Published: October 16, 2010
It took her a great distance of walking, but Mara reached a wide open courtyard bustling with activity left and right. A few magi-tech machines resided to her left where people came and went in mass. She turned her attention to the breathtakingly tall northern buildings. It had a straight structure with a rounded roof and overhead bridges connecting them all about mid-way up. Archaic symbols littered the entire superstructure. She knew from Bael's past descriptions that this was where the mages congregate. She believed it would be best to avoid attracting attention; as a fairy, someone would grow skeptical if she acts off, and it would be disastrous if she was discovered this deep into Negav.
Mara calmed down and walked through the doors of the third largest building without leering in every direction. She entered a cute little reception area with a double door posing as a guard to a lift. She didn't shift her gaze to anyone as she traversed the room. The disguised fairy crossed her heart that she could avoid raising suspicion if she didn't look at anyone. A masoned platform with a rune engraved on the floor stood through the portal. It glowed the moment she stepped on, but nothing happened.
"What's going on? How do I activate this...?"
"This device is already activated. Which floor is your destination?" Mara's heart jumped from her chest for a split second; where did that voice come from? Why did it sound artificial?
"Wh-who's speaking?" Mara turned from side to side for the origin of the disembodied voice. Plus, how was she supposed to use this device? The room fell silent.
"Function incomplete. 'Who's speaking' is not a valid floor. Please state destination."
Mara's head tilted further. She had to speak the floor to go to her destination? But who was talking? Was it a mage watching her in secret? Did the lift itself have a mind of it's own? What was going? Could someone answer her already? Then a Human stepped next to Mara and then turned at the redhead with a friendly smile.
"Floor twenty three."
"Floor twenty three accepted." Spoke the mysterious voice.
The lift shot to the sky and only picked up speed as it went. There was even more silence, which Mara spent to assure herself that everything would work out as planned. She would blend in with the humans and other species she considered prey. But still, life in the city was an entirely new world than survival in the jungle. The technology had nothing in common with the simplicity of Fey crafts. Even these long periods of walking were different! It wracked her nerves, but she had to do it for Bael; she must do it. The other person in the lift was undoubtedly a mage. He glanced over at her every so often, which caused her throat to tighten further.
"So how are you m-miss?" Mara giggled; that mage had funny way to speak. "W-what is it?"
A second glance revealed vibrant hair and eyes as well as clear skin, a young man. This caster was probably an assistant or a random low ranker. Mara turned to him again.
"Your face is all red..." Mara smiled; this kind of break was just what she needed. He twitched like he was preparing to saying something obtrusive, or completely embarrassing. He lifted his index and opened his mouth. "-Isn't this your floor?"
Mara's interruption snapped him back to reality. "Y-yes..." His words echoed in a low key.
"Bye~" Mara waved with a cat smile as he stepped off the pad at the speed of molasses. The doors almost clamped shut on him.
Mara was allowed some peace and quiet once more. Her pulse slowed down and her thoughts cleared up. Most people, even mages treated her as a human girl. They probably either didn't want to go through the trouble of apprehending her, or they were genuinely oblivious. Let it be the latter; the least people who knew about her, the better. Mara thought of those human taverns she's heard so much about and her smile faded; it would only become more difficult to act inconspicuously if she ever checked one out.
The gates opened at floor 63 and Mara stepped out of the hovering platform. She couldn't miss how everything was as pristine as a freshly bought ring. The walls were white stone, similar to massive slabs, yet curved to shape a nice hallway. There were no signs of bricks and mortar; the only lines were decorated with engraved runes and garland. Small plants lined up along the corridor as she moved on.
She paused when she came across Bael's room. The door was made of a shiny and pristine furnished wood. The engraved dark texture presented a fairly nice, high-end apartment. She put her hands on the doorknob and turned it slowly. It was not locked.
"Must be home then..." She thought as she entered.
This was the first time she has even seen where Bael lives. It was clean and tidy, save for a couple of objects that had been knocked over. There was a soft carpet in between some couches and a coffee table in the middle. A step led up to what she could only assume was the kitchen in the back. There were three doors: two in the back and one to her right leading to a corridor. The lone door in the back on the far left opened to a study, while the one on the rear right accessed Bael's room.
Mara stepped into Bael's room and examined all four corners. So far it was very neat with a comfy bed and an armchair decorated with Celtic-esque designs. It was curvy, yet simple. His home gave the vibe of an upper class, but without extravagance, a sign clear as the Jewel River that Bael doesn't spend his wealth on anything atrociously expensive, save for his potions and research materials.
"Bael...?" Mara kept her voice soft as she peered around from door to hall and back, "Are you home? Hun?"
