It is early February, and the snow is gently falling in the city of New Lazlo in what was once southern Michigan, just off of the Great Lake of the same name. Everyone that is out and about is bundled up against the cold and wind as it comes off the lake, but we find our bunch of adventurers currently heading inside a large manor house to enjoy a dinner invitation from your friend and sponsor, Lord Brazamal. All of you are aware of the fact that Brazamal is actually an elder dragon, and is one of the leaders of the great city of magic. It is a great honor to be invited to the Lord's home here in New Lazlo, even if you are no longer capable of enjoying the food.
You arrive one at a time at the manor house, and are met by Olsen, Lord Brazamal's aid and personal secretary, and a Ley Line Walker of not inconsiderable skill. Olsen greets each of you warmly and invites you in. "Ah! You've arrived. Excellent. The Lord has been waiting for you. Please, come inside and shake off the cold." He leads you into the library, where you find one of the largest collection of books most of you have ever even dreamed of, along with several chairs (some even large enough to comfortably accommodate Sherro and Blake) arranged in a circle around the room. A roaring fireplace completes the picture and makes the whole room very toasty warm. At the moment, Lord Brazamal is not there, and Olsen tells you to relax and enjoy a drink while you wait for all the guests to arrive.
Since this is a social visit, Terra arrives at the manor house wearing a long red dress with a matching coat to keep the cold at bay. Once inside and out of the snow, she slips the coat off and hands it over to a servant to hang up. "Olsen! How are you doing this cold day?" Terra gives him a quick hug in greeting, and lets him guide her to the library. The sight of so many books takes her breath away. "My goodness! such an extensive collection! Color me impressed!" She then notices that she is not the first person there, and turns to the Borg. "Blake! Good to see you again." Choosing a soft chair nearby the fire, Terra settles in and gratefully accepts a cup of hot chocolate.
Gradicus the Red Edge enters, his senses taking in the sights and sounds of a manor owned by an Elder Dragon. The young Atlantean Undead Slayer nods the Ley Line Walker's welcome and offer of drink. His bold, baritone voice is deepened slightly from the frosty air outside. "Gratitude," he smiles warmly to Olsen's offer of drink. "Anything warm and alcoholic would bring cheer to my wintery insides."
Upon entering the library, Gradicus warms himself by the crackling fire but only long enough to chase the chill from his bones. "Well, now! What have we here?" He approaches the books lit with fireplace-made shadows. With childlike wonder, Gradicus reaches eagerly toward a book to see what he can decipher and what remains mystery. But then he pauses and remembers his place. "Walker Olsen," he asks in polite tones, "might I peruse these works while we wait? I am recent to New Lazlo and would know more of this strange realm."
While they wait, Gradicus turns to his teammates. "Blake? Terra? How come you to know Walker Olsen and his draconic lord?"
Terra nods in greeting to her fellow Atlantian in between sips of her chocolate. "Gradicus. Good to see you again. You are looking well." She takes another sip, feeling the warmth flowing into her. "I have had the good fortune to have had an opportunity to work with Lord Brazamal a few times before, and he has always been fair and reasonable to deal with; something that I cannot say of all the High Lords of New Lazlo. I look forward to seeing what he has in mind for us tonight, and that does include the dinner I can smell. Whatever it is that he has lined up for us certainly smells mouth watering."
Olsen gives Gradicus a knowing smile. "I am sure that M'Lord would not object to you looking over his 'friends', as he calls them, so long as you are careful. Some of these texts are quite old." He turns to leave, and soon after, a young woman brings Gradicus a warm mug of something hot with a bit of a kick to it.
"Bloody snow." The murmured words escape Shaona's lips as soon as she finds herself right in front of the well-known door of a friend. The darn white masses cling to her boots despite her half-hearted attempt to wipe them before entering; and the coat she's wearing feels twice as heavy as just a few minutes ago. "Bloody darn snow." She steps over the threshold and gives the secretary an almost apologetical look as she carries the snow inside. "Good to see you, Olsen - sorry for the mess. Is that the smell of a fire ahead?" She does not wait for an answer, but instead follows the doorway where different voices can already be heard. Familiar voices, much to her surprise - seems like the dragon is still on point when it comes to choosing half-decent company. Or it's just that decent people are drawn to the same places like moths to the fire.
