The Glint of SteelStarted by Astraea Teresi at Apr 06, 2019 2:10 am
Einmanudur 5, 76
Astraea was humming quietly to herself as she moved around the shop, tidying up some of the displays. Most of them were blunted items, of course, with the actual stock being kept in the back where only one of the attendants could get to it. It was safer that way, preventing - or at least minimizing - the use of these items as weapons by thieves. And, also, generally making them less attractive to steal because they wouldn't hold a proper edge.
Astraea didn't often man the shop herself these days - usually leaving it to one of her siblings while she handled trade partners and managed the paperwork, and oversaw some of the actual weapons production. It was actually kind of refreshing to be back in the shop, she had to admit. Even if she did have a meeting later that afternoon.
Finally she settled back behind the counter, turning her attention to the copy of the design Master Cassimer wanted that she'd kept for herself. She'd passed a copy of it to the forgers already, they were beginning the task of making it. Something about the design... it was brutal, she had to admit that. It didn't seem to be something the Justicars would approve of and yet... it was what she had been asked for for use by them.
Astraea folded the paper and put it away, pushing the thought from her mind. It wasn't for her to worry about, is what Astraea told herself. But worry she did, a little.
About half of her attention was dedicated to listening for anyone entering the shop with her, while the rest drifted for just a moment.
The good thing about being a lone ilim in a place like this; Shil was small, he was fast, and he could make the earth under one's feet turn against them. It'd served him well, thus far, preventing him rather neatly from ending up in the same situation most ilim did in Dalmasca's borders (they really did love their ilim slaves; Shil had nearly been caught by slavers no less than five times since crossing the Macenian-Dalmascan border). By now, he'd changed clothes, tucking his more regal-looking attire away in his pack, now wearing something less attention-grabbing and glittery, and he blended in a lot better. Certainly, he got fewer weird looks than before.
It did not seem particularly intelligent, to barge into Dalmasca, declaring as loudly as possible that he was the prince of Galace. Dalmascans seemed like the type that'd love to use that to their advantage, somehow, and given his father hadn't exactly given him permission to wander into Dalmasca's borders (in Galace, it was all, stay away from Dalmascans, and Dalmasca, and southern Macenia for that matter), he didn't necessarily want this coming back to bite him in one of his tails. Fortunately, Dalmascans seemed to know very little about Galacese nobility, or the nine tails would've been a dead giveaway. Unlike most ilim, Shil had nine fluffy, peach colored tails bobbing behind him; only a few select, ancient lineages did, and Yrdyn was one of them. Well, what the Dalmascans didn't know, wouldn't hurt them, and would help him, so he was keeping his trap shut.
Unfortunately, Dalmascans knew little about Galacese nobility, and the Galacese knew little about Dalmascan nobility. He needed to find a potential friend. There was little of value he could offer someone-certainly, he had a few pieces of spiricite, that was valuable, but if Shil remembered correctly, Dalmascans were mostly hume, and had no real use for it. Sure, there were hume mages, sort of, now, but they were dying out, no thanks to the other humes killing them-certainly that was none of his business-so he needed another angle. He shuffled down the streets, near market, glancing at the signs. Shil could read Dalmascan, just slower than ideally. As he went, he kept his head up, his shoulders back, his spine at its natural gentle curve, padding across the cobblestone as if he knew what he was after and was supposed to be there. That kept most off his tails, proverbially speaking.
Ah, wait. Shil paused, outside a door. If he was reading the Dalmascan lettering correctly, this was a weapons shop. His ears halfway flattened, in thought. Oh, wait! His ears perked right back up, and he scurried in, then paused in the doorway, to regain his composure. There were certainly interesting weapon designs out for display, and, truthfully, if even half of them worked in a fight, that spoke mounds about this place's crafting skills. He turned from the displays, padding almost silently across the floor. ... er... he was pretty sure that was a girl. Not that this was strange, but in Dalmasca, he thought they didn't let their women do much.
Well, maybe this was a decent place to start, then. "Greetings, m'lady," he started, bowing noticeably. "I am Shildien. Would you happen to be the owner of this impressive establishment?" ... was that too formal? Maybe that was too formal. Oh, no... okay, keep cool. Act natural.
When Astraea heard the door and her attention snapped to it, she honestly wasn't expecting much of anything. Perhaps she'd recognize them, but probably not. All sorts came in looking, some bought some didn't. But she was not expecting the small figure who had entered the shop.
Illim, with more tails than usual that was... hm. She didn't think too much about it, except it made him rather identifiable. Still, Astraea was surprised that he'd come in alone, but she put it out of her mind. Watching him, but not engaging beyond a polite greeting immediately since he seemed to be gaining his bearings still.
