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On the Case! (Backstory, OOC Welcomed)


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Chapter 1:  Dry Wit and Bad Tempers


Fall had set new colors into the desiccated leaves, giving the autumnal canopy a brilliant hue of fire that seemed even more radiant in these waning daylight hours.  There was a faint chill in the wind that stirred the brittle branches, adding a hiss to the chorus of tired birds.  The setting was idyllic; the type of moment that poets used to craft their sonnets.


And she ruined everything.


“… and whambam!  Of course, his leg was broken like a twig – hmph!  That was what he got for calling me tiny.  Anyway, he’s lying there and I stand over him with both hands on my hips; ‘That is what you get for calling me, The Miracle Comet, a pipsqueak!’”  The lalafell spoke in one breath, frightfully rushing through every syllable as though it were to be the last, and her naturally high tone only made it more piercing.


“I thought you said he called you tiny.”  He sighed and reached his hand up, not to adjust his spectacles, but rather pinch his fingers to the bridge of his nose.  


The trade post was still busily congested with activity, though with each hour that passed the evident flow of merchants seemingly began to congeal toward the inn.  Already the dulled sound of cheerful music echoed from the walls and stained glass windows, sadly not managing to drown out the sound of his diminutive companion. 


“Did you just call me tiny?!”  Her shrieked reaction startled the miqo’te scholar, though not nearly as much when she leapt before him with tiny fists balled up already shadow boxing at the air.  


By every standard her kind had, she was a lovely young lass – with wide, dark eyes that sat in contrast to her soft, milky skin – yet what her features offered was belied utterly by her attitude.  Her mouth was stained with a fierce expression, tussled strands of hair and perpetually disheveled clothing only added to her tomboyish exterior.  It would have been easy to mock, though he had seen her tear through beasts twice his size.


"No, I've called you; little, petite, minuscule, piddling, teensy, teeny, undersized, shrimp, wee, pint-sized, and even midget.  I don't believe I've ever called you tiny."


"... I-I..."  She sputtered, seemingly incapable of forming her thoughts into some cohesive line.


"Hm; itty-bitty, pocket-size, puny, pee-wee, bantam, and there were a few in some other languages I believe though I'm--" 


"I am going to kill you!"  Her face, at some point in his explanation, had contorted into blind rage and she vaulted for him with her arm cocked back for a vicious strike.


There was a spark of light hanging within the air, preempting the sudden emergence of an ethereal ball of fur that burst from nothingness.  As the carbuncle spirit burst into reality, it gave off a shrill warcry of its own to match the frustrated roar of the lalafell.  It didn't even touch the ground as the pugilist and summoned spirit met mid-air, dissolving almost immediately into a savage brawl.  They landed on the ground amidst yowling that would rival two tom cats.  


Sweet relief.  


"Pardon me."  He said, unable to mask his cheerful tone, as he stepped around the cloud of dust and sparks.


A small rock wall surrounding the trade post served as an impromptu chair and he took the opportune moment to slide the travel pack from his shoulders.  The weather was indeed quite fair despite the late hour and season; the cool breeze even invited him to close his weary eyes for a few moments.


"Erm, are they…alright?"  The question came from a somewhat masculine voice and Vhaelin’sae Utaj cracked open one eye to find some weathered hyur curiously alternating a gaze between the miqo'te and the still battling duo.


"They are having a tiny, spirited debate pertaining to etymology."  It was all too easy to give a sharp-toothed, Cheshire smile to the hyur man.


"Ah.  I... see."  


No, he didn't.  Vhaelin shook his head sadly; no one ever got the joke.  Still, he kept a falsely patient and contemplative smile on his face despite his already frayed nerves. 


"Nevermind, they'll tire in a few minutes.  How may I assist you?"  He asked of the hyur in the most civil and eloquent tone he could muster, still tinted with his particularly feral accent.


"Er.. ah, yes.  Are you part of a caravan?"  It took the man a moment to gather his wits and look away from the slowly tiring duo, but that moment of hesitation gave away the slight intonation of suspicion in his voice.


