31 Mar 1998. Zoltan works at the reopened Shiny Shoppe.
(Envoy) (City of Hands) (Necropolis) (Rephidim) (Sabaoth's Wrath) (Zoltan)
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(OOC) Tue Mar 31 1998 -->

Nicodemus' Shiny Shoppe
The 'shoppe' has seen better days, for certain. Once the finest shop in Rephidim catering to the tastes of Vartans (namely for all things shiny and pretty and preferably something that can be tied into one's tail) it is still evident that a fight has taken place here. While the sign still indicates the name of the store, the original proprietor is not to be seen.

The Shiny Shoppe will be a long time coming in returning to its original, modest 'grandeur'. The finely detailed windows are gone, replaced with boards or shutters for the time being.

The roof has been patched, the doors replaced, a few tables roughly repaired.

But after much trouble, Zoltan's efforts have been rewarded: The Shiny Shoppe is ready to open again for business. (Thank goodness even BROKEN shinies can still find some sale value among Vartans… )

A Savanite slave works in one corner of the shop at the ongoing task of reclaiming sections of the store that haven't been COMPLETELY cleaned up, and organizing bits and pieces found in the process.

Zoltan carefully sorts through a bin of 'on sale' shinies. Little bits of glass and brokwn chitin that he carefully sorts by color. He tries his best to resist the urge to pick out some of the prettier pieces all for himself.

With a resounding SLAM, the front door closes behind a spotted cub who bounces in, wearing an almost-clean Temple Scout uniform. Oddly, she has no badges on her sash – even beginning Scouts tend to earn at least one token badge fairly quickly. But then, as she bounces about, the glittering reflections give away the badges' location – they've all been bound in her tailfur, along with a beadwork of other small baubles and shiny junk.

The Vartan gingerly takes a seat behind the counter and busies himself with polishing some of the larger baubles that have gotten scuffed up and tarnished. "Welcome home, Pouncer." he scrawks as the little cub enters.

"I'M HOME!" shouts Pouncer, in case anyone didn't notice. "I'm home, I'm home, I'm hooooooooooooooome!"

Zoltan sets his bit of polishing aside and pats at his knee. "So tell father how many bugs you squished today."

Pouncer grins proudly, and bounces up onto Zoltan's proffered knee. She holds up three fingers. "THREE!" she squeals. Ever since Den Leader Danae discovered a way to tie in Pouncer's enjoyment of 'gishing' things, she's been catching on to counting fairly quickly.

With a jangling noise, the chimes ring as the door opens again, this time a bit more timidly, though the bird-like head that pokes in belongs to a creature much larger than Pouncer. The ruddy Vartan scrawks in his native tongue, "You open?"

"Yes. Just recently opened. Please come in and have a look around," Zoltan scrawks to the newcomer. He whispers in Pouncer's ear, "Go in back and get changed into you normal clothes and then play with Enos. He miss you today."

Pouncer looks curiously at the newcomer, but nods. "Okee!" she squeals, and bounces toward the back of the shop, reaching out to swat at several dangling shinies on cords as she passes, making them chime discordantly for a moment, then settle into a fairly rhythmic and slowly quieting jingle as they sway back and forth in her passage.

The reddish Vartan visitor, meanwhile, heads on in the rest of the way, poking around curiously, though he tends to jerk a bit, as if expecting that any shiny he inspects might, if he's not careful, leap up and bite at him.

After the cub vacates his knee, Zoltan pulls himself up to his hooves and leans casually against the counter. "Anything in particular you're looking for?" he scrawks to the other Vartan, raising an eyeridge curiously at his behavior.

The ruddy Vartan almost LEAPS when Zoltan speaks, his feathers threatening to stick out. "BUGS!" he shouts. Yes, this one's jumpy. With an embarrassed look, the Vartan turns about and scrawks, "Sorry. I'm on edge since … "

Star peeks up over a table, giving the visitor an alarmed look … but then her eyes and ears duck down again, her swishing tail that protrudes around the corner being the only visible sign of her location from the main area of the shop.