"With that weather outside, anything warm will do the trick for me, Terra. Good to see you. " Helping herself to a black coffee to shake off both tiredness and cold, Shaona joins the others as they wait. "Guess it's February, but still." She takes a sip, and then looks around. "Certainly didn't expect all of you here. Thought it'd be just him, me and his books." She slowly follows Gradicus' example to give the assembled books some attention - her eyes seem to lighten up as soon as her hand finds the first volume of interest. "'Quite old', indeed. Never thought dragons would hoard books until Olar brought me here."
I look around at the books but decide to sit down and stay quiet nodding a hello to everyone who enters while I wait for Brazamal to make an appearance. I look over at the undead slayer and reply "Lord Brazamal and I are old friends, I scratch his back he scratches mine although I am quite curious to see what he has in store this time normally when we talk it is just me and him and occasionally Olar as well"
It was pleasant outside, Sherro loved it when it snowed, the faint chill that lay upon the world was beyond him but he remembers the snow well enough. It was a small reminder, a return to one's roots in a way, he would play in the snow long ago, not for long as his watchers would not allow it for long, and he was quickly to be brought back in line.
But snow was... Pleasant...
Much like the early morning rays of sunshine in spring.
Or the evening twilight of summer.
Or the crisp sound of leaves crunching under foot in fall.
A simple beauty, that it was.
But now the anti monster side would call those things useless, save for the coming of twilight, the start of a hunt, or perhaps the cover of night.
But that was not pleasant to think about, for now, he must go forwards. To a pleasant enough scene, the others were already inside, tending to themselves and chatting about something. Sherro admired the furniture however, the cloak not leaving his drapped form for politeness's sake, for to Sherro it'd be akin to takeing off one's boots and laying your smelly feet upon the table should he do so.
Less smelly, more distressing.
He knew the others knew, some might even hazard to understand, but it didn't mean he had to shove his... Self... Into people's faces.
"...Very nice and warm... I wonder, somebody test the food, tell me of it and it's finery and tastes." The words came out occasionally raspy, like sliding out of the maw of a salivating beast, but he meant what he said. It would be nice to know somebody is enjoying the sense of taste.
Terra looks up at the giant, gentle soul that just entered the room with another smile. It has taken her some time to be able to look at Sherro without seeing a monster, but the true person that he is inside. "Ah, our numbers keep growing. Come, join us here by the fire. You may not need to warm your bones, but the sight of the dancing flames are rather soothing, don't you think?"
"And you, Terra," he grins at the sight of the Atlantean in her red dress, "though I doubt I would need this drink if I had the sight of you to see in the snow. Your attire becomes you." Gradicus liked to flirt, but inwardly he hoped that Terra understood that was all it was. The day Gradicus failed to see the wonder in a good book, the pulling at his senses from drinking good spirits, or the rise in his blood when an attractive woman, especially an Atlantean, graced his presence with her beauty. These were some of the things that made Gradicus feel alive.
"And you, Sherro!" He grinned at the Anti-Monster. "If your ugliness were a fire, this manor would have been burned down before we had the chance to enjoy it!" He laughed the kind of laugh that held the hopes Sherro would too find humor in his jest. Gradicus did not know the creature well, but it was clear his ugliness was but skin-deep. Inside that bio-armored frame, Gradicus was willing to bet there still lived the soul of a man, however changed. "My eyes see you with joy, you hideous fiend! Heh, heh!"
"Blake," he addressed the Psi-Operator. "Have a care that you maintain your metal body - dragons have long lives and longer memories. If you live long enough, you might come to know this Brazamal's young when they hatch - if they haven't already!"
