Campaign of the Month: May 2014
Ladies in Hades and the Dyval Wears Prada
Story - Trent - The Dinner Party
The Dinner Party
This story takes place during a night almost two months before the adventure log post The Steve and The Scotch.
Trent had to admit to himself that he was a little nervous. He had never been an invited guest to any sort of fancy gathering before. He stood at the door to their apartment waiting for Jescha to finish getting ready. “The h-cab is already waiting for us Jesh,” Trent announced to her. He had arranged for a livery to take the two of them to this party. He didn’t need to check any timekeeping device to know they were in danger of being late if they waited too much longer. He always kept track of the time back in the corner of his mind.
“I don’t see why I still need to dress up in this ridiculous outfit, Trent.” Jescha said to him as she walked into the room. She was dressed in a simple gown that managed to both be elegant and leave little to the imagination. “If I had to fight, this dress would rip itself to shreds in moments.”
“Well, you picked it out Jesh.”
“That was before I knew that this ‘dinner party’ was a banquet, and half of Lazlo would be there. I should just be going as your bodyguard and dress appropriately for that. I can’t stand the thought of being around all those creatures with only this flimsy dress and magic for protection.”
Trent sighed. They had been having this argument on and off for the last few hours, ever since Jescha discovered that this dinner party Trent was invited to was really a huge banquet party. The beings there would be a “who’s who” of Lazlo’s socialites, upper class, and political leadership. When Trent got the invitation a week ago, it just said he and a guest were invited to a “dinner party.” At the time he and Jescha assumed that it was a small dinner, maybe only a couple of other guests at most. Trent replied with his acceptance for him and Jescha to attend and that was when she went shopping for something nice to wear.
And it was nice, indeed, Trent thought to himself.
“You were so excited this morning,” Trent said to her. “Besides I already informed them that I was arriving with a date, not a bodyguard. You’re too worried. It’s a gathering of rich, snooty beings who will spend all of five seconds pretending to be politely interested in us before walking away to find someone actually of their social class to talk with. We’ll have a few drinks, thank the person who invited us, then leave after an hour or two.”
Jescha looked at Trent doubtfully but still grabbed her things so she could go, dressed as she was. It wasn’t like they were completely unprepared for potential trouble, anyway. Trent had created a dimensional pocket for each of them in these outfits and they had quite a few of their implements with them which could be relied upon if things got hairy. Plus, Trent had a couple of his talismen on hand, and the both of them were accomplished mages of no small skill.
Together they got into the hovercar livery, or hovercab, that was waiting. They gave the human driver the address and sat back. “Oh my,” Jescha said in a fake, snobbish accent. “You were in Tolkeen during that dreadful war? Why, just the thought makes my rich and lazy self feel all dirty.”
Trent smiled. “Why sir,” he said in a similar accent. “I do believe you need to go stand over there before we catch any of your dangerous excitement.”
They both shared a small laugh and rode the rest of the way in silence. The hovercab flew out over the water to the Toronto Islands and brought them to one of the smaller estates on the island chain. “Small” is relative, however, as the estate was as large as a city block with the main house filling up almost half that space. All manner of vehicles and transportation were parked outside, from winged animals to hovercraft to carpets. Trent and Jescha were let off at a drop-off point and walked to the front door.
A burly D-Bee that Trent couldn’t identify stood at the door, blocking the entrance. He took Trent’s invitation and matched their names to a list he had open on his handheld computer. Satisfied, he opened the door for Trent and Jescha and the two of them stepped inside, arm in arm. They immediately found themselves in a large open room full of all manner of beings. There were a few humans, but what really stood out to Trent and Jescha were the sheer number of non-humans in the room. There was easily five such beings for every human present, and less than half of them even remotely looked human.
A tall Elven woman was waiting near the door, ready to greet her guests as they came in. She was strikingly beautiful, even for an Elf, and everything about her radiated opulence, luxury and extravagance. When she spoke to Trent and Jescha her voice was like sweet, musical honey. “I so rarely see new faces at these events. I am the Lady Kiriya Tybus. This is my home. Welcome…” She held out her hand and subtly cocked her head quizzically, waiting for Trent to take it and introduce himself. Trent reached for her hand and kissed it politely, then introduced himself.
“I’m Trent Logan.” He indicated over to Jescha. “This is my companion, Jescha Harwynn. We are pleased to be here at your invitation.” Jescha nodded at the Elf and gave her a small, uncomfortable smile. Neither Trent nor Jescha noticed a subtle change in the Lady Tybus’ eyes as Trent mentioned his name. For just a moment, they became cold and uninviting. Someone who knew the Lady well would have recognized immediately what this signified. But as quickly as her eyes betrayed her emotions she recovered without missing a beat, and by the time Trent or Jescha would have noticed, the moment had passed.
“Trent Logan,” The Lady Kiriya Tybus said in her smooth, musical voice. “I am so pleased you could accept my invitation. Later this evening, after I have finished greeting all the guests, please come and see me. I would like very much to have a chance to talk with you.” She did not wait for his response and turned her attention to the next guests coming in after Trent. As she greeted them Trent and Jescha moved forward into the main area.
Everyone was dressed up for the occasion and either peacefully dancing out in the center of the room, or just milling about around the edges. Servers made their way through the crown with trays of exotic foods and drinks for the guests. Soft rock music was being reluctantly played by a live band off to one side. ‘Hunted Weasels’ was the name written on the drum set. The band consisted of two humans, a quick-flex, and what appeared to be a dog boy. They all looked like city rats to Trent. Jescha painfully tightened her grip on Trent’s arm after sizing up the scene.