Zoltan switches back to Rephidim standard for a moment. "Star… do we gots any tea or broth in backs? I think our new customer could use relaxing drink." he then swictes back to the Vartan tongue. "Pardom me for asking, but are you from Himar? I've heard a lot of our people have come here since… the attack." He pauses for a moment and then chuckles to himself. "Oh, pinfeathers! Pardon my manners, I'm Zoltan. Zoltan Cambio."

Star nods (as evidenced by her ears poking over the table edge) and then slinks off to prepare some drink for the visitor.

The ruddy Vartan nods. "Good to meet you. I am Koro Kreeyah, of Nightfall Canyon Clan." He smiles, but it looks too nervous to be totally genuine.

"A pleasure meeting you." Zoltan answers, swishing his tail and causing the little trinkets braided in the hairs of it to clatter and jingle softly. "So, are you new to Rephidim?"

Koro nods. "Nightfall Canyon was once in Himar. Now it is no more. All but the hatchlings and the most venerable elders were in the air. It was the day of First Flight for two nestlings. A great joy for our clan. But then the world fell apart." Koro stares at a cracked glass orb sitting on a shelf. "We flew. There was nothing else to do."

"Those who turned back … are with us no longer," Koro adds, still staring.

Star returns from the back room with a tray, and sets it down on a nearby table, pouring out two cups from a steaming kettle, then setting the kettle back down and standing off to one side, ready to serve.

"I'm sorry. I've never been to Himar myself, I wish I could have seen it all. My family was of Mountain Shadow tribe, but I was hatched here in Rephidim." The blackfeathered Vartan looks at the orb as well. "I fought with Rephidim on the Intimidator… we did everything we could to stop the Babelites. It just wasn't enough, they were out for blood I think… and didn't care whose blood was shed that day."

Zoltan smiles at Star and nods his head approvingly. He offers the other Vartan a cup of the tea. "Here, my slave makes very good tea… it's very soothing I've found."

Koro snaps out of his gaze at the orb. "The Babelites," he repeats. "Yes, we came across one of them … in one of those great insects. It was badly wounded, but attempted to fight us. We lost one of our warriors, but brought it down … or else it was so wounded that it would have fallen anyway. Inside the head of the monster was a Babelite! Only a few of us understood the Rephidim tongue, having dealings with the city… "

"They're insane," Koro scrawks. "They're maddened by blood."

Zoltan nods his head. "Have you and your people found work in Rephidim? I know of a few places, and could use a few extra pairs of talons here to get the shoppe back into shape. My master and I were attacked by the squeakers and some of their hierlings here and we are still putting the pieces back together."

Koro nods. "Many of us have found work in the docks and on the airships. Many ships are hurting for crew, for some of the poisons and insects slew men but left ships intact. But I … " He lifts up his claws, looking at them. They tremble visibly. "I'm not strong enough for that anymore."

"Were you wounded during the attack?" Zoltan scrawks questioningly.

"The bug … I was stung. … I am the warrior who was lost. I can no longer fly," Koro scrawks, his eyes betraying the understatement.

At last, the ruddy Vartan distracts himself by sipping at the tea. "… Very good," he murmurs between sips.

The words leave a heavy feeling in Zoltan's stomach. "Have you… have you seen a healer? Perhaps you can be cured?"

The crippled Vartan shakes his head. "No. Not without the strongest of life magicks. And even if I could afford that, there is no guarantee I would survive the treatment."

Glancing towards the curtained room in the back, the black Vartan ponders. "Are you… good with children?"

Koro's gaze drops. "Once, I taught the fledglings. I taught how to catch the updrafts, the tell-tale signs of getting too close to a Forbidden Zone … "

Zoltan raises his head and makes a sharp whistling noise. Its become his standard "Hey kids!" noise to summon the two cubs.

With echoing scrawks, the two spotted cubs come charging out from the back room. Enos is yowling, putting his paw over his mouth again and again, making a "wahwahwahwahwah" sound for no apparently reason other than that it sounds 'cool', while Pouncer dashes after him, making a good act at not being able to catch up with him, but just keeping a pace behind.

"I don't need a flier for my children. Just someone with a gentle hand… it's hard to watch them and mind the shop at the same time, especially with the master sick." the black hippogryph scrawks with a grin.