"No, I am documenting various forms of flora and fauna in the interests of academia; there is a rumor that the release of the Primal usurped the natural order and I can tell by the glassy look in your eyes you have entirely lost all interest in the subject."  Vhaelin sighed.


For certain, every ounce of comprehension from his face had completely fled, leaving the hyur trader looking utterly stone faced.  Once again, Vhaelin turned his hand to pinch at the bridge of his nose.


"My name is Vhaelin'sae and the lalafell, Tanayo, is my guard."  He simplified his explanation, and punctuated it by waving his hand toward the suddenly arresting conflict.


"Guard?!  I'm not your guard you.. you.."   Tanayo began, the carbuncle spirit held by the tail in one hand, shaking it feverishly at him while searching for a real zinger.


"Take your time.  Don't worry, there is nothing better to do than wait for you to come up with this devastating quip that will make me reconsider my life and deeply regret my actions."  He blithely continued rather than let her sputter on, which only seemed to incense the fighter.


"You're my servant!  And don't you forget it!" She howled in fury, tossing the throttled spirit and planted her fists into her hips.


"That is completely irrelevant information, Tana.  Anyway, why do you ask?"  Vhaelin redirected the question to the hyur while the abused spirit scampered to drape itself over his lap.


Despite the lingering traces of fury in her eyes, the lalafell marched to the rock wall the miqo'te had sat upon, and began to climb up to join him.  The miqo'te couldn't help the devious smile that crept over his mouth and the words that formed after:


"Need a hand?"  He asked, quite innocently of course.


"I will break every bone in your arm, Vhael."  Her retort was brisk, earnest, and punctuated by a sinister smile on her mouth that sent a chill down his spine.  Displaying the hidden strength in her small frame, she easily not only hoisted herself up to sit beside the miqo'te, but actually momentarily vaulted over him in the process.  Clever girl.


"I was simply being polite.  Can't a poor scholar show some modicum of chivalry?"  A lie that Vhaelin girded up in a tone that was anything but honest.


"You have been neither polite nor chivalrous, and I would sooner believe Bahamut enjoyed tea parties than believe you are capable of being either." She huffed back at him, folding her arms over her chest and turned her cherubic face away with a 'hmph'.


"Ahem.. er.."  The hyur interrupted their spat with a non-too-intrusive cough.  ".. as I was saying.  If you aren't a part of a caravan I suggest you be careful."


"Why is that?"  Vhaelin asked having momentarily forgotten the hyur existed at all.  "Aren't the roads always dangerous?"


Dangerous seemed to catch Tanayo's attention and her long ears perked up and her small chin began to turn to peek over her shoulder.  Even from that angle, the scholar saw the glint of interest replace the anger almost immediately.  Don't do it.  Don't do it.   He immediately regretted even asking.


"No, monster attacks aren't anything new.  There was a murder."  The hyur shook his head and even lowered his voice to a conspiratorial whisper, his eyes cautiously darting about as though some mysterious shadow were going to overhear.  Ugh.  Theatrics.


"A murder?"  Vhaelin asked blandly, with only feigned interest.


"A murder?!"  The lalafell asked with far more zest.







It should have been a wondrous evening; the modest inn was filled with jovial laughter and airy music, supplemented by the dulcet tones of a lovely young bardess.  Her alluring outfit composed of brightly colored silks draped over her supple frame much the same way lustrous, golden locks cascaded over her shoulders.  In her hands rested a small lute for which her fingers nimbly moved across the strings and the siren call from her voice had enraptured near every man within the establishment.  For his part, Vhaelin had a tobacco pipe cupped in one hand and a tankard of ale in the other, feasting his eyes upon that singer while desperately trying to escape the piercing tone of his pugilist companion.


“A murder!  Can you believe it?  Clearly it must be the work of some insidious cult working to summon up some foul beast!”  Tanayo was sitting beside him, her fingers nervously fidgeting around a fork and knife, speaking in between mouthfuls of dinner.  The plate was piled with more food than someone her size should have been able to even contain.  


