In love and war...

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Sv: In love and war...

Inlägg  Byakko i mån jul 14, 2014 7:19 pm

When Eve entered the kitchen she had only closed the door behind her when Cook poked her head out from a side room. It was impossible to be in the kitchen without her knowledge.
Cook just gave Eve a sad look and started a fire with the banked coal to heat water and rummaged around in the cold box until she found a bit of cold, raw beef she handed to Eve.
Eve didn't have the heart to deny the old, mute lady and just pressed the cold meat against her cheek with a sigh. It smelled of copper. Ice was a luxury that wasn't wasted on a bruised face.

Eve sat back in a chair and watched Cook from the corner of her eye. It didn't take long before she had a big cup of tea, chunks of dark bread and a litte bown of olive oil. Eve smiled and winced at the pain before she gave Cook a grateful look.
Olive oil was an expensive an rare treat. It cost alot to transport from the Critian islands and there was nothing better than that, to dip bread in.
She dug in, surprised at how hungry she was.

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Inlägg  Foxy i mån jul 14, 2014 7:31 pm

He walked silently down the empty corridor, none of the other inhabitants of the mansion were to be seen which was a relief. Most of the assassins were not very friendly and nosy at that, exactly how Harkin wanted it. It didn't take long for him to reach the kitchen and he then opened the door without hesitating. He found that there already were people inside. Cook per usual but also Eve. His eyes fell on her face or rather to the raw piece of meat that she had pressed against her cheek. He furrowed his brows and a flash of concern and anger flashed in his eyes.
"What happened?" he wondered and went over to her by the table to have a closer look. Cook gave him a nervous glance and he noticed that her eyes darted towards the little cup with olive oil that was set for Eve on the table and then back to him.
"It's okay.." he told her, assuring her that he wouldn't tell anybody about it. She nodded her head appearing to relax a bit and the hustled to get something to eat for him aswell. Renn turned his eyes toward Eve again.

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Inlägg  Byakko i mån jul 14, 2014 7:48 pm

Eve looked up when Renn walked in and cursed silently. Just what she needed: a nosy male. Her usual reaction would have been suspicion, a snide comment or a general "piss off", but she was so tired.
She only looked away and mumbled: "Walked into a door. What do you think?"
She sipped her tea and tried to figure out if his concern was real or he was just teasing her or looking for some weakness her could later exploit. She wanted to trust him, they had done so many assignment together, but her training had been thorough.
To make his point Harkin had once sent her on an assignment, had her set up and tortured to then he had visited her in her cell and remind her that this is what happens when you trust. And then he had left to let her be tortured for another day.

Eve shook her head to rid herself of dark memories and carefully chewed some bread that had soaked in the oil. It hurt to chew and she guessed her face would be blue green for a week. Curse Harkin! She gripped her cup so hard it cracked, snapping her out of the rage. The cup was stll whole but a crack ran through it now.

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Inlägg  Foxy i mån jul 14, 2014 8:08 pm

He didn't answer on her comment about the door he just furrowed his brows deeper. It was clear that she wouldn't talk to him about it so he didn't ask again. She didn't trust him, he knew that. They learned not to trust eachother but somehow the knowledge that she didn't trust him strung a bit. Yet he had to ask himself; Did he trust her? He probably shouldn't and wouldn't put himself in that situation. If Harkin found out that some of his assassins were getting closer to one another he would either find a way to pitch them against eachother or punish them in some other saddistic way.

Cook came by with another piece of bread with some dried meat but no olive oil for him but he didn't mind. He glanced at Eve when he heard the cup cracking. Something had her riled up. If he had had to guess it was probably Harkin. Was Harkin the one that had struck her? It was not impossible. Who else would she have met between now and when he had left her at the party. The carrier could have been robbed but then she would had most likely killed the robbers and gotten blood on her and he didn't see any on her. And that some of the other assassins would dare to strike her was not likely.

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Inlägg  Byakko i mån jul 14, 2014 8:31 pm

Eve cleared her throat and removed the meat from her face. She grimaced and dried the blood off with a napkin. The skin was already mottled blue and purple.
She made sure not to look at Renn, she was afraid to see derision, or worse, pity.
"In three days Higgs is supposed to leave town for a couple of days. We'll break in and search his study. I'm not sure about how well guarded the house is so I'll stake it out until then."
She drank the last of her tea and put the remaining oil soaked bread pieces in a napkin before rising. She still wore the blue gown even though it was rumpled from her tumble on Harkin's carpet.
She gave Cook a wave before going to the door.
"I'll so you tomorrow." She said it softly, silently, without looking at him. Then she swept through the door and hurried down the corridor, heading for her room.

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Inlägg  Foxy i mån jul 14, 2014 11:51 pm

Renn watched her in silence. The spreading discoloration across her cheek made him feel a twinge of anger at who ever had had the nerve to struck her.
"Sounds like a plan." he answered in a low husky voice. When she drank the remainder of the thé and grabbed the rest of the oil soaked bread he just followed her with his gaze without saying anything.
"See you tomorrow" he nodded and looked after her as she swept through the door. Renn sat still for a moment watching the door but then snapped out of it and focused his attention on the plate with bread and dried meat that stood in front of him. Somehow he wasn't hungry anymore but he forced himself to eat what Cook had served him. He had a hard time not thinking about Eve. He hoped that she was okay.
When he was done he thanked Cook and headed back to his quarters.

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Inlägg  Foxy i ons jul 16, 2014 11:20 am

Eve just got a few hours of sleep before she left the mansion in the early hours of dawn. She made her way over the rooftops, agile and silent. She was dressed for sneaking in a dark linen shirt and trousers. In the pack she carried she had a warmer cloak and some food to last her through the day.
She found a good spot overlooking the front yard of Higgs' mansion and made herself comfortable as she started her vigil. She noten any and all who came and went, which at this time of day wasn't many.
She sighed quietly and bit into an apple, giving her surroundings a cautionary glance.

A small group of cats called this roof a home and it seemed one of the females had a litter of kittens. They fumbled around, unsteady on their short legs. The adults were cautious of Eve but the kittens were curious and sneaked as close as they dared to sniff the edge of her shirt.



Renn sat up in bed and rubbed his face to wake up faster. One would think that they slept easily in the mansion but that was not the case for Renn. Sleeping in a house filled with assassins made him even more cautious to sounds during the night and therefor woke up more than once during his sleep. He stretched and yawned. The light outside told him that the sun was almost above the horizon now, Eve had probably already went out to scout Higg's mansion.

He got up, got clothed, got something to eat from the kitchen and then headed outside. He didn't wear any partical clothing today, just fine clothes enough that he would blend in well with the market people in the upper districts. Today he didn't bring a horse but instead traveled by foot. He wondered how many of the upper distict people knew that they were practically neighbours with an building full of trained killers.

