Aria Libelle had been staring out the open window of the hot, stuffy tavern when the voice drew her back from her daydream. At first the half elf made no acknowledgement to being addressed and simply continued to look upon the lands of Uldum. Her gaze passed over the oasis palm trees of Ramkahen, beyond the rolling sand dunes of the arid desert, and settled on the distance pyramids.
The Land of the Titans.
An ancient land so rich in history and Titanic lore it made her heart race with excitement just thinking about all of the undiscovered treasures and relics it hid. But fortune-seeking was not what had drawn her to the desert. No. She was after something specific, something she’d been hunting for years. The final piece of the puzzle.
“Uh, Lady Libelle?” the man speaking to her cleared his throat trying to get her attention.
Slowly, the raven-haired rogue looked over her shoulder, crimson eyes settling on the gnome standing a few steps away.
His hair was bubblegum pink and slicked up in spikes. The moustache he sported curled up at either end and his goatee was trimmed and neat.
“Pinkie,” Aria purred, turning fully to face the man, “tell me you’ve got good news for me.”
Pinkie sighed, waddled over to her, and climbed onto the stool beside her. “Well, it’s not exactly bad news.”
Aria quirked a brow, looking over the dig boss with a dissatisfied stare. “And what exactly does that mean?”
“Well, it means that it ain’t good news either.” Pinkie picked up a cup half-full of an amber liquid, sniffed it once, pulled a face of disgust, and took a drink.
“Pinkie,” Aria growled in a threatening tone, “I’m not in the mood for your games.” She crossed her arms over her chest, waiting for the gnome to clarify his meaning.
He took another drink of the mystery substance and exhaled slowly. “Look, toots—“ The woman’s glare made him clear his throat, “I mean, Lady Libelle. All I’m getting at is that the dig isn’t going quite like how we expected. We came across some… issues.”
Aria’s eyes narrowed further.
“B-But!” Pinkie hastily continued, “My men resolved said issues, kinda, and resumed excavating as normal. Or well, tried to. However—“
“Get to the point, gnome.” The leather of Aria’s gauntlet creaked as she curled her fingers into a fist.
“Yes ma’am. You see, we found us a door. Not the kind you open like this,” Pinkie mimed grabbing a knob and pulling a door open, “but the kind you gotta magic your way through. The kind that you put in place when you don’t want people getting through. Titanic markings all over it.”
This information brought a smile to Aria’s lips. Pleased, she nodded. “You think you found the vault door then?”
“Think? Hell, lady, I lost four of my best men, well good men, okay they were peons, but still, I lost four of them trying to get near the damned thing. I know it’s the vault door. The statues on either side of it kept zapping us anytime we got close.” Pinkie took another drink. “Turned my men to a pile of ash just like that.” He snapped his fingers and then pointed at Aria as her gaze wandered back out the window, a mischievous glint in her eyes. “I know that look. You’re going to have me clear my men out and you’re going to figure out this door on your own.”
Aria nodded. “As usual. Your team has done exactly what I hired you to do. I’ll deposit your remaining fees once the last of your men have evacuated the site. Good work, Pinkie.”
Pinkie huffed. “C’mon, don’t be like that. My men are starting to get suspicious. I’ve kept your identity a secret, but do you really expect them not to be curious about their generous benefactor? To not ask questions?”
“Yes,” Aria said plainly, “that’s why I am so generous. If keeping secrets is getting too hard for you Pinkie, I’m sure I can find another who’ll find the task much easier.”
“No, no!” Pinkie waved his hand in front of him, quickly dismissing such a notion. “I’ll have my men cleared out by tomorrow night.”
“Good.” Aria reached for the golden goblet next to her, lazily swirling the scarlet liquid it held before bringing it to her lips.
Pinkie hopped from the stool, drink still in hand, and waddled back towards the wooden staircase leading to the lower levels of the tavern. As he reached the top of the stairs he stopped, looked over his shoulder, and asked, “What exactly is it you hope to find in that vault by the way? It must be something priceless, if you’re willing to pay what you pay and risk getting turned to ash for it.”
For a moment it seemed as if the rogue wasn’t going to reply. She was once more focused on the pyramids in the distance. Finally, just before the man gave up waiting for a response she said, “My salvation.”
The gnome stared at her for a moment before slamming back the drink, scoffing. “Salvation? Fine, you keep your secrets,” he tossed the cup onto the floor and shrugged, “but ya know, any lesser man than my noble-self would sell you this information and then swipe your treasure right out from under your nose.”
“I’ve never mistaken you for a fool,” Aria replied, “Take care Pinkie.”
Pinkie snorted. “You too, Toots,” he said as he scrambled down the stairs before the rogue could snap a retort.
With a sigh, Aria turned from the pyramids and leaned against the windowsill, idly swirling her drink. A smirk tugged at her lips. She was close, she could feel it. Soon, with any luck, her long hunt would be over.