“Ouch,” he whispered to Jescha. “Remember, we won’t be here long. Nobody means anyone any harm here. Just relax.”
“You know I can’t relax in a place filled with all these things,” Jescha whispered back to him sternly.
“Well let me have some circulation in my arm at least,” Trent said to her, trying to pry open her fingers from the death-grip she had on his arm – to no avail. She sighed at him and loosened her grip slightly. The two of them started walking around the room, looking for a place where they might feel comfortable. Nobody seemed to pay them any mind as they worked their way through the crowd. They picked up snippets of conversation as they passed groups.
“…next election’s not looking too good for Thomm…”
“…they found it hidden inside the altar…”
“…reform party may actually make some traction…”
“…tried to actually touch me! Can you believe…”
Jescha and Trent found a spot near the wall where they could have a little elbow room and stood there awkwardly for a few minutes. Trent spied a server making his way through crowd with a tray of drinks not too far away from them. Trent decided to intercept him and get some drinks for Jescha and himself. He told Jescha he’d be right back. Though she was uncomfortable with him leaving her alone, she let him go rather than hang on his arm all night. She pressed herself back against the wall once Trent left. It took Trent longer than he intended to catch up with the server and by the time he did there were only two glasses left. Trent grabbed them both just as another hand was about to take one.
“Excuse me,” Trent said absentmindedly to the person as he turned to head back towards where he left Jescha.
“Yeah. Whatever.” Said a girl’s voice in a disgusted tone. “Why should I be able to drink at my own birthday party anyway?”
Trent looked back at the speaker and saw an Elven girl. She appeared to be in her late teens, dressed much more casually than the rest of the party goers. Her looks were plain, as far as Elves went, and she was short for an Elf – which meant she was about Trent’s height. She looked upset but wasn’t even looking at Trent as she spoke. She was looking around, trying to find another server with drinks.
“Your birthday party?” Trent asked a little skeptically. This certainly didn’t seem like any birthday party he had even seen.
“What? Oh. Yeah, it’s my Birthday party. Whoo hoo, I’m an adult now…” The girl turned to face Trent and continued speaking. “My mother spared no expense. Only the most expensive foods and drinks. Only the most popular musical act in Lazlo. Only the most important social guests in North America. And the one thing she forgot? To do any of this actually for me, and not for herself.” She reached out for one of the drinks in Trent’s hand and took it from him before he could react. She drank it all in one gulp.
“You know who’s catering this party? Zerganax! THE Zerganax, the Arden Tek chef extraordinaire! She paid the top restaurant chef in all of Lazlo to cater this party of hers. And Hunted Weasels, those poor guys, my mother’s practically castrated them by making them play this lame music. If they were playing the music they were actually known for it would blow everyone’s mind. My mother says all this is for me, she tells everyone that it’s for me, but you know what? I could not even BE here and she wouldn’t even notice! I shouldn’t even still be here – I only stayed to meet the guy who may have last seen my dad.” She looked at Trent with an angry expression after finishing her little outburst.
“Whoa, that’s…” Trent tried to find something appropriate to say, but instead settled on “…shitty. The invitation said nothing about it being anyone’s birthday. I don’t… Well, hold on.” Trent reached into the dimensional pocket he had created in his suit while still staring at her, as if to find something which could maybe be an appropriate gift. He gave a look of disappointment after a moment when it seemed that whatever he thought he had in there he couldn’t find. The Elven girl gave him first a wary look as he started to reach into his pocket, then her eyes got wide as he opened up his dimensional pocket and reached into it. A couple of the other patrons turned their heads in Trent’s direction when he reached into his dimensional pocket, but none of them did any more than that and went back to their own affairs. “Sorry, nevermind. I’ll have to send something, it turns out I… don’t have anything I can give you as a gift.”
“Was that a extra-dimensional pocket just now? Where did you find a store or tailor who could put one into your suit like that?” She asked him, suddenly interested.
“Um…” Trent started, then looked around before continuing. In a quieter voice he said “I didn’t have to find anyone to do that. I did it myself.” He smiled at her, pleased he could show off to at least one of the people here.
“Yeah. Right,” she said back to him. “You’re full of just as much shit as everyone else at this stupid party. I’ve heard enough.” She turned to head away, back into the crowd. Trent knew he had no need to prove anything, and shouldn’t have cared that she didn’t believe him, but having this kid doubt his abilities bothered him more than he cared for.
“Hold on. I can prove it. I can create one right now. What do you have that I can create one in?” Trent asked.
She stopped and turned back to him, thoughtfully. Trent wondered if he just fell for something, but before he could think too much on that she said “Yeah, I do. Come with me.” She grabbed his hand and led him away from where they were standing, further away from Jescha. She led him out through an open set of glass doors, onto a large balcony. There were a few people out here but it was a lot less dense than inside. Trent made a mental note to bring Jescha out here with him when he returned to her.
“Okay. Make one in here then.” She held out the small, plain purse that she had been wearing. Trent took it and opened it up. She suddenly snatched it back from him, red-faced and embarrased. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“I need to anchor the dimensional space to a focal point. In something like this, it would be the opening of the bag itself. The bag has to be open when I do it. I can’t create and attach a pocket space to a closed bag.” He held out his hand, waiting for her to hand it back to him.
“Oh,” She said thoughtfully. “Well wait a minute then.” She turned his back to him and rifled through her purse, taking some things he couldn’t see and stuffing them into her pockets. Satisfied, she turned back around and handed the purse to him. “Okay then. Show me.”