The streets were already starting to fill with people vene though it was early in the morning. The bakers had already been up for hours, baking their bread and was know filling the trays that would be sold off during the morning. Renn fashioned a glanced up towards the roof, imagening that Eve would have taken that roate.

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Inlägg  Foxy i fre jul 18, 2014 11:39 am

Scouting was, in Eve's opinion, lethally boring. She sat leaning against a chimney, three kittens balled up in her lap. She stroked their fur absentmindedly as she kept watching the house.
She perked up slightly when the front door opened but it was only a house servant, probably going to the market för supplies. The house had only one guard on duty, standing beside the door to the kitchen at the back of the building. There might ofcourse be more guards inside but Eve doubted it. Maybe one at most, patrolling at night.
She kept her boring vigil until two servant girls exited from the kitchen to hang laundry in the garden. Their giggling conversation could be heard even where she was sitting.

Eve crept closer to the edge of the roof, spilling the kittens from her lap as she did so.
The girls spoke about a play that was showing at the theatre that very evening and how wonderful it would have been to attend. When Eve heard they saying that the Duke would take his wife to the play, she smiled triumphantly. Maybe she wouldn't have to wait three more night after all.


Renn soon was in the vicinity of Higg's mansion. It was harder to blend in with a crowd here since it weren't as many people traveling these streets but since his clothes weren't too common he didn't seem out of place in this district. He could hear the giggling servant girls and listened to there chatter from a distance. The mansion would thus be empty this night. He wondered if Eve had heard that and looked up toward the roof. He narrowed his eyes as he thought he saw a shadow near by the edge of one of the roof edges but wasn't sure if it was a person or a shadow cast by one of the chimneys.

He kept close to one of the nearby houses and watched the mansion for a brief moment before he moved on up the street. He took the opportunity to scout the structure of the building as he passed by it. Where all the windows and doors were placed.

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Inlägg  Byakko i sön jun 21, 2015 6:23 pm

The day passed slowly as Eve kept her vigil. The sun was setting when the baron exited through the front door, his wife trailing after him together with a lady-in-waiting.
As they got into their carriage Eve stood up and stretched the kinks from her back with a silent moan. She stashed her cloak in the nook between two chimeys before she stealthily climbed down a wall into a nearby alley.
She brefly wondered where Renn were. She thought she had seen him in the morning crowd and assumed he had been watching from somewhere else. If he hadn't forgotten about their assignment?

Eve silently made her way toward the mansion and climbed the wall surrounding it without any trouble. She dropped down into a pefectly manicured garden and crouched in the long shadow of a tree.
She was just about to start moving when a low growl froze her in place. A huge, dark dog had crept up on her and now stod between her and her intended route.
She very carefully reached into her pocket but had to bite her lip to avoid cursing loud like a sailor. She had forgotten the sausage on the roof.
"Easy there doggy..."
Eve pressed herself back against the wall and reached for the poniard in her boot, but the movement made the dog growl louder and advance a step. Shit! She'd rather not kill the poor thing.

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Inlägg  Foxy i sön jun 21, 2015 7:09 pm

Renn kept walking for a while, keeping near to the mansion but not close enough for his pressence to seem suspicious. Just a man out for a walk. He knew that Eve would be somewhere where she could keep a close eye on the building so he kept from showing too much interest in it. After about an hour he found a good spot that would keep him out of sight but still give him a view of the mansion. Time passed and not much interesting happened. A couple of servants came and went. He noted one servant girl airing bedsheets out one of the second story windows and then leaving the window open when she came back to retrieve the cloth.

He yawned and stretched. Renn had no idea how much time had passed but the sun was setting. He hated these kind of jobs where all you did was standing around waiting. Nothing exciting, just trying to not fall asleep from boredom. A relieved sigh left him as he noted that the baron was finally leaving the mansion, followed by two women. He slipped down a narrow path inbetween two buildings and then looked around before he crept up next to the surrounding wall and heaved himself up on top of it. Shadows from a tree gave him cover as he lowered himself down into the yard.

When all remained quiet and nothing moved he started to walk closer to the building. He was just wondering where Eve was when he heard a low rumbling noise coming from somewhere around the corner of the house. He stopped in his tracks and listened intently to what he thought was a dog growling. It didn't seem to be growling at him so he quietly started to move in the sounds direction to scout out what had the animal upset. Peeking around the corner he noted a small form pressing itself against the garden wall with a big dog intimidatingly standing in front of it. Eve. Renn glanced around but noone in the household seemed to have noticed anything. He rather not kill the animal since it would leave a clue to the people in the house, that they had had company.

He rumaged through his pockets and found a piece of dried meat that he hadn't eaten. He crouched down and reached his hand out, palm up with the meat displayed in the center and softly let out a low whistle. The dog perked up at this and turned its head away from Eve. As it layed its eyes on Renn it growled and took a few jump steps in his direction but then stopped cautiously.

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Inlägg  Byakko i sön jun 21, 2015 7:39 pm

Eve was seriously considering throwing a dagger at the dog when the whistle made her flinch. She half expected the dog to throw itself at her but when it turned around she recognized Renn's figure and exhaled slowly.
As soon as she was sure that the dog was no longer fixated in her she grinned at Renn and scampered closer to the main building.
She easily and quietly climbed the wall of the building to stop and perch at a balcony. The room inside was dark and still so she pulled a small leather-bound bundle from inside her tunic.
She had made all the lock-picks herself and she carefully extracted two thin pins which she even more carefully inserted into the delicate lock on the balcony door.
It only took a second before it snapped opene and Eve grinned widely as she cracked the door open and crept inside the dark room.

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Inlägg  Foxy i sön jun 21, 2015 10:18 pm

Renn gave Eve half of a smile as she grinned at him and dissappeared up to the balcony. He glanced after her but then focused his gaze on the dog that was creeping closer to where he was sitting. It growled low down in its throat and bared its teeth. Since Renn was the bigger and therefor more threatening figure, the dog had focused all of its attention on him. It kept advancing, growling while doing so. Renn kept still with his hand still outreached. When Renn didn't move for a while the dog seemed to relax a bit, it didn't show its teeths anymore but the upper lip twitches now and then. He could see how the nose started working as the dog picked up the scent from the dried meat.
"Good boy" he said with a soft voice. The dog growled at that but turned its eyes towards his hand instead. "Come and get it" Renn coaxed softly to the dog who growled but underlayed it with some low whining. The animal was probably not used to getting fine meat like this.
"Come on" he whispered and the dog came a bit closer, sniffing the air around his hand. Still hesitatant the dog growled and then mewled but then seemed to deside that the meat was work it and grabbed the piece from of Renn's outstretched hand.
"Good boy" Renn commented and then watched the dog as it lay down and started to chew on the though piece of meat. He slowly backed a few steps and then went in a wide circle around the animal until he reached the place where Eve had climbed up to the balcony. Throwing a quick glanze at the dog he then smoothly climbed up the wall to the balcony and quietly slipped inside through the open door.

