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Magic, Merriment, & Murder

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12/26/2021 15:55:00   

Oh, our lovely Maid of Melinäne! May your moon wax and wane and wax again!
Your magic guides,
Allows all to thrive,
As we celebrate your gifts arcane!

The 14th of Melinäne, Year 775
Proplom’s Eve

A distant bell tower tolled three-quarters of the hour, grand and somber tones resounding forth from the busy central shops to echo outwards to the furthest reaches of the city. Tonight, an excited buzz overrode the usual evening calm. Families rushed to finish their last-minute shopping, friends and neighbors chatted as they put up the final decorative touches, and the finest salons of the city threw their doors wide for the incoming crowd of celebrating socialites. Although many of the elite chose to attend gatherings a touch more intimate and exclusive…

In the wealthiest - and most exclusive - neighborhood of the city, the cobblestone streets were replaced with exquisitely cut setts. Alternating bands of cream and pale alabaster marble - each expertly fit and polished so that the carriages rode by with nary a bump nor wobble. Here, the houses were grand and their gardens vast, each manor its own palace atop a hill, its own kingdom spread out before it. Lanterns flicked on one by one as the last glimmers of sunset slipped below the horizon, illuminating the avenue in mellow amber light. Carriages glided gracefully past each other - pulled by all manner of noble steeds or strange contraptions - some by seemingly nothing at all. Glossy walks of powdered silvery gravel stretched alongside the drive. The occasional gentleperson sauntered aimlessly about, appearing to enjoy a quiet evening stroll while eyeing up the finery of their fellow amblers. Wrought iron fences framed the paths; graceful swoops and curves, filled with delicately molded blossoms and vines, allowed for brief glimpses into the grandeur beyond. Flowers so beautiful so as to soften the martial note of the baulster’s barbed tibs, and the heavy thrum of protective spells along its rails.

Some distance down the road of the affluent district an immense gate emerged - a gleaming golden beacon amid the surrounding black iron. At its center, a crest: a spiral wand spouting a pair of entwined shooting stars crossed with the distinctive eyed feather of a peacock - or perhaps instead a rather famed pegasus.

As the first of several carriages neared the sigil,the gates swung inwards with a cadence of cheerful whistles. Beyond, the drive wound upward, surrounded by towering hedges peppered with blush buds which bloomed in the wake of the passing vehicles, releasing soft clouds of golden pollen that shimmered and swirled, trailing playful eddies in the gloaming light. The streetlights behind faded, replaced by the far-away twinkling of the increasing numbers of stars above and the surrounding aureolin flickers of hundreds upon hundreds of fireflies. The path continued to rise and curve, spiraling gradually about the gentle slope of the hill it mounted, higher and higher until finally it broke free from the enclosed approach to reveal the Marvelous Mansion in all its majesty.

Grand, sweeping boughs of weeping willows encircled the center courtyard, the long vines of their silvery leaves entwined with countless strands of glowing golden lights. The very tips of the vines brushed against glittering quartz, the glossy stones laid out in sweeping circles before a dazzling fountain. A pair of immense pegasi reared atop an grand golden plinthe, the two frozen as if about to take flight. Water cascaded in graceful arcs from the tips of several feathers suspended mid-air, streams that gleamed and burbled pleasantly as they fell to the wide pool below. Beyond, a vast marble facade rose up above the waters. Tall, elegant windows alternating with intricately decorated columns framed a set of glinting golden doors, inlaid with the same wand-and-feather crest as the gates below. A dozen polished steps lead from the wide veranda to the carriage turn about below.

A smartly dressed young man stood at the base of the stairs, offering a gloved hand to help with those descending from high steps. He smiled charmingly and murmured quiet greetings to each, the dancing lights glinting off of the emeralds set in his cufflinks as he did so.

From the far side of the city, a half-dozen deep peals floated across on the evening breeze to herald the turn of the hour - and as the last note wavered and faded, the great doors swung open.

“Welcome!” The plump, dazzling figure of their hostess stood between them, brilliant light at her back sending fragments of emerald light dancing across the courtyard as it refracted off her sweeping robes. She smiled winningly at the guests before her, arms gesturing outwards expressively, before letting out a low, soothing whistle. A puff of verdant and cerulean sparks burst before her - and then the delicate form of a miniature pegasus stood upon her outstretched arm. “My warmest greetings to my esteemed friends - I am deeply honoured by your presence on this magical evening.” Mikae the Magnificent, Magician of Marvels stepped forward, turning as she did so to open the doorway to the grand hall beyond. “Welcome, one and all, to my humble abode.”
AQ DF MQ AQW  Post #: 1
1/17/2022 17:59:18   

Chromatic ArchKnight of RP

Tap tap tap tap tap.

Miu’s footfalls echoed along the stone street as she dashed along, keeping pace with the rolling chariots. Neither horse nor magic could overtake her, and she grinned as she passed each one in turn, a lone reporter on her way to the scoop of a lifetime. It wasn’t often that she had the opportunity to enter these wealthier neighborhoods, but with the stories drying up lately this was the best possible time to come here. The gossip, the tales, the cash available for one reason or another, it almost always led to a top-selling tale that could keep the papers flowing at speed for the month.

She slowed her pace and fell in alongside a carriage drawn by beautiful, white-maned horses. With a gentle smile she stretched out a hand, running it along the smooth coat of the powerful, gorgeous creature. What a shame that they had a job to do, otherwise she would have loved to race one in earnest. She went to tip her hat to the confused guests seated in the carriage behind, only to find there was none on her head. Miu frowned. No hat. Right. Her consultants had deemed her regular bucket hat far too childish for such an upstanding event, and she had been forced to leave it at home. What a shame. Perhaps Mikae would have something extra to lend the reporter. Nothing feathered though; the tuft would never be able to withstand her constant wind.

Miu prepared to accelerate, only to find the carriage beside her had done the opposite.


She stopped on a dime, wind blasting against her motion to prevent her momentum from sending her careening into the golden gate that stood shut ahead. The sigil at its center glowed, and Miu whipped out her notebook, sketching the feather-crossed wand at rapid speed before the gate swung open and the carriage beside her began its motion once more. Miu slipped her notebook back into its palace at her belt and took off through the gates. The reporter dashed along the path, banking along the curves of the road at sheer angles as she ascended the hill. Once she reached the top, she leapt, slipping her quill and notebook out once more as she took in the grand sight that unfolded before her flight.

Gorgeous willows here, I wonder how long they’ve been growing for. Or perhaps magic accelerated their years. The lights set along their leaves are a lovely touch, truly someone here has a knack and an eye for presentation. The center fountain is the highlight of the scene. Lovely use of the water-blessed feathers. Does Mikae do all of the enchanting herself, or does she have servants that assist? I’ll need to ask.

As Miu came down from her lofty perch, she almost let her momentum take her down into a practiced roll. But no; she was dressed nicely, she was to remain presentable for such a high-class event. The acrobatics would need to stay at a minimum. Instead her wind rushed to assist, an updraft catching her fall and bringing her not quite gently to her feet. A gust of air followed her wake as she rapidly crossed the courtyard, her hand gripping that of the confused greeter before he had a chance to extend it himself. Her mouth ran a million miles a minute as her eyes flashed with excitement and anticipation.

“Miu Fabula, directly invited by Mikae to cover the event and maybemaybemaybe sneak in an interview somewhere. Lovely to meet you hope you have a great night thanks for doing such an excellent job if you need me I’ll be admiring the fountain and doin some people watching alright thanks again!”

She dashed away from the stunned man (though not before slipping a business card into his hand), and up to the lovely fountain. A swift, smooth vault brought her over the edge and into a seated position.

The gentle lapping of water clashed with the mild roar of her whirlwind as Miu’s eyes hungrily scanned the approaching carriages, eager to explore every detailed corner, every spirited soul, and every wonderful story the night was to offer.
Post #: 2
1/19/2022 20:05:35   

Scallion never did like coming to this part of town.

The small figure in his too big coat scuttled down the street in his too big boots. He made it another couple of blocks before the perfect people with their perfect complexions and the perfect marble with its perfect sheen and its perfect traction sent Scalion’s head into a spiral. Humming to himself, the interloper slipped beneath a couple’s held hands to dip into a nearby alley. The following gasps and exclaims of “Why I never!”s started strong but dampened, dampened, dampened against the hoof clops of horses and neighing of also horses. With a small thud, Scallion leaned back against a wall and continued his nervous tune. Too much. All too much. They couldn’t even do alleys right in this part of town. So big and straight and properly lit. This was just a slightly smaller street wedged between two buildings where a perfectly good alley should be. Absolutely nonsensical.

Fighting his little fears, Scallion switched to whistling as he reached into his pockets to extract a couple of shriveled raisins. He popped them into his mouth with a well-practiced flip of the wrist, whistling unabated all the while. Courage restored, the little man in the too big coat and too big boots darted back into the too much part of town.


The house was bigger than he remembered.

Well, he did remember it. Just not the size. Size was too much, which made it fit the rest of this part of town. It made sense, but Scalion did not have to agree with sense. The little man peered out from behind the lamp post nearest to the gilded gate in all its gaudy glory. It was a good lamp post. Perfectly sized. Lightly salted. Scalion licked his lips just as a fancy noble released a fancy chuckle. Scalion agreed - the gate did deserve a laugh. Letting out a sound halfway between a hiccup and a sneeze, Scalion made his joyous contribution and stepped out from his impeccable hiding spot. A couple of ladies laden in layers of dress did him the kindness of stopping short to let him approach first. How thoughtful of them - perhaps the people in this town weren’t always too much.

Up towards the gate, Scalion kept his eyes on the doorman who was helping another guest out of their carriage. His whiskers twitched.

A guest walks up. They present an invitation. The doorman checks it. The doorman lets them in.

Easy as pie.

Scalion hoped that they did not ruin pie in this part of town.

The doorman, handsome as the devil and probably just as clever, gave a smile that seemed all too knowing as Scalion approached. The little man reached deftly into his pocket, spilling only four berries as he pulled out a stained paper. With a strained smile the doorman gingerly pinched it between his thumb and forefinger as he examined the invitation. It was an immaculate forgery, written by his own hand in a borrowed quill and misplaced ink. Scalion wrinkled his nose in anticipation as the doorman’s brow furrowed. This would work. It would definitely work.

After all, the forgery was written on the back of the original. Ingenious for tracing.

The doorman flipped the letter over as Scalion stood there fiddling with first his thumbs and then the rest of his fingers. A curious eyebrow was raised at the little man, but with a flourish, the doorman welcomed Scalion into the courtyard. Scalion nodded and dropped a handful of nuts into the doorman’s open hand for his troubles and strutted in with all the height he could manage.

His height did not last long in the crowd. Between the number of people being too much and the people being too much, Scalion felt himself suffocating even with plenty of room to breathe. The courtyard started to spin. How did anyone like this? Shoulders tensing up, the little man scuttled around the outskirts of the gathered mobs before the most beautiful sight he had seen thus far slipped into view.

The fountain.


With the agility of a pursued rabbit, Scalion darted around (and occasionally under) guests towards the oasis of reprieve. He nearly slammed into the stone side, only catching himself at the last moment before skidding to a shaky halt. Without hesitation, Scalion plunged his hands into the cool blue and brought the water to his lips. Lapping it all up, Scalion helped himself to seconds and thirds as the crowd gave him a small berth. This was good, the little man thought to himself as his shoulders eased back down. They knew to give space when someone was drinking the good drink. Perhaps this part of town wasn’t so bad after all. The little man was halfway through his fourth helping when a booming voice startled him. He dropped his beverage and shot glances left and right, taking in the bright show of emerald lights before eyes fell on the owner of the voice, so full of mirth and importance.