And then he spoke.
And Astraea didn't think she'd ever heard an Ilim speak so formally in her life. It caused her to miss a beat, admittedly. So there was a brief delay before she nodded. "I am, yes." It was an odd question though, in her mind. She was the one running the shop, did it really matter if she actually owned it or was simply working under someone else's instruction?
Maybe to some people it did. "Astraea Teresi at your service." Shildien. No hint of anything beyond that. But this one didn't seem to be a slave.
Waiting there though, to see what else he might say after she confirmed that much.
Oh, lucky him, he found the owner first. That was good. Now, here was the tricky part; many Dalmascans lied. That was, of course, one of the first things anyone said about Dalmascans, was they had a thing about lying. Shilthandien wasn't sure how much of that he believed. Of course, if something was repeated enough times, it probably held a grain of truth, thereby, this would be a delicate affair. Figuring out who to trust and who not to was really a matter of perhaps luck more than anything. Shil hadn't been born yesterday, though. Perhaps, he could figure it out, even if he'd chosen wrong off-hand.
He had to start somewhere. Always being afraid of talking to anyone here wouldn't get him terribly far. He was in no hurry to decide, though; this one was just more immediately tempting, as he had something quite valuable he could offer a weaponsmith in return for the help. Hmm. For a moment, he just watched her, and then smiled a bit. "Shil's good enough," he said. "Do Dalmascans address one another by the first name, or the last? I wouldn't want to be accidentally offensive, of course, and we don't exactly have a Dalmasca 101 course freely available up north." Not exactly... they did, of a form. It was, avoid Dalmascans. Also, avoid Dalmascans. And they lie. A lot.
"It is somewhat embarrassing to admit, but I do not know much about how Dalmasca works," he added. Teresi both did and did not sound familiar, and Shil couldn't quite place a finger on why. Where had he heard the name before... truthfully, he'd heard many names of Dalmascans over the years, it was difficult to say where, or even when, he'd heard them. Ah, perhaps, it was just as well. Still, he wasn't sure about laying all his cards on the table, just yet. There was a Macenian woman that had followed him, too. Galacese swordmaking techniques were valuable enough, he just might be able to figure out where she was likely to be, and get her out. She'd disappeared some time after they'd reached Nydema.
Of course, given the woman's fieriness (she was, if he recalled, one of the hume students of a master sorcerer in Galace, and rather the spitfire when angered, or cornered, for that matter, and many commented on how pretty she was), it was likely she was in trouble. He did not, however, have friends here, not yet-and outing himself as the prince of Galace seemed... unintelligent. Some may respect that, but something told Shil, most would love the leverage.
Shil. Alright, she could manage that. Astraea smiled at the Ilim for a moment and considered carefully the question she'd been posed. Up north. Was he actually Galacese? That seemed to be the most likely answer based on his phrasing but that was ... hm. Very unusual. Why would one of the Galacese have come willingly to Dalmasca? Certainly he wasn't here as a slave, as he wasn't collared and the chances of them tossing an Ilim into the blood games... well. It happened, but it was rare enough that it wasn't the first assumption she would make.
No, he was more likely here as a traveler of some kind. Didn't he know how dangerous it was to be here without protection? Probably he did. "How Dalmascans address each other depends heavily on your station in comparison to the person you're speaking to as well as your general relationship with them. You can't generally go wrong addressing someone by their family name though, most will correct you to call them something more familiar if that's what they prefer." And generally it was going to be better to be asked to be more familiar than for the other to feel that you weren't being formal enough when the situation called for it.
"You can call me Astraea though." Given she'd just introduced herself, it seemed appropriate to tell him that after that statement about how Dalmascans tended to address each other.
"One does wonder what brings a son of the north so far south." Astraea just set that down, really, not directly asking but making it rather clear that she hadn't figured out a good reason for him to be wondering around a country he obviously wasn't familiar with alone. That was... certainly unusual behavior. And the Ilim were generally more cautious than that, given the number of them held in slavery here, so she had a hard time believing there wasn't a reason or plan involved.
Perhaps he was merely looking for a lost loved one. Astraea wasn't one to judge, but it was likely that without guidance he was going to end up in just as much trouble as they were, if that was indeed what he sought. On the other hand, involving herself in this seemed... unwise. Then again, she didn't know what this was yet. She'd wait and see what he said before going any further in either direction - waiting for a reaction to her last statement, even if indirect, was likely her safest course.