Koro recovers quickly from the shock of the charging cubs, and stoops over. "Hello, fledglings!" he scrawks, reaching out and patting the 'wahwahwah'-ing Enos on the head.

Koro looks to Zoltan. "I would be pleased to have a job here. I am most surprised! I originally came here on a different quest entirely."

Zoltan smiles. "I try to help a brother in need when I can… someone helped me long ago afterall and it made all the difference in my life." He folds his arms across the countertop. "Oh yes… were you shopping for something specific? I'm apparently not as good of a salesman as my master… "

Koro scrawks, "I am not sure. It is more of what I have and not knowing what to do with it. Since you are a trader in Rephidim City, maybe you would know more of shiny things like this… " He reaches to a pendant hanging at his chest, and holds it up. It's an ivory piece, covered with many layers of a glossy shellac such that it seems to almost have a halo of translucent material about it. The symbol is very abstract, looking something like two stylized wings, but with nothing attached to the middle. "This is an heirloom handed down through my family, said to have been made at the dawn of time itself."

Pouncer points at the pendant and observes, "Shiny!"

The black Vartan's violet eyes squint as he studies the pendant. He holds out his hands, "May I?"

The ruddy Vartan removes the pendant and cord from around his neck and hands it over. Alas, closer examination does not reveal anything truly familar. Almost. Something seems FAINTLY familiar … like something the Vartan saw only briefly. But before Zoltan has long to mull over this, Koro digs out a large broken piece of shell from his pack. A few stubborn green stringy bits stick to it, and stretch, then snap as the piece is pulled away from its container. It's a very large piece of bug carapace. And it has a symbol on it. The symbol resembles a couple of stylized wings …

"Was that marked upon the plaguebringer? Hrr… I mean the big bug?" Zoltan compares the two images.

The images match. There's little doubt about that. While the emblems are stylized, they are not simple enough that mere coincidence is likely to account for it. Koro nods. "It was from the head of the great insect."

Zoltan hands the pendant back. "The image looks familiar, but I can't quite place it. I won't ask you to allow me to take away such an heirloom, but could I perhaps keep the piece of shell? Perhaps someone at the Temple will recognise the image, or maybe an Eee captain I know. Odd… I would think that the Sabaoth would mark his death machines with his great eye symbol."

Koro nods and hands over the shell. "You may have it. There are many more littered over the Savan." He puts the pendant back around his neck. "And I have seen the eye-symbol of which you speak. It looks nothing like this emblem."

Twirling the piece of shell in his hand, the black hippogryph ponders. "What else can you tell me about the pendant? Anything might help."

Koro says, "It was worn by an ancestor of mine, so far back that his name has been lost, and the number of generations forgotten. Mighty was he, and among many heroes as well, part of a great army that flew down from a great city in the sky, even higher than Rephidim. This pendant – this symbol – is the emblem of this great army." Koro most certainly does not smile.

The door opens again. This time, a couple of dock-worker Jupanis walk in. Their patched clothes look as if they are freshly pressed, and spotlessly clean. One of them walks over and looks at the tea-kettle, although it does not sport a price tag.

Zoltan pockets the piece of shell, trying to smear away some of the stringy bits of goo that still cling to it. "I will look into it. I have been away from home for too long if the only hero I know of is Shokar. Perhaps while you're here you can tell me about what home was like." His eyes fall upon the newcomers and he lapses back into standard, "Welcome to Shiny Shoppe. May I helps you find something shiny?"

Koro nods, and walks about, suddenly finding interest elsewhere in the shop … with Pouncer and Enos padding after him, eager to show him their braided tails. Koro obliges, looking amused, as the two wolves regard Zoltan. One of them says in a low tone, "Yes. I like Creens. Perhaps we could walk over somewhere quiet and I could tell you more about them."

The Vartan's feathers bristle a bit. Part of him is still quite edgy from the attack that wasn't all that long ago. "Where you suggest we walks?" he scrawks softly, glancing over at Star.

Star is still obediently standing beside the kettle, ready to pour more cups at a glance.

"Over here would suffice," one of the wolves says in a decidedly non-dock-workerish accent, indicating a corner of the shop in plain sight, but a little further out of earshot away from the cubs and the other Vartan.