The little man’s gaze lingered on the esteemed mage at the front door to her home, small pegasus accompanying her. Scalion could not tell if she had aged a day, but she had as much bravado as ever. He shivered - he would be doing nothing of that nature. After a few more words, the mansions’ doors swung open, and the guests began pouring in.

He was not ready for that.

So as the crowds moved inward, the little man hung behind, rinsing his face in the all too conveniently placed fountain.
AQ DF MQ  Post #: 3
1/25/2022 23:35:25   


It was early in the morning as the amber sun shimmered just over the horizon. Most of the inn-patrons were still fast asleep, but there was enough awake to give the place an air of movement. The scent of cooked meats and char filled the air as people from all walks of life dug into their meals. Tucked in the corner of the dining room were two figures. The innkeeper, a pink-haired gnome, stood on a box against the bar top as she thumbed the pieces of silver between her fingers. She was short, even for a gnome, but it was almost comical when compared to the drow before her. His silver-shimmered hair was longer than she was tall.

“Did I not make myself clear?” The pale-skinned elf fixed his eyes down to the innkeeper. “I have urgent business to attend to. You’ll have the rest of the coin tomorrow.”

“Oh-okay. That’s fine.” The innkeeper sheepishly rubbed her hands together. “Just please remember about the furniture as well?” The gnome stood on her toe tips and tried to frown, but it did nothing to help. “Accidents happen, and I know he struck first. But last night was particularly. . . unruly.”

The drow shrugged. “As I said. Tomorrow?”

The gnome gave a soft nod. “Tomorrow, then. Hope it goes well, Taberith.”

He said nothing as he turned and walked out.

Oh, you poor bleeding heart.

Yue could not help but smile as she stepped out of the tavern. What a wonderful way to end a week on the town. These last few months had been exhausting. The Board’s deadlock had grinded negotiations with Braszcov to a halt. Between the endless meetings and letters and negotiations, Minetta was overworked. As much as she loved her work, it was nice to give in. Taberith certainly had enjoyed himself. A few broken bones and broken chairs went a long way. Her week out didn’t cost much either; hopefully the gnome would learn her lesson about trusting strangers.

As fun as it was, Yue’s vacation was over. It was back to business. At the very least, tonight would be different. Mikae was a pleasure to work with; far more of a kindred soul than she had first assumed. . .

The leather-wrapped drow ducked into an empty alleyway; after a moment, she stepped out, clad in another flesh. A brown-skinned human, short blonde curls, wrapped in the uniform of a humble courier. She tightened the scarf around her neck.

“Mikae is expecting us. Let’s not keep her waiting.”

As Yue descended from the clouds, she swept her eyes across the cityscape. Even far from above, the city seemed to go on forever. . . The changeling could not help but imagine all the stories nestled here. It was for the best that she traveled by griffin. All too easy to get lost and distracted. Besides, this was far faster and safer.

Finally, the griffin touched down in the middle of the inner courtyard, and Mue could feel the gaze of the other guests as she leaped off of her mount. She brushed the frost off her garb and pulled out a leather-bounded parcel. Before the others could scarcely make out a word, the courier raced forward, dashing by a line of guests as she pushed her way forward to the front.

“Letter for Miss Mikae!”
AQ DF AQW  Post #: 4
1/30/2022 11:36:25   

“Please be safe, alright? I know you’ve never liked parties…”

Mariella sat cross-legged on their bed, nervously fidgeting with a pink knit blanket. It had been a habit already when Mei first met her; Mei smiled, noticing how the intricate stitches were already coming undone, replaced with messy knots and half-hearted attempts at repair. It was destructive, sure, but it was cute-- and of all the things to habitually destroy, blanket threads were acceptable. Besides, it made it easy for Mei to tell when Mariella was anxious. Mei sat beside her, pulling at her own dress as she moved to make sure it wouldn’t wrinkle. “Mari, it’s just a small dinner. I’ll be back before you even notice I’m gone.”

“Do you have to go? Mikae is…” a lot to handle… I know. Mei hadn’t interacted with Mikae once since they both graduated. It was possible Mikae was less… flamboyant… now than Mei remembered her being in school. But it was hard not to hear of the Magnificent Mikae and her catch-all potion remedies. “You should stock this,” they would say, “it really worked for me!” What a load of… ugh.

Mei shrugged, a look of begrudging resignation on her face. “It’s polite to. And I want to take the chance to verify Mikae’s intentions for myself. Could you grab my clasp for me?” Mei pulled her braid across her shoulder, and Mariella gently clasped the back of her dress. Mei felt her wife’s hands wrap around her shoulders, and she leaned back against Mari’s chest. “I’ll be fine, I promise. I love you, little dragon.”

Mariella smiled and laid a kiss on the top of Mei’s head, carefully avoiding the mallow flower Mariella herself had helped arrange in Mei’s hair. “I love you too, Mal. I hope you have fun. And eat lots of food, you skimp too much when you’re stressed.”

“Mommy, you’re so pretty!” Eon’s dark hair appeared from the doorway as the little elf careened into the room at top-toddler speed. Mei reached down and picked him up by his armpits before his momentum could meet an abrupt stop at the hands of the bedpost.

“Hey Eon, good timing!” Mei leaned in close to him, a sly smile playing on her lips as Mariella giggled behind her. “I have a very special request for you.” Eon gave a serious nod, accompanied by a rather determined-sounding “mm!” Mei dropped her voice to a whisper. “When I’m gone tonight, you have to take very, very good care of Ma. Make sure she doesn’t get into any trouble. And don’t let her eat all the Proplom cakes without you. Okay?”

Eon gasped, clearly very distressed at the thought. “Not the PomPom cakes!”

“Oh Mei don’t torture him like that!” Mariella scolded playfully. “Don’t worry, Eon, I’ll make sure we share all the PomPom cakes, and we’ll even save a few for Mommy. How does that sound?”

“Yayyy!” Eon flapped his arms against his sides excitedly, and Mei wondered, for a moment, how she ever got this lucky.

Of course Mikae would live here. There was no disgust in the observation; it just made sense. Even though this area of the city stretched for miles, it likely housed only a dozen inhabitants, all in estates that could house small towns of their own. Mei scanned the sprawling gardens as her carriage made its way towards her inevitably-unpleasant dinner.They were beautiful beyond compare, but… something about the neighborhood always struck Mei as fake, even when she was just a small girl in one of its mansions. Especially then.

She let the window’s curtain drop. Mei wasn’t eager to catch sight of the grounds she had once raced around so cheerfully. There was no need.

She didn't look out again until the carriage slowed to a halt and a young man opened her carriage door. She placed her hand in his, grateful for the steadying weight as she let her eyes wander about her new surroundings. Pristine stairs, budding hedges trimmed to perfection. A fountain that seemed to imagine what pegasi would look like if they could rear at you and say “I am the greatest pegasus that ever was.” Yes, this is about what she expected. The boy spoke as helped her from her carriage. “Good evening, Dr. Malva. Happy Proplom’s Eve.”

“Happy Proplom’s Eve.” Dr. Malva gave the boy a polite smile. He must be a relative of Mikae’s; his stunning green eyes and dark hair were an eerie, funhouse-mirror type of reflection of the Mikae Mei had known in school. He was well dressed, though his face gave off just enough of a greasy shine for the doctor to notice. It seemed like a cream; likely one of Mikae’s. He’d be better off with just a wash routine and exfoliating soap. But Mei didn’t want to embarrass the poor boy by offering unsolicited acne advice. She decided on a simple “thank you for your help; I’m not used to dress shoes. What’s your name?”

“Stephen, Ma’am. I am Mikae’s cousin.” Mei smiled slightly, satisfied that she’d been right. She could hear the clopping hooves of the next carriage behind her, so she turned from Stephen with a nod and began to make her way up the stairs. She was incredibly glad she’d worn flats.

Mei was worried she’d feel angry when she saw Mikae again. That all of Mei’s success and growth, all logical reasoning would be thrown out the window, and she’d revert back to the young, angsty Mei she’d been in school. But watching Mikae as she stepped forward to greet her guests elicited little other than a slight annoyance. The person Mikae had grown to be was definitely not a person Mei would get along with. Too flamboyant, too flashy, too fake. But maybe this night wouldn’t turn out so bad; especially with others to socialize with, instead.

One thing hadn’t changed one bit. Mikae was still happy to use the word “friends” to mean “people I want something from.”
Post #: 5
2/3/2022 3:01:00   

All beginnings are prologues, and this one is no different: a carriage stopped in front of a tavern; a woman descending the stairs onto a smooth, marbled street. The murmur of voices. Wrought-iron fences and railings; flowers with their heads tilted up as though to kiss the nightcapped sky.

The woman - Muireann Ó Braonáin - walks with a strange mix of grace and awkwardness: her steps smooth, her movements buttery; but her limbs are too long and she sways with every step as though off balance. Every piece of her is a contradiction: her eyes a lovely sea-against-sandbanks color, ripplingly blue; the whites of her eyes thin and pale, a strange, unhealthy shade of seaglass green. She is slender as a ballerina, but her bones rise up jaggedly beneath her skin, sharply prominent. She smells of fruit, musk, and sweetness, but always with an undercurrent of salt and grime. Her hair is a brilliant red and lush with waves, but knotted and tangled; her smile is wide, but her teeth crooked; her voice soothingly melodic, but faintly raspy.

She sees a child staring at her from the shadows. Staring at her dress, maybe - a heavy black gown that shimmers as she moves - or at her mask: a dark, flared piece of cloth and wood cut into the shape of a manta ray. Or maybe the child is simply curious at the sight of a woman dressed so elegantly, but barefoot and carrying her own luggage by hand.

To each their own. Muireann hates letting people do things for her - and she hates dramatic entrances. She’d rather walk barefoot through that beautiful gilded gate carrying her own luggage than beholden to another man, or seen before her show. Before the show. And what a performance it will be -

She doesn’t have many secrets; but the few she keeps, she guards with her life.

She tightens her grip on her luggage case. You don’t know that the rumors are true, she tells herself. But it doesn’t feel convincing. It’s all too convenient. This invitation, this party: the timing of it all. Guilty, it says. Mikae the Magnificent is guilty. Any other time, any other party, maybe Muireann would believe she was just being hired as an entertainer - as a world-class entertainer, the best at her craft. But no. Mikae wants something. To talk. To strike a deal, maybe; to make a threat. To apologize? …no, not to apologize.

Maybe she wants to get rid of the evidence. Maybe she wants to get rid of Muireann.

Muireann slips into line. Ahead of her, a seemingly vertically challenged guest hands over their invitation with - are those nuts? She loosens her grip on her luggage slightly and allows herself to smile. Even allows the amusement to fill the empty feeling in her body - the feeling that comes with being too far from home. She’s still smiling when she hands the guard her invitation; still smiling as she stops in front of the fountain, trying not too look too hard at the water; still smiling as her glamorous hostess appears with all the drama and flare this small world can muster.

She wonders if she’ll have a new moniker after this. Wren the Righteous? Wren of Revenge?

Muireann of Murder?

She steps past a smaller creature and into the fountain itself, staring directly at their host. She speaks soft but her voice carries, clear like music with a rasping undertone. Her fingers are on the false lid of her luggage, deft and ready. In a flash, the manta ray mask is gone - as though vanished into thin air; the gown she wears seems to tear itself apart and scatter in fragments.