That was going to make things a bit complicated, then. Shil's ears drooped, slightly, but he was sure he'd figure it out. Dalmascans were notoriously easy to accidentally insult, but, Shil wasn't sure if that was because they really were, or because people liked to demonize them. Perhaps a little of both. Some, most likely, were, while others weren't. One bad apple spoiled the whole bunch, was it? At least he knew which name to call her. She was, so far, his best shot at getting what he wanted. Of course, it was difficult to say, how much to tell her. If he'd found a decent Dalmascan, then he'd want to be as honest with her as possible. If not, he'd need to be careful what he said. He wasn't quite sure how to tell which she was, though. She was having a conversation with him, and not speaking down to him, so that was a start. Many humes tended to speak down to ilim, just because they often didn't take them seriously enough, or saw them as eternal children. Ilim matured too, just not the same way, gosh.
"That would be a puzzling thing, wouldn't it?" he asked, albeit it wasn't a true question. "Well, I need a little help. Those of the north are very well separated from the ways of Dalmasca, you see. I don't know the first thing about Dalmascans, or their houses, but I would like to learn. Preferably without getting a rusty dagger in places rusty daggers are not meant to be, if you catch my meaning. I also had a follower, but she has disappeared between here and there. Any foreign place is potentially dangerous, so certainly, there is nothing terribly special about this being Dalmasca, in that regard." Of course not. Jihon would likely be just as dangerous, if not moreso. Perhaps some of the Free Cities might be less, but, all the same, they were becoming very untrusting of outsiders, and most with a brain could take a gander as to why.
"In any case, I certainly don't expect help freely. How would you like to learn how to make Galacese blades? Galacese blades make quite a bit of money up north; having a source of them down here would quite frankly affix you and your house as one of the richest in southern Azaleon, and make you very difficult to be rid of. It'd be both lucrative for many generations to come, and yet perhaps nigh permanent shielding from any other house that might see the end of yours. I just want to find my friend, wherever she may be, and someone here in a good position that'd be willing to talk peace with me. If Dalmasca, Macenia, and Galace, continue on like this much longer, no one will win. We'll flat destroy each other, and too many have died already. There must be a way to end it."
How long it'd take to make peace between them, that was perhaps in the air, but so long as Shil drew breath, he'd be trying, that was for certain. He loved his country too much, loved his people too much, not to. Perhaps, the truth was, Dalmasca was threatening to destroy both Macenia and Galace, and someday, perhaps, drive the ilim to extinction. But then what? Dalmasca would be standing on a bed of ruin, blood, and fire, and where was the glory in that? Eh. He never did understand those sorts.
Well that was a response to what she'd said, but not really an answer. Still, the point was clear enough, and Astraea opted to simply leave it alone. It wasn't her business, after all. Just as long as he knew the danger in his actions.. even that was more than was really her concern in reality. Perhaps there was nothing special about the danger in Dalmasca except that here and in Jihon they were rather likely to be noticed and catch the interest of slavers. Such a thing was far more likely to happen here than in the Free Cities, for example.
She didn't say that, it didn't matter.
Information for information. What he was asking was, frankly not that much. Helping him learn what he needed to about the other houses, keeping an eye out for this follower of his. And... someone to talk peace with. "Of the three, finding someone to talk peace with is perhaps the hardest." She admitted thoughtfully without indicating one way or the other what she thought of the proposal itself. This did add an interesting level of curiosity though.
Who was this Ilim that he thought he was in a position to talk peace on behalf of Galace? She pushed the thought away, deciding it was probably much safer that she not know the answer to that question.
Despite saying that she did have a few thoughts in mind that might work out rather well. Then again... those houses weren't necessarily in a position to speak for the majority of Dalamasca, and therein lay the problem, now didn't it? She'd have to give it some thought before she could really move into helping him find someone suitable because the criteria were difficult to find in the same person.
Except, perhaps Essair, given Kassandros' seeming goal of reaching the position of Imperitor.
Even with the offer of learning how to make Galacese blades agreeing to help could easily be dangerous. Marcus was not a forgiving man, and while he may keep her around due to her usefulness he had destroyed houses for less. On... the other hand, what he didn't know wouldn't hurt, and it wasn't as if he came to the shop often.
"I'm willing to help you all I can." Astraea said after a few moments of considering all the angles of the situation that she could see. Learning the galacese way of making blades would be an incredibly useful thing for her shop, and would certainly endear her to some other houses. "So, this follower of yours. Ilim or Hume? What does she look like?"
It would be easier to help, after all, if she knew what she was looking for somewhat.
