The Runic Legacy

Part I: Fire and Ice

Chapter XII: Forced Enlightenment

The tavern in the outer edge of the industrial district was abuzz with activity, yet strangely quiet. Conversations could be barely heard over the sound of his own loud thoughts, which suited him just fine. He was troubled with them, but more so troubled over the person they involved. A man in his line of work could afford few friends, and the subject of his thoughts; ne, the rumors he had heard was one of such friends.

His travel-worn black netch-leather gloves were sitting next to his glass, for a moment allowing himself to slip out of the persona he had to carry with him every moment, and the black jacket that matched it was sitting on the back of his chair. He allowed himself this luxury; he wasn't sure he'd get it again anytime soon.

The stupid woman had gotten herself into something, he surmised from the rumors he was hearing. He was sure that she knew that, so what he had to tell her would not shock her anymore than it should have. And after the message he'd received from her…

He sighed aloud. Why she'd asked him to look into this, he'd never know, unless she decided to enlighten him, which was unlikely. His investigation had turned over some information, and a few people weren't happy he was looking for it. But they knew what others knew. He wasn't the best in his field, but he was damn good; good enough to protect himself, and good enough to be useful to them if the price was high enough.

He assumed that's what the woman next to him was trying to convince him of.

"Mister Baccarant, the rewards are endless should you decide to take this on. The possibilities for contracts alone will keep you settled for years to come. If half of the contracts we have available are finished, you could retire comfortably," the woman noted. Aikon Baccarant chuckled, but made no movement to look at her directly.

Through his peripheral vision, he noted her pale skin which put her birthplace probably in the capital city of Alexandria. Her light (almost white) silver hair was brilliant, and her eyes were the color of the sea; she was truly a being of beauty. She bore the look of the traveling mercenary; worn knee high light brown travelling boots, with mildly faded purple pants. Below her forest green overcoat, a grey shirt poked out.

"Not interested."

She leaned in closer, a fragrant aroma of honey surrounding her and coating her voice. "Did I mention that you've been asking some very dangerous questions, questions that are likely to get you disposed of?" she asked him quietly, the threat evident. He turned to look her in the eye. "I told you, I'm not interested in anything dealing with the Brotherhood. It's not my style; I work alone. You can threaten me, but it isn't going to help you."

She placed one of her gloved hands on his arm, and he took note of the brown fabric texture. Definitely a mercenary, he thought. "Aikon Baccarant… you are quite courageous. I hope to work with you someday, if that courage doesn't get you killed."

The female mercenary stood up, and as she began to move away, he wrapped his hand around her arm. "So, you know so much about me, and I can't even know your last name, Cecilia?" he questioned, the hint of a smirk on his lips. Her head tilted to the right, before a tiny smile crossed her lips. "If we ever work together, ask me again."

"Cecilia" made to move again, only to notice the door to the tavern open. Her eyes widened in recognition before she looked over her shoulder. "You wouldn't be asking questions for her… would you?" she probed. His response was to pick up the untouched lager in front of him and bring it to his lips. "Tsk, tsk, tsk… that's too bad… I was really hoping we could be friends…"

Without another word, she walked away from him, pushing past the newcomer to the tavern with a very quiet, almost amused 'Excuse me…' Aikon sighed quietly, hoping that the clandestine meeting he'd just had, and the clandestine meeting he was about to have weren't the two largest mistakes of his life.

Across the city, Claude Beoulve and Carrie Tremont moved towards a clock tower in the theatre district of Lindblum. Carrie looked around her as they walked, her eyes taking in the sights and sounds of the massive city. "There are so many people here! How do you deal with it all?" she asked excitedly. Claude shrugged as they came in sight of the front of the tower that they'd been heading to. "After you've lived here as long as I have, you just get used to it, I suppose. I did, though I suppose it helps that Tantalus has all of us in and out of Lindblum on a regular basis," he replied as he opened the clock tower's door.

Peering his head inside, he called out to anyone who might be around. "Hey, guys! Got a lady comin' in; put your pants back on!" No one replied back, and he allowed her inside the cluttered Tantalus hideout. She gazed around the room, even taken in by its simplicity as she spoke. "Do you ever get overwhelmed by living here, in a place with so many people surrounded by a city with more people than you could ever deal with?" she asked.

He looked to her before heading over and taking a seat in a nook in the wall. "I usually find it comforting, to be honest. It's nice to have a sense of normalcy, and Lindblum gives me that. I suppose I've never known anything different though, so that isn't surprisingly. You just learn how to get through it, learn where to watch yourself, discover where the best deals are to be had, and soon you discover you're getting by. That's enough for me."