In its place she wears a terraced gown, blue layers tipped with white, a vision of coral.

“I am Wren-of-Rills,” she says, as the gown catches the light. “Welcome to my performance.”
AQW  Post #: 6
2/14/2022 21:05:51   

Despite the grand festivities lurking within the walls of her estate, the serenity of Mikae’s grove was relatively intact… at least, for a brief moment. Suddenly, the clacking of wooden wheels and the whinny of mares disturbed the peace. A rickety carriage, coated only in wood and chipped paint, darted through the forest before arriving at its’ goal- a walkway leading up to the enormous manor on the other side of the forest. The battered door creaked open, piercing the eerie calm outside the courtyard, and two figures emerged from its interior.

Normally, those inside would have taken a different form of travel than a rickety old carriage- preferably something larger, shinier, and much more extravagant- but this was somewhat of a special occasion. Normally, wherever they went, their grand procession would attract a crowd.. And given the nature of tonight’s meeting, the less people knew about their little excursion and followed them there, the better.

One of the figures who had exited the carriage, a broad-shouldered man, stood triumphantly in front of the pathway leading to their destination. In the shimmering lights of the enchanted grove, his hair almost seemed to glow a brilliant gold- making it match his gilded attire. The man wore a sparkling gold jacket, and a suit inlaid with jewels that would not be out of place decorating the magnificent building towering above him- and yet, his smile, a wide grin, seemed to shine brighter than any of the many, many adornments he wore. His associate, lurking in the shadow of her companion, seemed both at home and somewhat out of place, a rather annoyed pout crossling her lips. With the stark contrast between the darkened wooden transport and it’s opulent occupants, it appeared almost as if some decrepit treasure chest had stormed out from its hiding place and forcibly expelled its contents onto the grounds of the mansion before vanishing into the dark once again.

The two exchanged not a single word as they stared at the mansion before them, each with their own ideas of what laid in front of their eyes, as the carriage sped off. To one, this structure was a monument to many things. To the host’s excess of wealth, and their urge to prove their superiority over all who pass by. A place that was probably built on the blood, sweat and tears of those who will never again be invited inside its walls. Created using the labor of many, but designed to reward only one.

To the other…. A quaint little cottage in the suburbs.

The two stood in silence for a couple of seconds, taking in the spectacle before them in their own different ways. Finally, the gold-clad man broke the quiet tension, speaking with a booming voice that quickly shattered the sense of serenity present in the grounds.

“My, what a venue! I must hand it to Mikae. She knows how to set a scene just as well as how to make one. Just look at all of this…. ”

With a heavy sigh, the sharp-dressed man glanced at his associate out of the corner of his eye. Where he expected to see the young woman’s emerald-green eyes, he was only met with a swirl of brown hair. Her attention, it would seem, was elsewhere.

“....You’re not looking, Kalka.”

Whipping her head around, the young woman’s eyes quickly met her employer’s as she stepped out of his shadow. The man only wished she had faced him with a smile, and not the annoyed scowl he knew all too well.

“What am I supposed to be looking at? It’s just more of the same.”


“You really don’t see it, bling-brain? This place looks exactly the same as every other fancy house, restaurant, and event venue we’ve been to this year! Are you sure we didn’t just go in a circle and end up back at your estate again?”

“Exactly the same? Why, that’s not the case at all! We all decorate very uniquely. Look closely. That marble is nothing like the kind at my abode.” Turning his head back to the building, he gestured an extravagant arm towards the marble structure. “You see, the slabs Mikae is using appear to have stemmed from the far east, while mine was clearly quarried from the southern quarries of Caracara. You can tell by the shade of white and the number of lines in it, you see…”

The girl let out a loud groan. “Do I look like I care? It’s just the same few things put in in slightly different ways. Gold, jewels, pretty trees, shiny lights, and enough marble to build a statue as big as your ego. For all the money you people spend on designers, I guess it’s still not enough to get them to do something unique for once.”

Auric Au’Mydas, despite boasting an ego only rivaled by his fortune, could only smile and shake his head. He was always good at charming those around him (or so he thought), but he never was as skilled at making people see his point of view. That’s what Kalka was for.

“Ah, well. I suppose you never did grasp the finer points of design. Or…..” The wealthy womanizer’s face changed from a disapproving frown to a flirtatious smile. “...Perhaps you are so spellbound by my own appearance that you couldn’t focus on the subtle differences?”

While his gaze was still fixed on the spectacular structure before him, he was still able to catch a glimpse of red by the corner of his eye, followed by a sharp pain in his ankle. His secretary, it seemed, had delivered a swift kick- made even stronger by her heavy boots- to Auric when his back was turned. Whether it was from rage or embarrassment, he was never sure with Kalka… but he sure had fun trying to guess. As far as he was concerned, her inevitable lashing out whenever he tried to fluster her was just the price he had to pay for the entertainment.

Moving to assess the damage on his fine footwear, Auric noticed that Kalka had aimed her kick very deliberately. The red spot marking her blow was poised right above his shoes- to a place where it could easily be covered up. Even when she attacked, she still did it in a way that would not ruin his appearance. The gentleman could only laugh to himself, noting that even in all of her anger, she couldn’t bring herself to ruin his outfit. Switching from a wince back to his trademark grin, he pretended not to notice as he rolled up his socks. As he lifted himself back to his full height, Auric turned to face Kalka, now seeing her bathed in the glow of the mansion’s light.

“I suppose I deserved that. Though, I must say… Now that I get a better look at the sight behind me, my attention is wavering from the decor as well.”

He was kicked for that one, too, but at least he wasn’t lying. For someone who had so much disdain for the upper crust, he thought, it was ironic how much effort Kalka had put into looking like one of them tonight. Until now, he hadn’t gotten a clear look at his plus one- she’d actively avoided meeting him after getting dressed, and insisted on wearing a cover in the carriage, citing the wind chill in the rickety carriage. But here in the light, Auric finally saw Kalka’s silver set in its entirety- and it was more beautiful than any slab of Caracara marble he had ever seen.

Shaking his head, Auric was jarred back to reality by the realization that the two were beginning to run late. A few minutes more, and the two wouldn’t be able to get to their destination. Being fashionably late was one thing, but being too late to even attend was simply embarrassing. As he recovered from the second blow, he began to move closer to the mansion, with Kalka trailing behind as their conversation continued.

“Now, now… save the rest of the kicks for later. Let’s have fun tonight. After all, we should count ourselves lucky! It’s not often that an old friend sends an invitation to one of the finest parties of the year.”

“If I may, sir,” interjected Kalka, “as the person screening your private mail…. Yes, it is. Quite often, in fact.”

“Really? I simply must check those more. Regardless. Every occasion is a special one with the right company! And this one is even more special. After all, I’m not expected to arrive alone this time.”

Kalka let out another slight huff. She never did like parties, and yet, Auric insisted on dragging her everywhere he went- from charity balls to business lunches. If this was his idea of buttering her up, the young woman reasoned, it wasn’t working. Even when the invitation was strictly for one person, her boss ended up using connections, wealth, and charisma to sneak his companion into high-class events (despite her not particularly wanting to be snuck in to begin with).But this time was different. Auric’s invitation stated that he was welcome to attend the grand get-together- and to “bring along his charming assistant”, should he wish to do so. And of course, much to her dismay, he did.

Kalka’s thoughts suddenly hit a snag as they drew closer to the great door, nearly crashing into her boss’ back. As she stumbled, Auric whirled around to face his assistant, gazing down at her before bending down to meet her ear. Above the chaos of the nearby party and the rumbling of the enchanted grove, the secretary could make out a playful whisper:

“Be on your best behavior, won’t you? I’d hate to be embarrassed in front of so many esteemed individuals.”

The aggravated assistant turned her head to meet the source of the voice.

And… there it was. Auric’s billion-dollar smile. Kalka swore under her breath. She never could be sarcastic when he made that blasted face. It was the same one he made when he first walked into her office last year, the same one he made before walking to what should have been his death, and most importantly, the one he made when he stumbled out, covered in spores and dirt, to invite her to the position she found herself in today. Just her luck- it was as persuasive as the day she first saw it.

Kalka returned his beaming grin with a crack of her knuckles and a mischievous smirk. The only way to return such enthusiasm, after all,was with a little of her own.

“No promises.”

Auric let out a hearty laugh before turning his attention back to the mansion.

“I thought you’d say as much. Shall we?”

As he spoke, Auric began to stride towards their destination- a bold and confident look on his face.

Trailing behind him, Kalka could see a swirl of gold begin to pool at Auric’s legs- a mass of coins, flowing together in perfect harmony as if carried by a calm river. As the golden strands began to loop around his body, she could notice flecks of shimmering colors- red, blue, green, and glistening white- making their way along the streams that were now sweeping past his chest. She could hear the slight clinking of coins and jewels bumping and scraping up against each other, and the brief flutter of paper in the air.

The silver-clad secretary couldn’t help but bury her face in her hand.

“Come on… seriously? You’re trying to pull a flashy entrance HERE of all places? We’re already late to begin with!”

Auric responded with another wide grin, and a steely glare in his eyes that Kalka knew all too well.

“FASHIONABLY LATE, Kalka! You know what I always say, my dear. First impressions are the most important ones. Come! Let us make ours spectacular!”

Kalka wanted to point out that this was, in fact, not the first time Auric would be meeting many of these people- but when he got this excited, it was hard to say anything. She’d probably have an easier time stopping a charging beast with the tip of her pinky than convincing Auric to change his mind- especially when it came to his love of spectacles.

She couldn’t say she hated that about him, though. At least he was consistent.

Suppressing a slight chuckle, the secretary steeled her glare before joining her employer at the manor’s entrance in what would be an event unlike any she had ever experienced before…. And given her history, that was saying quite a lot.
AQ MQ AQW  Post #: 7
3/19/2022 22:48:38   

Emerald eyes, lovely and cheerful and sharp above Mikae’s perfectly imperfect smile, swept across her courtyard. A slight narrow, barely noticeable, as she took in which guests were present and which were not. Xelen pirouetted on her arm, shoving their nose in her ear with a snort and eliciting a proper, girlish giggle - and a fully genuine smile - before the host swept elegantly down the dozen steps leading into her home. A polite nod to the doctor as they passed each other, before her eyes slid smoothly over her to fix on the woman currently standing in the fountain. Behind her, the great doors gleamed open invitingly…

Across the threshold lay an expanse of smooth, pale pink tiles, intricate swirls of golden lace tracing lazy patterns across their surface. They glinted in the pale golden light, cast from the immense chandelier dangling from a vaulted ceiling above. Blossoms of rippled stained-glass flowers cascaded outwards from its base, a veritable meadow of crimson and azure and goldenrod layered on top of one another in textural dissonance. Delicate crystal butterflies fluttered about them, pale golden light shedding from their wings as they perched to rest on the chandelier, casting the room in a constantly shifting glimmer of gold. Further globes of golden light lined the walls just over head height, ensuring that the entire room remained illuminated.

The vast windows looking out on the courtyard were frosted silver, endless patterns of vines and flowers partially obscuring the view beyond. Lounges and chairs of a rich, creamy velvet and small tables of curling gold and delicate glass filled the space to either side, leaving the path to the main stairs clear. An immense harp stood in one corner, music plucking forth from invisible hands in a light, airy melody - a familiar tune of a popular holiday ballad. Great crystal mirrors framed the sides of the room, reflecting the people within with a hazy golden film, their borders engraved with sweeping trellises and further bejeweled butterflies.

