The Layonara Community > Poetic License

Elijah Stick, Agent of the Twilight Society


The nights are cold and dark, the wind howls, and until quite recently (in a sense), the sun never shone, but was concealed behind a bilious black cloud of volcanic ash.  Times are lean, and cheer is often far from the minds of those who have to work for a living.  Even as the world rebuilds itself, it tells comforting stories.

Stories of adventure!  Stories of Derring-Do!  Stories of a world ruled by secret societies and adventure!  (Poorly.)  Stories of...


Hark, for the bard shall soon begin to spin his tale..

((For complete clarity: this is a work of utter fan-fiction.  None of this should be taken as anything in-game, and this is just my attempt to mimic the style of a penny dreadful.  Feedback via PM, if sent, will be rewarded with nice thoughts and pie.  Pie not guaranteed.))

Elijah Stick, a human of no more than twenty-odd winters, had but recently arrived in Vehl by way of ship.  The city had seemed bleak and imposing - even the promise of security that the Rofierenite Church near the docks had implicitly promised was countermanded by the sense of urban decay around it.  If the gutters did not literally reek of excrement, it was only by virtue of the weather, which was damp.

Nevertheless, he was pleased to be of of the boat, and within a few hours, secured a small set of rooms with the coin he had brought with him.  Accomodation arranged, he struck out upon the streets with an eye for business to be done.  He was in town representing a small trading firm operating out of Mariner's Hold, and hoping to meet a representative of an organization which had but recently sent a missive to the firm, hoping to establish a trading contract across the sea.  However, if he could arrange, by way of opportunity, other contracts as well, so much the better - he was receiving a small comission on the business he managed to arrange.

Master Stick was a well-groomed fellow, slender in build, but tightly-wired with muscle.  His hair was dark, straight, and fell in small ringlets around his ears and down the back of his neck.  His eyes, dark green, gave an impression of taking in and swiftly processing all that they could, but lacked the furtive glancing or darting that a common thief might possess.  He was well dressed and wore a small beard, a long leather seaman's coat catching a bit of breeze behind him, wearing a white tunic, jacket, and breeches beneath, and walking with a cane.

However, well-attired though he was, his first day in Vehl was uneventful.  Though he familiarized himself with the local environs, he could neither locate any who wished to do long-term business, nor the contact with whom he was supposed to meet.  Although the address turned out to not be accurate however, he was not disheartened - even the local guide who had informed him of the fact after some searching admitted that there was enough turnover in the shady area of town that the address purported to be that the company he sought may simply have moved.  Unwilling to forgo the comission that had brought him here, the young man resolved to stay in Vehl a while longer at least - he was set to meet the contact within the week, and unless something truly untoward had happened, that meeting should still occur.

It was four days into his stay in the Fort that Elijah chanced to meet up with an old associate - a friend of his father, a man by the name of Oliver Quill.  Quill was a minor official of some capacity in Katherian, and although he was not precisely certain what the man did for a living, neither was he at all surprised to see the man in another sea-trading town.  Sea voyages, although tedious and lengthy, were still the swiftest means of transit for goods across the vast expanses, and coming from such a port city, it was entirely conceivable that Quill had come in representation of Katherian, or perhaps some trading family therein.  The two men comiserated briefly, Elijah agreed to come to a lunch that Quill was hosting the next day.  They would meet at the corner streets of Locke and Mast, so that the younger man would not become misplaced.

Fort Vehl, for those uninitiated to its winding ways, had begun as a simple military fort - indeed, still served in that capacity - but as a port town, each tide brought more and more folk of various capacities to the burgeoning city, and with them came the need for housing and food, as well as the secondary industries to supply such a large number.  The cityscape was dominated by large buildings with small footprints, crammed as closely together as could safely be managed.  Alleyways were uniformly small, cramped affairs with the threat of mugging or worse, and the desire to fit as many buildings as possible in the relatively limited confines of the outer wall had led to winding and circuitous streets, where a wrong turning could lead you out into the harbour when you meant to press into the city center, or worse, into the arms of someone happy to greet you with a bared knife and a muttered address.  Even during the brightest parts of day, some streets saw little sunlight, with the washing strung a floor - or three - above the street, serving to block out what little light the cramped architecture permitted.