"Certainly didn't expect all of you here. Thought it'd be just him, me and his books." She slowly follows Gradicus' example to give the assembled books some attention - her eyes seem to lighten up as soon as her hand finds the first volume of interest. "'Quite old', indeed. Never thought dragons would hoard books until Olar brought me here."
Gradicus became briefly curious toward the book Shaona chose. "Well, this time you will have to share your scaly, old friend with the rest of us, won't you? The evening is finer with your presence, Shaona." With that, Gradicus tried to find a tome of his own, preferably something about Lazlo. All the while the Undead Slayer listened to the chatting of his allies. Now that they were inside and warm with dinner forthcoming, it was proving to be a better night than his usual. Or at least far more interesting.
The windows of the manor glowed from the lights, one in particular danced because of the fire. It had been some time since he had provided his services to Lord Brazamal, but he knew it meant cash, and lots of it. Dropping the remainder of his cigarette to the snow dusted ground, he crushed it under his boot with a twist of his foot. Looking back over his shoulder he motioned for Foss to follow with the simple nod of his head in the direction of the massive building in front of them. Leaving the Badger behind Trent took note that they were certainly not the only ones here. This was highly unusual as his business consisted of having as few people as possible know what he was doing.
Proceeding with caution, he walked to the door and knocked. When Olsen opened the door Trent tipped his head, "Seems to be a crowd here..." he said impatiently as he shrugged off his coat and handed it to the assistant. Around the corner he found the room with the others, standing in the doorway for a moment, he quickly scanned the room at the lot of misfits. This was the most rag-tag bunch he had seen in quite some time. While he was no where near perfect, this group made him look sophisticated. "Brazamal must be planning something big... if he needs this much muscle..." he uttered to Eric, who was standing beside him. "...Let's not let on who we are and what we do until it is needed..."
Not waiting for a response, as he knew Eric wouldn't question him, Trent stepped into the room and walked straight over to the tray of beverages in crystal decanters. Taking a glass he grabbed one large ice cube with the tongs and placed it in his glass. Then lifting the stopper he took hold of the neck of the decanter, bringing it to his nose as he inhaled slowly. Whiskey. Giving a slight nod of approval, he poured just enough in the glass so that it barely covered the bottom. He turned around and put his back against the wall only a few steps away so that he could see everyone and that no one could approach him from behind...
"That would be lovely Terra, stopping to appreciate the flame's dance is a luxury we should take advantage of, it works so very hard to do so.
A dance that begets life, the search for burnable material, it sways, it bends..." he stopped for a moment letting Gradicus get out his jests, he is unable to frown, or rather, his toothy maw allows very little emotion but he never truly appreciated such jokes. "A comely dancer it makes... I am lucky to not feel fire burning anymore." But they never truly hurt him anymore, his double meaning telling that as he examined the fireplace for but a moment longer, then turned an observant eye to Red dressed woman nearby as he took his, rather large, seat.
"...A shame there are no dresses my size like that, I would have come better dressed for the event." A hefty grumble came from the being, what would be considered a laugh, or maybe something lodged in his throat?
Eric comes in behind Trent and stands by the door. He is a young man with a decidedly military bearing to him, complete with his high-and-tight haircut and how he stands at parade rest as he leans against the wall. His eyes scan the room, and they keep going back to Sherro. Little surprise; Sherro is quite disturbing to those that have not met him. A keen eye can see that he is a bit nervous being here.
Soon enough, after everyone has had a chance to get a refreshment and warm themselves at the fire, your host comes into the room.
Brazamal has a commanding presence, and despite his six foot height, he seems to fill the room as he comes in. His smile shows a row of perfect teeth, and his welcoming handshake is firm without crushing anyone's hands. With a deep baritone, he says, "I am sorry for keeping you waiting, my friends. Please, let us make our way to the dining room so I can try to make up for being tardy." Olsen seems to magically appear from out of nowhere and falls into step behind his master and the two of them lead the way into the dining room.
