Veritas is the name of a popular wine bar in the well-to-do section of Vesper. It’s got a kind of calm, low energy atmosphere to it that makes it a favorite of civil servants and businessmen winding down from the day’s work. Their selection of vintages is pretty good too. Wine is the national drink of Vesper. Dogwood too. Most of the grain grown in Dogwood goes to food, not drink and the finer forms of grain alcohol – whiskey in particular – are rare indeed. Wine on the other hand doesn’t rob the table, so to speak, and there are a number of well off vineyards about.
Hunter had given both Ardul and Elpida a message to meet him here. But he’s not there when they arrive. It’s pretty easy to tell, the wolfen mercenary is hard to miss on the best of days.
Elpida arrives in due time, of course. When she got the message, she had /already/ been drinking and had to spend the next couple hours hoping her enhanced constitution will help her sober up. It can only do so much, of course, but she’s here and a little headachey, if the droopy snakes and pinched bridge of the nose between thumb and forefinger — careful for the claws — is anything to go by. “Huh.”
Ardul doesn’t, as a general rule, drink. Well drink heavily. It comes from her time before arriving here on Rifts Earth and the responsibilities of the position she filled. Having received Hunters message, the blonde is just entering Veritas not too far behind the Gorgon, dressed in linen pants and shirt. Her blonde hair falls around her shoulders but there’s no hiding her bearing or the stern lines of her face.
“Elpida. Fancy seeing you here…” the winged woman hides a smile as she speaks “Have you seen Hunter? I’m supposed to meet him here…”
“He sent me the same message, actually. I don’t see him anywhere and I’m fairly sure I’d notice a wolf person. I’m not THAT blase about all of this yet.” She did flinch, thoiugh, when Ardul started speaking, given that she’s come in more or les behind her.
“about gave me a heart attack,” she grumbles.Before Elpida has a chance to elaborate further there’s a soft swish of long duster coat and the wolfen in question steps into the doorway behind them. “Ah there you both are. Sorry I’m late. Got caught with a contact. Come on, let’s get a table.”
Once a table is secured, wine ordered and the waiters suitably far away Hunter produces a datapad and sets it down.
“Spent most of the day talking to contacts about our ‘Kurile’. And… well do you want the good news first or the bad news?”
“So would I…” Notice Hunter that is. Ardul agrees good naturedly still hiding the smile. She’s had enough young soliders under her command with that look to know what it means.
Hearing the sound of the duster, she turns to look up at the Wolfen. Here on Rifts Earth, the winged woman is not the tallest one around. Not like at home. “You’re not late, Hunter. We’re early.” she says easily, letting him lead the way to the table and placing her own drink order.
“Kurile? Either will do, but I vote bad news first ….”
“And there he is,” says Elpida, catching sight of more quickly than she did Ardul on account of being /right there/.
“Yeah. Might as well get the bad news done first, though if one offers more context than the other..” She sounds slightly amused, though thre is a wince.“Alright.” Hunter sighs. It’s clearly not good news the way his ears flick and lay back a little. “The bad news is the trail leads to a place that none of us are going to want to go. Dogwood.”
Dogwood is… not a pleasant place to be a D-Bee. So long as you look more or less human it’s usually okay. And it’s not lethal to be clear, but D-Bees, especially obviously inhuman ones like Hunter, are treated like second class citizens at best and in the poorer parts of the Kingdom the yeomanry can be superstitious enough to be dangerous.
It isn’t common, but it’s definitely a concern.
A fairly big one.
Seeing Hunters ears flick back, Ardul reaches over without really thinking and scruffs them a little, wincing herself at his news. “Dogwood.” She says flatly, understanding his sigh and concern.
“I only know what you, and others, have told me.” she says, wings furled close to her back. “But from what you’ve said, it’s not a place I might wish to be…”
Or course, despite her wings, she’s human enough that she could move through there and avoid most suspicion and general bigotry.
“What’s the good news, then?” she asks, nodding to Elpida at her questions.
Elpida’s snakes hiss with alarm. Because, clearly, Elpida is feeling alarmed.
“Oh,” she offers. “Oh. Well. Uh. I’m told I wouldn’t be welcome there, and I can’t exactly hide the scales.” She rubs at her forearms absently, claws raking acros her greenness.“The good news is that the trail is quite solid. I’ve a fairly good notion of where she went. There’s a seaside village called ‘Klamath’ about thirty miles north of Dogwood City…” Which is about eighty miles from Vesper, so slightly over a hundred miles north of their present location. “… which is run by a Knightly family called the Garriots… My contacts say she was seen there, in the company of one of the family members no less, a day or so ago.”
Which presents it’s own problems, but they can get to that. “I’m largely in the same boat, Elpida. I won’t ever even remotely pass as human. But there you are. It’s our only lead and it’s fairly solid.”