Trent took hold of the purse, opened it up, and began to softly chant the spell to create a dimensional pocket inside of it. He cast the spell slowly, using the trick he developed not too long ago to allow for the ambient magical energy all around him to help empower the spell. The Elf girl looked at Trent, puzzled, as his spell went longer than she expected. She was about to speak up when he expended the magical energy from his own reserves, finishing the spell and affixing a small dimensional space to the inside of the purse. He closed it and handed it back to her. Fascinated, she opened up the purse and looked inside. She squinted her eyes at it for a moment or two and then suddenly plunged her hand into the bag, sticking her hand into the hidden dimensional space within. Trent could feel the breach of dimensions as she did this, and inside the house someone also seemed to have noticed. That person frowned but continued to mind their own business. The Elf girl took her hand back out, stared at it for a moment, then gave a huge smile to Trent.
“This is great!” She squeaked at him. “Mom wouldn’t buy me one of these from the guild, and now I’ve got one anyway! Thank you thank you thank you so so much!” She squealed, and leapt forward to hug him. Trent stood there awkwardly for a moment, trying not to let the drink he was still holding spill all over her, and with his free hand lightly returned the hug. Then he stepped back away from her and the two of them separated.
“You’re welcome. I’m glad I could give you something for your birthday after all…” He cocked his head slightly looking at her. “Oh. I don’t know your name, and I never introduced myself.”
“I’m ’Cady. Well, my name is Arcadia, but I prefer being called ’Cady. Not that mother cares. ’Cady Tybus.”
Trent bowed formally to her, with a smile. “I’m Trent. Trent Logan. It has been a pleasure to make your acquaintance but I must…” He stopped when he noticed her eyes go wide with shock. “Are you okay, ’Cady? Everything all right?”
She just stared at him for a little while longer before speaking. “It’s you. You’re the guy my mother invited here. You’re the one who found my dad’s ring…” Her eyes started to tear up and she stopped speaking so she could compose herself.
Trent carefully thought about what to say next. She was obviously upset and hopeful. For a moment he considered Jescha, still waiting on Trent to return with drinks, but he decided she could wait a little longer. Jescha needed to work out her issues with non-humans, anyway, and giving her some more alone with them would be good for her. Mentally Trent winced though, at the thought of what she may have to say to him later for doing this. Still, he didn’t care. At the moment this was more important and she would just have to understand. In fact, she would understand, if it was a human child. No, he wasn’t going to play into her prejudices right now. Instead he looked at ‘Cady and told her, "Why don’t we sit down and I’ll tell you what I can."
She nodded at him and the two of them found an unoccupied bench. There, Trent told her the story of he came to be in possession of her father’s signet ring. He told her about the Coalition States’ bounties on every official who had ties with the city of Tolkeen. How mercenaries were encouraged to hunt those people down and collect proof of their death along with personal artifacts, like signet rings, in order to collect the bounty. Trent told her that he did not see any of these people because his own time in Tolkeen was taken from him due to a temporal trap. It was only when he left Tolkeen, weeks after arriving, that he and his companions had encountered a foul creature which had taken someone’s ‘collection’ of bounty before they could be turned in. Heads and fingers with numerous signet rings, all in a bag.
‘Cady closed her eyes and tears softly ran down her cheeks as she envisioned the scene Trent described. Her hope that her father might still be alive faded with Trent’s revelation. Trent finished his story by telling her that they cremated the body parts, and Trent recovered the signet rings with the hope that eventually he could return them to their families, letting them know that their loved ones won’t be coming back. Which is what he was able to do once he arrived in Lazlo and met with the Magic Guild.
When Trent finished the story he sat there quietly as ‘Cady took in everything that Trent told her. After some time she wiped her tears and asked Trent, in a cracking voice, "But he doesn’t have to be dead, right? You don’t know if all those rings matched with… with… the rest." She swallowed hard and stared at Trent, looking for some hope.
Instead Trent said to her, “Tell me about your father, ‘Cady. Maybe he wasn’t the sort of man to end up that way.”
’Cady took a moment to think and told Trent about her father, Orwell Tybus. He was a Shifter of some note, and he had taught ’Cady some of the art. He was a member of the Tolkeen nobility and a teacher in the city there. Five years ago, knowing that war was on the horizon, he sent ’Cady and her mother, Kiriya, to the safety of Lazlo. Orwell was expected to stay behind in Tolkeen and do his duty for the war effort, which he did. ’Cady and her mother received regular messages from him throughout the war until about six or eight months ago – right about when the Coalition claimed victory over the city.
After listening to her Trent replied, “One of my companions I’ve traveled with is also a Shifter. I have seen what one can do first hand. If the Coalition, or some mercenaries tried to take your father out, then I expect they found out rather quickly that they bit off way more than they could chew. I’m sure he gave as good or as better then he got.” That didn’t seem to make her feel much better, and Trent thought about it for a minute, then offered, “Do you have a picture of your father? Maybe I won’t recognize him.” She perked up at that thought and quickly stood up, digging through her pockets.
“Here it is!” She said as she pulled out and opened up a small wallet. Inside was a family portrait which showed the Lady Kiriya, looking all fancy and with a serious expression. In front of her was a smiling ‘Cady, who looked younger than she did now but not five years younger. Trent remembered that Elves don’t age as fast as Humans, and suddenly wondered just how old ’Cady and the Lady Kiriya were. Next to Kiriya in the picture was a bearded Elf who was as tall as his wife, dressed just as fancy but smiling similarly to ’Cady.