He tried his best to ignore the eager lalafell and focus upon the ample cleavage across the way.  These moments of respite were few and far between; a bit of flavored smoke on the tongue, warm ale in his stomach, and just not being on his feet.  The carbuncle spirit was stretched out over the table itself and quite unconscious, an empty saucer with only a few drops of liquor left behind – little ethereal limbs kicking in some drunken dream.  


“They might even be in the midst of the ritual now!  Just imagine, Vhael!  We have to stop them!  We must avenge the victim like proper heroes!”  Tana slammed the heels of her bundled up fists into the tabletop, causing not only her plate to rattle but the entire inn to come to a screeching halt.  


In the utter silence, with every eye turned upon them, Vhaelin slowly drew the pipe away from his mouth to force some false conciliatory smile and tone;


“Please forgive us, my companion has had a long day and forgot to mind her voice.”  He began, turning his head toward the completely undisturbed lalafell.  “Isn’t that right?”  


“Adventure!”  She demanded again, mouth half-full of food and knife pointed threateningly at him.  


“Tana, please quiet down you’re disturbing the other patrons.”   And Vhael fought to retain his own composure.


“Ad-ven-ture!”  She began to punctuate each syllable by slamming her fists down on the table.  “Ad-ven-ture!”


“Alright!  Fine.  We’ll start out in the morning, now quiet down!”  He hissed at her, his tail fluffed up irritably and twitched side to side through the chair rung.  It was like dealing with a child throwing a tantrum.. if that child could break bones with terrifying ease.  


Still, it seemed to sate the monk and she gave him a brilliant smile that could melt hearts and she climbed onto her chair to bow her head toward the crowd of perplexed, slightly irritated patrons.  For the briefest of moments she appeared genuinely lady-like, with hands demurely folded in front of her waist – long ears drooped sadly – she even managed to gloss her eyes over with false tears.


“I apologize for my outburst.”  


And what disgusted him most is he could practically hear a number of patrons say ‘aww’.  Vhael gave a heavy sigh and lifted the mug for a long drink of his ale.  If only they knew the true evil lurking behind that cherubic face!  The normal din of conversation between patrons resumed, though without the song of the bardess, and Tana sat back down, returning to her dinner.  Most thought that his people resembled cats, though the self-satisfied look on her face now put the miqo’te to shame.  


“I wouldn’t get your hopes up for some grand conspiracy.”  Vhael began after a moment to compose himself and drew away the pipe from his lips, letting small wisps of smoke escape along with it.  The thick, cinnamon flavored smoke added some unnatural depth to his voice.  “Murder is simple.”


The lalafell finished her dinner and settled back into her chair with a slightly distended belly with a contented look etched on her face.  Her hands spread out over her stomach, eyes half closed with a dazed stare fixed upon him.


“What do you mean?”  She asked him lazily.


Vhael leaned forward in his chair, once again returning the pipe to rest between his lips for a contemplative breath, and his other hand reached out to brush his fingers against the silvery fur of the drunken spirit.  It cooed in response, little paws swiping against the liquor stained oak.


“Sigh, very well if I must explain.”  Though he gave a sigh, he could not hide the smile that was creeping over his mouth.  This was a rare luxury and he reached his fingers up to adjust the spectacles across the bridge of his nose.  


“There are three types of murders in this world, Tana.”  He held up his fingers with each.  “The first is an act of passion; a moment of unbridled emotions that cannot be expressed any way but violence.  A jilted lover is one example, or a business partner who has been swindled.  Often the perpetrator immediately regrets their action, as the emotions fade and they are left to the consequences of their decision – most will not even flee from justice.”   


The lalafell opened her eyes wider and leaned toward him.  All the while it felt as though his peripheral vision was closing.  Throughout the inn the movements of the patrons became seemingly more lethargic, their voices softer, and even the scents began to fall away; discarding pieces of irrelevant data.  


“The second is merely a consequence of an act; a burglar that kills rather than be caught.  Perhaps they view their actions with some touch of guilt, yet more often than not they consider it a necessity.  It had to be done.  It was him or me.  They wrap themselves up in an impermeable cloak of justifications and twisted rationale, building a wall around their conscience if they carry one at all.”  


