It was game night. At least that was what the foreigners had called it.
It was a… unique game as Sorie understood it.
It was based in fictional world where your character was given a quest and you had to complete it. Compared to other games she knew about, this particular game was an highly complex one, with everything from combat to praying to your fictional god was determined by oddly shaped die.
“Fascinating.” Lez said as he examined the twenty sided die he had been given.
From the opposite side of the table a chuckle ran out as Bancroft was admiring the illustrations of her game manual, and Sorie could only imagine what was going through the prostitute’s head.
“So. You guys don’t have roleplaying games here?” Jessy said.
“Nothing this complicated.” Lez said before he lowered his die to admire his character sheet.
The group had been warned before a week ago that Jessy was a dangerous combination of smart and talent, as well as a lack of respect for rules and authority figures.
Sorie among others were perplexed and appalled when they heard that such a presence would be at this event.
This game could go down as one of the most important… Well, not the most important political occasion of all time, but one that would get a paragraph or two in the history books. And for the Company to bring this whelp to such an affair threatened to doom relations.
To Sorie, Jessy reminded her of that boy who liked to layer a girl’s hair brush with lice. A rouge with no manners other than he could use a knife and fork to some degree.
In contrast to her dark brown skin, Jessy was a s pale as a ghost. His hands indicated that he had a nervous habit of biting his fingernail and unmarked hands were a sign that he had never picked up anything heaver than a glass.
His clothes were baggy and his hair was the oddest shade of blue that Sorie had ever seen. But what was most bizarre about the foreigner was that Jessy also had two metal studs grafted into his forehead, giving his the appearance of a demon.
Sorie shook her head. If Jessy was the typical type of character which populated Techscope than the Academy would just have to find some other low level grunt to do business with them.
As Sorie continued to ask John advise about making their characters for this farce of a game, she could not help but examine the company which she found herself part of.
It would have been difficult to tell from the variety and backgrounds of those individuals located at the table, but the business conducted tonight was neither mundane nor unimportant.
Seven low ranking individuals from six seemingly random organisations, all playing a complex game involving a fictional world. A seemingly comical gathering that was in no way whimsical.
Sorie turned her attention towards Lez. He was what her teacher would have called a pretty boy. A born womaniser with long black hair that reached all the way down to his backside.
He gave off an air of mysterious impression that would have no doubt aided his abundance of female company during his travels.
The lowest of academics Lez was a bard, a simple poet with an extraordinary amount of leagues on his feet. But unlike Sorie, Lez at least held experience when it came to matters of politics and court.
He had travelled all across the world, playing ditties in taverns and town squares, living the life of a wonderer. He had played for kings in the afternoon and slept with their wives in the evening.
A clique in some respects, with a woman in every port and no doubt a bastard in every province.
But underneath the womanising, the drinking, and the flattering smiles Sorie had been briefed that the greatest fan and admirer of Lez’s poetry was the late Spymaster and his assembly of cryptographers.
Lez’s true nature and occupation was much darker and exciting than being a simple travelling performer. This man had won wars and the hearts of his enemies’ wives.
Bancroft lowered her borrowed book and gave Jessy a disarming wink, earning her Sorie’s attention and scrutiny.
Sorie suspected that many men had given their secrets to this women while they shared her bed. Bancroft was the wild card, the late entry.
While Lez travelled the world and finding himself in a few women’s beds, Bancroft and her kind were closer to home.
Her kind had many names. The women of the night, women of ill repute, courtesans. Sorie, uncharacteristically would have simply called Bancroft what she was, a whore.
Missing only two of her teeth Bancroft could be considered pretty compared to most of the camp whores who navigated through the nearby tents, but Sorie could see through the ruse. Bancroft was ambitious and lacked any subtly.
Bancroft had chosen this game to get closer to fame and fortune.
“So what do you do, deary?” Bancroft asked Jessy sweetly.
“I… I’m.” Jessy’s voice cracked, and his cheeks reddened from embarrassment.
Sorie resisted the urge to gag. How could males be so stupid?
Jessy, trying to make himself sound more mature, spoke with a deeper tone to hide his shyness. “I study computers.”
No one outside of the Company knew much about the thinking machines, but what they have been told scared nearly everyone. Con-put-eers were an alien concept and as Sorie understood it a dangerous one.
Allowing a machine to have so much power over you and your life was a recipe for disaster.
Again Bancroft was blunt in her questioning, caring nothing about the game of espionage.“And how did you end up in your little… Company?”