Through the Deevil spy amulet Trent always wore, he mentally called up the stored memory of that night in the forest when he and his companions encountered the Ghoul. He forwarded through the memory as fast as thought until the severed heads and fingers were emptied out, and he reviewed that memory in order to see if any of them were a match for the face in the picture ’Cady showed him.
Trent smiled up at ‘Cady. "No, I didn’t see any face that looked like his there."
Hope shone in her eyes again. “So then he may still be alive!” She jumped up and down for joy a few time then leaned forward and kissed Trent. Trent’s eyes widened in shock and he pushed her away, but it was so quick she was already pulling away. “Wait until I tell mom, she won’t believe it!” ’Cady grabbed her purse and ran off to go back into the party inside. She stopped at the doors and turned to face Trent real quick. Trent had turned around and was watching her leave, still a little shocked over her display of excitement. “Thanks Trent!” She called to him, then literally disappeared from sight. A moment later there was a commotion coming from some of the party goers and something unseen pushed her way by them, wading back into the party.
Shaking his head in wonder and disbelief, Trent stood up. He looked at the drink he was still holding to make sure it hadn’t spilled. It hadn’t. An amused woman’s voice nearby said, “That was awfully nice of you.”
Trent looked and saw an older Human woman, probably in her late 50’s, standing just far enough away to be ignored but still close enough to have been able to hear their conversation. Trent had been so wrapped up in talking with ‘Cady he hadn’t thought to see if anyone was nearby or not. He wondered if this woman had been there the whole time, or if she had just recently walked up, or even how much time had passed? Checking his mental sense of time Trent silently panicked. He had been talking with that Elf girl for quite some time, and he still didn’t even have the drinks he had told Jescha he would get!
“Here, you may want to wipe that off your face,” the woman said to him. She handed him a clean handkerchief. Trent took it and wiped at his face. The handkerchief came away with a smear of lipstick. The woman watched Trent, amused.
“Thank you ma’am,” Trent said to her as he handed back the handkerchief. “If you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to my date.”
“Let me accompany you for a few moments then,” the woman said to him. She walked back into the main room with Trent. “That was quite a story you told the young lady back there. It sounds like there was a lot more to it.” The woman looked at Trent, waiting to see his response.
Trent was looking around for a server with drinks, and absently told this woman, “Well yes, there was, but it wasn’t really relevant to what she wanted to know.”
“I’d love to hear more about it.”
“It’s fairly unbelievable, ma’am” Trent told her, still absent-mindedly. “Ah, there’s a server.” Trent worked his way through the crowd to get a fresh drink to go with the drink from earlier he was still holding. He turned to head back to Jescha and was surprised to see this woman still with him.
“Oh, you might be surprised at what I can believe, Trent. And please, call me Erin. Ma’am is so stuffy and formal.”
“Erin. All right.” That answered one question Trent had – how much of his conversation with ‘Cady she had heard. Everything I said to ’Cady about Tolkeen, he thought to himself. Trent found himself wishing he had a free hand with which to reach his Dragon’s Eye gem. After the events in Tolkeen and New Calgary he didn’t take people’s appearances at face value anymore. He chose his words carefully.
“I don’t have much more to say about my experience in Tolkeen than what I already told ’Cady,” Trent said to Erin as he started moving away. She stayed right with him though, seemingly very interested in what he was saying. “By the time I got there, the Coalition had just declared themselves the victor. The streets were still chaos. I tried to help a family be re-united…”
Trent paused for a moment, recalling all the events of that chaotic time. Of his escape from a Coalition prison, just a few weeks before arriving in the Tolkeen area. With no hope left for the city Trent made his way to a refugee camp and accepted a job to rescue and evacuate a woman and her daughter. Except when he and his companions found them they turned out to be Deevil assassins in disguise – the real mother and daughter had been killed by these Deevils. The creatures had been trapped in a slow-time prison that caught Trent and his companions, too, at least temporarily. Seventeen weeks passed before he and his companions could escape. And that was just the beginning of the tale.
“…but they were dead by the time we got to them.” Trent finished simply telling Erin. She had noticed his thoughtful pause though, and knew there was more to this. But she let him keep his silence on that for now, and just walked with him as he looked for the woman he left waiting. While they maneuvered their way through the crowd, Erin tried a different approach to get Trent talking about his adventures.
“So how long have you been here in Lazlo, Trent?” Erin asked him.
“Just about a month I guess,” Trent told her. Of course, he didn’t need to say just about – he knew exactly how much time had passed but decided against giving Erin too much specifics.
“Do you see that man over there, talking with the two D’norr Devilmen?” Erin politely gestured towards a man in his 60’s who was engaged in an animated discussion of some kind with two D-Bee’s.
“Yes…” Trent replied warily.
“You may have heard of him. Or not, I suppose, depending on how much you’ve learned of politics here in Lazlo in the last month. But that’s Sir Thomm. He’s the Premier of the Congress of the Electorate.”
Trent thought he may have remembered some conversations which mentioned the man, but he never intended to be involved in politics here in Lazlo and had no desire to really follow such things.
Erin continued. “He used to be an adventuring Cyber-Knight but he retired and worked his way into politics instead. I guess it was his way of continuing to work towards the common good. His sister’s disappearance weighs heavily upon him though.”
“Her disappearance?” Trent asked, to be polite.
“Yes. Such a spirited girl, if the stories can be believed. The last thing he ever heard from her was that she intended to travel into the Western part of the old Pre-Rifts Canadian empire. That was several years ago now, and not a word since.”
