Duskhill - Estate Grounds & Surrounding Land
The elfmaid knew she should not imbibe. She would almost certainly need all her wits about her while negotiating with the priestess. Yet, were they really under so much threat? A tiny voice niggled at her. Sure, the golem was terrifying, the Drowess intense, and the house boy seductive attractive, but Faan had never felt under threat in Botherel. The Drow--even those of The Church of Loth--were not all bloodthirsty savages…
…well, they weren’t savages, at least.
She had never known them to, nor had she been warned they did, mistreat guests invited into their homes. Her fear and tension was born more from the pressure of this accursed journey than from any real indication they were about to come to harm. The priestess had put away her sword after their initial encounter, and they’d been fed and sheltered. Perhaps she could relax… just a little?
Faan certainly wanted to relax. It had not been just a tense and terrifying day, but weeks of unrelenting threat. An almost-murderous round of drinking with Glare Orcs was among the least-stressful encounters she’d had, of late. There had been a day of conducting near-normal business with Pioloss, she recalled, but even that had come after a bandit attack and before a rather too-predatory advance.
“Okay.” Faan decided. “I will.” She answered, when Tom-Cat asked if she would imbibe. She would take her pleasure where she found it. Perhaps the alcohol would help settle the disquiet of burying their companions not three hours prior.
Settling herself on the cushions of the sculpted limestone seat, she accepted the glass of liquor poured for her by the house boy. Faan could not overlook the signs of violence on the expanses of bare skin exposed by the boy’s skimpy costume. If for nothing else, Faan reasoned, she ought to accept any offer of her host’s hospitality to avoid punishment of the Yochol Priestesss’s thrall.
It had been long since the morning meal in Tuc-Kal, and Faan had only managed to find and drink a little water during the ensuing day of travel and terror. The rice liquor was potent to begin with and its effect on the elfmaid was enhanced by her dehydration and hunger. Faan had no complaints as the alcohol elevated her mood and loosened both the tension in her shoulders as well as her tongue.
Faan’s mind turned away from suspicion and toward how much she felt she needed this. She needed to not be terrified, hurt, or under threat for just a little bit. She especially needed to smell like an Elf again, because she was pretty sure this was the longest she had gone without bathing, at least since childhood.
Yes, the Umans either did not notice or were too polite--yeah right--to say anything, but, ye’sun, she certainly did. So she was going to take her freaking time. Hopefully Rigel wasn’t being purified to death and Pioloss wasn’t getting turned into human soup by some unknown anti-man ward within the misandric Yochol Priestess’s home. But, ya know what: that is not my problem right now. Faan resolved, with the help of a second cup of sake. She had done what she could to get them settled and if they u’ren etted it up, then that was on them.
The joke about poison caught her pretty unawares, and the flush that had conquered her neck and was headed for points dout receded as she paled with a momentary blanche of fright before… oh… a joke. “HA!” Faan’s laugh was a little louder and more emphatic than was called for, thanks to both inebriation and the wash of relief. “Not funny.”
A third… or was it the fourth? Masu and Faan was getting more comfortable with the weird familiarity of the housecat boy. Even so, she wondered when he was going to leave, so she could get on with her bath.
And also perhaps have the stone decanter to herself. Haha, no.
When Tom-Cat displayed his scar, the Elfmaid drew her hand back from the rippled skin, trying not to imagine the same markings on three sad canvas-wrapped bundles now lying beneath earth and stone. She drew a shuddering breath as her good mood evaporated. "Your mistress should take better care of you." She whispered, a hint of bitterness creeping into her voice.
Of course Faan was not talking about the imagined relationship of master and slave between Myrae and Tom-Cat. She was thinking of her own responsibility to the men who had died, and in doing so, sort of floated over a lot of information the not-houseboy was relaying about killing Sunstealers, old traumas, and a joke about being sold an exorcism to be rid of ghosts of the past. Faan chuffed a laugh at that one.
Wait… did that all happen before he became a drow thrall? She really should pace herself better. And why is he holding my hands? She tried to focus on these questions, but her thoughts kept slipping back to their lost companions.
The seamstress did not want to wade into maudlinity here in this beautiful place, with its fantastic pools and appealing refreshments delivered by an even-more-appealing… servant? so she joined in another toast to those lost souls, asking if they might take a reprieve from weighing on her conscience.
Just for a little while.
Perhaps she could wash away the darkening mood. Her increasingly-disjointed thoughts turned toward the inviting bath and she stood. "I think I should like to bathe now." She agreed with the catboy, nodding at his suggestion that a massage might help and affixing him with an expectant look.