Happily, it was a trade street that the two found themselves walking down, and as such allowed for slightly less claustrophobic climes.  Such streets required at least enough breadth for the merchants' shingles, and some trades - the blacksmith at the end of the street, for instance - required more room still.  As the two passed down the narrow street, Elijah drank in the scents that the tradespeople working therein employed.  Tannin, from the leatherworker, an exotic mixture of herbs and spices from the apothecary across the lane, smoke from a creaking old chimney to a small blackened affair of a building that Stick was all but certain housed an elderly wizard, and a cacaphony of soil, dung, perfumes, and the scent of unwashed human living filled the air, mixing in the wind-sheltered hall between the buildings.  The scent was cacaphonic, but not altogether unpleasant; the distinctly nonspecific smell of civilization.

Two thirds of the way down the street, across from a building with blacked-out windows and a sinister demeanour, Oliver Quill took an abrupt left turning, taking his youthful charge with him.  Down a narrow alleyway, past what was undoubtably a house of ill-repute, across the street from where a poor blind beggar sat under an overhang with his bowl, down a flight of stairs, Quill rapped on an unmarked door with his cane, a distinct rat-a-tat-tat that although direct, likely didn't carry out of the enclosed stairway.  A moment passed, with Stick arching an eyebrow at the less than verdant surroundings, before the sound of a lock ratcheting open reverberated through the thick oak of the door, and the door swung silently open on oiled hinges.

"Do, come in."  Said Quill.

Chapter the Second: An Introduction to Society

To say that the interior of the building into which Elijah Stick had so recently been summoned to differed from the exterior does a disservice to all understatements e'er made, by way of outshining them magnificently.  Outside was the gloomy darkness of a Vehl alleyway, with the scents of urban living.  Within, it seemed as if most every effort had been made to keep all avoidable contamination from without, without.  The stone floor was clean of any filth, even that which must surely have been dredged in by anyone entering the way that Quill and Stick had - the various odours dissipated within moments of entering the building - even light itself from the outdoors seemed shut-away.  Indeed, Elijah recalled, the windows to this building, what few there were, had been coated with a black oil that allowed no gazing in.  Whatever else the case, he was quite certain that this was not Quill's personal property, for the man was hardly slavish enough to maintain this artificial environment of extreme decorum.

The woman who had opened the door to the two gentlemen was human as well.  She wore clothing which neither flattered nor accentuated her figure, and although she was clearly female, Stick decided it would not take very much effort at all for her to masquerade as otherwise.  Thick corded muscle built the majority of her frame, and she stood taller than most women, a combination of both natural height and platformed soles to her boots, he decided from her stride.  A hooded travelling cloak, thicker pullover, and a blade at her side to keep the overly-curious at a distance, and few would choose to remember anything of her whatsoever.  Certainly, Vehl seemed to command an air of non-curiosity; you didn't ask to see beneath the hoods that shrouded so many faces, for fear of what you might happen to see beneath.  Besides, one's mind was usually kept occupied trying to avoid becoming a victim.  The Desmer Inn, where Elijah had taken most of his meals in the past half-week, often contained many such individuals, deemed by all to be 'best left alone', and it was far from the most shady of venues.

Quill recognized the woman immediately, and his face lit up once the door was securely closed behind them.  "Amelia!  You brighten my day with your very glower.  What have you done now, that they've got you on door duty?"

Seemingly despite herself, the woman smiled.  "I fear it isn't my tale to tell."  The smile, like a wizard seeking  to extricate himself from an uncomfortable situation, became invisible with the words.  "She would like to speak with you, once you've spoken with the lad here."

Quill sighed, his face a picture of mock-dejection.  "Alas, she doubtless does.  We're heading to my office, for to speak with him now."  His eyes twinkled again.  "Have you, perhaps, given any thought to my offer?  The one of which we spoke last at the Harvest festival?"