"Alrights," Zoltan murmurs. "But nothing funny. The last people who came here and threatened my family are on dark side of Procession now." He slowly moves out from behind the counter and walks over to the indicated spot. His eyes never leave the two wolves.

Jupani Number One says, once he has moved around a display case, "We have heard about the Creen-ship you were brought to Rephidim on. And we have put together many other pieces to the puzzle." He asks no questions, but there's a questioning look in his eyes.

"And you thinks I can gives you few more pieces?" the black Vartan scrawks, leaning against the wall. "Who is 'we', you two?"

The Jupani frowns and doesn't directly answer. "We received a message purportedly from the Twelve Elect of the City of Hands. There is to be a Priest-King crowned. And it appears that the rulers of every major power on Sinai are invited."

Jupani Number Two steps in. "One of those 'major powers' is Paradys, the only known noble of which would be yourself."

"Yes." Zoltan answers, picking at the feathers on his shoulder. "Listen… I no a bird of delicasy or subliety. If you gots a question asks it… otherwise I just going to stand here and nod or shake head at you all evenings."

Jupani Number Two looks as if he's about to take offense at this, but Number One holds up his hand. "All right, then. Do you know anything about this Priest-King business? Is it all a big joke, or what?"

A clump of grayish down drifts to the floor as Zoltan continues preening himself. "Yes, I do know abouts Priest-King. And no, it no joke. Rephidim would be great smoldering mess were it not for them."

Jupani Number Two looks to the first, and mutters, "We've only got a few min – " The door opens, the chimes jangling.

A Savanite walks into the store, bundled up in Himaatian wrappings, and looking furtively about the store.

Zoltan glances at the door and the new arrival. "Star, could you see to thats for me? I be there in a minute."

Star bows and walks up to the new Savanite, and wiggles her hands at the visitor in greeting.

Jupani Number One says, "I think you've answered our questions. Good day, Baron." He bows his head in farewell, and Number Two echoes the gesture.

"Good day." Zoltan replies, bowing his head in return.

The two wolves file out of the store, not having found any shinies to buy. Meanwhile, the two Savanites exchange greetings … and a rolled parchment. The Himaatian slave turns away, leaving Star holding a scroll sealed with a dab of wax imprinted with a silhouette of a hand forming the sign that means 'Star'.

Curious, Zoltan watches the Savanite leave and then looks at the scroll in Star's hands. "What he say?"

Star hands the scroll over to Zoltan and signs, "For you."

The black hippogryph carefully slices the seal open with a talon and then unrolls the parchment.

The parchment is addressed to Baron Zoltan Cambio of Mountain Shadow Tribe, Hero of Paradys, Redeemer of Shadows, Most Trusted Friend of Third-Vision … and various other honorary titles. At last, it gets to the meat of the subject, which is a formal invitation to the coronation of the Priest-King of the Savanite Nation in the City of Hands on an upcoming date…

The border of the parchment glitters in a knotwork pattern that seems to writhe and shift colors faintly – a blatant if minor dweomer of magic attached to the parchment by unknown means.

Zoltan smiles and chuckles at all the titles. "You think I was a Naga by all different names." He grins at Star, "Looks like we taking a trip… how you feel abouts getting pretty new dress soon?" Then, remembering his other visitor the Vartan quickly hands the parchment over to the Savanite to read for herself. "Oh Koro? How you doing with kids? And you thinks you be any good at minding shoppe?"

Star's ears wiggle as she looks at the scroll.

Koro looks up. "Certainly! A most impressive collection you have!" he scrawks, looking up from a mostly-intact display case the cubs have led him toward, containing a number of highly polished ivory carvings of various land-dwelling creatures.

The black Vartan kneels down to his cubs' level. "You likes Mister Kreeyah? What you think if he come and visits you more often?"

The cubs answer in a chorus, "YEAH!"

Koro smiles. "I was entertaining them with tales of the strange lands I found while we were leaving Himar." There is a pained mixture to his smile, but a smile nonetheless.