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Inlägg  Foxy i tis jun 30, 2015 3:12 pm

Eve crouched just inside the door, quiet. When she was sure that no one was moving outside in the hallway she slowly made her way across the room to a massive oak. She only threw a cursory glance across her shoulder when she heard Renn slipping in from the balcony.
She started by searching the drawers of the desk, looking for anything hidden in plain view, but unsurprisingly there was nothing of note there. She ran deft hands over every inch of surface, looking for anything out of the ordinary. When she felt her fingertips brush a barely noticeable seam in the wood under one of the drawers she grinned widely and started searching for the hidden mechanism that would open the compartment.
It took her a couple of minutes before she found a small depressible wooden button on the other side of the table. Always careful she used a pencil from the desk top to press the button, wary of any hidden trap. As she had expected four thin needles shot out of the wood when she pressed the button. They were only half an inch long bur sharp and very likely poisoned. As the button was released the needles retracted into the wood again. The hidden mechanism clicked silently and the compartment popped open, revealing a tight space under the drawer, only big enough for a couple of envelopes.
Eve gingerly extracted four letters from the compartment and immediately recognized the cipher used. She suppressed the urge to laugh, the cipher was childishly simple. It was the first one she had ever learned.
She quickly memorized the letters. They spoke about secret transactions but no names were mentioned. Harkin would probably be annoyed but it wasn’t like it was her fault.
She was very careful to put the letters back exactly as she had found them.

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Renn glanced over at Eve as she searched through the desk. While she was busy on the other side of the room he started to look over the bookshelves for anything interesting; books that seemed to have been moved recently or anything else that seemed out of place. He grabbed a large leatherbound book and pulled it out. It didn't seem to hold anything of value to their mission but the title grabbed his attention. The secret to killing a man.
He flipped the book open and skimmed a couple of paragraphs. The book seemed to be some kind of romance fiction and Renn found it to be sort of out of place in this household. He shook his head slightly and put the book back.

He turned to Eve as he noticed that she seemed to have found something. "Anything interesting?" he asked in a hushed tone while listening for people out in the hallway.

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“Nothing much..”
She didn’t volunteer any more information than that.
The desk didn’t reveal anything else so she swept the room with her eyes, looking for anything that seemed slightly out of place, or even something that could seem to be fitting in too well. Like that unusually thick windowsill..
Eve eagerly ran her hands over the sill and soon found a small indentation in the wall under one of the heavy curtains. It was the tiniest of keyholes. Grinning, Eve pulled her lockpicks from her pocket and fished out the smallest ones she had. They were made from bone of a steel fish, a giant monster-fish living in the rivers of the tropical country of Zan’thar. It was foul tasting but it’s unusually hard skeleton was used to make precision tools. It was very dangerous to hunt and Eve had spent a small fortune buying the pieces she had needed to make her lockpick.
She was almost disappointed in how easy the lock was to pick. It clicked open and revealed a small drawer that sprang out from the windowsill. In it was a few coins, silver, gold and copper, and three thick metal squares.
Frowning. Eve picked one square up and turned it over in her hands. It was heavy for being so small, iron probably. It could be separated into two parts, revealing indentations in both parts. As soon as she realized what they were she paled.
“Renn!” she hissed, waving the metal sqares at him. “It’s a coin-mold!”
To make counterfeit money was a worse crime than high treason. Sure, it was bad to kill your ruler but a ruler could always be replaced. To make more money than the economy could handle however, could topple a whole empire within months. The sentence for any counterfeiter was to the tortured, healed and then tortured again before being drawn hung and quartered.

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Renn raised one eyebrow ever so slightly at her but then nodded. It seemed like she wouldn't volunteer any information about what she had found, if she now had found anything of interest. It was hard to tell. He started to search another bookshelves. Carefully lifting a small bronze figurine and inspecting it. The figurine yielded nothing of import so he made sure to put it down in the same position and place that he had found it in.

He glanced at Eve as she found the hidden compartment under the windowsill. He stopped and listened for a while. Sounds where coming from downstairs but they didn't seem to be moving in their direction. He lost his focus as Eve hissed at him. "What?" he hissed back, not registering what she was saying at first. As the words catched up with him his eyes widened and he quickly moved over to her and snatched up one of the metal squares. He turned it over in his hand and separeted the two parts to take a closer look at the mold itself. Some small specks of trace metals was stuck in the corners of the mold, indications that the mold had been used.

"The morons..." he mumbled and picked up one of the silver coins from the drawer and compared it to the indentations in the metal square. They seemed to be a match to eachother. Feeling in one of his inner pockets he fished out a silver coin from a small leatcher pouch. He held the both coins up to the light and compared them intently. It was a good forgery. If you didn't know that one coin was a fake you wouldn't have easily caught the difference. The weight was about right but the real coin felt a bit lighter than the fake one. This was probably attributed from an inexpensive metal at the core and then a thin shell of real silver. The stamp on the coins themselves was almost mirror images of eachothers. Renn could only find small differences in the placements of some of the lines, but for that he had to know that he was looking at a fake and a real coin.
"This may become a problem." he noted. With the kingdom being in the state that is was and the economy already being strained because of that, it wouldn't take much to topple things over. The question was if they had started massproducing yet and tried to bring the counterfeit coins into market.
"They must have hired a master forger for this." The guild usually kept track of skilled forgers but sometime they sprang up from desperate artists and sculpters.

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Eve gave a muted agreement.
“Harkin will throw a fit.” Counterfeit money damaged the thieving world almost more than it did the regular market. Money was of no use to anyone if there was too much of it. Eve shifted and glanced at Renn from the corner of her eye.
“Question is.. what do we do? If we take the mold from her as evidence the forgers will know we’re on to them. Harkin will let the authorities know but those knuckle-heads will be hard to convince without proof. Especially if the dirty Thieve’s Guild tell them that one of their precious nobles are making fake coins.”
She sneered and looked at the mold again. Harkin would take their word for it and start his ow investigation into the matter. She guessed that he would be just as well equipped, or better than, the authorities to catch the forger. They would have to look out for themselves.

A sudden sound from the hallway outside broke her reverie and she waved at Renn in a gesture to put the mold back in its place before she hurried to the balcony door.
Voices in the hallway were coming closer and she could now recognize them as the Baron and his wife. Eve pressed herself against the wall outside, keeping away from the door so she wouldn’t be seen while she waited for Renn. Although why she decided to wait for him at all… Well. That was a question she rather not ask herself.

