had been rehearsed a thousand times over before occuring. Many who had met her (and lived) had described her grace as 'feline', never realising how close to the mark they truly were. Human women didn't move like that, mundane humans couldn't move like that full-stop. No number of dancers or acrobats or even ladies of court who had been brought up to move with grace and care could claim the same skill as Esharee.

She moved forwards suddenly, from lounging back to leaning forward took a split second. One moment she had been the picture of relaxation and calm, the next she was leaned so far forward that barely inches separated the assassin from the broker. The woman who had asked for the meeting with the assassin acted on reflex, pushing herself away from the table and back into her chair. There was a look of fear upon the woman's face, it was a look that brought a smile to the tattooed assassin's face. Fear was such a useful tool not to mention a test. The black-eyes woman was no threat to Esharee, she knew that now, there was too much fear in her to act against the assassin.

Smiling still, the glitter of ivory white teeth showing, Esharee slowly moved back. So, she purred, You asked for this meeting, you must have a reason for it. A lover whose left you for another? A sibling that the world no longer needs? A employer who perhaps doesn't appreciate your worth? Come tell me, I assure you that the tale you tell will not be one that I have not heard before. And that was the truth. Esharee's had the blood of more than a few people upon her hands. Those who had heard of the assassin called her Blood-dancer for good reason. Just as those who called her Kin-Slayer did. The first blood that she had ever spilt had been that of her own kind.

She scented the air as the dark-eyed woman spoke of her employers in another city. Of how they wished Esharee to clear up a little problem for them, tidying away the loose ends of some plot. The assassin had been right, it was nothing that she had not heard before, it was a tale that she had played her part in more than a few times before. But it was not the job itself that interested her, no instead it was what she could smell. Beneath the stink of the tavern, beneath the stench of fear, there was the scent of a bird...and oddly enough it was the scent of the woman across the table from her. What could that mean? Another race like Esharee's but of a more bird-like nature?

Who are you?, she said suddenly, interrupting the broker mid-sentance. What are you?

Seeks-the-Stars they call me and I'm nothing and no-one, just an information broker. Just a soul who might come across a interesting tit-bit now and then, something that might come in useful at times to those with the coin to pay for it. For all her denials of being 'nothing and no-one' Esharee still couldn't miss how the broker seemed to almost be trying to push herself through the back of her chair in an attempt to stay away from the assassin.

No, no, no, you're something and someone, no doubt of that. But what are you? If it wasn't for your eyes and scent I'd say human but you're not. The assassin leaned forward once more, stretching out with a hand, tiny black claws where humans would have nails. The broker's eyes danced with terror as the assassin moved towards her. You're...well what would you say she is Tatyana? Her eyes flicked up and away from the wide-eyed face of Seeks-the-Stars to a point above and behind her chair.

The face of Esharee's apprentice rose from behind the broker's chair, She's a bird, human-formed but a bird nonetheless, Mistress Esharee.

Esharee smiled widely, her teeth clear to see, lengthened canines just like a cat's. Well, well little birdie, what shall we do with you?

_________________
It's all in the eyes, Those probing, prowling eyes
Searching for that signal, That flash of invitation
So many confusing questions, Packed into so many snatched glances
So many strangled cravings, Crying out to be explored


Thu Jul 29, 2004 8:22 am
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Stablehand
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Joined: Fri Apr 02, 2004 7:44 pm
Posts: 28
Location: Reading, UK
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This was not good.

Oh certainly Seeks-the-Stars had heard the rumours about the Kin-Slayer, she had heard the whispered tales told of her about the fireside in many a tavern and inn. But she hadn't believed them, she hadn't thought that they were honestly true. They were rumours after all, gossip at best, handed from one to another, the meaning and words changing with every telling and re-telling. There might have been a grain of truth at the very heart of such things but the entire rumour wasn't true, couldn't be true. Or so she had thought and so, her instincts told her, she had been so very wrong.

She had pushed herself as far back as the chair would allow her, her spine pressed firmly against the wooden back. The shifter would most certainly have tried to change to her birth form and escape from the situation that she found herself in but the fear was too strong. The survival instincts that she had been born with screamed at her to stay still, to stay silent until the predators had gone away. Such instincts controlled her body even as her mind knew that they were foolish and would gain her nothing. These predators weren't going anywhere.

It had been bad enough when the assassin alone had faced her, all feline grace and hidden violence. The scare stories had painted Esharee as a creature almost of myth, a terrible bringer of death from a race that had almost been pushed to extinction. A creature that enjoyed killing and the many ways that a life could be brought to an end. A soul who was as much cat as woman, a shifter of shapes just as Seeks-the-Stars herself was. But all the tales that the raven woman had heard of the assassin had seemed too grand, too terrible, too awful to really be true. And yet the longer that she had spent in her presence the more that her instincts had cried out the truth behind those rumours.

She had tried to keep her mind on the business matter, explaining the situation of her employers and the target that they wished dead at the assassin's hands. All the thoughts of trying to concentrate on business had been washed away bit by bit by the mounting fear in her mind. Though both women looked human Seeks-the-Stars knew well enough when she was faced with a cat, a feline predator that would look at her and see nothing but a feathered meal.