"The girl is Pouncer… if you see a bug in the shoppe just tell her, she likes to squish them. Just make sure the bug isn't on a valuable shiny at the time." Zoltan winks. "The younger boy is Enos. Don't let his youth fool you, he's a thinker… just sometimes his thinking comes out as weird ideas or strange ways of doing things." He scruffles both of the cub's heads. "They're from Paradys, which I have been proclaimed Baron of for some reason."

Koro nods. "Paradys! So it's true?" His eyes widen in wonder.

"Yes. But not like the stories say. I sought after Shokar's legacy… I even read his logbook and slept in his bed. His island on the other hand left much to be desired… but there was still treasure there." The black bird ruffles the two children's heads again. "Of a different sort."

Pouncer giggles, while Enos just mews happily.

The door-chimes jingle once more. A white-winged creature of uncertain ancestry pokes her head into the Shoppe and looks around timidly.

"Whoop! Another customer. I'll leave you to your work, Koro." Zoltan pulls himself back up to his feet. "Welcome to the Shiny Shoppe. I be out in a moment."

Envoy steps further into the store, and waits quietly near the door.

The larger Vartan comes out from behind the shelf and moves to take his place behind the counter. The smile on his face quickly drains away as he catches sight who the new arrival is. "Can I helps you?" he scrawks… his tone doesn't sound very helpful.

Envoy looks down at her feet. "Hello Zoltan… I wanted to apologize for my behaviour the last time I visited… "

"And I also have some more information you might want to know about," the Aeolun adds, looking back up hopefully.

Zoltan nods his head. "I was going to ask you for apology if I ever sees you again. I hope we no have repeat of what happen last time here again." He idly adjusts a string of beads hanging from the celing.

The Vartan sighs. "Maybe I should start selling information here. It seem more people wants it than they want shinies anymore."

Envoy steps towards the counter, and says, "I'm not here to ask you for anything, Zoltan… "

"Do you remember what I told you last time, about the vision I had while under Isstan's spell?" the Exile asks.

Zoltan sits down and twiddles with some shiny thread that he was stringing multicolored beads onto. "Yes. And keep you voice down… there other Vartans in here and magictalk make them nervous." He pulls up the chair Nicodemus usually sits in while resting beuind the counter and motions for Envoy to sit. "I gots some tea if you wants it… it a bit cold but still alrights."

Envoy sits down and nods, "Yes thank you, I'd like some tea… "

The black bird refills his own cup full of the lukewarm liquid and pours a second for the Aeolun. "Anyhow. What abouts you dream?" He reaches up and scratches at the back of his neck.

Star bows her head and shuffles away.

Envoy sips her tea, and begins, "Well… the Temple and the Sphere of Mind of the College Esoterica wanted to know more about the circumstances of Isstan's death. They aranged for the ritual to be reenacted, by using a Spirit Mage to conjure up Isstan's ghost… "

Envoy says, "They brought me along as well to be in the recreation. Since I'd just been mauled by a Jupani, a Technopriest healer was also along to watch over me."

Zoltan nods his head, wincing a bit at the mention of being mauled.

"After calling up Isstan's ghost, Dean Malthus… acted as host or surrogate or something." Envoy has another sip of tea before continuing. "The ritual was recreated, only it went a bit differently. Maybe because it was on the surface, but the vision came sooner, and kept repeating. Then it changed… the figure of the Khatta actually grabbed me this time."

Envoy says, "At the same moment, or close to it, a bunch of spirit creatures called bokoru appeared and started attacking the other people in the room. I didn't see this, because I was still in the trance, being held by that Khatta."

"Did she say anythings to you?" the Vartan scrawks. His tea forgotten.

Looking down into her cup of tea, Envoy shakes her head. "Nothing. But then another creature appeared, a Naga demon called a Chiga. It spoke, and while nobody could tell me exactly what it said, they all agreed that it identified me by name and new I was an Exile. While the bokoru kept the other people busy, it wrapped its tail around me, and then something that was supposed to be impossible happened."

Zoltan nods his head again, drumming his talons on the counter anxiously.

Envoy looks up from her cup to meet Zoltan's eyes. "According to Nagai lore, a Chigai can only be harmed by special weapons made of thistlebark. While everyone else was trying to create a warding circle, the Technopriest launched herself at the Chiga… and it recoiled. It fled from her, instead of carrying me off or breaking the spell or whatever it was supposed to do."