"Your wife wouldn't approve."

"Alas," mused the portly merchant-official, "likely the case.  Ah well, more's the pity."  Stick gave his elder counterpart a glance, and was rewarded with nothing but an oblique expression of innocence.  Casting off his travelling cloak, and relieving Stick of his own, Quill surprised the young man by then removing a wicked-looking dagger from a secret sheathe within his weather-coat.  Catching the young man's look of surprise, the merchant chuckled.  "One can never be too careful."

The pair made their way down the immaculate hallway, and Stick extended his attentions as broadly as he could, to try and discern something of the enigma that this place represented.  Passing one corridor, the distinct smell of a fire, some form of pastry, and the thick rich smell of parchment and ink.  Past the next, the sound of some form of exercise - difficult to tell, but it had more order to it than a genuine brawl, so he was fairly sure it wasn't a fistfight.  The next had..  strange smells.  Oil, tallow, metal, and a few things he couldn't name.  So wrapped up in the enigma of it all, he almost missed it when Quill stopped before an open doorframe, and turned into it, walking into a wooden floored room with vast rugs spread across the floors.  A fireplace held a crackling wood fire, and the rest of the room's furnishings were a pair of bookcases on either side, a broad mahogany desk, and two chairs, one on either side of the table.  Quill took the one furthest from the door, and indicated to Stick that he should take the other.

"I suppose you're wondering what this is all about."  Indeed, Stick had been, and though he thought he'd pieced at least some of it together, Quill seemed to be leading to the point of it all, and it occurred to the young man that the rudeness of interrupting might be unwise.  "I fear that your presence in the Fort is the result of something of a deception; there is not, and never has been an Eastmoore trading company out of Vehl.  The warehouse used as their address is one of our holdings, but the real point was to get you to Mistone with a minimum of suspicion.  Your father was one of ours, you see, and requested that you be brought into the.. ah.. family trade, should anything befall him.  You see, I am a member of the Twilight Society.  Perhaps you've heard of us?"

In truth, Stick had - bard's tales and tavern whispers of an association of capable men and maids, unaffiliated with any government, and led by the mysterious Spider, who set capable agents to the tasks of information gathering and righting wrongs.  Some spoke of them as heros - others as assassins.  Whatever moral bent the story took  however, one thing was certain; they were secretive in their ways and manners.  To have confirmation of their existance was certainly interesting, if it could be believed.  "The name rings a bell, although stories conflict, I fear, as they are wont to do."

Quill chuckled.  "Indeed.  We would like to offer you a position among us - not simply for your father's memory, but also in light of your own abilities.  I've watched you grow into a thoroughly capable, extremely observant young man."  Well, this was true.  Stick was not the most martially inclined of people, but he could handle himself, and his powers of observation were significant enough that he was selected as a deal broker by a number of the companies of Mariner's Hold.  "On that note," Quill continued, "I wonder what you might tell me about the street we walked down to get here?  I have heard of your observational skills, but I wonder to what extent they may be taxed from memory."

This old game?  Stick sighed.  Ah well.  It was more a parlour trick than anything - the eyes saw, the ears heard, the nose scented, and the mind compiled, and everyone thought that the process of doing so was remarkable.  "The cobbles of the street became flagstones when we traversed to the alley.  There were a dozen traders on the street."  He proceded to name each in turn.  "Of our fellow pedestrians, not overmuch could be discerned, nor, I suspect, confirmed even if you should have anticipated my noting them.  However, the blacksmith we passed is, or is strongly considering an extra-marital affair, and the herbalist is dealing poisons under the counter."

Quill's eyebrows shot up; his eyes had been traversing a sheet of parchment before him, and it seemed to have confirmed those last two points.  "Remarkable.  How did you know?"