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Renn nodded in agreement to Eve's statement about Harkin. His gaze was locked on the conterfeit coin and the mold that weighed heavy in his right hand. She was right about the fact that they wouldn't be able to take any of it with them, because that would surely be noticed. He had no idea what they should do about it so he just remained quiet.

The noise from the hallway made him look up. Apparently they would very soon get company. He quickly put the mold and the coin back into the drawer and then gently slid it shut. A muffled click assured him that the drawer was properly closed. He stopped for a moment and glanced around, making sure that nothing looked disturbed before he hurried out onto the balcony. With a soft motion he pushed the door shut behind him and then slipped out of view right before the room to the office opened and the Baron and is wife stepped inside.

The people inside seemed to be totally oblivious to his and Eve's pressence but they better not linger there for long in case the couple decided to step out onto the balcony.

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As soon as Renn had closed the door Eve climbed over the balcony and made her way down to ground level. The dog was nowhere in sight so she rushed to the wall and lithely climbed it. She kept a sharp eye out for any guardsmen out on patrol but the street was still and dark when she landed on the other site of the wall, crouched in the darkness.
As she waited for Renn to catch up she pondered her options. Harkin first, obviously. She hoped he would give to order for her and Renn to investigate further. Their earlier mission had given cause to believe that more nobles were in this mess, but why she couldn’t understand. They stood to lose immensely if the market flooded with false coin. It just didn’t make sense!

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Renn followed Eve and gingerly climbed down from the balcony. His wounded shoulder had started to ache and it made it harder for him to climb fast. Down in the yard he scanned the area after the dog or any of the house servants but all seemed clear. Eve was already on her way over the garden wall when Renn started after her.

Heaving himself up took some effort and the wound protested. Renn gritted his teeths at this and cursed the injury. He still moved fast and proficiently but it took him a couple of seconds longer than it usually would. He landed on the other side of the wall and turned his gaze to Eve that sat crouched in the darkness.
"Back to the house?" he asked in hushed tones. Harkin would probably want them to report this as soon as possible.

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Eve glanced at Renn and nodded.
“Yeah. We need to tell Harkin as soon as possible. If we wait and I finds out it’ll be both our hides.”
She shuddered. Harkin had put a lot of effort into making Eve look beautiful so she could easier blend into nobility, and scars were not part of a noble woman. There was, however, many ways to inflict pain without leaving any marks. She had experienced many such ways and often by the hands of Harkin himself.
Eve shook of the unpleasant memories and stood up. The street was still empty so she started to stroll down it.
She glanced at Renn again. “Any thoughts..?”
She turned a corner and stepped over the prostrate body of a drunken man snoring like thunder, not giving him even a moments thought.

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Renn nodded in agreement. Harkin could be awefully cruel when he thought his people was keeping things from him or when he generally thought that someone needed to be put in their place. Renn were probably going to kill that man some day, or get killed by him. As long as Renn kept being an asset and didn't cross Harkin in any way, he would be in no danger of getting killed by the guild leader. His fellow assassins was a whole different story though. Renn glanced at Eve and imagined her pulling a knife on him. How would he react to that? He was curious at the thought, why would he react different from any other person that pulled a knife on him? He pondered that for a moment as he followed Eve down the street.

Renn shook his head at Eve's question. It was a surprice that noble men would make counterfeit money. What did they stand to gain from that? Flooding the market with fake coin wouldn't benefit anyone. Would it?
"It's curios" he noted. "There most be someone higher up on this chain. I have a hard time seeing the Baron as the brains behind this."

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Eve gave an unladylike snort.
“No shit? The Baron has wool for brains.”
As they neared the manor that was home to the guild Eve slowed her pace a fraction. She had never liked reporting to Harkin and her body reacted to her inner turmoil. Her face, however, was devoid of emotion as she strolled through the front gate into the carefully maintained yard.
She noticed there were still people about in the house. Some gave a cordial nod as she passed, some gave a sneer or even an openly hostile look. Eve ignored them all.
Animosity and rivalry was openly encouraged, but brawling and killing was frowned upon. She had stepped on many toes and egos as she had managed to climb so quickly at such a young age. One of the few scars she carried came from a fellow assassin who had taken great offence when she had stolen a job from him. His body had been found in the river and the injuries inflicted on the body had kept most of the others well away from her.
Eve stopped in front of the massive oak door that led to Harkin’s office. Steeling herself, she knocked.

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Renn rolled his eyes at her comment but didn't say anything in response. He looked up at the great manor and let out a quiet sigh. He absolutely hated this place. The building was nice and warm but the constant animosity and uncertainty was not really a healthy way to live. Not that being an assassin was an optimal way of life. Renn often questioned the reason for bunching up all the assassins and thiefs in the same building like this. He figured it was easier for Harkin to keep an close eye on his people that way.

"Enter!" a shrill voice rang out as soon as Eve knocked on the door. Renn glanced at Eve before pushing the door open and entering the lavish office. Harkin was sitting behind his desk and was sharpening a dagger at the moment. He payed them no attention at first so Renn just placed himself in front of the desk and waited for Harkin to acknowledge them. As soon as Eve closed up by Renn, Harkin lifted his head and turned his eyes on them. In submission Renn lowered his gaze to the floor since the guild master took direct eyecontact as a challenge.
"So?" Harkin sneered, looking them both over. "Have anything interesting to report today?"

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Renn could feel the cold gaze of Harkin and raised his head a bit, but not enough to directly meet the other mans eyes.
"He must have some, this is far above his capability."
"But no proof of this?" Harkin asked almost too calmly and started to walk round his desk, grabbing a cane with a silver skull for handle and a steel dub with a lead weight at the bottom. Renn could feel a sense of dread building up inside but kept calm and collected on the outside. He kept his eyes forward as Harkin disappeared into his peripheral vision.
"No, there wasn't any mentions of names or the origins of the molds..." Renn didn't get a chance to say any more before Harkin lashed out with his cane, hitting him over the left shoulder. The blow met almost perfectly with the wound from the bolt head and Renn winced in pain but somehow kept his composure. A warmth started to spread down his back and he just knew that the wound had opened up again.
"Useless!" Harkin hissed angrily. He tapped the tip of the cane to the floor in a thoughtful manner.
"Do you have anything to add, my dear?" he asked and turned his gaze back to Eve.

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Eve managed to keep a straight face as the cane hit Renn with a resounding smack, but she could feel the rage building inside her. It took all of her self-control to keep it from showing in her face.
“As I said, the coded notes mentioned no names, but our mission included spying on Baron Salmin and Earl Serth.” Her voice was dead, devoid of emotion, in an effort to hide her real anger. “They’re close friends and business partners. It’s the next logical step, but I think..”
The cane connected with her ribs and robbed her momentarily of breath as pain shot across her right side. She staggered and probably would have gone down on her knees if Harkin hadn’t caught her by the scruff of her shirt. He pulled her face close to his and practically bellowed in her face:
“You’re not paid to think!” Harkin pushed her away and Eve stood unsteadily and gasped for air. “Salmin is holding a feast tomorrow evening and Pompard and Serth will be there together with most of the nobles. You will be there as well, and you better bring me something of worth.”
Harkin took a deep breath and smiled almost benevolently at them.
“Run along now children. I want to catch these forgers before the King’s Inquisitors do. Their method of punishment is so… un-inspired.”
Eve couldn’t suppress a shiver as she turned on her heel and fled out in the hallway.