Envoy says, "Once they dragged Dean Malthus into the warding circle, the spell broke and I woke up in time to see the last of the bokoru creatures dealt with."

"Naga lore no all that reliable… you should know that after what Naga lore say about City of Hands." Zoltan replies. "All this very interesting… but I no sure how it can helps me."

"During the debriefing afterwards, the Technopriest confessed some interesting dreams and what might have been memories of her infancy," Envoy says. "Her name is Buran. She's a spotted Khatta-Vartan mix. The Nagai came up with some silly rationalization of things as a curse Isstan picked up in the City of Hands."

Envoy says, "As for how it can help you… I don't know what you do about this entity. I saw it take over Pouncer that one time, so I know it can possess people, but I think it has certain limitations."

Envoy says, "All I know for sure is that you consider it an enemy."

The Vartan's ears flatten back. "Envoy… I believe you sincere abouts what you telling me. But I no sure what to think right now. Pouncer was fine and the monster seemed to be dead until you walk into shoppe. For all I know you led her to me, even if you no do it on purpose."

Envoy blinks.

Envoy says, "I don't think so. I'm sure this thing wanted to take over my body, but it only seemed to notice me when there was a Mind Mage linked to me. If it wanted me bad enough to send a demon to fetch me, why wouldn't it have tried before or since?"

Envoy says, "I think it might only be able to take over people that can work magic. The only way to test that is to find out if Pouncer has magical potential though."

Zoltan shrugs. "I no a mage… I know nothings about magic or how it work or anything." His ears flatten even more. "All I wants for Pouncer is for her to have happy and normal life. I think she have enough of magic users already to last her lifetime."

Envoy nods, not really having expected Zoltan to have had Pouncer tested. "What should I do if it tries to take me over again?"

"I don't know." he replies. "All I know about this thing is what I picked up from seeing play many months ago and ramblings from scared old man. I was told that there a certain type of weapon that can destroy her… I thought it was weapon that was used to destroy Himar… but if that the case then it gone for good. I just plan to learn as much as I can and try to be ready when time comes… even if I have to face monster and her army with nothing but bare hands."

Envoy blinks, "I see. Does this thing want to live forever, or is it looking for something else?"

Zoltan frowns. "I don't know. I think all she want is to scare people… and I no sure if it even alive. Not how you and I is alive at least."

Envoy goes quiet for a few moments, then sets her empty tea cup on the table. "You've seen how fast I can heal, Zoltan. The only way to really make sure I'm dead is to cut off my head. Just so you know. Just in case."

"Don't talk likes that! Is crazy talk." the Vartan continues drumming his talons on the table. "I been trying to find answers from College Esoterica library and anyplace else I can looks and came up with nothing. I keep looking though. As for you gettings posessed, I think she can only do it for short period of time… and it also easily broken."

Envoy blinks, "It is? That's good to know. I think you should hear Buran's stories, too. They might not mean anything, but you might see things in them that I don't."

Zoltan shrugs. "I no sure abouts anything. If her followers anything like what I saw on Paradys they all savages… and savanges no normally write down they history or secrets and leave them in handy place for searching Vartan to find. I hear that they a following here in Rephidim, but I no found them yet either."

Envoy asks, "Savages?"

Remembering that Zoltan promised not to talk about Paradys, Envoy quickly adds, "Nevermind. I guess I don't need to worry about being carried off by demons for some dark ritual to steal my soul then?"

"Cannibals. They kill each other and wear they skins. I saw them when they tried to raise monster somehow and they made most horrible noises. Dancing and gorging theyselves on meat from… brr… I no want to know where it come from." Zoltan glances up from the countertop and goes back to fumbling with the beads and string. "I wish I could tell you what to expect, Envoy. But after almost a year of looking for answers I only know little more not than what I did when I leave Paradys… and I no sure how much of it true and how much us made up stories."

Envoy stands up and nods. "Alright… I just wanted to make sure you knew what I'd seen. And please, if you have time, try to see Buran. Even if she can't help you, you might be able to help her." She glances towards the back room, and whispers, "The year is almost up. Will you be taking Jezebel back to the City soon?"