Throughout the room, several trays of sparkling juices and hors d’oeuvres floated, the majority congregating at the foot of a second grand staircase. Its dozen steps of the same pale pink tiles swept upwards to an open-aired mezzanine hall beyond, the golden rails of both stairs and hall covered in pale ivy filled with starbursts of pink and white blossoms. A split mural framed either side of the stairs, depicting a vast, glorious sunrise across a golden-touched plain, the sea glinting silver against the edges of the frame. Pegasi, gold and silver and bronze, swept across the sky from sun-kissed cloud to sun-kissed cloud between the two painting.

A grand room, a receiving room, the overture of the wonders to soon be seen beyond…

“Letter for Miss Mikae!”

Stephen blinked at the courier before him, caught between releasing Dr. Malva's hand and greeting the oncoming couple. A griffin. In their courtyard. Mikae had not said to expect that. He opened his mouth in the hopes for an eloquent response - “Uh… what?”

Yeah. Totally eloquent. He’s got this. Not.

He just registered the heavy clunk of hoofsteps behind him when a large, fur-covered palm landed on his shoulder. Barllak to the rescue, as usual. “I’ve been expecting you,” came the minotaur’s deep, warm tones, and Stephen relaxed. He hadn’t forgotten something important. He gave a charming smile and nod to the courier as he smoothly stepped aside, and glanced quickly across the courtyard to count the current guests, absentmindedly tucking a business card that came from somewhere into his breast pocket as he did so.

Ms. Kalka looks lovely as always. And exasperated with her employer, also as always. Stephen could definitely sympathize. Mr. Scallion, Mr. Au’Mydas, Dr. Malva… wait. Where’s Mr. Lerount? Ohhh no. Mikae was going to throw an absolute fit if her, well, whatever-he-was missed tonight of all nights. Stephen really didn’t need to overhear another one of their spats. Almost walking in on the last one because Mikae never locked the secret passage into her office was more than enough to scar him for life. He shook the thought away from himself and turned to greet the beautifully-clad lady - couple, whoops, focus, once more. “Mr. Au’Mydas, spectacular, as always.” And then another bow, ever so slightly deeper, to the woman at his side. “Ms. Khuman, a pleasure. As always.” He adds, with a hint of a grin as he gestures them up the stairs.

“I’ve been expecting you.” Barllak sniffed subtly, the tell-tale scent of Mikae’s newest business partner ever so faintly lingering about the courier. Her employer knew how to pick them. “Please, follow me.” Barllak turned, ignored the rest of the commotion in the courtyard, and led the courier up the steps into the entryway beyond. Mikae’s voice rose and fell in excited waves behind her, and Barllak barely resisted the urge to snort. Where was that charm half an hour ago, boss? Mikae had been extremely snappish earlier, antsy about the potential new deal, about the upcoming party, about anything that wasn’t Xelen. And she’d taken a fair bit of her attitude out in yelling at Barllak.

Her hooves clipped sharply against the tiled floor as she moved through the entryway, pausing at the foot of the second set of steps to grab an entire tray of the hor d'oeuvres. She needed a treat to get through this evening. Or two. She paused after wolfing down a third delicately sculpted canape whole, brushing crumbs off of her pantsuit that miraculously vanished before making a mess on the floor. What a waste of magic. Mikae still refused to let her hire an average cleaning service. “I keep important notes in my study!” she claimed. “What if their products kill my flowers in the conservatory?” she whined. Barllak huffed. Mages.

Steady, measured steps up the stairs and along the hall of the mezzanine, stars twinkling cheerfully from above as she turned the corners through the gaudily gilded halls. Barllak paused outside off a door on the opposite side of the floor, an elaborately scrolled “M” embossed on its face. “You can drop off the letter and change in here. I will speak to Ms. Faye about the business matters on our way back to the party.” She had already noticed one missing guest; Mikae would not react well to their being two.


“Welcome to my performance.”

Mikae schooled her face back to charmingly pleasant, tucking away both her amusement at Xelen’s antics and her irritation at her missing guest. He always has to be the most dramatic. Bouncing cheerfully down the steps, she flicked her sharp emerald eyes over this evening’s primary entertainer. Barely a hint of magical trace about the dissolving fragments of the black gown… Impressive. Mikae applauded, quick and light, at the introduction of Wren-of-the-Rills.

“Marvelous!” she exclaimed, the tail of the word turning into a trilling whistle that halted the splashes of the fountain about her guest. Such a wonderful act, such a perfect distraction. “I am so delighted that you will be performing for us this evening, Madame Wren!” Her sharp eyes didn’t quite match the wide smile beneath them.

Performing for us, performing with us… after all, what was the difference?


Oh, good! Mikae-friend-of-their heart was distracted from their missing partner-rival-lover-Lysan. Xelen was sad. Xelen liked the flower-soap-scented-man. He gave the best ear scritches. Xelen balanced expertly as their Mistress bounced forward, the stride perfectly timed so that Xelen’s shoulder perch barely shifted. Xelen sniffed the air experimentally. The floating-ephemeral-lady-of-the-waters stood in the fountain before them, clad in… Coral! Coral-of-some-far-away sea. Xelen snorted. Salt water did not belong in their fountain. They couldn’t drink salt water. Wren-singer-dancer-trickster better not damage it.


Xelen turned. A long tail extended from a mass of golden ripples, hairless-twisted-draping over the side of the fountain. A tail? Xelen’s feathers shifted in a ripple of turquoise-gold-aqua. Who had friend-of-their-heart invited that had a - wait. Wait. Wait! Xelen neighed in joy. *Scalion!* Rat-friend-thinker-plotter, friend-of-their-heart’s assistant! He came after all! Xelen lept from Mikae’s shoulder and gracefully glided to the lip of the fountain, prancing about the edge and waiting. Waiting. Waiting!

An elongated nose peaked out, soggy-bedraggled-ragged whiskers sweeping out from either side.


Xelen swept out a wing and bapped it against the nose, excited neighs trumpting forth. *Scalion! Rat-friend-helper-hoarder! Did you bring me treats?*

< Message edited by Starflame13 -- 3/22/2022 16:52:51 >
AQ DF MQ AQW  Post #: 8
5/1/2022 17:54:10   

Chromatic ArchKnight of RP

Miu sighed. A whole five minutes had passed and not a single person of note had arrived. These nobles, always so slovenly in how they approached their days. At her own pace she would have loved to already have the outline for next week’s articles but… well… that’s why she was here, wasn’t it? With news drying up, she’d soon have to resort to more drab stories or - Lords forbid - an advice column.

No! No that wouldn’t do at all! Miu’s eyes scanned the guests, hoping to pick out the one that would be most likely to cause a scene (a small one!) if the wind blew their dress up at just the right angle. With a lovely pink gown in mind and one eye shut, Miu picked out her target and prepared to fire, quill at hand to sketch the embarrassed expressions that would certainly arise.



A raise of her arm brought the winds to rise, keeping the errant droplets from wetting her nice shirt, and a sweep aside cleared the air so she could see the disturbance. Miu tilted her head, her quill floating up and tapping at her chin as she examined Mikae’s miniature pegasus playing with the rat-like fellow in the fountain. Was he a guest? Him? There seemed to be an air of familiarity between Xelen and the man; like a pet seeing a regular friend. Yet he was not at all dressed for the occasion. Her quill’s scritches began.

Mikae’s Secret Friend of the Lower-Class: The Charitable Magician Accepts All to her Magnificent Event

Hmmm. No, likely too wordy. She’d have to come back to that one. But at least it was a start, perhaps the dresses could stay touching the ground for now.

Then the woman stepping into the fountain ascertained that.

Miu’s eyes lit up. Wren-of-Rills! With all of her delectable stage-presence as always! The reporter dashed backwards, zig-zagging between other guests to find the best angle-of-view. She turned back to the fountain, framing the performer in her hands as her wind-swept quill scritched along the pages. Mere moments was all it took to capture the beauty of the scene in sketch. That, that could make for a good story. Perhaps Miu could wrangle up another interview as well; the first had been oh-so-lovely, leaving just a hint of mystery to the woman that Miu could dig further into.

The griffin landing shook Miu from her thoughts, but left nothing to follow-up on. A simple letter for the magician was a normality, and while theorizing the contents could make for some quick buzz, there were simply too many possibilities to make anything lasting of it. Turning her eyes to the next guest, Miu picked out an elven woman of dark skin in a stunning pink and blue dress. She seemed familiar, but Miu couldn’t place why. Quill tapped at chin again as the pages of her journal flipped rapidly, her eyes not even glancing at the pages as the information flowed through her mind.

There: notes she’d taken in preparation for the event, on a series of articles written by some other tabloids before she’d started her own paper. The woman was a little difficult to identify in the dress - it stood in stark contrast to the regular outfit of her career - but it was certainly Dr. Mei Malva. A curious smirk drifted across Miu’s face. Based on those rumors, Dr. Malva and the host may not be on the friendliest of terms. She could see the headline now, or at least, part of it:

Past-Wrought Tensions at the Charity! Bitter Rivals or -

Woah woah woah what? What had she just written? Miu glanced at the page, plucking the quill out of the air to scribble out the errant line by hand while her cheeks burned. That wouldn’t do at all, it was too out-there! It wasn’t even in line with the rumors! She took a deep breath, centering herself and letting her rapidly increasing windstorm die down a bit as her emotions calmed. This would be a hook worth following up on, but it would be a riskier one to pursue. The host wouldn’t appreciate her generous invite being used to find a story that could directly slander the magician.

And speaking of, there was the host right there! Mikae looked marvelous as always, the life of the party! Miu considered rushing up and asking about the interview immediately, but the woman had already moved on to speak with Wren. Ah well, Miu couldn’t blame her, and she’d get her chance later regardless.

The reporter dashed across the courtyard and up the steps, skipping over many of them as she ascended to the top. She took a moment to calm her windstorm again - it wouldn’t do to have it accidentally pick up a plate or some silverware and toss it around (even if it would be pretty funny), then stepped inside.

It was gorgeous within, though she hadn’t expected any less. She wasn’t the largest fan of the pink tiles, but at least they didn’t pop out too much, and the butterflies above were lovely. Miu steeled herself, mustering her strength, and walked over to one of the hovering drinks, plucking it out of the air with her own wind. As she took a sip of the delicious cider, her gaze scanned the entering guests as she tried to decide which one might look best on the front page.
Post #: 9
9/7/2022 19:13:39   

One rinse, two rinse, three rinse, four.

Scalion’s nose gave a twitch, and he stopped splashing his face with the fountain’s water. Four was the magic number, and if that didn’t work, nothing would. He fiddled with his fingers as the guests trickled into the magnificent mansion of Mikae. The magnificent mansion of Miss Mikae. Manners were important. Very important indeed. The little man stuck one hand in one of his many pockets as he gnawed on a scruff of fur protruding from the end of his sleeve. His eyes rolled back and forth over the diminishing crowd. He hated waiting. Never sure what to do with his hands. Most of the time Scalion felt like he never had enough hands, but then suddenly in moments like these he had two too many.

His eyes were of course wandering over the guests for the fourth time when a familiar, fantastic figure started walking in his direction.


Oh dear.

Miss Mikae.

Miss Mikae was on her way.

He couldn’t do this now - he was unprepared! His previous plans of holding a drink as he circled the ballroom again and again while avoiding guests to think of something to say were falling apart before his very eyes. Scalion’s eyes darted left and right for somewhere, anywhere to hide himself away. The shrubberies and trees and shaped garden bushes were far too far away - and the figure who had leapt in the fountain was, of course, nowhere near large enough to mask him from Mikae’s sight. Miss Mikae.