The Elfmaid tensed at calloused fingers slipping around her neckline as the house boy released the catch on her cloak.
Faan had not expected this. She had meant for Tom-Cat to depart. That was what the look had been for. Her words had been a dismissal.
But his easy company, light touch, the tenor of his purred words, were all so soothing…
K’vek it. I’m going to wash these clothes anyway. A rather-inebriated Faan decided. It wouldn’t be the first time she’d bathed in the same water in which she later laundered her things. Of course, that had usually been in a bracingly cold clear stream (if she was lucky), or a rather murky woodland puddle (if she was not). With that in mind, Faan hopped into the pool pretty much fully-clad. And that did, indeed, lighten her mood because.
By the time she’d finished a little float around the amazingly hot spring, Faan had settled comfortably on cloud nine. You know what? Nobles bathe with far less attractive attendants. Considering that drowess back there; ain’t nothin’ this boy hasn’t seen before. I’m going to enjoy myself. Enjoying herself, Faan decided, came with another drink, not hanging about in wet garments, and had this so-pretty house said something about a massage?
House boy. She corrected her own mental misspeech. Piece of furniture. She reminded herself. This is fine. Just a very pleasingly-shaped piece of furniture.
That she wished would shut up, because Faan wasn’t thinking about much of anything until Tom-Cat mentioned lost companions again. Faan’s gaze sharpened slightly. “I don’t…” she started to speak, and then thought better of it. There was one ghost had brought with her over years, and for some reason Tom-Cat’s words had reminded her of him. But then he did quiet and get down to business, and Faan again found her mind becoming pleasingly blank as she closed her eyes and enjoyed the ministrations of the person Myrae had assigned her.
So… off blouse, off skirt, off donner and blitzen. Faan smiled to herself. On fingers, on palms, on prancer and vixen. Was that the right order?
Tom-Cat’s cautious interrogation brought relief more than anything else. Faan was more than happy to answer simple questions. After all, they were here to find the girl. Why not talk about the girl? “Her aunt, the Pirate Blackwing, sent us.” Faan mumbled, a bit of a gasp in her words as skilled thumbs pressed out a knot with three weeks worth of tension. “She sends a gift, her regards, and word that the girl may fly again.”
There was a momentary pause, perhaps a reaction from Tom-Cat to this news, but Faan was only really concerned with bringing this pleasing person back to his job. “Come back, boy.” She murmured, reaching back and pulling him closer. "Don't stop." Her hand threaded through his mussy damp locks as it came to rest at the nape of his neck.
Some small voice was warning Faan about multiple things, but it was very faint and very far away, calling across a sea of steaming hotspings and same. Something about how he was just a boy, and not by his own will is he here, and what the kvek are you even doing?
Shut up, distant voice.
"Her aunt flies on mechanical wings." Faan tilted her head back and breathed (fumes nearly potent enough to combust) to the ear that was right there, next to lips and jaw all packaged atop beautiful sensual furniture. Faan's hair-tangled hand pulled, brought his mouth down to hers and she kissed the help.
Kissed the help and then turned to face him, backed up to pool edge, wearing next-to-nothing that she wanted to be completely nothing. So elven fingers fumbled for waistband and a bi-colored gaze met his and saw.
What the kvek am I doing?
Wherever he was, was not here. Even through a whole LOT of alcohol, Faan had wits enough to see that much.
┠ TOM CAT ┨
A Felonious Feline
╺ ✽ ╸
We do not remember days, we remember moments
– Cesare Pavese
Tom-Cat, at the beginning of this whole, admittedly sensual interrogation, marveled at how easily and willingly Faan offered up the answers to what he’d asked – to the important questions, at least. (And really, that’s all he was primarily concerned with.) At the start, as the Elfess began to freely give out the information he sought, the assassin had to admit that his brother had been right: you can reap far more with the carrot vs. the stick. Okay, so what Cheshire actually said was “I cultivate intimacy and seal it with pleasurrre, tenes’aw. I’ve neverrr needed to employ pain…unless my clients rrrequest it, of courrrse.”
Tom-Cat had scoffed a little, unable to wrap his mind around something that seemed so incongruous with everything he knew and had been taught. “Intimacy and pleasurrre?” Tom-Cat had questioned, skepticism coating every syllable. “Sometimes I can’t believe how easy you have it!” he’d exclaimed, a tiny splinter of jealousy giving his words more bite than intended. His ears gave a violent twitch in his disbelief. He’d looked to Chatte and had expected some level of agreement from him. After all, although his fairly immaculate reputation afforded the courier the luxury of choice (in employer, in jobs), it hadn’t always been that way: their brother had built it up through his own sweat, blood, and, according to Chatte his “boundless wit and charrrm.”