She moved to sit next to him, and he graciously moved aside to allow her. "When you put it that way, Claude, it sounds so easy!" she said, her eternal smile reminding Claude how innocent this young girl was. It was refreshing to see that in the world that they lived in; filled with corruption and deceit and… he forced the thoughts out of his mind. For now, he'd focus on Carrie.

"So, there's a bistro down the way. If you're hungry, I could take you there."

If possible, Carrie's face became even brighter, and her smile was luminescent.

Moments after Cecilia had left, Aikon had moved to a corner booth, knowing his next "guest" would want some semblance of privacy. And no sooner had he sat down, appeared a woman in a black cloak who sat down in front of him without a word. The darkness of the booth clearly afforded her the privacy she needed, as she lowered her hood a moment later.

Aikon sighed, a seemingly recurring trend that day. He had hoped beyond all hope that Celes Chere would wait for him to send her a message back regarding the "research" she'd had him doing. Apparently, however, she was impatient… which was why she sat in front of him at that moment.

He'd received a note by courier earlier in that day, telling him to expect her. The only problem was, that courier had been the woman he'd just been talking to; Cecilia. The same Cecilia who had kept being a nuisance during his questioning and investigation that Celes had asked him to conduct. He hadn't liked it, but…

"Aikon, I apologize for the short notice. If you've paid attention to any rumors coming from Alexandria in the last few days, you'll know that things have been interesting in the last week. I know you don't like to communicate in person with me, but I hope you'll forgive me the offense," she started off, quietly. He nodded, before pulling out a couple sheets of paper and sliding them across to her. She began to look over them as he spoke.

"I started looking into the Brotherhood of the Wolf, by your request when I received your letter two weeks ago. I don't know where you heard of this organization, nor do I care to know, but let me be clear here. This is a wasp's nest, woman. I've been threatened with death for mentioning it," he started and she nodded.

A few weeks previous, the guard had caught someone trying to break into the castle. His intentions were never discovered, but through interrogation, Celes had discovered that he worked for a "Brotherhood of the Wolf." He gave her no further information, and at last check had been rotting in prison cell because he refused to eat. Beatrix had looked over the information he had given, and then assigned Celes to try and find out what she could about the organization. Celes, in turn, had contacted Aikon and asked for a favor.

"It confirms some beliefs that I had. You weren't able to get anything else?" she asked, leaning back in her seat. Aikon shook his head. "You mean beyond threats directed against you and me? Very little. Apparently, they deal in high-gil contracts, and the only reason I know that is because they tried to contract me," he said, pausing. Then, he leaned forward and continued.

"I'm not going to tell you your business, but this isn't a nest you want to stir up. They have people everywhere watching. I was intercepted every time I even mentioned the name of that organization. They are quite private, and I assume they want to stay that way. It's not worth the time, so just leave it alone," he finished, lifting his mug of lager to his lips.

Her eyes narrowed as she looked at him. "I would if I could, but I'm under orders. I need to find out who they are, and why they tried to infiltrate our castle… poorly, I might add," she muttered quietly, leaning forward and folding her hands in front of her face. Aikon closed his eyes, if only so she couldn't see him rolling them. "Look, woman. If there was ever a time to disobey orders, now would be it. Or at least lay low for a bit, and maybe they'll get off our trail."

She looked at him for a moment. "Perhaps you're right. I have more pressing issues to deal with at the moment. Do me a favor though?" she asked him. He shrugged. "As always, depends on the favor." She nodded to him, acknowledging their normal manner of negotiating. "If you hear something important about this organization, get a message to me. I won't ask you to ask more questions about it, but see if that nest you stirred up gives you any more information, would you?"

He glanced around the tavern, looking for Cecilia to make sure she wasn't listening while making sure she'd actually left the tavern this time. The mercenary wasn't in the room, and Aikon turned back to Celes. "Fine. How am I to find you?"

Her face gained a mischevious look. "You'll find a way, friend," she stated as she leaned forward and kissed him on the forehead. "You always do." Their business complete, she placed her hood over her head and began to walk away. A second later, his hand on her shoulder stopped her and she turned to look at him. A moment passed before he placed a pouch in her hand. Looking inside of it, her eyes widened, and she looked at him questioningly.

"It ticks me off, but I owe you for my success. Consider it travelling reimbursement to come and see me if nothing else."

Before she could reply, he had moved away from her and she looked in the pouch once more.

In the pouch was gil in the amount of roughly ten thousand drakes.

This chapter came rough, however, once it was discovered, it wrote itself. I was going to continue, but it just felt right to end it here for now. Added some stuff to the plot that now I hope is interesting you. I suppose we will see.

'Til next chapter…