Of course.

The fountain

Scalion hurled himself over the fountain’s edge, banging only three of his toes in the process. He landed with a splash, perfectly submerged in the water’s depths. The water soaked through his coat and clothes and fur and skin with its cool yet pure touch. It was nice down here. Peaceful. Quiet. Empty, save for the shins and leg of that [blank] fellow. Scalion blinked as he studied the ambient blue around him. Oh yes, he could stay down here all night. He would, too, if breathing was not an obstacle. He glanced upwards and saw some flittering shape hovering just by the edge of his exposed whiskers. Darn whiskers, betraying him every time. Scalion sighed, a handful of bubbles escaping from his mouth to the surface in a flurry of a dance. He did need to take a breath anyways.. Perhaps next time he would go undiscovered.

Scalion popped his head out of the water, seeing clearly the form of small pegasus of splendor. A tiny wing reached out and brushed his nose, just gently enough to give him the urge to sneeze. Scalion wrestled that sensation around as little Xelen the familiar familiar spoke.

”Scalion! Rat-friend-helper-hoarder! Did you bring me treats?”

“Oh, yes.”

Dripping wet, Scalion stood up and began rifling through his pockets. “Well, no. I didn’t bring treats for you. But I do have treats.” He pulled a handful of berries and nuts and a soggy mass that he supposed had once been a cracker from inside his coat. “And you may have some.” As light as a feather, Xelen landed on his outstretched hand and nibbled away. A small smile crept across his face as the perfect pegasus snorted and snickered while picking out the berries from the pile. Scalion popped the poor excuse for a cracker into his mouth and bit down with a distinct lack of a cracker-like crunch. The two in silence save Xelen’s content whinnying, with Scalion snatching up all the crackers before Xelen could be disappointed by them.

The courtyard grew quiet. It grew nice. Welcoming, even.

Why couldn’t more parties be like this?

The two finished their fill, and Scalion pocketed the leftovers. Xelen buzzed up to his eye level, just out of reach of his whiskers. ”Have you come to say hi to Mikae-Mistress?”

“O-o-oh, y-yes.” Scalion shuffled from one foot to the next. “I just-I just…” He pulled a sopping wet note from his pocket. “I just have to let these dry.” He continued to procure eight more papers of similar soggy properties as well as several pieces of chalk. He broke eye contact with Xelen and laid the notes flat on the fountain’s ledge one after the other. “I will be inside, sure enough. Just go on without me.” He began wrapping one of the chalk pieces in grass to absorb the water from it.

“Don’t take too long, friend-hoarder-Scalion!” The perfect little pegasus fluffed their perfect little feathers before giving him a perfect little boop on the nose. “Mikae-Mistress misses you!”

The little friend zoomed off, but Scalion kept his eyes on his notes. “Yes, I will join when I am ready.”

He finished with one piece of chalk before moving to another. A long-contained sigh left his chest, a crushing weight removed now that he was alone.

“When I am good and ready.”

< Message edited by Apocalypse -- 9/19/2022 16:12:22 >
AQ DF MQ  Post #: 10
9/28/2022 20:13:51   

“Uh, what?"

The courier maintained that same eager gaze, but inside, the changeling was smiling. The disguised merchant had briefly met the Madam’s cousin. Their meeting was far too short for Yue’s liking; despite all of her inquiries, she knew little about Stephen. It seemed that he was content to live in her cousin’s shadow. . . So it was no small joy for Yue to see Stephen so utterly flabbergasted.

Before she could muster her response, a familiar hand landed on the doorman’s shoulders. A large figure. Twisted horns, dark black hair flowing from the ends of her clothes. Yue noticed as the minotaur’s nose twitched ever so slightly. Then with complete composure, Barllak spoke.

“We’ve been expecting you.”

Even for Yue, a minotaur was a rare sight. To be in such an esteemed position was another affair entirely. According to her information, Barllak was Mikae’s confidant, her right hand person. Former employees and would-be hirelings claimed as much. And from her previous meeting last week, it all but confirmed it for Yue. It was good to know that Mikae had someone competent under her wing.

As expected, Yue found that Barllak went straight to business. “Please, follow me.”

The courier gave a quick bow before following the minotaur’s lead. . . but not before giving one last tease to the doorman. As Yue moved right next to Stephen, she tapped him on the shoulder and gave a wink.

“Thank you!”

The two stepped through the decedent mansion as Barllak led her through. It was obvious that Mikae knew how to hold a party. Nearly moved through the opening. beneath. To think that this was much more quiet a week ago. With a person such as Mikae, it seemed that there was always something going on in her abode.

The courier held her belongings to her chest as Barllak stopped to grab one of the ornate meal trays. She let out a giggle at such an “unprofessional sight.” It was no accident, a purposeful slip up to see if he could get into the minotaur’s head. But in their brief stop, something else caught her eye. Amidst the sea of guests, another familiar figure stood out just in front of her.

Dr. Malva.

The figure was unmistakable. Dark skin, white hair, all contrasted with the sheer loudness of her pink-stained-blue dress. It shouldn’t have been a surprise to Yue to find the head of the Mallow Clinic here. Potions were a common interest between Dr. Malva and Miss Magnificent. . . and Minetta. If Dr. Malva was here, then there certainly was some business going on, and Yue had to know more.

I hope you are willing to work with the Consortium, Doctor.

With the brief distraction over, Barllak gathered herself and beckoned the courier forward. The roar of the party grew more distant and the two moved up the steps to the second floor. It wasn’t long before they arrived at Mikae’s study.

“You can drop off the letter and change in here. I will speak to Ms. Faye about the business matters on our way back to the party.”

Yue noted the irritation in the Minotaur’s words. The courier simply smiled as she gave another bow and entered the room.

. . . What are you hiding?

As Yue entered the room, her face went slack, the cheerful expression giving way to focused intent. Bookshelves, papers, long quills and pots of ink atop an oaken desk— the room was full, but certainly organized. It appeared to be a simple office, albeit with the tell-tale signs of magic. Off in the back, there was a window that seemed to peer into a different world. It framed a lake at the bottom of a mountain, all draped by the colors of the sunset. The most exotic sight was a statue of a dragon. Its eyes were emeralds; in its mouth was a simple letter opener. It was. . . very much something Mikae would like.

Try as she might, Yue could only make out those broad details. The changeling could feel the sparks of green light biting at the corner of her eyes. If she got too curious, the enchantment stepped in, blurring her vision. As much as she wanted to “explore” Mikae’s study, she certainly knew better. “Minetta” was no common thief, and Mikae certainly had wards in place for just a circumstance. She was here for business.

The courier delicately placed the bound parcel on the center of the table. Engraved on its side was a black raven, the calling card of Telanor-Faye. She flipped it open, and much to her satisfaction, the pages were empty. Amidst all the ambient magic, the enchantment held. To everyone, it appeared as blank pages. No one could read them, not even Yue. No one except Mikae. On these sheets of paper were everything. Terms, dates, inventory, a proposed schedule for goods, contingencies upon contingencies with accompanying invoices, all signed by the head of Telenor-Faye. The magician could not ask for a better arrangement with the Consortium.

With her parcel delivered, the courier’s job was finished. It was time for “Minetta” to talk with Mikae.

Yue reached into her leather bag and pulled out a single fire-opal. The beautiful gemstone fit nicely in the palm of her hands, sparkling as it catched the magic light of the office. She had given Mikae fair warning of what would come next. . . Suddenly, she wrapped her hand around the gem. With her mind focused, she squeezed the gem and it suddenly cracked, shattering into fine orange dust before completely disappearing. In its place, Yue held her attire. A fine dress. Lines of fire-opals moved across its smooth black surface, each one a contingency. She hoped that one would be enough for the night.

Yue quickly went to work as she stepped into character. Her ears grew long as she put on her earrings, flesh warping around the golden jewelry. The courier’s brown skin turned to red, and then again to white as Minetta applied her makeup. She was swift, moving in a frenzy but still showed absolute control. Not a single once or drop stained her black dress.

With her work complete, Yue looked into a nearby mirror. The green light seemed to roll back, sensing her intent. It was almost as if she could feel Mikae’s approval.

In the mirror was her. Minetta. The elven baroness of Telanor-Faye.

Her favorite.

A few minutes had passed since the Courier stepped in. But afterwards, Minetta stepped out. She was ready.

“You wanted to speak with me, Barllak?” Her voice brimmed with excitement as she pretended to be coy with the minotaur.

“Yes. I hope you’re slightly more subtle when it comes to the delivery of our test products.”

Barllak certainly was having none of it. The minotaur began to make her way towards the main roon, and Minetta followed behind. It was as if Barllak was trying to get away from her. With her long legs, the minotaur strided forth. Just as Minetta was about to catch up, Barllak moved just a little faster, again and again. Yet Minetta did not break a sweat as she continued on:

“Oh please. I'm sure someone as popular as Mikae has little time to wait for letters. And I'm certain that by the time the night is over, the gryphon will be just an afterthought. I hope that isn’t the most exciting thing this evening? Besides, it would have been riskier to enter by carriage. Far more time out in the open. . . Either way, I assure you that our deliveries will be more discreet. You have my word.”

Barllak snorted back as she stopped at the top of the stairs and looked her in the eyes. “I will hold you to that, otherwise this trade is more trouble than it's worth. We're dealing with controlled substances, and none of my boss's derivatives are approved yet for our intended use. "

Minetta looked down to the rest of the guests.

“Is that why she is here?” Minetta thought to herself.

After a moment of silence, Barllak continued. “I will take you to Mikae, Ms. Faye.
AQ DF AQW  Post #: 11
10/5/2022 20:04:36   

“Kalka…. We seem to have a problem.”

“Only for you. I know you like the flashy entrances and all, but have you looked at the joint? This entire courtyard is a flashy entrance.”

Sure enough, Auric’s display of gold and jewels fell on blind eyes. Everyone seemed too distracted by everything else around the venue to notice. As much as he hated to admit it, Kalka was right- with a thousand spectacular sights a minute in the courtyard, one more wouldn’t be of much importance. It probably worked better on people who didn’t see something like his entrance every day, he reasoned.

Auric’s face dropped, but quickly lightened up at a strange sight. Two odd creatures playing in a fountain. How quaint! It was delightful to watch them. Free from the cares of the world, having fun, sharing treats….the businessman wondered what that was like. Just him and…. Someone else, he supposed… having fun and enjoying life with a close friend. When was the last time he felt like that? He couldn’t remember.

Auric was lost in his thoughts for a while, standing and staring at the makeshift water show, until his assistant appeared by his shoulder.

“You’ve got that deer-in-the-lanterns-look again. What’s up? Still not over that entrance thing?”

“Look at that, Kalka. A strange rodent-man, and a winged horse playing in harmony! They seem to be having fun here. We should go join them!”

The young secretary knew Auric well enough to realize he wasn’t kidding. As he began to saunter towards the fountain, she quickly yanked his hand again with one of hers, the other firmly covering her face as she did so.

“NO, lead-head. Think of your image. A businessman of your caliber can’t be playing around like that.”

“But I so badly want to! It gets quite hot in this outfit, you know. I could use a way to cool off. Unless you’d prefer to go to my own baths privately later?” His tone switched from disappointed to playful in an instant.

Kalka prepared to deliver another kick to her employer’s shins, but with a surprised gasp, he immediately tore from her and bolted off- not towards the fountain this time, thankfully. Though, to her, where he was headed was probably worse. The golden hulk that was Auric was making a beeline for two women talking further down the path to the manor. Turning around, he called for his assistant to join him.