Several servants are already busy laying out several plates of food and various bottles of wine for you to enjoy. It is quite a spread, and both the Borg and Anti-Monster feel a slight pang of regret that they can't join in.
Terra rises from her seat and offers up a bow to Brazamal. "My Lord, it is a pleasure to be here. Thank you for the invitation." She follows the elder dragon into the dining room and takes a seat in a chair sized for her. Her attention is occasionally drawn to the two strangers in here, wondering what their role in all of this will be.
Sheroo follows suit, takeing his careful time to make certain not to harm anything as he moved about. It was like watching a bull in a china shop, you expect everything to fall appart around him but in reality he was quite careful, and conscientious about the chandeliers and light fixtures.
In the dining room he sat upon a seat sized for him, a lovely gesture, he eyed a chicken and a phantom, long since lost, stomache grumbled. "Lateness is always forgiven when the company is worthwhile." He added, as he contemplated the turkey, how wonderous it must smell...
Huh, thinks Gradicus as he stares at Sherro. Ignored by an Anti-Monster. The last one I knew was friendlier. But perhaps I forget my place. I treat these people, including my fellow Atlantean, like fellow gladiators. I wish for us to grow together, for our lives will likely depend upon our bonds, but I forget that none of them have likely known the life of blood and glory. I treat them too well and must remember, save Terra, we have precious little in common.
He finishes his mug and places it on a servants' tray. Then he reads with interest the first book that holds him. Remembering, he carries the book with care; as an artisan, he could relate well to what Olsen meant by these books being Brazamal's "friends."
Gradicus read and learned until Brazamal entered the room. Then he carefully put the book away where he had found it with an appreciative pat on its cover.
"'Between friends, there is no owing.'" Gradicus quotes to Brazamal with a warm smile. He did not know if Brazamal considered him to be a friend, but the young Atlantean was open to friendships with all good creatures, great or small.
Brother Cadfael from Ellis Peters' excellent book and television series, Cadfael.
Gradicus watches everyone discreetly as they move into the dining room, especially the pair of humans who had just arrived. He felt humans were a strange race and their hearts could be as bright and free as supernovas or as lightless and greedy as black holes or anything in between. That the short-lived creatures were invited to the dinner meant little to the gladiator, for even Elder dragons could be fooled.
If the opportunity arises, Gradicus helps Terra to her seat as gentlemen do when they respect a lady. His earlier flirting was meant to get a smile from her, but his respect for this female of Clan Draco Amicus was greater than any of his dreamy, youthful desires. First and forever, they were True Atlanteans, and here, Gradicus would act as such.
When Gradicus helps Terra with her seat, you briefly see Brazamal give a slight nod and smile at your gentlemanly behavior. He waits for everyone to be seated before he takes his own seat, then the dragon-man motions towards the food spread out on the table. "Lets enjoy our repast before we discuss business." He looks over at Blake and Sherro with an apologetic expression. "I am sorry that the two of you can't enjoy the hard work of my chef. I hope that the pleasant company and good conversation makes up for it. Now, let me make sure that everyone has been properly introduced." He takes a moment to go around the table and give everyone's names, so you can begin to converse with one another without saying, "Hey, you!" to one another.
Brazamal politely deflects any effort to plumb him for details on what job has brought everyone together, insisting that you enjoy the meal first.
Terra is torn between diving into the food with gusto or trying to be more delicate and dainty, eating like a lady. So, she decides to be more ladylike, especially in front of the others in her pretty dress. Once it becomes clear that Brazamal will not be answering any questions about what has brought them all together, she focuses on her food and enjoying the pleasant company.
The manor home of Lord Brazamal is as impressive as ever, though Kimberly's appreciation of the building comes more from an examination of its dimension than its aesthetics. When she approaches the door and knocks for admittance, the Mystic Knight draws her cloak more tightly about her shoulders, shielding her from the cold. Though at least New Lazlo's weather wasn't much worse than Madhaven's, this time of year. When Olsen answers and admits her on sight, she tilts her head respectfully and enters, responding to his gesture of direction with another nod and obedience. "How nice to see you again," he says as she passes.