The longer he spoke, the further and further that reality rescinded from his gaze.  Men became frozen in time, color faded from their flesh until only a two-dimensional gray remained – the audible din of conversation became little more than a distant whisper.  Instead his thoughts became tangible, scrawled out in his minds-eye only waiting for him to reach out and seize the words.


“The third… the third…”  The words were there, darker than the rest – each syllable clawed out of the air, jagged and torn apart- they were wicked expressions.  He hesitated.


“The third?”  The soft voice shattered that illusory world like stained glass, returning him to reality.  


He blinked his eyes rather owlishly to find the lovely young face of the bardess smiling before him, her head cocked to the side with a waterfall of golden strands hanging over her naked shoulder.  Her hands were fastened behind her back, torso bowed forward to permit the faintest glimpse of cleavage below the silken wrap atop them.  Vhael didn't even feel it when the pipe tumbled from his agape mouth or hear it when it clattered atop the table.  


“I..”  Lips.


“.. er.. uh.”  Neck.


“.. what?”  Breasts.  


Where was he again?  What was his name?  


Clarity was gained when a small, lalafell hand gripped the back of his hair and without much ceremony promptly slammed his face down against the tabletop.


“Vhaelin.  Do you think you should answer her question instead of letting your mind and eyes wander?”  Tanayo hissed, having come to stand upon the table and over him like some jealous wife.  He quickly recollected his brief sermon about the first cause of murder.






The maid left their table and three fresh cups of tea behind, the billowing waves of steam – the bardess took hers with a small, delicate hand and brought it to her lips with the faintest turn of her wrist for only a small sip.  The warmth of the liquid affected her countenance and seemed to produce a tint of rose upon her cheeks that only complimented the gentle color of her eyes.  Her other hand was stretched out, sweeping her fingers tenderly through the ethereal fur of the spirit still quite unconscious upon the table.  He wondered if it was proper to be envious of the Carbuncle at this moment.


Vhaelin sighed and sank his chin deeper into his cupped palm, a dreamy smile left over his mouth.  The hearth light itself seemed to highlight her milky skin and create radiant sprites throughout her lustro—


A sharp lalafell elbow smashed into his ribs and he felt every last ounce of breath erupt from his lungs.  He doubled over in agony, nearly collapsing into his tea while clutching at his aching side.  Tana glared at him with a vicious expression but one that was erased almost completely when she looked toward their newest companion – overwritten by a sweetly innocent façade.  


“You have a beautiful voice, miss.”  Tana began and tilted her head happily toward the bardess.  “I’m Tanayo Siyet, and this is my servant, Vhaelin’sae Utaj.”


Vhael raised his hand to wave painfully toward the bardess, who giggled at the pair from behind the shelter of her tea cup.  


“I am pleased you enjoyed it and even more pleased to meet you, Miss Siyet.  Mister Utaj.”  The bardess began, and her emphasis upon his name –intentional or not-nearly made his heart skip a beat.  That pain diminished almost immediately, replaced with a euphoric tingle.  “My name is Layla Tionese.”  She bowed her head toward the duo.


Vhael sat upright slowly and reached out for the cup of tea, carefully drawing it onto his palm, adopting himself into a more regal pose.  His shoulders pressed back and his leg lazily draped over the other, trying his best to find some measure of composure again.  He shouldn't permit himself to become this stirred up over a woman – let alone hyur.  Still, it wasn't necessarily his fault if his eyes wandered around her throat.  And possibly an inch or two lower.


“It is nice to meet you, Miss Tionese – please, call me Vhael.  I apologize for our earlier disruption of your song.  My companion can be a little…”  At that particular adjective, there was a sharp kick from the lalafell into his shin; he had to bite back a yelp of pain.  “…an enormous disruption.”  The cup of tea rose again for a poignant sip, if to hide the grimace from the dull ache.


“No apologies necessary!  I have to admit, it was quite funny.  You’re an adorable couple.”


Nothing could compare to that moment; food poisoning, dissections, the bill for a week stay in one of the finest hotels of Ul’dah.  Never before in his recollection had Vhaelin’sae Utaj felt such utter revulsion, disgust, and nausea as he did at this moment.  Both miqo’te and lalafell spit their mouthfuls of tea in sudden shock and erupted from their seats with a furor – Tana even stood upon her chair.