His brother, however, had only stared back with a raised eyebrow, his expression fairly bland and mostly neutral, except for the intensity that gleamed brightly within his striking amber eyes. Chatte glanced at Cheshire, and then looked back at Tom-Cat. For just a moment, the sharp edge of his brother’s penetrating gaze softened as it was briefly overtaken by the heaviness of his remorse. Chatte’s guilt and regret over the past moved distantly beneath the surface of his eyes like the faint, rippling outlines of fish skimming over rocks at the bottom of a pond. When he blinked, the shadows had moved from Chatte’s eyes to hang their weight from the shape of his words, instead.
“Lesh, I sometimes forrrget how fast yew werrre forrrced to grrrow up, tenes’aw,” Chatte said. His voice was heavy and subdued, the words spoken on a low hush colored with faint shades of anger, sadness, disgust, regret and more…all tempered by a faint, yet ever-present undercurrent of familial love and protectiveness. Chatte shook his head, pinning Tom with a serious look. “Chesh’s job is morrre difficult than you might think. Most people cannot do what ourrr brrrotherrr does – and no, beforrre yew ask, it’s not ‘just sex’.” Chatte briefly pressed his lips into a grim line, before he sighed softly. “It’s intimacy,” he clarified. “And intimacy is a whole differrrent beast. Just trrrust me, tenes’aw. Even, I could not, and would not, want to do what Chesh does…” he trailed off and slid his eyes over to Cheshire, who wore a dreq-eating grin as he beamed back at him.
Chatte automatically hissed in response, flustered and annoyed as his cheeks flushed and his thick tail began to lash to cover his embarrassment. He grit his teeth, an ear twitching when Cheshire blew him a kiss. “Despite the fact that ourrr brrrotherrr is the King of all Budalls,” he said, flashing fang at Cheshire in clear warning. “I rrrespect what he does. As should you. Trrrust me, tenes’aw, it’s not easy.” And then Chatte had pounced Cheshire from halfway across the room.
At the time, Tom-Cat hadn’t believed Chatte, because he thought he knew better. Later, he wished he’d listened a little better and had been less of a kar.
╺ ✽ ╸
At first, it was a means to an end. He’d initially snickered silently and told himself, with some amusement, that he would be a Big Cat, like Cheshire. Cheshire always said that if he’s done his job right, he didn’t even need to coax or cajole to pull out the information he wanted or needed from his clients. He advised that an interrogation should never look like an interrogation; it should look like nothing more than conversation. The assassin knew that Cheshire found torture for information barbaric, and had stressed to Tom-Cat that he could never honestly trust the truth of the information extracted by those means, because people will say anything to stop further pain from being inflicted upon them. Besides, if Cheshire could do it, Tom-Cat could do it, too.
He would be just like his older brother. Even though he’s never tried seduction (intimacy) as a way to get the information he needed, it didn’t seem that difficult. Plus, when it was all said and done, it would end up being mutually beneficial for both himself and Faan. How was Cheshire’s job “difficult”, again?
It would be fun.
At first, Tom-Cat approached it like it was a game. And even as things progressed and grew more intimate and made it harder to think of it in such frivolous terms, it was still fun. It had been easy not to think and to let things spiral towards their obvious conclusion. After all, the assassin was still just giving Faan a massage. It was fun. Everything was still enjoyable – more than enjoyable. The plain truth is that the Elfess – Faan – is beautiful. There was no denying that. He liked the softness of her skin beneath the rough whorls of his fingertips as he worked out the knots in her back and shoulder, and he wouldn't lie and pretend that the extra flush of his skin was solely from the heated waters of the travertine pools.
As Tom-Cat gradually worked out the knots in Faan’s back, she became loose and pliable against him and the deliberate brush of her skin against his was as thrilling as it was overstimulating. For his part, the massage had devolved into something softer, lighter…more intimate. He’s standing with the Elfess pressed back against him, one hand curved lightly over her hip, the other absently tracing patterns up her side, when Faan tangles her hand in his hair and pulls his face down to hers over her shoulder as she pushes back against him. Her mouth easily found his and although the kiss is unexpected, Tom-Cat happily met her escalation. Her mouth is hot and eager beneath his and there’s something undeniably raw, messy, and plain sexy as he returned her kiss and they unwittingly reenacted the tropetastic pose found on the covers of bodice-ripping romance novels the world over.
This was fun. (Right?)
This is what Cheshire does. (Right?)