“No, and neither can he hide his fur…” Ardul looks betwen the two at the table before settling on Hunter “In the company of a Knights family member?” That draws a frown as the winged woman considers the information. “The family is not so … conditioned against D-Bee’s then?” she asks. Kirule, for all they know is an elf and may have a similar set of issues to the three of them.
“We need to check the lead out. It’s our only one and she’s proven quite slippery before. None of us really pass for human but I’m the closest we have. Are you thinking something, Hunter?” She’s not worried about the distance – with wings she can fly otherwise there are ways of getting there.
“….yeaaaaah,” mumbles ELpida. “‘Closes’ we’ve got is a lady with wings. Boy, this is going to go /swimmingly/, I can tell.” e
Elpida rubs her eyes ith her knuckles and then adds, “But, yeah. I mean, I’m happy to help but maybe we should find people to help us out who DO look human? Or, you know, ARE human? That might be better,” she offers. “Otherwise, things could go more pear shaped than I like to consider.”
The wolfen trails off and takes a sip of wine. “I suppose we could always bring them a gift. The lower level nobility are always kind of hard up for resources. Of course I don’t have the cash to fund an expensive tech purchase and I doubt you two do either. We could always… make a trip into the Point, though. See if we can scrounge up something worthwhile. I’m open to other ideas if you have them.”
Without really knowing the relationship between Kirule and the Garriots, it’s difficult to tell and Ardul is quiet for a very long time, sipping her wine and looking between the other two, frowning slightly as Hunter speaks.
“The Gunwolf would be a statement of position and power.” she says thoughtfully. Not so unlike parking a gunboat in a harbour some centuries ago. “I like that thinking. But we need a carrot to go with the stick.”
The mention of Vanished Point has her frowning even more deeply “I know there’s Golden Age in the Point too, that could be valuable to the Dogwood types. It’s a reasonable carrot, if anything. I’m not keen to have any of us appear as ‘gifts’ … ” which is a possibility “particularly given we don’t know Kirules’ connection here.” beat “I can be charming, when needed, though.”
“Rrrrm,” says Elpida fter a long moment. “I’ll be honest. I’m not knowledgeable enough to really weigh in heavily on a strategy or another. I hate walking into something without having some idea of waht to expect, though I’m told money always solves a lot of problems, same as maybe dealing with any problems they might have as a way to earn their good graces… though given poltiics is oh so political, even that is fraught with potential complications. Euuuugh,” she groans.“Politics is political. Ingratiating yourself with one family in Dogwood may earn the emnity of another. That said, the Knights are often the most pragmatic of the nobles. They’re the ones who do the majority of the fighting and protecting. They get support from their superiors… but they can’t really afford to turn away resources. We may have to endure some… attitude but I think if we show up with a useful enough piece of tech, we’ll be able to deal. At least enough to find out if Kurile is still there…”
As for one of them being the gift, Hunter doesn’t like that idea and his face shows it. “If we’re agreed then, I’ll meet you all in Vanished Point tomorrow. We’ll try to dig something out of that demon blasted city worth taking to Dogwood… and we’ll have to dig something out withwhile for the Dragon to tax. No avoiding that…”
Elpida’s dislike of the whole situation is frankly well founded. There are plenty of good reasons not to like this. But if they’re going to keep doing this job for Rousseau… this is where the trail goes.
“We, all three are skilled enough that if the rumours of continued demon incursions are true, they’re unlikely to refuse us.” Which might mean they end up working there but at least they’ll get paid. “I’ll go speak with Rousseau tonight, if I can …” the blonde murmurs “See what new rumours there are about the Point.”
You never know. Something might show up. Never hurts to ask, right?
“Are you headed back to the Point tonight, or in the morning?” She’ll meet them their, either way.
“…well, okay” says Elpida. “IF that’s how it is, that’s how it is. I’m game for whatever it is you need from me.” It’s not that she doesn’t have Opinions… it’s just that they don’t matter and she’s relying on Ardul and Hunter to guide her in the right direction. Her snakes have opinions too. They rattle with annoyance.Hunter snorts in agreement with the Snakes. This is likely to be unpleasant and he hopes for Rousseau’s sake that it winds up being worth it. Otherwise, Dragon or no Dragon, the two are going to have //words.//
“I’ll see you tomorrow then. I’d say get some rest but there’s still time in the evening for that. I’m going to take dinner… but not here. They overcook their meat.” And with that the wolfen rises, gives the other two a wave and heads on out.
“Then I’ll see you in the morning…” Ardul smirks as the Wolfen heads out. Overcooks their meat indeed. “I’m going to head back to Grans then and catch the first ferry out. See you in the Point, Elpida.”
The blonde stands and looks at the snakes, nodding slowly “Can’t say I’m much of fun of the plan myself, but it’s all we have. Take care.” And with that her wings are the last things Elpida sees of her as she heads out the door.
“…hooogh,” says Elpida. “What’d I go and get myself into now?” Her face scrunches up. “Night. And stuff.”