He was sure. Short of demanding an audience with the Imperator himself, there wasn't too much for that. He'd considered this before; the political situation with Dalmasca, in particular, was difficult because no one had seen hide nor hair of the Imperator in about three or four years, now. Shilthandien had lost track. The point was, he led the battle commanders, but on the other hand, the military leaders had a bit more power than the Imperator perhaps had intended for them to. Most soldiers looked up to and respected their direct commander more than an absent leader, so any house with notable military presence might be enough to at least stay the front-lines enough to make waves and force the Imperator to address the issue.
That could, however, destablize Dalmasca itself, and end in a power struggle. Dalmasca was already politically on shaky grounds, from what Shilthandien remembered. And Jihon, well, that was a whole other can of worms, because no one really led Jihon, not really. Making friends with them would be tougher, hence why he'd started here. Perhaps, if Dalmasca backed off, Jihon would, too, or at least that was the hope. Preferably before things got worse; and yes, they could certainly get worse.
"Thank you very much," he said, bowing respectfully. "Hume, actually, very tall, a little bit darker than you in skin tone I think. Hmm... blond, about mid-back, kind of wavy, gold eyes, a bit wider than yours but only a little bit, slight upturn at the outer corners. Oh, she's got these tattoos on her face, a long diamond on her forehead, and a long triangle on either cheek bone, in blue. Happens to be a fairly well-trained ice sorcerer, and she's spent a long time in Galace, now, may not have any reservations about using it." Actually, that might cause rather the scandal. But it could also get her in a lot more trouble than she could handle, very quickly, hence Shil's root concern. Mostly, Sinuessa could take care of herself-she was a lot stronger than most people Shil had met in his life, but even she had limits to what she could manage on her own.
Everyone did, even him, even her. He was just going to hope that this venture didn't turn out more troublesome than he could handle. It wasn't like he brought the crownsguard with him, though come to think that might've been smarter in some ways. Rather dumb, in others.
Well, some of those descriptive points meant that this particular person was going to stand out quite a bit. Astraea concentrated on remembering those particular details, as they would help her when she went seeking the woman in the market, and began asking around for her. Tall hume with facial tattoos shouldn't be terribly hard to get someone to remember, if they'd seen her. Also an ice sorcerer, or course.
"I'll have to do some asking around, but I have a few friends who see a lot more than I do. If she's passed through the slave market, we'll find her." And if she wasn't Astraea may swallow her pride and ask Kassandros Essair because he certainly had more resources than her, if nothing else. "... And even if not, chances are still pretty high." The trick, of course, would be managing to locate her before she died or something equally terrible, given she was a mage.
Speaking of, actually.... maybe it was about time she revisited the idea of removing herself from Cassimer's grasp. She rather liked Lucius, honestly, but his father was... well. His father would be in control for the foreseeable future, and maybe it was best if she removed herself from him before there was a chance for him to become aware of Shilthandien and her learning a new metalworking art. Essair or Asheron would be.... far better and far more stable in the long run. And both of them were of the sort that Shil wanted to talk to anyway.
Something to consider under her own council. Maybe she'd talk to the Wynbrants, if nothing else, they'd been under Essair for some time and may have some insight to how he treated his vassals.
"Do you already have somewhere safe to stay?" It was a reasonably important question given he was apparently here alone and missing his follower. Agreeing to help him and then leaving him in danger when she didn'thave to was.... terrible, honestly.
Hopefully, that was accurate. Shilthandien wouldn't get his hopes up too far, as he realized Dalmasca was a very large place, and it could be difficult to track a single individual in the thousands of them that there were. Still, he dd appreciate her trying. "Thank you," he said, bowing slightly. He meant it. Ultimately, though, she didn't have to help him, either, and he appreciated her doing so, anyway. It wasn't like he had any other leads, or potential allies. Learning to forge Galacese-style blades was quite the incentive, so he was sure the cooperation wasn't entirely altruistic, but still.
Besides, his parents always did teach him to be kind.
Ah. At that question, the ilim blinked for a moment, and then looked perhaps a hair sheepish. "I had not gotten that far," he answered. "I've been sticking to trees, for the most part. Some branches make good beds. I'd say I can figure it out, but this is a much larger city, in Dalmasca, and I am an ilim..." Sooner or later, perhaps his fate would eventually match Sinuessa's, wherever she'd ended up.
He hoped nowhere too terrible, but on the other hand, this was Dalmasca. He tried to be generous toward the Dalmascans; really, they weren't all bad, but on the other, he hadn't had much experience with the ones that weren't all bad. It was hard to shake off his innate reactions to them. He'd have to work on that.
At least Miss Astraea wasn't too bad. "Sorry, maybe that was rude," he hurriedly added. "But I've evaded slavers many times already." It was hard to stick him in chains if they couldn't catch him, fortunately. But sooner or later, he was sure, his speed wouldn't necessarily be able to save him.