"Ah, There she is! Come, Kalka! Let us make our presence known!”

The silver-clad secretary tried to catch up to Auric, but it was too late, at least in her eyes. Mikae the Magnificent and her guest barely had time to conclude their conversation before a booming voice interrupted them.

“Why Mikae, I must admit… I’m hurt. How could you have started the festivities without me? Do you not know that the party only begins when I enter the room?”

While the other woman seemed a bit shocked, if not mildly annoyed, Mikae’s grin never faltered.

"Auric, dear! I am so glad you made it to grace my home with your presence. You and your companion look simply lovely this evening. And- Oh!"

With a flick of her fingers, Mikae picked a coin off of Auric's shoulder, giving him a mischievous look as she did so, before throwing it into the fountain. "An auspicious beginning to our evening! Shall we make a wish?"

Auric's eyes lit up again, but he quickly shook it off. It's not like he was a stranger to coin tricks, after all. Collecting himself, Auric strode even closer to her, softly gripping the palm of her hand as he did so.

"It would seem mine has already come true, Mikae. A reunion with an old friend. Tell me, have you been formally introduced to my assistant?"

"No need for introductions. We’ve met… I'd recognize that charming attitude anywhere."

Mikae wasn't exactly lying, of course- the two had brushed shoulders at plenty of events- but they had never really spoken beyond polite pleasantries (as polite as Kalka could manage, at least). Now that the situation was more private, the twos’ dynamics were out in the open- and as Auric quickly found out, they weren’t exactly positive.


Kalka took a moment to nod politely to the woman who was cut off by Auric’s intrusion. “Sorry about that.”

Thankfully, she didn’t seem to mind much. Kalka was spellbound by her demeanor. Even after such a jarring event, she seemed calm and composed. She seemed to be a frequent attendee to high-class events, and her outfit was evidence of that: her dress echoed the vibrant colors of a coral reef, the gentle winds blowing it like waves over the delicate patterns. Not to mention her face- it was beautiful, almost spellbinding to Kalka, almost shimmering in the enchanted lights of the area….

Wait a second, she thought. Faces don't shimmer.

As the walking aquarium passed, though, Kalka couldn't help but notice another slight stutter in her form. Whatever that woman was, it certainly wasn’t just a pretty face in a strange dress.

Illusionists. Great. One was bad enough, but two?

Kalka had a bad relationship with tricksters and magic-users. All it took in her old life was one errant spell, one magic item, one illusionary disguise to ruin an entire job. To be frank, not much had changed since her 'promotion' to Auric's attendant, as the good-natured businessman often found himself the target of con men and swindlers looking to take advantage of his naivete. She'd never seen Mikae try anything like that, in all fairness, but she never ruled it out either.

“And how have you been, my dear?” Mikae crowed, gesturing a hand to Kalka.

"Fine, thanks," the young girl responded. "Though everything is a bit... spellbinding.... for my liking."

The older woman chuckled. "Still not a fan of magic, are you? I certainly hope my friends and I can help you with that tonight."

"I'd prefer you didn't."

Normally, these two would have shared nothing but a few glances and respectful nods- but tonight was different. Here, they seemed almost ready to dismiss one another at a second's notice. Kalka hated enchanters, rich people, and smug people, in that order... and at the moment, Mikae was all three.
Caught between two incredible women. Auric would have probably enjoyed being in that situation, if the tension wasn't so thick he'd need a masterwork blade to cut it. Between his closest confidant and a powerful sorceress, there really were no sides to take here that wouldn't end in an injury of some sort.

As quickly as he was able to, Auric swung his arms around the shoulders of both his secretary and the fellow member of high society. If driving a wedge through them didn't work, he could probably at least hold them apart using his bulk. Unless Mikae did magic, that is, or if Kalka got mad...

In fact, now that the businessman thought about it, he was probably much more likely to be a casualty of this situation than its savior. But it was worth a shot anyway.

"Why are you so conflicted, my beautiful friends? There's enough of Auric to go around."

Almost immediately, the girls' focus dropped from one another and onto Auric. Mikae recoiled back as she howled in laughter, far enough that if the man's arm was not there to catch her, she may have fallen directly onto the ground.

"You haven't changed at all, have you?" she snickered. "Here I was hoping that maybe you'd have gotten a little less flirty, what with your friend here tagging along everywhere."

"Oh, you certainly know me better than that, Madam. It would be downright unfair of me to keep all of this beauty to myself."

"Is that referring to you, or the young lady?"

"You know the answer to that already, my dear," said Auric, with a flip of his golden hair. To be honest, he never really understood half of the things this woman said. But if she was talking about someone beautiful, who else would it be?

The emerald-eyed enchanter gave Kalka a strange glance.

"Oh? Do I, now?"

Kalka shifted uncomfortably in place, fiddling with her belt. While her employer specifically asked his secretary to leave her weapons at the estate this time, he wouldn’t rule out her hiding one or two in case they had to deal with party crashers- or enchantresses who just so happen to strike a nerve. Auric had never been good at reading Kalka's emotions (though he suspected many of them were variations on 'sarcastic'), but even he could tell she was beginning to see red.

"Mikae, my darling, may we have a moment?"

"Of course.”

Turning his gold-clad back to the host and lifting his arms, Auric towered over his assistant, placing himself between both women. He let out a heavy sigh, and his face contorted, not into a snarl or visage of anger, but into a look of disappointment.

"You're being much more aggressive than usual this evening, Kalka. I must ask you to rein it in a little. Have you forgotten where we are?"

"Nope. It's a fancy party, alright. You can tell from the smell of pretentiousness in the air."

"Exactly! An exclusive event, full of all the finest things this world has to offer. It's almost as if the heavens above have showered us with delights for the evening. It makes me quite upset to see you not enjoying it."

"Yeah. Almost. There's one thing here that certainly isn't my idea of paradise. And it ain't the rat playing in the fountain, I can tell you that much..."

Enough was enough. He hated to do this, but something was really wrong with his secretary tonight. Normally, her sarcasm was tolerable, if not a bit endearing. But this was too far, even for her. Something had to be done.


"You are simply ridiculous. And to think we were getting along fine minutes ago. It's a beautiful night. Are you really going to spend it having petty squabbles? Not if I have anything to say about it. I cannot have it from my assistant. I WILL not have it."

Kalka swallowed a lump in her throat. Just her luck. The disappointment in Auric's eyes had shifted to a stone-cold glare. It was the same look she saw when he stepped into the battlefield, more than prepared to kill people. Sure, that didn't work out too well for him, but then again, she wasn't a gigantic hard-skinned mercenary with an arsenal of fungus ammunition.

"At this moment, your duties have changed. I would like a bit of time to catch up with my old friend here. As your employer, I order you to go have fun while I do so."

The young girl's olive skin almost turned white. She had braced for the worst...but not for this.

If you asked Kalka what 'Fun' was, she would tell you stories of knife-throwing, game hunting, and the occasional back-alley or barroom brawl. Getting stuck in a flashy outfit with hard-to-walk-in shoes and mingling with people who could buy and sell her like nothing was an extremely far cry from 'fun'. But here she was. Not only was she dressed in an outfit that would make her old friends burst out in laughing fits, but she had also managed to infuriate both the host and her boss in one fell swoop.

She barely had time to respond to the curious order before Auric turned back around and swung his arm around Mikae. The enchantress seemed to give Kalka one last smirk as the pair headed to the mansion's entrance.

"Now then,” bellowed Auric, “ We have a lot to catch up on, don't we? Allow me the honor of walking you inside while we do so."

And there he went, happily strolling down the lane, with Mikae close by, his face back to normal as if nothing had ever happened. It looked like something Kalka had seen in one of those sappy musicals Auric dragged her to. She couldn't hear what the two were saying, but judging by the loud laughs and the sweeping gestures, there was probably a lot of boasting involved. Probably about money and business deals. Rich people stuff.

Another night of dealing with conversation and the whims of the upper class. Same frustrating evenings as ever, she thought. But on the other hand... Auric wasn't bothering her this time. Was she really mad about that part?

Okay, maybe Kalka was a little frustrated with this whole 'plus one' thing in general. It was great to be able to go to town on the free food, sure, but putting on the ritz and pretending to get along with Auric's business partners and 'friends' was never pleasurable. Kalka usually ended up tuning anything they said out, unless it gave any indication of 'under-the-table' offers. As for why she was so angry at Mikae in particular.... Even without taking the rumors into account, thinking about that made her head hurt. Questions for later, she decided, once she was out of this horribly sparkly outfit.

Then again, it might be good to have some time to herself, Kalka thought. Usually, when it came to these upper-crust events, she'd end up stuck to her employer... for convenience, companionship, security, or ease-of-kicking, she never knew (though she liked to believe it was the last one). Perhaps the reason she hated these fancy forays was because she never made any attempt to blend into them. And without Auric to butt in, now seemed as good of a time as ever to give it a shot. He'd probably come around apologizing soon enough.

Maybe, just maybe, she could try a little bit of that 'networking' thing. That illusionist... with all the trouble she'd had with illusionists and shapeshifters in the past, it might be nice to talk to one for once. And she wasn't the only person of interest here. Reporters, nurses, attendants- the works when it comes to those who end up hearing things they really shouldn't. for someone like Kalka, this place may as well have been a buffet of useful assets- or possible threats. The girl had learned long ago that in most cases, anyone she met would be one or the other.

Making contact with them, though not in a method she was used to, would probably be a good idea. And if they could chat, or dare she consider, be friends (whatever that means) with a few, all the better. With her resolve as bright as the silver sheen on her dress, Kalka stepped into the mansion, eager to seek out her own ways of having 'fun' on a night like this.

But she'd keep an eye on Auric and Mikae, too.

Just in case.
AQ MQ AQW  Post #: 12
11/10/2022 1:03:33   

“Marvelous!” Mikae trills sweetly. “I am so delighted that you will be performing for us this evening, Madame Wren!”

Wren pivots gracefully into a not-quite-curtsy, dipping her head: just enough for respect, but not enough for deference. Her gown rustles as she turns away, a rushing, shimmering whisper like the sound of waves breaking overhead. A young man stares, and she waves her hands almost casually; the smell of sand and brine washes over them both - his eyes close briefly as he savors the scent, and when he opens them again, Wren has moved out of sight. She is impatient. Itching to do something more than entertain these nobodies, these people who mean nothing to her.

Not a very good performer, are you, Wren?

No. But today, her performances seem silly. Ridiculously insignificant, really. It’s difficult to muster the willpower to keep the whole act going, to give it her all - she’s sure Mikae would notice if she did anything less. Mikae isn’t stupid. Anything out of character will be instantly obvious…

Wren must do this. For the sake of her people.

She grows gills for a pair of freckled twins, summons water in an arc above the head of a mime, creates a rainbow in a cloud of mist. A seashell appears out of thin air into her hands and tells a willing victim secrets of their past they thought no one (except a long-deceased cousin) knew. She sings strange, eerie songs that cause fantastical images to dance midair - at least, from the perspective of her listeners. She tells stories with no end in a voice that’s as rough as it is soothing, and leaves her audience open-mouthed and numb, staring corpse-like into space.

She must make her move. Hopefully tonight. But patience, patience, patience first.

The evidence is somewhere on these premises; deep down, she’s certain of it. And if it’s not, she’ll get Mikae to tell her where it is - no matter the cost.