“That’s awful,” Trent said to Erin in a quiet voice, knowing too well the dangers in that place. Just a month ago he was there himself, smack in the middle of a city overrun and ruled by the Demonic Hordes of Hades. He had witnessed firsthand their slave caravans roaming the land, their pens where slaves were “stored” like livestock, and even attended one of their brutal slave arenas. If this woman that Erin was talking about had gotten anywhere near the Demon City of New Calgary, then it wasn’t surprising to Trent that she was never heard from again.
Erin noticed Trent’s far-away look again and filed it away in her mental notebook. It seemed to her from this reaction that there may be some truth to the story she was recently told by an old acquaintance from across the sea. She prepared to carefully delve a little deeper into this when Trent suddenly stopped.
“Who’s that?” Trent asked Erin, indicating a man who appeared to be in his late 40’s, who was leaning up against the wall next to Jescha. The two were talking and laughing. Trent noticed Jescha had a drink, as did the man talking with her. She seemed entirely comfortable. Maybe even a little too comfortable.
“Oh. Him,” Erin said sourly once she identified who Trent had indicated. “That’s Wallace Ormond. He’s the candidate that the Human Unity Party puts on the ballots every election.”
“Human Unity Party?” Trent asked.
“Human supremacists. Almost as misguided as the Coalition,” Erin explained. “Thankfully nowhere near as influential. I imagine he’s here to try and cozy up to the few other Human politicians Kiriya invited. Though how he would expect to work alongside Plato is anyone’s guess.” Erin noticed Trent’s surprise and dismay at hearing her explanation. Between Trent’s reaction and what seemed to be an easy comfort between Wallace and the woman he was talking to, Erin deduced three things: the woman was the date Trent had been trying to get back to, Wallace and the woman had a history that Trent seemed unaware of, and this woman had a positive viewpoint on human supremacy which Trent did not share.
A male voice spoke up from behind. “Did I hear my name?” Erin and Trent turned to face an elderly human male with white hair, dressed in a simple robe. He was smiling at Erin.
“Oh, Plato!” Erin said with a hint of surprise. “Where did you come from?”
“You know me, Erin,” He said. “I’m always on the move, going from ‘there’ to ‘here.’ I was ‘there’ a few moments ago. Now, I’m ‘here.’” He reached out a hand to her. “Would you care to dance, young lady?” He asked her. He then looked at Trent. “That is, if the young man doesn’t mind.” He winked at Trent, as if sharing a secret joke.
Trent shook his head and said, “No, please. You two have a blast out there.” Erin smiled at Plato but before taking his hand she looked back at Trent. “I do so hope we have the chance to talk again, Trent. Meeting you has been an unexpected pleasure.” She then took Plato’s outstretched hand and he gracefully whisked her away, into the center area where others were dancing. Erin let out a short “Whoop” as he pulled her into his dance and the two of them quickly disappeared into the crowd.
Looking back at Jescha, Trent couldn’t help but feel a little jealous that she was talking so casually with this man who she not only obviously knew, but was also a human supremacist like her. Just when I thought she might be broadening her world view, Trent thought. He stood there a moment longer, holding two drinks, then drank them both one after the other. A server collecting dishes passed by and Trent placed the two drinks on the tray. He then turned and walked away from Jescha and Wallace.
He would find the Lady Kiriya and get this over with so he and Jescha could leave. If he walked up to Jescha now he feared he would be dragged into another pro-human speech. Jescha liked to think that just because it took Trent some time to warm up to obviously non-human D-Bees he shared a lot of her prejudices. She was wrong. But no matter how many times he told her that she still chose to believe otherwise.
Enough time had passed that the Lady Kiriya was no longer near the front door; Trent had worked his way back there for nothing. He couldn’t see to the far end from where he was but he guessed that if she wasn’t here, then she was likely back there. Or maybe dancing on the dance floor. Trent shuddered slightly just thinking about dancing – he had never danced before and, party or no party, he had no intention of breaking that streak tonight.
He had to pass around the dance floor anyway so he made his way over there, just to see if the Lady Kiriya might be out there. He didn’t spy her amongst the dancers but he did see someone surprising: Jescha was out there, dancing awkwardly with that Wallace guy. Trent felt himself getting angry and had to work to calm down. After all, he was the one who left her alone for so long. In fact, he had even deliberately left her alone with that man, so why should he be surprised that she was having more fun with him? The song ended and the two of them stopped. Then another song picked up, a slower one, and they took to dancing again.
Trent forced himself to calm down. He turned and began to walk away in order to resume looking for the Lady Kiriya. He hadn’t taken two steps when a hand grabbed his and pulled him backwards, out onto the dance floor. The move was so sudden he nearly lost his balance but the beautiful woman who had pulled him out steadied him with gentle hands. She pulled him close to her with a smile on her face.
“Excuse me ma’am,” Trent immediately said as soon as he regained his balance. “I don’t dance.”
“Surely you can spare just one dance for me, Trent Logan…” She said sweetly and seductively.
Looking up at her smiling face caused Trent to be momentarily taken aback. She was not only a beautiful Elven woman but she seemed familiar to him for some reason. He was sure he had seen her somewhere before but he couldn’t recall exactly where just yet. Whether it was that almost-familiarity he felt, or the drinks starting to work on him, or his still-fresh anger that Jescha was dancing with a strange man – Trent didn’t know. But at that moment he decided he could in fact spare just one dance with this beautiful Elven lady.
Trent responded with a smile, “Very well my lady. But I must warn you – I’m a terrible dancer.”
