This log marks the return of the old JTS fantasy game, Chiaroscuro, to our Slack site – via the channel #rp-palisade. Kudos to Lamia and Raisin for kicking everything off!

It is said – primarily by the proprietor, a jovial merchant-classer named Solas Creek – that all roads in Fastheld lead to the Lightholder Tavern. On any given night, it’s not hard to see why he might justify such a claim. The pub, which started centuries ago as a small refreshment wagon for laborers building Fastheld Keep atop Caryas Hill, sees boisterous crowds filling its rafters with laughter and pipe smoke at all hours of the day and night as travelers make their way through the realm.

About three dozen tables are arranged among the polished wooden columns on which hang the wrought-iron lanterns that help give the tavern its name. Solas or one of his assistants can usually be found working behind a wide C-shaped counter, serving mugs of keg-tapped ale to thirsty patrons who stand at the bar.

The floor is strewn with amber rushes, except in a circle of about twenty feet in diameter, where the stone fireplace and chimney rise toward the ceiling.

A lithe woman with a shock of bright red hair is weaving her way through the crowds of the tavern, her riding trousers still dusty from the road as she hawks her services. “Bonded courier!” Kallyn announces cheerfully, “Delivery guaranteed anywhere in Fastheld, or I’ll pay for it out of my own pocket!”

The door opens, sunlight shining in for a brief moment before it is blocked by a solitary figure. It lingers, taking in the sights of the large room while the silhouette just lingers, a darkened blur on a backdrop of golden light. Finally moving further in and shutting the door, the figure can be identified as a woman with her gentle curves and halo of soft golden blond hair that floats down to her waist. While her clothes are of a simple cut, tunic and trousers hugging her frame, they are of good quality, speaking of at least decent money. Not noble, but perhaps of a wealthy merchant family.

At least a few eyes follow her as she crosses the room to sit toward the far wall, back nestled into a corner, gaze focused on the door that she just came from. There she sits silently, waiting.

One set of those eyes is grey, the courier sizing up this newcomer to determine if there’s work to be had. Noting that she has settled into a corner, and is watching the door, Kallyn decides to continue advertising rather than approach directly just yet, but she keeps an absent eye on the blonde.

Once completely settled, a cup of tea is ordered, along with a fresh loaf of bread. The woman sits quietly, her face set into one of calm and tranquility. As she sits, she withdraws a bundle of papers from a small satchel at her side, flipping through them briefly before raising a single finger to draw Kallyn in. The seat across from her is gently nudged out. It’s a very subtle invitation for the other woman to join her.

The redhead smiles, brushes herself down a bit and approaches the table in the corner. “Light’s greetings, Mistress,” Kallyn offers, her tone lowered for a relatively private conversation. She offers the stranger a hand, and if it’s shaken or refused, she regardless takes the seat with a pleasant air about her, “I hope the day finds you well?”

Pale, slender fingers reach out to shake Kallyn’s hand. “Light’s Blessings,” the woman replies with a gentle smile. She stares intently at Kallyn, looking her up and down, before she smiles more brightly. “So you are a courier?” she asks, completely bypassing the question.

“That I am,” nods Kallyn, “Kallyn Lake, at your service. A *bonded* courier, I’ll add. That’s important if you want me to deliver anything of value, Mistress. I’ve plenty incentive to protect your package, and you can rest assured you’ll be compensated if, Light forbid, anything were to go awry.” The examining gaze causes the fire-haired woman to shift in her seat slightly, but her smile never wavers.

A gleam appears in her bright eyes. “What I send holds no monetary value, Mistress,” she replies. “But make no mistake that it does hold value.” She cocks her head to the side curiously. “Would you say your services are worth a life? For some of the messages I send require such compensation if you don’t make it.”

Kallyn blinks, her smile slowly falling. “Oh. One of those days,” she remarks aloud to herself, before leaning forward and lowering her voice you be barely audible, “Mistress, I’ve got no problem betting my own life – and mine alone – on my skills. But I’m not doing that unless the pay’s good and I know I’m not being set up.”

The blond woman seems to make a decision and smiles more genuinely at Kallyn. Her smile is friendly, warm and inviting the receiver to trust and be trusted. “I apologize for the seemingly cryptic responses, Mistress,” she says brightly. “I deal in information. If it goes astray or is given in to wrong hands, I lose business and others could potentially find themselves in difficult situations.” Her eyes sparkle. “Rest easy. I pay well and treat those who do work for me fairly.” She tilts her head. “You can call me Mara.”

“You deal in important information, and you’re hiring a new courier,” Kallyn leans back against her seat, smirking, “Do I want to know what happened to your last one? Probably not. Well, nice to make your acquaintance, Mara. How’s this going to work out, then? Secret phrases or anything like that?”

“Why assume that something happened?” the one calling herself Mara asks. “Why not think that perhaps my business is booming and I need to hire on additional help.” Her shoulders lift in a delicate shrug. “Or perhaps I’m smart enough to not entrust everything to one courier. Perhaps I make use of multiple to ensure that even if one met an untimely demise, the information they brought would be useless without the other pieces.” Her blue eyes glow with her own private thoughts. A piece of paper is produced from beneath the table. It’s been folded and closed with a decorative wax seal of a spread-winged owl, three wing points on each side and it’s head the final point. “If you don’t have what it takes, I wouldn’t blame you if you’d prefer to stand up and walk away now.”

“I’ve been doing this 13 years, Mistress,” Kallyn replies mildly, “You don’t bring new blood into… sensitive operations unless you absolutely have to. I’ll err on the side of caution and assume something bad happened.” She reaches for the paper, glancing over the seal briefly, then slips it into a pocket sewn into her bodice, under her arm. “Where to? Dead drop or in hand?”

“Market District,” Mara replies. “To the leatherworking stall. There will be no reply. Just ensure that it arrives and is given into the hands of a man named Kres Skinner.” She smiles evenly. “I’ll let you draw your own conclusions on why I’ve asked you to deliver this for me.” A small pouch of Imerials is nudged across the table toward Kallyn. There are a fair number of coins inside, especially for one delivery.

The courier picks up the pouch and assesses the value with a peek and a little jingle. “This is acceptable,” she concludes, stowing the payment, “What does Master Skinner look like?”

Amusement once again touches Mara’s face as she leans back in her seat. “Master Skinner is an elderly man and marked by his craft. He tends to be on the dirtier side and has no hair to speak of.” There’s a moment of hesitation. “He is often pale and a little sickly but it comes and goes. He’s been ill most of his life but still manages to be a successful trader in the Market District.”

There’s a nod, and thoughtful silence as Kallyn considers the other woman’s amusement, as well as her next words. Coming up with nothing specific, the redhead simply asks, “Anything else you think I should know before I head out? If I leave now I can make it past the Stanchion before nightfall.”

Mara pauses to think before she shakes her head. “No, I would consider this a straight forward run. If Master Skinner gives you any trouble, showing him the seal on the message should be enough to calm him down. His illness sometimes makes him see things that are not truly there.” She tsks. “It’s regrettable, really, since he’s one of the finer leatherworkers I’ve seen. But you won’t be at risk, so don’t fear. His son, Damien, is often with him, learning the craft.” Another pause. “Light guide your steps, Mistress Lake. Come find me upon your return and I could have more work for you if you are interested.”

“Poor man,” Kallyn sympathizes, rising from her seat, “I’m off, then. Light keep you, Mistress Mara.” She offers a nod of her head, a little flourish of her arm, and then makes for the door so she can saddle up and start the journey east.

By Brody

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