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Renn was breathing quite heavy, pain spikes was shooting up and down his back, neck and left arm. He had to muster all his strength to stand upright. He flinched unvoluntarily as the cane now struck Eve. Anger he hadn't felt before blossomed up inside of him and he had to suppress the urge to clasp his hands around Harkin's neck. His jaw was set and he had to avert his eyes as Harkin grabbed Eve by the shirt. Renn stood quiet and for some reason hated himself for it.

As Harkin gave them their new orders, Renn nodded to show that he had understood and then followed after Eve out into the hallway. He gently shut the door behind him, even if he rather would have slammed it shut. He took a deep breath to try to steady himself and calm the boiling rage inside of him.
"You alright?" he asked quietly and glanced to the side at Eve, when they were far enough away from the office for Harkin not to hear them.

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Eve carefully massaged her bruised side and grimaced.
“Yeah. Nothing broken.” She winced as she straightened to look at Renn and a flash of concern crossed her eyes as she saw blood soaking his shoulder.
“We’ll need to re-stitch that…” She gave a wan smile and started to slowly walk down the hallway. “Can’t have you bleeding all over some noble’s polished floors.”
She continued down the hall and went down a couple of stairs, wincing at every step. On the bottom floor she found the door leading into the infirmary and peered inside.
The room only had one inhabitant and he was laying stock still on a bunk, swaddled in bandages. Eve recognized him as a trainee who had gotten his head smashed in during training a couple of days ago. No one expected him to pull through and she suspected his body would soon be gone without a trace, even if he still happened to be breathing.
She game a mental shrug – there was nothing she could do to help him -  as she opened a cupboard and pulled out a basked with boiled needles and thread, disinfectant, bandages and a bottle of brandy.
“Sit down and take off the shirt.” She said it without looking at him, unsure if the anger still showed in her eyes,

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Renn felt some what relieved when Eve said that nothing was broken. Was that a flash of concern he noted in her eyes? He must have mistaken, surely. He gave a half-hearted shuckle at her comment and then followed her down the hallway. It was clear that Eve was in pain because Renn could see her wincing the whole way down the stairs. Not that he was any better. Entering the infirmary his eyes immediatly fell on the swaddled bundle of a person laying in one of the bunks. Renn hadn't seen the incident himself but had heard about it. He shook his head sadly and turned away from the bunk.
"Yes, ma'm." he said jokingly and sat down on one of the nearest bunks. He unbuttoned his shirt and then gingerly started pulling it off. The left arm felt numb and twitched with pain as he pulled the shirt down over it.

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Eve took his shirt and threw in a basked full of other bloody rags and linens. She gave the wound a cursory glance before she went to a small copper horn attached to a thin, bent copper pipe that in itself was attached to the wall. The copper pipe led down into the kitchen and connected to an identical horn.
“I need a pot of well boiled water, please.” She glanced again at Renn and the bloody mess that by now covered most of his side. “Make that two pots, please”
Politeness didn’t get you far in a place like the guild but Eve had always found it rewarding to treat the servants with respect and dignity. That made her well liked, at least amongst them, and it payed off in clean linens for her room, warm food and the occasional snack sneaked her way.
While she waited for the clean water she used a bucket of stale water to wash her own hands rigorously and made sure to get the dirt on and under her nails. She laid threads and needles out on a silver tray that too would have been boiled before it was put in the cupboard.
“How’d you wanna go about it? During the party?”
As she asked the question a small scullery boy came in through the door laboring with two heavy pots of steaming water. She smiled warmly at him and ruffled his hair before he scuttled back out, giggling. When you lived and worked in the guild, no matter what your occupation, blood was not a rare sight.
Eve carefully dipped her finger in a pot – the water was hot but not scorching. She briefly considered washing Renn little by little but some of the blood had already dried and she had plenty of water…
With a mischievous smile at Renn she upended the pot over him and jumped backwards to avoid getting water in her boots. Before he would be able to stand up and flail at her, she dipped a clean piece of linen in the other pot and started to wash his shoulder more carefully, making sure there was no dirt or debris in the wound.

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Renn watched Eve as she threw his bloodied shirt into the basket and then ordered water from the kitchen. He shrugged at her question but winced when the wounded shoulder protested the motion.
"Haven't really thought about it yet..." he answered while glancing at the left shoulder, he gingerly touched the red swelling that snaked up from his back, from where Harkin had hit him with the cane. When the boy entered the room, Renn's eyes automatically fell on him. He gave Eve an odd look as she ruffled the boy's hair.
"Eve..." he said warningly as he saw her mischievous smile and suspected what she was about to do. He hadn't really thought she would actually do it so he sputtered in surprise as she emptied the pot of water over his head. Letting out a low curse he shook himself off and wiped a hand across his face, pulling the wet hair from his forehead. He turned his head to her when she started to clean the wound on his back. Renn had a hard time figuring this woman out and despite himself he let out a soft chuckle while shaking his head.
"So what are your thoughts about the party?" he asked, trying to wipe the worst of the water off his pants.

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When Eve had managed to wipe all the blood from his shoulder and back she ran deft and feather light fingers over his skin, assessing the damage. She silently marveled over his well-muscled shoulders and back, and felt a small stab of jealousy. She was lithe, agile and thin. She was strong for her size but she had never been able to build on that strength.
“It’s probably useless to try and be sneaky. It’ll be too crowded. We’ll have to blend in like at the last party.” She smiled a little at the memory.
His wound had stopped seeping blood by now and Eve opened a small clay jar that contained analgesic balm that she liberally slathered over the wound to numb it. It stank to high heaven and she wrinkled her nose at it and sat down to wait for it to take effect.
“We’ll just have to see who talks to whom, listen to all the gossip. The usual.” She shrugged and decided enough time had passed so she picked up a needle and some string and started sowing the edges of the wound together.
She was fairly good at it and the stitches where small and neat. When she had tied the last knot she rubbed the wound with a stinging disinfectant and started to wrap it up with clean linen, going over his chest and under his other arm, round and around. She sat back and nodded, being satisfied with the result.
“I guess I’ll have to dye my hair again and play at being some simple-minded lady from the outlying fiefs.” She grimaced at the thought of it and stepped in front of a mirror hanging on the wall. She pulled up her tunic and sighed at the sight of her bruised side that was now turning a glowing shade of purple and green.
She took some of the balm and carefully rubbed it in, wincing as she tried to contort herself to apply it on her back, but her abused ribs would have none of it.