She takes one sweeping look around the entirety of the courtyard, and then she turns, sweeping again past the fountain, climbing the stairs to where Mikae stood. Without saying a word, she hesitates at the top of the stairs, looking down on the fountain; she raises her hands and dolphins and manta rays seem to leap towards the sky, mirages made of water and imagination. She lowers her hands and the images seem to disappear; but before they do, she contorts herself swiftly, somersaulting over herself like a fish and slipping fluidly into the mezzanine.

She takes a long, careful look at her surroundings, and beelines towards whichever door looks most forbidden.

Look at me, she thinks, see me, Mikae. I am not someone you want to irritate.
AQW  Post #: 13
12/11/2022 18:13:43   

Oh, our lovely Maid of Melinäne.
May your moon wax and wane and wax again,
Again, again and again,
Until it forever goes dark.

All in all, it was a horrible idea to try to catch up with work on this day. The air felt heavy since morning, warm and sluggish like honey, and carrying about the same scent with so many baked goods in the stands outside. Filled with truly joyous holiday cheer, no doubt. But to Lysan, it was one more reason to drop his face into his hands and quietly groan. And then groan again, because he managed to drop his quill. He was about halfway stuck under a table attempting to fish out the kingfisher quill from the inky depths when a knock startled him, and nearly made him slam his head into the wood.

“Yes?” Sounded the hollow, woody voice from under the table, very muted.

He poked his head back out, and only managed to quickly fix his hair before calling out again.

“Please come in! Don’t mind the-”

The door opened with his assistant peeking in, and he managed to get up and look somewhat representative in about the last second before she’d see him in some stage between Laying Flat On The Ground and sitting.

“Did you check your mailbox today? I found this in there. Not that I wanted to check out your mailbox, sir! It was… um. It was kind of screeching?”

Working on this Eve was almost forbidden. Not that it was written anywhere, but it was an unspoken rule of a sort, he’d say. He took the sealed letter in his hands and brushed his thumb on the oddly warm paper.

True magic never needed to be announced.

“Screeching? Who would send that kind of letter on Proplom’s eve…”

Of course, the company received its fair share of hatred and magic explosion filled letterage, be it from rival companies, court orders for things they mostly had no fault in, or employees deciding to go out with a bang. But those were carefully dispatched and answered by people that weren’t him, and so his personal mailbox was quite secure, as only the people who he knew had the actual means to send-

“Oh dear.”

Lysan’s eyes went wide with a series of terrible realizations as he quickly ushered the maid out of the room.

“Uh, sir? is everything- I didn’t mean to-”

“Nonono I’m very grateful for this. I… I forgot. It’s the ball invitation.”

“Oh!” Matilda’s eyes lit up as he almost managed to back her out of the room, and then she decided to just stop in the doorframe. “Mikae’s? Of course she’d invite you! What was I thinking!”

“Yes, yes, Matilda, I’m serious, you need to run.”

True magic didn’t need to be announced. Mikae’s magic announced itself loudly, and rarely did it like to be kept waiting.

The door crashed closed behind Matilda, and she caught a plume of heat and green glittering vines swirling to life before the door severed them and made them wither. Lysan had barely enough time to whip out the cane before ghostly, jade teeth came down on it.

It was a favorite practice of his, and not just his. Sending little messengers with letters, usually tiny birds made of the sender’s energy to greet the receiver. Lysan only had to wonder how long he left that letter in there post the appropriate time, because what currently stared him down behind a smoking snout were the furious green eyes of a dragon.

“I promise, with all of my heart. I’m going. I’m going!”

It huffed in response.

“Well!” He barked, pushing back against the letter a little too strong for a piece of paper. “Pardon me for the gall, but I can’t get there when you’re keeping me hostage, can I? Hm? Hm?!”


He stepped into the garden with a little sigh, charred letter in hand. Ever since the day they’d been missing, the garden and the bees grieved with him. The trees were so heavy with flowers of all shades back when Dandelion and Rose tended to them and their perfume work. It wasn’t all that long ago, and not long enough for leafless, lifeless branches and dried petals. Not in the height of summer.

He’d been holding on to the cane like a lifeline, he noticed. He dared to take the step into the little buzzless silence, and whisper a quiet greeting to the flowers. But as he made his way across the many little cobbled pathways to the edge of the rooftop, the gray flowers responded to his steps, opening and colouring with fiery reds and gentle blues and hazy greens, only to then wither when he walked past.

The city looked beautiful from so far up, and even here, he could catch the city’s buzz and the sound of late carriages. It wasn’t hard to know where to look, and his stomach was in knots seeing all of the lights, knowing the whole commotion that he’d, this once, rather avoid.

He pushed himself back away from the stone railing and back into the garden.

Fern for magic, he thought as he plucked the tiniest fernfeather. A wonderfully tacky pink zinnia for a wonderfully tacky friend you haven’t seen in a while.

And a twig of willow, blooming and breaking through the winter as Lysan reached for it.

Thank you, friend.

Every once in a while, it was healthy to hug a tree. It made it all just a tiny bit easier.


The company had their own carriage. Roof to bottom filled with flowers and leaves, so much so that the stained glass windows were hardly visible. It was good practice for hiding those within, and he had to admit that while the few business trips he had been to had been a bit of a drag, the dim light inside made the carriage feel like its own little jungle. It was towed with white horses, and carried golden letters that blared the company for miles.

Seated and peeking at the festivities tinted green and pink, Lysan brushed the flowers in his hand.

Soft willow, new life.

He couldn’t look forward to the party. It hasn’t been enough time since they’d gone, and she had to know that.

But even then, Lysan the mage could just stay home. Lysan the representative had to show up for his parents’ company’s good pr. With a grip on the silver wolfhead, heat built up between his fingers.

This evening, he wasn’t here for business. This evening, he was late.

But honestly, that mattered little - he thought as the white mares made a run for the hill, their hooves throwing odd blue sparks - the time for making an impression was always Now. Especially if it was her.

The carriage cloaked itself in a bright blue flame, claps of hooves against stone turning into the taps of paws. And where horses stood were slender black hounds, and behind them a black carriage with blue windows glittering with stars.

And more than just a little singed.

The hounds stopped, and with a final, dragon-shaped fume of flame Lysan emerged, his working clothes now incinerated in ribbons under his feet (oops. didn’t work out the timing.), and in their place a shining deep blue coat with sapphire cufflinks. In his hair, a zinnia, and on the lapel a little willow flower. The man paused to scratch the lead hound behind her ears, not forgetting to jiggle her head this way and that so that her ears would flop, and then regained his former poise as he made his way deeper into the garden. The courtyard had gone quiet - did anyone even see his performance? The well practiced representative smile had no chance to his sulking, and a moment later, a grin as he spotted a glint of golden feathers by the fountain.

Surely Mikae wouldn’t be far behind. But if he was getting yelled at for lateness twice this evening, he’d rather the familiar-witch duo do it one at a time.

Though, by the time he got to the fountain, the little friend had already zoomed past. Instead, he was greeted with… someone he didn’t know. Lysan couldn’t help the split second of his nose scrunching up as he took in the new person, before he spoke to the… drenched… man… rat… person?

“I just missed them, didn’t I? That’s a shame.” His voice was calm and gentle for the fire hazard he caused not a minute ago. “Are you here for the party as well, sir?”
DF  Post #: 14
12/12/2022 15:29:21   

Mei’s eyes flitted around the decadent room as she and her fellow partygoers were ushered inside. Mikae always was known for her sense of flair… Mei scowled at an image of a bronze pegasus that seemed to glare at her. Mei’s mother had given her a similar gift once as a child. A music box with a bronze pegasus that spun and danced to the chiming of bells. Always expecting money to make up for all of her flaws.

Mei shook away the scorn that had begun to curl her lips and brows. This was a party; there was no place for this kind of frivolous anger. She was here simply out of politeness. Though… it was certainly interesting to see how she measured up to her old high school rival. She liked to believe she had done much better with her life, despite forfeiting the apprenticeship to Potion Master Thraven. She had yet to see anything here that proved her wrong. But despite her disdain for the gaudiness that reflected Mei’s own upbringing, Mei had to admit that the grand hall was a gorgeous, sprawling area. There weren’t quite as many guests as Mei had expected, but each seemed uniquely notable. An almost ethereally beautiful woman in a dress that mimicked the flow of coral; an exceptionally well-dressed couple that Mei didn’t recognize; and of course, a flitty reporter, quill in hand as paper and drink were suspended in the air in front of her. Mei made note of each in turn. At a party, it was best practice to find a conversation partner, so…

As she dwelled on her options, a flash of light from above caught her eyes. Is that… Minetta? Mei had never seen the baron daughter of the Telanor-Faye Trading Company in person, but her slim features were rather recognizable as she strode down the staircase on the far side of the grand hall. The brightness that had alerted Mei came from Minetta’s flame-colored, elegant gown. Mei’s eyes narrowed with suspicion as she regarded the girl from afar. If the Telanor-Faye Trading Company is here with business for MIkae…

It was quite possibly nothing. The Telanor-Faye Trading Company was, for the most part, incredibly reputable, and dealt in goods of all kinds. It was entirely possible Mikae was simply using their shipment services to distribute this… new pet project of hers. But they also…

Mei stepped carefully across the room towards the staircase. The paintings framing its grand steps grew ever larger as she approached, until the sweeping hills and gliding pegasi practically filled her vision. She glimpsed up at Minetta as the baron daughter descended beside Mikae’s minotaur assistant. Her stomach dropped as Barllak’s hushed voice reached her ears.

“I will hold you to that, otherwise this trade is more trouble than it's worth. We're dealing with controlled substances, and none of my boss's derivatives are approved yet for our intended use."

Trade-- controlled substances-- unapproved-- each of the assistant’s words curdled in Mei’s stomach. “Controlled substances” was obviously an incredibly large category-- Mei couldn’t get too much information from those words alone-- but controlled substances were controlled for a reason. The possible uses and side effects were dangerous even to adults.

And Mikae was about to use controlled substances in a product for children.

Dr. Malva called out, almost on reflex, as the baron daughter’s feet touched the pastel-tiled floor. “Ms. Faye! Nice to finally meet you.” She stepped into Minetta’s path and held out a hand, her face and posture mimicking the open, yet firm stance she took when meeting new patients. “I’m Dr. Malva.”

"Dr. Malva, I've heard much about your work at the Mallow Clinic. You are as beautiful as they say."

The smile, coming from someone who had just been talking about a dangerous business deal, was jarring. “Oh, that’s too kind of you. I could say the same; your dress is purely stunning.” It definitely wasn’t a lie; the reds and oranges that enveloped Minetta made it seem as if she was on fire. Dr. Malva paid only the barest amount of attention needed as the small talk continued. How could Dr. Malva get away with being nosy? She wasn’t used to the social nuances that came with digging for information; a doctor was best received when they were open and factual. “With your business so far away, this must have been quite a trip for you. Was it just for the party?”

Mei narrowed her eyes as the baron daughter smiled. Was there a hint of malice in that expression? "I’m on vacation, if you'd believe it. Or as good as one that I can get. Get away from all the books and network for a bit."

Liar. “Ha, it seems we’re opposites; I find my books to be a vacation from all of my networking!” Mei had studied plenty of books on the effects of various controlled substances. You had to know exactly what you were doing with them, after all. They ranged from addictive to almost immediately deadly; some had other uses if applied in extreme moderation… some did not. “With Mikae’s new endeavor being so large, it makes sense the Trading Company would be of help.”