"It's my pleasure," Kimberly replies, turning back to orient her face in the direction of the Line Walker. "I wish my parents were here to share the pleasure of your employer's invitation but some things can't be helped." The Knight shrugs her cloak off, revealing the clean, bright lines of her form-fitting armor inscribed with the ornate whorls and patterns of roses worked into the composite alloy. She leaves her cloak along with her sword and shield in Olsen's capable stewardship before ducking her head once more and pressing on to the dining room.
Kimberly 'sees' the gathering of guests before she enters but doesn't slow her stride, her swift steps causing audible clicks down the hallway as she enters after a pair of servants. Turning her head somewhat unnecessarily to take in the room, she locates a chair and seats herself. Clad in armor, Kimberly seems of little distinction compared to the other more visibly noteworthy members of Lord Brazamal's guests. Only the pince nez style sunglasses on her face stand out, seemingly a touch anachronistic compared to her knight's mail.
Eric is mostly quiet as he eats, unless he has a question directed at him specifically. He spends most of his time simply eating as much dinner as he can fit into his mouth.
As Kimberly enters, Brazamal looks up with a smile. "Ah, Ms. Finn! I was worried that you might not be joining us tonight. Please, come join us and enjoy some fine food." He stands and indicates the empty seat to his side. "Everyone, this is Kimberly Finn, the last of our guests this evening."
To share the dragon's attention - it has been a while, and it certainly provides a better opportunity than she has hoped for when she returned to this snow-covered place. Following the host's invitation, Shaona quietly sits down with the others, making sure that she is close enough to the dragon to have her questions deflected - as she digs in rather methodically, perhaps showing less enthusiasm about the food than what is considered polite, she does her best to get at least a tiny detail: A general direction, perhaps? A small hint what exactly caught the dragon's attention? It's fruitless, but it is also worth the try.
When it becomes obvious that she will not be able to deduce any clues from him, she instead focuses on the other guests. Enough muscle to get pretty much anywhere. Enough wit to give the muscles some kind of direction, if only because she is present. No obvious sign of where this will lead, though.
"You, over there - Trent was the name, right? Don't think we've met before, though I might be wrong. You don't look like the usual kind of mercenary - mind sharing a bit about yourself? Brazamal won't talk, I'm afraid." Her lips show a smile, but the fawn eyes almost stare at the smuggler as if he were the solution to the riddle the dragon provides. "I'm mostly on the road myself, doing mechanical stuff with a little bit extra on top of it. Speaking of the road..." She turns towards the last guest, the lady in armor as if this is a battle, not a dinner. "Is it still snowing outside?"
When Brazamal had entered and proceeded to escort the group, Trent watched as the others left the room, ensuring that he was last to leave. He never liked having others behind him, especially in his business. Walking a few paces behind the others, he admires the works of art along the walls, estimating their value in his head. Arriving in the great dinning room the others take their seats and he notices that the only remaining seat is next to the Anti-monster. Trent sighed quietly, in an annoyed tone, and rolled his eyes before putting on a gentlemanly smile and taking his seat. When Raising an eyebrow at Brazamal after hearing that he would not engage with conversation about business until after dinner, he turns his attention to the food at hand. Filling in plate with an assortment of meats, cheeses, and vegetables, he spies some fresh bread near the center of the table and as he reaches for a slice he hears his name from across the table from Shaona.
"Yes, Trent it is..." he said with a smirk, "... and you are correct, we have not met before..." Ugh, there it was, someone wanted him to 'share' bits about himself, "...mercenary? No, I certainly do not get involved in such a messy business. I am in the procurement business." As he completes his sentence, Trent eyes the salt shaker on the other side of the table and tipped it over with his telekinetic push, with the slight movement of his eyes, to create a bit of a distraction and take the attention off of himself. He returned to his food and took another bite before anyone else could ask another question...