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Renn sat quiet and let Eve work in peace. It was a peculiar feeling having her fingers streaking across his back. He gave a half nod at her comment about the party. It would be too many guests and servants circulating the building for them to sneak their way inside. The safer way would be to arrive as guests themselves. Even though the numbing agent had taken effect he could still feel the needle and thread but it didn't really hurt, it was just an unpleasant feeling.
"That wouldn't be too hard for you" he commented playfully.
He turned his head to her and noticed that she had difficulty applying the balm to her back. Renn stood up and went over to her.
"Let me do that.." he said calmly and raised her tunic a bit so that he could see the bruising that spread from her ribs and back. He didn't give her time to protest but put some of the balm of the top of his fingers, and then very gently started rubbing them over the bruised area that she couldn't reach on her own. He could feel a twinge of anger has he inspected the big bruise and he was suprised by it. It wasn't the first time that Harkin had beaten someone for no particular reason, so why was Renn feeling this way now? He didn't linger on that thought.
"You sure nothing's broken or cracked?" he asked, looking the greenish and purple coloration over.

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Eve froze momentarily as Renn hiked up her tunic but slowly relaxed as he started rubbing the balm over her ribs. Her skin felt peculiarly warm where his fingers had touched and she shivered slightly. It must be an effect of the balm, she thought.
“I doubt it. It feels like I’ve been kicked by a mule.” She grinned. “Which I guess is kind of true.”
She sighed happily as blessed numbness started to spread over her side and back. It stull hurt, but not with the same intensity as before. She suspected that she’d have some difficulty getting out of bed though.
“By the gods, wearing a corset tomorrow will be a hassle.” She stepped away from Renn and let her tunic drop back to cover her. She cleared her throat as if suddenly self-conscious about being so friendly with someone she only a couple of weeks ago had deemed to be one of her most dangerous rivals.
“We’ll do as last time and show up separately, talk to different people.. the usual. We’ll meet up back here at dawn and go over everything we’ve gathered. See you tomorrow.”
With that she turned on her heel and hurried from the room, forgetting that “tomorrow” was actually today. Dawn has just broken outside and Eve planned on spending the whole day catching up on sleep and resting her battered body before she felt up to the task of mingling with haughty nobles.

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Renn let go of Eve's tunic as he finished applying the balm to her ribs. He grabbed a cloth to wipe the rest of the balm residue from his fingers. When she mentioned wearing a corset to the party he made a face, sympathizing with what a pain it must be to wear that kind of garment, especially when she had that big bruise on her side. Would she even be able to move properly?
"Alright" he nodded to her and was just about to say that he thought the party was today and not tomorrow, but she had already dissappeared out of sight. He let out a quiet sigh and glanced over at the bandaged bundle in one of the cots. The person hadn't moved or made a sound during Renn's and Eve's visit to the infirmary. Renn suspected that the body wouldn't be there for long. He grabbed a spare tunic from one of the hampers, not wanting to walk around in the mansion with an obvious wound on his shoulder. With the tunic in place he left the infirmary and walked back to his room.

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Eve went straight to her room and only bothered to take her shoes off before she gingerly lay down on the bed. She sighed as she realized she wouldn’t be able to sleep on her right side for probably a week. She didn’t have too much time to think about it though, as she was soon fast asleep.
She woke later that afternoon and started to pick through her wardrobe, looking for something fitting to wear. The newest fashion was plunging necklines and tiny waist corsets but she wasn’t too keen on walking around with her chest mostly bare, so she picked out a stunning green chiffon dress that had been inspired by the fashion in Tshyna. The collar was high up on her neck with only a small v-shaped opening under her chin to keep her from choking. It was beautiful as it left her back bare and… Eve sighed deeply and put the dress back. It was too unusual and would draw too much attention.
Grudgingly she picked a dark blue silk dress with a simple silhouette and a moderate neckline. It was boring enough that she wouldn’t be noticed but nog ugly enough to be laughed at. She found a frost green broad belt to use as a substitute for a corset.
Then she began the painstaking process of pinning her hair in ringlets on her head, letting a few strands dangle loosely. The opted for soft makeup with only slightly reddened lips and smoky eyes.
Lastly she picked a pearl necklace with several strands of alternating blue and green pearls of different shades. The end result was pretty. Not nearly up to Eve’s standard, but pretty enough.
Later in the evening she arrived at the Baron’s mansion in a leased coach. A good half of the expected guests had already arrived and Eve composed herself and adopted a slightly nervous smile as she almost hesitantly made her way across the garden and into the mansion where music was already playing.
She handed her calling-card over to the door servant who cleared his throat before announcing her.
“Lady Lyssa Vermont, from Carlderry Fief, instead of her husband Baron Vermont.”
Only a few heads turned to watch her before she was dismissed as unimportant and uninteresting. Carlderry was a tiny fief and was the furthest from the capitol, both geographically and politically. No one would know that the Baron’s wife had died a year ago.
Eve kept up the pretense of being nervous and slowly made her way to the back of the room where she could observe in peace.

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Renn returned to his room and sat down on the bed, thinking about staying awake until the party would start but figured it would be better for the wound if he slept for a while. He lay down on his uninjured side and closed his eyes drifting off to sleep. It felt like he had only been asleep for a moment when he woke up but the sun indicated that it was high noon already. He had to get ready for the party. He gingerly sat up and tried to limber up his stiff shoulder without putting strain on the stitches. He groaned and shuffled to the bathroom. After shaving and washing up he stopped for a moment to examine the wound on his left shoulder. Eve had done a good job with the stitching. The wound held shut and it didn't seem infected. A marble pattern of yellow and purple streaked across his back where the cane had hit him. He made a face at this but didn't linger on the thought. It was good that it wouldn't be visible beneath a shirt but that was also Harkin's plan. That man only struck where it wouldn't be noticed. Renn searched through the wardrobe for something fitting for the party. Mens fashion didn't really change much so Renn didn't have to be too picky with what he chose from his collection of suits. He finally settled for a dark blue suit with a pristine white cravat. After he had dressed he accessorised with silver cufflinks and some jeweled rings. Nothing too fancy but enough to not stick out at the party. The hair he combed back with some scented oils.
He had first thought to ride to the party like he did to the last one but the wound wouldn't have it so he had to call for a coach. He had looked for Eve before leaving the mansion but she seemed to have already left. It was better to not show up at the same time anyway. When the coached stopped he managed to climb down by himself without too much of a hussle. He handed his calling-card to one of the servants and stood ready to be announced.
"Lord Gareth Auckland of the southern Ebrines, instead of his uncle Baron von Suffield." the servant called and Renn stepped through the doors with a confident smile. According to the guild's sources neither the Baron or any of his estate where to attend the party, so it was a safe disguise. The Baron's nephew wasn't really known at court and the southern Ebines was unimportant enough not to be remembered. He smiled at people at tried to spot Eve in the crowd.