And as if that wasn't bad enough it seemed that Ole 'Arry had been right. The assassin, the cat, whatever she was, had indeed taken an apprentice for herself. And the apprentice was no more human than either the assassin or the information broker. There was something wild and feral about the apprentice, an air that was more savage than any civilised human would have. But strangely enough - though Seeks-the-Stars could barely believe that she was capable of thinking through the fear, much less noticing something so faint - the apprentice seemed almost unaware of it. She seemed not to realise how she stood out amongst the crowd, how she pulsed with an energy that went beyond the mundane.

Seeks-the-Stars laughed nervously, A bird? Oh that's a...she trailed off, meeting the assassin's eyes. There would be no bluffing her way out of the situation that she found herself in. Well, yes, we all have our little problem don't we?She tried to laugh again, but the sound was weak, almost feeble, betraying her nervousness as much as her body language did. Why ever had she thought that it was a good idea to accept her employers' task to seek out the assassin? Why had she ever even thought that it was a good idea to meet the assassin face to face? No amount of information was worth risking losing her life over.

The assassin slid out from behind the table, rising to her feet and prowling towards the seated information broker. Seeks-the-Stars could do nothing but watch Esharee close the distance between them. She tried to get her mind to remember that it really did have control over her limbs but fear seemed to almost have frozen her in place.

Esharee patted her gently on the head, What a brave little birdie to come and speak with me. There was a dark and terrible intelligence behind the assassin's green eyes. A look that told the broker that the assassin was plotting and planning, and that it might not go well for the raven shape-shifter. I think that for your bravery I will take on your employers' task. The sigh of relief that Seeks-the-Stars made at the statement was too audible for comfort. But to let you live...well let's say that we shall have to think of something suitable.

_________________
[center]A raven calls me in the night
Tempting me, enticing flight.
'Follow Sister, come with me.
Fly with me, come be free'
[/center]


Mon Aug 02, 2004 9:58 am
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Joined: Fri Apr 02, 2004 7:44 pm
Posts: 28
Location: Reading, UK
Post 
Later that night...

She could barely believe that she'd gotten away with it. It seemed impossible, after her initial meeting with the assassin that Seeks-the-Stars had managed to get out of the city in one piece. The combination of the feline assassin and the strange apprentice had seemed as though it could have signalled the end for the raven shapeshifter. It had been her worst nightmare come to life; a cat who was as big as she was. Most of the time she could deal with cats, the normal sort were, after all, much smaller and more easily scared. But Esharee? Oh Esharee was something quite different, a feline indeed but in human form. Nothing could have been worse for Seeks-the-Stars.

But still, she had survived the encounter. But only by making a deal with a devil, she thought to herself as she let the night winds take her ever further from the city. That was a place she never wanted to return to ever again...well not unless the information and the price were right of course. There were always exceptions to rules, even ones that she had put together to try and keep life and limb together. There had to be such exceptions, after all no one could predict what circumstances might rear their heads in times yet to come. And if a particularly juicy and profitable bit of information arose in the city? Well she wouldn't be one to turn it down just because something bad had nearly happened to her there in the past. No, no, not at all, got to keep an open mind for business.

She thought back over what had happened. It had been a close call, or so she had thought, when the assassin had decided that Seeks-the-Stars would need to barter for her life. The look in the assassin's eyes had stated fairly clearly that the information broker would need to come up with something pretty good in order for her body not to be found in the gutter the next morning. The raven shapeshifter had had no wish to end up dead and forgotten in a gutter. That wasn't the way to go, not at all. Dying that way meant that your body was likely to be thrown into a mass pauper's grave and marked with nothing more than a mound of dirt. She didn't want to end that way, she wanted to die with her body somewhere out in the open. Somewhere where her brethren would be able to come and feast upon her remains, that was a much better way.

The raven woman had had little of value that she could have bribed Esharee and her apprentice with. Besides, from what she had heard of the assassin, she doubted that anything as simple as money would have caught her attention. What else than had she to offer? The only real thing of worth that she possessed, the very thing that she had considered offering to the assassin anyway when she had first set off from her employers.

Herself.

What else was there to offer the assassin? Nothing. The Kin-slayer didn't care for baubles or money, but what she needed...ah now that was another matter. Any assassin worth their salt needed information, on their victims, on places, on deals, on weapons, on possible law-keepers. And information was a coin that Seeks-the-Stars knew how to trade in. it was her bread and butter, it was practically the very air that she breathed, she lived for information, buying it, gaining it, selling it for a profit in one place or another. Though the assassin might dislike the use of coins, Seeks-the-Stars liked nothing more than turning a half-heard rumour in one small town into a jingling in her pocket.

The assassin had considered the offer for a time, no doubt to let Seeks-the-Stars worry over it. But when the raven shapeshifter she begun to think of bargaining with the assassin, with buying her freedom with information...she had regained a measure of her former confidence. Esharee and this 'Tatyana' needed information, Seeks-the-Stars could provide it, it was a deal destined to happen. Or at least that had been how she had sold it.

With a rosey dawn still a good hour or so from the horizon, Seeks-the-Stars had left the city, her freedom and life intact. True she had made a deal that she might later regret but still that was a matter for another time. For now though she was alive, the assassin had accepted her employers' job and she had set up a working relationship with the assassin herself. Not to mention she now had confirmation that Ole 'Arry would pay dearly for.

All in all it wasn't a bad way to end an evening.


[OOC: All finished here.]

_________________
[center]A raven calls me in the night
Tempting me, enticing flight.
'Follow Sister, come with me.
Fly with me, come be free'
[/center]


Mon Aug 09, 2004 8:33 am
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