Birds of a feather

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Warnings/notes: Vlad, bit of an experiment in style, ooc.

Disclaimer: The wondrous world of Dragaera was created by Steven Brust.

written at 7th september 2006, by Misura

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"My lord Taltos - although it pains me to address you by such an eminent title in the view of your lack of the virtues one would normally associate with it - I am here to berate you most earnestly for the corrupting of my poor, innocent cousin, whom you have - "

If you're wondering who was talking to me like that, well, that'd have made two of us. Aside from the fact that he'd gotten past Melestav (which made me a little less inclined to immediately assume he was all bark and no bite), I knew nothing at all about the man who came striding into my office like he owned it. A bit of a shame, since it had been such a nice, peaceful morning before he walked in, too.

He looked like he belonged to the House of the Hawk, which made his accusation somewhat less likely than it might have been if he'd belonged to, say, the House of the Orca or the Dragon. Hawks tend not to indulge in most of the entertainments I provide, possibly because their eyes and minds are too sharp not to see how doing so would profit me more than them. (Personally, I just think they're more stuck-up than most people, Iorich excepted. Say of Dragons what you want, but at least they've got too much pride to ever back down from a gamble merely because logic tells them it's rigged.)

"Melestav?" I didn't dare to spend too much time demanding an explanation, even if my unexpected visitor sounded like he was only warming up his vocal chords, and would be talking to, or at, me for at least another fifteen minutes.

"Sorry, boss." He sounded more sheepish than injured and about to draw his last breath. I supposed that should have cheered me up, but it still left me with some crazy Hawk rambling about honour in my office. I decided I'd take any resulting damage, emotional or otherwise, out of Melestav's pay, and have a good talk with him about what I'd meant when I'd told him not to let anyone enter my office without an appointment, unless he was absolutely positive I wanted to see them.

" - and I feel that you could at the very least show me the courtesy of listening to me when I am doing you the honour of addressing you." Amazingly, three seconds after I'd graced him with my full attention, the Hawk shut up. I hadn't even needed to draw my knife, or have Loiosh do any tricks. Perhaps this guy would be easier to get rid of than I'd initially feared.

"Now, who are you, and what did you want to see me about?" I asked in a friendly tone of voice. It's a trusty Jhereg-trick, that. For some reason, people always expect Jhereg to be rude, impolite and threatening, just because we earn our money by activities that are, shall we say, not quite in accordance with the letter of the law. Thus, when we act all nice and polite, it tends to confuse people. And, as everyone knows, confused people easily make mistakes.

"I am Sir Paarfi of Roundwood." He drew himself up to his full length. I wasn't that impressed; he was shorter than Morrolan, and he didn't seem to be armed. Since he was a Hawk, that probably meant that he -wasn't- armed. From the way he was looking at me, he obviously expected his name to ring a bell, but it didn't. I'd never even heard of Roundwood.

"A pleasure to meet you," I said. "Now, why don't you sit down, and tell me what I can do for you?"

He did so. That is to say: he sat down after giving me a look that informed me I should feel very special that he was willing to do so, and he launched into another speech about his cousin's honour and my own lack thereof. He seemed very fond of the sound of his own voice, but he didn't say much, if you know what I mean.

Loiosh suggested that I snuck out while my visitor was too caught up in his own words. I think it probably would have worked, too, except that I didn't feel like leaving someone alone in my office. It was a matter of principle; I'd survived people trying to stab me to death, and I'd be damned if I'd back down from someone trying to -talk- me to death.

"Vlad?" Kragar walked in just at a moment when Paarfi had stopped to draw breath, or else he'd finally wound down. I'd have bet on the first. "Oh."

"You!" Paarfi shot up out of his chair.

Kragar stepped back. He looked uncomfortable, and I spent a moment wondering what it was about this Paarfi that had both my assistants acting like he was some hot-shot in the Organization.

"Maybe he is," Loiosh suggested.

"I'd have known his name if he was," I replied. Of course, some Jhereg chose to become famous by a pseudonym, rather than by their own name, but ... Paarfi didn't act like a Jhereg. He acted like a Hawk, albeit a talkative one, and on top of that, there was his babbling about his cousin's honour. Jhereg, as a rule, weren't overly concerned with matters of honour.

Paarfi and Kragar were eyeing each other like a pair of dzur who couldn't quite decide if they wanted to fight or not, while Loiosh was speculating about how they might have met, and I was wondering what, if anything, I should do to get some answers out of them, such as about what was going on around here. This, of course, was the moment whenn Daymar chose to teleport in and make things even more complicated. (I strongly suspect him of having observed the going-ons aforehand, the better to time his dramatic entrance, which was accompanied by a flash of light and some purple smoke, but somehow I never got around to asking him.)