The woman smiled broadly in reply and told him, “Just follow my lead.” She pressed her body up against Trent’s and started dancing slowly. Trent tried to move as she was but he wasn’t doing very well. “Relax, and stop thinking so much about it,” She said to him gently. “Just let your body move. Feel the music and let the movement come to you.” She directed their dance deeper into the sea of dancers, further away from the edge of the dance floor.
While trying to follow her advice Trent was also furiously trying to remember where he had seen this woman before. As they danced the band started singing.
Can’t you see the devil in me
Just take a look in my eyes
I will play for you this wicked melody
It’s magic will reach for your soul
“I remember you now,” Trent suddenly told her mid-step. “You were at the magic guild with a bunch of Techno-Wizards. You all helped me puzzle out the functions to some of the items I had found.”
“I was wondering if you would remember, Trent Logan. You had some very interesting and memorable items for us to look at that day.”
“You have me at a disadvantage here. You know my name, but I don’t know yours,” Trent said to her.
" Jaena Slayne," she told him simply. “My brother and I, we own one of the most innovate Techno-Wizard shops in North America. ‘Elemental Creations’ we call it.”
Bewitched, by delight, you’ll reach the night
Dancing and singing to my fiddle
So take my hand, and understand
That no one will see you again
“I’m not familiar with the place. I haven’t had a chance to do much shopping since I arrived here.”
“It’s a wonderful place,” Jaena said excitedly. “I’ve developed so many new ways to combine Techno-Wizardry with other types of magic. Ordinary magic is just so… plain and limited. My devices combine magic from various disciplines and mix their power in ways previously unheard of.”
It did sound interesting, Trent thought to himself. He was a little disappointed that this all seemed to be an elaborate sales pitch though. He started to scan the dance floor, looking to see if Jescha could see him out here dancing with this woman. He didn’t see her.
“There’s still so much more which could be done,” continued Jaena. “Can you imagine? Ammo clips which could hold almost unlimited ammunition. Weapons which could sent their targets hurtling forward through time. What wondrous devices I could make with your help, Trent.”
Suddenly she had Trent’s full attention again. He cautiously asked, "What makes you think I have the sort of magic you’re talking about, Jaena?
“Oh please Trent,” she said to him dismissively. “Don’t play us for fools. We did our research. Suddenly the market is flooded with dimensional storage bags? Someone had to be creating them. A little money in the right hands and the lower classes practically begged us to let them tell us who it was. There are no secrets.” Jaena stated this all matter-of-factly. “Even if we weren’t already sure, you came in here tonight and made one for that brat, Arcadia. She hasn’t shut up about it since it happened.”
I am the master of the enchanted tune
I’ll play for your joy, for your soul, for you doom
My fingers they dance upon the strings like fire
Weaving a spell of my burning desire
Trent stopped dancing and took a step back, peeling himself off of Jaena. Another couple bumped into him. They muttered under their breath and veered away, giving him space. The other dancers noticed they were standing there and kept their distance as well. Jaena stood there looking at Trent, inquisitively.
Jaena broke their silence. “You and I Trent, together. Partners in this business.”
Sing with me, meet your destiny
Set yourself free to the magic
So come with me, my kingdom to see
Believe me you’re captured my friend
Trent responded with measured anger in his voice. “You have no idea what I went through to learn what I know today. I earned the right to weild this magic at the cost of my own blood, sweat, time and maybe even my own soul. The last, and I mean last thing in the world I would want to do is put this sort of magic into the hands of any two-bit mage who has some money and thinks they can handle playing with forces they can’t even begin to comprehend.”
You are bewitched
Jaena closed the gap between the two of them and bent down to speak quietly into Trent’s ear. Trent tensed but before he could pull away again she spoke to him softly, teasingly, “Surely you don’t mean that, Trent. Think about you and I, together. Not just in this business. Think about the pleasures we could share…” Trent was very suddenly aware of her body against his as she pressed even closer against him. She started to dance against him then, slowly and sensually. Trent was so distracted by this act of hers that his anger receeded. He also failed to notice Jescha and Wallace slowly dancing just a few bodies away. Jescha’s eyes widened in surprise and anger when she saw the spectacle Trent and the Elven woman were making of themselves on the dance floor. Wallace noticed what she was staring at and whispered something to her. She responded and the two of them moved away, out of sight.
You are bewitched
“You could become rich beyond your wildest dreams Trent,” Jaena seductively purred. “We could have more money then we know what to do with if you would just come work for me.”
That seemed to finally bring Trent back to his senses and he pushed back away from her again. “‘For you?’ A moment ago we were going to be partners,” Trent responded to her. “No. No thank you, Jaena.” When he looked at her again she was no longer smiling. To look at her face you would be hard pressed to tell she had even smiled at all tonight.
You are bewitched
“Trent,” Jaena said slowly. “Think very carefully about what you’re saying. About what you’re giving up.”
“What I’m giving up? There’s nothing I could ‘give up’ today that would even compare against what I ‘gave up’ twelve years ago.” Trent started to back further away. “I did enjoy the dance, Jaena. Enjoy the rest of your evening.”
You are bewitched
Trent turned and walked away from her, heading off the dance floor by the quickest way he could find. He was careful not to disturb any dancers. He left the dance area just as the music was ending. He took one look back to see if Jaena had followed him. She was still standing right where he had left her, staring at him. Once the song finished she turned and walked away very deliberately in the opposite direction, ignoring the people who tried to offer to dance with her to the new song just starting.