A pretty young Skeek walks into the shop with a book under one arm, chimes on the door jingling. She looks about slightly nervously, her golden hair covered by the hood of a cloak; the tips of her ears poke out from where they have been folded over.

"She already go-" Zoltan closes his beak and rises from his seat to greet the visitor. "Welcome to the Shiny shoppe, is anything I can help you with?"

Envoy quickly changes demeanor when the Skeek comes in, looking not at all secretive. Maybe she really should go into acting.

"Yes," the small Skeek lady says in a timid little voice. "I have something to sell." She glances at the strange looking Aeolun.

Zoltan leans against the counter, smiling a bit. "What mights that be?"

As if an afterthought, the little Skeek pulls back the hood to let her mousey ears perk up. She barely measures up to the counter, and the book she's carrying must weigh a lot judging by her leaning. "Um. It's secret," she whispers.

"A secret. That something new… " the Vartan chuckles to himself and rises up from his seat. He motions to a back portion of the Shoppe. "How expensive a secret?"

Envoy touches the amber nugget at her throat, held in its new necklace, and smiles to Zoltan, "Thank you again, Zoltan. Please let me know if you acquire anymore large pieces of amber, won't you?" Inwardly, she wonders how Jezebel could have already left, when she just saw her working in the Shoppe… although if that Savanite was Jezebel, what happened to her scars? She ponders this as she heads for the door.

"Goodbye, Envoy. And I will. Clear skies," he scrawks and then focuses his attention back upon the mouse.

The Skeek says in a small voice, "Very!" She tries to heft the paper-wrapped book onto the counter, but winds up holding it up to Zoltan so he can put it on the top. Her blue-eyed gaze follows Envoy as the Aeolun exits.

Zoltan hefts up the book and slowly unwraps it. "How much is 'Very'?"

The book, unwrapped, turns out to be wood-bound, some sort of dense rock-like material bound in heavy brass. The case alone would be worth a few coppers. A symbol has been embossed onto the front of the black book, a vertical bar with two horizontal cross bars, the upper one slightly wider than the lower bar. The Skeek holds a hand on Zoltan's arm to keep him from fully unwrapping it until the chimes on the door sound, indicating Envoy's departure.

Once the crystals stop ringing however, her manner changes considerably as she slings herself up onto the top of the counter to sit over the edge. "Several golds expensive, for the Friend,she says in a very quiet voice. "But for you, it's yours. You wanted to know about a death goddess. This is one of the few relevant texts his aides could find… The Sylvanian Heresy."

The Vartan's grip on the book tightens. "Tell the Friend he gots my upmost thanks. I just about given up searching."

The Skeek nods. "You're most welcome, I'm sure. He sends you his regards, and bids me to say… " She pauses, recalling the formal tones of her master.

Zoltan rewraps the book, intent on burying his beak in it as soon as the Skeek leaves.

"'There is much to be gained from common interests between good friends,'" the Skeek says, her voice catching her master's intonation. "For now, let this serve as a token of amity. And perhaps it may be needed… My sources continue to search out more clues, the Sylvanian Heresy proving frustratingly incomplete, but I have heard rumors and reports that there is an entity that may be connected to the Death Goddess of whom you wish to know, here on this very island. When I know more, I will send an agent to you again. Yours truly, Faraon the Friend."

The Skeek resumes her usual voice and then says, "Is there anything you want me to take back, Baron?"

"I can only offer my thanks. And the promise that I will do everything in my power to repay these most generous favors." Zoltan replies, hugging the book to his chest. "And that my new gardener is also proving very helpful. If the Friend ever need me for anything, I be here and ready."

The Skeek smiles. "Again, you're most welcome, Baron." She curtseys to the Vartan, then hops from the counter. "Fare well, and good luck to you."

Chimes ring as the door opens and closes again… And is followed by a merciful silence, after the long chain of arrivals.

Zoltan watches the Skreek leave and then quietly moves behind the counter. He sets his jaw, opens the tome and begins reading…

---

GMed by Greywolf

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Today is 11 days after Reckoning Day, Year 24 of the Reign of Archelaus the First (6123)