All at once, kissing Faan felt unexpectedly overwhelming and deeply intimate in a way that made Tom-Cat feel scraped raw by implication. Something reared up inside him, a realization that crystallized in his thoughts and chafed the folds of his mind like an exposed and abraded nerve: Nobody has ever shown him that intimacy
could be was far more than just sexual gratification.
Unbidden, a voice slithered up from the depths of his desecrated past, black and noxious and as smooth as silk scraped over stone. 'Because you're a little whore,' it whispered. Immediately, Tom-Cat felt the weight of his self-loathing settle, lashed across his shoulders, heavy, persistent. The voice spoke again, putting words to the ever-present self-doubt lurking beneath the surface of his thoughts. 'Look how quickly you debased yourself for some information, little whore.' The crease of his inner arm began to itch and burn. The darkness tickled his ear with poisoned words. 'Sweet boy, only good for one thing.' A chuckle; the voice sounded like Father. 'She can never know…because, Little Kitty, if she'd be horrified that you whored yourself out for her, imagine her disgust if she found that you've debased yourself for far less.'
With those words, fragments from his past are dredged up, memories chased through the spaces of his mind by his whispered doubts and his own deep self-loathing. They flashed through his mind, moments of broken past that are fleeting, awful, and vivid; so clear he can almost taste them in the back of his throat.
…A flash of metal in the darkness; he can recall razor sharpness and pain and the red wetness of blood cutting ribboned paths over his skin…the cloying, metallic strangeness of his own blood scent, the warm copper tang lingering on the groove of his tongue…He remembered cold metal bracelets rubbing the chafed skin of his wrists… bruises painted across the jut of his hips, the span of his back, encircling the column of his throat…the nauseating taste of shame beneath his tongue…
Tom-Cat can never tell her. Her. His Teleskela. She wouldn't understand. She'd condemn him, brand him with her disgust. And he would deserve it. Whore. Sweet boy, only good for one thing. It's true. He is worthless. He is scum. He'd thought to ask: What was so wrong with him that nobody had cared about him, even a little; why was he so unworthy of being cared about? Now he knew. He had always known.
He's unworthy because he's worthless. Scum. Just a stupid little whore like Father always said. He's too broken. He's debased himself for people he didn't even care about. (The fact that he never had a choice in the matter doesn't even cross his mind, too far gone down the path of self-destructive thoughts.)
She can never know.
The thoughts, the realizations, made something begin to stack within him (rising, rising, rising) until thinks he might choke on all of it, the thoughts and feelings rising like a tide that crashed up his throat and threatened to drown him. It made him ache in a way he can’t articulate, but he knew the hurt felt like anger, which felt like sadness, that felt like…
Suddenly it's all too much: this moment, this closeness, the implied softness and intent that's written beneath the pressure of Faan palms, the pads of her fingers; it’s intimate in a way that Tom-Cat doesn't want because she is not Her. Besides, he's doesn't deserve such softness, such intimacy (even if there's a part of him that desperately wanted it, needed it, craved it with every fiber of his being).
He wanted to explain, wanted to tell her that she did nothing wrong, but when he opened his mouth to explain, Tom-Cat heard himself make a noise that was yanked from somewhere deep inside him, the events of the last few days – kwesh! the events of the last few weeks – storming up to breach the surface of his control: Too much, just too jookan much. The sound is wretched with empty need and unfocused want, and Tom-Cat does not want to believe that it came from him. He pressed the heels of his hands hard against his face and tried to hold himself together as everything inside of him began to unravel.
After a moment, Tom-Cat lets out a shuddering breath and scrubbed his hands over his face. 'Chatte was rrright,' he thought. 'I can't do what Cheshirrre does.' Without a word and still wearing his cracked mask of stricken self-hatred, Tom-Cat turned and slipped out of the pool. It felt like he moved woodenly, an automaton with missing gears as he picked up his towel and left the bathing area without once looking back.
[OOC: Poor little hawtboi wobbie to The Window Seat Bedroom]
TOM-CAT: [KIANA BEACH: ★First Stab - POUNCE (★1/2) - WATCHER BATTLE (3★4/5/6/★7)] – [GOBLIN EXTERMINATION (1)-(☆1/2)] – [ICE CAVES: Cliffhanger (★1/2) -PowderKeg (★1/2/3) - Hypothermia (4/5/6) - Imprint (7/8/9/)] – [SUNSTEALER:(1/2/3/4)-(1/2)] – ★Miiya & Cat-Tom – [SPARRING:(1/2/★3)] - ☆The Great Tipsu Hunt! - ☆Stolen Kiss – ☆Overwhelmed by Intimacy – Returning to Her – ★Bath Time Bonding – ☆Wings, Tails, & Love – ☆Cave Storms – Climbing the Walls – ★1st Kiss – ★Makeouts & Memories – ★Laughter & Kisses – Eros & Hormones – ★Cat-Tom: Rescue Kitty! – Cat-Tom vs. Skaven – ☆(Forced) Shift Back – 9 Lives – ★A Beast in the Darkness – Reuniting w/Teleskela – ☆Bored Nihilism – Cat vs. Dragon – ★Emotionally Exhausted Bath – ☆Catboy, Interrupted – All For Her – ☆Bellissimo Gato – [BATH-HOUSE: Confessions(1/2/3/4)] – Catboys Can Purr – ★Bagels, Goodbyes, & Catboy Abduction – Love Poem – ★No, no, no...