“We are no such thing!  I would not deign to lower myself to her level.”  


“I would sooner clip my ears!  Just the thought of this lecher touching me makes me sick!”  


As soon as they had made their mutual declarations toward Layla, they turned toward one another – bracing their foreheads together with gritted teeth.


“What do you mean ‘lower’ yourself?!”  She snarled first.


“And who are you calling a lecher?!”  He retorted.


“Um…!  My mistake!”  Layla sweetly interjected, raising her palms defensively toward them both.  Of course, removing her hand from the idle stroking of the spirit caused the small beast to crack open an eye to stare at the commotion.  It did the only rational thing that Vhael could have thought of; it sauntered a step forward and dropped its face into her cleavage.  Some spirits had all the luck.  “I’m sure he isn’t contagious!  I mean, his skin looks fine and all!”


“Eh?”  Both lalafell and miqo’te turned their heads toward the bardess.  


“You mean…leper?”  Vhael dared to ask, his head tipped aside with a look on his face that he at least hoped resembled confusion.


“Oh!  Yes!  Leper!”  A brilliant smile once more radiated across her lovely features, though the scholar felt his soul torn out – pulled into her vapid eyes.  They shone with utter delight and beauty, but the power of comprehension within them was like staring at a brick wall.  “I… couldn't help but overhear that you were talking about an adventure?”


“Yes!”  Tana intervened thankfully and practically bounced across the table as she took up Layla’s hands in hers.  “A foul murder has been committed and it is up to us to avenge the victim!  It could even be a ritual to su..”


“I am telling you, it isn't some ritual.”  Vhael interrupted her this time, reaching to pinch at the bridge of his nose once more.  Sigh.  “Anyway, as much as I would like to say we are having no part of it my ward is correct.  We will be departing in the morning.”


“That’s right!  A poor homesteader, can you believe it?”  Tana spoke quickly, nearly stumbling over her own words a few times.  “They found him in his home, run through with a dagger!  Such a sad story too!  He was a widower and everyone seemed to..”  


“Yes, well.  They have buried the victim and the tradepost is waiting for marshals to investigate the matter.  In the meantime they have collected up a meager reward if anyone can bring the culprit to justice.  Likely just a bandit or another, it happens this far from any big town.  He lived away from others and the collective security here.”  He explained in greater detail, unable to help the rather cold analytic side that carried with it.


Despite the presence of the lalafell standing right before her, Vhael watched the expression of the seemingly vapid bardess.  Her cheeks failed to rush with color or drain of it either; the reaction defied conventional wisdom, as did her eagerness to pursue this folly, or even hear of it.  Vhael cocked a brow, as the mind threatened to peel back reality once again he shook his head to rid himself of the introspection – they had all seen their share of death after the Primal.  


“Do you want to join us?!”  Tana asked, practically shoving the Carbuncle out of the way as she came closer to Layla.  


“Tanayo, it is quite possibly dang..”  He began.


“Quiet you!”  She spat toward him with plenty of venom, only to soften the words afterward.  “I promise we will look after you!  It will be such a change from having this beast of a cat-thing for company.”


“Hmph.  If I wanted your stunted opinion, I would ask for it.  In the meantime, I suppose having the companionship of such a lovely young woman on our little excursion could be no harm.  I dare say it will even be my pleasure.”  Vhael said as he rose from his seat, pressing a hand into his chest for a long and sweeping bow.  


“I… think it would be a grand idea!  Oh dear, I scarcely know what to pack!  Should I bring lunches?  What do you like to eat, Miss Siyet?”  Layla only seemed to hold tighter to the hands of the lalafell pugilist, her airy voice already began to singe his nerves.


Still stooped over, Vhaelin wondered if he had just made a horrible mistake.




None would notice the figure, bathed in shadows, leaning forward to watch the newly minted trio.  



(With the release of the game fast approaching, I will be continuing this in bursts!  I look forward to seeing all of you in game on Balmung.  Feel free to post your comments and critiques!)

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