Typically, he blatantly ignored both Kragar and Paarfi, instead turning to me like he wasn't floating a good three feet above the floor and looking like he was sitting on some invisible chair.

"Vlad, about that book you said Morrolan wouldn't mind lending to me - " he started.

"Daymar! Tel your fool of a cousin to get out of here, before someone gets hurt!" Kragar interrupted him, apparently having made up his mind about Paarfi being a nuisance of the disposable kind and -

"Cousin?" Loiosh said.

"How dare you!" Paarfi said. "Why, if you were a gentleman instead of a lowly Jhereg, I would show no hesitation at all to call upon you to prove your valor, or lack thereof, as it is, with something else than mere words. Hiding behind my poor cousin whose naivety won't allow him to see you for the treacherous serpent that you are clearly proves how right I am in my opinion of you."

"Cousin?" I echoed Loiosh.

Daymar shrugged.

"I don't care what Kiera has said about him being under her protection; if he writes one more line about how the House of the Dragon is so much better off without me in it, I swear someone's going to get injured, and I assure you it won't be me," Kragar said.

"When I talked to Morrolan, he told me he'd meet me here, but I don't see him yet, so I guess he's held up by something. I wonder if his experiment with light-shapes finally produced something interesting." Daymar looked thoughtful. "Maybe I should hop over and go see, only it's such a bother to get through that teleport-block he's put up around his laboratory."

"You, sir, are without honour, and I don't see why you should think you possess any right to complain about me stating so," Paarfi said to Kragar. "As a historian, it is no more than my duty to write of that which is true, painful as it may be to some persons."

"What does Kiera have to do with this?" I demanded.

"Who is Kiera?" Morrolan inquired, somehow having managed to enter the room without me noticing. "And why is your secretary hiding under his desk? I only said I'd kill him if he would stand in my way."

"I just dropped my quill, boss. Nothing to worry about," Melestav assured me when I contacted him.

Looking around my office, I couldn't help but disagree with him. I saw plenty of things to worry about, and most of them were things I didn't know what to do about. I decided to focus on the nearest danger to my office's continued state of existence-in-one-piece, which was ... a confused Dragonlord with a Great Weapon. Hm. On second thought, I'd try talking to Daymar first.

"Historian?" Kragar sneered. "Don't make me laugh! You're no more of a historian than I am a Dragon!"

"Daymar, do you think you and Morrolan might discuss that book you wanted to borrow elsewhere?" I asked, politely. "As you can see, it's a little busy in here."

"Amazingly, it would seem I can agree with you on something," Morrolan said, apparently (and rightfully) having concluded he wasn't going to get an answer to his questions from me any time soon.

"Kiera is a master-thief," Daymar said. "Although there's an element of power around her that suggests she wasn't born into the House of the Jhereg, or any other House for that matter. It's all very intrigueing, and I do wish she'd allow me to ask her a few questions about it."

"Thanks a whole lot, Dragonlord," Kragar snapped.

"My lord Morrolan, I must inquire of you if you actually are acquainted with this ... individual. Surely, a person of your standing cannot possibly associate with a disgraced, honourless and cowardly Jhereg," Paarfi said, moving in the general direction of Morrolan, but finding his path blocked by Kragar.

"Vlad, I don't suppose you could arrange a meeting for me?" Daymar asked wistfully, Morrolan and his experiments forgotten for the moment. "It would mean a great deal to me."

"I associate with whom I please," Morrolan said. "And I assure you, Sir Paarfi, that it does not please me at all to associate with you for any second longer than is necessary."

"Or, to use simple words: bugger off, unless you want to feel what it's like to have your soul be fed to Blackwand," Kragar said. "And don't come back to bother Vlad, either."

"I can't imagine why she'd agree to meet my cousin but not me," Daymar lamented. "My cousin doesn't even appreciate his good luck, complaining about how he needs to talk to a thief to get his information. As if what people do for a living is of any importance!"

"Need I remind you, sir, that I have influential friends, not the least of which is the Enchantress of Dzur Mountain herself? I assure you she will not take kindly to your threatening me," Paarfi told Kragar, who gave him a look of disgust.

"Kiera's her own boss, sorry," I said.

"You're not going to be able to complain to her if you're dead, are you?" Kragar put his hand on the hilt of his sword. "Seems to me that you're only making it more attractive for me to kill you."

"I will thank you not to speak of Blackwand as if she were yours instead of mine," Morrolan said. "There is only one person who will decide on whose soul she will feast, and that person is me."

"Do you think that Melestav has found his quill yet?" I asked Loiosh. "Maybe I should help him go look for it."

"Oh well, thanks anyway." Daymar sighed. "Perhaps I should ask my cousin."