“That’s definitely going to make things a little awkward at the guild,” Trent said softly to himself. It wasn’t like he would never encounter Jaena again – she was at the guild often herself. Trent intended to resume his hunt for the Lady Kiriya, but instead he spotted Jescha and Wallace again, still dancing. Jescha noticed him this time and Trent smiled sheepishly at her. She rolled her eyes and looked away from him, expressionlessly and deliberately. They turned around as they danced so that Jescha’s back was to Trent. Wallace looked straight at Trent and gave Trent a humorless grin of victory. Trent scowled back at him.
Trent started to go out on the dance floor towards Wallace and Jescha, angry at this game Jescha was playing. He stopped suddenly when a sound caught his attention. It was that musical, honeyed voice of the Lady Kiriya gliding through the the sea of noise. “…to stop worrying so much, Arl. Try to relax and…” As quick as it came her voice faded, absorbed back into the background. Trent turned his back to Jescha and Wallace and resumed his goal of finding the Lady Kiriya and then getting himself and Jescha the hell out of there. Once Trent walked away Wallace and Jescha stopped dancing. They had a quick conversation then parted ways. Each of them looked disappointed as they walked off the dance floor, though for different reasons.
It didn’t take long for Trent to finally catch up with the Lady Kiriya. She was surrounded by a small entourage of mixed humans and D-Bees. One of them was speaking, telling a joke it seemed like. The entire entourage laughed including Kiriya but she stopped abruptly when she saw Trent. She walked towards Trent and began speaking to those around her.
“I’ve been waiting a long time now to catch up with this one,” she said smoothly as she approached Trent. “I would like for you all to meet Mr. Trent Logan. I invited him here tonight so he could share his story with us,” she explained.
“Excuse me Lady Kiriya-” Trent started to say, but Kiriya cut him off.
“Manners, please, young man,” she said, scolding him. A few of the folks around her chuckled. “I should like to introduce you properly before we begin. You and I have been introduced already. But I would like for you to meet J.B. Tudhope… Will Prospero and his daughter, Miranda… her inamorata Arina Tarasova… the head of the Lazlo Defense Forces, Arl Xzzyni… the famous Zerganax… Korbin Slayne… and my daughter, Arcadia, who I believe you have met already.” Trent shook the hands and paws of the men and kissed the hands of the ladies as they were each introduced. ‘Cady avoided making eye contact with Trent, and seemed very subdued compared to how she was acting earlier."Now then, Mr. Logan. Let me express my gratitude for your return of my late husband’s signet ring. As I’m sure you know, it was a very valuable item for many reasons."
Despite how nice it seemed the Lady Kiriya was talking, Trent was definately picking up on the undertone of her haughtiness, her assumption of superiority in front of an inferior. It reminded him of how his rival during his apprenticeship, Nusael, talked. Except that Nusael didn’t disguise his arrogance as subtly as this woman did. The Lady continued talking.
“We would all love to hear your story, Mr. Logan, about your experiences in Tolkeen and how my late husband’s most prized posession came to be in your hands.” The others murmured excitedly in agreement, except for ’Cady who looked like she desperately wished to be anywhere but there.
Trent spent a moment collecting his thoughts, then relayed to them the same story he had just told ’Cady a short while ago. He told them about the bounties which the Coalition put out, the mercenaries which tried to collect those bounties, and how after he escaped the temporal trap and started to leave Tolkeen he found a creature which had a bag of body parts taken from some mercenary.
“That was where I found the ring,” Trent finished telling them. “There were several rings which we recovered from the cremation, actually, and I asked the Magic Guild to help in giving them back to the families.”
“And how much of the war did you participate in before you were caught in this so-called ‘temporal trap?’” Kiriya asked him.
Trent looked straight at her. “I didn’t get to Tolkeen until just after the city fell. The resistance was still trying to fight, but… the Coalition was everywhere. Wild creatures were roaming the broken streets. We even ran into Splugorth slavers while we were in the ruins of the city. It was over by the time I got there.”
The Lady Kiriya grinned humorlessly back at Trent. “So you did not fight in the war after all.” Her voice lost some of its musical quality. “You were there as, what, a treasure hunter? An opportunist who sought to gain his fortune by stealing it from the ashes of its rightful owners?” Her voice rose in volume – she was by no means shouting, but she was much louder than usual, and others around them started paying attention to the conversation. Among those listening now were Erin and Plato, who were conveniently within earshot nearby.
She continued to berate the now dumbfounded Trent. “You did not care to help defend the kingdom of Tolkeen, to prevent the fate that befell it. Millions were slaughtered by the Coalition, Trent Logan, after the collapse of the city. And you were there during that time. You could have made a difference. Their blood, it stains your hands, your very soul.” The Lady Kiriya stopped talking for a moment then, catching her breath and looking like a cat who had just caught a mouse.
Trent narrowed his eyes angrily as he stared at the Lady Kiriya. “You think I went into that war zone for petty treasure? That I did nothing to help anyone? You don’t even know… I went into that city to rescue survivors trapped in the Third Great Library. People who waited days and days for an evacuation which never came. But when I got there I found no survivors in that library. Only death, and a temporal trap I walked right into that robbed me of months. But maybe I could’ve made a difference if I had gone to Tolkeen before the city was overrun. Maybe if I hadn’t spent so many years of the war selfishly rescuing and redistributing confiscated books and other contraband throughout the ‘Burbs of Chi-Town… Maybe if I hadn’t been caught and sent to a Coalition Prison for the crime of helping people to educate themselves… Maybe I could have done more in Tolkeen besides provide support and aid to every group of Freedom Fighters I ran across. Maybe…”
Trent’s voice broke, but he cleared his throat and finished. “Maybe if I hadn’t done all those things, and gotten to Tolkeen sooner, the people in that Library would’ve still been alive and could’ve been rescued. Some of them waited in there for weeks, I found out. Waiting and hoping for help that never came… maybe my selfish actions did stain my soul with their blood. Because I certainly can’t forget that.”