DAETH: ☆Breaking Callon - ☆Pleasure w/Pain - ★Sensing Death - ★Kissing Fate(1/2) - Precariously Balanced Nature - ★At Long Last, Eddellyn - Soul Searching - ☆Into the Maze - ★The Minotaur & The Labyrinth - ★Heart of the Maze - Before the Storm - ★Thunder & Honey - ★Ripped Gowns - ★Sensual Poetry - Warding Sigils - ★Hedonistic Filth & House-Sized Party Crasher - Confronting Maarazaar(1/2/3) - ★Ash Bunny Irihi
RISQUÉ: ★Fun with Fisticuffs!
[CHATTE] ★Enter Chatte - Chat w/Castor - ★Proposing the Race
[ASMODIEL & GALVINA] ★A Celestial & Demoness Play Cards - Asmodiel Smites a Feeder
[☆ = favorite / ★= extra fave]
Aaaand then the house boy noped out like a freaking genie.
Ohmigod, did I really just kiss--and kinda molest--the help? Probably not the best decision I could have made, right there. Faan thought with the wryness of rye, no... rice, sprits.
The elfmaid needed a moment--a couple hours, water, and food really--to collect herself. Still, this pool was heavenly, and what the hell was that boy doing getting so familiar with her in the first place? Faan thought, petulantly, as she waded over to the stone decanter and masu. Retrieving these, she then made her way to a bubbly shallow part of the spring. Well, if an avenging Drow priestess was about to descend upon her and lop off her head, better be prepared, Faan reasoned. That little voice was now warning her she was going to really regret all of this later.
“That’s later.” The seamstress muttered to herself, as she sank onto a submarine that allowed her to rest with arms draped along the sides of the pool. Faan flung her sodden locks--when did my braid come undone?--back so they splayed across the poolside and acted as a kind of anchor to keep her from slipping off the shelf.
She was going to take a little rest, maybe have another ill-advised drink, and then pass out, slip into the water and drown.
“Well, that, or do my laundry.” She whispered to the darkness of the soaring nightime cavern, overhead.
“And wash my hair.” And live here forever until she was just a giant peach-colored raisin of pruniness. Pruneocity? Resting on the side of the pool, faan closed her eyes, contemplating the various and sundry ways of syntactically massacring a description of her future condition in the common tongue.
Instinctively Pioloss blended into the gloom around him as he went, barely more than a flitting shadow as he barrelled through the house following the lingering trail of Faan’s scent. Thankfully, after long weeks at sea followed by their eventful time in the Underneath the Elfmaids smell was rather potent and easy to follow (Not that Pioloss would ever say as much within earshot of Faan, not even he was that socially clueless!).
That being said though, there was one brief moment when he almost lost the trail when it was momentarily overshadowed by the far more powerful smells of sweat, blood, and… other secretions. But Pioloss paid that no mind. There simply wasn’t time.
He burst out of the house, letting the door slam behind him like a gunshot. In his haste Pioloss was not consciously worried about stealth right then, instead focusing all of his energies solely on speed. He flew across the short distance to a series of glowing pools, where the scent trail he was following swiftly began to intermingle with the smell of an odd, but quite pleasant smelling alcohol of some sorts. Had Tom-Cat poisoned her? Slipped something into her drink maybe? Was he already too late?!
“Faan?!” Pioloss gasped as he came to a sudden, shuddering stop at the edge of the pool to find the Elf Maid slumped over the edge, unmoving as her eyes stared blankly up at nothing. Oh God’s no! He was too late! DAMMIT! After everything they had been through, everything they had survived, how could it end like this? It wasn’t fair! It wasn’t right! Faan had deserved more than to be poisoned in some underground lair by a preening assassin that had actually had the gall to call him an ugly soul! Well, Pioloss would show the Catling just how ugly his soul (or lack thereof) actually was! And that was a promise! “TOM-CAT!!” He roared, his bellowing, rage filled voice carrying his challenge, and the promise of swift retribution across the otherwise quiet grounds around him.