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At every new name called Eve threw a furtive glance at the door. When she eventually recognized Renn she smiled to herself and went back to studying the crowd through her eyelashes.
She had so far managed to dissuade any potential dancing partner with flustered flushing and stammering. No one expected a country girl to be able to dance well enough for a gathering like this. That fact had also been laughed about by a small group of highly fashionable ladies who regularly made their way past her, whispering about her dull dress and manners, but always loudly enough that she’d hear them.
Eve kept her eyes down and harbored morbid thoughts of how she’d go about dismembering, strangling and altogether mutilating their pretty sneering faces.
She didn’t let it keep her from having an eye on the room however.
Eve had soon noticed that the Baron kept all conversations with his guests short and jovial, but he tended to stop by a group of guests particularly often; among them were Earl Serth and Baroness Pompard.
What were the Baroness doing here instead of her husband?
Eve surreptitiously inched her way closer to their group, standing partly hid behind a piller. She kept her gaze locked on the dance floor, adopting a wistful look, as if she wanted nothing more than to dance. Meanwhile she listened.

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By a first glance Renn couldn't pick Eve out from the crowd. If he knew her she was probably hiding somewhere in the background so he steered his steps towards the refreshing tables at the back of the room. A servant politily handed him a drink as he neared the table so he took it with a gracious smile. Renn wasn't much of a drinker, especially on the job, but this was just for appearances. He took a quick sip of the drink and looked around. His eyes finally discovered Eve and he automatically smiled. Her dress looked quite common in this crowd but she still looked beautiful. He eyed her for a bit but then remembered why they were there to begin with and started to mingle with the crowd.
He never stayed too long with any of the small groups but just made light conversation and then moved on. There were a lot of idle gossip going around but that was not unusual for court. They lived for the gossip. What he could pick out there was nothing related to the conterfeit money or the Baron they were after. Renn glanced over at Eve and noticed her keeping an eye on a small group of people. He slowly started move in that direction to try to overhear what was being said.

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The conversation sounded innocent enough. What was most out of place was the Baroness. Eve, and most others, had always viewed her as slightly dim-witted and foppish, but even though her smile right now was amused and slightly quizzical; her eyes were sharp and cold.
“My dear, you mustn’t worry about your husband, he knows nothing.” It was a conspiratorial whisper from Salmin, his fleshy jowls quivering as he spoke. The Baroness’ mask fell and she pinned the earl with a withering stare as she hissed:
“Silent, fool!” She quickly composed her expression to her normal look of amused vacancy.
Eve couldn’t help bit raise her eyebrows at the silent outburst. The Earl outranked her but he had quickly averted his gaze from the Baroness and mumbled an apology. The other’s nervously glanced at her and kept quiet.
They’re afraid of her! That information was interesting indeed.
“My Lords, why don’t we retire to the gaming room for a game of Plunder?” It was a popular card game and the men of the group readily agreed and the group started moving toward the big staircase leading upstairs. A pair of guards standing by the landing stepped aside to let them pass.
Eve frowned and looked around. There had to be a another way upstairs… She had a feeling that whatever they were about to do, it had nothing to do about playing cards. She desperately needed to know what they would be saying while behind closed doors.

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Standing at a distance he eyed the group of people. Renn could pick out Earl Serth and Salmin, and Baroness Pompard, interestingly enough. He glanced around the room after the Baron Pompard but he was nowhere in sight. Interesting development. Renn turned his eyes back to the group and tried to read their lips and silently mimiced the words. ..your husband, he knows nothing... The Baroness seemed flustered at this but he couldn't hear or see what was being said because her back was to him. The demeanor of the group drastically changed and they all made cautious glances at the Baroness. Curious. Like a flock of dogs covering before the alfa. Could that dim-witted personality actually be an act?
As the group vacated the room Renn silently went over to where Eve was standing. He didn't look at her but was keeping up the appearance of eyeing a couple of noble women standing just a few steps away.
"You look enchanting this evening." he said in a low voice and smiled charmingly.

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Eve glanced at Renn as he sidled up to her and smiled demurely.
“I look boring.” The mumbled words were acerbic but amused. She cast a glance at the women who were eyeing Renn with interest. The ladies were dressed in the latest fashion; dresses with necklines that almost reached their navels, elaborate hairdos and jewelry sparkling in every imaginable color.
“At least I don’t have to worry about my tits falling out.” By comparison Eve’s dress was modest with the neckline only going down to her breast bone.
Eve pulled a fan from under her wide waist belt and started fanning herself vigorously as she cast a meaningful glance at Renn and then made a discreet nod toward a door leading to the backyard.
A lowly country Baroness couldn’t be seen leading a man like Renn away without causing instant gossip. He would have to be the one to take control, if only a seeming of it. She was supposed to be inexperienced and nervous, a role she started to feel was very unsuited to her.

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"Boring is not the word I would use" he smiled while sipping his drink. He had to bite back and not laugh at her comment about the plunging necklines of the noble ladies. He noted her hinting at the door leading out to the backyard. This was not really the place for them to converse at.
"Lady Lyssa" he turned his eyes on her and gave a formal bow. He had heard the noble ladies whispering about the lowly Baroness being here without her husband, so it had not been hard figuring out who Eve was playing as.
"I hear your husband is interested in making an investment in the Ebrines silk traid. My uncle the Baron von Suffield wanted me to open up an discussion with Baron Vermont." at this he looked around as if looking for the Baron. "But since he isn't here I would like to discuss my ucle's offer with you." Renn flashed her a dashing smile and offered her his arm. This way if anyone overheard they wouldn't think twice about them leaving together. Nobles usually made their allegiances and talked business at these kind of gatherings. "How about we look for a more quiet place to discuss the matter?"

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“Ah, my lord. I will be happy to talk to you in my husband’s stead.”
She slipped her hand in the crook of his arm and let him lead her toward the door. She gently guided him by squeezing his arm now and again as they made their way into the lit backyard.
She discreetly led him to small unoccupied pavilion in the garden. To anyone watching it would look like he was leading her.
The few people in the garden followed their progress but soon lost interest. Eve had carefully positioned herself at least half an arms-length from Renn as to not hint at any sort of intimacy. To her own surprise this precaution chafed a bit.
As they got farther away from curious eyes and ears she dared a small grin at Renn.
“We need to know what the Baroness and her group is talking about. Did you see that Earl Salmin was scared of her?” Her murmured voice was back to its usual huskiness as she dropped the act of Lady Lyssa.
Eve gave the mansion a careful look. She wasn’t dressed to climb walls. Her only chance to get into the house again unseen was probably to go through the kitchen. Mansions this big usually had separate stairs for the servants.

