There was a knock at the door, and the handle began to turn. A red-haired woman entered the room, looked at the two others seated at the large, triangular table in its centre, and took her place at its remaining open face. From her breast, she produced a parchment envelope, wordlessly, and slid it across the table. It spun gently with the weight of its contents.
“I take it he was unaware?” said the man on the table’s left side. His hair was sandy blond, his clean-shaven face rugged, yet dashing. A long, thin scar wound its way down from the top of his forehead to the bottom of his jawline in a gentle arc.
“Of what he had? Certainly. He was motivated by blind greed rather than any…prescience,” the woman said.
Two long, blue fingers reached out to retrieve the envelope, and the man and woman turned to face the figure at the top of the table. There was a smooth sound of paper being sliced as a thin claw opened the package and emptied it, before the envelope was promptly discarded, fluttering slowly to the stone floor. A smooth, eyeless face regarded the key within, held aloft by finger and thumb, as thin lips drew back. A smile spread across the face, revealing pointed fangs.
“Bara’kinnnnnn…” the figure whispered, a purple tongue running over its sharp teeth. Its gaze, or what passed for it, was fixed on the key for a few long moments, taking it in, before its pale blue fingers returned it to the table. “Excellent work.” The voice was low, and long, savouring every word.
“This time,” the woman replied. “We should not grow so complacent in future. They are already…altering the game. We may not be so lucky next time.”
“They’re adventurers. We’ve seen more than our fair share come and go. They’ll be no different,” said the man, head dropped slightly, a look of derision upon his face.
“They’re not like the others. There’s more to them.”
The man snorted. “They are thieves and graverobbers, same as the rest of them. Sooner or later they’ll bite off more than they can chew and that’ll be that.” He flashed a rogueish smile.
The woman waited for him to finish, eyebrows raised, a smile playing at the corner of her mouth. “I’d almost agree with you if the Oculans weren’t already courting them.”
The man stopped smiling, regarding both his associates. “What do they want?”
“Well, you know, I’m not entirely sure,” the woman said, “but I know that gloamer run-around of theirs met with the wizard. After the…incident, shall we say, at the docks the other day.”
The vor’s blue forehead wrinkled. “What is She playing at?” it said, as much to itself as either of the others. It tapped a claw on the oaken table as it did so.
“Your guess is as good as mine,” the woman said. “I assume she’s making a play for their allegiance. I expect they won’t have met any of the Others yet. She’s striking while the iron’s hot.”
“That’s…awfully bold for her,” said the man.
The woman turned to face him. “I’d wager she understands who we’re dealing with. They’re a…blunt instrument, but in the right hands…” she said, leaving her sentence unfinished.
“Well, what’s our move?” the man asked, looking between the other two.
“They’ve headed north for now,” said the woman, “so it’s not our most pressing issue, but we’ll need to counter somehow. Show her there are consequences.”
“We’ll need to be careful,” the man said, “if things escalate…”
“Things are going to escalate regardless,” said the woman, “if we do nothing, the Oculans gain a powerful pawn. They aren’t going to slink back to their estate. They’ll press the advantage.”
“Well what are our options?” the man said. “The way I see it we either court them to our side instead or we just…” He made a motion with his hands and the woman rolled her eyes.
“You’re a fool. That would escalate things.”
“Escalation is unavoidable,” said the vor, its smooth face now expressionless.
“All I’m saying,” the man said, “is that if they’re the problem, we should remove them at the source.”
The woman shook her head. “They’re worth more to us alive.”
“They’re worth less to them dead.”
There was a scraping noise of wood against stone as the vor pushed its chair out and stood up. Its gangly form towered over the table, dark robes softening its thin frame. “Enough,” it said, its voice deep, “they are no matter until they return. When they do, we shall make our decision.” It retrieved the key from the table, holding it up between thumb and forefinger.
“For now…we have more pressing businessssss.”