OOC: She is sitting face-up. As you would at the side of a jacuzzi. But yes, she could be mistaken for dead. Especially considering the “poison” decanter and cup next to her.
Somebody was saying her name, then--“Ow! Jukkete!” Faan cursed as she started at a voice bellowing from just above her. Her head had reflexively jerked up, only to be towed back by the recoil of her hair (which Pioloss seemed to have trod upon) whacking her skull against the limestone edge of the pool.
“Traako Ud’Raan!” Faan swore again as her eyes snapped open, and she tried to rise, but found herself anchored by the scalp. “Get off my goddamn hair, Pioloss!” She spat, forgetting herself, but--yes--also actually wanting the Uman’s filthy boots off her hair.
…and why are you yelling for the house boy?
…and I am not wearing any clothes.
…and this water is really clear.
Faan instinctively reached for something, anything, to mitigate those last two circumstances. Sake decanter was far too small, sake was clear and wouldn’t cloud the water, and that would be wasteful. There was a hand towel within reach, but that was also too small, but not if she…
When the dhampir finished roaring his challenge to the sky, if he looked down and wasn’t too quick, he’d get a faceful of wet towel.
Faan’s throw was remarkable, not necessarily for its accuracy, but for its accuracy whilst she was fairly intoxicated. The sudden adrenaline-fueld surge of mortification and horror explained her ability to loft the sodden towel at Pioloss, but not the miraculous precision which would see it wrapped around the Dhampir’s face, should he--perhaps wisely, all things considered--fail to duck.
Whether by her words, or thrown cloth, or just by turning and yanking it free, Faan would get her hair out from under Pioloss's foot.
Though she mostly domiciled in the city, Faan had been raised a forest childe, and she could slip through brush, air, or water with equal speed and ease when properly motivated. She barely disturbed the surface of the pool as she scampered to the edge and wrapped herself in enough terrycloth to preserve at least a little modesty.
“What the fe’sat are yew doing here?!” Faan demanded of her intruding companion, flushed from toes to eartips with a mixture of shame, erythema, and outrage.
Such was his anguish that for a moment Pioloss actually believed that he could hear Faan berating him. Then a moment later the world around him vanished as his head was enveloped in some sort of heavy, soaking wet material.
Pioloss growled as he staggered about in a frenzy, expecting a knife to slid in-between his ribs at any moment. A towel? Who does that?! But then, he supposed that was just the sort of dirty, underhanded move he should expect from the kind of people who would poison a guest in their home. Pioloss reached up and ripped the towel to shreds using hands grown to sharp claws, unmindful and uncaring now of who might see his true nature. For at that moment it seemed to him that if Faan was dead, then chances are that so too was Rigel. Indeed, the Drow woman had probably tried to lead him in some kind of prayer before stabbing him in the back! Or something equally detestable anyway… But ultimately, however it had happened didn't matter. Either they wouldn't live long enough to worry about his vampirism… or he wouldn't.
He looked around expecting to see Tom-Cat smiling his maddeningly self assured grin at him, probably as he stood gloatingly over the dead body of-
"Faan?!" Pioloss cried as he spotted the Elfmaid standing on the far side of the pool. He made to rush towards her with arms outstretched and a fang filled smile on his face that in hindsight was probably quite terrifying. But after only a couple of steps he ground to a halt. Suddenly realising that not only was Faan barely dressed, but she looked furious with him!
"What the fe'sat are yew doing here?!" Faan snapped as Pioloss spun round to face the other way so quickly that the air audibly snapped.
"Picnic told me that Tom-Cat means to kill you!" Pioloss replied, spinning back around as the shock of finding Faan alive wore off. Modesty be damned! Her anger be damned! They had to get out of here before it was too late! She could be angry at him later once they had escaped from this supposed Priestess and her house of death!
"Come on!" Pioloss urged as he scooped up Faans discarded clothing and tossed it over to her. "We have to find Rigel and get out of here!"
He could only hope that they weren't already too late...
From: Inside Duskhill
The golem of Blue Ash stumped down the slope where the hotspring pools had formed, heading toward voices it assumed to belong to their visitors. It arrived poolside and regarded the Uman and Elf. “You must return to the house with me.” It said to Pioloss, giving immediate voice to a decision had been triggered the moment the Dhampir left the estate.
The Elfmaid’s eyes widened, first at Pioloss’s rather… pointy… appearance, and then wider at his warning. “Oh!”