"The herbalist was simple enough - a small menage of dead rats huddled by the side of the building.  Though toxins in general, and rat poison in specific are hardly difficult to obtain in a city such as this, these particular rodents displayed unusual pustules and had the whites of their teeth turned almost entirely black by the effects of a most unfortunate toxin; a draught made from quite potent mushrooms, I believe, although I'm damned if I can recall the trade name of the toxin."  Realizing how this particular bit of observational data might make him sound, he hastily explained.  "I worked with a Katian healer for a few weeks, helping the local constabulary in a town near Mariner's Hold sort out a series of unusual poisonings that eventually got tracked back to a Corathite death cult."  Quill nodded at this.

"As far as the blacksmith is concerned, his case required rather more correllation of evidence.  His stance, anxious and seeking as it was, coupled by the state of his stall, implied that he was hard-up for customers; not surprising as his work, at least that which I saw, was slip-shod at best.  Tight as money seemed to be for him, there was therefore little to explain the excellent shirt he wore, fresh, clean, recently made, and stitched with the trade-mark of the Mastsight Street Guild of tailors.  One such seamstress is doubtless his wife.

"However, sitting on the Hog's Head next to him, was a covered dish wafting the delectable scent of the Lunch Special at the Gold and Cross.  Given that he works some four blocks from the inn, and his current fiscal state, it seems unlikely that he fetched it himself.  Moreover, the dish rested upon a hankerchief embroidered (amateurly), with a coat-of-arms; a token of favour from a rather more well-to-do lady of some stature, who is evidently 'slumming it' with a gentleman she finds attractive.  She most likely sent the tray, with her favour, by way of one of the servants at the inn, whom she paid both for the service and his discretion."  He paused for breath.  "Have I missed anything?"

"Nothing that the Gods themselves wouldn't."  Quill looked duly impressed.  "Notice anything else, did you?  You have a knack for hidden things."

"The old beggar across the way may very well be a beggar, but he certainly is not blind, and he's not that old either.  I would suspect he's a lookout for your little hidey-hole here, but that much is sheer speculation."  Quill's nod confirmed it, and Stick continued.  "And finally, this is not your office, and this was not simply a candid display of my abilities, but a demonstration to someone who is standing invisibly within this room to hear it."

Quill's mouth hung slightly open, another confirmation, but this one unnecessary.  With a soft 'pfft' of dispellation, a slender elven woman, of luscious figure, dark eyes, raven hair, and pale, pale skin appeared next to the bookshelf near the fireplace.

"Most impressive, master Stick."

"The rugs are strewn so to mask the sound of footsteps - the crackling fire to hide anything else I might have noticed, such as a draft.  The real clue was that there was no door in the doorway we walked through.  Had this been a true office in the middle of the headquarters for a secret society, I cannot help but imagine some more care might be taken with private offices, even among friends.  The only reason for such an omission would be to allow for unseen observation; the door would be conspicuous in being open, or worse still, in being opened."

The elven woman nodded, a gesture of agreement.  "Word-perfect, master Stick.  Word perfect.  I am the Spider.  Pray, come into my parlour."

Chapter the Third: The Spider's Web

It was not without trepidation that Elijah followed the lady-spymaster into her elabourately designed abode - the room possessed a desk, a few chairs, a bed, and walls lined with books.  Looking back, once the door swung shut behind them, he was uncertain if he could point out precisely where it had been - it managed to camouflage itself perfectly into the walls of the hidden chamber.  What could be seen of the bare walls, above and behind the bookcases, was a deep crimson red - the same with the carpet, with the net effect of leaving the young man with the disquieting feeling that he'd just walked into an open wound.  Yet here he was, within the chambers of one of the most infamous spymasters of the realm; the Spider!

The one who appeared before the courts of Mistone, spilling precious secrets at the eleventh hour!  The Spider!

The one who was said to have personally led to the poisoning of three of the most ambitious underlings of Blood's Generals, after the war had passed - underlings who had sought to carve out their own strongholds, and further tyranize the populace of Alindor.  The Spider!

The head of the Twilight Society, an infamous group of secretive meddlers and investigators!  The Spider!

A mysterious figure, now revealed to him to be an elf - and a woman, besides!  The Spider!