Jessy averted his gaze and for a second Sorie suspected him to shut down and become mute. “I may have needed some lunch money.” Jessy said.
John looked at Jessy incredulously.
Sorie had been told the older of the pair was something of a academic, much like herself. A professor, John’s speciality was quantum mechanics and physics.
No one at the Academy knew anything about the subjects, but as Sorie had studied natural philosophy as well as several other disciplines she was hopeful the two of them could open up a dialogue. That was if they could finish this bloody waste of time.
John wore long blue robe, a pair of glass spectacles which framed his rather pudgy face, and a large pointed hat with a wide brim which hid his comb-over.
Jessy was all for making fun of John’s hat but Sorie didn’t mind, in her experience professors were an eccentric lot, especially foreign professors. At least he had taken off the fake beard. At least he appeared to be normal, even if he did look human.
“Lunch money?” John choked. “Is that what you call stealing two billion credits from fifty international banks in under an hour? And that you put twenty police officers in the hospital when they came to arrest you?”
Mouths dropped and Sorie was honestly perplexed at how somebody so young could perform such evil.
Sorie had never met a bank robber before and the gears in her head sputtered as she tried to understand how this… Creature was not in prison.
Seeing the shock on Bancroft’s face Jessy tried to appear innocent. “I was young. I’m reformed, now.”
“You were ten years old.” John shouted. “There was a man-hunt out for you. The FBI used your school photo for their most wanted list.”
At hearing that there was a notorious thief in their midsts the occupants of the pub checked their purses.
Having checked his pockets twice the smallest member of the group let out a relieved sigh. The diminutive fellow then readjusted his cushion and decided to keep an eye on Jessy’s hands.
“I am guessing this two bullion crideets is a lot where you come from? May I enquire how much that is in gold?” Mr Soot asked.
John went to his tablet which immediately caused Sorie and the other players to narrow their eyes at the slab of black glass.
Though Sorie knew almost nothing about the Company’s tools, she would have lied if she said she wasn’t interested in such otherworldly devices. Even if the foreigners were wrong to put their faith in these con-put-eers, it didn’t mean other parties were not interested in them.
But before John could turn the device on Jessy answered. “About 52.6 tons of 24 karat gold. Or 99.9 percent pure as you guys put it.”
Other than the pounding rain outside, there was an awe inspired silence throughout the pub.
John glared at the troublemaker.
“What?” Jessy argued seeing John’s annoyance.
“Now that we have establish that Jessy here should be in a maximum security prison. Can we continue?” John asked the party. “Has everyone done their character sheets?”
The seventh member silently passed up his sheet.
John examined the sheet. “A Wood Elf, fighter, with a solider career.”
“Shocker.” Jessy said dryly, earning the hard stare from Sargent McKellen.
Sorie also noticed that a nearby table two well armed soldiers, one male the other female, both of whom looked as though they had killed men for just sneezing on them, displayed dark expressions.
There were other patrons of course who had decided that tonight was a good enough reason to visit an obscure pub which was rarely known business.
Though only seven players intended to play the room was nearly overflowing with clients who made it a point to not look at their general location and who were also drinking from empty mugs
Though she could not see the members of her own organisation lurking at a table, Sorie had no misgivings that the high ranking members of the Royal Academy were watching the exchange.
As a representative of the Academy. Sorie Eleanor Kingsbrew was little more than a clerk. True Sorie, as all females students were taught dancing and proper etiquette, but she had less experience than Bancroft at these occasions.
Sorie was a pure academic and as Techscope had claimed to be a research company and she was in the area, Sorie had been given the short straw.
“Trust me.” Jessy said. “The bard and the monk suck donkey balls. Go for the ranger. Only desperate, losers go for the bard.”
“Here here.” Bancroft laughed.
“I like bard.” John said frowning at his junior.
“Case and point.” Jessy replied.
John held his head. “Lez. You pick whatever you want. Jessy, you shut up. And if you look at Lady Enya’s cleavage again, I swear I will have a dragon fly over your character and have you drown in shit. Excuse my language ladies.”
Sorie didn’t so much mind the language as that John had spoken it publicly.
Having lived in the camp this past month with half the population out of work soldiers and grizzled farmers, as well as Bancroft’s competitive family pushing their trade, Sorie had gathered a good understanding of language modifiers.
The pages of Lez’s book danced as he turned to the ranger class. “Hmmm.” He said reflectively and shrugged. His borrowed pencil scratched down the change.