Faan was pretty inebriated, and she was startled into action by Pioloss’s commanding tone. She had a change of clothes in her pack--her other garments were presently soaking in the hotspring--but clearly they were in immediate danger and needed to make haste. Faan dug one-handed in the pack and came up with Robespierre. The redingote would provide adequate coverage, and some defense, for the moment.
“Turn around.” Faan’s modesty, despite the danger, demanded before she would drop the towel and don the jacket.
Would provide adequate coverage
Robespierre had a lot of buttons.
The seamstress was good at buttons. She could don and close Robespierre in as short a time as most people could pull up a pair of trousers.
When she had about four or five fewer drinks in her.
As it was, Faan was halfway done when she realized she’d started one side of the double-buttoned jacket wrong, and the whole thing was going to end up cockeyed. “Un’saa!” She said under her breath. “Don’t turn around yet!” She undid it all and started to re-do the row.
Because a straight hemline was more important than escaping with her life.
“Picnic said Tom-Cat is going to kill me?” Faan repeated, to be sure she had heard Pioloss correctly.
“Did he say when?” Because the housecatboy certainly had the opportunity--many opportunities--earlier. “I just…” Even with plenty of sake lubricating her tongue, Faan had wherewithal enough not to finish that thought aloud. "...um, saw him."
Then the golem arrived and delivered its ultimatum to Pioloss.
“Picnic.” Faan called for the huge construct’s attention. “Does Tom-Cat mean to kill me? Does Yin’xir Yas… Yin’xrar Ux…” Faan was not good at Drow names. “Does your mistress mean us harm?” I mean, why not ask? If he spilled the beans to Pioloss, maybe this creature would do the same for her.
Even with Robespierre’s swordsmanship and Pioloss’s supernatural towel-shredding abilities, Faan doubted they were fighting their way out of this predicament successfully.
These were pretty easy questions. Picnic only needed a few seconds to mull them over before delivering a response. However, there were more complicated thoughts accompanying the simple answers which took several minutes to process.
Three minutes can seem like an eternity when confronted by a crystal crab with crushing claws. As it had briefly lost track of Pioloss earlier, when it had answered in haste, Picnic decided it should be more thorough when speaking.
“Yes.” It said.
A few minutes later, the rest of the response joined the first word. “If you threaten Miiya.” Picnic paused. “I, too, will kill you, if you threaten my friends.” It said, and then began its response--after more waiting--to Faan’s second inquiry.
“I serve no mistress.” It repeated itself. Though slow and still rather simple, TonDen’s thought process allowed for insight, and it gathered Faan was actually talking about Myrae. “Myrae owns this land. She dressed up for your arrival. She is my friend. I do not know if she wishes to harm you.” Picnic had decided it would be a good idea to list all his friends, to reduce the chance of needing to enact the violence it threatened. “Miiya is also my friend. You have not met her. She has wings. I think that she would not harm you without reason.”
"If we threaten Miiya…" Pioloss repeated quietly before throwing his arms in the air as he rounded on the crystalline war machine and shouting, "Could yew not have maybe mentioned that part earlier Picnic?!"
God's above! How did he always seem to manage to get himself into these situations?! He would have reacted far differently had Picnic said from the outset that Tom-Cat killing anyone was provisional and one of them first threatening this Miiya person! Though admittedly he could have perhaps sought clarification before charging through the place like a deranged-
"Picnic?" Pioloss began, speaking slowly and calmly. "This Miiya yew mentioned… By any chance are her wings broken?"
The golem thought for a moment and then responded. "Yes. The Watcher of Kiana broke her wing. She cannot fly. This has made her sad, I think." Picnic leaned in close to Pioloss. Its manner was not threatening, but when a twelve-foot tall crystalline monster looks at you inquisitively, it cannot help but be intimidating. “Do you intend to harm her further?”
At Picnic’s words, Faan sat down. Her legs did not feel like they could support her any longer, as a shiver ran through her from head to toe.
Because finally, finally, Faan put the pieces together. She had not been feted by some noble’s kept boy, she’d been interrogated by an assassin. Her eyes wandered to the decanter and cup. She had drank from both.
Uh… before he started asking questions, right? Faan thought so. So they probably weren’t poisoned. Which was good, because now she definitely needed another.
Next, the elfmaid’s gaze fell upon her discarded clothing that had sunk to the bottom of the hotspring. She shuddered at the memory--no longer a pleasant one--of hands upon her neck. If she had spoken wrongly, her corpse might now be filling those submerged garments.
Abruptly and incongruously Faan felt a sudden flash of anger. Goddammit! She was sick and tired of being frightened and guilty! Anger made a decent substitute for fear. “That little Athuum!” Faan growled. “Ooh! This is such Taig’Sul!” She banged a fist lightly on the limestone table. What was she thinking, feeling bad for that impudent Ud’raan?