Mara backtracked to the main room and toward the study. She knew Bael can disjunction himself from others when absorbed deep in his work. He might just not have heard her. Mara regained her signature smile; she could already see how surprised he will be to see her. Maybe she could take him somewhere to eat? Or they could go around shopping. She could not hold herself anymore. She opened the door and glanced around.
Nothing. He wasn't there. Her heart sank a little; he wasn't home at all. She could always check the mages guild next door. Even so, she should grab some of his money if she was going to explore Negav. She could probably stay at his place as long as she needed; that would make the most sense.
Just then, a click resonated. It was similar to what someone would hear from a door when it latches upon closing, but it was faint. Despite the similarity, it was not the exact same. Why was the door unlocked in the first place? And what was that sound? She put her hand to the closet door in the study and opened it up to reveal the chest. She bent down to open it. The lock was infested with cracks as if someone broke it. When she looked inside, the chest wasn't full as Bael said it always was. A good quarter of his change went missing, although it seemed he still had enough skevols to last guardians know how long.
Mara focused on her surroundings a lot more. Too many questions remained unanswered. Why did the door close like it did? Why was the lock broken? Why wasn't Bael home? Mara's heart accelerated and her protective instincts flooded through her. She needed to get Bael back wherever he was, no matter what.
She slowly turned around, then stood up and closed the closet. She wasn't alone; there was a human nearby. Her fairy senses could feel it. She inspected the room to confirm or deny her skepticism. Mara walked to the threshold between the study and the living room. Her hands traveled down the slick wood door to rest on the cold door knob. The person was probably on the other side and she needed to anticipate the worst.
She flung the door open for an encounter with some kind of thief, who wasn't in front of her. She looked back and forth and saw nobody anywhere in the room. It could be a female, too. Human girls can be quite tasty.
Mara walked across the room as quiet as possible and examined the kitchen. Yet again there was no visible presence. She didn't expect people to hide in the kitchen; there wasn't enough places for cover. She thought about how it could be a game, so she began acting like it was a game of hide and seek. It calmed her down as her curiosity took over. The next best places for her to search would be the hall with the bathroom, Bael's room, and the spare bedroom.
She made her way across the living room, turned down the hallway and checked the bathroom to her left. The door was wide open like somebody used it recently. Whoever was here was either leading her to a false track by recklessly opening doors, or there were others who came to Bael's room before and trashed the place. The Bael she knew was more organized than this. There was nothing aside from a neatly kept sink, toilet, and bath-shower.
She turned around and sighed. He wasn't in the study, the main room, the kitchen, or the bathroom. She was running out of places to search. She peered back and forth down the corridor, still unable to shake the thoughts that someone was here. She just knew it.
She balled her fists, walked over to the back room while ignoring Bael's room entirely. His old armor was kept in a case in here the last time she spoke to him. She opened the door slowly, producing a creak, which stifled the atmosphere even more. She took a deep breath and looked around as she stepped inside. A bed stood just before her and an open closet with a large glass case lied to her left. It was clean and the armor behind it remained untouched. The golden interlocked armor created an inhuman weave that emphasized the elvish design they're known for. While a beauty, it sported nicks and marks on it from past battles.
She was no longer alert and that brief distraction was well rewarded.
"Hey." A deep voice from behind spoke.
"Bael!!" Mara cried out suddenly as the shock drove her head into the ceiling.
"Woah! I'm not Bael!" The man jumped slightly back at her active response. "
Though I would like to speak to him. Haven't seen him in a week."
"I haven't seen him in a long time myself
" Mara replied.
The man leaned in slightly and then noticed her features.
"Wait a sec, I think I know you..."
Mara's eyes shot and her stomach constricted itself. She didn't know this person, or at least hasn't seem him in a long time if she's even met him.
"You do...? I don't recognize you."
"I think so. Red hair, very slender figure, cute nose...or something. At least I believe you're the right person...Mara was it?"
A light tremor ran through her body upon hearing her name come out of this man's lips. She remembered that she hasn't spoken her name to anyone here in this city yet, and even if he stalked her in the jungle, as unlikely as that sounded, the chance of knowing her name was slim. But he must have some connection to Bael at the very least, otherwise he wouldn't have mentioned him, or known her name. If she trusted him, it would be a necessary evil at worst.
"Sorry, a little shaken up from that encounter of ours."
"Right, well now that you know my name, what's yours?"
"My apologies, the name's Kaian why don't we go get something to eat? We can talk about it over food." His voice was oddly rehearsed.
refreshing, I guess, I mean I still wanted to...er
borrow some of his money. I'll pay him back though don't worry!" Mara added that last bit with haste as she rose her hands in front of her body with a sweat drop rolling down one side of her head.
Mara turned back and forth quickly between the study and Kaian before grabbing a handful of skevols from the open chest, and then shut it with a loud clasp. She took the key from the keyhole and put it in the same pocket she put the skevols in and hurried back to Kaian.