Baron Lyddmull Seamel is an unusual figure amongst unusual figures in the Last Orders Tavern. When he reaches the bar, he removes his helm to order a drink. Doing his best to ignore any of the attention he draws, he begins going over his notes on a small tablet he produces from a pouch at his waist. “No sign of the boy?” he asks the bartender, sliding over some currency as his drink is poured.

“Which boy?” the bartender replies – after scooping up the currency. He tucks the money into a pocket, then nudges the filled cup toward Seamel. “They come and go here.”
The Seamel pulls up a picture on the aforementioned tablet. “The one I came here looking for,” he says. A young humanoid in his teens, light-haired and dark-eyed. “I am, of course, aware that you have plenty of faces in here every day,” he adds.
“Does he have a name?” the bartender inquires. “I could reach out to a few people. Thing is, someone goes missing on Tomin Kora, either they don’t wanna be found or they *can’t* be found.”
“Jacob Garfield,” the Fastheldian replies, nodding, “And yes, I’m aware of that. It occurs to me that if I have not found him within the next couple of weeks, he has likely met an untimely end. A pity as well; his young wife is with child.” He shrugs a bit, “Poor boy lost his nerve. I promised I would do my best to bring him back under his own power.”
The bartender tilts his head, scratching his stubbled chin. “He ran *here* to avoid fatherhood? Where’s he running from? Nalhom?”
The knight chuckles mirthlessly at this, and nods. “True, the actions of a young fool,” he says, “To some, the life one might live in this Light-forsaken world would seem far less terrifying than the weight of responsibility. Still, I would preserve his life, if I can, though I do not expect much success. His child should have a father.”
“You might check with Mannerly, over at the Violet Strand,” the bartender suggests. “Maybe the kid just wanted to plow a few more fields, no strings attached. Tell her I sent you, maybe she’ll give you a discount for a session with one of her girls.”
“As appreciative as one might be for that, I am afraid I have not the time,” Lyddmull replies, “Though I will ask her about the boy. My thanks.” He dips a faint bow before paying for his drink and making his exit.
Some time later…
If Lyddmull Seamel stood out in the Last Orders Tavern, he is downright outlandish on the Violet Strand. A few inquiries and a few delicate extrications lead him to Mannerly’s place. He grimaces a bit, sighs, then steps in.
The front desk clerk in the entrance parlor – adorned as it is with burgundy drapes and brass highlights – is a male Timonae with long silver hair bound in a twisted tail. He’s wearing a dark blue satin robe. He offers a warm smile to Lyddmull and asks: “Welcome to the Violet Strand. First time? Free appetizer. What menu would you prefer?”
The bronze rider offers a faint bow as he removes his helm. “Good evening,” he says, politely, “I have been sent here by the tavernkeeper at the Last Orders to speak with Miss Mannerly.”
The clerk eyes Lyddmull suspiciously: “Do you have an appointment?” His warm smile becomes a frosty grimace.
“I am afraid not,” the Fastheldian admits, “I am certain that Miss Mannerly is very busy; if an appointment is necessary, would I make one with you? Or is there someone else I should speak with.”
“I’ll see if she’s available,” the Timonae replies, and then disappears around the corner down a shadowy hall.
The Fastheldian nods gratefully as he steps to the side. “And when I think of all of those afraid to enter the Shadow District,” he mutters to himself, doing his best to remain aware of his surroundings without appearing curious.
A short while later, a middle-aged woman clad in opaque blue silk wrappings walks out of the darkness and into the pale light of the lobby. Her exposed skin is covered almost entirely with colorful tattoos. Her nose is studded with gemstones and a single golden side hoop. She stands about six feet tall. One hand is behind her back. The other rests on her hip as she stares at the stranger. “Who are you?” she asks Lyddmull. The other hand emerges from behind her back, aiming a pulse pistol at the knight’s chest. “And why are you coming into my place of business, asking questions? My customers don’t like nosy visitors. They expect discretion. And when someone is indiscreet, they expect me to deal with the problem. So. Explain how you are not a problem.”
The Fastheldian makes no offensive moves, even when the pistol comes out from behind the woman’s back. “Well, to begin with, I have asked no questions,” he says with a smile, “Not yet, anyway. However, your instinct is correct. I do seek someone. An off-worlder, of no consequence to the machinations of this city. A young man who belongs here about as much as a fish in the high mountains.” He, slowly and carefully, draws a picture from within a belt pouch and shows it to the woman. “I intend no harm to you nor your establishment,” he continues, “And would like as not never come here but that the tavernkeeper at the Last Orders suggested speaking with you. In truth, it is likely that the boy has already met an untimely end.”
Mannerly gives a cursory glance at the image at first. But then a pierced eyebrow arches. She gives it a longer look. “Friend of yours?”
“I am a friend of the family,” the knight replies, “And I have known him for years. The boy leaves behind his young wife, and as yet unborn child. I would find him before a moment’s weakness leaves his child fatherless.”
“Yes, well,” she sighs. Mannerly tucks the pistol back into the belt of her silk wrap. “Last time I saw him, he was in the hands of Jaxel the Slaver.” She shakes her head. “Probably sold into servitude. The Nall are always looking for no-questions-asked, no-strings labor for their polydenum mining camps.”
The Seamel sighs in frustration, putting the picture away. “I thank you for your help in this,” he says, dipping his head, “Could I presume upon you further to ask where one might find this Jaxel the Slaver?”
Mannerly shakes her head. “You don’t want to find him. Believe me. You don’t look like you belong here anymore than your friend. Start asking around about Jaxel, you’re liable to end up in one of those death camps.”
“You are not entirely wrong,” Lyddmull admits, smiling once more, “Still, I gave my word to his wife and to his mother that I would find him if he lives still. At any rate, I appreciate your kindness, and if you have need of such service that is within my power and conscience to provide, do not hesitate to call on me.” He offers a small data chip with his comm contact with a bow.
She accepts the chip, then nods to the Seamel as she says: “Good luck.” Might be a hint of sarcasm in there. Maybe. With that, she heads back down the shadowy hall.
The Seamel seems to have no illusions about his luck. After he nods his thanks to the receptionist, his face turns quite grim as he turns to make his way out to the street, drawing out his comm to make what might be a final call home.
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By Brody

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