"My lord Morrolan, I am appalled that you would make light of such grave matters," Paarfi said. Kragar was still standing between him and Morrolan, which was probably good for Paarfi, but potentially bad for Kragar. Morrolan looked like he'd just as happy kill both of them and be done with it.

"You thank me? That'd be a first." Kragar snorted.

"Believe me, I would do so most reluctantly," Morrolan assured him.

"Cousin Paarfi? May I have a word with you?" Daymar queried.

"Depends, boss. Are you sure there'll still be an office left when you return?" Loiosh said.

"I don't doubt that for a second," Kragar said.

"No, but I'd rather not be here when things start to blow up," I informed Loiosh.

"Provided that you give me your solemn promise that you will cease all communications with Jhereg and their like, why, then nothing would please me more than to discuss any subject with you which you might desire to have speech with me about," Paarfi said.

"It is good that you are aware of the unlikeliness of an event that would oblige me to need to express my gratitude to you," Morrolan said.

"But I don't like talking with Vlad because he's a Jhereg," Daymar objected. "I like talking with him because he's an Easterner. And he's much more easy about helping me satisfy my curiosity than Morrolan."

"You're a stuck-up bastard, has anyone ever told you that?" Kragar said.

"Reasons are of no importance; history will only see and judge us by the consequences of our actions," Paarfi said. "Your intentions may be innocent, yet their results bring shame to your name."

"And here I was tinking that you talked funny sometimes," I commented to Morrolan.

"Excuse me?" Morrolan said.

"You're a boring and dull person who talks too much," Daymar huffed.

"Don't act cute: you heard me perfectly well," Kragar said.

"Why don't you join me in some place where we may enjoy a little more privacy?" Morrolan proposed.

"I don't think anyone is listening to you, boss," Loiosh said.

"Sorry, you're not my type." Kragar smirked.

"I am deeply hurt by your attitude," Paarfi said.

"You, sir, are a Jhereg!" Morrolan spat.

"I don't care!" Daymar stuck out his tongue.

"How kind of you to notice." Kragar made a mocking bow.

"You are undeserving of my concern," Paarfi said. "No longer will I shelter your reputation, covering your shame with the cloak of discretion which every historian may cast sometimes over those who are dear to him. My calling has ever been to write the truth, therefore, from now onwards, I will - "

"I liked doing that," Kragar said, rubbing his fist and staring at Paarfi's limp body.

"He is my cousin," Daymar observed. I wasn't sure if he was making an apology, or if he was protesting against Kragar knocking down a relative of his.

"Cousins are more of a curse than a blessing, I often think," Morrolan said.

"You can thank me, you know," Kragar told him.

"Oh? But isn't your cousin ... oh!" Daymar nodded to himself. "I believe I see your point."

"Why should I do so? Had you not prevented me, why, then I would have had the pleasure of shutting him up myself. Thus, you may see, I have little reason to be grateful to you, and every reason to be cross with you," Morrolan replied to Kragar.

"I suppose I'll go and take him home then." Daymar gestured and lifted Paarfi's body off my floor.

"You really are a stuck-up bastard," Kragar said.

"If you contact me in about five hours from now, we may further discuss the book you were interested in," Morrolan told Daymar. "Does this sound agreeable to you?"

"Sure, sure." Daymar frowned in concentration. "Wait, why five hours?"

Morrolan glanced at Kragar. "It would appear I need to take care of some unexpectedly urgent business first. However, this should not take more than about four hours."

"Confident, aren't you?" Kragar scowled and shook his head.

Daymar didn't look entirely happy, but he nodded and clapped his hands. Both he and Paarfi vanished with a flash of light - blue in Daymar's case, green in Paarfi's, which was probably why Daymar had needed to concentrate a bit more than usual for the teleport.

"Vlad, I'll be back in about two hours." Kragar grabbed his cloak.

"Two hours?" Morrolan scowled. "Is that the limit of your endurance now that you are a Jhereg? You disappoint me."

Kragar made no reply, and the two of them teleported out - without any special effects - to what I assumed to be some 'private location'. I wondered how soon I'd see either of them back again, before I decided that I rather hoped it'd be a while.

Melestav had just found his quill when I came to check on him. He assured me I had no more appointments for the day, and that he'd be more firm next time a famous historian would come waltzing in. I was too tired to tell him what I'd do to him if he didn't live up to that resolution, but Loiosh hissed at him rather loudly, and I think he got the point.

I brewed myself a pot of klava after that, and enjoyed the way my office was wonderfully quiet and still in one piece. I also tried very hard not to think about what Kragar and Morrolan might be doing, with a reasonable amount of success.

(Three days later, I read one of Paarfi's pamphlets for the first time, and got seriously pissed off at Morrolan. However, that's a different story, and you probably know it already.)

the end