Sorie picked up her own writing tool. To her it was the proof that John’s people were in some way civilised. A long length of a charcoal substance inside a wooden sheath. Who would think of that?
Not for the first time Sorie wrote her name and used the device called an eraser to wipe away the markings. She knew people who would have murdered for such an invention during exams, including herself. Sorie even knew the best place to hide the body.
“What is the difference between sorcerer and wizard?” She asked, knowing the answer but trying desperately to direct the conversation away from Bancroft breast’s and her choice in ill fitting clothes..
“Sorcerers blow up shit more often, wizards are more spell for every occasion.” Jessy said.
Soot glanced over his manual and frowned. “I noticed we don’t have a healer in the party. I’ll go for the priest. Halfling of course. Artisan working as a” He trailed off. “Tailor.”
Sorie could guess that Soot, not his real name of course. Was most likely a representative of the local traders
His bag was filled with trade agreements and from the way his shrewd eyes surveyed everything from Jessy’s jacket to John’s figurines Sorie expected there soon to be abundant amount useless things circulating general stores.
A laugh came from Bancroft. “You might want to bless your pants Soot. I think you shit yourself when the boy let out how much he pinched from the banks.”
There was a wide smile on Soot’s face. “A warlock noble. My, aren’t we thinking high of themselves. And a dagger instead of a staff or sword, how very telling.”
Sorie guessed it paid to be able to read things upside down and she could not help but giggle which turned into a mistake as she became Bancroft target.
As the only other female at the table the seductress had already seen the scholar as a threat to her plans.
“You think you’re better than me bitch?” Bancroft accused.
Sorie held her hands out in defence. “No no.”
“Oh no.” John trailed off as if he just got stabbed in the stomach, seeing any fun he would have had at the game going to hell.
On the other hand Jeesy draw out own tablet and point it at the pair of women. “Catfight.”
“No. No catfight.” John said and tried to snatch up Jessy’s phone but was too slow. “And no phones. How the hell did you get that passed security?”
“No catfight.” Sorie agreed not knowing what a catfight was, and how she or Bancroft qualified as felines.
This was why Sorie preferred books over socialising with others. Books didn’t pummel you if you laughed at it. Well, normal books didn’t.
“Bancroft.” Sargent McKellen said his gruff voice containing an authoritative tone that came with enforcing the law in the worst of neighbourhoods.
Bancroft bit her lip, obviously intimidated. She turned her eyes back at the solider as a spooked child might. Her attitude almost instantly changed from murderous to agreeable. “Joking.” She said and sat down.
Jessy pocketed his phone and moaned from seeing a lack of blood and hair pulling.
Sorie did not believe for an instant that the seductress was done picking on her. People like Bancroft, you only had to to cross once.
Now that a shred to calm had returned to the party, John braced himself and turned to his fellow staff member. “Jessy.”
Jessy stood up and flexed his arms, not caring about how much he looked the fool. “A red Dragonkin rouge. And criminal background.”
“So we have heard.” Sargent McKellen said for once showing a sign of being mortal under his pure solider exterior.
Lez frowned. “Why a dragon humanoid? Why not…” He tried to put this as a delicately as possible. “A human?”
“Humans suck.” Jessy countered and nobody was about to argue with him on that one. “Anyway. I hold the right to be able to melt the faces off of anybody that looks at me funny.”
Sorie held her head. Jessy would have gotten far within the Academy with an attitude like that.
John sighed and his gaze finally rested on Sorie. “Well, Lady Kingsbrew. Do you need help or have you finished choosing?”
Sorie, much like the others had already decided their character almost a week before the meeting, but like the others she had chosen to stall and play the fool. She handed her sheet to John for evaluation.
“Hmmm. Wood Elf. Wizard. Librarian background. You know Draconic and Primordial languages. Exotic.” John said admiring.
Sorie smiled at the human professor as he returned her character sheet back. “I just want to change one thing. Can you call us Siltha? Wood Elf feels a little.”
She instinctively tugged at her handlebar-like ears, growing conscious of her and the foreigners’ differences.
“Sorry, old habits.” John apologised.
“Yeah John.” Jessy said. “How could you be such a racist?” The troublemaker smiled at Bancroft “By the way, I think you have beautiful ears.”
All around the pub elves, Halflings, and a few other undefined, sentient species rolled their ears at the otherworldly teenager’s blatant choice of autonomy to flatter.