Perhaps realising that her fame preceded her, the Spider crossed to the liquor cabinet and pulled out a pair of glasses made of fine crystal, as well as a decanter filled with what was for all appearances a fine dwarven brandy.  She poured a lengthy splash into one glass, and then turned to her guest.  "May I tempt you, Master Stick?"  He seemed retiscent to answer, and she rolled her eyes.  "Were I intent upon poisoning you, I could well have had you killed without taking the expense to bring you to Vehl - or, having done so, had you stabbed in some back alley without ever revealing myself.  Would you care for a drink?"

The logic followed, and he nodded.  Though he had thought himself difficult to impress, he was nevertheless in awe of this confident woman, and he barely maintained the presence of mind to scan the room while she poured more of the burgundy liquid into the second glass before re-capping the decanter.  A pair of blades adorned the wall behind the desk - the first, of dwarven silver, a slender blade with what looked like a wicked edge, was emitting a faint smell of ozone.  The second, a duelling blade, appeared to be covered in a thin layer of frost, but closing his eyes, he could feel heat rolling from the unsheathed blade.  Someone less perceptive, seeking to duel the wielder of the blade might find some magical or alchemical protection from the cold enchantment apparently on the blade, only to be quite surprised when the white-hot iron tore through them.  Gods, the squirrelly patterns of thought that these people went through, in order to acquire even an inch of edge.

The desk was lightly strewn with papers - but perhaps 'strewn' was the wrong word.  A large inkwell littered the front of the desk, and a series of folios were spread across the blotter, a quill and a sharpening knife by the left-hand-side.  Papers from the folios looked as if they had just been looked upon and not properly returned to their places, and if he strained, he could just about read what they said, even upside down-

"Not nice to read things not meant for your eyes."  The brandy appeared before him, and had he been any less composed, he might have started.  It was essential, when observing, to be careful that you were not yourself being observed - but everyone slipped occasionally.  He took up the brandy and sniffed.  The vintage was good, and so he sipped the drink, taking a moment to savour it in his mouth.

"Alas, I cannot shut out my curiosity."  He turned to the elf, both hands upon the glass.  "Would that I could.  I might get into significantly less trouble that way."  Another sip of the brandy convinced him to try laying a little charm on.  "Of course, I suppose I might also find myself in the company of fewer lovely ladies."

The elf arched an eyebrow, the thin line raised upon her pale brow.  "Or at the least, fewer ladies with reputations like mine."  She smirked.  "You would be wise to listen a little less to your friend Quill.  A compliment, even a well-worded one, will only get you out of so much trouble.  And some might not appreciate your pains."

He shrugged, philosophically.  "Perhaps, but it's yet to hurt to try."

The elf settled at her seat at her desk, across from him, and studied his face a moment, taking a slow sip of her own brandy.  Then, she looked down, setting her drink upon the desk and glancing through a few of the files upon the desk before pulling one out.  The name at the top of the file was his own, and she made a show of reading it, but Elijah was thoroughly convinced that she knew enough of the file by heart to handle this discussion at the least, though he wasn't quite certain why.  Then, it struck him - she appeared to be reading the file, but was falling prey to one of the most seductive of problems with a bluff.  The temptation to watch the audience, and make sure that they were thoroughly taken in.

Clearly, this was another test; she was implying how much she knew about him, was taking her time and drawing the moment out.  She wanted to see if he would crack.  Well, two could play that game, and she had provided him with a prop to busy himself with while he waited.  He sipped more of the delightful brandy as the slender elf woman paged through the folio, seemingly completely unconcerned with the contents of her reading.  Eventually, she flipped it shut, and looked up at him - he felt as if he had scored at least one point there, because there was look of appreciation to her.  He hadn't broken, and such grace under fire was much sought after.

"You would not be the first Master Stick that the Society has employed."  She set the file aside, slender fingers brushing across the cover.  "Your father was another such."

His mouth was dry.  He hadn't known that his father was anything other than another trader; he wished dearly to ask about him, but held his tongue a moment.

"If it is agreeable to you, we would like to offer you a position.  Let me tell you what it is we do."


[0] Message Index

There was an error while thanking
Go to full version