Still, Pioloss seemed to be managing to keep his cool in the face of their hosts deception, perhaps she should try to gather her own. “Picnic, we mean no harm to anyone, especially your friend, the winged girl. If she is who I think she is, have a gift for her from her aunt.” On impulse, Faan stood and joined Pioloss in facing the huge golem.
Wow, it was big!
Wordlessly Pioloss began to step towards the armoured giant.
So far their jaunt into the Underneath, though relatively brief, had been filled with back to back life threatening situations, maddeningly confusing man cats, misinformation, and treacherous goblins that at some point in the not so distant future would definitely require a reckoning. And Pioloss was tired! He was tired of living on alert, of thinking that his life, or the lives of the two people he had so recently come to care about were in danger. He was tired of feeling like he wasn't quite understanding the full story of what was happening around him, and he was tired of the insatiable thirst that nagged at him. Every. Single. Second. But as tired, and fed up as he felt, he could plainly see that Faan currently had it far worse. And though Piollss might not fully understand the reasons why, he knew that it was now up to him to bring a peaceful resolution to the absolute calamity that had been their mission so far.
So Pioloss walked, slowly, and deliberately over to Picnic where he lay a single hand on the smooth, cool surface of one of the golems' pincers. He remembered how before he had seemed to get a general sense of Picnic as a being when they had shook hands, and though there was no guarantee that whatever connection had so briefly formed between them had worked both ways, or if it would even happen again at all! Pioloss focused on pouring all of his fatigue, his want- no need to just stop! His desire to not hurt anyone (except One Grog). But most of all, he poured his impatient yearning to see their mission through, which thankfully as it turned out meant fixing the wings of Picnics friend Miiya.
The golem allowed Pioloss to touch it’s carapace and observed the same transfer of thoughts and emotions it had experienced with others that had touched it. The construct had since built logic gates within its crystalline mind that parsed and shunted commandes from those it did not designate “friends” but Pioloss was not issuing commands.
So Picnic read the man’s intentions and wants, perhaps just as Pioloss had intended. It also read his nature and observed, though distantly and dispassionately, the darker reaches of his mind, though perhaps not the ones kept most closely guarded by the dhampir.
This presented a quandry to the construct, for it sensed that the Dhampir possessed urges that would make him a threat to its friends. The armor around Pioloss’s hand darkened as an impulse to kill the enemy began to formulate.
Then again, the man’s present urge was nonviolent, and those murderous intents were buried beneath a layer of helpfulness. Myrae, Tom-Cat, and even Miiya all had the capacity to harm, which they restrained. Was this different?
Because Pioloss’s urges were not merely a capacity, but a hunger, a need to hurt and destroy in order to fill an emptiness, a brokenness. Picnic had felt such urgings before.
Pioloss was of-Rei.
Just as No Picnic was. The blackness around Pioloss's hand flashed through the rest of the golem's carapace.
No Picnic was typically silent, but the Dhampir's touch had elicited the transition to the golem's combat mode so quickly that it's vocal drivers were left engaged. No Picnic made much faster decisions than Picnic.
"I am instructed not to kill you."
The simple kill/no kill logic tree punted to outside instruction. Tom-Cat had told Picnic not to kill Pioloss as he had passed it on the way inside, therefore the golem defaulted to a no-kill option.
“Do you wish to be friends?” No Picnic asked in its thunderous voice.
Pioloss felt… something pass through him. Something invasive, and unpleasant, but that stopped just short of being painful as Picnic delved deep into the depths of his identity. Which was all to the good. That was, after all, what Pioloss had intended when he had initiated the contact. But what he had not intended, and was not at all prepared for, was just how thoroughly Picnic was able to look!
Pioloss fought the urge to cringe. He felt like his entire soul was being laid bare, his every dirty secret now just waiting there for the golem to peruse at its leisure, and peruse it did.
"I am instructed not to kill yew." Picnic boomed. Which was funny, because in that same moment something flipped within the crystal giant, and Pioloss got the impression that the golem would now like nothing more than to kill him!
The link between them, however tenuous, still worked both ways though. So Pioloss felt something of the fundamental change happening within as Picnic's entire identity suddenly changed, almost reversed, and he tensed subtly as he waited to see what the next few moments would bring. But one thing was certain, whoever, or whatever he was dealing with now, it was certainly no Picnic!
"Do yew wish to be friends?"
The only outward sign that the question had shocked Pioloss was a single blink of his eyes before the Dhampir answered with a voice that took far more effort than he'd of liked to stop from shaking "Yes Picnic. I would like that very much."