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Renn felt more like being led than leading with Eve squeezing his arm at every turn, not that he minded. The expression on his face told that he had no particular interest in the woman at his side and he smiled charmingly at the nobles they past while walking in the garden. When they were out of sight Renn looked at her and nodded. "Yes, it was a very peculiar scenario.." he let go of her arm and followed her gaze up at the mansion.
"If she's more than meets the eye she's done a good job putting up that dim-witted facade for this long.." He examined the walls. The shoulder would surely give out if he tried to climb the wall and the risk of being seen was too great with all the people in the garden.
"So do you have a plan?"

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”I thought you could climb.. oh. Right” She glanced at his injured shoulder and sighed.
“Our best bet is finding the servant stairs.”
Her eyes swept over the garden but the few people within it seemed to have lost interest in them. Now was a good a time as any.
Eve silently slipped into the shadows of a row of great hedges and made her way toward the mansion’s kitchen entrance. The door stood wide open and she could her clanging of pots from inside.
She carefully peered into the badly lit corridor but it proved empty ash she silently glided past the opening to the great kitchen. The staff was very busy preparing the dessert for the evening; a giant swan in spun sugar.
As she had suspected there was a stair at the end of the hallway and it lead up to a door to the first floor and then kept going up to another door; unlocked, fortunately.
Eve carefully opened to door just a crack, but neither sound nor movement could be discerned from the second floor hallway, so she slipped in, staying in the shadows of the few flickering candles hung on the wall.

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He couldn't help but feel useless because of the injury, especially with Eve mentioning it. He silently followed her through the garden and in through the wide open door. Renn kept glancing around to make sure that nobody spotted them. He expected them to run in to a servant or guard at any minute but luckily the corridors were empty. Most of the staff was probably out in the big hall, attending to the guests, or working in the kitchen. For the guards, they were mostly posted at the entrance and around the mansion to keep unwelcomed guests from entering the building. He strained his ears and listened for sound that indicated that someone was nearby but the coust seemed clear so he followed Eve out into the second floor hallway. Renn nodded at her unspoken question. It was probably best to split up. They would cover more ground that way and they would seem more suspicious if they were caught together than on their own. He made a gesture with his hand that he would check the left wing of this floor.
"Meet. 2 hours. Ballroom." he mouthed silently and made sure that she had understood before he creeped off to his side of the building.

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Eve nodded at his suggestion and watching him slip away. For a moment she just sat in the darkness, looking after him before she shook herself and crept off in the opposite direction.
She stopped at every door to listen for sounds and was soon rewarded. She could hear voices behind a door at the end of the hallway and she pressed her ear against it and strained to hear. She could make out the Baroness’ voice but not what was being said.
Eve bit her lip, trying to think of a way to find out what was being said. Her eyes fell on a brass horn sticking out of the wall. It was the same kind of contraption the guild’s mansion had.
As gently as she could, she started to twist the horn free of the wall pipe. She gritted her teeth at the slow grating noise and stopped every so often to see if anyone had heard, but it seemed she was safe.
The horn came off and she carefully placed it over the keyhole of the door. As she put her ear to the end of the horn she could hear much more clearly.
“…not ready yet!” It was Salmin.
“I told you, the mold is as perfect as we’ll get it. We’ll start distributing the coins next week.” The Baroness’ voice was cold and cut like a knife. Eve shuddered at the malice in it.
“We have not received orders from the Wakir…” Serth this time.
“You mean you have not received orders.” The Baroness’ sneered and Eve could hear the nervous shuffle of shoes. “The Wakir is ready. It will not take long for the coins to crash the market. Give it 6 months. Now get out of my sight and to as you’re told!”
Eve quickly shuffled back and pressed herself into a dark corner, glad that she had picked a dark dress. Luckily for her, the door opened outward and hid her from view as Serth and Salmin hurried down the hall, heading back toward the stairs.
Eve sat silently and stared into the dark hallway. Wakir was what the ruler was called in Arridia, the desert kingdom far to the south. Why would the Arridi ruler want to crash their market? And why was a lowly Baroness bossing an Earl around? Why were they even involved?

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Renn walked silently down the corridor and kept to the shadows as much as he could. Every now and then he stopped and listened when he thought he heard sounds but often it was just a servant hurrying by or sounds coming from downstairs. Not much seemed to be happening in this part of the floor so he hoped that Eve had better luck than him with finding the Baroness and her associates. He shuddered at the thought of returning to the mansion empty handed and his shoulder gave a twitch of pain in agreement. He leaned against the wall, trying to catch his breath for a moment. Looking down the empty corridor he wondered if he should continue down this way or return back to the ballroom, hoping to catch some interesting gossip from the guests.

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Eve waited patiently in her dark corner for several minutes before the Baroness exited and sauntered off back toward the ballroom. Eve waited another couple of minutes before she crept up to the door and started working on the lock with a couple of picks she pulled from her coiled hair.
The lock was annoyingly easy and she slipped into the darkened room. It was a small reading room with several bookshelves, chairs and a desk. The only light in the room came from a fireplace that smoldered slightly, except for a pair of gloves that had been thrown in the fire that were smoking and burning slowly. Eve eyed the thoughtfully but shrugged. Nobles were known to throw away things that were barely used, if only because they could.
She made her usual round, looking for anything out of place and examining all the usual hiding spots. She was almost frustrated when she found a stack of letters hidden inside a book that was obviously much scruffier looking than the rest, showing signs of having been opened many times. Obvious. Boring.
Someone should talk to Salmin about hiding his stuff in at least some more interesting place, Eve thought resignedly as she opened one of the envelopes and examined the letter. She frowned as her hand came away dusted with white. She rubbed her fingers together and carefully smelled the white dust that covered her fingers. It smelled like flour. Who would coat their letters with flour? Maybe someone who worked in a kitchen or bakery sent it?
The letter contained just once sentence: Meet Hawk at Two Cove Bay, Fairday, sunset.
So.. someone would be meeting this Hawk on fairday. It was mercday today so two days from now. Or it had already happened, but it was worth checking out.
Eve put all the letters back and dusted off her hands before she silently crept back out in the hallway. She moved toward the main stair carefully and peered around a corner down at the dance floor. The guests were occupied with an especially intricate dance were you continually switched partners and the group she had been spying on could not be seen at all, so Eve took the chance and glided down the stair and past the guards.
They seemed only to care about who went up, not who came down and paid her no mind, so Eve made her way across the room, hugging the wall and eventually made her way outside the front door. She took a deep breath of the fresh air and rubbed her suddenly throbbing temples. The air inside had been awfully cloying.

Foxy
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