The crowd around them was shocked and speechless. Even ’Cady was staring at Trent. The Lady Kiriya, especially, looked surprised to hear what Trent had just said. Or maybe her surprise was that someone so far beneath her had speaken to her in such a manner. She opened her mouth to say something back to him but was cut off by a scream from the dance floor.
“I said NO!” A split-second later a deep, rumbling “woooooaaaaaaaaagh!” was heard as a sharply dressed Minotaur went flying across the dance floor, crashing into a server who couldn’t get out of the way fast enough. With a crash both the Minotaur and the server fell to the floor, dazed and winded. All the dishes on his tray flew up into the air as he fell, landing on the two of them and the floor around them. All conversation throughout the entire party stopped, the music stopped, and quickly the dance floor emptied as everyone backed away from what had caused the disturbance. Behind Trent, a low, gutteral growl was quietly coming from Arl Xzzyni. He had his hand on a sidearm.
Once the crowd parted Trent could see the cause of the disturbance. Standing all by herself in the middle of the dance floor was Jescha. Her dress was torn from the exertion of sending such a creature flying across the room. She was breathing heavilly, and was in a fighting stance. Impervious to all the stares she was getting she addressed the fallen Minotaur. “For the third time now – I. Do. Not. Wish. To. Dance. With. You.”
Before Arl Xzzyni started shooting, or anyone else decided to react, Trent pushed through the people and ran over to her. “Jesh…” He said to her quietly. He went by her side and she painfully grabbed onto his arm. “I think I’m ready to go home now,” she said to him. Trent looked back at the mortified Lady Kiriya and her Entourage. Loudly, but politely, he said to her, “Thank you for the invitation, Lady Kiriya, but I think it’s time we retired for the evening.” He started walking out with Jescha, and the still-silent crowd parted around them as they left. Trent didn’t scan the entire room but he noticed two people whos reactions were different from everyone else’s – ’Cady looked like she was trying her hardest not to laugh out loud and only barely succeeding, and Wallace Ormond had a huge grin on his face. Everyone else either looked shocked, angry, or, like the Lady Kiriya, mortified.
The doorman opened the door for them and they walked outside. The door was shut slowly but firmly behind them. Trent and Jescha kept walking to where they could get a waiting hovercab. After a minute or two, they heard the music resume from inside the estate. They silently got into a cab and headed back to Trent’s apartment in the city proper.
After a silent ride back to the apartment, Trent apologizes to Jescha for leaving her alone. She doesn’t say anything back to him. A little while later Trent tries talking to her again. He asks her what happened on the dance floor, and very indignantly Jescha tells Trent that the creature asked her if she wanted to dance! She told it no and then it had the nerve to not only ask her a second time, but actually lay its filthy hand on her! At that moment she reached her limit, and before she knew it she had already hurled the creature across the room. Trent wisely doesn’t laugh when he hears this.
Jaena Slayne meets up with her brother, Korbin. They talk about their individual experiences with Trent Logan. While Korbin was impressed by the man, Jaena swears she will make him regret turning down her offer. Korbin asks her which offer she means, and follows it up by saying that he’s surprised she actually found a straight man who wouldn’t fuck her when she threw herself at him. Jaena slaps him and walks away. Korbin goes back to hang with the girls he just met at the party. He plans to have a very fun night.
Plato walks Erin home, and the two of them talk like old friends. Erin is excited to have found the man (or boy, it almost looks like) who pretty much confirms the story her friend James from across the sea told her about. Plato warns her to investigate carefully, and to be careful with Trent, but he doesn’t say why. She laughs off his concern and asks him who he thinks she is? He tells her he knows damn well who she is, she’s Erin Tarn, and he repeats his warning.
The Lady Kiriya sits alone in her bedroom in front of her mirror, while servants clean up the party mess. On her dresser is her late husband’s signet ring. Her daughter had of course told her the wild claims that man Trent made, that maybe Orwell was actually still alive. Kiriya only now lets herself feel that hope, briefly, before she buries it again. She will not continue to live that way, she tells herself. Orwell had sent her and Arcadia away, and she will not pine for his return. She snatches up the ring and puts it away in a jewelery box. A tear rolls down her cheek, and when she sees it in the mirror she looks surprised.
The day had started out shitty, as usual, but it had ended so much better than ‘Cady Tybus ever hoped. It was like Trent Logan had given her three presents that day, each of them by themselves worth more than anything her mother had given her lately. She hoped someday to run into Trent again, to thank him, to talk with him more, to… She drifts off, sleeping soundly and peacefully for the first time since leaving Tolkeen. ’Cady’s dreams are of happily reuniting with her father.
In a small building in Lazlo, Wallace Ormond reviews the events of the evening. He didn’t drum up as much support as he had hoped. But now, surrounded by Human Unity Party posters and other voting paraphernalia, he finally felt comfortable. He accepted that it was his duty to lead Lazlo into a D-Bee free zone – but unlike the Coalition he would do it democratically, without bloodshed. That woman Jescha, though, she intrigued him. Tonight wasn’t the first time he had encountered her, but it was the first time he really got a chance to talk with her. He writes her name down and under it starts writing everything he knows about her from their talks tonight, including information on this Trent Logan she had arrived with. He then calls a couple of boys he knows, waking them up, to ask them to start doing some digging around on her.