"Perhaps. What would you know of that, Doctor? What are you doing here?" Minetta had caught on; Mei sensed her grab the conversation and fling it back towards the doctor with sickly sweetness.

"Mikae and I are old friends. As a fellow potions creator, I'm here to support her new business venture." As if she’d ever supported anything Mikae did. Her eyes left the baron daughters’ to stare at the elegant gold earrings hung from her delicately pointed ears. Sharp. Everything about her is sharp.

Minetta glanced around, and at once her face was nearly touching the doctor’s. Mei recoiled slightly, but Minetta’s breath still flared hot in Mei’s face, and her sweet voice turned sour. "And she isn't troubled by your partnership with Dranaue? Nightshade is illegal, you know?"

Dr. Malva stifled a hiss at the sudden jab. Of course Minetta would know about that-- Though the discrete boxes that arrived monthly in Mei’s clinical office bore Dranaue’s labels, the Trading Company was in charge of transporting them. Mei glanced over her shoulder, hoping no one was around to hear Minetta’s comment. There was a reason the baron’s daughter had snapped back so harshly; something was definitely going on here. Mei took a step back, regarding Minetta with cautious eyes and a sharp voice. "I would most certainly hope Mikae doesn't plan to add any illegal substances to a product made for children."

"I'd hope not.” Minetta straightened once more, the corners of her lips pulling back up into a smile as her chin tipped upwards. As if she was looking above Mei. “On that note, the Mistress herself is waiting for me. It was a pleasure meeting you, Doctor. I hope you enjoy your evening." Mei’s lips curled into a snarl as she watched the baron’s daughter glide across the grand hall with Barllak. You deceptive little freak. Mei traced Minetta’s steps gradually, hoping she seemed like an aimless wanderer.

I have a horrible feeling about all of this…
Post #: 15
10/5/2023 20:05:42   

“... Ms. Faye!”

Oh, how fortunate. Just the person I was looking for.

Just as the Baron-daughter had stepped off of the stairs, she saw Dr. Mei break through the crowd. The “good” doctor must have felt her ears burning; before Minetta could manage another step, the dark elf extended her hand in greeting, subtly cutting her path off.

“Nice to finally meet you. I’m Doctor Malva.”

The Baron-daughter smiled as she returned the gesture, taking Mei’s hand into her own. The Doctor’s grasp was firm, as expected of someone of her trade. Minetta made an effort to match her strength; there was no room for weakness here. Barllak seemed to pick up on what was happening and stepped to the side out of respect... but she remained well within earshot.

“Dr Malva!” the Baron-daughter spoke, her plastic smile matching her apparent enthusiasm. It came easy to the changeling. “I’ve heard much about your work at the Mallow Clinic. You are as beautiful as they say.”

Indeed, while the Baron-daughter was no stranger to using flattery, her words were genuine. The changeling took care to hide her gaze as she examined the doctor’s details. The body, the dress, the accessories– all that was there to be seen, and all that the doctor might keep hidden. As the two talked, she was opportunistic, blending in her movements to seem coincidental. Though her search was for mostly practical reasons, she took notes on how to better improve her future “performances.”

“Oh, that’s too kind of you. I could say the same; your dress is purely stunning.”

A hint of red broke on Minetta’s cheek as she waved her hand, amused with the compliment. The doctor simply continued.

“With your business so far away, this must have been quite a trip for you. Was it just for the party?”

Business. Right. So bold of you to just come out and ask.

“I’m on vacation, if you’d believe it.” The Baron-daughter mused. “Or as good as one that I can get. Get away from all the books and network for a bit.”

“Haha.” The doctor let out an uncanny laugh. “It seems we’re opposites; I find my books to be a vacation from all of my networking!... With Mikae’s new endeavor being so large, it makes sense the Trading Company would be of help.”

And there it is. I knew it.

The changling’s gaze sharpened as she stared into Mei Malva’s eyes. The doctor was here to snoop around. Whatever kind of relationship Mikae had with the doctor, it was clear that Mei just couldn’t keep to herself. And Minetta would have none of that. If the doctor thought she could string the Baron-daughter along, she was grossly mistaken.

“Perhaps. What would you know of that, Doctor? What are you doing here?" She pointed the question back at the dark elf. Mei flinched from sudden pressure, unable to look her in the eyes.

“Mikae and I are old friends. As a fellow potions creator, I'm here to support her new business venture.”

And by support you mean intercede in your colleague's business? How sloppy of you.

Minetta couldn’t tolerate Mei’s involvement. Her potential influence could sour the changeling’s hard work. No, Minetta needed to nip this in the bud now. Make it known that if there was any further proding, the Baron-daughter would make an example of her. Coincidentally, she knew just what to say.

Minetta glanced around before leaning in with no regard for the doctor’s personal space. She spoke in a hushed tone, careful to conceal her words from Mikae’s pet minotaur.

“And she isn't troubled by your partnership with Dranaue? Nightshade is illegal, you know?"

Mei reeled back. The concern on the dark elf’s face was evident despite her attempt to hide it. Meanwhile, the Baron-daughter hid nothing, her smile clear for all to see. There were convenient benefits to being Telanor-Faye’s chief accountant. Every invoice passed through Minetta’s eyes, even those of her subsidiaries. Some of the more confidential work was handled by these subsidiaries to keep the main body above board with one of these being Dranaue Shipping. Curiously, some of these invoices bore signatures from Mellow Medical.

Minetta was impartial to it all, really, to Mellow Medical’s secret projects. Though she didn’t know exactly what they were doing with the illegal reagents, the Baron-daughter had no right to judge. After all, it was her company that provided said materials. But it was a shame that the doctor didn’t have the good sense to keep her business to herself.

The doctor backed away from Minetta. She tried to save face, but it was of no use. The dark elf forced out a shivering whisper as though she were trying to convince herself. "I would most certainly hope Mikae doesn't plan to add any illegal substances to a product made for children.

“I hope not.” Minetta’s voice was cleanly punctuated, her voice rising in self-satisfaction for her victory. “On that note, the Mistress herself is waiting for me. It was a pleasure meeting you, Doctor. I hope you enjoy your evening."

The Baron-daughter wasted no time in waiting for the doctor’s response. Minetta could feel the dark elf’s eyes upon her neck as she took her place next to Barllak.

That should do it. Now, where’s Mikae?...

< Message edited by Dragonknight315 -- 10/5/2023 21:28:20 >
AQ DF AQW  Post #: 16
10/31/2023 21:23:11   

Chromatic ArchKnight of RP

Miu’s brain could hardly keep up with her eyes. There was simply so much here, so many different opportunities, and it was impossible to select which course to partake in. Even worse, these were all high-profile options; socialites, mages, and more from all around the world! Any article she wrote with this information could become one of her most important ones yet, and she needed a win right now. So she couldn’t just pick something great. She had to pick something perfect. A scoop she would never get an opportunity to grab otherwise.

The reporter took a swig of her cider as her whirlwind brought it past her lips. The taste was perfect; just enough tartness and a pleasant amount of fizz, but it wasn’t enough to distract her from her worry. The tapping of her foot increased in pace as her impatience rose, the rapid-fire noise causing a few stray guests to give her a few pointed looks before wandering away. That was fine; they could find quieter places to continue their noisy chatter. Miu needed to focus.


No, wait. The chitter-chatter of the guests had changed topic, their eyes all drawn to the newest star of the show. A slender woman, moving with uncanny grace and dressed in a dour dress offset by crimson gems, extravagant golden accents, and the vibrant fire of the woman’s hair. She strode up the stairs and through the front doors with purpose, unbothered by all of the eyes upon her.

Minetta Faye.

Miu’s tapping ceased immediately. She took three steps forward in the time an average girl would take one. This… this was an opportunity. One far more compelling than the reporter expected to find at this event. Nobles had their drama, mages had their new discoveries. Leaders... leaders always knew something new. Something no one else had access to. And Ms. Faye was a direct line to something far deeper than her own simple trading company, Miu was sure of it.

Three more steps.

This was her chance. The Merchant’s Consortium had so much going on beneath the surface, but any who knew them were too skilled to slip a word to a passing reporter or the more widespread press. Miu suspected Minetta Faye was a more fresh addition, her involvement with the Consortium not even something known to the public yet. With the right questions, with the right pressure… all it would take was a simple slip-up to write a rumor. And a rumor was all she needed to rile up the public; to break open this secret. Her notebook and quill shot to the ready. Three different headlines were written and rapidly crossed out. Could she just assume Ms. Faye wouldn’t second guess Miu knowing the woman was connected to the Consortium? Perhaps there was some detail the reporter could use, some simple strategy to get Ms. Faye to talk with her about such secretive topics. Her notebooks pages flipped at rapid speed as she mentally cataloged all of her written knowledge. The Consortium. The Consortium.

Three steps forward.

Budding Business Burns Down. Lousy Practice, or Foul Play?

One leap back.

Her windstorm dropped her glass, cider spilling freely as the lovely cup spiraled towards the marble floor. Miu overcame her shock just in time to drop to her knees and catch the delicate glass before it shattered to bits, but there was no saving the luscious drops of drink. The reporter flashed an anxious smile and a small apology to the nearest guests, her mind entirely elsewhere. She’d forgotten that headline. Perhaps she’d meant to forget it. It had been the result of a weeklong investigation, performed as carefully as possible. The accompanying article went unwritten. Some rumors were just too risky to go to print, for both herself and for the public.

The Consortium. Minetta Faye.

Miu rose to her feet, her nerves trying to throw her into a mad dash. She couldn’t tell if that dash would lead to what may be the most dangerous woman at this party, or directly out the damn door and back to the safety of her writing desk. This was her chance! The biggest possible scoop ever! A grand conspiracy, built on rumors she wouldn’t even need to start herself! Rumors that might even be true! But if they weren’t true… then she’d be facing down the wrath of a significantly larger force than her little paper could handle, and she’d be entirely in the wrong.

And if they were true…

Minetta Faye’s hair danced like an open flame as she shared niceties with Dr Malva.

Dammit Miu! Make a decision!

Her notebook slammed shut, then slammed down upon her head with a dull *whap*. She shook the stars out of her eyes and snatched the book and her quill from the air. Danger and risk could wait until the darker hours. There must a safer story out there in the crowd.

Her sharp eyes caught sight of a girl entering the grand hall using a deftness that failed to compete with the flashy silver of her dress and the sharp accent of her black boots. An odd sight, for sure. What kind of noblewoman…

Miu’s eyes wandered just a short distance deeper into the hall, finding exactly what she expected to find; a man in an absurdly gaudy golden jacket inlaid with far too many jewels. Auric Au’Mydas, his arm already snugly around the lady of the mansion herself. His presence meant the out-of-place guest could only be one person. She didn’t even need to double check her notebook to remember the headline.

The Perfect Pair! Love blooms between an Au’Mydas and a Commoner!

It was wordy, sure. But it was the exact topic that would sell. Everyone loved a good love story, even better if it’s an uncommon, possibly scandalous couple!

Miu rocked back, then quickly walked her way through the crowd, slipping carefully and semi-casually up to the girl.

“Ms. Khuman!” She started, notebook and quill in hand and ready to launch directly into a barrage of questions so shameless that the Lords themselves would look away. “I’m Miu Fabula of Fabula’s Fabulous News, and I’d just love to pick your brain tonight!”

She flashed a sly winning smile, eyes carefully determining if the girl would balk from the attention and require a gentler approach, or if she’d be delighted to engage in what was unapologetically the essence of gossip. “It must be such a treat assisting such an auspicious man! Please, tell me everything!”

Post #: 17
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