Sometimes there was a job for Merian Urankhorn, and sometimes there was a job for Viper Celia. This was one of the latter times.
Merian knew that she had a bit of time (though not *too *much, Legion had reminded her for what seemed like over a dozen times), and so took advantage to have “Viper Celia” hit the streets of Eldolan. She was looking for some specific information, and thought Viper might have a better chance than Merian. So, after an hour of getting into the proper disguise, she hit the wharfs of Eldolan.
Something’s not right about this place, she thought as she made her way to The Squirming Mermaid, the tavern/inn owned by the former pirate queen Scarlet Ylas. While not here when the Undaunted defeated the Seekers of the Lost (and also ran off a cult devoted to the Diabolist), she had heard them tell of their time here, and…something just seemed off. That 2 cults could be operating in a relatively small city as Eldolan was entirely possible, if a bit unlikely; but three? All at the same time? No…that’s pushing it. Something else was at work here, and she would find it.
Two hours later, “Viper” walked out of the Squirming Mermaid. She had had a very enlightening conversation with a half-drow named Aerto. He had been in the business of procuring bodies for both the Seekers and the Diabolist cults. He was motivated by greed, that was obvious…and obviously blinded by it as well. Couldn’t he see he was hastening the destruction of this place by giving these cults what they wanted? Still, people motivated by greed were easy to direct; one drawstring bag of gold coins had Aerto looking into why, in a place filled with so much magic and discipline, did people get so easily corrupted into these dangerous groups. She reflected that she might ask Odessa and Elsa (as Merian, of course!) to look into the history of this place as well…or suggest someone who could, both the imperial histories and anything more…esoteric.
There were a few more places to visit before she was done, and the Wild Wave Taproom was one of them.
When she entered, her eyes immediately fell on the distinctive form of the halfling Malice Sureshot. Merian almost left before she remembered that she was here as “Viper,” and that the halfling wouldn’t recognize her…hopefully.
Merian sat down with her, trying to also get her to look into the shady goings-on in Eldolan that seem to leave the populace ripe for cult-joining…the encounter went well, and as Merian got up to leave, Malice addressed her over the rim of her mug of cider, “I didn’t betray you, you know.”
Damn, she knew it was me.
“I mean it: I didn’t betray you. I mean, I gather you’re here, all dolled up, asking about cults because of what you found in that alley. It wasn’t a setup though; I did just as the sexy dark elf asked me to, no more. If she had paid me to go in with you, I would have, but she didn’t so…”
Merian sat back down. “I wish I could believe you, but you see my problem…”
Malice nodded. “I do. I wouldn’t believe me either. At least, not now. I’m hoping what I am about to tell you will change that.”
Intrigued, Merian nodded to Sureshot to continue.
The halfling took her time, finishing her cider first. Finally, “I have a problem I was hoping your group could look into: one our fellow agents is dead, and…no, see, I know that doesn’t bother you, and maybe even makes you happy, but just listen; when I’m done explaining, you may not be so happy. Anyway, he’s dead…without a scratch, no sign of violence, no…”
“Yes, I know,” interrupted Merian. “We’ve seen this magic at work; some black dragonic wielding a box that, I would guess, functions as a phylactery of some kind…”
“Right. And yeah, you’re on the right track with the phylactery angle, though it’s a bit more complicated than that. What you might not know are two things…one, that dragonic’s name is Midnight Scale.”
Merian nodded. “All right, it’s good we have a name, I suppose, but if you think this is some great earth-shattering information…”
Sureshot smiled, and not a friendly smile. “No, that’s not the thing.” She leaned back and signaled the server for another cider and fixed Merian with a cold look. “I know who *you *are too, beautiful. You’re the soldier who left her service because her sister was killed by people in my organization in a hostage situation gone wrong. Thing is…my people had nothing to do with it. Oh sure, we were there in the background, trying to get our hands on as many records as possible when the whole thing went sideways, but we weren’t part of the chaos proper. No, the mess that ended up killing your sister had nothing to do with the Prince…”
Merian’s face was impassive. More lies…
Sureshot’s drink showed up and she took a long sip. “I can see you don’t believe me, but you should.”
“Because I was there. Saw the whol…well, not the *whole *thing, but…most of it.”
Merian arched an eyebrow.
“And I’ll tell you who else I saw there.”
Sureshot paused for dramatic effect, lifted the mug to her lips and answered looking over the rim again. “Midnight Scale.”
The halfling leaned forward conspiratorially. “So, it seems to me the question you need to ask yourself is…what did your sister know that someone was willing to make sure she was erased by Midnight Scale?”
End of scene.